ArenaNet co-founder Jeff Strain talks us through the next chapter in NCsoft's Guild Wars saga
"When we announced Guild Wars back in early 2003," explains ArenaNet co-founder Jeff Strain, "we made a promise to gamers that we were going to change the online RPG industry." It's a lofty claim, but the original Guild Wars' million-strong following clearly demonstrates that ArenaNet's dedication to content-driven, subscription fee-free MMORPGing has reaped rewards for the developer and publisher NCsoft.
Now, ArenaNet is putting the finishing touches to Guild Wars: Factions - a stand-alone title designed to expand the original game's universe, without punishing players who choose not to upgrade. "We are big proponents of player choice-no subscription fees, which force you to pay every month whether you have actually played the game that month or not, and no forced purchases", says Strain on ArenaNet's unique approach in the world of MMORPGs. "We believe that it is our job to make cool games that you want to buy. If we succeed, everyone is happy. But if you decide to pass on a new campaign, we are certainly not going to setup a business model that forces you to make a purchase that you don't want to make!"
Clearly though, the team at ArenaNet is determined not to disappoint existing Guild Wars players when Factions hits shelves later this year. We recently had the chance to quiz Strain about the developer's philosophy on online gaming and, of course, what fans can look forward to with Factions imminent arrival.
How important is Factions to Guild Wars, and how do you expect it to improve the Guild Wars experience?
Jeff Strain: We think Factions is a pivotal campaign for Guild Wars. When we announced Guild Wars back in early 2003, we made a promise to gamers that we were going to change the online RPG industry by offering a global online game that did not require subscription fees of any kind, but that was supported with new content in excess of what was delivered by traditional MMOs. In other words, you get more (much more) for your money. With the release of Factions this spring, and additional campaigns that will follow roughly twice a year, we will be fulfilling that promise.
We are also excited about the Factions campaign because it gives us a chance to improve on the Prophecies campaign (the original Guild Wars release) in all areas. It will certainly have improved graphics and music, but perhaps more importantly, the game will offer entirely new play mechanics. One of our core philosophies is that each new Guild Wars campaign should not simply offer "more of the same," but should instead offer completely new ways to play the game. We want Guild Wars to evolve and stay fresh over time, and the combination of our on-demand streaming technology and regular releases of new campaigns allows us to do that.
The alliance and factions features in Factions add new real-time, global territory conquest mechanics to the game, which we believe will bring the PvP and role-playing communities together in new ways. There are also many new types of role-playing and PvP areas in the game, including Faction Battles, in which allied guilds battle against the opposing faction to conquer new territory; Alliance Missions, in which players co-operate to take ownership of public towns for their alliance; and Elite Missions that provide the ultimate co-operative challenge.
Is there a storyline for Factions? If so, what is it, what are players caught up in and what are they aiming to achieve?