I got to interview Eric Flannum at Gamescom

#1 Edited by EnchantedEcho (731 posts) -

Just for those of you who don't know, Eric Flannum is the Lead Game Designer on Guild Wars 2.

In this interview I talk with Eric about: The Skill System in Guild Wars 2 and what prompted the change from Guild Wars 1, The Hall of Monuments in Guild Wars 2 (How you get there in Guild Wars 2, Name Reservation ect), Transmutation Stones and finally Asuran Golems (how they work and when you can use them). Took me 5 tries to get this up on YouTube, I'd appreciate any feedback you have on the interview and any tips or pieces of advice for the future.

I had previously read up on stuff like the skill system but didn't really understand it until Eric explained it to me in this video, also managed to clear up a bit of grey area with the Golems and the Hall of Monuments.

#2 Posted by selfconfessedcynic (2494 posts) -

Cool stuff dude. Will watch when I get home from work.

#3 Posted by EnchantedEcho (731 posts) -

@selfconfessedcynic: Cheers, looking forward to what you have to say.

#4 Posted by Dark_Lord_Spam (2967 posts) -

Interesting stuff in there - I think the golem info is new (to me, anyway) and it's good to hear confirmation that transmutation stones will be available in-game. Nice job.

#5 Posted by EnchantedEcho (731 posts) -

@Dark_Lord_Spam: Yeah, transmutation stones are a pretty cool idea so that's why I asked about them. I had read about how the skills would work in GW2 but found it kinda hard to believe that you would have 5 skills that are set and you can't change. But when he explained traits and how each weapon combination will have different skills, I realized that there is a decent amount of differentiation available and felt better about the whole thing.

#6 Posted by Vexxan (4600 posts) -

Great interview, interesting stuff for sure.

#7 Edited by selfconfessedcynic (2494 posts) -

Hah - aside from the very beginning and the very end, that was a surprisingly professional and informative interview.

Just in case you wanted feedback on the interview itself;

  • I'd just say don't be afraid of trying a second take on the intro. You look heaps tired, so that's prob. definitely a factor, but the interview lacked a bit of energy at the start. Aside from that, you had all the basics down pat - you introduced him well, and you established the topic well.
  • I know you're working with very little time to get this interviews done (especially with the high profile devs), but try one or two sentences of filler to gain some of that oomf and establish your own personality and perspective. Just from the latest E3, GB produced some of the best interviews with game devs I've seen. For example, with John Carmack and Ken Levine, you can see how they manage to get a bit of gusto in there before "starting" whilst taking fuck all time and staying rock solid on message. With smaller devs, RTD does just as well here and takes up about as much time as you had, whilst hitting all those great notes of humour, personality and getting information. Of course, these guys have like 50 years of experience between them, so it just comes down to practice and confidence. But good job, as I said, you had the basics down.
  • As for ending, try rounding out with something like "So, to finish things off, was there anything you wanted to say about Guild Wars 2?" - it takes the load off you and lets them get to their message. You can see a good example of this a bunch of GB's older interviews - or if you can just end it with "thank you for your time, and I think Guild Wars 2 looks really great" - which is what you get from the other like, half of the GB crew's interviews. I think that second one was where you were going, but I didn't catch all of it and it floundered a little. (the reason I'm using GB as an example is because of all that experience those guys have and, well, we're ON Giant Bomb)
  • Aside from that (ie, the whole middle), you did great - you didn't use a reference sheet or phone for the questions and you maintained a professional demeanor. As for your camera dude, I'd say focus on the guy talking - dont worry too much about not moving as long as you keep it steady (in fact, sometimes moving lends things a lot of energy - see the House MD directorial interviews and commentaries for example). You'll see the GB guys moving their cameras heaps (but again, Drew, Vinny etc are gods at that stuff). Great editing btw - cutting to ingame footage etc was smooth and unobtrusive as far as these things go.

As for content, I'm with others in saying that Transmutations being purchasable is a great thing - I would hate to have to grind for them. Heck, the idea of Karma vendors is a great thing. Also, the info on Golems was awesome. I'm TOTALLY rolling an asura as my second character, if not my first. Good catches there by the way.

ED: HOLY SHIT, I frikkin KNEW you were an Aussie too. I was like Hmm... gamescom? He has to be English right? But fuck... he sounds Australian...

No wonder you looked so tired for this interview : ). I'll be sure to hit up your website.

#8 Posted by EnchantedEcho (731 posts) -

@selfconfessedcynic: Wow thanks so much, that's some really awesome feedback. Yeah, this was our last day at Gamescom and we usually woke up around 6, and I went to sleep at around 3am most nights, so yeah I was tired. This is actually my first interview with a developer, and I somehow got the Lead Game Designer of Guild Wars 2, and being such a huge fan of the original game (put nearly 1500 hours into it) I was extremely nervous as you could probably hear in my voice. As anyone who has ever interviewed anyone knows, thinking up questions while they are answering them is the hardest part.

Also on the camera work, we forgot our tripod that day (doh!) so my friend and to do it handheld, the camera we are using is also pretty basic (a Sony HandyCam, it does 1080p and has mic input and that's basically it), so at points, I actually tried to cut to gameplay when it got a bit shaky.

I agree with all of your points and will definitely keep them in mind next time I get a chance to interview a developer (hopefully E3 2012, if we can get the viewers up), and thanks so much again for taking the time to write what you did. Also just to be clear, I didn't get paid a dime for any of this, Digital Gaudium is my own website that I try to upkeep on my on time while at university, this is basically my go at video game journalism to see if I enjoy it enough, to properly pursue it.

#9 Posted by Troncek (254 posts) -

Sorry, but you asked questions that were already known for at least a year or two. Good job nonetheless. :)

#10 Posted by EnchantedEcho (731 posts) -

@Troncek: Which?

#11 Posted by Troncek (254 posts) -

All of them. Everything about HoN and skills was explained over official blog posts and interviews a long time ago. :)

#12 Posted by EnchantedEcho (731 posts) -

@Troncek: Apart from Golems, your right (The wiki page is pretty barren at the moment: http://wiki.guildwars2.com/wiki/Golem ).

I asked about the Hall of Monuments because I was interested in it personally and hadn't done much reading on how it would appear in Guild Wars 2, I asked about the skills because I found it extremely had to believe that ArenaNet would lock 5 out of the 8 skills on your bar after Guild Wars 1 where you had a lot of flexibility.

#13 Edited by Troncek (254 posts) -

Actually there's even more flexibility, since you can switch weapons in the midst of combat and completely change your first 5 skills on-the-fly or as the situation warrants. Sure, you can only set the last 5 skills, but you get more skills to play with in combat. And there's traits that change how skills work. Also, certain classes, like the elementalist, have access to even more skills on-the-fly when changing attunements etc. Oh, there are 10 skills in GW2, not 8.

It's not that drastic as it may seem at first. :)

#14 Edited by selfconfessedcynic (2494 posts) -

@Troncek

Actually there's even more flexibility, since you can switch weapons in the midst of combat and completely change your first 5 skills on-the-fly or as the situation warrants. Sure, you can only set the last 5 skills, but you get more skills to play with in combat. And there's traits that change how skills work. Also, certain classes, like the elementalist, have access to even more skills on-the-fly when changing attunements etc. Oh, there are 10 skills in GW2, not 8.

It's not that drastic as it may seem at first. :)

I dunno dude - "there's even more flexibility" is the company line, but not the vibe I'm getting at the moment. Or at least, I'm not yet convinced.

Sure you have 15 skills now instead of 8, but not only are 10 of those predetermined, within a fight the cooldown for weapon swapping kills many if not all chances for cross-weapon combos. Beyond that, the remaining 5 skills are funnelled into a heal, an elite and 3 support.

No matter how much "freedom" they are touting, at the moment I can only see 4 skill slots to play with in terms of making ingenuitive builds.

The big questions here us traits and elites. Initially, traits sounded promising as they could change skill effects and allow for flexibility - but as time went on, they became relatively small modifiers for the most part ("chance to cause burning"? Yeah right - like that really mixes things up). Now I think they realised this, so traits are being rebuilt - hopefully they will be more interesting (like the example once given of the guardian bubble shield being able to lock enemies IN with a trait).

Elites now recharge much quicker than the original 12-20 mins, so that opens those up too. In this case, I'm just hoping for a bunch of variety...

For now, I'm waiting and hoping on this one.

#15 Edited by Dark_Lord_Spam (2967 posts) -
@selfconfessedcynic: As far as I'm concerned, the company line has always been "the game should be fun for anyone". Having weapons load predetermined skills is just a way for ANet to make sure that no one will try to create the GW2 version of a hamstorm build and then have a miserable time trying to complete content with it. Without a required healing skill for each character, the holy trinity would just emerge again, with certain professions bringing only DPS utilities and others going full support to make up for it. As for elites, they might as well be required given their semi-imbalanced nature. I think that the skill system they have now truly allows a player to take on any role THEY (and not the communal bias) desire - and yes, traits will allow for an even crazier amount of minute tweaks.
#16 Edited by selfconfessedcynic (2494 posts) -

@Dark_Lord_Spam: I definitely see the arguments for the current skill system - I was primarily voicing my opinion on the current lack of flexibility. So yeah, I agree with your points. (at least with the truth of them anyway, if not the solutions Anet has come up with)

I can definitely appreciate not having to skillcheck every new member of a PuG when going into structured PvP, as now everyone is working from basic skill lines which have known synergy. Also, I can see that having those 5 main sills (or 25-30 if someone experiments with multiple weapon combinations) from the start could possibly raise average player skill in the use of them. A vastly diminished pool of elites to chose from also allows for a certain level of base potential quality for any player you meet online.

My main concern is playing for 100+ hours, or even 1000+ hours with what amounts to the same old skills and only ever really varying your 3 support and 1 elite (maybe the heal every now and then, but I can see people settling on one). The main thing here is do skills stay the "same" during your playtime? Here's where my hope for the possible flexibility provided by the new traits system comes into it.

I'm pretty much saying that sure, Anet has implemented some version of the loot grind and the level grind (polished and adapted to be sure), but the actual progression in any RPG, at least for me, has always been the acquisition and learning of new skills and play-styles. Hopefully they come up with some cool ideas to address this - but as I've said before, colour me hopefully optimistic rather than outright convinced.

Oh, and for those saying "Yeah, but you can try out a different class" - I'm a guy who played every one of the 10 professions in the original Guild Wars extensively, experimenting with tens if not hundreds of builds across all of them (and note, back then we had subclasses - a Warrior/Necromancer is very different to an Necromancer/Warrior). Trying to say that the current level of options spread across 8 classes somehow fixes my issues is kindof missing the point.

ED: Hah, sorry for hijacking your thread EnchantedEcho, but hey, discussion is fun

#17 Posted by Troncek (254 posts) -

Traits are being redone now. Was just revealed at the main ArenaNet panel at PAX yesterday. :)

#18 Edited by selfconfessedcynic (2494 posts) -

@Troncek said:

Traits are being redone now. Was just revealed at the main ArenaNet panel at PAX yesterday. :)

Yup, and thank god for it IMO. Hmm... is there an archive of that panel? *looks around*

#19 Posted by EnchantedEcho (731 posts) -

@selfconfessedcynic said:

This is my main problem with the skill system.

My main concern is playing for 100+ hours, or even 1000+ hours with what amounts to the same old skills and only ever really varying your 3 support and 1 elite (maybe the heal every now and then, but I can see people settling on one). The main thing here is do skills stay the "same" during your playtime? Here's where my hope for the possible flexibility provided by the new traits system comes into it.

Also on the traits being 'scrapped', Eric clarified on the Guild Wars 2 forums saying:

Hey guys, just thought I'd jump in and clarify some things. First, the term "scrapped" was an unfortunate choice of words on Jon's part. He tends to use very strong language to describe things even when it isn't warranted (all part of his charm). I think when most people think of something being "scrapped" they think of things being completely tossed out and restarted from square one which isn't at all what's happened with the trait system.

The changes that you will see made to traits, and the acquisition of skills all make use of and leverage things that were for the most part already in the game. To say we "scrapped" the trait system is an overstatement.

So yeah, I don't think it's changing. I like the way traits work at the moment, if you want flexibility don't look at the trait system look at the actual skill system.

#20 Posted by Dark_Lord_Spam (2967 posts) -
@selfconfessedcynic: I don't know exactly how it'll work for experimenters like you, but I ended up getting super lazy with builds in the original game. My main is a paragon, and the only really viable choice for a para in PvE is to run an imbagon build. I change maybe one skill on my bar every nine months, and only ever switch builds when I'm farming or doing elite missions (and then only to other "cream of the crop" builds). If I can switch half of my bar at the press of a button to adapt to fluctuations in combat, I'll have more flexibility than I ever had in GW1.
#21 Edited by selfconfessedcynic (2494 posts) -

@Dark_Lord_Spam: Lol - true enough. Hm... I really do think they recognize the "builder" aspect of the original guild wars - I believe Isaiah has touched on this a couple of times - and their answer so far has always been "The customization is where Traits come in". Maybe I'm getting my hopes up - but hey.

I cant wait to get my hands on the game - a) to test whether my fears come to fruition and b) to see how all these pieces fit together.

@EnchantedEcho said:

Also on the traits being 'scrapped', Eric clarified on the Guild Wars 2 forums saying:

Hey guys, just thought I'd jump in and clarify some things. First, the term "scrapped" was an unfortunate choice of words on Jon's part. He tends to use very strong language to describe things even when it isn't warranted (all part of his charm). I think when most people think of something being "scrapped" they think of things being completely tossed out and restarted from square one which isn't at all what's happened with the trait system.

The changes that you will see made to traits, and the acquisition of skills all make use of and leverage things that were for the most part already in the game. To say we "scrapped" the trait system is an overstatement.

So yeah, I don't think it's changing. I like the way traits work at the moment, if you want flexibility don't look at the trait system look at the actual skill system.

I think there's another way to interpret his words. They are keeping the traits system, but changing its "weight", so to say - that's at least how I read it. IE, changing how you gain / capture traits and changing how much they effect things. Personally I would like to see traits modifying the effects of skills more, but as yall have pointed out, I don't think that's the way they are taking things. Anything deeper than "adds burning" or "extends duration" is what I'm really looking for - *fingers crossed*.

#22 Posted by EnchantedEcho (731 posts) -

@selfconfessedcynic: Yeah, I like the general idea of traits (how you can change how different skills work) but, I hope they go deeper than the examples that you gave: "adds burning" or "extends durations".

I'm personally more interested in what they have to say about Guilds, from most reports it seems that they havent actually finished the guild system but, I really hope they go far beyond what they did in Guild Wars 1, the game is after all called, Guild Wars.

#23 Posted by selfconfessedcynic (2494 posts) -

@EnchantedEcho: Yeah, there's a bunch of new guild info floating around - but for me, the idea of having and a keep in WvW sounds awesome.

#24 Posted by EnchantedEcho (731 posts) -

@selfconfessedcynic: Man, all of this talk just makes me want this game even more. I don't think I have ever waited for a game this long, it was announced in March 2007 :(

#25 Posted by NekuSakuraba (7240 posts) -
@EnchantedEcho

@selfconfessedcynic: Man, all of this talk just makes me want this game even more. I don't think I have ever waited for a game this long, it was announced in March 2007 :(

You're Australian, right? Maybe you should go to the EB expo in the gold coast and see if you can get some interviews there.
#26 Edited by EnchantedEcho (731 posts) -

@NekuSakuraba: Saw the initial video promo for that thing a few months ago, really threw me off. Just had a look at the exhibitor list and it has a decent showing, will inquire about a media pass and see how it goes. Cheers for the tip :)

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