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Guild Wars 2

Healing and Death

Healing and Death

Hi, I'm Jon Peters, one of the game designers on Guild Wars 2. While Colin Johanson has been busy working on a secret project involving V8 Juice and moa birds, we've been deciding how death and resurrection will work in Guild Wars 2 and what this means for the basic damage/tank/heal paradigm so familiar to MMO players.

Defeat in Guild Wars 2 is intended to be an experience, not a punishment. Let's face it: dying never feels great, even without a death penalty. As weird as it might sound, we decided to look into what would make dying a more enjoyable and memorable play experience.

Rather than being presented with immediate failure, when a player loses all of their health in Guild Wars 2, they are put into "downed mode." In this mode, the player has a number of downed skills they can use to target enemies and fight for a chance to survive. A downed player can still be attacked, which will send them into a defeated state, leaving them to either wait for an ally to resurrect them or to resurrect at a waypoint.


Downed skills are less-powerful skills that a player can use in a last-ditch effort to turn the tide. A warrior might daze an enemy by throwing a rock. An elementalist might lock down their foe with Grasping Earth. While you are downed, if you manage to kill an enemy, you will rally, returning to life to fight again. When you rally, you are thrust right back in the action. This potential to rally from the edge of defeat adds greater drama to combat and gives a player some tactical control while in a state where they normally have none.

Some professions will have special skills that will instantly rally a fallen ally. For example, when a warrior uses "I Will Avenge You," and then kills an enemy nearby his fallen allies, his allies will rally. While you are downed or defeated, any other player can come to you and interact with you to bring you back to life. We call this "reviving," and everyone, regardless of profession, can do this starting at Level 1.

If you choose not to be revived or rally, you can release to a waypoint. This brings up the world map and allows you to return through any discovered waypoint.

The cherry on top of all of this: Guild Wars 2 will have a much milder death penalty.

Players who have recently been downed several times will take longer to revive each time. If no one revives you, you can spend a small amount of gold to come back at a waypoint. It's as simple as that, and why not? Why should we debuff you, take away experience, or make you run around for five minutes as a ghost instead of letting you actually play the game? We couldn't think of a reason. Well, we did actually think of a reason--it just wasn't a good one. Death penalties make death in-game a more tense experience. It just isn't fun. We want to get you back into the action (fun) as quickly as possible. Defeat is the penalty; we don't have to penalize you a second time.

Player Res

Simple systems like this, along with cross-profession combos, and the dedicated healing skill slot, help free players from the MMORPG shackles, and let us break the mold even more. We're making players more self sufficient, but are also providing appealing ways for them to effortlessly work together to create a more inspired moment-to-moment experience. That is why Guild Wars 2 does not have a dedicated healing class.

Everyone take a deep breath. It's going to be OK.

We have lots of people in our studio that enjoyed playing monks in Guild Wars and healers in other games. We examined what it was about the healer archetypes that people really enjoyed, and we took a look at what it was about those archetypes that made the game less enjoyable. Then we created professions to appeal to those types of players.

Support players want to be able to say, "Remember that one time when I saved you from certain death?" They want to stand in the line of fire and block attacks. They want to surround their allies with a swirling dome of air that keeps enemy projectiles from passing through it. It's not about clicking on a health bar and watching it go up, it's about being there for your friends when they need you.

Healing Skill

If you have played enough Guild Wars, or any other MMO with healers, you've sat around waiting for the right mix of professions before being able to continue. Or you loaded into Random Arena and both teams had two monks (or they had a monk and you didn't), and you already knew the outcome of that game 99% of the time. But we've all had those 4v4 Random Arena battles where neither team has had a healer. Instead of not being able to kill anyone or being forced to attack the monk first, you can actually think about who to target, when to use your defensive spells, where to position yourself on the battlefield, etc. From the highest level of PvP, to the sieges of World vs World, to PvE in the far reaching corners of Tyria, that level of creativity and tactical freedom is exactly what we want combat in Guild Wars 2 to be about.

We keep hearing other MMO developers espousing the "holy trinity" of DPS/ heal/tank with such reverence, as if this is the most entertaining combat they have ever played. Frankly, we don't like sitting around spamming "looking for healer" to global chat. That feels an awful lot like preparing to have fun instead of having fun.

Healing Death Comic 01

Instead of the traditional trinity, every Guild Wars 2 profession is self reliant--not only can they all help each other by reviving in combat, but all professions have ways to build their characters differently to make them more versatile for group play.

Ultimately, DPS/heal/tank just didn't cut it in our, game. Our players demand more from Guild Wars 2 and we intend to deliver on that demand instead of delivering more of the same. Not only is the trinity very formulaic, but it leaves out a lot of gameplay elements that make many other games so much fun. Instead, we break these trinity categories down into a cooler, more versatile system:

DPS: Call it whatever you like--DPS, damage per second--we just call it DAMAGE, and when it comes to making red bars go down, you can never have enough of it. Don't trivialize it though; damage is a very versatile aspect of combat. There are so many ways that a character can do damage. Let's take a look at a few.

  • Damage over time. This is the perfect way to apply some heavy damage to an enemy with little time investment upfront. Set an enemy on fire and just wait for the burning to do its magic.
  • Area of effect. Making one red bar go down is nice, if that's all you can do. We prefer to spread the love among many enemies. That's what AoE spells like Fireball are for.
  • Projectiles. Some attacks require you to be close to your enemy, while others let you deal damage from afar. Projectiles are somewhere in-between; you shoot an arrow at a target and if it hits, apply the damage.

Let's stop here for a moment and point out how these damage types aren't mutually exclusive in any way. There are projectiles, AoE projectiles, AoE projectiles that apply damage over time, etc. Try shooting a spread of seven arrows through a wall of fire--it works wonders for roasting up a set of attacking monsters or enemy players.

There are as many varieties of damage as there are weapons in first person shooters, and then some. We wanted to give you a chance to experience that FPS kind of variety, so we have given each profession different weapons and skill sets that let them do damage in different ways.

Dying Char

Heal: Don't belittle the SUPPORT role by calling it heal. Healing is the least dynamic kind of support there is. It is reactive instead of proactive. Healing is for when you are already losing. In Guild Wars 2 we prefer that you support your allies before they take a beating. Sure, there are some healing spells in Guild Wars 2, but they make up a small portion of the support lines that are spread throughout the professions. Other kinds of support include buffs, active defense, and cross-profession combinations.

For instance, an elementalist can support his allies by dropping down a ground-targeted healing rain that rejuvenates allies in an area. He might also use Windborne Speed to help them chase down a target or escape out of longbow range. A warrior might shout "On My Target" to help his allies do more damage to a marked enemy, or use his warhorn to "Call to Arms" which improves the armor of his allies for a short time.

We use our cross-profession combos to fill in the rest of our support. An elementalist can create a Firewall or Static Field to improve the ranged attacks of his allies. A warrior can carry a Banner of Wisdom around the battlefield to increase the power of his allies' magical attacks. An elementalist might cast an ice spell to freeze enemies, but that same spell might give his allies Frost Armor to protect them from incoming attacks. When you boil it down, support is just the friendly way for players to work together to accomplish a shared goal.

Tank: This is where Guild Wars 2 makes the biggest break from the traditional MMO setup. Tanking is the most rudimentary form of the most important combat fundamental, CONTROL. Every game has it, yet it always seems to get a bad name. In Guild Wars there was Knockdown, Interrupt, Weakness, Blind, and Cripple, to name a few. We wanted to build upon what we think makes control such an important part of dynamic combat.

Healing Death Comic 02

Control is the only thing versatile enough to get away from the rock-paper-scissors gameplay of other MMOs. It's healing when you need it, its damage when you need it. It is the glue that holds together our system. From controlling movement to controlling damage, there are tons of exciting dynamic scenarios that control can set up. You can use a stun to save an ally or to finish off a fleeing enemy. Immobilize that warrior to get away from them, or use it on an elementalist to close in on them. In order to use it well, we had to understand the drawbacks of control too. How often can you do it? How excessive is the duration? How does it affect the difficulty of challenges you face?

There are a lot of different levels of control, from a simple cripple, to an immobilize, to a knockdown. Each one has its place. The more devastating control effects are, the more infrequently they need to occur, and their duration needs to be shorter. Knockdown is one of the strongest forms of control in Guild Wars 2, but you won't see a character that can just keep knocking someone down indefinitely, and you won't see a knockdown that puts an enemy out for so long that they won't be able to react. It's simply a tool that players have at their disposal to use at the right times to turn the tide of a battle.

You could say instead of DPS/heal/tank, we have our own trinity of damage, support, and control, but we prefer to think of them as the variety of elements that create a diverse and dynamic combat system that gives each player a toolbox to work with to solve any encounter we might throw their way. If that sounds like the kind of combat you are interested in, Guild Wars 2 is going to be a great place for you and your friends to fight together for many years to come.

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