Saturday, May 31, 2014

End Of The Season : GW2

It's been a long nine weeks and this week the longest of them all. Back before it all kicked off most pundits had Yaks Bend set to place mid-table in Silver League. Fifth was a common prediction though some observers, looking back at our Season One record, speculated that, if we could bring our PvE crowd out, we might push for third.

Last night the final whistle sounded while I was sleeping the sleep of the justified. The result  was already decided. No need for me to stay up deep into Saturday morning to add my marginal value to the cause. Yak's Bend tied for second place alongside Fort Aspenwood.

It's been a rough ride. For the first few days of the final round we went flat out for an unequivocal, unshared runner-up slot. That meant targeting bolted-on winners of the overall Silver League Tournament, Henge of Denravi. The plan looked sound as we hammered at them relentlessly across the Labor Day holiday weekend and pushed them into third place.

Then, with inexplicable lack of judgment, some Isle of Janthir guilds purportedly entered into an alliance with others on HoD and we got double-teamed. While it gave us one of the most exciting days of the entire Season as we tried everything just to hold on, eventually hunkering down in the north of our own borderland to weather the storm, it did look grim for a while. There were dark mutterings and open questioning of our previous strategy as people asked why we hadn't just focused Isle of Janthir from the get-go and nailed down our second place.

But not, apparently, to stop.

Perhaps predictably, once HoD had ensconced themselves safely back in first place, thereby ensuring a perfect record of nine matches, nine wins, they immediately reneged on whatever partial promises they might have made and set about their usual hobby of taking any and every easy target that presented itself, regardless of color. Yak's Bend, meanwhile, rallied and refocused, directing our considerable ire towards Isle of Janthir. By Thursday we had everything back under control and we ran out the week over 50k ahead in second.

Was it all worth it? For the "rewards", not really. Some more very ugly skins I'd never use. A mini-pet I'd never remember to summon. I'll probably take the Ascended accessories and some crafting mats. Meh.

For the fun, excitement and entertainment value, though, it absolutely was worth it. No question. It's been enormous fun but more than that having a defined purpose and a set time in which to achieve it gives a focus to World vs World that it otherwise lacks. Moreover, it tends to skew the whole enterprise towards the team-based competition I believe it was clearly intended to be and away from the "good fights" and "guild vs guild" crowd, whose agendas tend to dominate out of season.

I'm in a golem. I said I'M IN A GOLEM!

I'm biased of course. I see WvW primarily as a siege warfare simulation set in a magic-rich environment. That means I'm in my element on Yak's Bend, a server whose least offensive nick-name is Yak's Bunker and whose reputation rests at least in part on our willingness to place more siege machinery in a single tower than most servers place on an entire borderland.

Despite our propensity for bunkering up, however, this season has seen a huge amount of open-field fighting. I've been involved in running battles that lasted for anything up to a couple of hours and my manual dexterity and motor skills have sharpened up considerably as a result. I also have the muscle memory at the moment to play a Staff Ele effectively, which adds enormously both to my usefulness to the team effort and my own satisfaction .

Sadly, that won't last. These are use it or lose it skills and after nine weeks of a diet consisting largely of world versus world I'm in need of both a palate cleanser and some new flavors. In The Mists every day dawns with a fresh battle but if the first Season is anything to go by most Yaks Benders will have woken up with a hangover (both metaphorical and physical in many cases) and many will be abstaining from WvW for a week or several, myself among them.

Or that's the plan. The whole damn thing is so addictive I can't be certain I won't fall off the wagon and get back on the warhorse (not that there are any horses in Tyria. I guess we could saddle up a moose. If we were allowed mounts...) . Just logging in this morning I see that although our post-Season Glicko score puts us back in Tier 3 we've drawn a wild card and ended up in Tier 4 along with Isle of Janthir and Borlis Pass, which should make for a fun week...only we're coming third! All of which makes me feel like grabbing my staff and heading out to do my bit. Again.

Before that happens, some post-Season observations:

Too Much Of  A Good Thing - Season One was seven weeks long. I don't know why ArenaNet decided to extend the follow-up by another two weeks but I'm pretty sure it wasn't because players complained the first one was over too quickly. I'd definitely prefer more frequent, shorter seasons.

Nine And A Half Weeks - The Season finished last night and the little UI reward chest popped up when I logged in this morning. Inside it were a few odds and ends and the thing we've supposedly all been fighting for - our Tournament Claim Tickets. I ran around a bit looking for the vendor; no sign of one. A quick trip to the forum revealed the following:

"The Tournament Rewards will be available on the Battle Historian NPC, located in all of the portal keeps, as of June 3rd."

That's going down about as well as you might expect. Given the number of New Build warnings we get after every update this seems positively designed to irritate and vex.

Pretty to think so.

Your Megaserver Broke My WvW - I'm still ambivalent about the Megaserver project. It does have its ups but one of the obvious downs is the way it wiped out, overnight, the entire concept of "rallying the troops". It used to be a big thrill to be sorting my banks in Lion's Arch and suddenly see a familiar name from WvW pop up in map chat calling for reinforcements to defend our Garrison or recruiting ground troops to support a golem rush on Stonemist Castle.

The effectiveness and alacrity with which a server was able to call in its PvE irregulars at key moments used to be a significant factor in the outcome of some matches. Yak's Bend's better-than-expected performance in Season One was put down in part to our ability to get our PvE forces onto the field when it mattered. Now, if you port back to LA or Divinity's Reach or the current World Boss map and yell for help all you'll be doing is announcing your plans to your enemies.

It could be addressed simply by adding a World Chat channel that would only be seen by people on your home world, something which would be useful in many contexts other than WvW, but sadly I suspect ANet would prefer the entire concept of "Home World" just quietly wither and die. I'll be quite surprised, although very pleased, if even WvW still uses the concept a year from now.

It was and we did.

Third Time's The Charm - I believe ANet have already confirmed there will be a third WvW Season/Tournament/Barn Dance - whatever they decide to call it. My definite feeling is that the second improved on the first in most respects but there's still a lot more that could be done.

The Swiss System did give more balanced matches than the pre-set version but it was far from perfect. It was highly predictable and tended to encourage clumping. There was also concern that there could be some match-fixing as it became more advantageous at certain times for servers to lose a match to get a win the following week. In the end I didn't see much evidence of it happening but it remained an uncomfortable possibility lurking in the background.

The Achievements, deemed too long-winded in Season One, were overtuned for ease of use this time. Some people finished the meta in the first few days. I finished one account by the end of Match Two and the second a week later. It might do more to keep the PvE crowd coming back if new achievements appeared each week rather than front-loading them all in the first match.

Pre-season transfers, especially free transfers to low-population servers, failed to take human nature into account. The idea was to encourage more equal numbers across the board but both Silver and Gold League were won by bandwagon servers filled with carpetbaggers who moved there with the specific intent of taking an easy ride to the top. Unbalanced population is a serious problem for the format but there needs to be a less-exploitable solution than this.

All of these things and many others need re-thinking so that Season Three can be the best one yet but for now let's stop and savor the many pleasures of the Season just passed. Well done Anet and well done The Yaks. Silver medal in Silver League twice in a row and best of all we did it Yak Style!


  1. This season is definatey better than last one and I had lots of fun. I do think anet understand the importance of server identity and they are just still trying to figure out a way o let it coexist with mega server. I will be surprised if we don't see a solution before season 3.

    One serious problem with the season is the match fixing caused by the Swiss style. Two T1 severs actually went beyond 2v1 and agreed to win tradings to manipulate the matches (even ex-communicate their own sever mates if they take action against win-trading). I support 2v1 against stronger server in seasons, but a system that facilitates win trading is not the way to go.

  2. The win trading actually made the matches really boring for all servers for several weeks.

    1. I'd be interested to read a full account of what went on in T1 this Season. I picked up bits and pieces here and there but T1 is like a foreign land to most of us on Yak's Bend. I don't think much can or should be done to stop servers allying 2vs1 to win a match but I'd have thought that conspiring to lose one could be made a bannable offense. Proving it might be a problem though.

  3. Basically what happened was that BG was perceived to be the biggest threat after week 2. So to insure BG will not be able to get first place, JQ and TC came up with a scheme to trade wins every week (even when BG is not in the match) while also double team BG whenever three servers are matched together, the end goal is to ensure that TC/JQ will enter week 9 with equal points while BG fight T2 servers that week (so will not be able to compete in the deciding week).

    The 2v1 and win trading was executed to the fullest extend, which includes main commanders on both servers sharing TS to communicate, militias/guild groups are forbidden to attack each other, helping defend each others' objectives, and any guilds who disagree were ex-communicated and ratted out to the other server to be focused down. The 2v1 was carried out from week 3 to week 8, it got really boring for all three servers in the middle weeks (probably more for TC and JQ forces) because BG was being wiped out and TC/JQ cannot fight each other when BG is not present (at least in the earlier days in a match). Participation in WvW on all three servers dropped significantly during those weeks.

    The fighting got fun in week 8 because BG forces decided to make a last stand and pulled crazy overtime and did such a strong push that at times it seems BG will actually screw up the whole plan. Eventually though JQ/TC forces were rallied and put down BG's resistance. Week 9 was a match between JQ/TC to decide the winner, while the match during the weekend was close, JQ started pulling significant lead on Monday and won the match by about 100k lead (TC only lost to BG by 30k in their 1v1 week). Given the last week's result, some people are actually wondering if TC got played by JQ for the season and got manipulated into the alliance:)

  4. Meh, I'm still waiting for my WvW chest to unbug itself and appear. *grumbles*

    As for the TC/JQ 2 vs 1 on BG, the above account sounds like it's coming from Blackgate hearsay. :)

    It was more of an agreement of the main zergs (as led by commanders) to not attack each other's zergs or structures, which mostly led to setting up shop in BG's structures. Roamers and havoc tended to be fair game, especially if they were in the opposing home territory, Communication seemed to be mostly via quick whispers and certain known contact points.

    The one truly spectacular thing about it was how long it lasted - that discipline across militia and guilds generally held (with a few exceptions, taken care of by the opposing team's zerg) and how much communication must have been involved to pull it off.

    That was helped mathematically by the weird structure of the Swiss style tourney, no one wanted to see Sea of Sorrows end up over JQ or TC, so that was a very compelling reason to keep it going. Plus the pleasure of #BGtears and making Stackgate bandwagoners unhappy. Some of WvW is a morale game, after all.

    For those that stuck it out on BG, they probably realized what other servers realized in their climb up from various ranks - it's the pressure cooker atmosphere of being outnumbered that can sometimes create some glorious memories, last stands and insane amounts of loot bags, regardless of how the PPT looks.

    The other nice thing about the agreement was how it covered gaps in coverage of both servers. JQ's Euro time is known to be weak, and TC has a pretty strong Euro/NA presence. TC's OCX/SEA is meanwhile not that terrific and the militia not as organized as the NA timezone, while JQ's force in this timezone is formidable. Imo, it was rather funny and entertaining to answer distress calls across servers and come to the other server's rescue.

    As for the last week, the bottom line is: it was clear JQ wanted it more.

    There was a mid-season matchup which pitted JQ against BG and SoS, and they nearly got wiped out and sounded on the verge of committing harakiri, apologizing for not being able to hold to the agreement. Somehow, with an -extreme- push, we watched their SEA do an insane effort mid-week and recover, with their NA picking it up from there. Personally, I doubted the current TC would have been able to pull off the same feat.

    In week 9, that ridiculous Asian timezone effort was evident. We watched their SEA guilds pull 12-18+ hour shifts. TC gave it a good effort across the weekend, dropped in population when Memorial Day holiday hit while JQ pulled out all the stops, lost more population from dwindling morale and Crown Pavilion temptations, and that was pretty much it.

    Heck, I tried an 8 hour shift for two days and my brain started to give those tired and dizzy "you're not as young as you used to be" warning signals. So I stopped too. Those 50 tickets, one extra ranking and playing-to-win, not as important as just having fun, and not burning out, imo. TC is more about sexy quaggan zergs that will roll you if you underestimate them as roleplayers.

    Also, TC still needs time to integrate its SoR guilds fully. Some have gotten and adapted to the TC culture like naturals, while some are a little more antagonistic and competitive coming from a T1 environment - the league did not help this, and the militia and guilds all still need time to get used to each other.

    Imo, the rankings are as they deserve to be. TC didn't pull out the effort that JQ did that last week, and there's still room for lots of improvement on several fronts for TC. The discipline, coordination and community held though. so clawing ahead of BG and SoS ain't too shabby. :)

    1. It is nice to hear things from TC's perspective, though I do wondering which part of my account sounds like hearsay:) I don't think anyone from TC/JQ denied the win trading and its intention part, so I assume you mean the extend of the 2v1/win trading?

      It is known that the not attacking order was only given to TC/JQ guilds/militia zergs as roamers cannot really be controlled. However there are many posts on official forum/reddit by TC/JQ players complaining their guild got targeted by their own server and ratted out for against 2v1 and match fixing (e.g. post by Tommyknocker). As you confirmed yourself, the forces on both servers do come to each other's rescue and both servers' commanders communicated extensively. It is true the communication was not always on TS but I heard it was used to some extend:)

      I think this 2v1 is unique not only because of the length of it but also because of the win trading part. It was a genuine surprise to me that not only TC/JQ considered match manipulation at the expense of competitive play for several weeks (especially the weeks before week 8) to achieve their goal but they can actually pull this through without encountering heavy resistance within their own community. As organized as BG is, the idea of tanking one of our t2 matches to better our chances was never considered seriously because we believe it will cause more server drama than being 2v1ed ever will. So TC/JQ's server discipline in this case is actually quite interesting.

      Above all this season is certainly an unique experience. I am quite proud how hard BG was able to rally and push in week 8 after weeks of being dominated and knowing it would be another 2v1. I am also quite impressed by TC/JQ's determination/server discipline to pull through such an extensive 2v1 over such a long period:)

      By the way it is interesting to hear JQ's SEA pulling insane hours that one week to come back. We on BG thought it was mainly because SoS voted to not want to stay in T1 for one more week, but I guess JQ's weekday SEA push certainly is a major factor.

    2. I meant both the extent of the 2 vs 1, as well as the loaded language used.

      Morale-wise, it's more beneficial to let your opponents think that the 2 vs 1 was unassailable and unbreakable and super-coordinated, everyone's on the same teamspeak and if you peek out of spawn, you'll be pwned and so on. The rumor mill seemed to inflate the extent quite a bit, and as long as the general BG population continued to believe it and demoralize further, it was their loss.

      As for "match-fixing," "match manipulation," and "win-trading," there sure sounds to be a lot of sour grapes in those terms - the usual rules-lawyering to try and accuse JQ and TC of breaking TOC that are more relevant in an sPvP format.

      In its foundations, having three sides means WvW was intended to have 2 vs 1 occurring fairly often, if not all the time. The dream goal has always been for the weaker two to gang up on the stronger side, a la Dark Age of Camelot, though more often we see that people tend to gang up on either the weakest or second weakest side.

      And the extended league format and scoring system suggests very strongly that the devs quite intended to have various servers start calculating their scores and figuring out the most optimal matchups and strategies to get there.

      This was, as usual, welcome by some and unwelcome by others. The whole PPT vs good fights shebang again. I happen to enjoy the long term strategic aspect of WvW quite a bit, I find it refreshing to have score mean something over time, but quite a lot of WvW regulars do prefer their never-ending never-changing clash of zergs and arms.

      We'll see how the devs balance out these different preferences next time, I guess. Seems they find alternating leagues and normal WvW decent enough to suit the different preferences, though we shall all likely be "entertained" by the -next- league scoring iteration they come up with.

    3. Thanks to both of you for that discussion. I'm really surprised that TC/JQ managed to keep the whole thing going for so long. When we had our alliance with EBay in Season One it lasted about three or four days of one match and it required constant explanation and exhortation to keep people sticking to the plan. Then again, YB really is a self-organizing coalition in itself - we have very few large WvW guilds and almost everything is done in PUGs (or PUZs if there is such a thing). Presumably if the bulk of your fighters are in a relatively small number of relatively large guilds both communication and compliance would be easier to handle.

      As I said above, I do think there's a significant difference between allying to win and allying to lose. I can't imagine there are any real-life sports competitions whose rules permit deliberately losing a match for strategic gain and I don't think it should be permitted in WvW either. How you'd prove it, though, I cannot begin to imagine. You can hardly disqualify a server or dock points if a load of players just don't turn up one week, for example.

      I am highly dubious about the idea that ANEt's WvW devs "intended" anything. All the evidence of the last two years points to whoever is making the design decisions having no real understanding either of what players want or how they are likely to react to any given innovation. Almost all GW2's post-launch development strikes me as experimental and that's being kind. I have no doubt that Season 3 (if we get one and I hope we do) will bring a whole new set of unintended consequences.

    4. You over-estimate the impact of rumors on morale if there are no real actions on the field to back them up, especially given how hard BG tried to fight this season. There are many rumors about the extend of 2v1, however while some are just pure rumors (like all TC/JQ forces sharing TS) other parts such as I posted are actually confirmed by BG leadership through their friends/contacts on TC. The 2v1 is well cooperated, certainly more cooperated than what we have seen in WvW so far (especially the ex-communicate guilds who disagree part). BG never thought the 2v1 was unbreakable and tried really hard to create incentives for JQ/TC to back stab each other. At one week we almost succeed as TC commanders actually had to go to JQ TS to question them since JQ was taking the lead when it was TC's turn to win. In the end though your servers' discipline hold out and the 2v1 agreement sustained to the end.

      I agree with you that 2v1 against stronger server in a 3 way match should be encouraged and is healthy for the state of WvW and I am glad TC/JQ decided to do it this season. However the goal of a 2v1 versus stronger server should be to create competitive and exciting matches for the participants, not to the extend (such as trade wins for several weeks) that actually created boredom even for your own server mates for weeks.

      You may not like the terms I used such as "win trading" and "match manipulation" since they have a negative connotation in them, however they are not used to accuse JQ/TC of breaking the rules but rather as a precise and clear description of what happened. I think the league format and scoring system was adopted by devs to hopefully create closer/better matches for season 2 than season 1, not intended to be used by servers to tank/trade wins to plan out future optimal matchups.

      The debate of this goes way beyond "PPT vs good fights", many people who love to try their best to help the server win the match would also be turned off when they are told to slack and let other server win. It is a matter of does the long term goal of winning worth the short term boredom and sacrifice of some people's "principle against tanking/win trading".

  5. Jeromai - I'm rarely convinced by arguments from people who set out to game a system that the devs "intended" for it to be gamed that way. It seems rather self-serving and uncomfortably close to the excuse made by people who abuse exploits that it was the devs' fault for making the exploit possible.

    What seems more likely to me is that ArenaNet are trying to find a system of setting up WvW matches that A) are close enough to be interesting and B) varied enough to avoid boredom from fighting the same enemies week after week. As each system they try fails on one or both of those criteria, they ditch it and try another. Unfortunately, I'm not sure there IS a solution that satisfies both of them, especially with server transfers making the NA server rankings incredibly stratified (things weren't quite so bad over here in the EU last time I looked).

  6. Gang-beating bandwagon servers seems totally justified to me by any means necessary, although I do sympathise with anyone who finds they live on a server that becomes one.

    Your write-ups always plunge me into existential angst. I'd love to go all-in on WvW and get really close to doing so but the uncertainty of the game makes me hesitate to commit and then something else comes up and I forget about it. Rinse repeat.

    We can't be far from their next Final Solution and yet again I'm watching with morbid curiosity instead of jumping in and being a part of it. (oops Godwin)

  7. I am in an IoJ WvW'centric guild. I am not authorized to speak on behalf on that guild so what follows is simply my own opinion based on discussion with guild officers as well as my personal observations and experience.

    Your statement:

    "Then, with inexplicable lack of judgment, some Isle of Janthir guilds purportedly entered into an alliance with others on HoD"

    is incorrect or at the very least very misleading. There was never any agreement with HoD and major IoJ guilds. Again, I cant identify my guild but I can tell you it is one of the 3 largest, well established WvW guilds. There was no agreement at all between any of those guilds, and HoD. No one in any of those guilds received any instructions, implied or otherwise, to in any way impact outcomes. Admittedly I can't speak about any of the IoJ smaller guilds, but then again their impact would have been minimal in any event.

    In fact the strongly held belief on IoJ was that YB and HoD obviously had an alliance. This was reinforced one day when IoJ was moments away from capturing the YB Keep and a certain very large HoD guild came zerging in and pushed us out. What happened next? That HoD guild left the interior of the YB Keep without capturing it. Literally HoD could have captured it within 1 minute, give or take, but they simply left. Nor was there any urgent need for HoD to leave the YB Keep immediately (ie. threat to their own HoD Keep). To most IoJ individuals who were present the actions of that HoD guild were very suggestive of blatant YB support on HoD's part. Or at the very least on the part of that one very large HoD guild.

    There were many other situations suggesting HoD support of YB but those were less blatant than the above and honestly don't prove anything substantive.

    One thing I took away after reading this blog post was that some YB firmly believe IoJ allied with HoD during that final week. Conversely I know that some IoJ firmly believe HoD allied with YB in that final week.

    This week (post tournament) IoJ is again fighting YB and it will be interesting to see how both servers do without HoD in the mix.

    As a bit of a disclaimer, I am not normally a forum or blog visitor, and I came upon this blog entry by accident. Nor am I a hard core WvW'er who spends extensive time discussing, debating, researching, and of course playing, all things WvW. Accordingly if I have missed anything in my reply above I apologize in advance.

    1. I'm glad you happened by because that's a very instructive insight into just how murky and rumor-laden this whole process can be. My general feeling is that there are far fewer "alliances" than people claim. Every time we get the brunt of two servers zerging or surging at once there are people fulminating that we're getting "double-teamed" whereas to me it almost always looks like either like complete co-incidence or at most one server taking advantage of a situation the other has created.

      I was highly skeptical of an IoJ/HoD alliance but several of our top commanders were stating it as a fact, talking about it quite objectively as something they knew about from out-of-game sources. While our rank and file often make unsubstantiated claims about this sort of thing its very unusual for the core command to do so, so I took it to be more likely to be correct than not.

      As for YB having an arrangement with HoD I'm as certain as I can be that we never did, not at any point in the Tournament. Of course, I'm not privy to anything that goes on in the Command structure but nothing of the kind was ever even hinted and I saw no evidence of it on the battlefield. By contrast, back when we had our Alliance with EBay in Season One the commanders and indeed everyone who knew what was going on had to constantly explain the situation in map and team because new people were joining all the time and attacking things they weren't supposed to be attacking. YB is very much an ad hoc arrangement of small guilds and individuals so holding any kind of alliance together is going to be very difficult.

      What I did see, constantly, was HoD being highly opportunistic. Once their huge numbers diminished after the first few weeks they mostly stuck to easy captures of undefended or paper keeps, or that's how it seemed. Having taken things they rarely sieged them up or stayed to defend.

      On the specific incident you describe I wasn't present and have no information on what was going on, but I have been in similar situations several times, when we were just about to cap something and we got a call to go to defend something else. I've had commanders yelling at everyone to get out of combat and spamming waypoints and we've all ported out, even with the Lord down and the ring up on one occasion. On the other hand, if it was mostly a single HoD guild involved, it's entirely possible that arrangements were made with another single guild on YB (although there are precious few big enough to make any arrangement that would make a difference).

      In the end, whether its rumor or fact, whether alliances happen or they don't, it's all part of the three-team structure of WvW. Whatever happens is going to be interpreted by many in the way that casts the enemy in the worst possible light and that just serves to fire us all up ll the more and give us something to fight about!


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