In this second post sharing my experiences of the second beta weekend of Guild Wars 2, I wanted to talk about World v World v World.
First, a little nostalgia trip.
World PvP has been offered by almost every MMO of recent years. As far back as the playerkillers of Ultima Online (and before?), gamers enjoyed fighting other guilds in virtual worlds. Indeed I still often hear many a WoW player reminisce over the Vanilla days of Southshore vs Tarren Mill, where fights were spontaneous and based on player organization.
In patch 1.5.0 instanced PvP battlegrounds were introduced that sought to address a number of issues with world PvP:
-Server load management to ensure that there were not too many players in the same space at the same time, hindering game performance
-More structure by providing set objectives for players and formalizing a timeframe for them to be completed in
-Faction balance to ensure there were sufficient players on both teams and that it was a ‘fair fight’
-Virtual rewards for competing, the carrot to ensure that enough players queued up.
-Instant teleportation to the battle area to minimize disruption and allow players to undertake other activities while waiting for the battle to commence (introduced in 1.6.0)
Unfortunately Battlegrounds got the mix of convenience, balance and incentives just right, such that players didn’t feel the need to organize world PvP events any more. PvP was no longer something that had to be sought out, but could but your’s at the click of a button. Many players felt that the virtual world and conflict between Horde and Alliance had been lost in favour of an Esport. Who cared what horrors took place behind the hidden veil of Warsong Gulch? It was meaningless.
When Blizzard introduced Wintergrasp in 3.0.1, they sought to recapture the world PvP atmosphere with an non-instanced environment in Northrend to be fought over and held. There were still the mix of objectives and rewards, but anyone could drop in at any time for a scrap.
Balance and performance issues led to the design being reverted and subsequent PvP environments have all been instanced.
Meanwhile in other games, such as Warhammer and SWTOR, objectives and rewards were occasionally badly balanced such that win-trading was incentivised.
The purpose of this preamble is to convey the fact that I have followed the changes (I hesitate to say evolution) of world PvP over time with trepidation. There is a fantastic feeling of following a large group of allies against the opposition, laying siege to a fort or capturing an outpost, however implementation has tended to fail to meet expectations. And sometimes the gameplay mechanics of interrupts, crowd control and the DPS/tank/healer trinity have resulted in something that was not fun against large groups.
I had high expectations for WvWvW but beta weekend left me cold for a number of reasons.
- No healers
The lack of healers led to dominant strategy in which players used their long cooldown abilities, absorbed a small amount of damage and then backed off to use their heal and to wait for their cooldowns to be ready again. Indeed, until I started calling targets, hardly anyone was dying. Whilst you might expect players to be more aggressive when there are no healers to mitigate their efforts, the opposite was true.
2. Near instant respawns
Even killing players had little impact to the progress of the group, as they respawned fairly quickly and were back at the front line within seconds.
3. Server-based teams
The purpose of WvWvW is to create a sense of community within servers by pitching them against one another. However this incurs certain risks.
By announcing the wins/losses for WvWvW over the beta weekends, this has provided an incentive for people who like to win (i.e: everyone) to flock to the good servers and abandon the ones that win less. This tends to condense PvP enthusiasts into several servers that dominate everyone else.
If you are a PvPer and have just followed that link, can you honestly say that you will join a low win:loss ratio server on launch day?
I’m hoping that the next beta weekend will give me more opportunities to lay siege to a keep and get another taste of the classic world PvP feeling. Otherwise I may have to find other games for my PvP fix.