Over at ArenaNet, they've been kind enough to publish a case study on what their environment art team have been doing on Guild Wars 2.
The article goes into how they've approached the art for the second incarnation of the game and it's definitely worth a read.
"At no point in the process is anyone afraid to tear down an area and rebuild it to improve the player experience. Queensdale, the starting map for human characters in our game, is probably the most worked-over part of the world. As I write this, that map is on its 738th version, with an additional 268 combined iterations of the two original halves of the area around Shaemoor Fields."
"For an environment artist, unreleased maps feel like an amusement park before the gates open in the morning for the guests. Even populated with scripted characters and creatures going about their activities, they never feel completely alive without the players. When each chapter of Guild Wars went live, we were all gathered around giant monitors, holding our breath and waiting for players to begin popping in at zero hour. We watched you, arriving for the very first time ever in Tyria, Cantha, and Elona, and we toasted your arrival with champagne. We can’t wait for you to be able to explore this incredible new world that we’ve been building for you."
Check out the full article: An Introduction to the Environment Art of Guild Wars 2