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Old Feb 01, 2007, 11:42 PM // 23:42   #1
Billiard
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Default Community Day Dev Roundtable Discussion - 26 January

Developer Roundtable, 26 January 2007

The Participants

After an hour or so tour of the ArenaNet studio we all met up in a conference room to have a question and answer period with some of the game designers. Most people know who Gaile and perhaps Izzy are, but I thought it would be worthwhile including the descriptions of the other folks who attended. These are from the ArenaNet website:

Gaile Gray, Community Relations Manager, started in the game industry as a fansite writer and administrator, worked as a freelance writer for a few game developers and publishers, and wrote for various non-game websites and publications as well. Gaile serves as liaison between players and the Dev Team and manages our fan events, contests, and communications. She also coordinates our website content, interfaces with our Support teams, and oversees our global community fansite program.

James Phinney, Game Designer, started as a programmer at Chaos Studios, which later became Blizzard Entertainment. He worked on Warcraft II and Diablo, then as lead designer and producer on StarCraft. James also wrote the story and dialogue for Shiny Entertainment's Sacrifice. James is the Game Design Team Lead for Guild Wars.

Isaiah Cartwright, Skill Balancer, got started in the gaming industry seven years ago with Asheron's Call. He was involved in Asheron's Call 2 and was part of the Mythica development team before joining ArenaNet.

Andrew Patrick, Community Coordinator, is responsible for the production of The Scribe – a Guild Wars website project. In addition, Andrew serves as Fansite Liaison with our many Guild Wars fansites, coordinates our Alpha Test, moderates our internal forums, and assists with contests, live events, and demos.

Eric Flannum, Game Designer, started as an artist and level designer at Blizzard Entertainment, where he worked on Warcraft 2, Diablo, and StarCraft. Eric went on to work as Lead Designer on Sacrifice for Shiny Entertainment and The Bard's Tale for inXile Entertainment.

Colin Johanson, Game Designer, started his career in the game industry in 1997. He began his career at Mythic Entertainment, and also have worked for a number of other companies including Zipper Interactive and Games Workshop.

Adam Vance, International and Localization Program Manager, has nine years of software internationalization and localization experience. Employed at Microsoft for more than six years, he worked as an international and localization program manager for Windows International, as an international website producer for Internet Explorer, and as localization specialist for MSN international.

Jeff Grubb, Game Designer, is the author of more than a dozen books, two dozen short stories, and a plethora of card, board, computer, and traditional roleplaying games. He is the co-founder of the Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms campaign settings, as well as well as author of novels for Warcraft, StarCraft, and Magic: The Gathering.

Since I am an old school PnP DnD player, I was really excited to see Jeff there along with all the other folks. James sat at the head of the table, with the rest of the ArenaNet folks on either side of him on that end. All of the fansite representatives were on the other half of the table, with me being closest to the developers. I consciously chose this spot since I was recording the meeting and wanted to make sure I could capture all of the developer’s responses. Incidentally, I do have a 173MB sound file of the meeting that I may try to edit down, compress and post, but I don’t know how many folks would actually want to listen to it anyway. So I’ll just try to be as detailed as I can here.

Before I start I need to make a quick apology to Adam. I just noticed from the audio that Adam was in the room, but he really never mentioned anything so I missed his presence when I wrote up the other article. He was actually quite impressive later in the day when he easily switched between French, German, and Spanish while asking the European representatives if they had any particular issues and concerns.

The fansite representatives were as follows:

Guild Wars Guru – Billiard
Guild Wars Vault – Ezari
Guild-Wars.Info – Kronos
GuildWars-Hispano – Thyng and Haku
Wartower – Amun Ra
GWMMORG.info – Decapjour

Here are pictures of most of the devs. Adam and Patrick sat with the fansite representatives rather than at the other end, so that is why they are not in these pictures.

Gaile, Eric and Jeff



Colin, Izzy, and James



Introduction

Gaile laid the ground rules for the meeting, explaining that some things like upcoming chapters and future plans could not be discussed. Then she introduced all of the ArenaNet people briefly, followed by the fansite representatives. If you listen to the audio, I am the first fansite person introduced. Finally Gaile said that even though one person might ask a particular question, other people could follow up on it as well as report on the question and response on their fansites.

Even though Gaile was facilitating the meeting, it was pretty evident that James was the primary person in charge of things. He usually got the first chance to respond to things, and usually other people would say things to support what he said. Eric also seemed to be pretty heavily involved, and in fact I later saw Eric and James in a meeting with one of the founders in a conference room (they had to leave early from lunch because they were interviewing a job candidate), so I got the impression they were pretty important guys, and what they thought and said carried a lot of weight. The nice thing about having them in addition to Gaile is that the developers seem to be the ones really controlling what information can be released, while the community reps are more just relaying what they have been told they can release. Even though James was pretty coy about things that had not been yet released, his expression and mannerisms seemed to convey a lot. There were some things that seemed pretty clearly not being worked on, while other things seemed to be pretty high priority items for them. I’ll mention where I felt things fell as they come up.

I’ll be chronicling what was discussed in the order in which questions and comments were presented. Gaile explained that we would go around the room and each of the fansite representatives would get a chance to ask questions in turn. Of course since I was closest and most talkative, I was asked to go first.

The Questions

Now mind you, I had a ton of questions that I had collected during the prior weeks, and I had even spent a couple of days prioritizing and reorganizing questions. One of the problems though is that I really didn’t have a good handle on whether or not the other representatives would ask more PvE or PvP oriented questions, and I really was trying to stay balanced between the two for the sake of our forum members, even though I pretty much only do PvP anymore. So for the first question I decided on was just a general question that dealt with both PvP and PvE, and was one that that would give me some insight into how the devs might respond to other questions later.

Relationship Between PvE and PvP

So here is what I asked: What is ArenaNet’s vision for the relationship between PvE and PvP, and how do the devs expect people to progress through the game. Basically I wanted to know if a game called “Guild Wars” was envisioned to have the end game being people participating in guild versus guild battles, with PvE, RA, TA, HA, etc all geared towards helping people along towards that goal.

James started off the response, but most everyone else also chimed in. Basically their stand on things was that different players like to do different things, and they wanted to do their best to accommodate everyone as best as they could. They didn’t envision a strict progression from PvE to PvP or vice versa. They didn’t want to make 5 different games to appeal to all these different sorts of gamers, and they wanted to make sure they made something that was fun for folks while also focusing what they were doing, which seemed reasonable. James also talked about how everyone that works at ArenaNet is a gamer (in fact he said this was a core philosophy when they hire) and they look to themselves often to see if what they are doing is right, and to determine what range of play ArenaNet wanted to support in Guild Wars. James also mentioned that they wanted a game where people could enjoy the core mechanics of how it worked, and they wanted to do things that would make the game the most fun, in both PvE and PvP ways. They know there are strong camps that are only interested in one or the other and do look at feedback from players, and try to balance things.

Izzy brought up how they were learning how to reward both the PvE and PvP sides without hurting the other – and trying to balance both sides. They want people to feel like they have accomplished something when they do it, both in PvP and PvE.

Eric said that PvP is not really the end game for them, but rather they viewed both PvE and PvP as important. This is one reason why they made it from the start so you could jump into PvP characters at any time - they didn’t want people to think they had to finish PvE first in order to get into PvP.

Developer Inspiration

Ezari skipped her turn to ask a question, so Kronos asked where the developers got their inspiration – do they play other games or read a lot of books and such. James again started and reiterated that in order to be hired you have to be someone who loves games, you have to be someone who enjoys the fun parts of the industry. As such the team was into a very broad set of games. They do game nights at the office, read lots of books and pass around books and series that people really like, hence where a lot of references in the game come from. Someone plays almost every game at ArenaNet. People play as many things as they can and analyze things and learn everything they can. This however changes the game experience as everyone who is playing is constantly analyzing the games as they play them.

Development Time

The next question came from Amun Ra and concerned how long it takes to get an expansion out. Eric started and discussed how Factions and Nightfall varied on that. Factions was a steep learning curve and they had to answer a lot of questions up front. When Nightfall came they had already answered a lot of these things (how would characters travel between campaigns, would there be new professions, etc). Since they had roughly the same amount of time for both campaigns, Nightfall ended up more polished as they had learned a lot from the Factions experience. They really worked to improve on the things they didn’t like about Factions when they started work on Nightfall.
Also James talked about how they looked at the things they didn’t like about the game so far and tried to pick some that synergized together in order to correct them – but that it depends on what they could afford to spend developer time on. Colin chimed in and mentioned that in fact the developers’ wish list looked a lot like that of the players.

Player Wants

This led into a question from Gaile for us: Really quickly and briefly, what number one thing do we think players want to see in the future – just pick one thing.

I took this to mean something that players wished for that would fit in with the basic themes of the game so far. Things that were brought up: The ability to jump (don’t ask), auction houses, increased storage, the ability to change character attributes after creation, PvE specific skills like the Nightfall Sunspear skills (James seemed to indicate this was something there were working on now, perhaps for future campaigns). This kind of led to a short discussion on farming.

Farming

James said they didn’t want skills that made PvE farming mindless, and Gaile asked James to give a discussion on game economies. He said basically prices in the game are based on what people can play, so if you have people introducing too much gold into the economy then you see an increase in prices and inflation. What they don’t want to do is have someone who is playing normally and feels that they cannot buy anything because things are so expensive. So they want people to be able to farm, but they want to keep it interesting and make sure it does not unbalance the economy. They have farmers at ArenaNet who give feedback whenever there is a nerf. And in fact if they wanted to, it would not take many skill changes to completely nerf farming – but that is not something they want to do. Izzy chimed in and said they look at the overall efficiency. They don’t want it too be so easy and mindless, but rather that it should take skill. They also mentioned that they are always trying to make areas hard to bot as well as take care of bots each and every time they are reported. I mentioned that if gold is such an issue, why not make something else in the economy a basis for trade, but James pointed out that they didn’t want to increase the hassles for players, even though increasing interactions required to sell and trade could help eliminate bots and bot driven inflation.

New PvP Skins

When my turn came around for this part, most of the more pertinent wish list things I had written down from our forums had already been asked. So I asked about PvP specific skins that could be unlocked by faction. James said they were well aware of this. As an aside, later on I asked about more PvP pets and James mentioned this was part of the “PvP Visual Award” idea, making me think that this was definitely something that was in the works.

HA and 6v6

It somehow became my turn again, so I asked, “Why did you switch HA to 6v6?”

James started again. He said there was a lot of internal discussion and Alpha testing that showed that it would be fun. But they also know there is now a big movement requesting to shift it back to 8v8 and they are definitely looking at that. Then Izzy added that the special weekends allowed them to test out the effects of a lot of different things. It is very hard to get 8 people together in game, and in fact this is one of the very limiting factors for PvP, and few other games have that high of group size requirement. It makes for a pretty logical progression to go from 4v4 in arenas to 6v6 in halls to 8v8 in GvG. So that was the main reason for trying it in the first place – to accommodate players by making it easier to get groups together. When they put it in to test they were extremely surprised how well it was received and overall the number of people who loved it and wanted to see it in the game. So they put it in, but since then they have seen how the community has shifted on that, as well as how the metagame and play has changed with it. They are learning a lot from it and will see where it goes from here.

So I asked a follow-up question: What are the numbers of players who play HA now relative to before the change to 6v6. They don’t talk numbers, but Izzy said, the number of districts are down and a lot of the folks that played 8v8 before in HA are now playing GvG. Izzy said he has talked to a lot of the hardcore HA folks and said a lot of them play GvG now and miss HA. 6v6 got a lot of new people into HA now, and whenever they change and they improve it, but there are a lot of higher level players not in there now even though many new players are doing HA now.

Gaile went on to discuss the complications of changing things and how much they interact. There are a lot of requests to fix things now, but anything they do affects other things so they just can’t just jump in and change it overnight. Rather these test weekends are indicative of what they plan. Colin said they don’t want to just do band-aids, they want to fix it right for the long run. Still under discussion is whether it’s going to go 8v8.

Sealed Deck

Izzy said he plays a lot. He thinks it does cool things and they want to see how they can integrate it into the game, but they don’t want to fragment the player base. They try to support it though as best as they can by posting rules and links.

Automated Tournaments

James mentioned the PvP horizon. A lot of the changes they are making will help a lot he said. Izzy says the reason for making them automated is to accommodate many more players. Details have not been announced and are still in fact being put together. They will unveil things as they can. No timeline - but not going to happen soon. I said a lot of people were excited when it was announced and the sooner the better to get the details out there so people know it's still coming. A month in GW is a lifetime. Izzy said it was recognized to the point where something is said about getting the info out every day, and probably we’ll be seeing bits of information coming out very soon.

Gaile brought up the 30 day rule and asked what was the current buzz was on it. I said that there was a lot when the rules first came out, but that things had quieted down as people were kind of waiting to see how things were going to end up. Izzy said small details will be considered and maybe changed again, and that it was natural for people to focus so much on the 30 day rule since it was one of the few specifics that had been released.

Ladder Reset and Change

The conversation then shifted over to the ladder changes and what people were thinking about them. I mentioned how a lot of people were slow getting back into ladder play and that perhaps many folks were waiting to see what the tournaments were going to bring. Izzy talked about how wiping the ladder constantly was not consistent with how the ELO system was suppose to work, which is why they changed things up.

Skills as Quest Rewards

A brief discussion came up about why skills were no long given as quest rewards. The basic thinking was that they wanted to give people more flexibility in building their characters. One of the things they found is that many people didn’t modify their characters when they were rewarded with skills, and this was contrary to what they wanted people to do, even in PvE.

Updates to Older Chapters

Someone also asked about possible updates to older chapters, perhaps ones that were paid for. From the responses, it sounded to me as though updates were something that were actively being considered if not actually worked on, but the idea of charging for them was not something they were really thinking about.

Canthan New Year

Colin took a few minutes to discuss the Canthan New Year event, along with the new race competition that we were going to get a chance to try later in the day. He said there would be new quests, rewards, NPCs, etc and that most of it would take place in Cantha, though some things would also take place in the other campaigns. He also mentioned in more detail the competitive mission that we were going to get a chance to test out later in the day. I plan on writing a more specific article on this, probably some time next week as I expect this event to start around the middle of February.

Pets

A question came up about increasing controllability of pets and they said this was something they were working on. Someone else asked if hero pets could be renamed, and this seemed like something that was not being considered. I asked the question about new PvP pets and James seemed to make a positive response to it, saying it was part of what was being looked at for PvP rewards, along with other visual things (e.g., skins). Colin also mentioned that if you take a Black Moa to the pet tamer outside of the Sunspear Great Hall, something interesting happens.

Playable Races

A question came up about the possibility of new playable races. James was very measured in his response, saying that nothing they have released or discussed to be released in the future includes new playable races. His response made me think that they are at least considering these with future expansions or games, but nothing is on the near horizon.

Which Campaign for New People

One of the fansite representatives asked which campaign the developers would recommend for a new player. The consensus seemed to be Nightfall since it was the most polished, had heroes to help out, and had the most people still going through the campaign.

Recent Awards

Gaile announced that Nightfall had recently been named MMORPG Game Expansion of the Year by GameDaily/AoL, while GameSpy had named Nightfall MMORPG of the Year.

Growth of GW

The award announcements led to some discussion of the growth of GW. Although they don’t like to speak about specific numbers, they did mention that contrary to what is often posted on forums, the GW player base is indeed steadily expanding. They mentioned that they can track which players are doing what, when, and where, and all were showing good signs for GW.

Gwen

A question came up about Gwen. Gaile quoted the frog and his thinking that something recently found must have some importance, the rest of the developers just said no comment.

Skill Balancing

As we were going to adjourn I asked when the skill balance was going to come. This is when they said they would be doing another Play Test Weekend starting 2 Feb, and that during the weekend changes would be made based on observations and feedback, and then things would stay in place at the end of the weekend. They also said that some changes to HA would tested as well, and I asked them to test it 8v8, and they said they were considering a lot of things. So read that as 8v8 testing was not going to be in the picture for this weekend.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

First off, thanks for being patient and waiting for this report, and thank you also for reading the whole thing (or at least skipping to the end). I may or may not post up the audio of the meeting, but I know that there is at least one copy floating around on the net. Hopefully what I have written here will help you understand what was said on the recording if you do decide to listen to it. I’ll admit that I skipped over a lot of stuff from the meeting, mostly things were people were going off onto a tangent somewhere.

If you look at the mix of the discussion, I think there was pretty good balance between PvP and PvE related questions. The funny thing though was that I was asking most of the PvP questions (all of them I think) and the other six people were asking more PvE oriented questions. If I had not been so PvP oriented, or had I not been so vocal, I think it would have been very likely that most of the discussion would have been more focused on PvE instead. I apologize to any PvE folks who feel that I didn't cover enough of that side of the game, but honestly I felt that the others were discussing it quite a bit already.

Although a lot of new information didn’t come out of this roundtable, I do think something very important did. It was very clear that the developers are keenly aware of the issues that players, both PvE and PvP, have with the game, and that the developers are working hard on these issues. In another discussion someone said the reason why developers can’t just go and fix everything right away is because they are also busy working on and testing the next chapter(s). When you consider that they seem to be learning and improving as they progress from one chapter to the next, I think this does indeed give us some great hopes for Ch 4 and beyond.
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Old Feb 02, 2007, 12:19 AM // 00:19   #2
Darcy
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Another great report. Why isn't it stickied yet? I almost overlooked it.

I wanted to add that I, for one, appreciate your taking the time to produce an organized and well-written report. Your layout made it very easy to follow.

P.S. I can't believe you got to meet Jeff Grubb - A hero to all D&D fans.

Last edited by Darcy; Feb 02, 2007 at 12:52 AM // 00:52..
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Old Feb 02, 2007, 12:34 AM // 00:34   #3
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thanks for the report i bet ur hand s in a bucket of hot water now lol
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Old Feb 02, 2007, 12:38 AM // 00:38   #4
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awesome coverage. thank you very much for taking the time to write this out
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Old Feb 02, 2007, 01:01 AM // 01:01   #5
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Some of us say that the game has downs, and compare to games that they say are greater.....you cant know the truth till the final moment...Gw is slowly rising.
The Gwen thing, yay, same old same, but the paragraph made my mind stay sharp on her.thanks for giving out the information..
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Old Feb 02, 2007, 02:20 AM // 02:20   #6
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Dang no more news of Gwen. *sigh*

But great coverage and alot of interesting information for all GW players. 'Tis a must read.

EDIT -
Quote:
Colin also mentioned that if you take a Black Moa to the pet tamer outside of the Sunspear Sanctuary, something interesting happens.
Just for kicks, i tried this and nothing special happens. I got a 100g thats it. Maybe i did something wrong...I'll try again.

EDIT2 - I tried this again, just stood by the guy for awhile and nothing happened. Talked to him and gave him the pet and nothing happened again.

Last edited by Feathermoore Rep; Feb 02, 2007 at 04:28 AM // 04:28..
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Old Feb 02, 2007, 03:43 AM // 03:43   #7
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Looks very interesting, Bill. Of course the skill updates have already occurred now, but the insight into the other things look promising.
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Old Feb 02, 2007, 04:38 AM // 04:38   #8
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Thanks! It was a awesome read, I am jealous that you got to go pick at the minds of Arena Net =) for a few days. I hope you had a great time.


--Edit-- James Phinney, So thats were they got Shiro! Jk, I love Diablo!

Last edited by brokenmonkey; Feb 02, 2007 at 04:40 AM // 04:40..
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Old Feb 02, 2007, 04:47 AM // 04:47   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Feathermoore Rep
Dang no more news of Gwen. *sigh*

But great coverage and alot of interesting information for all GW players. 'Tis a must read.

EDIT -
Just for kicks, i tried this and nothing special happens. I got a 100g thats it. Maybe i did something wrong...I'll try again.

EDIT2 - I tried this again, just stood by the guy for awhile and nothing happened. Talked to him and gave him the pet and nothing happened again.
You don't give him the Black Moa - you just go near him . . .
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Old Feb 02, 2007, 04:51 AM // 04:51   #10
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Ok well I tried standing by him too and it didnt do anything. The black moa just walked around and does the normal pet stuff. Oh well back to getting a reef lurker again. :-p
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Old Feb 02, 2007, 07:14 AM // 07:14   #11
Thom Bangalter
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Is it the sanctuary, or sunspear great hall?

Additionally, Thanks for asking pvp related questions billiards. Muchos props for doing so.
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Old Feb 02, 2007, 08:19 AM // 08:19   #12
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He said sunspear sanctuary. Maybe he means the sunspear great hall? I don't know. I just got my crab back and don't feel like getting the moa again. So if someone figures it out what the black moa does, please do share.
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Old Feb 02, 2007, 09:16 AM // 09:16   #13
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Nice, keep going in this way with your work
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Old Feb 02, 2007, 09:30 AM // 09:30   #14
Makkert
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IIRC, I heard / read remarks of taking the Black Moa near the guys Sunspear Great Hall will trigger the 'special response'.

I like Billiard's writing style. Clear, to the point and well-versed. Paid attention to details. Shame that there didn't come much new info out of it. Their vision about 'pvp & looking good rewards' is new though, as far as I know. Didn't know that, and certainly didn't expect that (always was of the vision myself that looks belong to pve).


I'm kind of hoping that we still hear what happend to the Ask ArenaNet your best GW question iniative. I'm still puzzled and somewhat disappointed that such an iniative went a silent death aparantly.... My question was awesome .
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Old Feb 02, 2007, 10:36 AM // 10:36   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Feathermoore Rep
He said sunspear sanctuary. Maybe he means the sunspear great hall? I don't know. I just got my crab back and don't feel like getting the moa again. So if someone figures it out what the black moa does, please do share.
Yeah, he does mean sunspear great hall, I just tried it.

When you approach with a black moa the guys standing there all freak out and then run away. Here's a screenie...



Oh, and big thanks to Billiard for another great report.

Last edited by Zeph; Feb 02, 2007 at 10:44 AM // 10:44..
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Old Feb 02, 2007, 11:18 AM // 11:18   #16
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Good job Billiard! Very detailed report.
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Old Feb 02, 2007, 02:40 PM // 14:40   #17
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Ya great Job on it. I am a PVE player and it looks well rounded so it fine about the questions you asked.
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Old Feb 02, 2007, 02:48 PM // 14:48   #18
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great report its also pretty cool that arenanet have armers
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Old Feb 02, 2007, 03:18 PM // 15:18   #19
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Yea the black moa thing is pretty funny. I tried it a few months ago.

About the report. The answer about playable races has me wondering. The answer was that there were no discussions about it for previous or future chapters. Meaning there were no discussions amongst themselves or to the public? Seems like a play on words to me.
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Old Feb 02, 2007, 06:59 PM // 18:59   #20
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I would like to ask if there was no time to ask some more critical and specific questions.

This was a nice read, but as Billiard stated: They did not want to reveal too much. That is absolutely okay, it is their decision what they want to reveal.

I would have liked some more critical question, as I already said, but from Billiard's description and the answers they received I really doubt that they (ANet, mostly in person of James) would not have dodged, answered very general or at all.
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