Kristen Perry: Absolutely! One of the hallmarks of character customization in Guild Wars has always been mixing and matching armors and GW2 is no exception. The armors are organized now a bit differently in light, medium and heavy weights. I think one of the most exciting facets of this new structure is that any one profession won’t have to be limited to their role, they can choose to wear anything from their weight category. This offers a lot more flexibility for customization than was available in the original Guild Wars. In Prophecies, a profession had a set amount of armors to choose from which was later expanded with more campaigns, but this locked in what was available for the player to wear. GW2 allows anything from the entire weight class, and this means not only a greater design variety, but greater armor numbers right up front.
Geek Woman : From what I have seen so far the outfits look a little more rustic than in the Original Guild Wars, is there going to be a trend to get grittier and less glam in GW2?
Kristen Perry: When we started designing in weight classes and less specific professions (though they still will be appropriately represented) we noticed that pieces had to play nice together more broadly. No longer is any one detail trend locked into a profession. Oddly, this has given us a freedom to design with magic and fantasy in mind, but also with functionality. With our various professions needing their identities and the general populace of the world needing looks from everything from social level to regional culture, we designed a little of everything. As a by-product of this, the world is indeed potentially grittier. This isn’t just out of intentionally trying to give it edge or wear and tear (though we have that, too), but to give it personality. A blacksmith from the human race will look different than the blacksmith from the charr or norn. It will be appropriate to the race’s ideals and design sensibilities. It will have age or maintenance to it. It may be heirloom, it may be brand spankin’ new. So yes, out of function and variety, some outfits certainly got grittier. This doesn’t mean that everything will be, there’s just more to offer. Glam will still exist with gusto.
But really, sometimes you just want a sturdy pair of sensible boots, eh?
Geek Woman : I especially appreciate details in the female avatars such as the accessories like jewelry and shoes. For example in some games the feet and shoes disappear entirely into the environment. What challenges are there in making the footwear on the female characters remain visible in the various textures in the environment?
Kristen Perry : Well, really, we try to tell them not to wear high heels in sod, but the ladies like their fashion, so whatcha gonna do. Aside from that, I’d say that’s now up to the players and how they dye the footwear. With our increased poly count and a bit more pixel real estate, we have more leeway to put in details. A favorite feature of mine for boots is to build out the rim of the sole, as sometimes the silhouette will really make that nuance sing, which is icing on the tailoring cake.
We’ll have incredibly ornate designs just like we’ll have simple and comfortable. I suppose the biggest challenge is in whittling down the ideas into a sane production schedule. Then again, when considering shoe collections, perhaps sanity is optional…
But if you don’t want the boots to blend into the sand, don’t dye them saffron!
Geek Woman : The Elementalists in Guild Wars were stunningly beautiful and won our Annual Best Female Avatar, two or three times at womengamers.com What can you show us, or tell us about the Elementalist so far? GW Elementalist vs GW2? Will they have any special accessories such as tiaras or jewelry that we can look forward to?
Kristen Perry: Ladies, everyone can be beautiful! It’s been a long-standing tradition to design jewelry into outfits, and rest assured, some Eles will have bling of various forms as will others. This can be anything from the special design of fancy buttons to brooches to hair barrettes and other accessories on your outfit as they always were. As separate pieces? We don’t know yet, we’ll see. But there’s a wide variety of decoration for every armor weight class. Perhaps light armor bling may be more ornate overall, but that won’t stop medium armor wearers from having sleek, stylish, mayhaps more functional items and the heavy armor folk sporting their wares. Breastplates count as adornment, right?
Geek Woman : What will the novice Elementalist outfit look like, and is it going to be the purple and white that seems to be the standard?
Kristen Perry: There’s more to consider than profession in GW2 as we have multiple races to consider. Given that we’re trying to have quite a visual variety even in the starting areas, there are colors to consider that help give a cultural flavor to your chosen race story. So a red, a green, a purple for example, in one race might not be the same as another in the beginning. When it comes to professions, they will have general palettes as well, but it’s important to note that overall there’s a lot more to visually balance than just what the humans gave us before. We’re still sorting through our paint chips and styles.
Geek Woman : Characters in an MMO put on a lot of mileage in a game in many different situations, such as the lighting, weather and conditions. Is it difficult to prepare the artwork and design for characters that are so multi dimensional? and even emotional?
Kristen Perry : Oh, though we have to make sure our designs work with the environment, that really isn’t a direct constraint aside from general guidelines. Sure, if there is a specific regional armor required (like the Vabbian was in Nightfall, for example) that will reflect those dimensions as needed. Largely we need to create more neutrally-balanced designs. This means things like managing the noise levels in our patterns, pattern frequency or toning down the specularity to feel realistic in most situations.
When we create a design we will try to view it in a variety of environments to see that overall it plays nice. In addition to that, it’s my job to make sure the dye system represents as much as possible a vast array of desirable colors that help show off the outfits in their best light. Some slight intentional tonal variations might occur from the artists’ work on any one specific armor, but overall it’ll stay in a specified range as far as our texture creation is concerned.
But for the game, there is definite preparation. For example, both in real life and game life, there is no true white. Even the whites of the eyes or the white of the monitor screen you’re looking at isn’t really true white, it’s just representative of white. True white is stuff like looking into the blinding sun or an atom blast, and that just isn’t practical when you’re trying to take down a river drake. But in game terms, the shirt I might texture will really technically dye to be a very light gray. This is because when it gets into all the lighting effects (as in, any lighting effect), usually whites will blow out and become annoying to look at. So just like the game itself has a palette in overall art direction, so too within that palette are other visual language considerations that create a range. The trick is to get the texture to dye light enough to feel like a bright white without blowing out in the game environment.
One of the more interesting tidbits about the dye system is that we made a conscious effort to apply dyes appropriately for their materials. Since cloth is more easily and naturally dyed in a variety of colors, it has the potential to be the most saturated. Leathers will dye a similar color that will feel like the cloth’s color counterpart, but it will come with a natural hue that you would expect with a natural material. Metals will be naturally even more desaturated. —However, breathe, you dye enthusiasts out there! Just because there’s a tendency doesn’t mean it’s absolute. Copper metal, for example, can be quite bright and saturated, as can other natural tones in metal and leather. Cloth can be desaturated as well. What I’m saying is there will be choices and we’re making sure there’s plenty to sort from to make your character awesomely customized.
What all that means for our creation of the armors is that we have a pretty set neutral position to create textures that will be flexible in many environments while set up for many dye options. It’s both difficult and not difficult when you know the rules. On one hand, you definitely know what doesn’t work and will break the system. On the other hand, you get to play MacGyver and try to invent something new and inspiring within limited creation range. I enjoy the challenge.
Geek Woman : One of the fun asides in Guild Wars is the spontaneous dance parties, does dance wear figure into the designs of GW2 at all? There have been some very memorable GW dancers in the past.
Kristen Perry : We pull from many different categories of style and it’s certainly within reason that somewhere someone pulled from dance. Heck, in Nightfall when I designed the Elementalists, most outfits came from ballroom dancers mixed with tropical sun dresses and some ancient Egyptian royalty’. And seriously, considering that some of the reference searches were anything from much more revealing to downright translucent, my designs were conservative in comparison. ;P
For GW2, depending on the race, I tried to pull from just as much variety for outfits. I love taking at least two directions and seeing how to meld them together. For example, the norn blacksmith has an outfit inspired with the strength of the Celts with a nod to the strap proportions of old style German folkwear with the tailoring and detailing of Clydesdale saddles and tack.
To sum up, don’t worry, there’s a lot of flavor! Folks will find designs to choose from for just about any function, dance included.