Nevertheless it's not something you can opt out of nor is it something over which you have an entirely free hand. Here's a screenshot of the North American server list taken at 2pm UK time today, Tuesday. That's nine in the morning on the U.S. East Coast and six a.m. in the West. On a workday.
There are several Worlds that I have never seen other than full during my European play hours so I can only imagine they are permanently unavailable. As far as I'm aware, you can neither create a new character on a Full server, nor transfer an existing account there.
It seems rare for any server to fall below "Very High" these days.The rather well-handled, ongoing PR push for Heart of Thorns seems to have brought back a lot of lapsed players, while heavy discounting has filled the starting areas with eager ingenues. The ever-open-door policy of "Buy Once, Play Forever" means that no-one can ever really stop playing, only take a sabbatical, and almost every day sees the return of a flurry of names from the past.
Since we already have two accounts on Yaks Bend it seemed superfluous to add a third. I had already decided to concentrate all my efforts there onto a single account anyway as a result of the increasingly common and, to me, increasingly irritating trend of MMORPGs to move to an account-based model.
It's been so refreshing recently to return to playing EQ2, where each character has to stand on his or her own two paws rather then being towed along, willy-nilly, on the coat-tails of others. Even there the creeping specter of unearned perks looms, what with Heirloom items shared across the account, Daily Veteran Rewards being credited to the account not the character and experience bonuses being given for the account based on how many max level adventurers and crafters it has. Still, as yet it's a far cry from the Player-as-Unit model that GW2 suffers.
So, with all that in mind, I rolled my new account on Ehmry Bay, a server I still remember fondly from its brief moment of glory as Yak's Bend's Little Brother in Season One. I took a little tour before deciding, rolling on lower-ranked servers Devona's Rest and Ferguson's Crossing, but life in Tier 7 and Tier 8 looked just a bit too sedate.
EBay, as it has always, inevitably, been known, turned out to be a charming second home. In EU hours we generally have, at most, a single commander running and his "zerg" rarely adds up to more than a dozen even on a weekend. Most times gameplay in the Mists feels more like single-group play than zerging, with all three teams fielding single figure forces. It's all very 2012.
It feels refreshing, re-taking towers with a single, regular ram placed dead-center of the gate or marching to take a Keep with all of two alpha golems and half a dozen ground troops. Everything takes longer, the pace is stately, there are some amazing fights and even as a lowly uplevel I always feel both welcome and useful.
Good for me, but not, presumably for ANet, who can hardly wish for half of their servers to be providing content that appeals only to a fraction of one percent of the population. That, though, is scarcely the full picture.
World vs World is and has always been intensely volatile. Guilds move servers en masse, seeking all kinds of advantage or change, from the elusive "Good Fights" and the perennial, doomed attempts to set up the perfect environment to turn WvW into GvG - Guild Vs Guild - to a straightforward wish to just win a damn match for once or for their guild to be something other than cannon fodder in the pecking order.
Tier 2 has been a roiling cauldron of machinations and Machiavellian plots ever since we beached up there at the end of Season Three. There have been alliances, spies and trolls, concerted efforts to force Yaks Bend back into the outer darkness whence we came and, latterly, a grudging acceptance of the status quo. The hotly-tipped Yaks Bend Implosion never happened. We thrive on pressure. Meanwhile, around us, servers have been bandwagoned only to see the wheels fall off time and time again.
Currently Dragonbrand, who made it to T2 and looked for a while as if they'd push out Sea of Sorrows, are reportedly in freefall back in T3, their expected destination somewhere south of T5. Rumor is their ambitious guilds have gone to Henge of Denravi, something that seems likely given HoD's sudden surge, although for certain some came to The Bend.
|This did not end well.|
It all makes for rough seas for small boats. Yaks Bend, being made of battleplate steel around a spent uranium core, takes the buffeting with grim determination and something almost like joy. Inside that bubble it's entirely possible my vision is warped. Having seen things from no other perspective in the 30 months I've played until now it's been very interesting to observe the action from EBay.
In the short time I've been there we've weathered HoD and Maguuma, neither of whom were a barrel of laughs, although I admit to always enjoying a match against the Magpies so long as I know they're going to be off fighting someone else the week after. With those forces of nature in effect I hadn't realized how much stronger than us Crystal Desert were, so it came as a shock to be knocked around by them like the inflatable dummy of a salaryman's boss for the last two weeks.
And then. And then this week we drew a wildcard and dropped a peg to face Sanctum of Rall and Anvil Rock in T6. I can't say we're having it entirely our own way, and indeed according to our Glicko score, which has fallen a little, we really should be doing better than we are, but suffice it to say that, when I logged in this afternoon, we owned everything. Everything.
|Genius At Work.|
This sort of thing happens a lot more often than you would expect. In order to render the whole affair less static and predictable, ANet long ago added a "wild card" system, whereby each Friday, when the new match begins, an algorithm runs to decide who will face whom. There's a very small chance for Worlds to be promoted or demoted not by merit but by luck. I say it's a small chance but it seems to happen surprisingly frequently. There have been suggestions that the "algorithm" is actually Colin pulling slips of paper out of a hat...and then swapping them around until he gets a result that amuses him...
When it does happen, however, the result is very often the same. The team that drops a tier steamrolls the unfortunate pair it meets - especially so if some unlucky world also got a wildcard up. What's more, because of how the Glicko system works, that server needs to steamroller without mercy because if it doesn't win by a wide enough margin it will lose standing in the rankings and begin to slide.
It all tends to point up the extreme differences in coverage and population between the tiers, a very real problem of which everyone is already all too aware. A weak T2 server destroys the strongest in T3 and so on. Only when a server slumming it on a wildcard in the tier below chances to meet a bandwagon server bullying its way up do sparks fly and that doesn't happen very often.
When the expansion arrives we know we are getting new maps and new mechanics with them. We have been told there will be greater emphasis on and rewards for defense. For a while, as everyone comes to grips with the new environments and rule sets, there will be opportunities. The tectonic plates might even shift enough to crack open a passage into the closed shop of T1.
That does at least represent some kind of hope for improvement, way off in the future somewhere, beyond the still-unanounced launch of HoT. While we wait all we can do is make our own entertainment. Hence the plotting and the churn.
This would seem to be the ideal time to keep the masses happy with bread and circuses. A WvW season, derided though they always are, still gets people fired up. Surely one can't be hard to organize? In the absence of root-and-branch reform I'd take a meaningless competition with useless rewards. For now, anyway.
As yet there's no sign. It's now been more than six months since the last Season and several months since the ineffectual experimental rule change that was supposed to be the first of many. Like most aspects of GW2 other than the Gem Store and the failed eSport offerings in sPvP, everything seems to be on hold until HoT arrives. Whenever that might be.