Speaker: Colin Johanson, Game Designer at ArenaNet
One of the major parts of Guild Wars 2 for the team at ArenaNet was that they wanted to innovate and create something that was really new and inventive in the MMO genre. They've done this with 3 main segments, dynamic combat, story and dynamic events. They wanted the game to be much more action oriented and to play much more like an action game than a traditional MMO where characters stood about using skills. The team wanted characters to move around and dodge out of the way of incoming attacks so many of the skills in Guild Wars 2 you will actually be able to use while moving.
The second was that all characters will have a personalised story, the character creator actually has you create a character bio which will affect your story and how that plays out. It's also a very branching story and the example that was given was that in the levels 1-10 alone there are 15 different branches and each one of those branches out further down the line. It's unclear at this point how diverse these changes are from branch to branch but there will at least be some significant depatures espcially given the nature of some of the character bios (the Charr legions are fairly different from the stealthy Ash Legion, the Soldier like Blood legion and the more mechanically minded Iron Legion).
The last thing and for me the most interesting thing are the dynamic events. They had the philosphy that traditional quest systems for MMORPG's don't really work from the story beats of go kill these guys doing bad stuff to find that they're just standing around in a field, to more mechanical issues in that the way that the rewards for the quests are doled out that they don't really incentivise playing with other people. So a kill quest becomes annoying when essentially players are stealing one anothers kills and really just slowing down the pace at which you are able to complete the quest.
In Guild Wars 2 you have people in the world that will be running around yelling guys are attacking the village and then you can go and stop the attackers from raiding that village. So you might prevent the attack and that is part of an event chain so the next event could be to go and counter attack towards their camp, or perhaps you failed the event and then that village would be over run and vendors in that town would be unavailable until players came to liberate that village from the enemy. And all of this stuff just happens in the world, you don't talk to anyone for them to occur, they happen and you choose if you want to react to it or not. The battles are scaled automatically to the number of "active participants" in the event, so if you're just a passerby it won't count you but if you're actively helping out, killing mobs, healing friendly NPC's the event will get harder. If you were participating in the event you get the full XP amount that everyone else got and you get loot drops for being a part of it and this also applies to just killing single mobs as well, so that you never get the feeling of someone stole my kill and so on.
Also some events in the world will link to each other in a slightly more indirect way. So you could be part of a convoy escort to a seige camp, and that convoy gets ambushed on the way. If that convoy was defended successfully the friendly NPC soldiers that were part of the seige event would get better armour and equipment so they would be more effective in that event. There is also an event specific reward called Karma which can be used to cash in for reward items so that you can decide what kind of reward loot you want from it all. I asked about if the team had considered using procedural generation when it came to the dynamic events system (I'm kind of big on procedural generation given that it's probably the only game related work I've done that's actually any good). His response was that it's all hand crafted stuff because they really wanted the specific feel that they all have and how those events tied together.
There is more to say on the subject of Guild Wars 2 but I have a bunch of videos uploading now that say it much better so I shall add these to the end of the post later when they finish probably some time tomorrow.
Edit: Video links to all the footage that I took bad quality and all . They were having pretty significant technical difficulties with the video feed.