Browsing articles in "Guest Posts"
Oct 29, 2011

How ArenaNet is Capitalizing on Guild Wars 2′s Launch

Ever heard of Turok 3? Neither have we. Turok: Evolution, the sequel in the series, completely failed to construct the excitement from the the original, causing an end to the story. Sequels have a huge impact on the survivability of a game franchise, and the developers at ArenaNet are taking no chances in terms of ruining Guild Wars 2 when it’s released in 2012. Ever since a sequel was announced in 2007, developers have been steadfast at creating new items, missions, and characters to ease the transition from the old game to the new. Whether you’re a hardcore gamer or just an online doctorate who plays the game sparingly, ArenaNet’s efforts to bridge the gap will be of interest to you.

Guild Wars Beyond

Originally released in 2005, the Guild Wars series has subsequently developed three expansions, named Factions, Nightfall, and Eye of the North. Although each expansion further progressed the storyline, no new expansions have been released since 2007. In order to bridge the five-year gap between the latest expansion and the release of Guild Wars 2, however, ArenaNet developed the Guild Wars Beyond storyline, which is an extension to the original four story lines.

The Guild Wars Beyond series includes War in Kryta, Hearts of the North, and Winds of Change, all of which are integrated into the games owned by current users. Although the new features are accessible to owners of any of the original games, the full story cannot be attained unless a player has bought all of the original games. By participating in the new storylines, players will have access to new unique items and areas with their existing characters, essentially building upon existing infrastructures of the game to create new experiences for all. Not only is this a way to ensure that players understand the lore before entering the Guild Wars 2 community, but it also gives players a nudge to buy the entire collection of existing games to help profit from a five-year old game.


Of course, developing the intermittent links between the original and sequel would mean little if ArenaNet decides to pull the rug on its efforts. In order to show appreciation towards players who revitalized interest in Guild Wars by playing the recent updates, ArenaNet developed a “Hall of Monuments” so fans of the original series will be recognized for their achievements in their prior lives. Since this system doesn’t provide an avenue for transferring old items over, it doesn’t alienate new players who are just learning the game mechanics.

Guild Wars is a great example of how a video game company can leverage its existing infrastructure to develop marketing campaigns while providing gamers with new content. Not only has this campaign kept existing gamers excited for the new installment, developers will also be able to gauge consumer interests in different aspects so they can tailor the new game to the specific demands of its gamer base.

Sep 20, 2011

Common Video Game Design Aesthetics in MMO’s before and after WOW

When World of Warcraft launched in 2004 it took the gaming industry by storm. One of the contributing factors to the game’s success was the game’s aesthetics, which were a huge improvement over those of previous games in the genre. While the game did borrow heavily from games like Everquest, it also made considerable improvements over the formulas employed by earlier games.

Visual Design

Of all design decisions, those relating to the game’s visual aesthetics are perhaps the most important. Graphics are the first thing players see, and leave a lasting first impression. The game’s graphical style is the foremost tool that developers have for immersing players in their world, and includes things such as level design, art style, graphical interface and menus.

Before World of Warcraft, MMORPGs did not employ any discernible art style. The character models and environments were rendered in a very muted color palette and used as many polygons as possible. In terms of the game environment Everquest featured over 400 different areas, although each zone was very sparsely populated and usually contained very little content for a player to experience. Because of these factors, Everquest required a fairly powerful computer to run, meaning that players with older hardware were unable to play the game. Additionally, Everquest 1′s user interface covered was completely opaque and filled a huge portion of the game screen.

Everquest UI art design


In World of Warcraft, there was a huge emphasis on the game’s art style. Blizzard’s lead artist Chris Metzen cited the “uncanny valley” principal as being a major factor in developing the game’s art style. The uncanny valley theory states that as computer generated depictions of human become more photo-realistic, they somehow become less natural looking. To counter this phenomenon, Blizzard developed a sort of cartoonish art style for the game. This style is defined by straight, distinctive lines and a vibrant color palette. Besides giving the game a very unique feel, this art style had the added bonus of requiring far less polygons than a more photo-realistic art style would. In turn, this allowed World of Warcraft to keep system requirements for the game low, increasing the game’s potential player base. World of Warcraft’s user interface was also a huge improvement over Everquest’s, as it took up a significantly smaller amount of space and could even be re-sized to meet the player’s individual needs.

World of Warcraft's art style


After the release of World of Warcraft there was a notable increase in MMORPGs with distinctive art styles. Games like Final Fantasy 11, City of Heroes and DC Universe Online all feature distinctive art styles that attempt to give players the feeling that they are part of a world with a unique personality. Modern MMORPGs were also influenced by World of Warcraft’s focus on having fewer areas available to players, but with more content in these areas. To put it more succinctly, World of Warcraft’s zones stressed quality over quantity.


The art style used in City of Heroes


Audio Design

Even though a game’s graphics are the most noticeable feature, sound also plays a significant role in a player’s experience. While a game’s graphics display obvious gameplay cues, the sound can be used to great effect to subtly convey emotion. Sound aesthetics include things such as background music, character voices, and sound effects.

In Everquest, music was composed using a MIDI synthesizer and was similar to music found in classic RPGs such as Wizardry and Might and Magic. Sound effects were also incredibly rudimentary, each monster in the game had one sound effect that it would repeat over and over. Gameplay cues were also kept very basic. For example, when a player leveled up in Everquest a simple chime would play to alert the player of their accomplishment.

World of Warcraft’s sound was centered around creating as epic an experience as possible for the player. Upon first creating a new character, the player is given a lengthy segment of spoken dialogue explaining the background of the region and the player’s motivation for being in it. Additionally, the background music features high-quality recordings of music recorded using a full symphony orchestra. The gameplay cues also add to the player’s experience by conveying a sense of grandeur about everything the player does. For example, when a player levels up in World of Warcraft they are treated to the sound of a gong being rung.

Levelling up in World of Warcraft

Aion, Rift, and Fire Fall are just a few of the modern online multiplayer games that have followed in the trend of World of Warcraft in creating an epic experience for players. These games feature beautiful cinematics that are accompanied by bold orchestrial music to truly immerse the player into the world of the game in order to replicate the success of World of Warcraft.

Even though World of Warcraft’s design aesthetics weren’t revolutionary, they were a huge refinement over what had come previously. The game proved that bigger wasn’t always better, and that sometimes less is more. The fact that no other MMORPG has managed to replicate World of Warcraft’s level of success is a testament to the foresight Blizzard had when designing the game.

Written by Ken Hattori from Online Graphic Design Degree