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Dynamic Events Dev Journal by Colin Johanson

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July 15, 2012 - 8:04pm -- Sardu
GW2 Dynamic Events Dev Journal

Every once in a while you'll be doing an interview only to discover that you've touched on a topic that transcends the scope of the standard Q&A format. Our recent interview with Colin Johanson was one such case, as we quickly discovered when we began discussing the dynamic events system in Guild Wars 2.

In particular, we were interested in learning more about the fan reaction to dynamic events so far, and how Colin and his team have approached managing expectations for that particular system. What follows is a lengthy analysis of the system overall that may have originally been born of a much larger discussion about the game, but ultimately became more of a dev journal specifically about the dynamic event system.

So read on to hear what Colin has to say about dynamic events in this exclusive GW2 dev journal!

A Dynamic Events Dev Journal

By Colin Johanson

The overall reaction to dynamic events we’ve seen feedback-wise has been overwhelmingly positive; they have accomplished a lot of the goals we had hoped they would by making the world feel alive and really immersive for the player.

That being said, there are absolutely some folks who I think were expecting more from them and were disappointed. It’s tough with any feature like this, because as a company you want to hype it up and get people excited for the new thing you’re doing, which always means some folks will let their imagination run away with them and picture something more than what you’re doing.

I’ve seen feedback where people were truly upset an event could happen more than once in the world, though we’ve been saying all along that they do continue to occur in the world. I think it’s easy to try and picture this world filled with events that just happen for you and never happen again—heck, I would love to play a game like that—but the amount of work and manpower it would take is simply not in the scope of what is possible for us in Guild Wars 2. Millions of people need to be able to play through the game and be entertained, so we need to have events be part of chains and branches that can chain back in the other direction and repeat, or one-off events that can occasionally repeat so there is simply enough for people to do in the game.

Are events an entirely brand-new system people have never seen before? No, they are not. They are our attempt to innovate on traditional concepts and elevate them to something different than what people have experienced before, while keeping alive enough of the old so that people feel comfortable with the system. It’s worth noting that development on our event system started long before we ever knew about games like Warhammer Online or Rift, which share some commonalities with the events in Guild Wars 2. We learned lessons from their choices, but they never drove our core decision to use dynamic events. Focusing on what really makes dynamic events unique is really important in either enjoying them or in being disappointed based on the expectations someone may have for them. For us, the things that we expect from the dynamic event system, and what we think makes it unique, are the following:

Unlike any game ever made before Guild Wars 2, these events are our core content model for the game world. In other games you might find hundreds or thousands of quests, and some events scattered around as well; we literally have thousands of events with additional content scattered around to help support those events. The events are the core world content in Guild Wars 2 and make up the bulk of the content in the game between the open world and dungeons, with stuff like more traditional-style renown regions and exploration challenges there to provide a supporting hand to the events. We believe this creates a fundamental paradigm shift in the way you play and experience the game.

GW2 Dynamic Events

Events can have outcomes, which can lead to more content and affect the world. When an event ends, if it succeeds or fails, other content can be directly triggered for everyone in the world because of it. Events occur based on a variety of world conditions and triggers; they generally aren’t kicked off by talking to an NPC (though a few are). Many of them have various timers or complex world rules that determine when they can occur. As a result, you could play through an area where at one time one event or event chain is going on, or nothing is going on, and come back later to find different content there. It helps create a dynamically changing world where every time you come over a hill, every time you enter a village, you’re not entirely sure what you might find, and this hopefully gives a sense of discovering the unknown everywhere you go in the game. Over time this will become even more prevalent as our live team slows down how often the events already in the world run, and rotate in new events to create an even wider variety of content in the game world.

Events scale in difficulty, so the more—or less!—players who show up, the number of creatures spawning and their levels change, bosses become more or less powerful, and so on, to help make the experience fun, regardless of the number of players participating. You never have one-too-many people doing an event and making it trivially easy; any player can always just jump right in and help out and have a good time, since the game takes them into account in balancing the difficulty. This also means years after the game releases, if you’re in an area where the population isn’t super high, you can still do all of the content available in the game world (except for the very hard group events), because it can scale down to single-player difficulty. One of my great frustrations with some of the event systems developed in the past is that while I loved the content, if no one else was around, I simply could not play it later in the game’s life cycle because of the lack of players. This frustration is removed with our scaling system on normal events.

Events have immediacy. When you find one, you immediately see what’s going on and can actively see the content occurring; you don’t have to talk to an NPC to accept a quest and then be able to see (or in most traditional cases, not see) something going on in the world. Are the centaurs attacking the town? Yes they are, and you can see them, and see smoke rising from the town, and hear people running up and asking you in voiced dialogue to help them save their town. When you enter the area of an event, the objectives immediately appear on your screen, and most of the time you don’t even need to read them to understand what’s going on—you can clearly see it in the world. All of this helps remove the barrier between the player and the game, and creates a more immersive experience. The game basically telling you, “HOLY CRAP! CENTAURS!”—as opposed to your having to tell the game, “I want to do this content now,” as with a traditional quest system—can make the world feel more alive, drawing you in. And when the event ends, you immediately get rewarded—finding an NPC is not required to get your stuff.

GW2 Dynamic Events

Events truly are cooperative. In traditional MMOs, you’ll often find yourself competing with other players for mobs, struggling to tag them for loot drops, or to get on the high-score list for rewards for the public quest. Our core systems are designed so that everyone who helps kill a mob gets experience and can get loot. If you die, anyone can run up and help revive you and they get rewarded for doing so. Everyone who participates in events gets rewarded at the end, and everyone could earn the best (gold) participation reward if they all helped in the event for most of its duration. This builds a sense of cooperation between players, and helps make it feel like another player in an event is never a hindrance; they are instead another resource you could use combo skills with, or someone to help protect and revive you. Other players, even if you don’t know them at all and don’t talk to them, make the game more fun. This is perhaps the thing that is most unique and innovative about the event system as a whole.

If you focus on the features above as the core ingredients to the dynamic event system, and say, “Did ArenaNet accomplish what they set out to do, using the above guidelines as their guide for building a dynamic event system?” then hopefully you’ll find yourself saying, “Yes, they succeeded,” and “I see what the core differences are between this and traditional more quest-driven MMOs.”

One final note I’d add is that in playing over the beta weekends, I’m constantly amazed at how few people stick around after a dynamic event to see what happens. We’ve seen this for a long time, and I know a lot of it comes from being trained in a traditional MMO, or even other games that have some sort of event system, that once the event is over, things are done and you should leave. Most events in the game have something that occurs after the event is over, and many people just run off, never to see what occurs.

After events, there can be a dialogue between NPCs that leads into new events and event chains, they can turn into merchants selling rare loot, or alter the world geometry and props based on the outcome of the event. NPCs will dig up treasure chests you can loot, or find environmental weapons you can use. The creatures that spawn in an area can drastically change due to the outcome of events, or sometimes they’ll just do silly fun things, like train a moa dance team that performs for you.

This is an overriding theme of Guild Wars 2: Stick around, smell the flowers, and enjoy the ride; there are tiny little details around every corner of the game. Don’t run to the next thing on your checklist after an event; hang out and see what happens—if you save an NPC, follow them and see where they go, you can find all sorts of fun surprises. Most of the events truly do have some sort of outcome or effect on the world.


12345656's picture
Submitted by 12345656 (not verified) on

Great blog post. 

Wedge7's picture
Submitted by Wedge7 on

Nice post, well laid out. I like the fact that Colin mentions to "Stick around, smell the flowers, and enjoy the ride". It's certainly odd to do that in an MMO, like he mentions, but it's well worth getting into the habit of doing it. Personally, I know I'll be forcing myself to slow down and stick around, to experience this extra content. 

Absimilard's picture
Submitted by Absimilard on

Nice read.

The best part about all this and the game in general is how it promotes playing together with others, even for those that prefer playing alone. No more mob tagging or shouting for an invite when you see an event go off. You can just jump right in and be apart of it without it taking from someone else experience or rewards.

Semper Dius

Haelyn's picture
Submitted by Haelyn on

Awesome post.

A big thanks to Colin for taking the time to do this!

sylvinstar's picture
Submitted by sylvinstar on

The last part is so true.  Kralle and I were defending an outpost from centaurs with some other players in the area.  Once we defeated the last wave and the event was complete, we saw one of the NPC's comment that this was probably just an initial attack and likely there was worse to come.  Unfortunately all the other players left, and after Kralle and I poked around the outpost a bit, a second, larger series of attacks hit the outpost and we were overwhelmed after a minute or so.

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on

Thanks for the post, I love it, and I'll definitely be sticking around the event areas a little longer after completion.  C'mon, who wouldn't want to see a moa dance routine?

Zeldain's picture
Submitted by Zeldain (not verified) on

To me, this actually sounds like more marketing spin as they continue to try and validate the decision to do things this way... the fact is, it was too ambitious and while interesting, it leaves the game feeling chaotic, unorganized and disconnected.

Most players I run into are knocking out the hears, doing whatever DEs come up, and moving on. Are they really expecting players to run around and wait for the chance that events might pop wherever they are at any given moment? Because it isn't happening that way.


Kel's picture
Submitted by Kel (not verified) on

A marketing spin would be mentioning the chance to pre-purchase in time for the last BWE coming up this weekend. :P Most people who read this are at least following the game's development and already know about the DE's even if they haven't played in the beta yet.

Unorganized? Perhaps. It takes some getting used to for sure, but it's not a large learning curve. Players of traditional MMO's have to retrain themselves for this game to get its full potential -- yes, there will be some who never "get it" and they'll move on. But I think it's pretty pessimistic (and too early) to say that Anet was too ambitious with this style of gameplay. As players get used to it over time I can see this potentially paving the way for a new type of MMO to be more prevalent in the future.

cospaok's picture
Submitted by cospaok (not verified) on

This isn't a game for every gamer on the planet. It's a game for those that enjoyed Skyrim with the open world you could explore and do side-quests you need to discover. It's for those complaining about WoW:Cataclysm's quest hubs that herd the players from one place to the next and Rift with rifts spawning at the same place each time and quests like WoW's ones. It's for those that want a hybrid between a theme-park MMO and a sandbox.


If GW2 is not the game for you, realise it and move on. There are plenty MMOs out there doing things the traditional way but GW2 is not one of them. Don't waste your money and then complain on forums.

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on

I think a big reason for the "goal-oriented" playstyle that you're describing has been the fact that Beta Weekend Events are so short.  I, for one, have definitely felt that I had to keep moving through content during BWE's to make sure that I could do as much as possible in the short 2 1/2 days available.  I hope that once the game launches, this sense of time pressure will be reduced and allow more people to stop and smell the roses.

Also, as Colin pointed out, other MMO's have "trained" players to be goal-oriented completionists in order to get the most out of the game they're playing.  It will be interesting to see if players are even interesting in letting go of that mindset, or whether they will continue to look at GW2 as a game that needs to be "completed" rather than "experienced."

sylvinstar's picture
Submitted by sylvinstar on

To me, this actually sounds like more marketing spin as they continue to try and validate the decision to do things this way... the fact is, it was too ambitious and while interesting, it leaves the game feeling chaotic, unorganized and disconnected.

Most players I run into are knocking out the hears, doing whatever DEs come up, and moving on. Are they really expecting players to run around and wait for the chance that events might pop wherever they are at any given moment? Because it isn't happening that way.

In regards to paragraph one:  I feel that the game is more open to me doing what I want, which is something I value over the paint-by-numbers system implemented by WoW.  I think that some may feel the game is unorganized because it doesn't have them 'on rails' with a quest chain telling them where to go and what to do from 1-80.  If the game doesn't click for that reason, there are plenty of WoW clones out there to play.

In regards to paragraph two: I didn't get that from the blog post.  I think it was meant as being more informative to the community, as rightly noted, people are not used to this type of game with chained events that don't have "?" marks and roadmaps telling you what to do all the time.  Indeed, I don't always hang out for 5 minutes after a DE finishes, but I DO pay attention to what NPC's are doing and saying, as this can lead to even better content (see my post above).  If people run from heart to heart and just do events as they come upon them, that is of course as valid a way to play the game as doing only sPvP, or Dungeons, or whatever.  The game is well designed to incorporate many people's wants and needs (of course the people who like 80 man raids will disagree, but even they would like the level 80 Orr content by the sounds of it).

Woden's picture
Submitted by Woden (not verified) on

definitely not too ambitious. Everything said in this blog at least sounds better than anything I've played so far. And I've seen a lot of videos validating it. I just hope there isn't much waiting. That's one thing I hate about other mmo's. The waiting while making parties tagging spawned mobs and 2 pieces of loot for 30 pple to argue over. This game sounds like mmo heaven and when I play the beta this weekend if it's half as good as I hope it'll still be better than anything else out there. Just my opinion tho

Naleth's picture
Submitted by Naleth (not verified) on

I only have two comments:

1)  A very nice interview

2) Moa Dance Routine = Awesome

That is all.

Meltzeiferion's picture
Submitted by Meltzeiferion on
Nice stuff. :) I definitely need to learn to stick around more after a Dynamic Event ends, but it is somewhat hard when there are so many other things to see too! lol

Ian Smith's picture
Submitted by Ian Smith on

Well, considering the way I leveled the last two BWEs, I will take it even slower this time.  I expect not to even leave the starting area before the weekend is up. lol.

Sean's picture
Submitted by Sean (not verified) on

I'll admit I didn't really stick around much after dynamic events were over in the last beta. Although I think the main reason for that was that it was my first time playing and everything was so "aghhh guild wars 2!!!" and I was just running around like a mad person.

I did see this one time though near the end of the beta. We were collecting wurm eggs in the Norn area and then after we collected the eggs the norn woman (who was asking us to collect the eggs) told us to come to the nearby tavern and they would cook us some of the eggs. I almost ignored her because I was so used to just moving on but I did follow her. When we got to the tavern it turned out the eggs had been broken and some angry wurms showed up and attacked.

I'm definitely going to try and keep my ear open more often in the next beta weekend.



Bierman's picture
Submitted by Bierman (not verified) on

The not sticking around for me was partially cause of beta time stress, so much to do, so little time (and dangit, I still don't know what profession I'll pick when the game goes life)

The other reason is probably one succes biting the other one in the ass. I might be ok with waiting around,l but that organic mob of players starts running off after the first guy decides on a direction. I want to follow, I want to go along in the big snowball of people!

Krystyn Daemonbaen's picture
Submitted by Krystyn Daemonbaen on

The only problem with reading this post is that  -- the dang launch is still a week and a half away and I'm getting really tired of drooling in anticipation.  Sheesh...I sneak into sites like this at work and read about GW2 and what's coming...and next thing I know, the front of my blouse is soaked and it looks like a dang wet-tee shirt contest.  Gods...let the days pass more quickly please!

Andy's picture
Submitted by Andy (not verified) on

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