After Warhammer Online and its hype leading up to the release of the game, I have become quite skeptical and even cynical. Don’t believe what a marketing guy says (especially if he mentions bears). It got worse when I read about Kotick’s “The goal that I had in bringing a lot of the packaged goods folks into Activision about 10 years ago was to take all the fun out of making video games”. I am well aware that companies need to make money. It is a business, after all. And at the end of the day, each employee needs to earn some money to feed him-/herself and their families. But should it ONLY be about the business? Should it not also be about your passion? Or about fun? Doesn’t “having fun while doing your work” also transpire into your work and consequently also onto your customers who might then become happier customers. Or at least, more satisfied with the product you’re selling to them because they can see that people did their best to make it a great product and not just one that earns them lots of money while not living up to customers’ expectations?
When I started school and finally learned how to read, a whole new world opened up to me. I loved escaping reality and I hid in the worlds I read about. Books were my passion and the worlds that other people had created in writing were my hiding places. When bookahnerk first introduced me to MMORPGs, I found myself walking around in those fantasy worlds. I don’t necessarily need to hide anymore – I actually quite like my “real life”. But from time to time, it’s still nice to be somewhere else even if it’s just in my imagination. And those games greatly help with that.
The impression we both got about ArenaNet – before and especially during GamesCom – was that there are people who are passionate and who love what they’re doing. I guess the question they asked most often was: “How do you like it?” They took in all the feedback they could get and seemed to honestly want to know what their fans thought (positive and negative opinions were welcome). To us, ArenaNet did not act like other companies. Have a look at the pictures we took from that booth and note the people in white shirts (with the Guild Wars 2 “2″ on front and “ArenaNet” on the back. The other white GW2 t-shirts were given out to fans at GamesCom). There’s hardly a picture without one of them. And they aren’t just some people hired for the event who have no idea what this game even is. Apart from Rytlock Brimstone, there was also not a single booth babe. The people walking around in ArenaNet t-shirts were the community managers, designers, artists, writers etc. Those people who are actively working on the game. Everybody could approach them anytime and ask questions. Quite a lot of fans did as far as I could see (I think the only “issue” was that not everybody dared speaking English to them ;) ).
On Thursday when we arrived at the GW2 PvP booth and saw Stéphane Lo Presti, we waved at him and he came over to us immediately. We had brought him a package of Hanuta after seeing his tweets about how much he loved them. He was positively surprised and judging from his first reaction “So… you know me?” he seemed a bit puzzled. Apparently, he had never experienced the power of Twitter before. ;) He talked a bit more with us before we left the booth to stroll through the other halls of GamesCom.
On Saturday, while standing at the main NCSoft booth, he walked by, saw us and came over. He even gave us the chance to ask questions. Of course, we didn’t have any good ones. We weren’t prepared! ;) I only asked the question that al’Ellisande also asked Martin Kerstein… well, you can find that in my last entry. I also told him that the only thing I would ask of ArenaNet is “Don’t do a Warhammer Online!”. He smiled and shook his head.
After what felt like a very long time (which isn’t meant negatively! We appreciated him taking so much time to talk with us!), Sarah Witter (who can be seen in the left picture speaking with the Asura) appeared, apologised and said that she had to take him away from us because somebody dressed up as an Asura was there. He went off and she told us that we could follow him if we wanted to see the Asura as well. We sure did. Once there, I took a few steps back and looked at the whole scene: There he was the Asura. But what was impressive was actually, once again, ArenaNet. It seemed like every member of the team had been gathered and they were all there for pictures, autographs and admiring the costume (said Asura also got a t-shirt signed by everybody I think). Such a big fuss just because a fan showed up in a costume! And again, that’s not meant in a negative way. It was great to see them getting excited about a fan! :)
Whatever they did during GamesCom, to us it always seemed like they were actually positively surprised and happy about the feedback they got from the GW2 community. I especially loved listening to Ree Soesbee talk about the lore of Guild Wars 2. The way she talks about her work is just inspiring. I want to explore what ArenaNet is creating! I want to see every corner of the world and soak in every piece of lore they put into their game. I don’t think I’ve been this excited about a game since Warhammer Online. And, well, I doubt that GW2 will turn out like WAR. ;)