#TeamKiel

The most recent Guild Wars 2 release has gone live – Cutthroat Politics! Thanks to the actions of Mai Trin and the Aetherblades, there is now an opening on the Captain’s Council in Lion’s Arch, and two characters – Ellen Kiel, a high ranking member of the Lionguard, and Evon Gnashblade, leader of the Black Lion Trading Company – are both competing for the position. And we, as players, get to ultimately decide who wins the spot on the Council, by collecting support tokens and voting with them.

Ellen Kiel vs. Evon Gnashblade - who do you support?

Ellen Kiel vs. Evon Gnashblade – who do you support?

It’s a pretty neat idea, especially as who you pick will change what we ultimately get in-game – Kiel is promising a waypoint cost reduction for four weeks, whereas Gnashblade will reduce the costs of Black Lion Keys for four weeks. There will also be a new fractal, depending on who wins. Kiel wants to push research into the Thaumanova Reactor, whereas Gnashblade wants to find out about the fall of Abaddon.

Go Kiel!

Go Kiel!

I decided pretty quickly who I am supporting. Fractals are really not all that important to me – it isn’t content I enjoy, and I don’t do them frequently. I do not buy Black Lion Keys, as there’s enough RNG in this game and I don’t like paying for more of it. Waypoints, however, I use constantly. I have 8 characters at level 80 – those waypoint costs really add up quickly.

So it wasn’t a difficult decision for me to throw my support behind Kiel. She is also, as a character, one that we know better. We’ve worked with her frequently since the Living World updates started – she was there on Southsun Cove both times there was trouble, she headed the investigation of wrong-doings at Dragon Bash, and she came with when we took on the Aetherblades. We know she’s a take-charge person. Gnashblade…well, he sits in the trading post. That’s about it. If he has any fighting experience, we’re not aware of it. If he’s ever done anything other than try and line his pockets further with our cash…we’re not aware of it.

“But what about the fractals?”, you ask? Well, personally…as I said, I don’t like fractals. However, a lot of people will vote based on that. As I mentioned before, Kiel wants to research the Thaumanova Reactor, while Gnashblade wants to research the fall of Abaddon.

I really think that Kiel has the edge here.

Hear me out on this one. The fall of Abaddon – what caused him to be struck down as one of the Tyrian gods – would be awesome to see. I’m not saying it wouldn’t. However, when it comes to relevance to Guild Wars 2…Abaddon has next to none. He was a human god, for starters. Four of the five playable races do not even believe in him as a deity – charr actively revile the human gods, norn follow their animal spirits, asura believe in the Eternal Alchemy, and sylvari are agnostic to the existence of gods.

There’s also the fact that a good deal of Guild Wars 2 players will not even know who Abaddon is meant to be, or why he would be important. Let’s be real here. Many, if not most, Guild Wars 2 players were not players of Guild Wars 1. Abaddon’s only real mention in Guild Wars 2 is the underwater temple that you visit during a personal story quest. And even for the former Guild Wars 1 players, as the fall of Abaddon concerns things that happened long before the events of that game, for the most part only those who were heavily into the game’s lore (like myself, to be honest), would care how that happened.

The outside of the reactor. Looks more peaceful than it is...

The outside of the reactor. Looks more peaceful than it is…

But it’s an event that is long past, and any effect it had on the world is also long in the past. Whereas the Thaumanova Reactor is something recent. The fallout of it is not even close to being taken care of, as is clearly obvious by the mess it’s made in Metrica Province. It was originally an asuran city, destroyed by Inquest experiments. The chaos energy released from the explosion there causes creatures to continuously be teleported in and out from regions all across Tyria, and effects of the experimentation have spread as far as Iron Marches, creating the Chaos Crystal Cavern jumping puzzle there.

It is a recent event, it is one that has widespread effects across the continent, and it is one that is actually relevant to the events of Guild Wars 2. It is also something that is familiar to all players of Guild Wars 2, which is very important here. We all know of the mess that is located there. Most of us have fought that fire elemental at least once. And we all know that the Inquest like to poke their noses into things they really have no rights messing with. Their attempts at harnessing dragon energies have already resulted in some interesting creatures in Crucible of Eternity – just what were they getting into this time to cause all of that destruction? And what were their plans with whatever they were experimenting with?

For me, it was an easy choice. Team Kiel all the way. I love Guild Wars 1 lore, but I would really love to see Guild Wars 2 build more upon it’s own lore, as opposed to relying on the contents of the predecessor.

And, y’know…cheaper waypoints. Gotta love that. So who are you voting for?

Also, Kiel isn't a selfish sort.

Also, Kiel isn’t a selfish sort.

The spookiest time of year is here!

Liusaidh, all Halloween’d up.

Leaves are falling, the days are getting shorter…it’s fall, and fall means Halloween!

Holiday celebrations were always very popular and well-loved in the first Guild Wars, so it was no surprise that Halloween, being the first one seen in Guild Wars 2, had a lot of excited anticipation leading up to it. What new events would we be getting? Would old favorites like Costume Brawl be returning? And was the ever-witty Mad King Thorn going to make a reapparance? For that matter, would Mad King Says be coming back, and if so, how would that work with the limited emote pool currently in the game?

Well, on Monday evening the first Act for Halloween 2012 was released, and already we’ve gotten a good taste of what will be going on over the next week. First and foremost were two big things; first that the Halloween events would be rolled out in a series of four Acts, culminating with Halloween night itself, and second being that there were a number of other new updates added that are permanent additions to the game – not all of the new things added will disappear as Halloween ends!

The first thing you will notice upon entering Lion’s Arch is that it’s been decorated for the holiday. Pumpkins and candles everywhere, trick or treating children and quaggan tads (my favorite – the baby quaggan ghostie. Eeee! So adorable), and of course…the Mystic Forge looks a little different right now. A bit spookier, you could say.

The Mystic Forge…err…Cauldron?

The Forge can still be used as normal, but the giant cauldron will have a special use…but what’s with all this madness going on around it? Witches melting and creating cauldrons, food fights going on at banquet tables, mummies and spiders and golems and raptors brawling with each other, as well as nonstop jokes…good luck, my friend, you’ve just walked into Costume Brawl. Or rather, a bunch of people costume brawling.

Now, in Guild Wars 1, Costume Brawl was an instanced PvP format where, depending on your profession, you’d take on the appearance of a specific character and have a set skill bar. Things in Guild Wars 2 are…a bit different. More chaotic. And as someone who never liked PvP…far more enjoyable. Joining in Costume Brawl in GW2 is easy. Pop a tonic, climb up and jump into the cauldron, or don a costume, and join in the fun! You get special Costume Brawl skills to “fight” against others with; get 25 points before being taken out yourself and you’re the costume brawl champion! The best part about this is that a costume brawl can break out wherever there are players – we started doing it last night while in Orr!

Costume Brawl madness!

There are even more new things to discover in Lion’s Arch – there are new vendors, selling weapons skins (temporary, sadly; permanent ones can be crafted in the Mystic Forge but according to a friend of mine that was looking into that, they’re about equivalent to a legendary weapon), as well as new Artificer and Cooking recipes. There are also pumpkins that you can carve scattered around the city. And if you talk to Tassi just south of the fountain in Lion’s Arch, you can get a candy corn-powered scanner which leads you on a scavenger hunt to find clues about the life of Mad King Thorn.

I must say, I did the first leg of the scavenger hunt and did not enjoy it too much; the scanner seemed to be completely random as to whether or not it was actually using my candy corn to work, and I had issues in both having to be extremely precise in where I was scanning to get something to show up (was less than a foot away from where something should have spawned and it wouldn’t appear for me, but someone else was one step over and it appeared when he scanned), as well as NPCs despawning after I triggered them and before I could get to them. Still, the info you learn about Mad King Thorn by doing these is pretty neat, so even though I swore I would not continue on the hunt…I probably will after all.

Now, I mentioned that the scanner is powered by candy corn. How do you get this candy corn? Well, if you go out into the world, you’ll notice a couple new things pretty quickly. The first is Raw Candy Corn nodes scattered around…and also, on occasion, you may see a door pop up that you can trick or treat at. Candy Corn nodes appear all over the world and can be mined just as any ore node can, and yes, there are even Rich Candy Corn nodes. The doors so far I’ve only seen in Gendarran Fields and Queensdale; my assumption is that they only appear in Krytan zones. When you trick or treat at the door, one of two things will happen; you’ll get a trick or treat bag on the ground you can pick up, or Halloween monsters will spawn from it (plastic spiders and glow in the dark skeletons!) and you have to defeat them to close the door. Trick or treat bags are another source of candy corn, and you can get them a few other ways than just going up to doors – they can be received at random as drops from all enemies, as well as when you mine candy corn nodes (much like how you can randomly get jewels from regular ore nodes).

Oooh, Candy Corn! Oooh, a door!

You’ll want to collect candy corn and trick or treat bags for a few reasons. First of all, trick or treat bags give you more candy corn, as well as other special crafting materials! Oooh. Second, there are achievements for opening bags and chowing down on candy corn – just don’t eat too much too fast or your character will get sick (a hilariously gross little addition there). Third, those Artificer and Cooking recipes I mentioned up above? They use these items! So chances are it’s worth your while to collect these items – luckily, they aren’t difficult to farm. Candy Corn nodes are all over the place, and I’ve found that enemies drop bags at a pretty decent rate.

And yes, there are new Halloween-related achievements – a new category called Special Events entirely where most of them can be found (except for Candy Corn Consumption – part of the Monthly Achievements, and Costume Brawl, which is under Community). There are a number of new ones available – including a new jumping puzzle, Mad King’s Clock Tower, that’s just for this event. Interesting!

New achievements…spooky!

And on top of all this Halloween madness…there’s even more new stuff! There’ve been new dynamic events and jumping puzzles added, there are new mini-dungeons, and my favorite new addition – you get karma as part of the award for doing monthly and daily achievements, as well as for dungeon completion. Awesome!

So, everyone, go out there and enjoy the new additions to the game!

Dak’s Beta Weekend!

Time for my take on the final Beta Weekend!

While Verene spent almost the entire weekend as a sylvari, I immersed myself in the much-anticipated experience of the diminuative asura.  Through what I believe to be a combination of factors, this weekend was a marked improvement over the previous two, and the coming weeks will prove a most grating ordeal of impatience indeed.

Dashing, isn't he?

My character of choice this time around was Zott, a dignified asuran Elementalist from the College of Synergetics, with a particular affinity for the lightning strikes of Air attunement.  His first invention was the Infinity Ball, a remarkable device that predicts the future (and so what if it doesn’t predict it correctly every time?).

The asura experience begins with a call for aid in pacifying malfunctioning golems (not yours, of course), which introduces you to the Inquest.  The Inquest is a sort-of krewe, who believe ethics only get in the way of scientific progress, and without them the true nature of the Eternal Alchemy can be unlocked and so enable them to run the world like a massive machine.  During my beta play, this usually manifested itself in experiments fusing asura with their golems, whether the asura in question really wanted it or not.

The asura as a race are absolutely unique, and my new favorite.  The info we’d gotten from the team in the past always seemed to paint them as rather serious, almost dour scientists, studying the world yet aloof from it.  In actual play, this is far from the truth, and the asura don’t take themselves nearly as seriously as the other races think.  For instance, the first area, Metrica Province, contains a school full of asura children (called progeny).  As you walk by, you hear many bits of childish chatter, and one part that stood out to me was the “your mom” jokes.  Oh yes:

“Your mama’s IQ is so low, she thinks norn cows go ‘moot’!”
“Well your mama’s IQ is so low, she thinks ‘elemental’ is four letters in the middle of the alphabet!”
“…Seriously though, your mom is really smart.”
“Yeah, yours too.”

It was a heartwarming, adorable moment that really cemented the asura as a living race for me.
Other notable looks into asura-based humor included “STA/B-0 the Super Golem,” and another golem labeled “OVR-9000.”

The asura themselves seem to slip and then stumblingly recover their aura of dignity in conversation.  And if you look hard enough, you’ll find individuals who just really, really like bunnies.

Open-ended research could mean a lot of things...

Not so above it all, eh Zojja?

The asura starter area, Metrica Province, showcased the refinement of challenge as we inch closer to full release.  Events did an excellent job of guiding you around the area, keeping your experience gained about equal with your level needed for the next zone you were led into, giving the entire area a very dynamic feeling of organic growth.  The next thing you see is always a fun challenge, but never too difficult to take on.  It felt very good and I applaud them for that careful balance.  It also looks absolutely beautiful, and is filled with plenty of neat things to look at and do (oh Vistas, how I adore thee).  It’s great seeing how much the asura have built up in the last 250 years.  The events to be found were all very fun, and granted a new look at the hylek and the skritt (I will have to write a separate post on my beloved skritt).

My personal story was also a kick, dealing with unfusing golems and, eventually, a new application for my old Infinity Ball that, long story short, led to meeting myself as an evil overlord from another dimension’s future.  Talk about your fun cliches!  Every step was well-executed, and it left me eager for more when the game launches for real.

Actually sitting on top of a giant arch.  About 200 asura high.

Waiting…

The sylvari fangirl report – BWE3 roundup!

Eirlyss at the end of the weekend.

The third and final beta weekend event for Guild Wars 2 has come and gone. We just have over a month left until release now.

This is going to be a long month.

As should be surprising to no one, I spent the vast majority of my time in the sylvari areas. My main of choice for this BWE was Eirlyss, a sylvari Guardian. I did create several other characters (Katte, an asura Warrior, Dairina, a sylvari Elementalist, and Riannah, a sylvari Thief…yeah, I like sylvari!), but I spent the vast majority of the time on Eirlyss. I did play all the way through the personal story available for the beta, having chosen having a vision of the White Stag and finding “Where life goes, so shall you” as the most important of Ventari’s teachings as my personal story choices. I have so, so, so many thoughts on the sylvari storyline that I saw that just…wow. If you’re a Guild Wars lore buff? The sylvari storyline will likely be your favorite. In the beta, a few questions were answered, and more brought up.

And it certainly did a damn good job of getting me extremely patient for launch to see where this storyline goes. A small hint – remember seeds that Ronan found and planted one of, that grew into the Pale Tree? We find out a bit more about that.

I also noticed that the sylvari storyline seems to be the widest and the most concerned with the outside world. Yes, the story is still about you, but what I played of the other storylines (completed human, made a bit into the other three), they remain heavily involved with just you. The sylvari storyline is…definitely less so, and I like this. For example, in the White Stag storyline, I was trying to stop the Nightmare Court from corrupting the White Stag, a creature of the Dream that is a manifestation of hope, to despair and letting it loose back into the Dream to try and corrupt future sylvari. I defended the Grove from an attack from the Court. The “where life goes, so shall you” storyline I don’t want to go to into at the moment (I’ll likely dedicate a future post solely to that) involved trying to keep the Nightmare Court from getting what they referred to as the Harbinger, something or someone they wanted to use against the Grove and the Pale Tree. The sylvari storyline also has the earliest mention of the Elder Dragons that I noticed, with the Pale Tree herself telling her that she believed that you and Caithe would be the ones to face Zhaitan, and that you would be victorious.

Talking with the Pale Tree

So, essentially, I really, really enjoyed the sylvari storyline thus far.

The sylvari themselves are, essentially, perfect. I love how beautiful they are, while remaining something that’s very obviously not human. They have this air of elegance and nobility to them…but if you watch their idle animations, you get to see another side, one of a very young race that is intensely curious, and that is full of innocence. It’s just so absolutely perfect – it looks as though they’re humming something in their head, and sort of idly swaying along with it, along with stopping to look to the side as though they just spotted something interesting, as well as the occasional happy grin.

The Grove is definitely, as far as the capital cities go, the smallest of the five. This, however, is definitely understandable, I think. It’s built in several levels, being more of a vertical city than a horizontal one, which makes sense as it’s built into the bottom of the Pale Tree. It’s also the newest of the cities, housing the newest of the races, which logically speaking is also going to be the smallest in population. It shouldn’t be a massive, sprawling city like the others are.

During the weekend I reached level 25, and got 100% map completion on the Grove, Caledon Forest, Metrica Province, and Brisban Wildlands. If there’s one thing I can say, it’s that I wish that the asura and sylvari each had another zone that’s just solely theirs – they share Brisban, which is a level 15-25 zone. I can understand why – the Maguuma Jungle and Tarnished Coast are only so large, after all – but the other races had a 15-25 zone of their own! Not fair, says I.

I was actually surprised at how much I enjoyed playing Guardian. I tried it briefly during BWE1 and thought it was okay, but I wanted to give it another go. I was undecided between that and Elementalist, and decided last moment that Guardian would be the winner. I actually really, really liked it. Yes, it’s definitely the most support-based profession, and normally I don’t like support. But it’s also a very flexible profession, and I enjoyed being able to swap roles quickly and easily depending on the situation. And my ability to provide support was given the ultimate test during an event in Metrica Province.

Being led to our deaths by Mr. Matthew Medina, aka @barefootmatthew. Whoops :P

Ahh, yes. The Fire Elemental in Metrica. It spawns at the end of an event chain if the previous one is failed and…well. “Overpowered” is an understatement. The first time I tried it I had to map out to a waypoint after dying and reset my skills and bust out my staff so I could lend some heavy support. I then spent the entire fight healing people, setting up walls to block projectiles, and ressing everyone as they died. We did manage to succeed at the fight…however, as I spent the entire fight lending support instead of attacking, I got no credit for the fight. No gold, no karma, no experience, nothing. I certainly more than participated – of everyone on that bridge I probably spent the most time alive and actually doing things – but as I did not directly attack the elemental it didn’t count? I was a bit annoyed.

The main issue with that fight is, I think, just a variety of elements coming together and working off of each other to wind up being far stronger than intended. The leadup to the room where the fight is is a narrow bridge, which creates a massive chokepoint. The boss does massive AoE attacks, as well as spawning Embers which also attack.

I wound up getting killed by the elemental another time on Sunday evening – a note of warning, partying up with an ANet dev will likely cause in you dying. I almost feel bad for the random people who spotted the ANet logo as we ran past and followed along only to be led to their deaths…but on the other hand, I think that attempt was one of the highlights of my weekend. Plus now they know exactly how overpowered that event is, always a plus!

The finale, the Hunger Royale (Hunger Games and Battle Royale combined) was certainly entertaining, but I felt like it was hindered by the size of the map. Metrica was just too large for something like that – we spent the most time just running before we’d come across anyone else. Still, I got to send Dak flying as we wound up on opposite teams, so that was entertaining.

I never did get to climb to the top of the Pale Tree, but I did go up into the Omphalos Chamber and found the highest spot in there I could get to, so I guess that wins!

As far as new additions…I love vistas. Some could be quite the puzzle to figure out how to reach, but as I’m a veteran of games like Prince of Persia and Assassin’s Creed (and oh how heavily did vistas remind me of syncing viewpoints in AC!), usually just a moment or two of studying the area gave me a path up. They’re also amazing for taking lovely screenshots of the area, something which I took great advantage of.

Now, if only it were August 25th…

New Dynamic Event: Centaurs invade the Underworld!

So a few nights ago, a few friends (TriggerSad, Sharn_Vendeta, and damagedself) decided to try an Underworld run. We ultimately didn’t succeed (damn you Talhkora and your over-aggroing ways), but we did have a lot of fun. A lot of the chat we had on skype was about Guild Wars 2 and things from it we missed – such as the fact that we couldn’t jump (would have been very helpful at some points) and couldn’t dodge.

And then Sharn used his Zhed tonic, said “New dynamic event! Centaurs are invading the Underworld!”, and it got me thinking.

I would really, really love to see the Underworld as a dungeon in Guild Wars 2.

Now, nothing as silly as “centaurs are trying to take over”, but, honestly, how cool would that be, to be able to see how the UW has changed in the 250 years since GW1? I mean, obviously things are still active there, considering how portals to the Underworld will open up all over Godslost Swamp, where the Black Curtain and Temple of the Ages used to be. Aatxes are among the things that spawn from the portals when you destroy them – yes, those same Aatxes. And then there’s the Shadow Behemoth itself, that may break out of the Underworld and needs to be defeated.

It seems to me like things in the Underworld have worsened since Dhuum’s awakening.

I also think it’s an area that would benefit heavily from a GW2 upgrade, in terms of game mechanics. The Underworld in GW1 is a twisted maze that’s not easy to navigate, by any means. So many times we found ourselves looking down on where we needed to go, wishing we had a z-axis so we could just jump down. Also, the area is already set up as a chain of quests; imagine how neat it would be if those were replaced with a series of dynamic events, with things changing depending on what you did. Of course, as it would be a dungeon it would be instanced, so if you did ‘win’ a specific area you wouldn’t have to worry about respawns coming along to destroy all of your hard work. The presence of waypoints would also greatly help out here, as there’s nothing so frustrating as spending two hours clearing things and completing quests only to die and get kicked back out.

I think that if we get extra content between expansions, some of it will likely consist of a new dungeon or two. I really think that the Underworld as a dungeon would be great for that sort of thing, and I doubt I’m the only person that would want to see that old haunt return with an upgrade, and how things have changed over the years. What do you think? What area from GW1 would you like to see return in some manner?

Writing your story: An interview with the writers of Guild Wars 2

Have you ever wondered what exactly goes into writing Guild Wars 2? Well, thanks to a recent opportunity I had, I have some answers for you! I was able to interview several of the writers for Guild Wars 2 on what it’s like working on that game that we’re all waiting so very impatiently on.  I received answers to my questions from Bobby Stein, Lead Writer, Peter “The Explorer” Fries, and Angel McCoy, the voice of the sylvari.

As Bobby, Peter, and Angel are all awesome people, the answers I got were far longer and more in-depth than I had been expecting; thank you so much (and also a big thanks to Regina for granting me this chance in the first place)! Without further ado, here’s what you’re waiting for!

Verene: Hello! First of all, I would like to say thank you very much for your time in doing this interview and answering these questions. I’m hoping to get a look at a side of games that many people don’t pay as much attention to, but for most games I find just as important as the artwork and mechanics, and that is the storyline of the game, as well as how it’s written. Guild Wars 2 being what it is, the story is certainly one of the most important parts of it! So, thank you for taking your time to answer these for me.

First and foremost, just how different is it writing for a game from writing, say, a novel or script? And how does writing for Guild Wars 2 differ from writing other games?

Continue reading

Press Beta Roundup

So, yesterday morning the embargo was dropped on the closed beta test that the press was invited to over the weekend.

The information and articles we got in the morning was a veritable flood, and while it may not take a full 40 days and 40 nights to go through it all, it sure is a lot!

I’m not even going to try and go through everything; there’s just far too much. GuildMag has a pretty good list of all of the various articles and video, so I suggest checking that out if you want a slew of stuff to read and watch. I’m just going to recap my favorite bits of info that I found going through it all.

One of the first things I found this morning, scrolling through my twitter feed, was this little tidbit from Elisabeth – that human characters do have the chance to establish their heritage. As I intend to make my human character the descendant of my GW1 main – a Dervish who is, obviously, Elonan – this pleases me. Greatly. I only hope that it’s also open for the other background options! A small thing, but important nonetheless.

Emotes. Oh my god, the female charr emotes? I was laughing so much. They’re just so perfect, and show off how lovely the animations for this game really are. I particularly loved the “napping” one leading into “OH MY GOD WHAT WAS THAT”, complete with the feline arched-back. LOVE.

The fact that we can now do stuff like this. Yes, I’m silly. Yes, I love looking for the highest points in an area in a game…and then jumping off of them. Yes, I am an Assassin’s Creed fan, why do you ask? :P I fully intend to scope out all of the viewpoints – I mean, highest points in an area…and then dive to my doom. Why? Well, really…why not?!

Mesmers look brilliant. I’m a Mesmer fangirl, and of my favorite professions from Guild Wars, they’re the only returning profession (poor Dervish and Ritualist). I love the way illusions look and work, and I squeed a bit at the fact that one of the skills they have with a sword off-hand is Riposte. People I roleplay with will know why :P Mesmers actually appear to be a fair amount more support-based than they used to be, especially if you’re using a staff…but even so, debuffing is a main part of what they’ve always done, and they sure keep that up. They just look like they’re going to be so much fun to play, and I can’t wait.

Is there more? Oh yeah, there’s more. WvW in particular looked like it was loads of fun, despite the fact that I’m really not a PvPer at all. Overflow servers are the greatest idea ever, and I’m wondering why no one else has thought of them – who wants to be stuck waiting while they can be playing? And the fact that ANet decided to end it by killing everyone horribly – and the fact that having every player grouped in one small area and spawning giants on top of them caused complete chaos – is just hilarious but also not surprising in the least.

I had been hoping to see more on the asura and particularly the sylvari, but they weren’t playable in this build, sadly. Hopefully soon! And at any rate, it is nearly March, and that’s when they’re going to start expanding the beta events to include more people.

There’s just so much to go through (and more still coming!) – what were your favorite bits of info from the press beta event?

Here be Dragons!

Dragons. They are slightly important to Guild Wars 2…being as the plot basically revolves around trying to stop them from destroying the world. When it comes down to it, we don’t know much about the dragons themselves, though. We know how many Elder Dragons are threatening Tyria – five – but we still lack the name of one, the deep sea dragon (nicknamed “Bubbles”). We know that they have minions, as well as each having their own champion.

The Great Lava Turkey - I mean, Destroyer

Or at least, they each did – Primordus’ original champion was the Great Destroyer, who was destroyed in Eye of the North, delaying Primordus from awakening. His second, the Destroyer of Life, was destroyed by Destiny’s Edge. But has he created/procured himself a new champion? My guess is that it would be another particularly large and powerful Destroyer, but as of yet, we don’t know. Perhaps it’s something that we won’t know for a while, since Primordus lurks underground, but even so.

And that of course raises the question – just how is a dragon champion created? Glint had been Kralkatorrik’s champion for centuries of years; her ability to see into minds caused her to turn against her master and hide in the Crystal Desert. GW2 Wiki says that she was created with the goal of protecting her master, but…just how was she created? Morgus Lethe, Zhaitan’s former champion, was “corrupted” by Zhaitan, but we don’t know much about this corruption other than sylvari are immune to it.

So far that we know of, both Zhaitan and Kralkatorrik have replaced their defeated champions, their new ones being Tequatl the Sunless and the Shatterer. The fact that both are dragons themselves (champions do not necessarily need to be dragons) brings about the question of just how many dragons currently exist in Tyria? In GW1, undead dragons in certain Krytan areas were…not quite common, but not uncommon either. Cantha had Saltspray Dragons. There were also creatures that were classified as dragons, but the resemblence was less – Drakes and Bonesnap Turtles for example. These lesser ones were more common, but somehow I doubt they would make suitable dragon champions. Tequatl could be a reanimated undead dragon (think Rotscale, but nastier), made to fight for Zhaitan.

The Shatterer - not a happy crystal chicken.

The Shatterer is a bit more of an enigma. There were no dragons living in/around the Dragonbrand that we knew of in GW1, except for Glint herself. So where did this dragon that Kralkatorrik corrupted come from? And would any random dragon work, or would it need to be a crystal dragon, like Kralkatorrik and Glint themselves were?

And connected to that…Glint had a child, the baby crystal dragon that we protected from Destroyers during Glint’s Challenge in Eye of the North. We don’t know the fate of this baby dragon – if it’s still alive, if it was corrupted by an elder dragon or not, or where it is.

Jormag’s champion was destroyed; as of yet we don’t know if he has a new champion, or what it is. Nor do we know what happened with the dragon frozen within Drakkar Lake in Eye of the North, or why Jormag had created the Dragonspawn instead of awakening his old champion.

And then there’s Bubbles, which we know almost nothing about, including its name. It’s an underwater dragon, its awakening coincided with the krait invading the quaggan lands, and it can create creatures from the water but…that’s about it. We don’t know what kind of champion it has, or if it even has one.

I’d love to see some more lore and information about the dragons themselves; how they work, how they create or select a champion, what sort of lesser dragons exist and how many…there’s so much potentially interesting info here we don’t yet know. I’m sure most we’ll find out in game, but that doesn’t help the curiosity much :P

…also, I totally want to see an NPC in-game refer to the sea dragon as “Bubbles”. Just sayin’.

The children of the forest

If you know me, there’s something about GW2 that you know I’m waiting very impatiently to hear about (well, two things. This is about one of them). If you don’t know me well, then it should be clear, at least, from this blog’s name and design that there’s one race in particular I love.

Yes, the sylvari. That mysterious race of human-like beings, born from the Pale Tree in the Grove. But just who are they?

Concept art of a sylvari

At this point, we don’t know a huge amount about them. They’re a brand new race, not appearing at all in the first Guild Wars game, though you can visit the area that becomes the Grove and that houses the Pale Tree seedling in Eye of the North (it’s on one of the islands in the middle of Arbor Bay, if you haven’t yet seen it). We’ve yet to see their race week. In fact, at this point, we don’t really know how they’re going to look!

So, then, what is the allure of them?

The fact that they are so new and different is certainly part of it. We know that it’s possible, and probably likely, that the idea for the sylvari originally came from the sidhe, a race that was designed for Utopia. That, in turn, they were likely inspired by the aos sí/aes sídhe of Irish mythology.

That in itself makes them unusual; while fantasy games always draw heavily from legends and mythology (and Guild Wars is no different), usually if there’s an elven or fae race, they are based on Tolkienesque elves. Here, that is not the case. Irish fae are not Tolkien elves, even though there are elves amongst the fae. Irish fae cover a number of different types of faeries and elves, some of which are generally good and peaceful, some not so much. They were often referred to as nature spirits, care was taken to not offend them, they were often seen as fierce guardians of their homes (often a special tree or grove, faerie ring, or mound), and they were described as inhumanly beautiful, but sometimes terribly so.

Another sylvari concept art

It’s not really a mythology that’s been used much in games. Sure, Rift has the Aelfwar, which draw from Irish myths, but for the most part, elves in that game (and any game) are based more on Tolkien’s elves. Mysterious, aloof, ancient, unchanging. The sylvari are most certainly not that. They are a brand new race; as of the time of GW2, the oldest sylvari is only 23 years old. They may seem a bit apart from the rest of the races, but that is simply because they are so new and do not have the prejudices that the other races have build up. Mysterious, yes, but also curious. Endlessly curious. A sylvari, newly born from the fruit of the Pale Tree, will want to do learn about everything she can see. They are born with the knowledge and intelligence that those came before had, but they want to learn things on their own. Experience things themselves. Become their own person.

They tend to be very direct and honest, and somewhat lacking in tact; if there’s a subject that another race would tiptoe around or not mention at all, you can trust a sylvari to bring it up anyway. They take things at face value and are seen as naive. Death is not something they completely understand; their fascination with it and trying to understand it can come off as slightly disturbing to other races. They hold an agnostic view of the human gods, wanting to see proof of their existence before believing.

And then there is also the Nightmare Court. Within the Dream of Dreams, the connection with the Pale Tree that gives a newborn sylvari their knowledge, there are terrible nightmares, which they do not understand. There are some sylvari who have chosen to embrace those nightmares. They attempt to understand them, while committing acts of evil. They wish to eventually corrupt the Pale Tree itself with this evil and depravity that they embrace.

Definitely not very Tolkienesque, right?

Sylvari, before being redesigned

Of course, the biggest thing everyone is waiting for is the reveal of their redesign. We don’t know how they’re going to look yet! Supposedly, the redesign was completed back in October 2010, but no news has been released about it. No images, no new concept art, no videos, nothing. Every release has very conspicuously excluded the sylvari. We don’t even know how much was redesigned; if it was just something small like redrawing the faces to look a little less human and more fae, or if they were completely redone from the ground up.

Personally, I am hoping for something less human and more fae. I like the green and brown of the skin colors and leafy hair shown in both concept arts and screenshots of their old design, but I’d like that to be pushed further. Exaggerate their facial features further. Make their eyes larger and maybe have the iris be all that’s visible. Smaller noses, sharper cheekbones. They’re human-like, yes, but they should be immediately recognizable as non-humans.

The only sylvari tidbit I saw from the fan open house was that in character creation, you can select sylvari patterns. I’m assuming that this means facial markings and skin patterns, something which you can see a lot of in concept arts. I sure hope so.

I wish there was more information on the sylvari. I wish we could see the new design already, and I do hope that it’s announced soon. And I’m sure I’m not the only one. And so, I leave you with a question – what do you think of the sylvari, and what are you hoping for when they are officially revealed?

An eye for detail

Today’s newest blogpost from Arenanet was about environmental artists, and the work that they do for Guild Wars 2. I love reading the Anet blog posts, because it’s quite neat seeing these little glimpses into the behind-the-scenes work that’s being done on GW2. Also, as an artist, I love the bits of concept art and game screenshots that tend to be displayed in these posts; I also find it quite intriguing to see how artists that specialize in a different part of the field work.

The main thing that this particular post made clear, and that I especially love, is that the artists working on the environments in GW2 are working very hard on the little details. Guild Wars had lots of detail in the environments, but as noted in the article, it was possible to ‘cheat’ with that, since there were areas that were initially not accessible to players (and I recall a couple of areas playing through War in Kryta that were obviously not originally intended to be seen close up; usually low-res textures that look fine at a distance but not when you’re standing in front of it). As Peter noted, though, “there are few parts of this new game world that are inaccessible”. The examples he said of what players would do made me giggle (jumping the counter to go sneak into the backroom of a bar, for one), but he’s absolutely correct that players are going to want to explore every bit of the world that we can.

I like how it describes the process of creating the environments; first blocking in the major stuff (cliffs, rivers, towns), and then going back to add in the smaller details. What started out as just a large block next to a road would become a house, a shop, a smithy. Shop stalls would have items on the shelves. A home might have a garden with a cat lazing about. A smithy would have a fire going in the forge. There’d be plants, grass, and trees all over. In other words – it’d have the same things you’d notice about a place in real life.

Of course, it’s not just as simple as putting props into place wherever they please. The environment artists need to keep in mind the tech limits they have to work within, as well as trying to match the concept artists’ visions. The bit about Daniel Dociu furiously sketching on a napkin made me laugh, I will definitely admit. The fact that basically no area is exempt from being redone if needed I also quite liked; the human starting area, Queensdale, has been redone over 700 times. It’s been revised forty times since the demos at PAX and GamesCom last year. I have to wonder, just how many other development teams can make that sort of claim? That they’re so dedicated to having everything work and look so perfect that they’ll redo it hundreds of times before it’s right? Somehow I doubt it’s really that many.

My boyfriend’s response to that blog post, as an aspiring game designer, was “I seriously want to work for them so much. Every art or design post they make perfectly matches my ideals.” I know that I certainly can’t wait to go and explore every last inch of the continent – and I also know that I won’t be the only one doing so.