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Guild Wars 2 Memser Reveal: ArenaNet Interview

Dave Cook

Interview


Guild Wars 2 developer ArenaNet has revealed its final profession, the Mesmer, but there's still no word on the release date. We chat with the team at length to find out more.

Published on Dec 13, 2011

 

Guild Wars 2 is on track to really shake up the online RPG market in 2012, and the reveal of the Mesmer - the 8th and final profession - underlines just how much effort has gone into ArenaNet's sprawling epic.

We caught up with Guild Wars 2 lead designer Eric Flannum to discuss the Mesmer class and why he feels that the game will raise the bar for all online RPG titles to follow.

Also, Guild Wars 2 system designer Jon Peters will be answering further questions about the Mesmer reveal exclusively on Reddit. Head over to the official Guild Wars 2 Reddit thread here to get involved!

The Mesmer is the eighth and final profession to be revealed in Guild Wars 2, and although Mesmers appeared in the first game, why did you decide to make them playable in the sequel? 

We made Mesmers playable in Guild Wars 2 because we considered the Mesmer to be one of the most iconic and unique professions in the first game. I think, as we’ve seen from fan reaction regarding the “eighth profession” that mesmer is a really popular choice of profession with our fans as well. 

 

How challenging was it to integrate the Mesmer profession into the existing profession set? What specific challenges did you have when making sure mesmers are balanced, yet fun to play?

Combat in Guild Wars 2 is very visual, so we had to find a way to make the conditions and mind games that are so signature to the Mesmer become a part of the battlefield.

It was very challenging to integrate the mesmer into the game, which is why it’s the last profession to be revealed. The Mesmer in the original Guild Wars dealt a lot in energy denial and hexing, so the two most challenging things to deal with were our lack of fast regenerating energy and hexes. 

We solved the hex problem by giving Mesmers access to a wide variety of conditions as well as by having some of their illusions replicate the effect of some of the old Mesmer hexes.

For example, the phantasm 'backfire' attacks its target whenever that target uses a skill which closely emulates what the old Guild Wars mesmer hex named 'backfire' used to do.

As for energy denial, we decided that all of the other forms of disruption and control the Mesmer had were sufficient and that we didn’t really need it. I think the Guild Wars 2 Memser still fulfils all of the roles of the classic Guild Wars Mesmer, but does it in a different way. 

 

Mesmers can create ranged clones to volley off shots while they run in personally for close quarter hits.

To what extent have you expanded the Mesmer lore in Guild Wars 2 to flesh out the profession further? Well-known Mesmers in the first game included Countess Anise and Queen Jennah; can you give us any examples of prominent Memser NPCs in Guild Wars 2?

Queen Jennah and Countess Anise are actually the most well known and prominent mesmer NPCs in Guild Wars 2. Back in the original game I think the most well known Mesmer would have to be Gwen. 

As with all of our professions, the Mesmer’s combat style has evolved through the years focusing more on illusions and deception than outright mental domination. This change in focus comes from the non-human races bringing their influence into Mesmer magic.

 

Can you give our readers an insight into how useful Illusions will be in combat, including the differences between clones and phantasms? How many different phantasms will be available in the game and what different traits might they have?

Illusions are extremely useful in combat. Much of a Mesmer’s combat efficiency comes from properly utilizing both clones and phantasms. Clones appear to be an exact copy of you and use a weaker version of the first skill of the weapon you were using when you created them.

Clones are basically used for deception, take very little damage to dispel, and don’t deal a lot of damage on their own. Phantasms, on the other hand, are a little harder to kill and deal significant damage. Phantasms are also not exact duplicates of you and wield illusionary weapons, have their own names, and are slightly translucent.  

Currently, every Mesmer weapon is capable of creating a clone and a phantasm. There are also utility skills which create clones and phantasms, giving the mesmer nearly a dozen ways to create each type of illusion. 

 

Do any particular phantasms stand out for you at the moment?

My favourite phantasm is currently Illusionary Warden, which is skill number five on off-hand focus. I like it because it’s very versatile. It summons an illusion of yourself wielding two axes and executes a skill similar to the ranger skill Whirling Defense.

This phantasm is great because it can not only serve as offense, doing AOE damage to enemies, but with proper positioning it can also protect you and your allies from ranged enemies.

 

Mesmers can also create teleportation areas to jump around the area for sneaky back attacks.

The Mesmer’s Shattering and Mantra skills seem both complex yet highly effective. Can you give us a few examples of how players might use these in battle? On the other hand, how do Mesmers tend to fare in melee and firearm combat?

Mantras have a huge advantage being instant cast in that they can be used while channelling another skill. Since the Mesmer has several channelled skills this really comes in handy. 

Shattering illusions is the bread and butter of any Mesmer. No matter which weapon you’re using you’re always guaranteed to have access to AOE damage, the confusion condition, a stun, and a good defense against projectiles.

Since using a shatter will affect all of your illusions at once, knowing when to spread illusions between multiple foes (say to stun several at once) versus knowing when to concentrate them in a single area (say to maximize AOE damage or confusion stacking) is all part of being an effective Mesmer.  

I’ve found that Mesmers fare very well in melee and firearm combat. They really rely on movement and trickery to keep themselves alive, so of course a Mesmer won’t just attack you with a sword or shoot at you and will instead use illusion and magic to supplement their weapons in a very unique style of combat. Playing a Mesmer feels very different from any of the other professions in Guild Wars 2.


How difficult is it to develop a game like Guild Wars 2 over such a protracted dev cycle and stay in line with current trends in the industry trends, as well as keeping up with advances in modern tech? How liberating is it to be able to update and patch frequently in a game like this?

Most games in the MMO genre are developed over several years, so one of the things you have to get used to and plan for as an MMO developer is the fact that many other games will release before yours and that technology will advance.

Fortunately for us, we tend to want low system requirements so when technology matures and becomes cheaper it tends to help us out. As far as other industry trends go, we’re always looking at what other people are doing and trying to learn from every game we play. 

Being able to patch a game after release is a fantastic tool to have at your disposal. It means you’re able to respond to how players are playing your game and what they’re most interested in. You have to be very careful however that you don’t use something like this as an excuse for releasing something in an unfinished state.

 

Mesmers can also dish out powerful offensive spells.

How closely will fan feedback drive future expansions for Guild Wars 2? To what extent are you already thinking about ways to expand upon the initial release? How bizarre or far fetched do fan suggestions become?

We have a rough plan for our first two expansions as well as a plan for what our live team will be implementing in mind right now. Part of our initial design was to purposefully leave areas of the world open for expansion.

It’s important to point out that these are very rough plans, because I think that fan feedback will be a huge factor in what we choose to include in future expansion and live team releases.

We haven’t shipped yet, but we already have what I would call an extremely passionate player base and they have plenty of suggestions for us. Fans can certainly suggest some bizarre things, but I think that’s good! Sometimes great ideas can come from bad ideas and bizarre suggestions. 

 

World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria, The Secret World, Star Wars and other online RPGs are looking to make huge headway in the industry into 2012. How confident are you that Guild Wars 2 will be the online RPG of choice? 

I really don’t want to make any predictions about such things because there’s not much we can really do about that other than make the best game we know how to make.

So, while I can’t promise that we’ll be the online RPG of choice, I can promise that we’ll release a fun to play, polished online RPG that brings some new ideas to the table, all with no subscription fees and leave it at that.  

 

 

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