THURSDAY! What a day! It was the best day ever. It was absolutely perfect for Emily, and the folks at ArenaNet and Make-A-Wish made it a terrific day. Ok, I'll try to settle down and describe what happened.
The address the limo driver had was a strip mall next to a Quiznos, so we started a little worried. Renee, the Make-A-Wish coordinator, called ArenaNet to get the right address. Their public address is a mailbox in the strip mall, but they directed us to their real office. No signs outside or anything, since they cannot open their doors to the 3 million active players. We were greeted and conducted around the office. Our Non-Disclosure Agreement prevents us from telling details, but we can tell you that we found out how they design a game, and how the specialists all work together.
The tour was very detailed, and they completely opened up the office to us. She sat with artists, animators, programmers, designers, writers, QA team, etc., and they showed her what they do. Then we went to lunch with the section heads in the conference room (they have 200 people working there). She told them the story of how Guild Wars helped her deal with her miserable reality of heart failure and living in the hospital by being able to retreat to a fantasy world. They asked her questions about what she liked and didn't, and she was very frank, and they took her criticisms along with her praise. She had a series of questions for them, which they answered with candor, even when the answer was, "I have no idea why we did that."
After lunch, they let her play Guild Wars 2, with a bunch of people in the office. It was a blast to play with the developers; at one point she said, "I wish there were some sticks on this beach." One of the developers rewrote the game to put sticks there. There were lots of laughs, and the team really enjoyed watching her play and seeing what she focused on.
They pulled us aside and asked if she could stay a couple of extra hours. They convened a group of their eight senior designers and Emily, and they asked Emily to help them design an "Event" for the game. If you want to see it, buy Guild Wars 2 when it comes out, but I can tell you that Emily came up with an idea they really liked. It was fascinating to see her basic premise turn into a detailed scenario, complete with dialogue, scenery, and props. They really treated her as a design professional, and her humor and creativity made the day. It was a truly amazing session. Afterward they moved to a work station, where some of the characters were actually programmed.
The designers all exchanged e-mail addresses, and Kristen said she and her husband play Guild Wars 1 and they'd like to show her some tricks if she joins their group. She and one of the writers, laughed like old friends. Mike, the Founder and President, thanked her for coming, saying how she really brightened up their day. Them thanking us seemed silly, since they gave Emily the best day ever. Thank you ArenaNet! And Make-A-Wish!