ArenaNet Retrospective Video
The ArenaNet Retrospective Video was released on January 6, 2011, although it had been shot months before for ArenaNet's 2010 holiday party. The video is a retrospective of ArenaNet's first decade, and features many background videos depicting both the original Guild Wars as well as Guild Wars 2, while ArenaNet employers share their experiences with the company through the years.
Mike O'Brien (Studio President & Founder): "Pat and Jeff and I were all working at Blizzard Entertainment, and we decided to start up this new company in February 2000. We’ve really wanted to build up a company that could focus on new experiences, trying new things and that’s what we’re excited about and that’s why we build ArenaNet."
Mike O’Brien: "We started in Pat’s spare bedroom. There were three of us working in Pat’s spare bedroom. That summer we moved up to Seattle and worked out of the living room of my apartment. There were seven of us, I think; working, out of the living room. It was a hot summer with no air-conditioning and a very small, enclosed space. But we grew from there; we’ve got our first offices in October of that year and just kept growing.
We had just started a new company. We didn’t want to just move across the street, and have, you know, that kind of revolving door atmosphere with Blizzard. We thought... there was a line from the movie Hunt for Red October when Cortes reached a New World he burned his ships, and that is why his men were all motivated. We thought we should be well motivated too."
Mike O’Brien: "There are not that many times in your life when you can create something new and a new place. And we thought, “Let’s pick the best environment”, and Seattle really has a thriving game development community. And over the various places we’ve looked at, we thought Seattle has a great quality of life. It’s a beautiful city. That’s where we wanted to start."
Ree Soesbee (Game Designer): "I love Seattle. I love the North-West. I was originally raised in the South, in North Carolina, and then I lived in Los Angeles for about eight years which is about as much culture shock as you can get. And from there, I moved up here and all of the best parts of the South – the mountains and the outdoors are mixed with all the best parts of Los Angeles and California. We’ve got technology, we’ve got Microsoft, and we’ve got all these advancements, just going tremendously fast in the area. The North-West is really the best of the both worlds."
Colin Johanson (Content Design Lead): "I absolutely love this area. It’s a great place to be. Everybody’s really just relaxed and has a kind of chilled attitude about life."
Richard Anderson (Cinematics Concept Artist): "The North-West… you know what’s really cool about Seattle in general is… every city I go to, they don’t have near the culture that Seattle seems to have, as far as food and beer."
Jason Stokes (Prototype Team Lead): "You know, we’re never too far away from like an amazing hike, or just beautiful coastline."
Mike O’Brien: "You know, mostly our approach to who we want to bring on to the company is – we wanted to bring on people who are super passionate about what we’re doing. You know, in general, we want to be a company of gamers. We want to be our own audience. We want to be making the games we love and we know they’re going to be great because we love them."
Chris Lye (Marketing & Brand Director): "Passionate gamers make passionate games."
Ree Soesbee: "Everyone is excited about our game, about what we’re making, about other games that they’re playing."
AJ Thompson (Video Production & Cinematics): "Programmers, artists, designers, tool developers… you name it. Everyone under this roof… It’s a family effort; it’s a product of love."
Katy Hargrove (Creature Artist): "Everybody here’s very passionate about what they do, of… incredibly dedicated, not just to our project, but to games in general."
Horia Dociu (Cinematics Team Lead): "Everybody’s really pushing each other to, you know… make the game look as good as it can be; also on personal level we’re challenging ourselves artistically, creatively and because of that, the game’s just better all around."
Daniel Dociu (Studio Art Director): "We’ve handpicked our artists and ended up in my opinion with one of the strongest art teams in the industry which has been repeatedly proven by the numerous awards and successes our artists have had."
Mike O’Brien: "We also built ArenaNet to be a very collaborative environment."
Chris Lye: "They’ve always been really great about, you know, team building and collaboration-corporation."
Isaiah Cartwright (Systems Designer): "We now have like 250 people here. And when I first started it was about thirty people."
Kekai Kotaki (Concept Art Lead): "It’s certainly gotten bigger. So the dynamics have changed a little bit just because the company has grown so much."
Colin Johanson: "It’s weird to walk down the hall and not know people, and not know if those people actually work here or not. I’ll walk past somebody, but like... it could be somebody on the cleaning staff, could be somebody in game design, could- I don’t know, I wonder what they do here."
Horia Dociu: "There are a lot of new faces but really we do work with a same team members, we’re a ten group of friends… and the collaboration and working environment hasn’t changed at all."
Mike O’Brien: "We just try to be an environment where we’re all collaborating. This is really not, err… not a big corporate hierarchy, a bureaucratic company. This is a company where we all sit in the same room together. We all work together. Day after day, and just try to create this collaborative environment."
Isaiah Cartwright: "We all work in like pods in group environments, and so, we’ve got these groups of like, you know, eight to ten people and sometimes they’re just bigger."
Mike O’Brien: "First of all, the founders have sat almost everywhere in the company."
Eric Flannum (Lead Game Designer): "Two of the three founders of the company sat at – they weren’t even desks, they were just tables. They were in a hallway."
Isaiah Cartwright: "The founders of the company grabbed a table and put it up in the hallway and they all just sat there."
Eric Flannum: "I mean nobody at ArenaNet has an office even. Like, everybody’s in an open space."
Isaiah Cartwright: "I’ve worked in a lot of places and there’s nowhere where I’ve ever worked where the three founders of the company would sit in a hallway and work."
Mike O’Brien: "We tend to sit wherever, err… sit wherever we can do some good."
Daniel Dociu: "What makes ArenaNet truly special as far as development culture is the fact that it’s a very art-centric environment."
Ree Soesbee: "ArenaNet works a lot through iteration. Everything that we make we start at one point but as it processes through different teams and even goes back to the original teams, the game changes, the skills change, the play of the game, the story, it all takes into account everybody’s ideas which is really the perfect way to do it because one person can’t come up with enough ideas to populate a world. But when we have a whole company of people who are excited about it, working together - we can do some pretty phenomenal things."
Daniel Dociu: "I came on roughly halfway through the development process and at that point the technology had been developed but the art was pretty much just placeholders so we’ve started over and scrapped everything and all the art assets and rebuilt the entire game from scratch."
Jeff Grubb (Game Designer): "I’ve always said that we are creatively fearless. We are unafraid to go back and check what we’ve done to iterate, to reiterate, to come up with new ideas; and if we come up with a new idea – to implement it without fear of the fact that: “Yes, we’ve worked for so long on this other way just”, just because, you know, it’s in place doesn’t make it the final piece."
Daniel Dociu: "We do encourage people to literally put aside time towards experiments that are pretty much predestined to fail. I think that planning and allowing for some failure is the key to the creative process."
Bobby Stein (Writing Team Lead): "There’s a lot of room for personal and creative freedom that ties into the shared vision."
Mike Zadorojny (QA Team Lead): "The entire company rallies behind the product and it’s really great to see what we’re able to accomplish."
Mike O’Brien: "ArenaNet is a company where I want our employees to reach out to our customers to say, you know, “Hi, I’m Mike,” “Hi, I’m Linsey,” “Hi, I’m Isaiah." Get to know me as a person, have a direct interaction with me as a developer, and let me know what you think about our games. We’re making these games for you, for our customers, we should know what you think."
Linsey Murdock: "The feedback is, it’s… is so important, because then we can continue to react and respond onto you how they feed of the stuff we’re doing."
Chris Lye: "You know, we’re not a video game company, we’re a community building company and we just happen to have one of the coolest ways to build a community – which is through a video game."
Martin Kerstein (Community Manager): "People in Europe are crazy about the game, especially in Germany because like we have a massive following in Germany, so every time we go there for a convention or for some player meetings, it's like, we always greet to such an enthusiasm and love, like… it’s a huge market for us."
Randy Price (SVP, Global Business & Legal Affairs): "Europe is as core territory as in depth for us."
Eric Flannum: "If you don’t have the community, you’re not going to be successful. You need to… You need to make community a top priority."
Mike O’Brien: "We want to get out there and meet our fans. Actually, the great part about trade shows is not only you’re meeting the fans, but a lot of times you’re kind of meeting… meeting the fans again. You know, you saw them last year, you’ve got to know them last year, and they come back and say “Hi, remember me from last year?”, and you get to talk to them about their experiences playing the game. That’s what we want."
Chris Lye: "We had to kind of sit tight out after we did the announcement in 2007. We, you know, we’ve had that PC Gamer article and then we just went dark for a couple of years. And so it’s been really hard. We wanted to tell people so much. We’ve seen so much going on with the game, and so what… you know, the biggest thing for me is those last couple weeks where we actually got to pull the covers off and reveal some of the big stuff that we’re working on. And fortunately, the MMO audience has really taking it to heart and the reaction has been awesome."
Colin Johanson: "Guild Wars 2 is so much bigger than anything we’ve ever built before and the amount of content, the amount of work that’s going into building this game, I feel like, work-wise, it’s the size of everything we’ve built before now combined together into one game."
Mike Zadorojny: "Guild Wars 2 is a chance for us to take a step back, evaluate what we were able to accomplish with Guild Wars 1 and kind of redirect where we’ve wanted to take the series."
Bobby Stein: "I think people will notice pretty dramatic, err… evolution."
Isaiah Cartwright: "I think, err… we learned a lot of cool things in Guild Wars 1 and it was such a big game and there were so many, like, crazy things that we’ve tried that when Guild Wars 2 came around… we’ve basically all sat back and we just started writing down all the things we could do differently. And so, there's all these things we’re trying to do differently. And so, I’m really curious to see how all those things fan out."
Andrew Patrick: "It’s a whole new game that’s going to blow people’s mind."
Mike O’Brien: "I mean, first of all, I’ve played a hell lot of Guild Wars 2 and so I’m going to play all of the content in Guild Wars 2. And secondly, I hope our customers also. I hope fans when they get to play this game they don’t limit themselves to one race. There’s just too much to see."
Ree Soesbee: "I am gonna play charr 'cos I’m the kind of girl that likes to rip people’s heads off."
Martin Kerstein: "I would go charr all the way, yeah..."
Jason Stokes: "I’m gonna lean towards the charr."
Jon Peters: "Probably charr..."
Randy Price: "I really want to play charr."
Ryan Scott: "I think the one race that is truly Guild Wars – they’re unique onto themselves."
AJ Thompson: "There’s just something about that bestial, monstrous… A force to be reckoned, just insane… “Duaaarrrggghhh”… You just can’t beat that."
Colin Johanson: "Err… I’m gonna play as a charr 'cos I want to be a bad ass."
Unknown off-screen person: "Are you badass?"
Colin Johanson: "No, no I’m not. But I wanna be one."
Bobby Stein: "My daughter likes the charr so I’ll probably end up rolling a charr at first and then maybe an asura."
Katy Hargrove: "I’m probably gonna play charr first and then maybe asura, and if I get around to it, maybe human."
Emily Diehl: "I’m gonna play a norn."
Andrew McLeod: "I’m probably gonna play a norn."
Eric Flannum: "So probably… I’m kind of an altaholic. I make a lot of alts, so, err… I will probably end up playing a norn, I think ‘coz transforming into a wolf just seems really cool to me."
Horia Dociu: "I think I’m gonna be playing probably the norn because they’re big and hairy like me so I can relate."
Kekai Kotaki: "I’m gonna play as a human because that’s what I played in GW1."
Joey Knight: "My race… I have this image in Guild Wars 1 now of Joe Hostile, and he was a human… and so, my main guy will probably be a human just to carry on and continue that persona I had in the original game."
Kristen Perry: "Well, I have to say that so far, the humans play a special role in my heart because of the outfits that I’ve done – their clothing."
Linsey Murdock: "I think I’ll probably be playing sylvari."
Andrew Patrick: "I’m leaning towards the sylvari, just because there’s still a lot mystery around them."
Tami Foote: "I like the sylvari."
Mike Zadorojny: "I’m kind of partial to the sylvari right now."
Daniel Dociu: "I am, err… excited about the sylvari because it’s in my opinion one of the more unique races."
Jeff Grubb: "Ooh, my nature is asura."
Richard Anderson: "I believe I’ll play the asura."
Eric Flannum: "I’ll probably start with an asura and with a profession that is yet to be named."
Josh Foreman: "I’m gonna start with asura. They seem to have gotten a bad public image so far. A lot of people are complaining about them. I think that’s ‘coz they just haven’t seen them in play. The animation is just such a huge component of their personality. But I think they’re the ones that really pop up the most of just being unique and fun and different."
Mike O’Brien: "We play our games constantly as we’re developing them. And the reason we do that is, we figure, if we’ve been having fun playing the game for three years before the game is released then we know you’re gonna have fun as a customer playing the game for years after it’s released. We want to build games that have legs. You know, games that are gonna stand the test of time. Games that people are not gonna just buy and play and be done with, but buy and wanna be a part of the community and just keep playing. And so, it’s fantastic when you release a game to be able to see people comment and start enjoying what you’ve been enjoying for the past three years and start to be able to see that – yeah, all these things that we’ve been doing, players really do love and really do appreciate all the work we’ve been putting into it this game."
Colin Johanson: "All our fans are just clamoring to see something about it and play it. They wanna get their hands on it, and they wanna play it. And everything that we’re telling them that we’re doing with this game that we’re all really excited about and they can’t wait to see it. They just want to see if we’re really doing what we claim we are. And we’re doing it."
Mike O’Brien: "The really unique thing about the development of Guild Wars 2 is – we announced the development of Guild Wars 2 before we started working on Guild Wars 2. We figured, we owed it our fans to say – we’ve decided not to keep making campaigns for Guild Wars 1, but to make a new game that is everything that we’ve wanted Guild Wars to be. So we’ve just told them, straight from the beginning, we’re gonna have to go away from a while and make this game, and you’re not gonna hear a lot of us while we’re making this game. And so, we’ve worked in silence for 2 years, you know – because we wanted to kind of under-promise and over-deliver and wait till we really had something to show before we showed. And so, it’s so nice now to be able to just kind of open the floodgates and say, “There is so much to Guild Wars 2”. And, you know, we’ve been waiting to tell you and now we can tell you everything there is in this game."
- Linsey Murdock, who was working at an unknown project at the time of the video, is one of the few ArenaNet employers who is not identified upon being interviewed.
- The concept art images at the end of the video seem to be the same as the images at the end of the Guild Wars 2 Teaser Trailer.
- In the video there is minor footage of two professions that weren't identified in the time of the video's release. One of them was later revealed to be the guardian due to the blue toned skills and the Virtues. The second profession, with a pistol equipped and its skill icons having purple as the dominant color, is a thief, due to the Initiative bar which can be seen.
- ArenaNet Retrospective Video on their official channel on YouTube
- Our First Decade: The ArenaNet Retrospective Video on the official blog
- Video analysis on Massively.com