Following the successful and generally well-received systems overhaul of the Spring Update last week's regular bi-weekly patch added a neat teaser event for the return of what may or may not end up being called Living Story 3. It was only a small addition, flagged up with a single line in the patch notes, but it bodes well for the future.
The most striking example of the changed attitude, though, has been the arrival on the WvW Team and on the official forums of a developer who appears both to understand how world vs world is played and to be able to discuss it coolly, clearly and rationally. That is something the game has needed and lacked for the best part of four years.
With Tyler Bearce now fronting the discussion and the revitalized ANet seemingly committed at long last to a full revamp of what was at one time, supposedly, its flagship feature, the future for large-scale PvPvE competition in GW2 looks brighter than it has for years. We have already seen a very fast response to the opinion expressed by the great majority of interested players with the return of the original, "Alpine" borderland maps.
Before that the widely disliked and frequently shunned Desert Borderlands received a successful and largely well-received sense-check that made them much more fun to play. The plan is to bring both sets of maps into some as-yet unspecified rotation and my feeling is that it will come to be seen as a good and acceptable solution.
No sooner was that done than we had a poll on what we'd like ANet to do to improve WvW next. This is unprecedented. Unlike SOE/DBG, who will run in-game polls on what color hats they should put in the store (not an actual poll example - or is it?) ANet never poll anyone on anything. What ANet like to do is start interminable opinion-gathering threads on the forum, let them run on for weeks or even months, cherry-pick a few of the least relevant comments to reply to, generally stir up a huge amount of noise and then do absolutely nothing about it.
I should say, that's what the old ANet liked to do. New ANet is different. This time we got a poll with two choices and a third "I don't care what you do" option and about a week later we got a result. The choices were between a rag-bag of "Quality of Life" improvements and a revamp to the WvW scoring system. A do-over for scoring won and presto, another week later, up pops Tyler Bearce with a full, coherent, well-presented proposal for exactly what those changes might look like.
|The Deserted Borderlands|
I'm not going to go into the detail. I'll just say that if all those changes were made to the game today I'd be delighted. There are things I'd do differently but there's not one thing in the list that I dislike and almost all of it looks as likely to improve the overall experience of WvW as not.
The general response in the lengthy thread is very positive. Mirroring ANet's own change of approach player reaction is undergoing a sea-change. Astonishingly, when game-developers express themselves clearly and lucidly and talk to their customers as though they were self-aware, intelligent adults the response from the players becomes less defensive, more co-operative.
There's only one genuinely controversial element in the proposed changes: an adjustment to the scoring system that attempts to compensate for "night-capping". Night-capping isn't what our guild-leader was doing yesterday when he had one shot of whiskey too many and had to go and have a lie down (true story). It's when players in one time-zone hit their prime-time, all log in at once and find the players in another time-zone, who spent the last six hours taking and fortifying structures, have logged off and gone to bed.
|"They say you can't go home again/Don't believe it" Quoting my own three-decade old song lyrics ftw!|
GW2 is a globally-available game but it only has three data centers. You can discount the Chinese operation as a separate game. That leaves the rest of the world playing either on servers that are nominally either European or North American. Europe, by and large, manages to stay relatively coherent so the real problems are on NA servers.
There are by convention, four time-zones for WvW: EU, NA, SEA and OCX. You can sub-divide further but that's the baseline. This reddit thread explains it simply. The problem comes when a match takes place between servers whose major populations don't align. Players tend to cluster by culture or language or simply when they happen to be awake, so certain servers have far more players in one time zone than another.
In our current match, for example, Yaks Bend has a very strong NA, a moderate EU/OCX and almost no SEA at all. Jade Quarry is almost the reverse. In NA prime JQ lose everything; in SEA they take it all back and take our stuff as well. Most of that is large blobs taking undefended structures.
The problem is that you can't tell people where to play. There have been various incentives to get people to move about but nothing has really worked. As a massive believer in server loyalty I don't even admit to there being an option: I chose my server four years ago and I will play there until the server is de-listed.
|Remember when we were excited for ranks? Thought not.|
Recognizing the impossibility of moving the players ANet has decided to move the goalposts instead. Under the new proposals there will be a "Victory Point Multiplier" that attempts to compensate for map populations at various times of day.
Tyler Bearce describes this as potentially controversial in his opening post and he is not wrong. Much of the ensuing discussion focuses around this single change, with strong arguments for and against. Some "off-hours" players see it as a slap in the face. One even calls it "racist".
As someone who has literally never played a full session during Yak's Bend's prime-time, which starts just as I'm going to bed and ends just before I get up, I have no qualms about the proposed changes whatsoever. I don't feel for a moment that anything I do in my server's "off hours" will be less valuable or less valued than if I was doing it in prime time.
It's an emotional issue, though, and one that no-one at ANet has dared to address until now. Even if this doesn't turn out to be the best solution it's very good that the issue is out in the open being discussed and, at last, addressed.
Everything considered, this is a very exciting time to be playing World vs World. If we can just get this bedded down we should be able to move on to the return of Seasons. Season gameplay was the most exciting and involving competitive gaming I have experienced in a decade and a half and I'd love to have it back.
If this is the New ANet I have to say I heartily approve.