We managed to get together with NCSoft during Gamescom last week and talk a bit about the last moments before Guild Wars 2 is released. Is everyone ready? Is everyone excited? Let’s find out!
DefaultPrime: Can you please introduce yourself to our readers?
Stephen Hutchins: Hi, my name is Stephen Hutchins. I’m the product manager for NCSoft in Europe.
Defaul Prime: Guild Wars 2 is approaching release and at the time of publishing of this interview, might even be available for pre-purchasers. Is everyone at NCSoft and ArenaNet ready and hyped?
Stephen Hutchins: Oh, yes! At the time of this interview, we are 9 days away and we are so excited about those next 9 days. We have a few very busy days ahead of us and we are excited that the launch is going to be a success. The team over at ArenaNet in Bellevue are working flat-out to make sure they get in as much polish as possible, taking in all the feedback that people have been great in supplying from the various beta tests and stress tests. We’re making sure that we can listen to as much of that and fix as many of the issues that have come up throughout the testing, making sure we have a super-polished launch on the game-front. We can’t wait to see it all finally go live and the world to start to breathe in a certain way.
Default Prime: There have been very few MMO launches that have gone smoothly. Something almost always breaks, whether it was WoW, any newer MMO, or games like Diablo 3… Servers just give in under the pressure. Do you expect any complications at launch and is everyone on standby in case anything happens?
Stephen Hutchins: We are definitely gonna have everyone there, making sure everything goes as smoothly as it can. We are really focused on making sure that everything from server-side activities as well as community-side activities is there to give everyone the best experience they can have during the launch window. And also beyond – it’s not just about getting to launch, it’s about making sure that after launch we have things going smoothly, so people can feel that we’re giving the service that they really want.
Default Prime: So what are the post-launch plans down the line? What can you share?
Stephen Hutchins: I can’t share a great amount of detail, but what I can share is that we will be continuing to evolve the game. There will be new content coming into the game and things will continue to grow and expand. A lot of it depends on what the players do with the game as well: what are they enjoying, what are they interacting with, how are different communities forming away of the game… We’ll see what we can do with that and hopefully we’ll have a good time, as will the players.
Default Prime: Are you looking only at official forums for feedback, or are you checking out communities like Reddit and similar?
Stephen Hutchins: We look everywhere. As you said, we have our official forums, then we also have our Facebook and Twitter pages where we have very big communities. But then we also have a big following on Reddit, which I know the developers follow every day, as well as many other forums, too many to mention. We’re looking at all the different kinds of feedback coming in, both in terms of what’s qualitative for the game, what’s being said in terms of what people like about ArenaNet and NCSoft, how we can use that to basically make sure we are giving the best service we can give.
Default Prime: Like the original Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2 is pay once, with no subscription model. Do you feel that you have a specific weight lifted off your shoulders? That you’re not exactly competing as much with other subscription-based MMOs, or do you feel you are simply offering more?
Stephen Hutchins: With the Guild Wars 2 business model we’re very much doing what we feel is the strength of Guild Wars 2. We know that having to buy the box and then no subscription was a fantastic success for Guild Wars 1; 7 million copies sold to date. We know that it worked well enough. With Guild Wars 2, it felt like the right thing to do as well and we’re proud to continue to do that. We have the option that if people do want to spend more money, they can do that in the in-game store. But we also don’t feel it is right to have people “pay to win”, for example. So, if people want to play the game and get all the good stuff in the store, that’s cool. We want to make sure they have the opportunity to get all the cool fun content without having to feel forced to have to pay to play the stuff. It’s also about us not wanting to have people have to come to the game every month just because they’re paying a monthly subscription. We want to make sure they are coming into Guild Wars 2 because they are having fun playing the game. If you want to come in once a month – great! Once a day? Cool! Whatever’s fun for you, that’s how we want it to be.
Default Prime: It’s interesting because when you remove the subscription model, a lot of things that people would nitpick about in MMOs are gone: crafting is much faster, exp is much faster, progression is much faster… Can you tell us more about removing the “no fun” elements in Guild Wars 2?
Stephen Hutchins: The whole idea of fun with Guild Wars 2 is, for example, during the beta program when you were playing through the game, you saw surveys pop up, asking “Is what you just played fun?” If it is, fantastic. That’s the kind of content we want you to continue to enjoy. If it’s not, it gives us an easy way of seeing “OK, you guys didn’t enjoy that. Let’s make sure you guys get something that you do enjoy in that situation instead.” That’s valuable data for everyone. That’s the kind of stuff we want player feedback on, because it gives players the game that they really want. Fun is at the heart of it, because if you’re not having fun, being by playing the game or being within the community of the game, why are you going to hang around? So having fun in that situation is great.
Default Prime: So now, during the “calm before the storm”, is there anything you’d like to share with pre-purchasers, potential buyers, or players?
Stephen Hutchins: We’re gonna have a great time, guys. We really look forward to seeing you in-game. It’s gonna be a fantastic start to a fantastic new revolution in gaming and we really look forward to sharing it all with you.
Default Prime: Thank you for your time.
Miodrag hails from the land of Serbia. He is currently a college student trying to learn Japanese and speaks English, German and Serbian (as well as all the jabber similar enough to Serbian). He is primarily a PC gamer, but knows his way around various consoles, old and new.
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