This, as a necessity, pretty much all relates to PvE. Sure, you could argue that PvP is endgame, as in it's something-to-when-you-are-level-80, but when you consider the way that PvP works in Guild Wars 2, it's actually something you do anytime you like. That might be all the time; that might be none of the time. So PvP and WvW will always be waiting there with open arms for you when you need to spice up your in-game life. They are constant. You don't fight your way up to level 80 and then think, "Gee, I'm competitive in PvP now!"
That's part of ArenaNet's design philosophy. The team has a stated goal of not wanting to change the game drastically for endgame. If you're at the point in time that's marked "endgame," you've ostensibly enjoyed the game for the last 80 levels (otherwise, why on earth would you not quit?), so what ArenaNet doesn't want to do is suddenly give you something completely different to fill your days.
That leaves some people feeling like there is no endgame because the endgame in Guild Wars 2 is strikingly similar to the rest of the game.
OK, this wasn't really mentioned in the talk, but it deserves some time. Replayability seems to be a big part of the longevity of the game. Some games (including the original Guild Wars, as I talked about a little last week) don't really offer a lot of variety in their storylines, which can make rolling multiple characters a bit (or a lot) of a drag.
That has been changed. In a blog article discussing the difficult-to-qualify-and-quantify fun factor of Guild Wars 2, Colin Johanson touched on replayability as a sort of endgame. "Can we make something so much fun you might want to play it multiple times because it's fun, rather than making you do it because the game says you have to? It's how we played games while growing up. I can't tell you how many times I played Quest for Glory; the game didn't give me 25 daily quests I needed to log in and do-I played it multiple times because it was fun!"
Your mileage will vary when it comes down to whether or not you find rolling and leveling a new character to be enjoyable. In fact, your mileage will vary when it comes down to whether or not you find the storylines enjoyable at all. I've heard a lot of people dismissing the personal story out of hand because it doesn't fit what they want. Here's the thing, though: The last BWEs have shown people leveling to 30 and beyond without ever touching the personal story. It's not tied up with dungeons. It's not tied up, as far as we know, with zone exploration. It's there for people who dig that kind of storytelling, which means you can probably get along quite comfortably without ever touching it if it's not the sort of thing you want. Just like you never have to craft or collect vistas or play PvP if you don't ever want to. Now, it might be that Zhaitan is at the end of the personal story, but nothing we have seen so far suggests that personal story is actually mandatory for progression.
What were we talking about? Right, endgame.
Orr is probably more accurately late-game than endgame, but we'll roll it right in with everything else. Orr is a few steps removed from zone exploration we've seen before. Big change number one is that there are no renown hearts. That's because those hearts rely on having a friendly NPC or two around, and... well, there aren't a lot of those in Orr.
Events in Orr are supposed to have much more branching complexity than their precursors in the lower-level areas. Hopefully the idea of needing to control several events in different parts of the maps is one that PvE guilds will find alluring. I'm not sure how long people will want to devote to holding areas like the reclaimed temples of the gods, but if it's compelling enough, that can be A Thing. I really hope it is.
I bring these two up together because it sounds as if they're intertwined. After you hit the max level of 80, you can keep earning skill points. During the leveling process, you'll gain skill points every time you gain enough XP to ding, and the skill point part of that doesn't go away at 80. Along with utility and elite skills, those points can also be used to buy stuff for the Mystic Forge. That stuff can then be thrown into the Mystic Forge, where it will combine into any of a number of awesome things.
Legendary weapons are supposed to take a lot of time and effort to get, even though we don't know exactly what form that effort will be in. These weapons require a lot of different and hard-to-get components, which are then combined in the Mystic Forge.
The payoff for all your time and effort gathering parts? A totally awesome weapon skin. While I'm not sure that a unicorn shortbow that shoots rainbows is really my speed, carrying around a greatsword that looks like the night sky is about as much as I could hope for in a weapon.
A key point about these weapons is that they do not offer a statistical advantage. They have the same statistics as max-level exotic weapons, which means you do not need to hunt them down to be at the top of the gear pyramid. Some people have suggested that a statistical boost wouldn't upset the balance of things in PvE and are actually feeling let down by the way the legendaries won't have higher numbers than other weapons. As someone who doesn't want to have to show my terminator hammer in order to get a group for a max-level dungeon or instance, I can't say I agree with that.
While we're on the topic of dungeons, they're also part of the endgame. People quibble about whether the different paths for the explorable mode dungeons will be meaningfully distinct or just reskins, but depending on where you stand in that argument, the game has between 8 and 25ish explorable mode dungeon paths. Not all of them are max level, but the level adjustment system is there to make sure it's always challenging.
And other stuff
Are you ready for the final beta weekend? If the answer to that was no, I'd suggest you make yourself ready; it starts this Friday at 3:00 p.m. EDT! I'll be there with bells on. Or more accurately, leaves. Lots and lots of leaves.
Elisabeth Cardy is a longtime Guild Wars player, a personal friend of Rytlock Brimstone, and the writer of Flameseeker Chronicles here at Massively. The column updates on Tuesdays and keeps a close eye on Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2, and anything bridging the two. Email Elisabeth at firstname.lastname@example.org.