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Exclusive Interview with Chris Whiteside on the CDIs!

January 6, 2014 - 10:50pm -- Lee B.

I had a talk with Chris Whiteside about the fine details of the CDIs and how the developers have been absorbing them and the general thought process Chris has to go through for each CDI thread that comes. Here we have the transcript of the conversation, covering all the fine details, but we have a video up that takes the conversation in depth and shows off some footage of Chris and I failing hard as we play through the Edge of the Mists map slated to be released soon! It can be found here.


GW2Hub:  We have those Commander Tag CDIs that have finished. So why don't we start there? Did you expect the things that have come out of that CDI?

Chris: I think with any CDI you need to expect the unexpected. I think that is kind of at the core of Guild Wars 2 in the terms of it being a pioneering game. The whole purpose of these are to be brainstorming and to discuss current design philosophy and so on. So that we can push the game forward and get some really good ideas and understand where there have been issues in the past.

I think the opportunity to talk about something WvW centric but also effects PvE is really exciting. 

I think CDIs are something very new. A new initiative for us. That's awesome. I'm still learning how to navigate in it, and so are others. So really as long as the conversation is productive I am a happy man. So long as it's beneficial to Guild Wars 2 then that is great.

GW2Hub: What about the teams who have been effected by these CDIs? The WvW team with the new Commander Tags and the PvE team when they have to weigh the new Commander Tags? Have they received these well? Have they started internal discussions on them?

Chris: Yeah. Devon and the guys are very, very busy. Obviously with Edge of the Mists, that came out at the same time as the Commander thread.

They have been very busy with this release so obviously the amount of discussion they can put towards this isn't as much as they would like. I have discussed the CDI with Devon and he really enjoys it, and so have other members of the staff.  It's just us carving us enough time for it. I mean if you look at the latest CDI thread it's reached 36 pages in a small amount of time. It's awesome, but it's hard to keep up with it for everyone. We're going to look for different ways to be able to keep track of everything and get the very best out of the discussion.

In regards to the effectiveness. We're not going to go into scheduling or that type of thing; but it's good we raise a topic we're already thinking about. Even if we aren't looking at that area the discussions from the CDIs go right in to meeting rooms and impact our plans moving forward. Dependent on the quality feedback and any learnings we have.

The Living World CDI has had a direct impact that the community will see soon. Vertical Progression has as well. It takes a certain amount of time before you see the impact in game. IT's why I say when I post for the first time, or when I start a new thread... I don't want to be offensive here... but you'll have to have your head in the sand to not see how much impact the community has had on the game since launch.

GW2Hub:  I definitely agree with that. In the Living World stories alone we've decided who a new major NPC will be. Just to look at it in that perspective. In another we've shaped the way the WvW system has worked, the way the LFG system has worked. The community has already effected it, and with the CDIs it's so much more impressive what the community has come together to try and achieve.

Chris: It's exactly what we promised. We would collaborate with the community. To be honest it is a necessity. There is so much stuff that we do that is new in this game; or, the environment in which the functionality and mechanics reside together in. Their relationship with one another has, for want of a better term, has gone where no man or woman has gone before. So, it's not like we can reference other stuff that is out there. Some areas we can do that. The ability to actually communicate with the community through the CDI, through the forums, through the pages of other forums, and then in game allows us to get a better understanding of how the design and content we put in the world is consumed and how effective it is and really the Living World platform is really in it's infancy. I really look forward to early next year when the "death Star" (for want of a better term) is fully operational and we are really going to see what this platform can do. Without a shadow of a doubt is completely related to the support and feedback from the community.

GW2Hub: It's going to be an exciting year. On the subject of all the CDIs you all have been doing: These have all been chosen as the most popular topics that the community wanted to talk about. What will happen if and when you run out of topics?

Chris: It's funny. I met with a member of the CDI, who I will keep anonymous, so I went out with coffee with him. We talked about this. It's basically a 70-30 split at the moment in the community. 70% said you just picked the thread for what is most useful for you. The other 30%, the Conspiracy theories, that say you just pick the things that are easiest to talk about.

GW2Hub: Oh yeah. Horizontal Progression is easy to talk about.

Chris: Well that's not what the CDI is for. The CDI is to give us a better vision of where to take the game, and also to really to continue to pioneer once we know where we are going. So really we got two options: Take another vote, or let the developers in every area choose. The CDIs are still in it's infancy, but we are getting more mature. I imagine we'll end up going with developer chooses. In the next CDI process evolution thread we'll make a decision as a group. But I would put money being that we choose the next topics. That would be cool because it shows a level of trust.

GW2Hub: I agree! It would be very exciting to see that path. I do need to ask this as it has come up from people I play with, and I think a question that the community wants answered: Why weren't these questions explored more fully in the beta and alpha periods? Where the developers were asking, but it was never this indepth or this direct at the community.

Chris: It's a good question. Let's just get one question out of the way where people were asking why weren't we discussing Vertical and Horizontal around the time of the announcement Ascended? Just to a simple answer to that: It was discussed at length on an AMA that can be found on Reddit or the Forums. We spent a huge amount of time talking about it.

In regards to why wasn't it discussed more during the CBTs and BWE weekends: I'll have to be honest with you I'm 100% sure at the time I was working as Lead Producer on the game on getting the game landed. Really polishing up what we had. The idea behind the CDI is only relatively recent. The way in which it came into being was very much community centric. I think it was a thread about I was saying "Give the Developers a bit of a chance and we care really much about what you guys have to say" and several member of the community had the idea of discussing this more and getting o the same page. So that's really where the idea for the CDI came from. So the depth in which we go into this kind of conversation and brainstorming and collaboration is a new thing.

There certainly wasn't this feeling of we didn't want to talk about that. We were just working hard on landing the game. It wasn't we weren't listening, we just didn't have a concept of the CDI at that time.

It would be totally cool to start a game off with the CDI, before even the Business Model is or the theme of the game or the unique selling points of the core mechanics. That would be my dream. Work with the community from the ground up.

GW2Hub: I think what people want to know, while I don't' agree with this opinion: I think that some people feel that the whole alpha, beta period was rushed. Not rushed in the sense of rushed development, but rushed in that you all really wanted to provide the game. Instead of providing the time to discuss, you guys wanted to provide the experience first.

Chris: I think everything is 20-20 in hindsight, right? I hate to say that but it's true. The thing is that Eric, who was the Lead Designer for Guild Wars 2, spent a huge amount of time engaging the community in forums and so on. All the way through development of the game. I remember the period before launch and the absolute clamor for the product to come out. To be honest with you I don't think we were in any sort of rush to put it out, aside from the external pressure from the community. There was a lot of the BWE phases where we spent a lot of time listening to the community. The interesting question that comes out of this is: There is a lot of stuff to discuss in retrospective from a synergistic standpoint, or holistic standpoint, or both issues in regard to them or conversation required around them is more obvious now than in the Beta Weekend Period.

The max level was reduced in the those periods and we weren't showing the whole of the game. So the way the systems applied to one another is something you see after launch, and as soon as we could discuss them we did.

So what I am saying is that: In hindsight we could see where we could ask more questions and perhaps we could have learned more; but at the time the focus was releasing a very high quality online world. The emphasis from ArenaNet has always been on listening to feedback and getting as much information as possible. Since launch one of the big advantages of a live game, if not the biggest, is your ability to get back great feedback and valuable information moving forward and that's what we have been doing since then.

If your question is "Wouldn't it have been great to have the CDI much earlier on?" then yeah, absolutely. I think it has a place during all stages of development and launch; but, we didn't have it at that point. It didn't mean we weren't listening, we absolutely were.

GW2Hub: I believe that. I really do. You guys really do show that you love this game. That's what makes me love it.

You can read the second part of this interview here!

Vatlaaw (not verified)
Vatlaaw's picture

No teases at all? Sorry, but after such a long update drought I think we deserved a little bit more information on what's to come. This whole conversation was basically just an echo of the CDI threads. Though, it's fodder nonetheless; I digress. I'm really looking forward to 2014! See you in Tyria.

Zant (not verified)
Vatlaaw's picture

While i can appreciate the insight into the cdis, he really didnt tell us a thing about whats coming. Pretty lame. i get it, they're perfecting the so called death star, but how? Nothing to tell us how its going to be different?

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