Destructoid Interview: ArenaNet’s co-founder Mike O’Brien, creator of Guild Wars

Destructoid recently had the chance to briefly interview ArenaNet co-founder Mike O’Brien and game designer Ben Miller about Guild Wars, Guild Wars: Eye of the North, and even Guild Wars 2. I was the lucky individual who pulled the blue marble this time and spoke with Mike and Ben about all things Guild Wars .

For all three of you who don’t know, Guild Wars is the extremely successful and groundbreaking competitive online roleplaying game that is still going strong after its original release in 2005. Two additional standalone campaigns and two world championships later, ArenaNet is gearing up for the release of the anticipated expansion pack entitled Eye of the North.

Hit the jump to continue on and read some lengthy highlights from the interview.

Guild Wars: Eye of the North logo

Mike O’Brien is one of three co-founders who helped form ArenaNet in the spring of 2000. He was the original creator of Blizzard’s and has had a large hand in programming and developing Diablo, Starcraft, and Warcraft III. Needless to say, the guy knows a thing or two about a thing or two when it comes to quality games.

Ben Miller is a game designer at ArenaNet who is currently working on the upcoming expanson Eye of the North. He fielded a few questions I had in regard to said expansion.

Now that introductions are out of the way, let’s dive right into some of the questions I had for Mike, shall we?

I first asked Mike about his experience working at Blizzard and helping create and how it influenced him when helping to create ArenaNet. He said that during his time working there he “…couldn’t help but think how much power there would be building games that would only be played on the internet.” This was the founding principal for ArenaNet as shown by their flagship game Guild Wars.

GW:EN Dungeon

Moving along, I then asked about how Guild Wars came about and what its basic principles were when designing the gameplay elements. Mike said “Guild Wars was kind of an experiment. We wanted to do things that were not-so-safe and shake things up a bit. Especially the genre.” One of the most notable of these “not-so-safe” things that Guild Wars is known for is the fact that a staple of the MMO genre — the dreaded monthly fee — was not included.

We switched gears a bit and spoke about Guild Wars and its competitive nature. Mike stated “Guild Wars, at its most competitive level, is an e-sport.” He went on to describe the truth behind this statement by referencing the two world championships. However, he explained that Guild Wars was also intended for more casual play, as well.

Mike then talked about the challenges this caused in the original Guild Wars when pure PvP players didn’t want to touch the roleplaying portion of the game and vice versa; “We had these two extremes and no way to bridge the gap. The fact we tried to do this hurt us more than it helped, we think.” I asked how things will change in Guild Wars 2 and he said “… we’ve divded the competition into two different aspects; ‘world PvP’ and ‘e-sport PvP.'” “In Guild Wars 2, we’ve gotten rid of a lot of the complexity in the e-sport PVP. You will have access to every skill this time.” This means that PvP players no longer need to unlock skills to use them on their PvP character.

GW:EN Dugeon 2

From here, I focused my questions on Eye of the North. One thing I was curious about was that Eye of the North was the series first “true expansion” meaning that you must own one of the three original campaigns to play Eye of the North. I asked simply “What made you reach the decision to make an expansion this time instead of another standalone episode?” Ben chimed in “It was reached by listening to our player base.” He also stated “We were looking to give a ton of content for those who have their existing characters.”

The Eye of the North expansion has also been billed as the next step towards Guild Wars 2. I asked Ben to elaborate a bit on how Eye of the North will set the scene for the true sequel. He replied “GW:EN is going to basically take a lot of the elements from Prophecies that we found most compelling and tie them up or deepen them.” I then asked what additions to the game besides a deeper story will help transition players between Eye of the North and Guild Wars 2. Ben said “One of the strongest mechanical ways we are connecting GW:EN and GW2 is the Hall of Monuments. It is a dynamic instance that changes to reflect and immortalize achievements you’ve earned. In Guild Wars 2 you can inherit those rewards from your Guild Wars 1 character.” This “achievement” thing really has run amok, don’tcha think? First Xbox 360, now Guild Wars? I’m all about it! Forget points, I’ve got an entire Hall of Monuments.

I ended the interview with a simple question asking Mike about ArenaNet and its plans for the future. “Will ArenaNet extend support past the MMO-type genre of gaming and embrace other online gaming genres like a first-person shooter or real-time strategy?” Mike replied with a simple answer “Our philosophy at ArenaNet is to focus on one thing and make it the best thing we possibly can. We are the Guild Wars company. Plain and simple.”

GW Hall of Monuments

So, Guild Wars fans, expect your creators to do everything they can to make your experience that much better by the day. Mike and Ben were both great people to talk to with a genuine passion for what they’re doing and a drive to make those who play Guild Wars happy. Look for Guild Wars: Eye of the North to hit stores at the end of August this year.

I leave you all with a preview trailer featuring the new dungeons available exclusively in the Eye of the North expansion. Enjoy!

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