Design-A-Profession Contest/Judges' Comments
The Design-A-Profession contest in February 2008 was a profound success alongside the second official contest, Guild Wars: Limited. This success was seen by the overwhelming number of entries, well over 60, and the flood of entries was a factor in allowing two winners instead of the original one. Entries were all looked at individually by three judges: Defiant Elements, Armond and Scottie_theNerd. This report will outline the observations of these judges and how the winners were ultimately decided on. We obviously cannot provided commentary on every entry, but we can provide a brief reflection on the entries in general.
Guild Wars is a game of balance. Not everyone may agree with the frequent updates by ArenaNet, but one thing is for certain: the effort put in from the developers shows how much they are interested in the community. Changes often consider the opinions of the community, and more often than not their reactions to changes. This intimacy between developer and community is almost unheard of elsewhere, and it is for this reason that we have recognised balance as the make-or-break criteria when looking at entries. The other criteria (completeness, originality, quality, cohesion) were also important, and we used these to gradually eliminate entries down to a dozen submissions, from which we handpicked the two winners that we felt were the most appropriate concepts for Guild Wars.
Comments based on Criteria
Almost all entries fulfilled the basic requirement listed in the guidelines. The submissions that distinguished themselves were the ones that provided more information to explain what the character concept was. Most submissions included an overview of the profession, its background, and its general role in the game. Exceptional entries justified how the profession fit into the universe of GW and in some cases GW2.
Future contests will specify a format for entries. In this contest, most entrants used a PvX page or a Word document, while others used in-text descriptions. Images did not profoundly affect the quality of the submission, although it did provide a sense of completeness and often reflected a more extensive design process. Not all submissions with images were great, and many submissions without images (including one of the winners) managed to stand out.
A characteristic of good entries was an extensive list of skills. These skill lists proved to be the most effective source of information as to what the profession was meant to do and how balanced it was compared with existing GW elements. Some entries went on to describe how that profession may be used with existing professions, or explain archetypal roles that profession may play in a team.
In general, while more information did not necessarily equate to a better submissions, good entries provided enough information for the judges to understand the intention of the entrant.
Originality had two distinct aspects in this contest: one was the idea behind the profession concept; the other included adding new elements to the game. Many entries were modifications of existing professions, and while the improvements were often sensible, it was also important to consider how the modified profession would fit into the game. Pseudo-Elementalists, buffed Monks and Ranger variants were plenty, but one had to consider what purpose they would serve alongside the current professions. Some concepts had many similarities, including dozens of "Alchemist" professions. The judges agreed that while most of the ideas were exciting in one way or another, many did not fit into the Guild Wars universe. The best entries tailored their profession to suit the lore and the gameplay mechanics of GW.
Many submissions also provided new gameplay elements, such as new skill types, damage types, weapons and even conditions. Again, some of these new additions were awkward in regards to the GW we know. Factions and Nightfall added new elements with the new professions: Assassins featured shadowstepping and dagger chains; Ritualists introduced Item and Weapon Spells; Dervishes had a melee weapon with limited AoE as well as Form skills; and Paragons came with spear-chucking and Chants. Similarly, contest entries suggested new and exotic weapons, changes to the damage mechanics, and other ideas. Good entries were able to provide a solid relationship between their profession, any new aspects the profession added to the game, and how they fit into the existing game.
Quality is a vague criteria, generally describing how refined a concept was. Professions that were hastily created and submitted had common traits, including the lack of balance, plenty of room for improvement and a sense of incompleteness. Builds that were refined over a period of time typically contained more information and written in a way that approached the concept from different angles. Some entries were brimming with effort, and the final few that made the cut all demonstrated a high degree of creativity and commitment.
Professions have to make sense, not just in relation to the game, but also in relation to themselves. Some character concepts provided little connection between their description, their attributes and their skills. Some ideas within professions were respectable, but certain others were sometimes unnecessarily complicated and made the profession unappealing to use. Consequently, it was difficult to comprehend what the profession was designed to do. Good entries had characteristics that made sense above all, while also fitting in nicely with the fabric of the game.
One of the features of current professions is that each profession is designed so that they require secondary profession to cover for their shortcomings, or else run with certain disadvantages. For example, Rangers lack an immediate self-heal, and Warriors cannot inflict Daze indiscriminately. GW has no "all-round" professions, so entries that were so well-rounded that they were able to function perfectly without investment into secondary professions were not judged to be in the best interests of GW.
Balance was the key criteria that emerged from the submissions. Many good ideas fell apart when it came down to how balanced the overall product was in relation to the current game. Few ideas are perfect to begin with, and even GW's professions needed to be balanced over time. ArenaNet has a strong view on what their professions should and shouldn't be capable of, and we have followed the spirit of these balance issues when judging the entries. There were a number of features in the entries that were unappealing and looked inappropriate for the GW universe. These include, but were not limited to:
- Professions that could perform numerous roles with few or no limitations (e.g. classes that could fight in melee and heal party members just as well as a Warrior or Monk respectively).
- Attributes that rendered entire professions obsolete (e.g. "Weapon Mastery" attributes, which makes the Warrior attributes pointless and/or failed to consider how the profession would overlap with others).
- Weapons and/or weapon attributes that were inherently unfair in some aspects (e.g. ranged Area of Effect weapons -- Splinter Barrage is enough as it is; being able to hit whole groups with auto-attack was clearly not a good idea).
- Abilities that inherently made the profession tremendously difficult to kill (e.g. constant speed buff, high innate dodge ability).
- Traits that advantaged/disadvantaged professions in certain aspects (e.g. were unable to cope with AI in Hard Mode; had inappropriate usage in PvP).
- Individual skills that made the entire profession overpowered.
The contest was difficult to judge, and we had to review and discuss entries throughout the judging period. It was through painstaking review that we managed to slim the entries down to the final dozen, and from these we picked the ones that were the most refined according to the criteria and following the observations described above. We thank the entrants -- new and old -- for participating in this new contest, and we thank our sponsor -- Razer -- for providing the prizes that will be mailed out to the winners. Finally, we congratulate the two winners of the Design-A-Profession contest: Dont and Eleventh Panda. We look forward to more successful contests in the future.