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    2022.08.26 Guild Wars 2

    Looking Back on the First Decade of 〈Guild Wars 2〉 Bobby Stein, Narrative Director & Aaron Coberly, Art Director at Arenanet

    〈Guild Wars 2〉, NC’s global MMORPG game serviced in North America·Europe, celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. After releasing 3 expansion packs and 35 Living World episodes for the past 10 years since the game’s launch in August 2012, the game now stands with 16 million players from across the globe.


    In this interview, we will meet the Arenanet development team that had been with studio since the game’s very first launch. Read the interview of Bobby Stein, Narrative Director and Aaron Coberly, Art Director at Arenanet to explore the past, present and future that will be unfolded at 〈Guild Wars 2〉.

    From the left: Bobby Stein, Narrative Director & Aaron Coberly, Art Director at Arenanet

    The Game that Redefined MMORPGs at the West

    Please introduce yourself. Which part of are you responsible for?

    Bobby   I’m Bobby Stein, 〈Guild Wars 2〉 Narrative Director. I’ve been at the studio since late 2005 which makes my time at the studio almost 17 years so far. The narrative team focuses on creating stories and characters in the Guild Wars universe. We provide context and meaning to the gameplay, write voiced dialogue, lore, and other in-game text, and collaborate with our peers in Art, Audio, Cinematics, Design, Programming, and QA to tell stories in the most effective ways possible.


    Aaron   I’m Aaron Coberly, 〈Guild Wars 2〉 Art Director. I have been at the studio for almost 19 years. I was the lead character artist for 〈Guild Wars 1〉 and 〈Guild Wars 2〉, then became the Art Director 5 years ago. My role is to continue to look for new and better ways of getting high quality content into our game.

    〈Guild Wars 2〉 is celebrating an important milestone this year, the 10th anniversary. How do you feel about this, especially since you have seen the game launch from the very beginning?

    Bobby   I am humbled and in awe. You always want the game you’ve spent years working on to be successful, but I didn’t imagine it’d be going this strong for so many years. I still vividly remember the day of the game’s launch in August 2012, being in the game and watching hundreds of new characters appear in front of me. Huge trains of players would roam the map together and it was magical. I just want to send our gratitude to all of the fans who are constantly passionate about our game then and now.


    Aaron.   I am very excited. It is amazing how much people have loved this game and kept it alive for 10 years. When you start a project like 〈Guild Wars 2〉 you never expect it to thrive for so long. I am especially proud to be part of a team that made it this far.

    After a decade, 〈Guild Wars 2〉 now stands as an award-winning MMORPG recognized by many awards and media at the West. What do you think contributed to the game’s success?

    Bobby   Many people say that 〈Guild Wars 2〉 is “a little different” than other MMORPGs. Some say it’s the action combat and dynamic events that set us apart. Others say it’s the extensively voiced, serialized story. But the phrase that remains deeply in my head is to say that our community is one of the friendliest and most welcoming of any game they’ve played. I believe that our game has the power to attract many empathetic players who are looking for a friendlier online game in which to spend their free time.

    While Methods Evolve, Passion to Create an Attractive Worldview Remains Unchanged

    What do you feel has changed in 〈Guild Wars 2〉 after 10 years compared to the past initial stages of the game?

    Bobby   Narratively, the way we tell our stories have evolved over the years. We have moved away from the portrait-style cinematics of the Personal Story centered around characters’ dialogue to a focus on in-world scenes and sequences that is more centered around actual gameplay and navigable in-world environments between characters. We are also working with Art, Cinematics, and Design to improve the quality of our big cinematic moments and intimate character beats, emphasize characterization and interpersonal conflict to tell more relatable stories to our players.


    Aaron   First and foremost, the world of Tyria has grown immensely since we launched. Over the past years there have been 3 expansions and 5 Living World storylines released. Just looking at the contents included here, we can see that a huge amount of art has been accumulated.

    How has the art of 〈Guild Wars 2〉 progressed and changed over the years and what is the focus now?

    Aaron   I feel that the quality of our art has grown over the years, as we have learned how to get more out of our tools and be more efficient. Technology has also allowed us to do things that we were not able to do at launch. Obviously, there is the art quality aspect to increase the art quality of the game by using various technologies and skills, but another focus is to place this high-quality content into the game in the right way to support and emphasize the fun and wow of the game.


    We are also constantly looking for ways to increase the core art skills of our artists and the art team. From the beginning of 〈Guild Wars 2〉, we have created a world of such diversity it allows extreme artistic creativity. We have the asura, who touch on science fiction elements; the charr, who are in an industrial age of raw steel; the Sylvari, who revel in natural plant beauty, not to mention all the other supporting cultures we have added to the game. This allows the art team to push the boundaries of what exists in Tyria which can provide new experiences to our players.  

    How has the narrative of the game evolved and changed? What stories can players look forward to in the future?

    Bobby   We try to evolve our storytelling approach with each Living World season and expansion we put out. Every release we make is an opportunity to learn, to build off what we’ve done before. We are now trying to weave the story in and out of the open world. And through stronger ties with our collaborators in adjacent disciplines, we are successfully permeating the story throughout the game world through environment art, gameplay, and ambient audio.


    Living World Season 5, also known as The Icebrood Saga, set the stage for End of Dragons by removing Primordus and Jormag, Elder Dragons of Fire and Ice, respectively, from the equation. From that point onward, the magic cycle of Tyria was irreversibly off-balance and Soo-Won's fate was essentially sealed, narratively speaking. Within End of Dragons, we saw the identity of the water dragon revealed, returned to find Cantha as a technological wonderland, and helped Aurene ascend as the sole Elder Dragon to balance and filter the planet’s magic. Harmony was established, and the Commander could finally get some rest. A lot of our players must wonder where we will go from here. To give a slight spoiler, the next story releases will take place in a new location in Cantha and could be a thematic extension of some of the concepts we’ve introduced over the years. While I can’t spoil what players will encounter, I will say that it might have some foreshadowing to the next expansion. Many exciting stories are planned for the future and we hope our players will look forward to them.

    First episode of Living World Season 5, The Icebrood Saga: “Bound by Blood”

    Moving Towards the Next Decade Where More Players Will Enjoy the World of 〈Guild Wars 2〉

    〈Guild Wars 2〉 recently launched on the global game platform ‘Steam’. As it is the first time to launch at a third-party platform, this seems to be an important steppingstone for the game’s expansion.  

    Bobby   Our launch on Steam means that a whole new batch of players will get to join us in Tyria to see what the rest of us have been enjoying over the past decade. I heard that many content creators and guilds will be welcoming new players into the game and guide them along as they start their journey. I hope our new players will like what they see and have a wonderful first experience in our world.

    〈Guild Wars 2〉 has a passionate community of over 16 million global players. How will the development team communicate with the players moving forward?

    Bobby   In my opinion, there are huge benefits to communicating openly and honestly with the community. Building trust takes time, but once you get there the tone changes dramatically. We don’t always get it right, and sometimes we have to withdraw to let things calm down, but that’s natural. We will continue to keep our players up-to-dated on information on the game and our future plans, and just enjoy jumping into the game as players ourselves to spend time with the community. I hope that we can continue this positive relationship in the future.

    Lastly, what will be the next goal of for the next decade(s)?

    Aaron   When we first started out 〈Guild Wars 2〉, artistically, we wanted to make a game that felt more like a painting than a video game. We knew that if we only relied on the latest technical bells and whistles, we would look outdated quickly. Fine art fundamentals have been our core, making the game feel handcrafted is an essential part of that. Our goal for the next decade is not so different. We want to make the game feel as organic as possible and push as far as we can from looking like a computer render. Through this we will put our efforts to honor and grow the legacy of quality art that 〈Guild Wars 2〉 has.


    Bobby   The original 〈Guild Wars〉 IP is almost 20 years old at this point. I have high hopes that 〈Guild Wars 2〉 will last at least as long. Our community is stronger than ever, with more players returning each day alongside brand new ones. Sentiment is extremely high right now, so it’s our job to keep our players happy, keep delivering a blend of improvements to the game alongside new content for them to enjoy, new lands to explore, and new stories to experience. I want 〈Guild Wars 2〉 to be remembered as a rich world to get lost in, as a welcoming place to make new friends, and ultimately to be a vibrant and sustainable community for all to enjoy.

    * The above presents the personal opinions of the interviewee and not the official opinions of NCSOFT.