World vs World: Hope is returning slowly

A_New_Hope

For those of you who never met me, I am one of those players who just loves World vs World, spending countless of hours in there for more than two years on different EU servers, Gold, Silver and Bronze. And even though I’ve had lots of fun looking for fights in the past, the state of the gamemode as it is now has had me worried for quite some time.

It’s been a while since I wrote my last post about WvW, basically because there was not that much to write about, nothing that I hadn’t already written. But two weeks ago something happened, ArenaNet actually gave us some bits of information about WvW during an AMA on Reddit. And what they said there actually gives me a bit of hope about the future of this game mode.

“We got into a pattern where we wanted the WvW update to be super awesome, a “2.0” version, and it kept growing in size and complexity, which took longer, and fans were waiting, and so we wanted it to be more awesome, and rinse, repeat… As Mo said, we need to clear out the log jam, so we’re going to focus on ship-able pieces, even if that means we do some rework later. And we’ll get each piece onto the Live servers as soon as possible.”

“I absolutely want to bring more community representation to the WvW team. We’ll find the right people and fly them here.

The WvW team’s current top priority is fixing population imbalance. It’s a really hard technical problem. It has taken us a long time to ship a solution, so it’s been a long time since we’ve shipped significant updates, and of course that hurts.

Currently, we’re clearing the log-jam by making sure we can roll-out incremental updates to the Live servers. It will be nice to be back in a mode of shipping frequently.”

“Yes, we can do that. Look, I know I’m walking into a very tense situation with WvW. The two things I’m going to focus on are clearing the log-jam and using the WvW community to drive team priorities.”

And, much to my surprise, they actually did what they promised here. Almost unnoticed by the players they decided to remove the Oasis event in the first update after this AMA.

A lot of people complained about this event, it was something they didn’t like to do, too much PvE etc, and the easiest solution to that would have been to just skip the event. But the main problem everyone had (even those who liked it) was that not doing the event meant everything on the map was just unplayable, it was either do the event, switch borders or take a break. I am really glad they removed it, they couldn’t find a way to fix the lag, so removing it was the only solution imo (even though they could have communicated about that change in the WvW section, but ok).

One thing that showed that they really are trying to fix WvW, is that they finally started to communicate on the official forums. In the WvW section they asked the player base what reset time they would like to see. It’s not that big of a surprise that the vast majority voted for Friday evening reset, because those first days of a matchup are the nicest and having them in a weekend makes so much more sense.

These two things, both of them not difficult or complex to do at all, showed that they are looking for improvements and are listening to the people actually playing this gamemode, wich really is a good start for sure. If they can implement quality of life improvements to WvW when they are ready, it will show that they are working on it, instead of us just hoping for that massive update that will probably won’t be what we expected in the first place.

So what are the things they should start focussing on fixing asap?

Population balance

The most important thing to fix at this point is the population balance (and I can only adress this from an EU perspective, but from what I read NA is even worse). The people at ArenaNet are working on it already but it is, like they said, one of the most difficult things to fix. With the state of the population on the different servers as it is now something needs to be done (and probably should have been done a long time ago already). If you just look at the difference between the number of people playing on the higher tier servers and the lowest tiers, you will instantely see why it has to change. There is no way people on the lowest servers can experience WvW like it should be, large scale PvP.

There have been a lot of different solutions posted on the forums already, some well thought through, others controversial (to keep it nice). What people shouldn’t forget is the reason why so many of us keep on playing WvW and that is about the people playing on the same servers. Because WvW is a combination of large scale PvP and the more strategically aimed PPT in these longer matchups, people will be playing next to other people from different guilds or even in no WvW guild at all. They know so many players, know how they can help and some of them are actually friends. I really would dislike seeing these communities just thrown out of the window, so any change should be with doing as little damage as possible to these communities.

This is also why I definitely wouldn’t like seeing any change towards an EotM style of matchups. On these megaservers there will not be any community left and it would ruin one of the best things the people playing WvW have created. Another option I read about was a Guild Alliance system and some ideas absolutely are well thought through and maybe even a possible option, but I am afraid any of those systems will eventually lead to elitism, politics and people being left out. If the base of the system is made by players it will eventually turn out the way no one wanted it to. I really think that ArenaNet is the one who should write down that foundation, based on statistics and raw data.

The best solution IMO would probably be a server alliance thing. This way existing communities will be merged together in a way the population is balanced in the best way possible, but communities and friends won’t be forced apart. I’m sure that ArenaNet has the resources to balance the servers, they know the amount of people playing and the times people are active, just look at the statistics and let them tell the story for you.

So why not just go for three alliances in total? Well, it’s actually nice to have different opponents to fight against. Especially if all the 9/12/15 alliances are roughly equal in balance this would mean you would have different alliances with their own specific playstyle. Some will be focusing on PPT, others on fights, some will have a balance between the two. Some opponents will prefer open fights, guild groups on every border or focusing on sieging up towers and hiding in them to crush their opponent. That variety in matchups, playstyles and people you fight against is really good, you could even have a returning event of the Quaggan’s in the Oasis with those few special alliances you meet once in a while (and these things outside of the fights are really amazing for sure, RP for Life :D)

There is also a lot of other new stuff they could add in, just imagine an alliance chatbox in the WvW tab (and probably also a check/uncheck one in the regular chat channel) that way people could call out for help, not in Lion’s Arch as we did in the past, but through this channel. Or a Guild recruitment tab, with Guilds explaining their focus in game, playstile, and through that recruiting players who are looking for a World vs World focussed guild.

But I do think that ArenaNet should discuss this with the overall WvW playerbase. Have some in game poll up where people can vote for the way they think WvW can be at their best or the best names for new alliances. I’m sure ArenaNet also has the resources to look at the players gametime in WvW, so they can filter out people who haven’t been playing WvW much or spend all of their time in EotM.

Desert Borderlands

I know a lot of players really, really don’t like the new Desert Borderland map, but I guess I’m not one of them. I like having this new map around, the difference in scenery, I actually like some things they did there. It’s beautiful. But I do think some big mistakes are made with the design of this map.

The thing that I dislike the most is the fact that they removed the waypoints at T3 keeps. Having these waypoints were so important for people that they would call out to their guildies and friends to start defending them. Everyone knew that it would take quite a while to get them back and the amount of mobility it added was just so important that people would just call for backup. Now, after HoT this has changed, you will either have an instant waypoint or none at all. There is no real reason to cap or defend a keep (outside of PPT) because you will either have an instant waypoint or none at all (not counting the Guild Emergency Waypoints). And in this map the mobility is even more needed than it was in the old ones. This map is just too massive, too many confusing routes, and no easy ways to go and run up to a structure to defend it.

Also the placements of, especially, the Northern Towers is just off. There is, again, no reason to cap or keep the Towers because they offer no real strategic value. In the Alpine Borderland these towers were really important in both defending and capping Garrison. Through these you could start recapping your own Garri or use it as a base to cap the enemy one. With the new borderlands they don’t do either, they only matter for PPT.

And you know what I, myself, miss most in World vs World as it is now? Maybe silly, but I’ve had so many times I felt like running with my guild in WvW, running to Hills, Bay, capping some of the southern Towers, one of those epic three ways at Garri, only to realize it wasn’t going to happen. Guess I just miss that Rusty Old Border.

It won’t be a full solution I think though, just reverting everyting to the way it was before, but having the Alpine Borderlands in some sort of rotation with the Desert Borderlands is something I can definitely live with.

A third game mode

The thing I would like to see most of all is that they finally start recognizing WvW as the third gamemode, not a mixture of PvE and PvP, just WvW as a separate thing. It’s not PvP mixed up with PvE, it’s large scale PvP and you cannot compare that to either of the other two gamemodes and no one should. ANY skill balance that works for PvE and especially PvP should stay like that, don’t change that because it isn’t working in WvW, but just give WvW it’s own balance. It will be a lot of work to change it, especially because all of the skills need to be looked at from a large scale perspective, but at the same time still allowing the roamers their small scale fights. What’s more is that the rebalancing shouldn’t stop after a balance patch, it has to be done frequently, if the devs notice something might be unbalanced in WvW they should look into it and change it if needed. And I probably can write another full article on how this balance should be done, because of it’s complexity. There are so many things that need to be taking into consideration, melee group, backline, focus party, pug group etc. and all of these should be looked into. What should be a main thought is that the gameplay should be focused around the skilllevel of the players. A skilled 20 man group, who know each other and playstyle, with a good driver and proper rotations, should be able to defeat double their numbers if those players are an unorganized group. As it is right now an unorganized puggroup is fine, as long as they have enough revenants for ranged damage, guardians for longbow five and everyone else dropping down all the cc they have (a bit exaggerated of course). But it is the core issue, with the way the game is balanced right now, there is no way an organized group, even with the best possible setup, can counter a larger group spamming a few skills that everyone knows are really good. For the CC problem the solution is pretty easy, just change back the way stability works to what it was a year ago. Have the stability just on duration and not on stacks anymore, but, and I think this one is really important as well, don’t let it stack on duration. This way it won’t be just about spamming Stand your Ground, but about timing it, having it on a rotation and, again, have skill matter. Something else that really would be amazing to have is just that every elite spec is unlocked upon entering WvW. Character progression is fine in PvE, but I know how to play guardian on all three of my Guards, no need to learn to play there. Having elite specs instantly unlocked would mean I can try out the playstyle of the classes I don´t really like to play easily, without having to grind the hero points first.

I also think one thing most veteran players dislike, is the way WvW is treated as a mixture of PvE and PvP, but at the same time treated as the ugly little sister. Everything done in game is either focused on PvE or PvP. There is currently no actual reward for playing the game. There are the rankup chests (with mediocre stuff as well as the Memories of Battle and Proofs of Heroics), some achievements that are (after HoT) reasonably achievable, as long as you play long term and of course the new Guild Mission System. The way they implemented WvW Guild Missions is something I actually like. All of them are available through playing WvW, no random NPC hunt or finding a location, but just the gameplay we already had before and the rewards we are getting are on the same level as the PvE and PvP Guild Missions. I also like the idea behind the Proofs of Heroics (just like Badges of Honor), a currency in WvW only that you can use to unlock Heropoints and superior siege. But it’s not enough.

So why do I feel like WvW is treated different than PvE and PvP? And I know that it is common knowledge that people play World vs World for other reasons than rewards and that is absolutely right, I mean, people that like real rewards would have given up on the game mode ages ago (and so they did). There is just no better reward than playing WvW and succeeding in your goals (but let’s be honest isn’t it like that for anyone achieving hard content?), some nice rewards can just be the topping on the dragonfly cupcake so to say.

Just start with the Heroics Notary vendor exchanging more things for the Proofs (just simple things like Obsidian Shards, WvW food, Tomes of Knowledge, some WvW only mini’s etc.). But also start adding more World vs World only skins, similar to the Tournament Rewards, or maybe even dungeon armour, you can buy for the Proofs and Badges. As a long term goal it would be nice to be able to work to ascended or legendary gear. Have a chest with an ascended weapon/armour every 100 rankups. Masterylines that you could go through to aim for that Legendary backpack (or again ascended armour, materials or good looking WvW only skins).

Making WvW attractive to new players

The final thing I really think ArenaNet has to look into is to new players, not just people completely new to GW2, but also veteran players who never really went into World vs World and who never had the chance to find out how much fun it can be. It really is the only way how this game mode can survive in the long run, people will move off to real life or other games, something that will inevitably happen, so getting new people playing is just important to keep a healthy playerbase.

As it is right now, WvW is probably the most difficult game content to start in. It’s mechanics are so complex, difficult to understand and that is even before people start caring about playing on a higher level, understanding the strategic PPT or the balance in group play.

Something that could help people completely new to WvW is a Tutorial Instance, similar to the Personal Story one. Have a storyline where a player needs to follow Siegerazor to save his world, together with some guard NPC’s he needs to grab some supplies, build the ram Siegerazor dropped, ram the door down and defeat the Tower Lord. There could even be some hostile NPC’s attacking the Tower and the only way he can save the Tower is to call out to Captain Geronimo who comes charging in and defeats the enemy with his squad.

This might be silly to veteran players, but it will explain new people the raw basics of WvW and they won’t feel completely lost the first time they enter WvW.

Learning how to play WvW takes time, knowing you need to cap stuff and follow a dorito is one thing, but knowing your role in a fight, knowing how fights work, why it’s no use to defend a paper tower out of your reach while a T3 keep is under threat is another thing. People need time playing this gamemode to start understanding what it is about, strategic large scale PvP.

And WvW is missing that one thing that could trigger new players as well as veteran non-WvW players to fall in love with the game mode and that is, like I explained earlier, rewards. There are a lot of people out there who wouldn’t mind spending time understanding, learning the game mode, but for them there is no reward, no goal to work towards. Doing Dungeons, Fractals and even Raids and PvP are easier to fully understand but at the same time offer a player so much valuable rewards that they want to spend time understanding it. In WvW this is missing, the only real reward people get is the personal reward of that thrill after an amazing fight.

The last thing I want to mention about new players in WvW is this one. So many people out there feel that it’s really difficult to enter the game mode because of the playerbase. The WvW players, in general, are known to be elitist, unforgiving and unfriendly, so overall a toxic community. But this is actually not the case, not really at least. You have to take into consideration that a lot of people play it competitive, they want to be as good as they can be and sometimes, in the heat of battle, things will be said that probably just shouldn’t have been said. Too often this happens in mapchat and everyone, even someone just popping in for a short time, will see this and get the impression that this is what WvW is about. Of course there are people in WvW who act not nice, just like there are these people in Cursed Shore, Tequatl or PvP, people that flame other people, but I haven’t seen that behaviour often myself (and I have been playing WvW for a long time already). There are plenty of people who explain new people how it works through whisper or teamspeak, guilds who are happy with new players joining, community websites with guides on how to play World vs World. And, if you hang around long enough, you will see that these communities in World vs World are some of the best things you can have in Guild Wars 2, next to guilds and friends that is.

Thank you all,

Fearan

 

After I wrote this article, Mike O’Brien, the president of ArenaNet, posted this reply in the WvW section of the official forums. And I can’t explain how happy I am to see people from ArenaNet finally showing they actually care about World vs World, looking into substantial changes and listening and communicating with the World vs World playerbase.

Hi all,

This is a great thread. It’s constructive. We’re all reading it and referring to it in team discussions.

As we said in the AMA, our top internal priorities have been population balance and rewards. From this thread, your top five priorities are, in order:
1. Stability & skill balance
2. Fix or revert DBL
3. Rewards
4. Population balance
5. Scoring

Yes, we will take the feedback and make stability, general skill balance, and fixing/reverting DBL our top priorities. We’re not currently working on scoring and that has to be a longer-term project.

Karl is working specifically on WvW-focused skill balance. He’s looking for the wins for WvW that don’t screw the rest of the game.

We’re investigating whether to fix or revert DBL. They’re both a lot of work. These next couple days will be your last chance to give feedback before we make a decision, so speak now or forever hold your peace.

I want to reiterate that everything we work on either ships in April or starts beta-testing on Live servers in April. We’re locking down dev work for the April release soon — next up is localization, QA, integration and regression testing — but we’ll extend the deadline for WvW skill balance.

There is one thing that doesn’t need to get wrapped up into the April release: Friday night resets. That doesn’t require a Live build. We’ll do it.

Mo

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