[VO] Questions to Angel Leigh McCoy
Last June, we gathered questions from the French roleplaying community about Guild Wars 2 lore in the perspective of an interview with Angel Leigh McCoy, narrative designer at ArenaNet. We are glad to share with you the very precise answers she gave us about magic and society. You will find below the complete interview in original version. If you want to look at our translation in French language, you can do so here.
Questions to Angel Leigh McCoy
Angel McCoy : Bonjour! I am delighted to answer your questions. As you may know, I have a special place in my heart for French players and for lore. Happy belated Bastille Day, by the way. I hope it was fireworks all the way for all of you.
Esprits d'Orr : How should we consider the cast of a spell according to the lore (and not from gameplay perspective) : Is it an incantation? Does it necessarily require a weapon to cast it? How is energy managed compared to GW1? Does casting a spell consume magical energy, or is it possible to cast as much as you want without any tiredness or decrease in effectiveness?
Angel McCoy : Magic is the lifeblood of Tyria. The entire world is infused with it, and it flows through everything via ley lines that criss-cross the planet.
The natural role of the dragons is to keep this magic balanced. From time to time, in the long history of the world, the dragons have awoken and begun to draw the world’s magic into themselves, reducing the level of magic flowing through the ley lines.
When the dragons have consumed enough and thus reduced the world to a low level of magic, they go back to sleep. From then on, the magic leaks from them, back into the world at a reasonable rate. Eventually, it builds up in the world again, and the dragons awaken again to tip the teeter-totter back in the other direction.
The citizens of Tyria have ready access to this flow of magic from a very young age. They are, after all, as much a natural part of the world as are the dragons. There are as many individual ways to tap into that magic as there are people in Tyria. Some follow the methods taught to them by mentors or teachers. Others devise their own special style and relationship with magic. Some use items to enhance or channel their powers, such as the Zephyrites who use their crystals to access the Aspects.
An individual’s level of experience and knowledge affects how effectively she utilizes the magic available to them. For the most part, she can channel magic without fatigue or risk to her health. However, if a person were to stretch too far, say by using an item she’s unfamiliar with or attempting a spell more powerful than what she’s used to, then that person is taking a risk. An uncontrolled spell can do terrible damage. For this reason, most intelligent magic-users stretch carefully into spells and magical items they don’t understand.
This is part of what makes Tyria such an interesting, dangerous, and diverse world.
Esprits d'Orr : For gameplay considerations, each class can cast only a specific type of magic. However, in terms of roleplay, would it be possible for wizards to have a wider magical knowledge or potential, and therefore be able to cast spells from a variety of branches (such as an elementalist fireball coupled with a mesmer illusion) ?
Angel McCoy : I love that idea, as do many people living in Tyria. The reality, however, is that only the most powerful have the time and energy to do this. It’s like getting two doctorate degrees, one in medicine and one in engineering. Few have the time to do this, and usually, an individual doesn’t want to turn her back on everything she’s already learned to start a new magical discipline. She’d much rather continue advancing her knowledge in the discipline she’s invested decades in. Some, however, may dabble and experiment with specific spells. If a master elementalist can find a mesmer to teach her to produce an illusion, then she may explore ways to combine them. Most professions keep their secrets close to their chests though. And, the danger of a conflict between magical energies and thus, an explosion, is very real.
Esprits d'Orr : We heard that a link exists between the ancient times' four schools of magic (Preservation, Destruction, Denial, and Aggression) and the classes of the game. However, we haven't found any reference in game about these schools. Do they still exist, are they known to the races, and if so, to which kind of current magic are each of them related to ?
Angel McCoy : These schools aren’t as important in modern magic as they were even 250 years ago. They have fallen out of style as people have realized that magic doesn’t need these kinds of limiting factors. Only the most ancient magic users, those who based their magical constructs on this dogma, continue to pursue their knowledge in this way. Thus, you’re only likely to find reference to them in the back-most shelves at the Durmand Priory and in jokes made by young people about old people.
Esprits d'Orr : How do you learn magic in the GW2 universe? More specifically, beyond Asura universities, how is it taught in each racial society?
Angel McCoy : Humans and norn learn their first spells in the home, under the tutelage of their parents. Charr learn in the fahrar, and sylvari awaken with some knowledge and learn the rest via experience. It’s not uncommon for a toddler to begin showing signs of magical talent by creating illusions to entertain herself, putting up a crude barrier between itself and something threatening it, or producing water when thirsty. The early manifestation of magical abilities appears to be a survival mechanism.
Fortunately, the more dangerous abilities don’t manifest until the child is older. Nevertheless, in a world where magic is so common, accidents do happen.
Esprits d'Orr : Magic is a birth gift, but is it hereditary? Without this gift, is it still possible to cast spells using other methods?
Angel McCoy : All creatures in Tyria have a natural ability to access and use magic. It is EXTREMELY rare that a person is born who does not have access to magic, and current theory implies this happens only when magic is at its lowest point in the world—after the dragons have been awake and consuming it for some time.
A person’s profession, however, may be hereditary, more nurture than nature. Just as a young person may want to grow up to be a Seraph like Mama, so a young Tyrian may want to grow up to be a Mesmer like Papa. The opposite could happen as well, especially if the young person is rebellious.
Esprits d'Orr : Do Shadow Arts have anything to do with magic, or should they be considered as advanced fighting techniques?
Angel McCoy : Those who practice the shadow arts (such as thieves) utilize a combination of physical prowess and magic. Their magic enhances their stealth and other skills, but they have also worked hard to get good at the arts. Just as a guardian has a deep understanding of combat strategy and can read a battlefield in the blink of an eye, a thief can read the landscape of rooftops and find just the right place to step. Magic, for any profession, is nothing without the knowledge, diligence, and alertness that any user brings to it.
Esprits d'Orr : Are the illusions created by mesmers visible to anybody or only to the caster and the spell target ?
Angel McCoy : This depends. Casting an illusion that can only be seen by one person is an extremely advanced skill as it requires getting directly into an individual’s mind. Only the most skilled of mesmers can do this, and mesmers don’t talk about this ability. If people were to find out that mesmers could do this, it would prejudice people against mesmers and damage the trust and love mesmers work so hard to inspire in others.
No documentation of this ability exists outside the Mesmer community because the targets of this kind of spell don’t realize they’ve been duped. No one else can corroborate their experience either, so…it’s often explained away as battle fatigue. Even within the mesmer community, knowledge of this kind of spell is “need to know” only, which means only the most elder and experienced are initiated into the circle.
Esprits d'Orr : Should waypoints be considered from a roleplay perspective? If so, how do they function?
Angel McCoy : Absolutely! Waypoints are asuran devices, and all the money you spend to use them goes straight into the coffers at Rata Sum. The asura have been developing these magi-matter-transportive devices for centuries and have seeded them across the world. They’re often contested if creatures or bad guys disrupt the traffic coming through them, but the asura work hard to maintain this money-making web of mini-gates. The fee, in case you wondered, is automatically separated from your person and transported directly into a guarded room in Rata Sum. The coins drop in and pile up there, and workers put them in carts and carry them to the vaults.
Esprits d'Orr : Is there an explanation for the technological gap between Asuras and other races ?
Angel McCoy : Before Primordius’s devourers drove the asura from their underground world, they were already inclined toward engineering and magical innovation. What really turned the tide for them, however, was when they were forced to the surface. Plunged into a world that was no longer safe, a world that differed greatly from their home, they had to learn to survive.
This exaggerated some of their existing attributes: focus, determination, ambition, and competitiveness. Over the past 250 years, the asura have never quite gotten over the feeling that they have to keep striving in order to not only survive, but thrive in this open-air environment. The dragons have further detracted from their sense of security. Their response has been to work harder, to experiment, and to single-mindedly strive to find ways to protect themselves. This isn’t a conscious motivation for all asura, but it certainly is a subconscious element of their society.
The other races haven’t experienced the same kind of complete disruption to their worlds. Humans come the closest, perhaps, but they are still so deeply entrenched in defending their homelands and trying not to become extinct that they haven’t had as much time to dedicate themselves to research and innovation. Humans aren’t necessarily wired that way either. They’re just not as single-minded as asura. They’re more social. The asura, of course, would say that humans are more childlike, less mature as a society. And, perhaps, there’s something to that.
Esprits d'Orr : Are the Gods still worshipped with the same intensity as in GW1?
Angel McCoy : They are not. When the gods withdrew, many humans saw it as a betrayal, as if the gods were abandoning them to the dragons. More than a few humans turned away from their worship as a result. There are those at the other extreme as well, those who think that all they need to do is worship harder to entice the gods to return.
The grand majority of the human population falls somewhere between these two extremes. Only the most ancient of humans (who have magical longevity) have lived more than 250 years and have seen a god or avatar face-to-face. 99% of the population has not. Thus, the “fact” that gods once walked among humans is quickly taking on the characteristics of myth. Some even disbelieve that it actually happened and blame reports of such incidences on mass hallucination or wine.
Esprits d'Orr : The Mouvelian calendar has 360 days. How does it match with our 365 days calendar? When does the Tyrian year begin?
Angel McCoy : The connection between the Mouvelian calendar and our real-world calendar is a practical one. Thanks to your question, we had a big discussion here. The Mouvelian calendar was established way back when Guild Wars was first being created. At that time, we had no idea we’d ever be doing Living World content like we are now. We’ve decided that we’re going to change the Mouvelian calendar to a 365-day year. Here’s the official in-game asuran announcement:
“Friends and fellows. Due to recent (amazing!) reasoning by scholars of the Astronomagical Society, we are pleased to announce that we have added the five hidden days to our calendar year! That’s five extra days we’ve recognized for you to advance your work before the annual review. Gifts and gratitude are unnecessary. We merely acknowledged them officially; we did not create them. May all your projects be almost as successful as ours.” — Mikk
And on that note, I will say, “Aurevoir, mes amis!” I wish you a wonderful and fun-filled 365 days, and I’ll see you in my Dream!
A giant thank you to Angel McCoy for her answers to our questions. Thank you also to our French community managers, Stéphane Lo Presti and Mélanie Corroleur, for having shared our questions with Angel McCoy !