One word has changed. The nature of the hylek really hasn’t changed at all. They are a sentient people with which we as player characters may have peaceable relations or full-on warfare. We see that they still look very much like the frog-men we’ve all come to love stomping on. Their tribal culture seems relatively unaltered. They are still more or less behind on the technology curve, since they have to trade with other sentients for weapons and other goods. The hylek are in most ways indistinguishable from the heket – which leads many people to beg the question “why change the name at all?” What purpose does this serve?
I cannot answer either of those questions. I am rather obviously not a writer or lore generator for ArenaNet, so I can only offer guesses and thoughts.
If I had to try and answer the questions of why, my guesses would be these… To begin with: the name heket is one that players first learned in Nightfall on the continent of Elona. In the 250 year gap between the present-day of Guild Wars and the bright and shining future of GW2, most communication with Elona has closed off, and languages are quick to change and stray from their original source. Having lost contact with the original source of the heket, we find ourselves dealing more and more with the tribes found in the ‘main’ continent, and on that continent we find the hylek.
Perhaps the hylek were one of the more dominant tribes. It may be that they are particularly warlike, and as such have become a dominant force among the frog-man community, to the point where to speak of a heket infestation was likely the same as speaking of a hylek infestation. Conversely, it may be that they are particularly peaceable (and particularly immune to toxins?) and as such have been able to spread out in a similar manner, and become rather the standard-bearers of their type. Perhaps there was some other phenomenon that lead to the hylek becoming emblematic of the heket people, or some other blurring of the lines of nomenclature.
It might be none of those possibilities.
What matters (in my mind), regardless of the justification for precisely why the change came about is the fact that it did, in fact, happen. Language differences between extraordinarily small gaps of space and time are hugely prevalent, as is the practice of one small part of a set becoming emblematic of the whole. Soft drinks hold good modern-day examples of both those principles: depending on where one comes from, the common term for a soft drink might be “pop” or “soda,” and there are many times that I have been asked “Do you want a coke?” while meaning any soft drink, rather than the soda to which they were specifically referring.
All of that goes to say: I would find it highly unnatural if we re-entered the world of Tyria 250 years after our last glance at it and found it unchanged except for additions (such as the kodan). This is, I think, some place where we have so far seen ArenaNet doing an excellent job of balancing the lore, history, and feel of the original game with updates in the sequel. Taking place in the same world, there cannot help but be many similarities, but it would be a mistake to try to create and sell something along the lines of Guild Wars: Repackaged. The game – the game world - needs to be updated, lest it fall stagnant. (Note: here, I am not saying that changing the name “heket” to “hylek” is saving the game – I am saying it is one small representation of something that I feel ArenaNet is doing very right in the creation of GW2.)
The common language of Tyria has evolved (although that doesn’t really mechanically change the game, as we’re still seeing most everything in a real-world language), and it makes sense that some usages have changed with it. Words like elementalist and warrior still refer, more or less, to the same ideas as they did before, but we can see that the assassin has gone out of common parlance, and the thief has made an entry. We’ve seen cities built and turned into capitals; we’ve seen capital cities turn into trade-centers; we’ve seen races take over new areas. For goodness’ sake, we’ve seen a seed turn into a tree that produces baby humanoids. The world has changed. These have allowed for subtle (and not-so-subtle) shifts in the literal and figurative geography of Guild Wars 2. For that reason, I don’t see why there has to be a stated reason for the shift in frog-man nomenclature. Do I think that somewhere in the lore-bible, the team at ArenaNet has a reason? I certainly wouldn’t put it past them. But coming into the world as we will in Guild Wars 2, I don’t really expect that I’ll be able to go up to a random norn and expect her to tell me that it was after the Great Ruination of 1221, when all but a few leaders of the lesser tribes were killed by a fly-borne plague that the name shifted from heket to hylek. I expect that, were I to ask her a question about the name change, that she would tell me that it has always been that way, or shrug and advise I ask a historian. Evolution is the sign of a healthy language.
Do I want to know exactly why the change occurred? You bet I do! I want every little, gritty, unimportant detail. However, until I have that sweet knowledge, I will rest easy in the idea that things are changing.
Readers: What’s your idea for how the heket changed their name? Do you think it was the natural progression of time, or do you imagine something a little zanier? Leave us all your crazy ideas!
About the author: Elixabeth has been a Guild Wars fan since the release of Nightfall, and is now eagerly awaiting the release of Guild Wars 2. To bide the time, she began fiddling around with the online GW community and takes great pleasure combining two of her great loves (writing and games) here at TalkTyria. Follow her on Twitter, if you like!