How ArenaNet is making Guild Wars 2 a Living World

Guild Wars 2 developer ArenaNet restructured its entire company so that it could make the massively-multiplayer online game a "truly evolving world" through its Living World content, according to design director Chris Whiteside.

Back in February, ArenaNet announced that it was introducing the Living World feature — a series of content that would add new story threads, characters, plot twists and gameplay to the existing MMO story arc. Speaking to Polygon, Whiteside said the studio is now releasing brand new content as part of Living World every two weeks, and in order to achieve that the studio has been restructured.

"For us, the holy grail was to build on the world and evolve it through player feedback and our own direction as quickly as we possibly could."

"To get it out on a two week cadence and put this kind of exciting and fresh content out every two weeks required us to basically change the whole structure of the company, build and set up four different teams that would work on rotating cadences and to really empower the developers on the teams to be able to pick and choose what they really wanted to work on and what's most important to them and the places," Whiteside said. "ArenaNet is known for taking risks. So the idea of having just launched the game and restructuring to build toward this two week cadence... as far as I'm aware, no one else has done it to this level of content."

Whiteside said that each of the teams is its own unit with writers, artists, designers, programmers and QA. The teams work on their own to produce new Living World events — some of which can contain up to 20 hours of new content — but also sync up with each other to ensure that their stories and gameplay make sense when pieced together. There's an overarching story that guides the developers, and within this story they have the freedom to introduce all kinds of new design and gameplay like minigames, dynamic events, bosses, dungeons and more.

In the upcoming Guild Wars 2 update, Bazaar of the Four Winds which will launch on July 9, players will be able to take part in Mario Kart-like races across a cliff in a floating city. Whiteside teased that players will be able to take advantage of air and elemental movement when they take part in the event, and the event itself will build on the existing storyline and grant access to new items and activities.

According to Whiteside, even though the Guild Wars 2 development team is investing in making Living Worlds a permanent fixture of the Guild Wars universe, it also has a second stream running that continues to bolster the content in the main game world. This means that the Living World events are optional, and those who wish to only play the main game can still experience meaningful progression and rewards.

"We felt that if we could do both, and this is something we're still getting parity on, then we really do have the holy grail," Whiteside said. "For us, the holy grail was to build on the world and evolve it through player feedback and our own direction as quickly as we possibly could, to really make it as fresh as possible — almost kind of like a TV series — there's always something going on, there's always something to check out. But at the same time, while there's a story thread between each of our Living World events, you can dip in at any time."

The next Living World update will launch July 9. The current Living World event, Sky Pirates of Tyria, is playable now.

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