What if we are not alone? Part 1

Welcome back again to the third article in a four part series speculating the future of Guild Wars 2. If you are just joining the conversation you can find the first article here and the second here. As I mentioned in the first article, this series isn’t speculating how successful Guild Wars 2 will be but taking a what if look if they add a feature or an event happens in the lore. In this article I talk about whether the eight professions available at launch will be the only professions ever available in Guild Wars 2.

The original Guild Wars was released as three stand-alone campaigns. This meant that a player did not have to buy the first campaign release (Guild Wars: Prophecies) in order to play one of the other two releases (Factions or Nightfall). Being stand-alone campaigns also meant that they each had their own starting and tutorial areas, a necessity for any players that might only own that single campaign.

Something that ArenaNet added, which I felt enticed old players to reroll new characters and experience these tutorial areas to their fullest, was the addition of two new classes in each campaign that were specific to their respective campaigns. This meant that in order to play as either an Assassin or a Ritualist the player had to start off their character in the Factions campaign. Likewise to play as either a Dervish or Paragon the player had to start the character in the Nightfall campaign. Characters could eventually transfer between continents, or campaigns, but had to originate in one of these campaigns to play these specific classes thus adding reason to play those tutorial areas and not just skip them with older and max level characters.

There are two things I want to point out before continuing:

  1. There will Not be stand-alone campaigns in Guild Wars 2
  2. There will Not be professions added with each expansion

When Eric Flannum was asked if the stand-alone campaigns would return in an interview June of last year he commented:

“At this time we don’t plan to continue with the standalone expansion model. We felt that this model split our player base unnecessarily and also caused us to focus development effort on things that were redundant with the original release of the game such as tutorial areas and duplicates of already existing skills.”

In an older interview that I no longer have access to so must paraphrase, an ArenaNet developer commented in much the same manner, but also included that with each new campaign they had to create a larger and larger tutorial area to explain everything that had been added to the game with each new campaign. That was like handing a couple hundred page manual to new players trying to get into the game, which just wasn’t any fun. Also with these large tutorial areas, returning players could transfer their old characters over and skip these tutorial areas which also meant they were just getting a brief overview of the intro for that campaign’s story. And with the standard of adding two new classes, ArenaNet felt it wasn’t giving the necessary time to polish and balance any of the new classes before the campaign was released.

Another interview from June of last year was with Jon Peters and Jonathan Sharp about the design process when creating the eight professions. When asked about how easy it was to decide on the eight final professions Jonathan Sharp said, “We had a lot of classes that came into the [discussion] but we felt they were stepping on the toes of something else, or were fighting for an archetype slot.”

So while it is possible that they would add a new profession in a later expansion, that new class would have to play fundamentally different than any of the current classes while fitting to a theme or archetype still available. If ArenaNet did decide to add a new profession, it would be a one-off and not a recurring addition like how new classes were added with each campaign in the original Guild Wars, allowing ArenaNet to take the time to release the profession when it was ready and not because of some other release whether the profession was ready or not.

Jon Peters later in the same interview replied to a question asking why some of the classes from the original Guild Wars didn’t return in Guild Wars 2. “Some of those professions are very Canthan or Elonan.  Where we are now is the main continent of Tyria and because of greater globalisation there are elements we can carry over, but to some extent — and it wasn’t because we didn’t like what they did in Guild Wars 1 — it’s just that we thought we wanted something different in terms of combat.” This comment has fueled speculation that old professions could possibly be returning with new expansions. The “some of those professsions are very Canthan or Elonan” gives the idea that maybe once the Canthan and Elonan areas are released in Guild Wars 2 professions from Factions and Nightfall respectfully would also be released. As I mentioned before there were four new classes in those two campaigns: Assassin, Ritualist, Dervish, and Paragon. Assassin has almost directly evolved into Guild Wars 2’s Thief while Paragon has been split up with its shouts going to Warrior and the ‘guardian angel’ archetype falling to the virtuous Guardian making its return unlikely.

That leaves Dervish and Ritualist. Dervish was a holy warrior focused on prayer and devotion to the five human gods, allowing them to even take on the visage of the gods. It would be hard for this archetype to return in Guild Wars 2 since there are now five different races with their own beliefs. To make it even harder, the Charr, Asura, and Sylvari don’t have gods or beliefs in holy dignities while any Norn already has the ability to take on the visage of the Spirits of the Wild.

While the Ritualist is the class I see most likely to make a return in Guild Wars 2, the fact that it bumps up against other professions in an archetype sense makes it hard to know if it would have room to prosper amongst the other classes. It would be great thematically if released with the addition of Cantha as a sign that their traditions stayed alive these past 250 years. The Ritualists existed before magic was even introduced to the world by communing with and summoning the power of their ancestors. I could see Ritualists in Guild Wars 2 having ancestral summoning tied to utility skills or their profession mechanic skills that change their first five skills depending on what ancestor they are communing with, but again that works like Engineer’s weapon kits or the Elementalist’s attunements respectfully.

Things to remember when thinking about new possible professions: not only do you need to make sure they fit an archetype and don’t follow too closely to what other professions are doing, but you also would need to think of what weapons the professions uses, what skills fit with both those weapons and the profession, what utility and elite skills they have, what is their unique profession mechanic, what happens with underwater combat and skills, and will they play nice in groups (don’t interfere with other players with the same profession like Ritualist summons in Guild Wars 1, cross-profession combos, balanced, etc.)?

At first glance I think this might be the longest article I have written and I still haven’t even talked about what I had originally planned for this article. So to wrap up Part 1 of this article, I think that new professions could be added later on but need a uniqueness about them that will separate themselves apart from the rest. One thing that had amazed me as I played Guild Wars 2 so far is that every profession feels like a profession I would want to play. There wasn’t a strongest, weakest, or most useful, it was just dependent on which class or archetype I felt like playing. Hopefully any profession ArenaNet might add down the road has that same feeling of equal opportunity and enjoyment.

Come back later this week for Part 2 of this third article in my What If series over Guild Wars 2.

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