Sunday, October 27, 2013

Jumpers For Goalposts : GW2

Week one of the opening Season of GW2's new WvW League finished on Friday. Yak's Bend romped home to victory over two servers ranked above us under the previous system. This week we face a tougher challenge against probably the strongest team  in the Silver League, Fort Aspenwood.

Gaming last week was almost wholly given over to World vs World. I think I played EQ2 twice for a couple of short sessions and I gave some passing attention to the Claw of Jormag and The Shatterer once in a while, but most likely ninety per cent of my time was spent in the Mists.

J3w3l mentions the lag in her recent post and it was indeed ferocious. Zubon observes that the new achievements move the focus of WvW even further towards PvE and indeed they do. Both posts make some very valid points about the shortcomings of WvW in general and the League system in particular and further apposite and accurate criticisms are made throughout the comment threads.

D'you smell necromancer?

There are so many things wrong with GW2's WvW that it really shouldn't work at all. And yet somehow it does. The appalling lag, which is apparently even affecting other parts of the game, comes from the increased numbers all trying to push into the Mists at once. The ever-more frequent and longer queues are the result of an upswing in demand. The in-development Edge of the Mists WvW chillout zone is getting made because there are more people wanting to play WvW than can be accommodated on the existing maps.

These are all strong indicators of success. More anecdotal but arguably more important is the sheer persistent presence of the same names day in, day out on the battlegrounds of Yaks Bend. We have a dozen or more commanders that have been leading the charge for most of this year. Several of them have been there since launch. But it's not just the officers, it's the troops as well. Everywhere I go, be it roaming around picking off sentries and yaks or thundering across country in the heart of the zerg, I see name after name after name that I recognize. On Yak's Bend, at least, win or lose, feast or famine, the same people keep coming back for more, time and time again.

*bzzzt* What is your bidding, Mistress? *bzzzt*

Which is odd. WvW is very repetitive. There isn't a lot of variety and the scope is limited. The League system has added some much-needed focus and the Rank and Achievements some extra shinies but even so compared to World Exploration, Living Story, Personal Story, Fractals, Dungeons, Holiday Events and all the rest WvW can't help but look a little light on content. As J3w3l says in a comment "WvW just isn’t meant for that kind of full time, long-term play."

So why do people keep doing it? It's not very helpful to say "for fun" or  "because they enjoy it". Indeed, if you listen to some of them having fun and enjoying themselves seems about the farthest thing from their minds. People complain as bitterly about their lot in WvW as they do about every other part of the game.

Could it be the rewards? Not likely. For a long time the cost of repairing your armor was enough to use up any coin you made from the smattering of drops and once you started buying siege blueprints you needed a second income right there. Even now that rewards are very much improved it's still nothing on a par with Champion farming or dungeon-running.

Yes, dear. Very nice. No need to shout.

For some it may be about the challenge of pitting wits and skills against other players but as Zubon points out, and as many others have complained, it can often seem to be more about beating on doors and fighting NPCs than straight-up battles with other players. The whole structure of WvW doesn't exactly lend itself to tests of PvP prowess.  And why should it? There's an entirely separate part of the game given over just to that after all.

What about leadership, then? Like leading a raid in PvE, being a Commander in WvW is certainly a test of someone's person-management skills but just as most PvE players don't lead raids so most WvW players don't run about with a blue dorito over their heads. It can't be that.

Perhaps it's the comforting herd mentality of the zerg. It surely is exhilarating, streaming across the map in a pounding horde, trampling hapless strangers underfoot, melting gates and usurping castle after castle with scarcely a pause for breath. But there's only so long you can keep that up, isn't there?

Perhaps you should have thought of that earlier.

The original conception was that a combination of server loyalty and pride and perks for doing well that would benefit the entire server would be all that was needed. Weeks of single-day matches followed by months of unrestricted free server transfers killed whatever small chance that plan ever had of working before it even got started. Nevertheless, despite all that, on Yaks Bend at least, server pride is a thing. 

So, there's that. And there's the awful addictiveness of that map and those numbers. The changing of the colors, the ticking of the counter. The incremental just-one-more try, last-ditch, once more unto the breach, win this one for the gipper-ness of it all. That's a big part of what keeps me coming back, anyway.

But most of all I hear the wise if incoherent words of Ron Manager whispering at the back of my mind :

'It's a far cry from small boys in the park, jumpers for goalposts. Isn't it? Mmmmm. Marvellous.'

Not really. Not such a far cry at all.


  1. I'll have to disagree to the lack of PvP prowess, there is a lot more going on there the most think in a coordinated group, more so than spvp I believe.

    Imagine organising 20-30 instead if five through complex manoeuvres; each turn us called, every feint, when and where to bomb.. We even number the different players place in regards to ele water fields, water banners, so mesmerising veils, and necro plagues... And there us a lot more

    I've been posting a few videos if our action recently, and a twitch soon but most will be missing the commander calls. I'll record that next time and send it to you as I'll have to make it private for obvious reasons.

    1. Bah silly autocorrect... Water=war.. Mesmerising = mesmer

  2. As has been widely reported and discussed, the standard of play in WvW varies extremely widely as you descend the tiers. I usually see little evidence in game of the depth of knowledge and understanding of the plethora or skills and traits and the synergies between them that I read about on forums or blogs. It's apparent that players in the mid-tiers know of these tactics but they seem to have only a vague idea of how to apply them and none of the kind of discipline and organization that would lead to them being used effectively.

    That was very much in evidence yesterday, when we watched both Guild groups and zergs from FA literally run rings around us all day. It was quite mesmerizing to watch a small 15-20 person zerg move in complete unison like a flock of birds or a shoal of fish. Unless we are running in a straight line you will never see a Yaks Bend zerg do that. We can barely keep together running from a camp to a tower. There was much discussion in map chat about how they were doing it and it really isn't a mystery - it just requires a level of discipline that generally doesn't exist in the mid and lower tiers.

    It wasn't really the quality of the PvP that Zubon was alluding to and that I followed up on, though, but the way the structure of WvW, especially as reinforced by the new Achievements, nudges players strongly away from fighting other players and towards capturing structures and fighting NPCs. The material rewards for fighting other players in WvW are miniscule compared to the huge rewards for defeating PCs. If everyone agreed one day to avoid each other and go round in a circle behind each other taking structures in the strict order the way a Champion Train runs, the rewards of every kind other than self-respect would be hugely increased.

    That's what happened in Warhammer and I get the impression ANet wouldn't be all that displeased to see it happening here. They certainly don't like to reward defense in the same way they reward seizure, that's for sure.

  3. It has always been like that as long as I was playing, the achievements may exacerbate the situation but the primary rewarding factor is taking points. Before it was just gold and a ton of kharma.. Which was mostly how we all geared up.

    It has changed a bit with the improved player drops but there are still issues with that. Perhaps if players dropped more badges wvw could be rewarding in its own way and encourage combat rather than pvdoor.

    It is quite mesmerising to see and don't sell your server short, it just takes practice and persistence. I remember a long time ago when JQ had the most inept pugs but as time went on it seems they have learnt. Just need a good commander to run the players through it.

    I actually remember practising these movements as one would a raid in empty parts if the world. WvW iz serious businezz


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