One of the things that hasn’t really gotten much attention, in the flurry of excitement about the recent Fan Day, is the building itself that ArenaNet now inhabits, which is both beautiful and superbly functional.
By way of explanation, I should mention: I spend most of my time surrounded by architecture and industrial design folk, which means that my ears are constantly full of mantras about the importance of ‘form following function’ and other specious-sounding slogans about the importance of intentional design. After a while, one begins to notice that type of thing, especially when it’s being done so very right. As a result, I was very impressed indeed by the (quite nearly literal) nuts and bolts of ArenaNet HQ and how it has been set up.
The company makes much of their open and collaborative design method, which is quite visibly upheld in the layout of the office – a good portion of the content design, tool design, and story teams are in one long room – not crammed or cramped, certainly, and with evident structure and purpose, but very obviously accessible to one another all the same. If at any point rearrangements need to be made, however, their two floors of the building have been excellently thought out to accommodate any resettling or shuffling which the rooms might go through: with superbly mobile desks, mutable wall-sections, independently reprogrammable ceiling lights (which, might I add, seem to dynamically adjust based on the amount of natural light available – which I was just tickled pink to discover, as it would be such a shame to waste those huge windows and that impressive view they have), and sectional-style air-conditioning, they are truly set up to make switching up teams or locations as hassle-free as possible. This thorough preparedness extends to their internal server room and the newly furbished sound recording space, the design of both of which we got to learn about in great detail.
In a very real and pragmatic sense, ArenaNet has taken the time and money to make sure that their building encourages the very functions they wish to use it for. I tip my hat – and wish I had actually taken the opportunity while there to do so – to those behind such design considerations.
Is this revolutionary? No. Is it preeminently sensible? Yes.
It also, in a way, embodies one of the things that I find encouraging about ArenaNet and their approach to Guild Wars 2. They’re being incredibly intentional about their design process. By re-examining different elements of the original Guild Wars, other successfully established MMORPGs, and games across a whole spectrum of genres, ArenaNet is giving themselves the opportunity to be choosy about what they want to include in their game, which can only benefit us as fans in the long run. In the process of selecting different elements or legacies to keep or lose, they can clarify and hone the function of this game they are creating. To hear more about this kind of thing, I’d suggest tuning into an interview that GuildMag secured with some devs a few months back. Specifically, tune into about 2:25, where you’ll hear Izzy Cartwright talking about the way that they can balance the game more efficiently than they could in Guild Wars. (Then again at the 30-minute mark, where Jon Peters talks about their constant re-evaluation process.) This kind of intention behind decisions – both from the front-end perspective of actual gameplay and the back-end of content generation and refinement – make for a more effective way to create a higher quality product.
Does this mean that it’s going to be absolutely perfect and everyone will agree that they’ve made the best decisions? Of course not. But hearing employees admit that they’ve reneged on ideas that were more or less installed in the game and gone back to add things they felt were necessary after they thought a system or location was complete is hugely encouraging.
While we’re talking about intent, let’s talk about what was possibly the most delightful and overwhelming aspect of the building itself: the art.
The walls of this place are very much a gallery. Mixed in with hundreds of print outs of concept art, armor sketches, and the like are these huge canvas-printed beauties. As someone who has made something of a hobby out of hanging around galleries and museums, I was absolutely delighted. As is being continually proven, ArenaNet has a truly excellent team of artists, and it’s wonderful to see that reflected in the hallways between meeting rooms and work spaces. To folks walking around the place for the first time, it sends a very strong message: this is what we’re here to create. This game is going to be art. That might not be an exact translation, but it’s what I heard.
On a side note, I mentioned how much I was impressed by all the art everywhere while in a conversation with some employees during the party, and how I kind of wished I’d had some more time to just ogle all of it. So what did my conversation companions suggest? An impromptu art-walk through the halls, of course! After checking to make sure that I wouldn’t be going anywhere I oughtn’t go, we set off and spent a merry time walking around and inspecting the different pieces at our leisure. It was really neat to give the pieces some more attention, as well as hearing how the guys I was with connected with different pieces – someone had, for example, created the in-game analogue of a piece we were looking at. That little art tour might win for best memory (it’s a tough call!), so thank you, Habib, Jason, and Leif!
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. She also has a penchant for creating baked goods. Follow her on Twitter, if you like!