We are proud, honored, and excited to share an exclusive interview with Guild Wars 2 developer Paul Ella. Paul joined us in Darkhaven WvW during the Adopt-a-Dev program for the WvW Fall Tournament, during which time much fun and learning were shared by all of us. Paul was kind enough to tell us a bit about himself, his lifelong love of gaming, his responsibilities working on the Guild Wars 2 development team, and his thoughts on the Darkhaven WvW scene and community. Let’s get to it!
There are a lot of exciting releases on the horizon… and Darkhaven is the place to experience that content. A good server, full of dedicated, interesting and most importantly fun people to play with – I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. – Paul Ella
Tell us about who you are in-game. What is your in-game identity?
My main is Knyghtblade, but you can see me running around as Lyghtswitch, Lincolnshire and various other alts. Main class, a Guardian.
How did you land on that in-game name?
Back in 2001 I encountered my first MMO – Dark Age of Camelot. Having been born and raised in England, a game about King Arthur I could play with friends was really intriguing so a group of colleagues and I got together and we formed a guild. I wanted a really cool name that reflected the paladin sensibilities I had. Unfortunately Knight-Blade was taken so I ended up with Knyghtblade. I have now played over 20 different MMO’s and each main has the same name – Knyghtblade.
Wow, 20 MMO’s. What other games do you play?
I play many different types of games. On the PC there is GW2 of course and I am replaying S.T.A.L.K.E.R. I like to play a lot of Steam games, especially indie ones like Gone Home. On the Xbox One I am playing Destiny and the Xbox 360 I have Rock Smith 2014.
For table top gaming – I play X-Wing Miniatures, rebel faction and D&D 5e. On my tablet I have installed an old version of Microsoft Freelancer and another Steam game called Defense Grid 2.
Finally on my phone I play Words with Friends with my wife who is always beating me because she is American and I am English and the game is biased (truthfully she is just smarter than I am) and I just installed and started playing X-Com: Enemy Unknown.
Tell us about your original video game system or game. And what about your current rig or set-up?
My original setup my father bought when I was about 11 or 12 and was the Texas Instruments TI99/4A. I spent an inordinate amount of time playing Alpiner and Parsec. The rig I have now I built myself. It has an Intel i7 3.4 GHz CPU, 16GB RAM, Dual Nvidia GTX 580 graphics cards, and I use a Logitech G19 keyboard and a Razer Naga Epic mouse.
What’s your favorite video game character, and why?
It’s a toss-up between Claptrap from Borderlands and GLaDoS from Portal. Both have an excellently delivered sense of humor. Claptrap’s deadpan, self-preservation / totally delusional delivery and GLaDoS psychotic one liners. I like a game that makes me laugh and both of these characters deliver. It was good to see both of them appearing in Poker Night 2 by Telltale Games. Throw in Sam and Max and Brock Samson from The Venture Brothers and the game is golden!! I highly recommend it.
I run a small team which oversees each of the releases currently in flight… we are responsible for getting each update into the hands of the players as scheduled. – Paul Ella
Thanks for the background information, but now let’s get to the good stuff! Tell us a little bit about what you do behind the scenes to makes Guild Wars 2 so awesome.
I’m the Release Product Owner which is just a fancy way of saying project manager.
I run a small team which oversees each of the releases currently in flight – we are focused on helping QA get through the final test passes. We meet regularly with the development teams and key stakeholders to ensure we shepherd them through various gates and milestones as smoothly as possible. We are also the team who oversees the step by step release process on release day.
Ultimately we are responsible for getting each update into the hands of the players as scheduled.
Whoa, that’s a lot of responsibility. It must have been a relief to get some hands-on game time here on Darkhaven. What guild were you with for the Adopt-a-Dev program? How was that experience for you?
I selected Non Verbal Persuasion [NVP] on Darkhaven and the experience was phenomenal! The guild is absolutely what any player could want. They are fun, dedicated, always have friendly helpful people on hand to play with, run guild ops and just chat in general. How well I did in WvW is debatable, but let’s just say I haven’t had a formal offer to remain with the guild.
It is the community of Darkhaven, the players, the leadership and the social interaction you have beyond the game… the way guilds pull together, rather than away, when facing adversity is something, in my opinion, which sets Darkhaven apart from its peers. – Paul Ella
I’m sure Lusa is just busy sending that formal invite. I know you see all aspects of the game across all servers, and not just those pertaining to Darkhaven. But, can you tell us some of the things you noticed and experienced that make Darkhaven a great place to WvW?
To me, the most inspirational thing about Darkhaven that sets it beyond other servers I have played on is the world beyond the game that you have created. Yes we gave you the tools, a world to play in, enemies to fight, guilds to bring you together, etc. but it is the community of Darkhaven, the players, the leadership and the social interaction you have beyond the game, while still being about the game, that makes it a great place to play.
The way Darkhaven guilds pull together, rather than away, when facing adversity is something, in my opinion, which sets Darkhaven apart from its peers.
Can you tell us about one or two things – recommendations, bug fixes, etc. – that you’ve learned from your hands-on time in Darkhaven WvW that you intend to take back to the office and share with the rest of the GW2 staff?
In the discussions I have had with you playing the WvW Fall Tournament and being there in the trenches, I had a lot to bring back to the Competitive team. A few days ago the Adopt a Dev participants talked to them at length about siege disablers, the achievements, matchups and rewards. We discussed population imbalance, realms teaming up and many other things. The team was very receptive to the feedback.
I know you can’t give us details on any upcoming features or releases, but, how about some incredibly vague hints that we can all obsess over? Pretty please?
Ok, but only because you asked so nicely. Siege disablers are going to get some love. We understand that they are a little overpowered and so we are going to do a few more passes on balance.
How do you think YOU have best fit into the Darkhaven WvW community? What have you found to be your strengths as a WvW soldier?
I think my best role as a DH soldier was that of distraction. It still amazes me how seeing the ArenaNet tag seems to make even the largest zerg completely forget what they are doing and come after me. I have seen players jump from the relative safety of their keeps into a group I am a member of just to try kill an ArenaNet dev. Thankfully I have you all to protect or in extreme cases res me.
Agreed! Thank you for that one-of-a-kind contribution. What was the most surprising thing you learned about the community through the Adopt-a-Dev program?
I hadn’t really previously interacted with the community on DH as much as I did during the tournament. Yes I had appeared in DR and LA and chatted with players and I had done some WvW before, but it wasn’t until I got involved with the Adopt a Dev program that I truly saw the structure or Darkhaven from a guild perspective. It was interesting to see the coordination, strategy planning and overall willingness to work together as a server as opposed to individual guilds. That was a real eye opener.
What stereotype about the community did you find to be true?
You never sleep!
It’s hard to explain the feeling of watching a wall of trebuchets rotate towards you… and then the world was falling. – Paul Ella
What was the most exciting or heart pounding fight or event you experienced with us in the WvW Tournament?
There were many fun things that happened, but the one which stands out in my mind was when we were trying to get a keep from Gate of Madness which they had protected with trebs. To get their attention I ran up a nearby hill, turned on my ArenaNet tag and started to dance and wave. It’s hard to explain the feeling of watching a wall of trebuchets rotate towards you and then the world was falling on me. I think they bombed me back to the Age of the Marmoset, but it was all good fun.
What did you enjoy the most in Darkhaven WvW? What do you think we, as a server, can improve on?
Protect your dev from doing stupid things like dancing in-front of enemy siege weapons more!
I think we can do that. Did you feel comfortable hanging out with us in Teamspeak? Would you consider joining us more often as your time / schedule permits?
Absolutely. I don’t think I ever felt uncomfortable in TS with you guys. From the very start you were all very welcoming. I expected a lot more “hard questions” and venting which really didn’t happen. Some of my colleagues were not as lucky in the program so I consider myself very fortunate to have found such an understanding group of players. I will try to be on DH as much as I am able and I do try to get online as much as my work / home life permits.
Here’s a question directly from one of our players, Pancake. Her Flesh Golem, Carl, needs to learn how to swim. Can we make this happen!?
Unfortunately it is a common problem with golems – don’t get them wet! The magic which is used to wrench the separate parts from the realm of the dead is the darkest and foulest of the black arts. Water by its very nature is a cleansing element, and used in most healing magic. Mixing these two is therefore a battle of opposites and generally due to the amounts involved the water generally wins out and dissolves the bonds holding Carl in this world. Of course this battle is also a drain on the necromancer who called him, hence the cool-down requirement.
What one piece of advice would you tell anyone looking to get into the gaming industry?
Software development is a multifaceted industry and gaming even more so. I would say the first thing you should consider is what are you passionate about? What draws you to a game is it the story, the combat, artwork, music, etc. etc. Work out what you want to end up doing and then tailor your academic career accordingly. Many people in the industry get in at an intern level and then work their way up. A good start on this path would be to look up studios with internship programs such as www.arena.net. Compare the skills required for roles you are interested in with your current skillset and focus on closing any gaps.
And finally, what would you say to anyone on the fence about buying Guild Wars 2? What about coming to the Darkhaven server and joining our community?
Don’t wait – now is absolutely the right time to be joining the fight. There are a lot of exciting releases on the horizon with Living World Season 2 restarting, and Darkhaven is the place to experience that content. A good server, full of dedicated, interesting and most importantly fun people to play with – I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
All of us in the Darkhaven community want to thank Paul for joining us in WvW, for taking the time to answer our questions so thoughtfully, and also thank the Guild Wars 2 PR team for letting us share this interview with our players and friends.