SPvP: Season Five, the Miracle We Needed

Season 5

The fifth Season of Leagues features a fair amount of changes in regards to a large part of sPvP systems, from the climbing system up to the rewards system, successfully making competitive Guild Wars 2 a lot more enjoyable than it was in the previous seasons. Though it also came with flaws and drawbacks.

 

Community Choice: The Queue System

The first impactful change we knew was coming to sPvP with Season 5 (S5 from here on after) was something players were tasked to cast their vote for, queue system choices.

From S1 to S4, we had a Dynamic Queue system where, no matter your position on the ladder, you could queue up for a game with as many players as you wanted: from going in solo, to forming up a five man premade. However, a large part of the community decided with the official poll that they preferred a Solo/Duo Queue system for the competitive scene.

This change ended up having a different effect depending on someone’s position on the ladder. It is most favorable for the highest tiers in competitive play, where Dynamic Queue used to be a nuisance in the past, while in lower tiers its impact was less noticeable.

However, now the system poses two separate questions or rather problems:

Should Duo Queue disappear as well? Unlike what came to be with the poll results, this question does not share the same kind of consensus among the community. To summarize, the two main (yet broad) notions are as follows:

  • Those in favor of Duo Queue argue that having the possibility to queue up with a friend both ensures a better match quality for your team and promotes accessibility for new players to sPvP.
  • Those who are against Duo Queue believe that facing two buddies that have queued up this way is as unfair as facing premades in the Dynamic Queue system that was before and that it distorts the real skill level of each player.

Both sides have something to root for, but neither of them seem to be satisfactory enough to cater to a majority of the PvP community.

Where is the possibility to compete as a team? One would expect that with the removal of Dynamic Queue, they would implement some kind of system that enables teams to continue competing as a group.

Not only they did nothing about it, but apparently they decided to completely halt the competitive tournament scene. Instead of building an in-game environment for teams to grow into, they didn’t even provide them with any motivation to compete.

The absolute lack of information in this regard, or shall I say communication since they might be working on something that’s still under-wraps, is becoming unbearable. Pro League is abandoned as a concept and in fact, they are not even hosting weekly ESL tournaments like they used to years ago. Grouch who was usually responsible for putting together the various sPvP events has now departed form ArenaNet seeking new adventures with a different studio.

 

They Made Rewards Great Again!

The changes to the rewards system, by going back to using pips, impressed me vastly. They caught me completely off guard and I am quite thankful for that. I can honestly say that for the first time since I started being involved with sPvP, I feel rewarded for investing myself in this particular mode in an exclusive way.

You can now get an acceptable amount of gold by completing the chests and its tiers and, at the same time, you can buy ascended gear, which is consistent with their plan to make ascended gear obtainable through diverse methods.

However, as much as I love all these changes, the overall system keeps feeling kinda disconnected. I believe what they need to do in order to fix that, is to tie rewards more deeply onto the system and make the nature of Ranked play more consistent. These two points can be summed up in the following way:

Reward chests should be gated behind Divisions. While progression through the different chests feels nice, it shouldn’t be possible for a Bronze player to get nearly the same amount of rewards as a Legendary player.

The only differences between how rewards are treated based on if we are talking about a very good player or an average one, are that:

  • Those who finish in the top 250 get a unique title at the end of each season.
  • In Platinum Division players receive two additional pips per victory, while in Legendary Division they get four more.

While a four pip increase per win is a substantial increase in liquid rewards (40% more progression), I think that being skillful is not reflected enough on the reward difference. In my opinion, competitive sPvP shouldn’t just reward you according to the number of games you’ve played (time investment).

By gating reward chests behind Divisions, you ensure that a certain skill threshold gets rewarded proportionally and, moreover, such a change would naturally introduce the point I’m about to bring up right next.

The cap that’s in place for the amount of Ascended Shards of Glory you can earn per season should be lifted. It might be easy earning ascended shards when you are after armor pieces but at the same time, from one point onwards, not being able to acquire shards at all just feels wrong.

I’d be ok with seeing the amount of shards per completed chest reduced, without being restricted from obtaining more of them each time I complete a chest though. Of course, each chest should reward different amounts of shards based on the Division they represent (according to the suggestion right above).

Both changes I propose would reward players according to their skill ( based on the Division they are currently in) and their constancy in terms of playtime they dedicate to PvP, while at the same time it would offer them with incentives to continue playing throughout the entirety of each season. I think that the rewards system has the potential to follow competitive fundamentals such as these.

 

Showing The Magical Number

Finally, one of the most requested changes when it comes to the sPvP Ranked scene finally arrived with S5. The developers decided that, instead of using points or pips to place players on the leaderboards, it would be more appropriate to simply show everyone’s MMR and build upon that.

The long hidden magical number has finally been revealed to everyone and, although it brought controversy among players, I believe that it is an overall good change. The reason is because you are now able to see your own rating, while at the same time you can monitor how it’s altered at the end of each match. And if that wasn’t enough, your rating is now the only element that affects matchmaking, which is of course brilliant.

As with everything though, issues arise, and I can spot two major ones in the case of the placement system:

Placement matches are too volatile. Of course, only ArenaNet knows what’s the real deal behind this, but I think that the general consensus at the start of the season was that placement matches suffer from extreme volatility.

In my own experience, it felt like placement matches determine the rating you start with in a very harsh way. If, for example, you were lucky to win enough games, you would start in a higher Division and, after that, you would keep progressing kinda slower the more consistent you were at playing.

Therefore, my suggestion when it comes to this is to make placement matches either less volatile, or to increase the number of placement games required to settle your initial rating.

Decay feels abusive. On one hand, the period that is necessary for Decay to kick off feels short, while on the other, Decay made the rating gain/loss more volatile than it should be.

I know that the seasons are just eight weeks long and that the three day window that is set for Decay to kick off is there to punish those that are not truly interested in competing. Sadly though, seeing as everyone has to deal with real life on a daily basis, it feels like it’s very easy for someone to be left behind.

In my opinion, a more reasonable period for Decay to kick off, would be something between five to seven days. Or if they didn’t want to go down that road, they could simply tweak the current system, as it is, so that each day takes away 50 points of rating instead of 100 (with the ability to recover the subtracted points for each game played after the inactivity to be still around). That would make the overall experience feel less punishing.

 

Conclusion

To sum things up, the fifth Season of Leagues brought a fair amount of changes and systems that are more than welcome. Of course, the state of those isn’t perfect, as they require some fine-tuning.

With the introduction of a Solo/Duo Queue, we are left wondering what will happen to competitive team play, seeing as there’s no way to group up right now and a complete lack of information regarding a possible implementation of premade queues once again in the future.

The rewards system saw some changes as well recently. However, while sPvP rewards feel to be in a great place now, they have yet to reflect the competitive nature of Ranked play based on the players’ skill and consistency.

Ultimately, the dev team made matchmaking rating visible all across the boards and rebuilt the leaderboard system upon that change, with the entire process ending up being more transparent.

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