Monday, April 25, 2016

Link Love? : GW2

Last Friday, while we were fast asleep in bed, ANet reset the underlying scoring mechanism for WvW and linked the bottom twelve servers with the dozen above them. The intent and effect is laid out clearly in this forum post:

We will be resetting glicko volatility and deviation for all worlds to the same value, but leaving their rating unchanged. What this means is:

  • The first matchup will use current placements (T1 worlds vs T1 worlds, T2 worlds vs T2 worlds, etc.)
  • The reset volatility and deviation values will come into effect at the end of that match.
  • Worlds that win, especially by a large margin, will have their rating increased by a larger amount than normal.
  • Likewise, worlds that lose, especially by a large margin, will have their rating decreased by a larger amount than normal.
  • The result is that when a world no longer is meant to be in a specific tier, they’ll move out of it more quickly.

As a direct result, Mrs Bhagpuss and I spent most of this weekend in The Mists, joining in a largely futile attempt to hold the line against the resurgent Blackgate hordes. As I write, around fifty hours into the match, Yak's Bend is in second place, 4k ahead of Jade Quarry and just short of 50,000 points behind BG.

Yak's Bend's has never been at its best either at reset or across the weekend. We often start the working week a little behind and have to go hard to pull out a lead during the week. That trend goes back almost as long as I've been on the server, which is always.

Usually, though, the deficit is a few thousand points at most. Last weekend, with the changes imminent, we came out of Sunday chasing a 38k lead. This Monday it's 48k.

Like the enormous queues that caused a flurry of angry forum threads on Friday night and left a lot of people disgruntled all through the weekend, the large influx of people logging in to play WvW isn't entirely down to the linking of servers. In Tier One the addition of low population worlds like Anvil Rock and Eredon's Terrace to the mix probably has less impact than the transfer of one or two large guilds from one T1 server to another.
We lost nearly 2k just in the time it took me to write this piece...

Indeed, as could readily be seen the weekend before the patch, most of the effect was caused by dormant accounts waking up as lapsed players (or, at least, lapsed WvW players) logged back in to see what all the fuss was about. Blackgate, with a long history at the top, has a lot of dormant WvW accounts.

The primary, immediate result of the change has been a tidal wave of action. All four maps were in highly active play all weekend, with multiple zergs and blobs from all three servers circling the borderlands. In the larger battles, when two fifty-strong squads clashed over possession of a keep or struggled to take or break a choke point, my aging PC almost gave up altogether.

Playing a berserker staff elementalist, the classic glass cannon, going into slide show mode and losing any control over placement, movement or reaction should make the game unplayable. My character ought to be dead before I can see an attack coming. That she managed to survive any number of battles without being picked off and eliminated while helpless suggests that there are plenty of other players struggling to cope with the conditions.

This, of course, is how WvW used to be, years ago. This is why, back then, we rarely went to the most popular and populated map, Eternal Battlegrounds. Fighting in Stonemist Castle, the centerpiece of that map, often contested by all three zergs at once, used to crash the game for me with tedious reliability.

Visual metaphor

As GW2 in general and WvW in particular has bled out we have all come to accept and expect things to be quieter, more sedate. As Yak's Bend first ascended and then was shoved further up the ladder we heard a lot about Tier 1 and its high population. I expected major problems with my old hardware when we finally got to the top but our rise to glory coincided exactly with the arrival of Heart of Thorns, whereupon WvW numbers fell off a cliff. And as we all know there's no gliding in WvW.

Consequently these gigantic battles come as a bit of a shock. They are also by no means universally welcomed even by those who don't have technical issues. Gameplay in WvW has long been diverse. Although it's a game mode seen from the outside as a primitive clash of zergs, the format hosts a wide range of playstyles.

There are roamers who travel alone, hoping for single combat opportunities. There are havoc groups of two, three or half a dozen, hopping maps and hitting hard behind enemy lines. There are scouts sitting in towers and keeps, tagging siege and reporting on enemy movements. And, of course, there are the merry PPT crews, battling doors and walls and NPCs for the good of the team and their own karma.

As of now, most of those activities are on hold. Structures are barely defensible when fortified. Below that you can forget it. Even a well-drilled response team can't handle multiple roaming 30+ zergs on both sides of two or three maps at once. On Saturday havoc teams had to run twenty deep to have much hope of taking even a couple of camps. As for solo fights it is to laugh!

If all this comes as something of a shock to the system for players used to life in the top tiers, imagine the trauma for the conscripts from T8. Impressively, the Anvil Rock players we've picked up seem to have taken it in very good part.
If I'd known then what I know now...

A good few have outed themselves in map or team chat and I'm happy to say that the response from Yak's Bend has been exemplary.  We may be vilified for our gameplay but we have always had a well-deserved reputation as an open and welcoming server with little time for drama. I ran for a while on Saturday with a very nice guild from AR who seemed to be enjoying themselves a lot and there have been several AR commanders tagged up, which is great to see.

Over on Blackgate the story hasn't been such a happy one, at least according to the forums. There are some eloquent and impassioned posts from distressed Eradon Terrace exiles that explain very clearly why world-linking, good though it may be for the health of WvW in general, could be catastrophic for established server communities.

There do seem to be some major flaws in the plan. Freezing the glicko score of the junior partners, removing all visual signs of their previous identity, the knowledge that any pairing may be changed, perhaps as often as four times a year, all add up to a class system for WvW. A lot of players are going to feel like refugees, conscripts or second-class citizens.  Even at best they are going to feel like guests or junior partners.

First impressions
For players who transferred to lower tier servers specifically to escape the overcrowded upper levels or in search of specific types of gameplay, mainly roaming and small group fights, that were better supported by a low population, this must be particularly galling. Especially given that money changed hands to facilitate the move.

This, though, is the risk you take by choosing a low population environment in a commercial MMORPG. In my experience, low population servers often have tighter communities, better atmospheres and offer gameplay options that are hard to find on busier worlds. I always prefer to play on a low population server if I can find one.

The trade-off for a better quality of life is insecurity. Low pop servers get merged. If you're lucky, when that happens, you might get a choice about where you go but sometimes you just have to go where you're put.

I feel for the displaced of Eredon Terrace. My third account is on Ehmry Bay. EBay is now twinned with Henge of Denravi, a server I would never in a million years have chosen to support. Every time I log in to do my dailies I have to think twice to remember which is supposed to be my "home" borderland.

We are lucky on Yak's Bend. We kept our name. We welcome Anvil Rock - we even joke about changing the server's name to Yak's Rock but only because, well, we all believe that Yaks do rock. And, obviously, anvils don't bend...
I will not miss Fire Keep.

If I'd woken up on Saturday morning and found that I had to log into another server to play, though, I am certain it would have diminished my enthusiasm. I might have decided to go play Black Desert instead.

As some of us have been saying this weekend, trying to raise the spirits of certain disheartened players who are already finding the blobbing and the queuing and the lag to be more than they bargained for, it is only a beta. Over the next few weeks things will settle. The novelty will wear off. The dormant accounts will go back to sleep. The scores will adjust, worlds will find their level, things will go back to normal, albeit a new normal.

Then the Alpine Borderlands will come back and the whole frenzied cycle will begin over again. Interesting times. Fun to look back on; not so much to live through.

If there's one thing I've learned, though, it's that I really need a new computer.


  1. After staying away from WvW for almost a year the pairing up with Yak’s Bend was great! Anvil Rock is a scrappy, tenacious server that does not back down. Even though outnumbered we will fight you and make you earn it as best we can. Before the pairing we just couldn’t get a balance of good competition, it was either blow out the other servers or be destroyed. During last week’s pair-up we got big fights, small fights, blobs trying to out-maneuver each other, scouting (and getting rewarded for it), havoc squads fighting each other over camps. I loved it.

    Regarding server identity, I can understand where they are coming from. AR doesn’t want to lose the moniker “Manvil Rock” that we have earned. Other servers have always respected us cause we fought diligently despite size.

    Finally, Yak’s Rock…I’m champion Anvil Yak! 

    1. Apologies for the late reply and welcome to Yak's Bend/Rock/Anvil! It's been a rough couple of weeks so far but huge fun too. The two AR guilds I've seen most of, KAOS and METL, seem really good. I've followed a couple of their commanders, who were tactically solid and good company. I was with a small, mostly-METL squad that re-took air keep on YBBL after BG had Fortified it - that was very satisfying.

    2. I'm in the KAOS guild and we are WvW fanatics. METL is a great bunch of folks also. Running with Yak's Bend folks has been great. I need to get to know the various guild s still but I've done a lot of havoc and small group roaming in the borderlands with them. Good times.


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