Hidden Arcana: Creating the Chronomancer
by Anatoli Ingram, Freelancer on April 30, 2015
Hi, my name is Anatoli Ingram. Welcome to Hidden Arcana, where I’ll be giving you a closer look at the people, processes, and design philosophies behind the development of Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns™. This week, Game Designer Jon Peters took some time to chat with me about the mesmer’s new elite specialization, the chronomancer, and how a profession from the past became something Guild Wars 2 players can look forward to getting their hands on in the future.
Time Warp (Again)
The chronomancer first tentatively entered the Guild Wars® universe in the plans for the scrapped Guild Wars Utopia campaign [note: link is in English only], which was replaced by the Guild Wars: Eye of the North expansion while ArenaNet began development on Guild Wars 2. The chronomancer was intended to be a full profession in Guild Wars Utopia but was little more than concept art and an idea when the campaign was cancelled. At the time it was shelved, the chronomancer profession also trod somewhat on the toes of the mesmer within the original Guild Wars, as they were both mages with the power to manipulate reality.
The mesmer of Guild Wars 2 is just as fond of toying with reality and perception as its predecessor, but it also possesses the ability to twist the fabric of space and time in the form of skills like Time Warp and Temporal Curtain. Jon says that this made the chronomancer a natural choice for the mesmer’s first elite specialization.
A Bit of a Mind Flip
While the ranger’s druid elite specialization was designed around its ability to wield a staff, the chronomancer’s concept and flavor were developed ahead of its weapon choice. An early idea for the specialization’s new weapon even involved rifles, but the team eventually felt that the offhand shield would be the most thematically appropriate choice. Brainstorming led from the idea of a shield with a clockface to the concept of clock-themed wells that visibly count time and unleash their effects as the hands meet. It may be unusual for a mage to use a shield, but mesmers are already masters of repurposing traditionally nonmagical weapons—from pistols to greatswords—to suit their own ends.
Just as the structure of time within the Mists might seem fluid and ineffable to mortal minds, chronomancy has a decidedly mystical bent. The signature shield skin, which is earned through the elite specialization reward track, is an arcane mechanism that invokes various methods of telling time—clockwork, an hourglass, and celestial bodies. The elite specialization shoulder skin, which is also available through the reward track, displays glowing magical runes. Skilled chronomancers slip nimbly through the flow of time while bringing their enemies to a screeching halt; if the perception of time is an illusion, it’s one that they’re uniquely equipped to both create and shatter.
You’re into the Time Slip
While professions in the original Guild Wars skewed a bit toward the unusual, the core professions of Guild Wars 2 fulfill much broader archetypes. The elite specializations will allow ArenaNet—and players—to explore subarchetypes with a more specific flavor and playstyle. Instead of having to define a chronomancer as being sufficiently different from a mesmer, it instead provides a starting point to choose just what kind of mesmer you want to be.
The goal of elite specializations, Jon says, is to allow players to feel as though their profession has transformed into something new. ArenaNet steered clear of hard roles for professions in the core design of Guild Wars 2, but specializing in Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns and beyond will allow players to more fully define their roles in combat based on the type of gameplay they enjoy. The chronomancer is highly adept at slowing and halting enemy actions while making sure time is on their side through the use of alacrity—their unique effect—and this makes them excellent candidates for controlling the battlefield.
Jon told me that while few new skills have been added since the launch of Guild Wars 2, ArenaNet now has access to improved technology to create more involved skills, and he believes the payoff for players will be worth the wait. Since elite specializations are only available to level 80 characters, this has given the development team greater freedom to create skills and abilities that reward skillful play and continued improvement, even at the level cap.
If you’re ready to see some chronomancy in action, don’t forget to tune in to the Points of Interest livestream on May 1 at noon Pacific Time (UTC-7) to catch a time-bending demonstration! If you happen to miss it, you can catch a recording on the official Guild Wars 2 YouTube channel.