One of the things that became apparent early in the development of Guild Wars 2 was that we needed a diverse set of weapons to support our skill system. The full list of standard wieldable weapons in Guild Wars 2 is as follows:
One-Handed: Axe, dagger, mace, pistol, scepter, and sword.
Two-Handed: Greatsword, hammer, longbow, rifle, shortbow, and staff.
Offhand only: Focus, shield, torch, and warhorn.
No single profession is able to use all of these weapons, and some of them can wield a lot more than others. Many professions can also wield a one-handed weapon in their offhand. A weapon in the offhand will have different skills than that same weapon wielded in the main hand. A warrior, for example, can learn to dual-wield and choose to equip two swords, which would give him three skills from the sword in his main hand and two skills from the sword in his offhand.
So the weapons you're currently holding in your hands determine your first five skills. This system is the basic building block of Guild Wars 2 combat, but when playing around with it we found that we could extend it into a huge variety of cool situations. For example, when a player interacts with a siege weapon, his first five skills change to skills that are specific to that siege weapon. A player might encounter a boulder in the world and, upon picking it up, find that his skills have changed so that he can now throw that boulder. Discovering a drake nest might yield eggs that can be picked up, and then eaten or thrown. The things a character can do with an environmental weapon vary by profession or race. An elementalist with a boulder can not only throw it, but can launch it into the air, causing it to rocket down from the sky with the impact of a meteor.
In addition to objects that are simply found in the world, many of these environmental weapons are created spontaneously through various events and activities. Wooden planks used to smack enemies can be gained by killing oakhearts, or found in the rubble caused by centaurs breaking down a wooden gate. Breaking a barstool over the head of a rowdy bar patron can yield a chair leg that can be used to great effect as a club.
These are just a few of the many environment objects that players will be able to interact with. There are even a few professions whose mechanics are built heavily upon these sorts of interactions, like the elementalist skill Conjure Flame that creates several large flaming rocks that can then be picked up and thrown at the enemy.
Choice of profession will of course have a huge impact on how the game plays. There are eight professions in Guild Wars 2, many of which will be familiar to fans of Guild Wars, as well as a few professions new to the Guild Wars world. Each of these professions is roughly categorized by the type of armor they wear: scholars wear light armor, adventurers wear medium armor, and soldiers wear heavy armor. Currently there are three scholar professions, three adventurer professions and two soldier professions.
When designing our professions it was very important to us to make each of them feel as unique and different as possible. In addition to weapon, armor and skill choice, we've developed a number of cool profession mechanics for each one. We'll be revealing new professions on our website, so it should start becoming apparent just how much we've tried to push the unique play style of each of them.
Many players from Guild Wars are familiar with the concept of secondary professions. We included secondary professions in early versions of Guild Wars 2, but due to the unique mechanics of each profession and the increased role of race in character customization, they are no longer a feature of the game. We feel that this decision will allow us to create a more balanced game with really distinct professions that are fun to play.
It's very important that professions in an MMO have interesting ways to interact with each other. In the past this has mostly been limited to healing and buffing teammates and managing agro in combat. We wanted to expand considerably upon the types of teamwork available to our players. With this in mind, we've implemented a system of cross-profession combinations.
A warrior and an elementalist playing together could combine their abilities in several different ways. The elementalist could drop down Static Field, which is an area-targeted lightning effect. A warrior who fires a rifle bullet through the static field would cause his shot to be charged up with electricity, inflicting additional damage. If that didn't suit their style, then the elementalist might drop a Wall of Fire in front of a group of enemies. The warrior could enter the firewall and use Cyclone Axe, an attack which causes him to spin rapidly, sending the firewall outward and hitting his foes. There are literally hundreds of combinations for players to discover.
A player's choice of race is also an important decision which will affect his combat prowess. We've already discussed how a player can choose racial skills among his second five skills. These skills are designed to provide the player with additional options that capture the flavor of his particular race. A sylvari warrior might choose to bring Grasping Roots, which immobilizes a foe, while an asura warrior might choose to bring Arcane Blast for some additional ranged damage.
A player can also choose to bring elite racial skills. A norn elementalist might take the norn skill Wolf Form and transform into a giant half-norn half-wolf able to tear across the battlefield, savaging enemies. A human might bring the Hounds of Balthazaar, a skill which summons two massive fiery dogs into the battle. Racial skills can combine with profession skills to give players a wealth of choices when deciding how they want to play their characters.
What I've covered here is just the tip of the iceberg! I hope that you all have a clearer view of how combat in Guild Wars 2 works, what some of our goals with the combat system are, and why we've made some of the decisions we've made.
I also wanted to note that we have an iterative development process here at ArenaNet. What that means is that we like to implement things early, then play them and see how they are working out. If a feature isn't living up to our expectations, we'll change it, sometimes even cutting it entirely. Anything that I've talked about is subject to change if we find it just isn't working. Look for the next update of this type to be from our Lead Content Designer Colin Johanson, who'll talk to you about our dynamic event system and why it will make playing Guild Wars 2 a very different experience from a more traditional quest-based MMO.