Guild Wars Utopia
|It has been suggested that this article should be rewritten, because: With the influx of new information from the recent ArenaNet Forum Chats, this article needs a pass through to remove speculation and make it self-consistent. Any unsourced information should be sourced and any unverified/unverifiable information should be removed. Logical inferences from what scarce information is available are fine as long as they are clearly marked as such and are very obvious/uncontroversial. If possible, quotes should be worked into the body text of the article - the article would flow better this way and it means that the section that the quotes pertain to can be more easily updated as more information becomes available.|
Guild Wars Utopia is the name of the cancelled campaign four, which was later adapted into Eye of the North. Its release date was expected to be April 2007. It first came to the attention of the community in April 2006, when a domain name and a trademark from June 2006 were found. An NCsoft employee referred to it as a "cancelled project" at the time, prior to the announcement of Eye of the North and Guild Wars 2. Since then, it has been confirmed that it was, in fact, campaign four in the PC Gamer Ultimate Guild Wars Guide. A small amount of information was also made available from the aforementioned guide. Some more information can be inferred from this thread, which is filled with concept art, some from the cancelled Utopia.
Production for Utopia was "well underway" in May 2006 and cancelled in "early 2007". People believe that much of the work done for Utopia was adapted for use in Eye of the North, particularly zones, outposts, heroes, and NPCs - primarily those focused in and around the Tarnished Coast.
We’re guessing you’re wondering what we’re wondering: Why mess with success? It's not as though Guild Wars isn’t a financial triumph, despite its unusual business model (it’s the only major MMO without a monthly subscription fee). It’s hardly lacking in depth (more than 1,000 skills support 10 professions, and each character has a primary and secondary profession); aesthetic appeal (lush settings recall African savannahs, ancient Asian temples, and posh Arabian castles, among other gorgeous environs); or ways for players to spend their time (ArenaNet says a “shockingly large” number of GW players have logged more than 2,000 hours of playtime). And, given that the development team has aimed to release a new campaign every six months or so (despite missing that deadline by six months for the second campaign), one might assume that every Guild Wars designer's wildest ideas have found a home somewhere between the lands of Tyria and Elona.
But, in fact, the restrictions of the every-six-months model meant the team found itself perpetually wistful over what didn't make it into the game.
“We sat down to discuss what was going to go into Campaign 4 and realized we couldn't do all the things we wanted,” says Game Designer Eric Flannum. “Why? Partly because we’d need more time [than six months], and partly because some ideas wouldn't work well with things we’d done before.”
At that point, there were still no plans to fix a system that didn’t seem broken. But ArenaNet Co-Founder Jeff Strain decided to let everyone “freestyle a little bit,” he says. “And the more we talked, the more excited we got about what we could be doing.”
What the team felt it couldn’t do was implement its exciting new ideas in the game’s current campaign-every-six-months plan. While the promise of fresh standalone content twice a year sounds great to players, its requirements have actually caused Guild Wars to become somewhat convoluted from a game-design perspective.
“With each new campaign, we’ve been trying to introduce brand-new mechanics that change how the game plays. That’s led to the need for larger and larger tutorials to explain the new mechanics, and it’s made each campaign’s beginning experience much more bloated,” explains Flannum. “And since every new campaign was aiming to bring in new players—thus requiring bigger and bigger tutorials—plus aiming to give stuff to older players, the list of skills just kept growing.” Each campaign that’s been added to the Guild Wars world—three in total—has added another layer of design that, in the name of making things easier for new players, has actually ended up creating barriers to entry as they try to sort through multiple training areas, increasingly intricate tutorials, and an ever-ballooning list of skills.
“We’re battling against complexity,” Strain adds. “We don’t want to make complicated games. We want to make fun, easy-to-grasp games that are easy to get into and not frontloaded with complexity.”
As the team considered its situation – how to uncomplicate the current campaign model and add new, cool features without making the game any more Byzantine – what began as a brainstorm about Campaign 4 evolved into the blueprint for a completely new game.
“We kept changing the scope of what we were doing, until it became Guild Wars 2,” Flannum says with a shrug and a smile.
ArenaNet's abrupt about-face is a shock, but not necessarily an unpleasant one. When a dev team with a track record of doing great stuff announces it wants to focus on doing more great stuff, there's little to complain about-except that Guild Wars 2 won’t be coming out in six months, or even six months after that. (More like two years, says ArenaNet—expect a beta sometime in 2008.)
— PC Gamer no. 161, May 2007
The core feature that Utopia was being built around was giving players choices through the form of quests and having consequences for the collective choices made by the community. Imagine a story line that branched every couple of weeks/months based on the total number of completions of one set of quests vs another. Which group of people did you choose to provide assistence to? (Did you focus your efforts on the hospital or the orphanage?)
While we were building out the story and associated characters, we started playing with the in-game tech more and more. It got to the point where we started to ask questions about things fundamentally associated with Guild Wars as a whole. I think the big turning point came when we essentially created a prototype for something like Shaemoor, that was a persistent map that had 50+ people running (and jumping) around. Like Joe mentioned some of the foundational code work was built around instances being the core PvE content and as we started to try to break that mold the tech hurdles started becoming larger. I know the engine programmers were also trying to push the boundaries on the quality of assets we were creating, but I don't remember the specifics there. Ultimately it wasn't a single idea that pushed us over, but enough things popped up that we decided our efforts would be better spent moving our designs into a new game.
In the interest of offering more variety with an efficient use of existing models, ArenaNet played around with the idea of texture alternatives.
I remember a little about this, but most of it was only in very early prototyping so please take this with a grain of salt! None of the content for Utopia ever reached a true playable state, so this is very much my speculation from early designs that were sent to content programming for feedback.
There was an iteration of Summoner that would have been about quickly cycling their summoned creatures - compared to Necromancers who try to keep their minion flock going, Summoners would be using up or combining their summons to bring out stronger or alternate versions to suit the situation.
A gimmick for Chronomancer that made it to prototype was that they would have very long cast time spells, but instant casts that affected a spell while it was casting. So, you might start warming up a 4 second spell but then use a second skill before it activated to modify its effect.
Unfortunately I don't know much about the class lore or if any other classes were considered. Both classes tied into some of the themes for Utopia (time, beings lost in the Mists) but I'm not familiar enough with the design to elaborate there.
— Utopia classes — Guild Wars 2 Forums, Joe Kimmes
I don't believe we got to the point of really developing class lore for Utopia. Most of it was still in early paper design when we cancelled the project. I don't recall us ever really considering any other classes than Summoner and Chronomancer.
— Utopia classes — Guild Wars 2 Forums, Linsey Murdock
Just as Nightfall had an African theme, and Factions had an Asian theme, Utopia was to have a mainly Mesoamerican theme, along with elements from South America. Concept art depicts architecture from Mitla and El Tajín, reoccurring nepantla motifs, codex art, statues from Tula, an Olmec colossal head, Mayan pyramids, stone carvings, and script. A flying dragon was present, recalling the feathered serpent deity. Inca stonework and domesticated llamas, both unique to South America, can also be seen.
Some of these assets were used in Guild Wars Eye of the North's Tarnished Coast and Depths of Tyria settings. For example, the Asura race were originally supposed to inhabit caves, and their original environment was used in places such as Boreal Station, while the Mesoamerican theme was moved to the Tarnished Coast. Codex art can still be seen in Vlox's Falls, and nepantla motifs survived on the pyramids used throughout the region.
According to Linsey Murdock, Utopia was not set on Tyria but rather within The Mists. The land was a sort of home or playground of the Gods of Tyria, and was to feature an expanded pantheon of the gods, such as Dwayna's father. It would also feature characters from across the timeline, and both Gwen and Mordakai, Devona's father, were to be main characters. However, Joe Kimmes later said that the line about the playground of the gods "doesn't sound accurate".
Daniel Dociu had a concept for a city that would shift around like clock gears, but this never made it close to production. There was also an Hourglass Staff in the Eye of the North pre-release pack, and images of something called a "Chronomancer" which shared similarities. Due to these, it is speculated that technology and time were important elements for Utopia (note the time-related connotations of an hourglass).
As with the professions and features, no information has been released on the storyline for Utopia. However, once again, some inconclusive information can be inferred from concept art. It is difficult to distinguish between the concept art for Utopia ideas, Eye of the North ideas that were scrapped, or Utopia ideas that were implemented into Eye of the North, so looking through the concept art for storyline information leaves much to interpretation. This section should be taken with a grain of salt, as the information herein reflects the interpretations of the writer.
Although the PC Gamer article heavily implies that the plans for Utopia were scrapped and the initial plan for GW2 were started at the same time, there is a possibility that this is not the case, and Utopia, not Eye of the North was intended to be a bridge to GW2. Indeed, it is known that multiple races were intended to be introduced in Utopia, such as the Sidhe (which later became the concept for the Sylvari).
The plot of Utopia seems to have focused on the ruins of some earlier civilization. The Asuran constructs known as golems seem to feature in artwork in multiple different forms. Many depict the golems as - contrary to the existing image of shiny, almost modern constructs - older looking, more statue-like beings. They are also depicted as being a fairly old technology, with one piece of art showing a deactivated golem overgrown with plants and weeds. In any case, it can be assumed that they played a fairly large part in Utopia. It is not known whether their creators, the Asura, were also featured in the game.
Destroyers were also possibly featured in Utopia, albeit not as we know them. Early concept art for "Taneks", "Tanecks" or "Tanneks" (the actual spelling is unknown) feature fleshy, piglike creatures. Later concept art, also entitled tannek.jpg or something similar features the Destroyers as we know them. It's probable that the name was changed to "Destroyer" sometime after the game was adapted to become Eye of the North (if, indeed, the Destroyers were featured in Utopia) to promote the notion that they were literally mindless creatures. Interestingly, art exists of a sort of hybrid between the old, fleshy Tanneks and the new fiery Destroyers.
Also featured in artwork are wizards with fiery skulls, with the ability to possess their foes. Nothing more is known about them.
- Nightfall had some foreshadowing for Utopia, and Utopia would have contained foreshadowing for a future expansion. The dialogue of Prince Mehtu the Wise in the Halls of Chokhin is likely such a hint, and according to Joe Kimmes other hints may include
There are a couple that I know of; the NPC dialogue above is likely such a hint, as is the Preserved Red Iris Flower. You can safely bet that at least some of the dialogue about mysterious islands, unknown waters or items seemingly displaced from their origin was plot foreshadowing for the next story. Most of it was co-opted into Eye of the North; that which remains, like Prince Mehtu's boasting, is perhaps in the realm of myth, rumor or simply interesting facets of the world that the player character was never involved in.
- A utopia is an imagined community or society that possesses highly desirable or nearly perfect qualities for its citizens. The opposite of a utopia is a dystopia. One could also say that utopia is a perfect "place" that has been designed so there are no problems.
- Plans for more expansions existed after Utopia; the Norn and the Kodan of Guild Wars 2 tie back to very early ideas for a frozen-northlands styled expansion.
|Guild Wars releases|
|Campaigns: Prophecies • Factions • Nightfall • Utopia (cancelled)|
|Expansions: Eye of the North • Bonus Mission Pack Beyond: War in Kryta • Hearts of the North • Winds of Change|
|Upgrades: 2008 Upgrade • 1 Million Edition Upgrade • Game of the Year Upgrade|
|Compilations: Platinum Edition • Factions Platinum Edition • Guild Wars Trilogy • The Complete Collection|