BG: Are you going to carry on with the novelisations?
CJ: We have two out already, and a third being written by one of our in-house writers that’s coming out in the near future. The first book - Ghosts of Ascalon - was nominated for the award for the best fantasy novel of the year, so it’s certainly something we’ve had a really good response to so far and will continue to build on in the future.
BG:How big is Guild Wars 2 compared to the last one?
CJ: From a sheer content perspective, volume of game space and stuff you can do, the first Guild Wars with all the expansion packs is about the same size as Guild Wars 2 will be on release – it’s massive. When the first one came out, before any of the expansions, there were 60 designers working on it, we now have 270 who are 100 per cent focused on building Guild Wars 2.
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BG:Do you find it hard to maintain the consistency of the vision with a team that’s grown to that size?
CJ: It’s certainly part of the challenge. With 60 people you know every person on the team, you know exactly what they do, and if something goes wrong you know exactly who to talk to. With 270 you need a whole group of people dedicated to managing communication. On the original Guild Wars we had one producer on the project; on this one we have 15 spread across the company whose role it is to facilitate communication and ensure everyone knows what we want from the game, and is on the same page. It’s extremely challenging and one of the hardest parts of having a company so large.
BG:How far along the development process are you with Guild Wars 2? Is there a launch date yet?
CJ: Not yet. We’re in closed alpha right now. We’ve announced a closed beta by the end of this year and the outcome of that will determine when we run the open beta, and the outcome of that will determine the release date. We’ll release it when it’s ready, so we really can’t say yet. The game has to be right and we need to have the time to address any issues that come up in testing.
BG:So there’s still a long way to go?
CJ: Right now we’re doing well. When we showed the game in Europe last year we had one of the five races playable and four of the professions. This year, we have all five races and seven of the eight professions playable, there’s 50 - 100 hours of gameplay just in the demo. The game’s come a long way in a year.
BG:The MMO market’s been almost flooded with lots of free-to-play titles, and with big name titles such as Star Wars: The Old Republic and Blizzard’s Project Titan on the horizon, do you feel threatened?
CJ: To be honest, no, we don’t. We don’t directly compete with a lot of the games that charge monthly fees because Guild Wars is a buy-it-once, play-it-free game.
With Guild Wars 2 the world is bigger, it’s a true free-to-roam world like you’d find in any good MMO, and the production value is leaps and bounds above anything else we’ve done, and hopefully anything anyone else out there is doing. If we make an amazing game that’s free to play, that’s going to be where everyone goes. If you look at other free-to-play games no-one’s doing anything of that quality.
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BG:That’s very expensive to do. Are you still comfortable with the pay-once, free-to play model rather than the subscription model?
BG:MMOs are such a big project to take on and maintain over time that, on the face of it, the subscription model would appear to be a more easily successful model.
CJ: We don’t like to do it if it’s easy! That was our motto for a while. There’s no reason why we need subscriptions to make Guild Wars 2 profitable. It worked with Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2 is a much bigger, more impressive game, so why shouldn’t it work again?
BG:When Guild Wars 2 comes out, you would expect the players form Guild Wars to fall down to a hardcore niche. Would you be tempted to change the business model then and introduce things like micro-transactions to boost revenue?
We’ve always had micro-transactions in the first one, the difference is we don’t sell anything that makes your character more powerful, we just sell things for look and feel - bonus stuff, and we’ll have that same model in Guild Wars 2.
BT:In terms of the box sales and the micro-transactions, which is more important to the company financially?