Unsere Kollegen von GuildWars2Hub haben ein exklusives Interview mit Chris Whiteside geführt. Dort wird über allerhand gesprochen, so zum Beispiel über die Details der CDIs. Ihr habt die Wahl zwischen dem Video-Interview und der schriftlichen Fassung, welche Ihr beide natürlich hier bei uns findet.
Interview mit Chris Whiteside
Da das schriftliche Interview wirklich sehr lang ist, raten wir Euch entweder das Video anzugucken oder Euch ausreichend Zeit zu nehmen. Aber selbst das Interview in Videoform ist deutlich über eine Stunde lang.
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.
GW2Hub: So have any idea that have come up during CDIs gone completely against the ideas the teams were originally thinking?
Chris: Certainly at a micro level. There’s been times we have been discussed exactly the same things discussed in the CDI; but, when they are discussed by the community there’s been a much better metro-sizeable argument from them being that they are in the grass roots and seeing, playing living and breathing. Much different from a micro level.
There hasn’t been that many CDIs yet. There have been some macro-level discussions. There has definitely been the reopening of some high level conversations that there have been course corrections on that the community will see. All for the better of the game. We’re not going in to which, we’re not going to go into any.
The hardest thing for people to learn when they join a CDI thread it’s not about talking about when is it coming out, or what we’re working on. We talk about ideas we like. The reason we don’t want to talk about saying we’re definitely doing something because we reserve the right to stop working on a feature if it doesn’t reach the quality we’re happy with. We don’t want to set expectation around something and then not do something. Puts us a bit in a Catch 22 situation. One member of the community (Gibson.4036) asked if we could come back in the future and state where the discussions have impacted decision making. We’ll start that on the Living World thread and I can start posting those when CDI-impacting decisions go live I will note them down where people can see them.
I can list many, many times where the community has already impacted the game. At the moment I just don’t have the time. I am really enjoying my vacation, we have a CDI thread running at the moment, and we hope 2014 is again our year so we’re hoping to start out with a huge bang and hit the ground running. So that’s my excuse on not writing a thread on how everyone has impacted everything. Maybe when I get some time I’ll do it.
It’s funny. I’m going to ask myself a question to answer because I’m sure it’ll come from the people on the CDI thread. It’s got a very high learning curve (the CDI) being that if you haven’t been part of the first few and you come in and you have expectations – to be honest every single person from the thread has had the same expectation of – to learn the specifics scheduling and everything is just something we just don’t do. It must be very difficult for them because they come in and be like,“ Well this isn’t good enough. This isn’t collaborative development! This is just one-sided craziness!“
Basically in the next process evolution thread we need to talk about technology, different ways to structure the thread and different ways that we can get more value out of conversation. I really do feel for people. Staying ahead of the Vertical Progression one is 36 pages, it must be like a full-time job keeping ahead of that.
When the CDI threads are working full tilt they are absolutely amazing. At the same time, and obviously I have a huge amount of commitment and responsibility to the team, but I feel I have this commitment to the community how as well. I don’t really get time to work on it during the day – unless it’s a play day – and so I end up working on it in my breaks, at night, in the early hours of the morning of in my vacation. We just need design a system to make it more accessible, I guess.
GW2Hub: I can see that. Just me going back to find red posts was exhausting in of itself, I can’t imagine what it’s like for you.
Chris: That’s the thing. When you get used to the purpose of the CDI it’s actually more important to spend more time reading the non-red posts. I want to get to the stage where the CDI is so well understood that whoever is participating in it is just a voice among many. Everyone puts proposals together and then we discuss it at the team in ArenaNet. I would really like it where it gets to the point where the most important parts aren’t from the developers – and I know it’s like that at the moment – but the ones from the community of the CDIs who bring forth arguments and develop ideas and problem solve. THAT is where the magic is. I spend a lot of time of my time reading through it, listening to differing opinions and problem solving how they think about stuff. From that point, basically, garnering an opinion from that.
That’s the core of what makes the CDI so good, but makes it really hard to keep up with. You really need to be there from it’s inception so you can be on the same logical, uh, thought path that they are.
What I’m thinking about at the moment is bookmarking topics within topics. Being able to basically say „Well here’s a conversation about this, where it starts and an interesting point made on it“. The community themselves are starting to do this. There’s a player called the Lost Witch who’s been doing summaries for us. I just want to say a HUGE, huge thanks for. I’m a forum noob so I was even sending private messages asking how to do this and that and they would basically do the work for me. I just want to say that I really appreciate that.
GW2Hub: On the subject of the discussions you and Bobby Stein and Colin and everyone that’s involved have: Do you guys at the end of the day just sit down and go „MAN! That was a hell of a discussion“ then go into it? Have a beer, talk about what to say tomorrow?
Chris: We haven’t done that yet because we just haven’t had the time for that yet. Bobby, Colin and I we already see each other a lot, right? Especially in meetings to go over the next releases and problem solving of our own. We don’t really have time to sit down to have a beer and talk about X. What we actually do is much more exciting and effective: We literally take the discussions we’ve been reading into the meeting rooms with other members of the staff and discuss it there. If we have a meeting relevant to the CDIs – and luckily we have been having a lot in regards to all the CDIs – it’s talked about. It’s not just us that reads it: Mike O’Brien reads it, the directors read it.
The way we work at ArenaNet is not that a couple people go into a room and make decisions. All stake holders are always invited to meetings that are relevant to them. Certainly there has to be a decision maker; but it’s very much like the CDI. First we talk about what our goals are, then we talk the player expectation or emotion resulting from those goals, and then we talk about problem solving or how to do those in the best manner. It’s very similar to the CDI thread. The formats are very modular Aden work well together and can essentially be replicated.
The great thing about the CDI in a game already out, in a live environment, is that the community already has most the ammunition required to discuss the topic in a educated manner. We can have a healthy discussion on a pretty level playing field.
GW2Hub: What was the most rewarding thing you’ve found coming out of the community through these CDIs?
Chris: That’s a good question. From a high level point of view every single thread we’ve done has impacted the game in a huge way. I know it’s cheesie to say, but I would basically say that the overall connection we have with the community has been massive. Utterly huge. That’s been the coolest thing to come away from it.
In a micro level the comments around Vertical Progression are really good. It’s obviously nice when the CDI has a very similar opinion to the direction we’re moving. One of the nice things from that was that it was very professionally handled by the community. Handled really, really well and in a mature way. The different methods of gaining Ascended gear and ensuring we’re meeting the goals of making it accessible is really cool.
The impact our Living World thread not only had an impact on our story telling. I can give you a concrete example: I can’t remember who it was; but one of the community members was telling us why they really liked the Living Story. One of the reasons they found it difficult to get into it was that in 2013 we would have Feature builds inbetween Story builds. This would create disparity between the overall flow of the storyline. You would have, in some cases, almost a month before you interacted with the story again. That was really cool because we sometimes can’t see the wood through the tree. We were „Of course! Of course that makes sense!“
The overall impact of the Living World CDI has been huge. Nike has spoke about what impact you can already see from the Living World thread. That was a great post he made. He mentioned the cadence and seperating feature from story.
GW2Hub: Is there a point you would say to yourself, while some of these discussions are in development, that you would say that this is taking too long or anything like that? Would that cross your mind?
Chris: Would we ever change priority? Yes. We would.
GW2Hub: It’s good to know! There are people who honestly think there is one schedule and that schedule is it.
Chris: Colin Johannson knows the game inside and out. He and Kristen Bornemann, our Development Director for Guild Wars 2, have a tightly knit partnership that understand the game and community. They are adept and extremely organized about what’s currently in the pipe and get the very best advantages of being in a live environment with the community. We can afford to change priority when we see fit dependent on either the live environment or discussions we have internally. Obviously we have release schedules and plans, but generally we are working on most aspects of the game at all times.
GW2Hub: Visiting back to the Alpha and Beta period question. Any of the feedback from the current CDIs, if you had received them back during them in the beta period, would we see a much different product than we see today?
Chris: I think you’ll see a product that looks more like it is today and will look like in the first quarter of 2014. There is a phrase in the market called „First in Market“ or „Best“ and a jokey phrase around that called „First in Market, First out of the Trench and First to be Shot“. With the Living World platform, and you’re first in market, to really make it a truly Living World you have to see how that see how it see how it sits in a community, see how they consume it, you have to see if they feel comfortable in it. I think the precedent in a lot of online worlds previously has been this sense of comfort and this sense of understanding constraints. Obviously the Living World has been designed to constantly evolve and constantly change the world.
So on paper it all sounds very good. You know it makes sense, for example, there is the concept of content coming in and out of the world. That was a big learning for us this year, and that was mentioned in the CDIs. If we went back in time we would have changed the design on moving forward to ensure the world continues to grow and that content isn’t taken from players where it makes sense.
So we’re in this very exciting space where the ultimate success of the Living World platform is dependent on how well we listen to the community and how well we understand how it’s evolving. Because, really, there is only some things that can be learned by deploying it and putting it in it’s space. My hope is that we learn fast enough, and make the required changes, so that this platform remains First in Market and Best and others don’t capitalize on the learning of our mistakes. That’s a huge reason for ensuring we have a really close relationship with the community to discuss what is working and what isn’t.
That’s a huge topic and we could talk about that for hours and hours. I’m really proud of what the Living World does. I’m amazed the potential it has. I’m also thankful to the community for helping to guide us in the right direction.
I digress. My point is this: Sure. Had we known what the CDI, and the Community, and what the Living World platform does in a live environment does. If we knew that before, when we were designing it, it would have been a very different place; But! There is good news and that is whilst the feedback we get, and seeing the platform operating in a live environment, does have a little bit of catch-up time for the changes to come to live it isn’t‘ a lot of time and we’re working to make that even more effective. I’m pretty confident, proud of what we’ve done and very thankful for the patience the community and the fans for the game, and also the dev team in regard to getting the „Death Star“ fully operational.
GW2Hub: Do you really call it that? Go to your team and call it the „Death Star“?
Chris: We’ve been talking about that. You’ll see in the first quarter next year that there is this interesting parallel relationship that has spawned between Scarlet’s conclusion and the Living World platform getting it’s pieces finally in place. You are really going to see that when you get to see the story. Yes, I have been specifically saying that the platform is in it’s infancy. The goals of the platform are getting to the point where we can realize everything we’ve been talking about in the past.
GW2Hub: Do you have any surprises now that some CDIs have finished that the community won’t know about? Anything to possibly tease?
Chris: What I would say that there is going to be a big surprise when they see the impact the CDI has had. I think there are some big, big surprises coming next year. Some pleasant surprises about the CDI and how they effect the live experience.
GW2Hub: Last question on the CDIs. How about a CDI on Charr Armour, huh?
Chris: Oh. Yeah yeah! Someone awhile ago mentioned if it is possible to have CDIs from Engineering CDI, Art CDI. I said that I would talk to Mister Daniel Dociu about that. Because we’re so busy, and despite seeing him every day, I forgot. So I am going to have that chat with him to see what he thinks, and Dave B about their thoughts about it as well. I’m sure they would love to do it.
GW2Hub: I’m pretty the community is about explode and be all behind me and I’m happy about this. People want to talk about the Charr Armour. It’s…. It’s something.
Chris: Oh. Okay. So long as it’s positive. By the way, when I say „positive“ – and this is something that is good for those who are excited about the CDI and want to get into it – I don’t mean everything you say has to be a comment praising what we do. What I mean is productive criticism. Anything a member of staff can read and basically see the passion and criticism behind it. What I don’t want is members of the staff, they are only human, to be berated and shouted at. Then be scared away from wanting to engage with the community.
Problem with the CDI is that only a few of us are posting on it currently. There is a lot of team members getting more confident about posting themselves. In 2014 you might see more developers, some you’ve never heard of possibly. Coming to test the waters to see if they confident or comfortable enough talking in a hostile environment. I think positive is the wrong word, I think productive is the right word.
My dream one day is that I can step away from the CDI. Really, the idea behind is if the community and developers come together it becomes it’s own area of mind share. An area of it’s own day-to-day discussions at lunch at work, let alone at meetings. My dream is that there is this truly synergistic relationship where we’re truly tapped into how the community feels and we’re working together to pioneer moving forward; and maybe even one day being able to step away from being one of the major posters and just being able to read it like a fan.
We have to have a proper relationship. We need to really get to know the community, and the community really needs to get to know us as individuals and get to know our design philosophy and the individual’s design philosophy is. Then, hopefully, we’ll be able to synergize. It’ll never be perfect, but at least we’ll speak the same language and problem solve together.
You asked me what my favorite thing about CDIs this year. The Vertical Progression thread was unbelievable professional and mature. The speed in which the community went from „Just do this it’s easy.“ to „Oh. Actually now I understand why doing that would have adverse reactions to other parts of the game“. That is when things get interesting. When one player comes and says „Why don’t you just do this?“ and another player comes to say „Well don’t you understand how this would effect the economy in this way; or effect player psychology or player habit in another way.“ and that is when we start cooking with gas.
We definitely need to do more in terms of getting better accessibility on it. On the actual technology. I would rather do work of every minute of every day and have a proper conversation on proper discussion and logical reasoning than just use a poll.
GW2Hub: I thoroughly enjoyed that response. While I was joking a bit, you took it much further than I ever imagined. I really appreciated that and I hope the community does as well.
On to my last question: In regards to Tequatl how do you feel that came out in the end? After all of this has been said and done, and the standard of how people react with it, and how often people are going to it. How do you feel of it?
Chris: I am so massively proud of the team for being able to do this. It’s a 100+ open world encounter on a boss that is non-trivial. Just the metrics, algorithms, balancing. Just the core of that by itself is a unbelievable accomplishment. I know Mike O’Brien, who is our Studio Head, was utterly blown away of the balancing. He was jut blown away. A number of times he said he said he was surprised that we got the balance the way it was on the release of it. Also to note we haven’t changed it since we released it.
It’s one of my top five favorite fights. The logistics behind just creating something like that in the open world and have it work well and not be trivial is just crazy. Tequatl and the Mega-Bosses, and the new ones that we are doing, are designed specifically for a certain type of player. Guilds an players who like banging their head on the wall until they win and the reward for them is the completion and not necessarily the loot. It’s very much designed for a certain type of player and guild.
On to the more critical aspects of it. We obviously want to make it as accessible as possible. One of the big complaints, and I don’t disagree with, is to have the fight be more accessible and to kick it off easier. We are definitely aware of that. Aside from the accessibility, for me, I am really, really happy with it.
The fight is very much about communication and collaboration. Certainly communication. Once you understand the fight it’s not that hard. I’m that kind of player, though, right? I love WvW, I love challenging PvE content and I don’t mind failing.
GW2Hub: You say communication is a big part of Tequatl and I wholeheartedly agree. Does that raise the question that there isn’t enough ways to communicate within the guild by itself?
Chris: It’s interesting because that relates back to the CDI regarding the Commander tag. The answer is yes. I think we definitely need more ways of supporting collaborative open world content. I think that CDI thread, for me anyways, was very important for that point of view.
GW2Hub: There is a need for more communication and you guys are addressing that through the Commander tag CDI.
Chris: As a player who commands the forward group on Tequatl I would love more ways of clearly communicating with my group of players than the mechanics of the game currently afford. I definitely agree with the point you made, but in that nature of this conversation I am not making any promises on the way that would manifest or when it would.
GW2Hub: I appreciate you guys are even discussing it. In the gaming industry there is typically a lot of talking that is happening that a not a lot of people are hearing. That’s the biggest issue people tend to have. They aren’t hearing the talks, so they assume it isn’t happening. That’s why I love these CDIs. People are talking and people can see it.
Chris: It’s easy to go into ArenaNet every day to talk to everyone and see what it’s going on. Sometimes you don’t see the wood through the trees. You, as a developer, are like „Of course we are or aren’t working on this kind of thing“ and it must be difficult for the players. If part of the CDI is informational in that regard then that’s great and I really appreciate it. It’s not, to me, the goal. The process is actually problem solving and getting a better understanding. I really do appreciate the fact that a lot of people really read these threads and never comment and are just interested in reading them. I think the Living World thread had 60,000 views or something.
It just goes to show what you’re saying is 100% true. People are coming and reading, and hopefully enjoying what they are reading. I get a lot of private messages from members of the community who say they are afraid to comment on the forum and just want to send me their info. So I was talking about Developers being human and they just need to get the confidence to post and not get upset by the environment they are posting in.
i wonder how many people just don’t get involved because they are afraid of someone making light of them or that they feel they are not as astute as someone else. In the spirit of the CDI people shouldn’t worry about that. Every idea and every process of problem solving could be the seed of an idea that could be the next big thing in Guild Wars 2.
My promise to them – the team and the community – is that I spend a lot of time sheparding conversation and behavior towards the conversation. I will do my very best to champion and protect the interest of those people who have the interests of the Guild Wars 2 community and Tyria at heart. It’s why sometimes I lose my cool a little bit; but I am trying to get better at that.
GW2Hub: This has been a great discussion, I think. It gives a lot of insight to what you’re thinking, to what the community needs to be thinking, what the community needs to be seeing… Just a lot of different aspects going on here. I’m really thankful you took the time for this.
Chris: I really, really appreciate the conversation. I hope I didn’t say anything I shouldn’t have done. It’s difficult to be overly restrained when you’re trying to be as collaborative and passionate as you can be. I really appreciate everything the community has done for us in 2013 and I’m really excited about 2014.
I’m certainly looking forward to the Living World and CDI.
GW2Hub: I certainly cannot wait. Alright. Have a good one. Thank you again!
Chris: No, thank you! I really, really appreciate it. Let me know if you ever want to chat about anything again.