So how does ArenaNet actually design the skills for a system like that? “It’s a very long process,” said Sharp, “and it involves a lot of calculators and spreadsheets and stopwatches and things like that as you can imagine, but the biggest thing is basically setting down what a typical skill can do.
So for instance, what is the average melee skill? What is the average range skill? So we have different ranges. So you have like a six hundred, nine hundred, twelve hundred, fifteen hundred range and this is in-game inches and units. So then it’s just a question of how hard should a melee hit across the board for all classes? And then maybe the Warrior’s like five percent higher than that but he doesn’t have a defense that a Guardian might, so the Guardian gets five percent less but he has a lot of defense to go with that.”
Despite that standardization, there’s still room to customize. Weapon skills take up half the skill bar. The other half is fully customizable with skills purchased with points earned by progressing through the game, which let you do everything from heal to receive passive bonuses to, if you’re an Elementalist, turn into a tornado. According to systems designer Jonathan Sharp, some of the more hardcore fans of the original Guild Wars think that means the sequel is meant to be simpler. He says that’s not the case, and that the skill gap between a beginning Guild Wars 2 player and a veteran is “pretty massive.”
It seems like juggling all those numbers might make it easy to get overwhelmed, but according to Sharp, “mathematically those things are actually pretty easy to do.” It’s really the finer, situational details that create challenges for making sure everything feels right, taking into account dazes, heals, blinds and knockdowns. Movement is also a huge factor, since dodging away from attacks has a huge impact on combat effectiveness while fighting computer-controlled enemies and in player-versus-player situations. Dodging is tied to an endurance bar that refills slowly once used, which can fuel two dodges back-to-back without a need to wait for it to regenerate.