TowerTalk: with Ree Soesbee

Original at

Ree Soesbee: Hi this is Ree Soesbee and you're listening to TowerTalk

Intro: präsentiert, moderiert von Fesra und al'Ellisande. Herzlich Willkommen beim Towertalk.
( presents, moderated by Fesra and al'Ellisande. A warm welcome at TowerTalk.

Interviewer: Hallo, herzlich Willkommen zum Towertalk von der Gamescom 2011. Es ist morgens ganz früh und ich sitze hier draussen am Strand in der Buisness-Area mit Ree Soesbee.
(Hello, a warm welcome to the Towertalk from GamesCom 2011. It's early in the morning and I'm sitting here outdoors at the beach of the business area with Ree Soesbee.)

I: Hello and welcome to the TowerTalk, Ree.

RS: Hello, hello.

I: It's so nice to have you because I've got so many questions, lore concerned, and Martin could never answer them.

RS: And I will answer as many as I can.

I: That' so great. So Ree, um, tell us quickly what are you doing at ArenaNet.

RS: My job is Lore and Continuity which means it's my job to develop the story of the world; to keep an eye on the stories that are being built within the world so that there's a continuity between how a race acts or how a character acts so that there's an overarching story within the world the players can play through that makes sense at every stage.

I: Ok. Um, we just had sylvari week and I think sylvari are one of the main focuses on the GamesCom as well. Um, so how would you describe the sylvari?

RS: The Sylvari are a new race. We have not had them before. They were not in Guild Wars 1. In Guild Wars 1 we did show a little clip of the creation of the sylvari; the tree when it was first planted; but you didn't get to see the race at all and so a lot of player are very interested in them because they are so very new. Um, we really wanted to go away from some of the stereotypes that are in a lot of other fantasy worlds of elves - of this fae, forest race - but we did realise that there's an opening in Guars for the kind of player that likes to play something similar. And you can do it in a hundred different ways, but we wanted it to be ours, and be very much our own; so we took the idea of a plant race - a race that is not a mammal, not flesh and blood. It's made of plants - and how could we make that something that a player could identify with, and really see themselves in, and understand the character's story. And so when we built the sylvari and started creating their race and their culture we looked at both the stereotypes of dryads and creatures of woodland myth; and we looked at elves and we looked at creatures from other games and other sources of science fiction, and so forth, to see how they’d been done before. And we came up with a race that was very, very young, but not very naive. We didn't want them to be childish. We wanted them to be child-like, in that they're interested. They're curious. They want to explore the world. But they have a base of knowledge that comes form the tree from which they're born that informs them of the simple things that you would first learn as a child - how to hold a sword, how to write, how to talk to someone; the essentials of language and existence - so that they can immediately begin adventuring, so that they're adventure in the world starts right off the bat. And as a player when you play the sylvari you play your first bit, the introduction, in the dream before you're born, so that you literally play every moment of your sylvari's life.

I: So you are part of the Dream of the Dreams?

RS: For the tutorial, or the opening sequences...

I: That's great.

RS: In the human game you are defending Shaemoor and you run, and you find Logan, and you fight an elemental. In the sylvari tutorial you are in the dream and you are facing a blight that has come upon part of the dream. And after you have defeated it you are too awake; too aware of the world to stay, and so you have to be born, so you're immediately born into the world, and like a sylvari you have the basic knowledge of the game. You know how the world works. You know you're going to go cast spells and fight monsters, but you are learning as they are learning about the world. We wanted the player really to feel that, because that's so important to the heart of the race.

I: That's wonderful. Sounds wonderful. I understand the sylvari have, like a codex that their life is based on.

RS: They have a tablet. When the tree was first planted a soldier named Ronan found the seed in a cave, and he brought it home because his daughter had a garden and he wanted to give it to her. But when he came home his village had been destroyed, and so he planted it on their graves. And he stayed there and he tended it. And an old centaur named Ventari, who was very peaceful, came and lived with him, and they created a little safe shelter for people who were trying to flee war. And it was a very peaceful place. And in time they all died, but Ventari lived the longest, and before he died he wrote the lessons he had learned in his life. Tried to sum them up in short sentences. And he carved them on a white tablet and he placed them beside this tree that had been growing.
And as the tree grew, she grew around the tablet. She sheltered it. She knew enough to learn from it. She remembered hearing Ronan and Ventari talk. She remembered hearing how horrible war was, but how important peace was. And as her children were born these tenets very much influenced the tree and influenced them. She still has the actual stone. You can go in game to the base of the tree and there are places all along the tree and one of the places near her trunk is the white tablet. And you can read each of the tenets on it.

I: Yeah, but, um, the dreams that the sylvari have are not always good. I understand that there are nightmares as well.

RS: That's true. The way...the way the Dream of Dreams works is the tree collects knowledge. And she doesn’t get every piece of knowledge every sylvari has ever had. Mostly if it's important; if it's very emotional; it might filter its way to the tree. And the tree holds them, and when a sylvari is being born...This information is like a lake, and every emotion the tree collects, every piece of knowledge is pored into that lake. And a new sylvari will come and scoop a bucket through the lake, and those are the memories, or influences that he sees. So it's not everything. He doesn't see everything his race has ever known. He has part of it. He sees certain things; and the sylvari believe those are important to what his life will be in the future, what he has seen. and so some times...and one of the enemies of the sylvari, some dark sylvari believe that the more evil things that they can do, the evil acts, negative acts, hurting people...those things also get into the tree's great lake of dreams, and can influence young sylvari as they're being born...and their goal is to break the tree away from this path of peace - from Ventari, from Ronan, from their teachings - because they feel that those things are... are... were not innate to the sylvari, and they want to live life without those influences. But their actions go into the Dream as well.

I: Ok, so can you tell us something about the Nightmare Court?

RS: Oh all sorts of things. Um, they are sylvari that have turned away from this...this tablet, these tenets. And the tenets are primarily designed to teach the sylvari a path that the other races would call 'good'. It's a path of honour. It’s a path of helping others. A lot of the tenets are things like "Do not fear difficulty. Hard ground makes stronger roots". And the Nightmare Court believes that these things were not part of sylvari when the seed was new, and shouldn't be part of the sylvari race. They want to know who they are without them, but in order to do so they have to make the tree reject the tablet, and their goal in doing that is to make the dream as dark as they can, to break away those influences to such time as she no longer cares about the tablet itself.

I: Ok, so the sylvari have a strong need to fight the elder dragons...

RS: They do.

I: ...because the Pale Tree wants them to do it?

RS: Well it’s...

I: Do we know why...?

RS: It's a really good question because it has nothing to do with the tablet or with Ronan. They didn't know about the elder dragons when it was created and they were dead long before the threat came into the world. The Pale Tree has a sense the dragons are destructive to the world. We see the horrors the dragons are bringing to the people and to the land.

I: Because the pale Tree is rooted to the earth?

RS: Exactly. She's growing out of land.

I: She’s growing... ok

RS: She feels the land sickening.

I: Sickening... ok

RS: Because the dragons are not only destroying people; they're blighting land. If you look at Orr, it’s a horrible twisted wasteland. If you look at the things Primordus did in Eye of the North, he was burning out sections. You have the Brand in the charr lands form one of the other dragons. She feels that sickness; and the sylvari vary much at their heart feel that sickness. Even the Nightmare Court, who are horrible and evil and have their own ways of doing things, feel that the other dragons are destroying the world and they want to...they want to exist in the world too. They don't want to see it destroyed. They just want to live their way. So all of the sylvari race is a little bit united in this call to fight the dragons.

I: Ok, just as plants have a cycle due to the seasons, is that something the sylvari will experience as well?

RS: A little bit. We started designing the sylvari with the idea they might be seasonal. That we might have winter and autumn. The more we thought about that, we didn't want to force a player's appearance. We wanted them to make a character that they could identify with; that they thought was pretty, that they thought was tough. And as you're being born into the world we wanted the tutorial to be, I guess there, to be your birth into the word, and you can't really do that on the seasons. You can't tell a player, 'Well, you want to play an autumn sylvari, you've got to wait a few months'.

[both laugh]

RS: Nice. So we based it on the hours of the day, and it doesn't matter when you create your character. The hour of the day will be appropriate for whatever you've chosen. you will awaken and you are a sylvari of the Cycle of Noon. But we kept the idea that their appearance can very much relate to a season, and so you can play a sylvari of the Cycle of Dawn, or of Noon, and you can look very wintery. You can have bark and no leaves, and branches, or you can look very summery and have bright colours all over you, because we wanted that to be a part of their appearance.

I: Ok, there was a huge discussion in blogs and forums about sylvari anatomy, and, um, their ability to form relationships and stuff.

RS: I want to clear up one thing I said in one of my posts which has caused a spiral out of control. I said that the sylvari have no internal organs, and what I probably should have said is have no internal organs we would recognise... we don't... when they eat food it’s more like a pitcher plant, where the food goes in and it is taken into the plant, and we might call that a stomach, but it's really not a stomach. they have, ah, a sap that runs through their bodies, but it's not really a blood system. So what I said was true, but I think I could have been a lot more specific about it. And the players were very excited about does than mean they're just a mass of vines inside. No, there are parts to them that can bleed. They do have... food goes into a stomach-like thing, but it's not as a mammal, as a human understands those things.

I: So from the reactions I read in the blogs and forums they were pretty positive on the fact that sylvari like, um... because they do not reproduce the way humans do they kind of can have both relationship...

RS: Yep

I: ...with male and female looking sylvari because they are only appearing like male and female.

RS: I did a blog post on this because I wanted to be very clear, and we didn't want to clear it up until we did sylvari week. Didn't want to take attention away from the other races and wanted to provide this information when it was relevant. The sylvari gave gender. They are male or female. They are not androgynous. They have all the proper physical parts, but they don’t have the ability to reproduce. They don't have the internal correct biology to create a baby. But they are created by the Pale Tree in the images she understood from looking at the world, which were male and female. And the sylvari don't see that as necessary to biology or necessary to reproduction. They fall in love with the person that inspires them, or that brings joy to them, and they don't think 'Does this person have the same biology as me?' any more than they would think 'does this person have dark skin?' or 'Does this person have pale hair?" or 'Does this person have blue eyes?' They just see /that/ sylvari, and if that sylvari just happens to be the same gender as me, why does that matter more than anything else. As long as that person inspires me; that person makes me a better person; makes me go on my adventures and feel like I'm saving the world for a purpose because this person is beside me
And the other races don't have an intolerance of homosexuality, but they don't express it the same way. It's not common. It's a little more rare. It's a little more... less, eh, equal? I want to say equal, but it's not quite the right word. It just doesn’t occur to them as often. Whereas... as... because their biologys are set up for reproduction you have a certain natural instinct: The sylvari are born much more willing to simply love.

I: There was many comment on these things who said 'Thank you' and I just wanted to say thank you, because I like this open minded opinion that is behind the whole concept. Even behind the female charr are looking is another thing. Is like you are going beyond this typical the female and male have to look...

RS: Yeah

I: ...and have to behave...and I really love that

RS: One of the things I was kind of surprised that hasn’t come in to any other MMO that I've seen... and you have some games where your character can have a homosexual relationship or heterosexual relationship, or no relationship at all, but what you're choosing to do in the game isn't otherwise reflected. You don't have any other relationships in the game that are showing these things. It's your choice so it feels sort of abstract. In our game we not only have Caithe and Faolain, which is the most obvious one. They are very much lovers. They are in love. They are separated from each other because Faolain has gone to the Nightmare Court. But as an example one of the early story pieces for the sylvari there's a sylvari who is being a bully. He's been given a magic item and he's going round beating up other sylvari just because he can. He has a very powerful thing. And your job as a player character is to stop him. And when you first see him he's in a garden with five or six other sylvari and he's beating one up. And you step in, and you say 'Don't beat him up. Go away you bully'. At the end of the story he goes off, but the man on the ground, you lean over to help him up and another male sylvari runs up and kneels beside him and says 'Thank you for saving my lover. I'm so sorry that that bully was here and he hurt us. And you've been wonderful and helped us'. And we don't mention that they are both male because it doesn't matter. We're not trying to promote homosexuality or put it out there like it's a surprising thing.

I: It's just part of life.

RS: It's just part of life. There's no reason to call it out. You’re going to see sylvari in various places throughout the world in heterosexual relationships. We don't say anything about them. It's completely normal, and that's how we’re treating the other relationships in our game as well. Just normal. Why would we call it out or make it a big thing. That's love.

I: Exactly. Thank you and I love that so much. Ok, let's set to another topic. Professions and lore. Well I have a little bit of difficulty to understand the concept of the same professions in all the races. I understand it from the gameplay mechanics, of course, because you don't want to be limited to, ah, a certain race in order to play a certain profession. And I don't have any problems to understand that there are some professions that are, like, core professions like elementalist or maybe necromancing which is like [laughs] normal, but how can we explain...

RS: ...a sylvari with a flamethrower? [laughs]

I: How can we explain, like, Guardians, because that is, for me... I understand warriors, but I think Guardian is a sort of a specialty from a Warrior.

RS: It is...

I: Or thieves? That is another story, but come to the thieves later, so, um...It is like there is an international standard of qualifications for... [laughs]

RS: Well one thing we did when we were sitting looking at the races and the professions was we made a big graph and put races down one side and professions across the top, and we went 'How do the asura feel about elementalists? Ok, they like them. How do the asura feel about...' and we went through each race and each profession, and we figured there was 'like' there was 'neutral' and there was 'dislike'. And dislike didn't mean we never had them, it just meant more rare or more unusual. And when we handed this to the designers we said make the NPCs in the world reflect this. There shouldn't be a lot of charr who do magic. There are some, and if you want a charr who does magic in this story or this map make sure there's a reason cause there shouldn't be many and there needs to be a purpose for him. They... they just aren't common. The same thing for sylvari engineers. The sylvari are very interested in engineering, but it's a little unusual for them because it was something that was developed by the asura, and they don't get on so well with the asura... well developed by the charr, but the asura were the first engineers that the sylvari met, so... Let's put it that way.

I: OK.

RS: Um, the various races we did want everyone to play whatever they want to play, but in the game itself we wanted to reflect that certain races tend to certain professions or turn away form certain other professions, because we want to give that feel to each race so, it's not going to be every thing everywhere all over the place like that.

I: Ok.

RS: A little rambling, I'm sorry.

I: That's ok. Um, So what about the thieves? I think thieves have been always in societies; this has bean my approach to thieves at least; but now, since it is a playable profession, it became for me... becomes more important. And does it mean they are more organised? Are even the organisation of the Am Fah, because this is what I, personally thought about it, is like, um, the Am Fah were like thieves who were highly organised. Does that play a role?

RS: Um, we have the Order of Whispers, and the Order of Whispers does play a role. And their general design tends to be more stealthy, a little more political. Um, I wouldn't call it just a thieves' organisation, because they have every profession, every race. But the thieves don't just cover people who steal things from you. They are scouts; they are independent operatives. If there's something that needs to be done and I can't send in a unit, I might use a thief 'cause he's a little more stealthy to get in and get out. So the name 'thief' is a very short term for something thats...

I: ...much much more...

RS: ...much much bigger. I mean, if I look at the thieves in the charr race, and think, well the charr are very war-like. What do they do with thieves? Well a thief is black ops. They sneak in, they get the information, they get out. Or thieves are scouts. They go on ahead and they light a flare saying this area is safe. If I look at the thieves in the asura, that's going to be someone that's a little bit more into, ah, industrial espionage. She;'s going to break into someone's lab or is going to get into the archives to find an invention that somebody else is working on that I'm not supposed to know about. And those are the kinds of things. And so, it's such a small term for this much larger type of profession you'll play within the game.

I: I understand. Ok

RS: The Guardian! I didn't answer your Guardian question, and I should. And the Guardian in the humans is very, very faith based. I mean, humans are a faith based culture, but we've done a lot to make sure each race has got its own source of faith, if you want to call it that. The asura believe in the Great Machine and the Alchemy. The charr reject gods; they don't reject the fact that there's a creature called Melandru, that's very powerful, but it's not a god. It's a creature. I mean, look, we've seen Kormir. It's a human! Why are you worshipping it. It's just a human. Um, the sylvari are very agnostic. I mean, they believe in the Pale Tree, that's their mother, but something that's right there the whole time, and you can go and talk to isn't a god. It's much more accessible.. And they see that other races have these belief forms, but they haven't built one of their own, so they're still seeking. The norn have the spirits, and their spirits come from beyond. They come from The Mists, and they will speak to them, and they go back to The Mists. They're a little more disparate, but they're a little more accessible, even than the human gods. So it's more like a totem or a guide that takes them on adventures. Um, the Guardian takes a lot of forms because of that, because faith isn't just god. Faith is…

I: Like in a broader sense...

RS: Yeah, it's belief. And a charr who says there are no gods still believes that the legions can conquer. He still believes in his warband. He still believes that we can overcome this if we just stand together. And that immense force of will; that immense internal strength is what fuels the Guardian. Whether it comes from 'I believe that Melandru is with me' or thither it comes from 'The Eternal Alchemy works this way and I believe if I do these things this is what will occur'. It's where a warrior is external muscle, a Guardian is internal muscle. It's faith-based, or belief-based will.

I: Ok, that's... now I get it. Makes more sense now, right. You mentioned the orders. That was another question. Now we have three different orders, and let's start with the one we know, the Order of Whispers. How did it change in the last 250 years? can you tell us something about that?

RS: I can tell you a little bit. The Order of Whispers; after we left Nightfall and we went through Eye of the North they became very interested in the northern areas of Tyria. They came up through Ascalon, and they came up through Kryta, And recently they've been cut off, because terrible, terrible Palawa Joko, doing terrible, terrible things, that we won't get too much into, but they've been sort of cut off from Elona, and in the intervening time they had created a sort of a power base in Tyria because, as much as they wanted to influence Vabbi and Elona, they're doing the same thing here. They have the same ideals, the same behind-the-throne manipulating things. And because the Order of Whispers has their fingers in every pie they found out about the dragons; one of the first; even before the wave hit Lion's Arch they were aware something was happening.

I: Ok.

RS: ...and they realised that that threat was greater than... than a threat to a single nation. This is a threat to the entirety of the world, and because they could perceive it, they could perceive how horrible it was; In a way the races couldn't because the races are very insular and dealing with their own problems. And that changed the Order of Whispers a little bit; made them a little bit more altruistic; but they're still willing to do what has to be done in order to…in order to get what they believe is necessary, which is the death of the dragons in one way or another, because it's the only way they're going to save the world.

I: And we have another order that's the Durmand Prior?

RS: Durmand Priory.

I: ...Priory. What's that about?

RS: There was a guy named Durmand, and Durmand lived in Lion's Arch before the great wave came, and washed away the city. And no-one knows why he wanted to do this, but shortly before the wave came upon the city he went to a small priory that overlooks Lions Arch; it's up in the Shiverpeak Mountains; and he began to collect information, and knowledge and lore. And he got in tough with the... I think it was the king of Kryta at the time, and asked for copies of many of the old texts because 'I'm going to build a great library and it's going to be an open library. People can come and read things, but i wanna... wanna create a place where all these works are housed'. And so when Lion's Arch was washed away a lot of survivors from Lion's Arch went there, it was above the waters, and brought things, and he would collect them or copy them and add to the library. Other people of faith, first from Kryta... and then it became less of a faith based place and more of what Durmand had wanted, which was just a library; just a record house. The asura came and they said 'Well we want to see what's in there' and he said 'Well that's fine, but you have to give me something if you're going to come look' so they said 'Fine'. So they would give him texts. And the norn would come down and tell great stories, and he would write them down, and those would be in there. And so it's become a compendium of a lot of the history of the world, and when you're a member of the priory, part of your goal in the world is not only to product this as the future from the dragons which are trying to destroy the world, and we're going to have to have knowledge to rebuild, but also to add to the library, to find those stories that are lost.
When I was in Paris last year I told the story of a norn adventurer who had gone off on his ship, and he'd sailed across the sea, and as everyone was on the shore waving Orr came up under him. And it was horrible. They never saw him again. Norn have this legendary adventurer who was the first one in Orr when it rose, and no-one knows what happened. And so some of the high level content for Durmand Priory is find out what happened to that norn, and bring that story back to the priory. And they have a lot of... ah... ah... they go into a lot of archaeological digs and find out what really happened to the dwarves, or go to the ogres and find out why the ogres are suddenly invading charr lands. they want to know the reasons why. the want to write it down. they want to create this storehouse of knowledge.

I: Now, ok, and the last order we've got are the /vi-hul/?

RS: The Vigil.

I: Yeah, so um...?

RS: What are the Vigil? The Vigil are very new. The Order of Whispers dates very far back, the Durmand Priory slightly less far back. The Vigil is only about 6 years old at the time of Guild Wars 2. At that point in time the, ah... Kralkatorrik is his name; the dragon that created the Brand, flew over the brand going south to fight... err, for reasons that are explained in one of our novels, but I won't spoil. And one of the warbands of charr that was patrolling there area was caught half in and half out, and one of their strongest members, Almorra Soulkeeper, was not standing in the edge of the Brand, she was standing as one of the ones on the outside, and because all of her warband became corrupted, and immediately started causing devastation and attacking, she had to kill them all, and it was horrible for her. And she went back to the charr and she said 'This is horrible. This is awful' and they said 'Yes, horrible, awful. First we kill the humans. Then we deal with that.'

I: [laughs]

RS: She says 'No, no, no! Your priorities are a little bit wrong'. And instead of rejoining another warband or going back into the charr military hierarchy, she stayed what's called a Gladium, or Independent. And it's looked down on by the char, but she felt it was necessary to reach out to the other races. And she went to each of them and she said 'This is really horrible. This is really terrible. We need to raise an army.' and the other races said 'This is great, but you're a charr, and we're fighting you, and he's fighting them, and we can't' and she says, 'Well I'll work individually then. You! Over there! Look! Dragons horrible! Ok, you'll join. What about him? What about him?' and she began to create this Vigil, which is very much a volunteer militant organisation that operates on a structure that they hear about the dragons invading an area, or going to invade an area, and they try to get there first. To rescue the people; to directly combat the dragons; to directly kill the minions; because the other two orders are very behind the scenes. The Vigil is not willing to wait, and they're not willing to plan in the long term, because the dragons are destroying things now.

I: Now.

RS: Absolutely now. Someone has to fight them now, and that's what the Vigil does.

I: So the different orders have very different answer on how to fight or not fight the elder dragons.

RS: Yes.

I: I understand that the Order of Whispers thinks that the dragons cannot be defeated and therefore they should just [laughs] - "Just" add air quotes - be sent to sleep again.

RS: We've seen that Primordus went back to sleep for a period of time because of the actions of the player characters, and the Order of Whispers have taken that as their cue 'That must be how we deal with them'.

I: And, um, Durmand Priory guys?

RS: The Durmand Priory guys believe that the dwarves knew about the dragons. The codex had information. The dwarves knew about the Great Destroyer and what they had to fight it. So there must be information out there so the dragons must have, at least if not awakened before, must at least have been discovered before. And so they didn't destroy the world then, I guess, because we're still here. Where's that story? What happened? Did they destroy the world and somehow we survived?

I: Pretty logical, yar.

RS: Yeah, so the Durmand Priory's desperately trying to find these answers. Ask the questions and find these answers.

I: I understand we can choose one of... ah... to become part of one of the orders. So my problem is, like, when we're playing charr we choose a legion, for example, we choose an order, we have a guild. Where's my loyalty at the end? [laughs]

RS: When you play a charr, for an example you do choose a legion, Your legion is very very important to you for the first...

I: And I forgot the warband, I'm sorry.

RS: The warband, yeah. You never leave your warband. I've been writing a lot of stuff for the charr warband for the past couple of weeks. They're wonderful. But, um, you choose your legion and for the first period of time your legion is very important. And you never leave your loyalty to the legion, but you realise that, through your loyalty to the legion you have to do other things; You have to do bigger things. The legion is looking small. So you join, say, the Vigil. You're still a member of the Ash Legion, and the Ash Legion has put you on basically reserve status. And in your reserve status you're serving the charr by defending them from the dragons by being a member of the Vigil and combating the dragons; or being a member of the Durmand Priory and trying to find out the answers. And... and as your game progresses your loyalties are like brooks going into a river. The world is going to be destroyed if the dragons don't pull up. The Ash Legion is just as much going to be destroyed as much as anything else. So we never ask you to turn on those loyalties.
We do ask for you to see the world differently though out the game, as, when you first join, oh humans are terrible and they took Ascalon, and we took it back, ands now they're terrorists, and these things. But you will realise that the real problem is much bigger, and so... so as much as you may personally choose to still like or dislike the humans you have to realise that you can't just do it as the charr. The world cannot be saved by one race alone. They just don't have the ability.

I: What I see in the game is there are many, many, um, opportunities to have conflict. Like between charr and sylvari, for example, when I saw the first bits, or the first pictures of, ah, the information we got about the Black Citadel, I was like 'Oh my god, we have an environmental problem'.

RS: That's what the sylvari thought too.

[both laugh]

I: So, and... with the order, and so many problems that you have, like the old conflict between humans and charr, for example.

RS: Or between sylvari and asura.

I: Exactly. Is, um... so in the end do we have... we do have an enemy that is so strong that we have to overcome all these conflicts?

RS: Hmm. And it's the nature of the story that, because you are intimately familiar with those conflicts you're the person that can lead others through them. You go up to the leader of the charr and you say 'We can't just look at this war with the humans' because he will listen to you because you know what you're talking about. You're a charr. And it's the player character that has the drive to change it, because they adventure, and explore, and see the world.

I: OK, There are other orders as well, the military ones in Kryta; like the Seraph, and the Ministry Guard...

RS: The human orders...

I: ...and Shining Blade.

RS: Yup.

I: Are we able to join them as well?

RS: Not really. You can ally yourself with them, and you can get the armour for them, and if you wanted to call yourself a member of them, we would certainly encourage the roleplay. But you don't have to choose that in the same way you have to choose a legion for the charr. We leave that very open for a player that wants to role-play being in those orders, or not being in those.

I: Ok. Can you tell us something quickly about the three orders; military orders.

RS: Sure, sure, what those are are like most militaries have an army, and a marines, and a navy, the humans have the Seraph, and the Seraph are the general police. They watch over the land; they are in each town and village. They are fulfilling the queen's subject... they are lead by an organisation of five or six captains. I don't remember the exact amount because I don't count that too tightly, there may be more, but i believe there were five or six of them. And each of them has an area of Kryta that they are very specialised in, and then it breaks down into a normal military hierarchy. And those captains come together to speak to the queen directly about their territory; their little area they are helping her to keep safe. The Ministry's Guard is specifically an elite order of... ah... ah... defenders of the nobility, the ministry itself; the people who are either born into being a noble or for making law, or the people who were voted for by their townships or cities to come to the queen, and sit on the Ministry and create laws that are then brought to the queen. And the queen then ratifies them. So the Seraph can't do that. They're busy guarding the people. So there's a select group called the Ministry Guard, who tie into that, specific job. Um, the Shining Blade are smaller even than that, and becoming a Shining Blade is part of a life. It is... you don't... you're not a Shining Blade for five years. You're a Shining Blade, or you're not. You are protecting the queen. You're at her side all the time. You are in the palace with her. You are the person that is going to have to take the bullet if someone tries to assassinate her. And they swear oaths of fealty to the royal house itself. And they're there for a lot of the high level order... high level meetings with the queen and ambassadors from everywhere. So they see a lot of information. That's why they have to be sworn to the queen. That's why they have to be so loyal. You don't see many of them, because their job is so specific.

I: Yeah, and, um, we have like a sub-unit of the Seraph, we have the Fallen Angels?

RS: Fallen Angels are, ah... the Ebon Vanguard, in Eye of the North, have created Ebonhawke, which is the human fortress at the south end of Ascalon, where they are fighting against the charr. And the Ebon Vanguard still protect it, and still consider themselves very much the home team 'We are the defenders of Ascalon'. But is a simple fact that when you're living in a siege fortification you don't have anything to eat. You eventually run out of food.

I: Exactly

RS: ...and so there is an Asura Gate in Ebonhawke which goes to Lion's Arch, and the queen of Kryta can send food, and supplies, and so forth. And she sends this with a unit of Seraph, because if I'm going to be supporting you, and going to be this invested in the war, I need to have some amount of influence in your city. The leader of Ebonhawke is a man named Wade Samuelson, and you will... he is the leader of the Ebon Guard, but he has a second in command who is the head of the Fallen Angels; the head of the Seraph unit. Basically a captain in the Seraph who has been assigned to Ebonhawke, to that goal. And they're... it's a very difficult place to be because you're not in charge, but if you weren't there you would fall, so they have to give you a certain amount of respect, and you have to respect them, but neither of you is entirely independent. So Ebonhawke has this internal political structure going on.

I: OK, that sounds very cool. which brings me to another question, which is, um I wondered about the charr organisation within the Black Cathedral. We know that we have, ah, legions with leaders, and do we have something like a council in their capital?

RS: Goodness no, They're the charr. They're military.

I: [laughs] Yes I know, but who's kind of the super boss?

RS: Smodur the Unflinching is the head of the Iron Legion. He is the imperator of the Iron Legion.

I: Ok.

RS: So the Iron Legion goes to him, and that's it

I: And can that change?

RS: Oh yeah. He... he is... the descendant of the original Khan-Ur, and when the original Khan-Ur was assassinated his children formed the high legions; the Flame Legion, the Ash Legion, and the Blood Legion and the Iron Legion. And that decendency goes to Smodur. Smodur is not the only descendant. This is the charr. They have children, and they live in a fahrar, and they go on. And so there's probably a group of people that could claim the title by that. And really what it comes down to is when Smodur dies or someone takes that position, they're going to be the strongest of those; in the strongest warband, in the best position to take charge of that legion. Under an imperator are the tribunes, and the tribunes are... are...

I: Reminds me a little of the Klingons.

RS: A little bit. A little bit. They're a little less wantonly backstabbing, and they do have a little more, I think, of a structure. So you have the tribunes under the imperator. And Ascalon is held by the Iron Legion, and has the tribunes of the Iron Legion there. But there is a leader of the Ash Legion, there is a leader of the Blood Legion, who're not in Ascalon. And they've sent their tribunes here with their forces. Those tribunes command those le... those units. And they report to Smodur because they are in his home. Not because he's the head of their legion. So Smodur is the leader of the Charr when you play Guild Wars 2. If you go to the Blood Legion lands there is an imperator there who is in charge of those lands. But for the purposes of Guild Wars 2 Smodur is the top... top brass in there.

I: Ok, um, we have non-playable races that you have introduced and can you tell us what other criteria to, um, implement a new race, because that I think that lore wise that might cause some difficulties.

RS: It does.

I: Like only because the designers have beautiful pictures, or you have an idea?

RS: It depends. Some races came from because we said, 'You know, the Hylek were kind of neat, and they didn't do much. What are they about?' And we sat around, and we brainstormed what they could be. And some races came about because we thought, 'We're going to have underwater combat. We should have underwater races' and we had a lot of freedom there because no-one has been in those deep areas. No-one has been out in the sea, so we could create the quaggan, we could create this race whole quaff and not worry about it being a lore issue, because we'd never seen anything in that area before. and then we have creatures like the ogres, where you've heard of them. You've seen creatures like them. are they part of lore? Are they not part of lore? Or the trolls? What do we really know about them? And those are the hardest because you have to take something that is obscure and doesn't have a lot of fleshing out to do; like with the hylek you have some somewhere to start, but the ogres, the trolls you don't have a lot to start from and you've got to create something that's not only unique and interesting, but doesn't conflict with the world, or make the players... like it doesn't take the place of a race that already exists; doesn't seem to just be a duplicate of some other game, or some other fantasy and yet is very representative. A player can look at that and go 'Ah I know what an ogre is. He's large, and has a club, and is going to hit me with it. I get that. Not a problem.' But you've got to build them in a way that's realistic. Because I am very big on... I don't want 'Well ogres are evil. Just kill them' That's not fun. What's fun in a game to me is having a story and having a little bit of an argument. So yes the ogres are bad, they destroyed the human town, but they were doing it for a reason. They were doing it because the humans kidnapped an ogre or some other story where you can see both sides of what you are doing. Because the whole world will feel much more alive.

I: Yeah, I can completely relate to that. I'm a role-player, basically, so that's my problem some times with Martin. He's like 'I'm a charr warrior. Don't ask me' [laughs]

RS: 'Just kill it' [laughs]

I: It's always very funny. Um, we have the Underworld, and FoW and... what happened to them? I mean, like, can we go to the underworld again and what happened to the traitors like Menzies, like Abaddon, like Dhuum. Now will Dhuum come up and... I'm really scared scared of him. [laugh]

RS: Wow, big question. I can answer some of that. When we say the the gods are gone what we mean is they're not taking so active a role. The humans still worship them. There are still priests. The priests still pray. They believe the gods still hear our prayers.

I: Off for a coffee break.

RS: Right, they've decided that the humans... the humans are teenagers now. We need to learn how to survive without...

I: Survive on our own.

RS: ...hands being held as much as in Guild Wars 1. And because they have all these other races that have come into fruition the humans can't be alone any more. They can't sit and say 'Well the gods will do it for us' for a problem. They have to learn to make relationships with even the charr, with the asura, they have to go to the norn lands and talk to the norn, without just saying 'Well our gods say we're right'. Nobody wants that kind of attitude in humans, so the gods have pulled back. They still exist, and the humans still worship them, but it's a little more distant. And the legends of creatures like Menzies, like Dhuum, are still told by the humans, but we don't go into the Underworld in Guild Wars 2. Someday, maybe. Certainly not when the game comes out.

I: Ok.

RS: Those stories haven't been forgotten. Abaddon hasn't been forgotten. The things he did, just like the things the player character in Guild Wars 1 did, are still talked about in the game, still mentioned. Orr was the place on which the gods came upon the world, looked around and said 'This is a good place for humans. We make humans here, we'll bring them here and have them... so Orr had a very, very in-depth culture of that religion, because the gods lived among them. The gods... The city of Arah has an internal area that was walled off like the Forbidden City of China. The gods actually lived there, and the humans didn't get to see them. There's a tale we tell about Malkor, a sculptor who looked upon them for so long that he went blind. but the gods wanted their statues so the mortals could see them, so someone had to do it, and it was him. So the stories of the gods that are told in the human lands are... were concrete to Orr. And one of the things in Guild Wars 2 is you're going into Orr. You'll find these ancient cathedrals. Literally they worshiped Lyssa, because Lyssa used to show up. There's this cathedral of Balthazar, and there's a great plaza in front of it, where troops would march, because Balthazar was in the cathedral watching them. And they were showing him the great and powerful of the human race. And those places are very viable in Orr. And so a lot of that religion... I should note that Orr considered Abaddon a god.

I: Yeah, I know, I know.

RS: So there are things in Orr of Abaddon when he was a god that are still lying down...

I: Interesting

RS: ...that you can go explore and find out how he was worshipped

I: That's nice. I'm looking forward to that.

RS: So I can say that it's not in the game in that humans are not referring back to it as much, but it is totally in the game when you get to Orr because that history is in the game.

I: Right, speaking of Orr, Livia found the Sceptre of Orr. Will we get to know what happened to it?

RS: I can't answer that question. That question... it's important only that I can't answer that question.

I: OK, right. Can you tell us what happened to the Stone Summit Dwarves, because they apparently didn't transform?

RS: Every dwarf did in time. Every dwarf did in time. The battle against Primordus and his minions was so... is - still going on - difficult that every dwarf eventually felt the call and turned. The only dwarves that we'll see in Guild Wars 2 are those that have turned.

I: Aww, that's a pity.

RS: But I did say you'll see dwarves.

I: Ahh right, didn't say no.

[both laugh]

I: Ok, um, last question, Ree, is... where do you get your whole inspiration from?

RS: Everywhere; everywhere. I am... I am... I am a voracious reader. I read, and I read, and I watch everything from anime to historical dramas. I worked for my PhD in literature and myth. I studied Arthurian myth and the original Japanese myths a lot as I was going through college. I have a huge interest in anthropology, and how people interrelate and how societies are created, and what's important to them at different times societies. And so when I build races or worlds or stories, I want to look at them from the perspective of myth, because what we're doing, by playing in a roll playing game, hand not just playing a board game that doesn't have a story, we're saying is 'I want to be part of that story. To imagine that I'm someone in this world doing these things' And so I want the world to be as in-depth and as alive as this one; as the world we're in. Because what makes it interesting is you want to see that if you go, and it's there, you'll feel rewarded by the game. It's not just about can I kill the bigger monster. That's fun, that's short term adrenalin burst. Yeah, I killed the big monster. But when you're the one that can come back and tell your friends I discovered this piece of lore that's hidden in the game. 'I saw this place and it was beautiful', 'I met the hylek and i figured out why they worship the sun'. That is a myth. It is bigger than an instant adrenalin rush. It's your part of something much much bigger. And it's my job to make sure it's there for you.

I: Yeah, well you're doing a great job.

RS: Thank you.

I: Thank you so much, Ree, for being here with us. I mean all the questions, it was wonderful.

RS: You are very welcome. I hope I didn't insult anyone, or say anything wrong.

I: No, you didn't.

RS: If players have a question they can go to the various forums. I try and pay attention. They can email ArenaNet, our press. Regina comes to me periodically and then goes 'They're asking me this' and I try to answer those questions as best as I can, because it's difficult sometimes to get the words exactly right. I mean, the sylvari thing. Sometime i say things that are a little off the button, and I'm trying to be as detailed for the players as I can, because I know that they want that information.

I: Ok, thank you so much.

RS: Lovely to talk to you.

I: Thank you, bye.