In my last blog post, I explained how to play the PvP map we’ll be showing at PAX and gamescom: the Battle of Kyhlo. I thought it would be fun to show how the various disciplines of game development work together. Game development is team based, and everyone pitches in to help create an amazing final product. Collaboration and iteration are the keys to making good games, and working well with people from other disciplines is crucial if you want a job in the game industry. Let’s take a look at how the various departments helped to bring this map to life!
Lore and World Design
Hey, guys, I’m Jeff Grubb, one of the world designers here at ArenaNet. The major lore idea for PvP is that this sort of combat occurs in the Mists, a godly realm of proto-matter where the echoes of history recreate locations from the past. As the map was being developed, I tried to find a piece of lore that would fit the map. The first thing I thought of was the Battle of Kyhlo, where King Adelbern’s guild faced off against the Zealots of Shiverpeak. It was a cool little bit of lore from the original Guild Wars game, and fit neatly into what we were doing here.
Hi, my name is Egan Hirvela, and I’m a level designer on Guild Wars 2. For several months, I have been tasked with laying out various prototype PvP maps and helping to come up with new game types for us to experiment with. My main responsibility is to make sure the PvP maps play well from a layout standpoint. Additionally, I make sure the maps aren’t too big or too small, that the distances between main objectives are spaced appropriately, and that the fighting areas accommodate the characters’ skill distances in the game. Lastly, I work closely with the system designers and environment artists to make sure the PvP maps are ready to be brought to life.
When making a new map, I usually start off with a paper map, generated from lots of discussions with other designers. Next, I’ll block out the map using our proprietary tool, focusing on base geometry and prop placement. At this stage, it’s crucial to establish where objectives are, how to get to them, and what terrain features players will need to contend with. After this, I’ll make a pass at putting down landmarks and texturing to help with navigation. Lastly, I do some rudimentary lighting to help give a sense of what the map might look and feel like after the environment artists work their magic. Throughout the entire layout process, all of us on the PvP design team test and retest the maps so that we can better improve upon how it will play. I find this method of level creation to be the optimal way of getting the best map layout possible.
I’m Habib Loew, one of the content programmers here at ArenaNet. Along with fellow programmers John Corpening and Evan Lesh, I’ve spent many months working with designers to build PvP intoGuild Wars 2. It’s an oversimplification, but if artists make the game pretty and designers make the game fun, then programmers make the game work. Guild Wars 2 is a huge, epic game, and most of our systems are geared toward running a massive world for large groups of people. PvP, by contrast, is a much smaller game, and a considerable amount of work has gone into building the smaller PvP game inside the giant PvE game. When you play PvP you can see our work everywhere, but if we’ve done our jobs correctly, you’ll never notice it. Ideally, you’ll just get to have an awesome game experience and never need to think of the hundreds of programmer hours that went into making every little thing work the way it should.
To make PvP in the game the way it is, we implemented scoring systems, created technology to allow trebuchets to work (and if you think these trebs are cool, just wait until you see what we’ve been up to in WvWvW), and built loads of custom UI and a brand new narrator system. Of course, PvP maps don’t work like any other map in the game, so we had to build a system for presenting game servers (like what you’d expect to see with a traditional FPS) and allowing games to start, end, and roll over players into the next game. There’s code that makes sure everyone is on a level playing field when each match starts, code that lets NPCs warn you when enemy trebs are firing on your position, and hundreds of little bits of code that enable designers to set up all the special actions and scenarios that only come up in PvP. All that is in addition to the work of many, many other programmers on everything from game-server infrastructure to core combat that gets shared between PvE and PvP. Ultimately, if you see or do something in-game, there’s a programmer somewhere who made it work!
Once we had the core design for the map laid out, PvP designer Nick Mhley started scripting the capture points and scoring system. As we played the map, we found more and more that the trebuchets were becoming a very important part of the map, and we thought, “You know what’s cool? When you shoot the treb and blow stuff up. But you know what would be cooler? Blowing up even more stuff!”
So then Nick started scripting barrels, crates, and other small props throughout the map, which could be blown up by player skills or the trebuchet. He also set up the trebuchets and repair kits, and he scripted tons of things that happen behind the scenes.
He also spent a lot of time going back and forth with map artists, Tirzah and Egan, to tweak sections of the map to improve the flow. Together, they decided how long it should take to run certain paths and how to better draw the player’s attention to important doors, gates, and ladders. Varying degrees of ambience were also imbued in different parts of the map to ensure no two fights were exactly the same.
Writing and Voicing the PvP Announcer
Hi, Peter Fries here, from the Guild Wars 2 writing team. I was brought in late in the development process of the PvP demo map to help come up with, and then give flavor to, several dozen voiced lines for the announcer of our arena combat.
I was lucky in that the designers already had an extremely colorful character in mind to announce the combat. I was also excited to know from the start that the incomparable Jon St. John would be the one to deliver these lines.
By way of example, a generic tutorial line briefing players to capture enemy points while holding their own became: “Hold on to your points, seize theirs…do I have to draw you a picture?”
I’m Scott McGough, a design writer for Guild Wars 2. Once the PvP lines were written and scripts were generated, writers were sent to oversee recording at our partner studio in California. David Wilson and I were on hand for Jon St. John’s session in mid-July.
Jon came up with a suitably rough-and-tumble character voice almost immediately, and he totally owned the PvP announcer lines we gave him. He went very large with some of the lines (which were already extremely large to begin with), and cracked up the entire room on almost every delivery.
(this is the line I give in the example, above, as delivered by JSJ – Peter)
I’m Shen-Ming Spurgeon, one of the visual-effects artists on Guild Wars 2. I created the visual effects for the trebuchet projectiles and explosions, which are a huge visual focus in the map. In order to get my visual bearings, I started by meeting with the designers to bounce ideas and get their opinions. The goal was pretty simple: create a flaming projectile with a long-lasting smoke tail and a large explosion. Other than that, the sky (and performance) is the limit as these assets would be used heavily within the map.
To start the party, I created the explosion first. I did many iterations of it, each one getting bigger and better. I then added a vertical spray of dirt to let players know where the impact had hit in the distance. The explosion needed to be large, intimidating even. However, when the projectile exploded against a building, it looked all wrong. Exploding against the side of a building showed me the need for it to be omnidirectional. I removed the dirt and began to craft a more spherical explosion. This worked better as it could be used universally and was pretty sweet looking to boot. At this point, the audio department needed to separate the sound effects for both player and ambient explosions, which meant accommodating them with individual assets. This meant I could still use the explosion I worked so hard on for the ambient explosions. I was relieved to have that explosion not go unnoticed.
With the explosion out of the way, I started work on the projectile. Achieving a look for the flaming ball of fire went quickly, but it needed some serious in-game testing. Test after test, tweak after tweak, something was missing. Fog of war from the projectile was also necessary. However, this would require lots of large smoke particles spewing from the projectile. Scary. With eight of these things flying in the air, it was going to look rad…assuming the game still ran. Guess what? The game didn’t run well at all. Rather than asking for there to be fewer projectiles, I needed to find an elegant way to have the particles disappear without popping off. Also, a need for particles to be large in the distance but not obscure the area near the player was tricky business. There was a lot of back and forth between the game and our tools. After adding some intricate, geeky levels of detail, I verified it in-game and found the visuals to be well-suited and the performance uncompromised. Most effects are not this troublesome, but given the fact that this is a major set piece for PvP, we wanted to make sure the player would be seeing something super cool.
Good day to you, sirs and madams! My name is Tyler Bearce, and I’m on the QA team here at ArenaNet. Our systems and WvW QA are involved in the bulk of the testing for PvP. The major function of this role involves discovering and reporting any flaws that could negatively impact the user experience. Virtually anything can (and will) break during the development of a game, so we must always keep a constant eye out for the issues that will inevitably arise. Here are a few examples of bugs we might encounter: mundane typos in the UI text, map geometry that can trap players, missing audio, malfunctioning capture points, incorrect map markers, trebuchet failures, scoring exploits, and crashes. In addition to this, we also test the general balance and effectiveness of each profession in order to ensure that no character is too strong on a given map. A lot of the testing we do involves retesting things that we might have already tested the hour, day, week, or month before. Since everything in the game is constantly being iterated on, it’s super common to have a feature work flawlessly the day before but suddenly be completely broken when you test it again the next day. However, it’s not all bug reporting in QA-land. A big part of our job involves honing our skills in daily PvP play tests. While these matches are usually a ton of fun, their major function is to allow us to give the design team useful feedback and suggestions regarding the map, the game type, and profession balance. The fun never stops in QA!
Sound and Music
My name is Maclaine Diemer, and I’m one of the audio folks here at ArenaNet. When it came time to make the PvP map sound awesome, we decided to take a slightly different approach than we normally do with the regular maps in Guild Wars 2. Map ambience is usually handled by Drew, one of our other illustrious sound designers. He’ll put in things like wind blowing, birds chirping, waves lapping on the shore, etc., to give a subtle sense of life to each part of the world. With the PvP map, however, subtlety just wasn’t going to work. It needed to sound like a war was happening and you were right in the middle of it.
Since so much of the game play in the map is centered on the trebuchets, it only made sense that the sound of the map be focused on them as well. There are two types of trebuchets in the map, however, and that complicates things. The first are the trebuchets on the outskirts of the map that fire on their own and are inaccessible to the player. The second are the player-controllable trebuchets. The problem is, they both need to sound good, but as a player you need to be able to tell the difference between them strictly by what you’re hearing. The first and easiest way to deal with this is by setting drastically different volumes for both of them. You can hear the player trebuchets much louder and from much farther away than the distant trebuchets. So it’s clear when they are being fired. The second solution was to use similar, but not identical, sounds for each of them. The projectiles for the distant trebuchets have a far-away jet-flyover kind of sound attached to them and a muffled boom when they land. This alone takes care of 90% of the ambience needed for the map, as they are constantly sailing overhead and exploding during the match. The audio for the player trebuchet is beefed up considerably. It has a huge launch sound, and there is a fiery, missile type of sound attached to the projectile. You can also hear this sound as the projectile is coming toward you, even if you’re not looking at it. That way you have a bit of time to get the heck out of the way before it blows you up.
Once all these elements were in and some dramatic battle music was put underneath it, you suddenly feel like you’re in a real war zone and it’s time to fight.
Hi! I’m Tirzah Bauer! After the designers decided on a basic layout, the map was handed off to me to art it up. I kept in contact with the Environment Lead, Dave Beetlestone, as well as the PvP designers on a daily basis to make sure all the artistic details and game-play objectives were being met.
My first course of action was to take all the props (all placeable things, like houses, fences, walls, etc.) and make sure they’re using the correct architecture. We decided on using Krytan architecture, and because the map is divided up into two teams, we also wanted each half to feel a bit different from each other to help with navigation. One half uses the Krytan-farmlands style with thatch-roofed houses, and the other is more city-like with cobble streets and stone walls. There are three capture points, which had to be different from each other and have a nice landmark attached to it, so we decided on Windmill, Mansion, and Clocktower.Among other custom assets for this map was the giant Clocktower prop that we’re using as a centerpiece. The Clocktower has multiple areas that players can destroy–the two side walls with trebuchets, and all the windows with player skills–as well as the ability for players to scramble up on the roof and attack people down below with ranged attacks. When the two sides are blown off with the trebuchet, players then have easy access through holes in the roof to attack people in the capture point below (although people on the roof are easy targets for the trebuchets). I built the Clocktower prop itself, and my two fellow artists, Nate Baerwald and James Barwick, took on the task of blowing it up. There are also smaller destructible buildings, walls, crates, and wagons scattered throughout the map, all of which helps to change up the game every time it’s played.
Other artistic things that were needed for the map included the time of day (we decided on nighttime for mood and to help the fiery treb shots light up the sky), lighting to help with navigation, making sure the map was clean with regard to collisions, and lots of other accents to make the city feel awesome.
Yo. I’m Chuck Knigge, and I’m on the UI team. I did most of the UI art and helped with the design of panels and the HUD. We spent a lot of time working with designers on how we wanted to display the score, how the icons for the capture points should look, and how we wanted the map icons to look.
Playing PvP is my favorite thing to do in Guild Wars 2, and I’m looking to make it as beautiful and easy to play as possible!
Bringing It All Together
So then we put it all together and make it hawt! We play the map every day, looking for things that may be frustrating for players. Are we able to navigate the map well? Do we get lost anywhere? Are there distinct and interesting spaces around the map that play differently from one another? And then we iterate, anywhere and everywhere.
While we’re doing this, we also set up play sessions so that we can see how other people in the company respond to the map. We ask people from all disciplines to play in what we call “all calls.” Everyone from the company jumps in, and we get feedback from all departments. We then take that information and try to get it to the correct person who can fix the problem. We do this over, and over, and over, and over, iterating on any issues that arise.
And that, in a nutshell, is how the Battle of Kyhlo map came to be. Come see it at PAX or gamescom, and give us your feedback!