The sylvari, together with the asura, are the races we haven’t yet gotten to play either in the closed beta or during the first beta weekend event. They both were playable during some gaming conventions (like GamesCom 2011), so we know they exist in a playable state, at least! But of course, not having been able to play them myself, I am very curious about them. I know I will love asura. There’s just no doubt about that. But what about the sylvari?
For me, they come close to what elves represent in other fantasy games. Think of your standard fantasy settings and now think of how many games include some kind of elves: Lord of the Rings Online, World of Warcraft, Everquest, Rift,… the list goes on. Elves are usually the fragile, elegant, gracious, wise and oooooold race. The sylvari are all of that with one exception; They are a very young race with the oldest sylvari being 25 years old. I’d assume that sylvari will most likely be the race to play when you’re usually an elf-lover because of their looks. But from their personality and their background, they’re rather unique.
They are a tree’s interpretation of humans. (Kristen Perry in Talk Tyria’s lore interview)
Let’s take a look at the sylvari: They can have elf-like ears (pointed, that is, in case you didn’t know). You can find a video showing the early sylvari character customization here (it starts at around 3:30). Their ears are pointed because they’re leaf-shaped. Which, oddly enough, is what Tolkien had in mind for his elves (see Wiki entry above). But it’s not that easy. Sylvari aren’t simply “the elves”. You have to look a bit closer to see the differences between elves (or humans) and sylvari. They are, in fact, plants that were built after humans because the Pale Tree, out of which they were “born”, knows what humans look like and modelled the sylvari after them. ArenaNet had published a blog post about Kristen Perry’s redesign of the sylvari (they did actually look very much like regular elves before). Continue reading →
Okay fine, there’s not much diversity per se because we fall into one of three categories: Straight, bi or gay. Well, before I continue, I figured that another article about how diverse characters on Guild Wars 2 will be based on traits/races/professions/weapons/skills/play styles or any combination of the six will just be rehashing what everyone is saying and it doesn’t really contribute much for discussion. We’ve already established that very well, thank you very much, so let’s move on.
I decided on a topic that’s rather personal to me because being gay and a gamer, I was very pleasantly surprised with the way ArenaNet decided to handle this controversial issue. Drawing your attention to Ree’s interview with Wartower during Gamescom 2011, she was asked about the relationships between sylvari since everyone was making a mountain out of a molehill regarding the fact that the sylvari don’t have the ability to reproduce despite having the proper physical parts and the fact that Caithe and Faolain were hinted at being lovers.
I once knew the great centaur Ventari. We oft debated the human-centaur war over a campfire in Maguuma or the Tarnished Coast. He was wise and I learned a great deal from his teachings, even though our time together was short. He saw the conflicts between our races as wasteful and unnecessary considering the long history of peace our two races enjoyed. I was more concerned with the White Mantle and dodging roving packs of undead at the time. The centaurs were more of a nuisance to me than anything else.
Ventari and me under the Pale Tree sprout, circa 1078 AE (in game GW footage)
His words changed my opinion of conflicts in general. We had a common enemy in the White Mantle, yet we continued to battle each other. Ventari argued that the centaur were too proud to back down, while I rebutted that the humans were survivors. Neither of us could easily determine the reason for one race’s enmity for the other. Sadly, over a century after Ventari’s passing, the human-centaur conflict hasn’t changed.
What has changed, however, is the Pale Tree. Long after Ronan planted his seed; long after Ventari cared for it and laid his marble tablet at its base; the tree began to sprout…uh…children. These children are called “sylvari” and they have begun to make a name for themselves. I took some time this week to talk with as many sylvari as would sit with me over a cup of toadstool tea about their race, Ventari’s teachings, and their thoughts on Tyria and the Elder Dragons.
We here at TalkTyria are excited to bring you guys our first interview with ArenaNet! The lovely ladies Ree Soesbee (Lore & Continuity) and Kristen Perry (Character Artist) were kind enough to answer some of our questions regarding the mysterious sylvari lore, their emerging place in Tyria, and a few other tid-bits regarding the story of Guild Wars.
So let’s take a look, and enjoy!
Q: Can you tell us anything about new about the Nightmare Court? Like how many of the sylvari have joined (population percentage, maybe)? Can players choose to be a part of it, or are there any related titles? Who started or leads it? Ree: The Nightmare Court is going to have a lot of coverage in my blog post for Sylvari Week, so I don’t want to spoil too much of that! I can answer your direct questions, though. The population of the Nightmare Court is roughly ten to fifteen percent of the sylvari. As with all enemy groups (the Sons of Svanir, the Flame Legion), players may not join the Nightmare Court. The Nightmare Court began during the time of the Secondborn sylvari (the second generation of sylvari born from the tree, about six or seven years after the Firstborn). The Nightmare Court’s current leader is the Grand Duchess Faolain, who is a Firstborn. She converted to the Nightmare Court and was not part of its original inception.
Earlier today I was thinking about what we know about Guild Wars 2’s new race, the sylvari, compared to the existing ones. Each race so far has had its own strengths, but also its own inner turmoils. For the humans it is the tension between the Ministry Guard, the Shining Blade and the Seraph. For the norn it is their dealing with the Sons of Sanvir and for the charr it is the Flame Legion Shamans stirring up trouble.
For the sylvari the tension is likely to come from their dealing with the Nightmare Court.
On my own blog I mentioned how it’s possible that the Pale Tree has some wider connection to the welfare of the planet, and how it might be imploring the sylvari to deal with the growing threat (no pun intended) which the Elder Dragons pose.
The sylvari have popped up in the 23 years preceding the events of Guild Wars 2. They emerge from the Pale Tree fully grown and are forever linked to it. Whilst they are growing inside the tree they experience dreams through which they learn the knowledge of their race. They also report that they experience nightmares – however, most sylvari attempt to ignore or at least not pursue any further knowledge of them. The sylvari that do embrace these nightmares are called the Nightmare Court.
It’s tough to talk about the sylvari because there’s still so much we don’t know about them. The newest of the playable races, they’re the only ones we haven’t encountered in Guild Wars and so we lack any hindsight for their existence or basis to really compare to. The state of their design also adds to the enigma; due to their nature as “plant-people”, their physical appearance is very important to understanding how they work in general. Do they use the sun for energy? What effects does seasonal “birth” have, if any? Etc.We won’t know for a while, and until then our primary source of information comes from the sylvari characters we encounter in the two companion novels. Which brings us to Caithe, the most well-known sylvari of them all.
Appearance: Despite the cartoonish original design of the sylvari, Caithe’s looks always seemed much more elegant. Specifically, her current 3D model skin tone is fleshy and short silver pixie hair is..well, not particularly leafy. However, in most of her concept drawings her skin has a greenish tint to it, as we’d expect from her race.
There’s yet to be any official word on her season, but most fans believe she is winter due to her cooler and more subtle features, as well as her darker personality.
Whether or not she’ll get a model re-design as well has yet to be determined. There seems to be no real indication of it so far.
Personality: Like most of her people, Caithe has an innocent, almost brutal honesty that makes her companions a little uncomfortable at times, especially when she points out those awkward yet obvious things nobody seems to want to bring up. This is especially true when she speaks of Rytlock and Logan’s rather entertaining banter. She’s blunt and doesn’t really care for fickle nuances and sometimes simply cannot grasp metaphorical language.
She also differs from general conceptions of her race in a few ways. Most notably, it’s been stated that Caithe has a more fearless nature, willingly “seeking the shadows” to find truths that most others shy away from.
It has only been a score of years since the first twelve sylvari awakened from the branches of the Pale Tree; a handful of lives scattered into the world like petals on the wind. These Firstborn were quickly followed by others, more and then more, until the Grove was born in the heart of the Caledon Forest. Caithe was among those first to step upon the earth of Tyria, but where the others turned toward the sun, she sought shadow. While her fellows revel in the beauty and joy the world has to offer, Caithe has never been afraid to gaze into darkness–or to seek truths that others fear.
Tyria is a huge world. Most players haven’t gotten the Cartographer title for all campaigns, so we’ve all got places we haven’t been yet. Especially since I upgraded my video card, revisiting these beautiful or interesting areas is awesome just for looking around, even if there isn’t a quest or loot involved.
This spot in the Tarnished Coast is spectacular. Glowing plants, pools, crazy critters… this area is almost like Pandora from the Avatar movie.
According to the GW2 lore, deep in the jungle the Pale Tree will give birth to the Sylvari some years down the line. You can visit this tree and its centaur prophet anytime. Not really any quests out here, though there are a few items people farm. Its worth the travel just for fun (and hey it might help with your cartographer title). Continue reading →