The ArenaNet Streaming Schedule for the Week of February 24

We’ve partnered up with players to showcase their creative Guild Wars 2-inspired content on the official Guild Wars 2 Twitch channel. Read on for this week’s scheduled programming, and don’t forget to check out the Guild Wars 2 category on Twitch for more great streams!

Streams for the week of February 24Wednesday, February 26

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The Guild Wars 2 Art Show (by Fiaoradd)(English)
Noon Pacific Time (UTC-8)
Watch Fiaoradd create art on this week’s show!

Thursday, February 27

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ArenaNet Livestream: Let’s Play Guild Wars 2 World vs World (English)
9:30 a.m. Pacific Time (UTC-8)
Join the World vs. World development team in the Mists for their weekly stream. This week they’ll be playing on EU servers.

If you need help converting times into your own time zone, you can use this tool. Thanks for watching!


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Drakkar: The Making of a Legend

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When “Shadow in the Ice” was first pitched, many aspects of the episode were still left to be discovered. One thing, however, was certain: We were going to have an encounter with a deadly foe from Tyria’s past. Something sinister, spoken of only in whispers. A monster that players themselves had once caught a glimpse of more than a decade ago in Guild Wars: Eye of the North®. The creature whose dark influences created the first corrupted Nornbear and started a series of events that led to the very creation of the Sons of Svanir.

We were finally coming face-to-face with Drakkar.

Building on the Past

Players familiar with Guild Wars: Eye of the North may remember that Drakkar was technically visible if they went out onto his frozen lake and looked beneath the surface. Now that we get to see him in Guild Wars 2, he looks quite a bit different. So, what was it like to bring this iconic creature into the future?

Our first step when tackling Drakkar was to determine our technical restrictions and any design restrictions that were established by what was shown of him in the original Guild Wars®. The most you saw of him in game was a hazy view of his head through the ice, so we decided to change up most of his body in order to best fit our rig, gameplay, and story purposes.

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The primary elements we wanted to convey ended up being:

  • His relationship with Jormag.
  • His status as an evil, unnatural being.
  • His ability to attack both magically and physically.
  • To have him believably swim or phase through ice.

In order to push the Jormag aspect, we added ice elements and draconic influences into his design via the long neck, teeth, claws, and icicles. The oddly shaped head of the original model was the sole element we carried over, and the impetus for the eventual decomposing-whale theme. Its irregular shapes reminded us of the odd abstract features of whale skulls. From there we extended that theme by adding decomposing fat to make him look “shaggy” and hopefully push the arctic feel via a faux-fur coat. The general idea is after his frozen lake melted, Drakkar was left exposed to the elements and wasted away, leaving only his connection to Jormag to power him.

With the visual design of the creature locked in, it was time to figure out just how Drakkar was going to interact with players.

Moving the Monster

Animating Drakkar was fairly straightforward. The basic shape of the arena, concept art of the boss, and even his rig were all locked in before animation work began. Because new rigs are so time consuming to create, we decided on the new Aurene rig for all Drakkar’s animations. Our creature department gave us a rough sculpture of Drakkar to animate, and we were on our way.

Over the first few days of animation production, we worked with Design to quickly rough out every move and attack. We implemented all these rough animations as prototype attacks and began to see what worked and what didn’t. Throughout the prototype stage, some attacks were tweaked or dropped entirely, while others were added to meet the needs of the encounter. Once we had settled on the final design, the long process of creating polished animation began, which meant it was time for VFX to come into play as well.

A Suite of Effects

The Visual Effects team (VFX) faced several challenges during development, and after the initial kickoff meeting, we understood the importance of Art and Design teams collaborating closely to design a complex, visually awesome, multistaged boss encounter heavy on VFX. Design provided rough VFX requests early on, and as development progressed, we worked out specific needs and the overall look with the rest of the Art teams, playing through the encounter as it materialized in front of us.

Ice was the theme for this encounter, so we had to think smart in terms of color theory. To aid in development, the Creature and Environment teams provided early color “block outs” so we could start developing VFX before the final assets were complete. We ended up incorporating both light and dark color tones, ice, decaying goo, and magical energy in Drakkar’s abilities so they would be visible against ice, Drakkar’s model, and changing lighting conditions.

Early on we knew we had a need for Drakkar to swim behind and phase through ice walls. This simple request provided a load of unique challenges for VFX, one of which was developing new shader tech. After exploring several ideas, we settled on developing a new ice wall shader as the foundation for adding additional complex shader logic that simulated depth, lifelike animation, and tuned controls for consistent gameplay.

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Drakkar’s shadow evolved during development, from a simple mist-like spherical shape to a complex animated shadow as the new ice shader matured. Using simple animations of Drakkar’s model, clever utilization of depth-map rendering to generate flip-books, and careful timing of visual effects to Drakkar’s animations, we achieved the seamless look of Drakkar phasing through and swimming behind the ice as we envisioned.

All of this was necessary to achieve our lofty goals for the encounter design.

Designing the Encounter

The first step toward creating Drakkar’s battle was to examine our existing world bosses and ask some tough questions. What kinds of things can keep our ever-improving player base on their toes, and what pitfalls can we avoid by learning from the past? During the initial design process, questions like these helped to identify several encounter goals:

  • Get players moving.
  • Teach raid and strike encounter mechanic language in the open world.
  • Require defiance bars.

And most importantly…

  • Make the boss feel dynamic.

This last one was the source of our greatest hurdle: showing Drakkar’s ability to move through the ice. To understand why this was so difficult, first we need to break down how world bosses are created.

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Internally, bosses like Claw of Jormag, Tequatl, or the Shatterer are known as “prop bosses.” These are agents in the world that look like a creature but have fundamentally different behavior from standard enemies. For example, prop bosses are completely stationary unless specifically animated to move to another location (such as the transition into the second phase in the Claw of Jormag fight). Animations like this are very expensive and don’t leave a lot of room for iteration when working on a tight schedule, so asking for a prop boss to move around traditionally requires a very hefty lift from the Art department. So how did we pull this off? Smoke and mirrors.

When you’re fighting Drakkar, you aren’t fighting one single prop boss. You’re fighting seventeen prop bosses that are all communicating with a master controller. This controller tells them when to move in and attack, what health they should be at, what attacks to use, and when to disappear. Using this development strategy, we no longer needed animations for every movement. Instead, when the controller tells one prop boss to “lurk” (go away), it decides where Drakkar will appear next, and begins an effect sequence in which you see his shadow shifting through the ice. When that sequence finishes, it signals the next prop boss to “unlurk,” set its health to the proper amount, and begin fighting. This system, with the help of Animation and VFX, allowed us to place as many Drakkars as we wanted into the battlefield, and connect them all together to capture the feeling of a moving, agile monstrosity.

As you can see, every team put quite a lot of effort into bringing Drakkar to life. From the first time he bursts through the ice to the moment of his defeat, this monstrous undertaking took the coordination of each discipline working together to ensure the experience was something unlike anything we’ve done before. We hope you enjoy taking down this legendary beast as much as we enjoyed setting him up. Now get out there, Commander—the world needs saving!


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Call to Glory: February 2020 Competitive Update

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On February 25, changes are sweeping the Mists, and we’re calling all competitors! Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or just setting foot in the Mist War, there are plenty of new challenges to face and rewards to reap.

Swiss Tournaments

Swiss is an automated tournament mode in which the number of rounds played is determined by the number of participating teams. At the end of the Swiss rounds, the top teams will compete in a single-elimination bracket. You’ll receive more gold when you win!

Major Balance Update

Changes to traits, skills, and visual effects are on the way. Read the preliminary balance notes on our forums for a preview (subject to change).

Mini-Seasons

Mini seasons will run between regular PvP League seasons. Compete to earn rewards, titles, and glory!

New Armor Set—Warlord’s Armor

Your commanding presence comes from the heart—but looking sharp won’t hurt. Earn this brand-new armor set in PvP and WvW.

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Guildrider Warclaw Skin Reward Track

Unlock a new WvW reward track with gold to earn valuable rewards, including legendary materials, Black Lion Trading Company goods, and a Guildrider Warclaw Skin! The Guildrider Warclaw is a proud leopard who will wear your guild’s emblem on its armor.

Bonus Rewards Event

From February 25 until March 3, enjoy boosts to your rewards in both WvW and PvP!
PvP

  • +15% PvP Rank Points
  • +25% Reward Track Progress
  • +200% Magic Find

WvW

  • +25% Reward Track Progress
  • +50% Magic Find
  • +100% WvW Experience Gain

We’ll see you in the Mists!


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Keep Your Veggies Cool with the Glacial Harvesting Tool

  • Glacial Harvesting Tool

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While an unexpected frost can ruin crops, this unlimited harvesting tool won’t damage your delicate herbs, ripe berries, and fresh vegetables. It even comes equipped with a Glyph of Virtue, which rewards bonus karma while you’re gathering.

What’s in Stock

For the final stretch of winter, we’re refreshing our inventory of hats, gloves, and shoulder armor skins. Keep an eye out for returning favorites!

Returning Today

  • Black Lion Hunters Contract
  • Black Lion Industry Contract
  • Ritualist Staff Skin
  • Rival Skies Package
  • Lord Faren’s Rapier Skin
  • Desert Racer Mount Select License
  • Desert Racer Mount Adoption License
  • Storm Gloves—20% Off
  • Pyre Gloves—20% Off

Returning This Week

  • Black Lion Keys and Scrap Package
  • Crystalline Dragon Wings Backpack Glider Combo
Available Now in the Gem Store!

Log into Guild Wars 2 and press 'O' to access the Black Lion Trading Company for these great offers and more!


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Guild Wars 2 at PAX East 2020

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Come visit us on the show floor at PAX East 2020 at Booth #13075! We’ll have a sweet backdrop and props for photos, and a community wall to celebrate Friend/Ships.

As part of our partnership with Seize the Awkward, we’re participating in a panel at PAX East. “Build Your Guild: Make and Support Friends in Gaming” is all about games with supportive and uplifting communities. Panelists from ArenaNet, Take This, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention will share how players can get to know each other, build friendships, and support each other in game.

To attend the panel, join us on Thursday, February 27 at 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time in the Arachnid Theater.


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The ArenaNet Streaming Schedule for the Week of February 17

We’ve partnered up with players to showcase their creative Guild Wars 2-inspired content on the official Guild Wars 2 Twitch channel. Read on for this week’s scheduled programming, and don’t forget to check out the Guild Wars 2 category on Twitch for more great streams!

Streams for the week of February 17Wednesday, February 19

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The Guild Wars 2 Art Show (by Fiaoradd)(English)
Noon Pacific Time (UTC-8)
Watch Fiaoradd create art on this week’s show!

Thursday, February 20

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ArenaNet Livestream: Let’s Play Guild Wars 2 World vs World (English)
3:00 p.m. Pacific Time (UTC-8)
Join the World vs. World development team in the Mists for their weekly stream. This week they’ll be playing on NA servers.

If you need help converting times into your own time zone, you can use this tool. Thanks for watching!


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Let Magic Flow with the Alchemist Backpack and Glider Combo

  • Alchemist Backpack and Glider Combo

There’s something satisfying and compelling about fancy bottles full of mysterious, candy-colored liquids. While we don’t recommend playing with the ones in the Durmand Priory vaults, we can offer you this lovely bottle to wear as a backpack. Equip the matching glider, and the magic potion will spill from the bottle when you glide, forming a pair of wings to carry you to safety.

The glider and backpack each come with four dye channels so you can customize your magic potion. Is it full of fiery cordial? Necromantic energy? Weird brown stuff? It’s up to you!

Stoneshard Scepter

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The powers of air and earth are opposed, but transformative: wind whips the dust into a wild dance, and lightning seeks the ground. Invoke the balance with this dynamic scepter.

Love Is All Around

For a limited time, skins from the Devoted Weapon Collection are available from Black Lion Weapons Specialists for two Black Lion Claim Tickets each! The Wedding Preparation Package is back in stock, and the Wedding Attire Outfit is on sale at 25% off.

What’s in Stock

Starting February 14, special skins for your favorite weapons are returning, including Belinda’s Greatsword, the Arcane Marksman Rifle, the Lightbinder Blade Sword Skin, and many more!

Returning Today

  • Infinite Volatile Magic Gathering Tools

Returning This Week

  • Black Lion Garden Plot Deed
  • Runecrafter’s Salvage-o-Matic
  • Silver-Fed Salvage-o-Matic
  • Wings of Love Backpack Glider Combo—20% Off
Available Now in the Gem Store!

Log into Guild Wars 2 and press 'O' to access the Black Lion Trading Company for these great offers and more!


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Swiss Tournaments Are Coming

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Swiss tournaments have progressed enough that we need your help with the next phases. On February 13 at noon Pacific Time (UTC-8), we’ll be running the first experimental Swiss tournament. While we’ve made every effort to have a solid system, testing internally and testing in a live environment with thousands of players are very different. There is a high chance that this tournament will experience bugs. This could result in the tournament being cancelled while in progress or tournament rewards not being distributed. Additionally, some UI elements will not be finished by the time this test runs. We’ll set up a thread for feedback on the official Guild Wars 2 forums when the tournament goes live.

What Is Swiss?

Swiss is a system in which the number of rounds is based on the number of teams participating. You will not be removed from the tournament after losing in a Swiss round. In each round, each team plays a team with the same record, if possible.

All teams will play all the Swiss rounds, unless they get a bye.

How does Swiss work with the automated tournament system?
Once the system launches, tournaments will start off in Swiss rounds. Once those rounds are finished, we’ll take the top teams in Swiss standings into a single elimination tournament. From here, the tournament will proceed under the current system.

What are the benefits of Swiss tournaments over the old system?
Teams will have more opportunities to play together and will not need to wait hours for a tournament only to potentially be disqualified in the first round. This means players will get more chances to practice and improve.
Additionally, we’ll use the Swiss standings to seed the single-elimination portion of the tournament. This is a much more accurate way to seed and should result in more competitive matches in later rounds of the tournament.

Will rewards change for Swiss tournaments?
We don’t currently have any plans to change final tournament rewards. However, we’ll increase the gold awarded for winning automated tournament matches. This ensures that the rewards always scale along with the tournament size, and it makes the tournament more of a value than playing unranked or ranked, if you’re winning.

Best of luck!


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