By now, it’s common practice for MMOs to freshen up between expansions. Players have come to expect a reasonable amount of free content: A holiday event here, a new raid boss there, and perhaps a story-centric event every few months. But Guild Wars 2 is upping the update ante, with huge batches of content set to go live every two weeks, seemingly from now till eternity. Such a staggering influx of stuff to do might seem overwhelming–for both the developers and the players–but the minds at ArenaNet have a vision, and they want to see it through.
“We wanted to look into what it would take to actually build a living world,” says Chris Whiteside, design director at ArenaNet. It’s the kind of grand idea that the genre has chased for years: a virtual world that changes with the same rapidity and unpredictability as the real one. “To us, it’s a constantly evolving, persistent world,” says Whiteside. “We believe that, to really do it properly, you want to have as fast a cadence as possible.” Thus, the 14-day release cycle was born. Such an ambitious design wouldn’t be business as usual, though–changes had to be made.
“Once we started getting into the logistics of it, we very quickly realized that a whole team working [on this schedule] wouldn’t quite work,” says Whiteside, “so we decided to create four new teams.” Those teams launched into action, working within multiple streams of development to plot out six months worth of content on an every-two-weeks tempo. The additions will include a mix of unfamiliar zones and refinements to existing territory, with a constant stream of new challenges and rewards to chase after.
ArenaNet has a road map of general themes set for the next six months, but the nitty-gritty of each batch of content is left entirely to the assigned team in charge. “The teams are really excited to do stuff that’s super innovative, and takes people by surprise,” says Whiteside. Though ArenaNet doesn’t want to show their hand too early, you can expect more of the unexpected–like the recent Dragon Bash festival that was invaded mid-celebration, or the retro-themed platforming challenges of the Super Adventure Box.
The new content cadence is already well underway, with the next update dubbed Bazaar of the Four Winds. In it, players will be whisked to a floating city that houses Tyria’s finest merchants, encountering a host of new mini-games and quests as they mingle with exotic traders. If it’s a sample of the things to come, GW2’s subscription-free model seems like a ridiculously generous value proposition for players. “We want to continue to pioneer with the community, and really build worlds together,” says Whiteside. “And now that we have the technology [and procedures] in place…this is nothing compared to what we can do moving forward.”