Monday, October 3, 2016

Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned : GW2

This weekend saw some lively discussions chez Bhagpuss over the current state of Guild Wars 2's World vs World mode. So much has happened over the last few months it's hard to keep track.

Yak's Bend is back in Tier 1 again after a precipitous plummet to Tier 4 and a cartoonish rebound back to the top. Our Celebrity Commander is back along with a host of names from the past, including our original CiC, now commanding regularly again for the first time in what seems like years. I even saw one of our very first Commanders yesterday, albeit not tagged up; one of the handful who bought the tag when most people didn't even understand what it was for, when a hundred gold was an unattainable fortune for most players rather than the pocket change it is today.

This time round, the ever-controversial linking system brought us Ferguson's Crossing for our new best friends. They'll be with us for a couple of months and they are a great asset, bringing numbers and several strong guilds and commanders.

You should probably keep that to yourself.

FC is a server, like Anvil Rock, who we had when the linkings first began, that I don't remember ever playing against. That's most likely why there don't seem to have been any community problems with the links we've had so far. It would be different if we'd been coupled to any of the servers that have a reason to hate us, which is basically everyone we've ever fought. Someone new to the server asked yesterday if there were any servers that didn't hate Yak's Bend, to which the answer was mostly laughter.

In this week's match we're facing Tarnished Coast, home of several major guilds with whose leaders our own top brass seem to be on extremely bad terms, including one who was a big cheese on YB for a while but left under something of a cloud. TC started out as GW2's self-elected roleplaying server and there's still a moony, renaissance fayre glimmer around much of what they do but they put their spikiest armor on when they play us.

The other server in the mix is Maguuma, GW2-NA's designated bad neighborhood. Maguuma is where some of the more notorious MMO guilds rolled when they thought GW2 might be something they'd enjoy - or enjoy wrecking. Some are even still there - I saw Starfleet Dental out in minor force over the weekend .
That's because it's difficult to type when you're laughing that hard.

Anyway, Maguuma has been known as the Troll Server ever since; accused, often with good reason, of not just tolerating but encouraging most forms of cheating and exploiting, while all the time expounding the virtue of the mythical Good Fight. We've run up against the Magpies a few times and it's always been a bruising encounter but I wasn't really aware of any great animosity, nothing like the deep and abiding hatred between YB and FA or SBI or...well, it's a long list.

Some hot words were spoken at the start of this match, though, and I fear such news travels fast when there are spies around. This time it all seems to have gotten very personal. Of course it's anyone's guess who's actually on Maguuma right now.

The current Maguuma is a bandwagoned version. Everyone who fancies a run at easy karma and effort-free rewards in T1 (everyone who's never been there knows the T1 borderlands are paved with gold) simply chips in a few hundred gems and moves to Mag's linked server, Kaineng. Remember them? They were the original  bandwagon, long ago.

Anyone fancy a game of footie?

Kaineng languished at the bottom of the table for  months until some bored high-tier guilds set out to see if they could bootstrap a server all the way to the top. If I recall correctly they got to Tier 2 before the wheels fell off. Well, Kaineng is the ghost in Maguuma's machine, clinging to the running boards as it tries to drive Yak's Bend clear off the track. It's a real team effort, too, because Tarnished Coast are dead set on achieving the same goal, to the point of really, truly double-teaming with Mag to get the job done.

As a rule I dismiss claims of double-teaming out of hand. Every single match features loud claims that X is allied with Y against Z although it's rarely anything more than an ad hoc, momentary partnership of convenience if it's anything at all.

This time, though, there apparently really is a formal alliance between the other two servers - across one time zone at least. The evidence of this brutal weekend is convincing.

Brutal? Yes, but also wildly enjoyable. Mrs Bhagpuss, like many on YB, is not a fan of 2v1 grudge matches but I tend to favor the views of a forum commenter philosophizing  on the subject recently : "Organised 2v1’s are very fun and should be encouraged, the fights happen at your doorstep instead of having to chase them down."

I certainly spent far more time in WvW this weekend than I'd planned, including an unbroken six-hour session last night. The action quite literally never stopped. It was heating up even further when I had to go to bed. As someone who rates sieging and defending structures against heavy and determined opposition as about the most fun you can have in a PvP mode, my main problem right now is having too much of a good thing.

The problem, as mentioned already, is that not everyone sees it that way. Indeed, the real problem with WvW is that almost no-one sees anything "that way". Everyone has a different conception of what the game mode is, is for, could be, should be.

Theorycrafting for Dummies.

MMOs at large are portmanteau formats but usually there's some clarity of intent when it comes to the individual components. There's generally a consensus on how to use an instanced PvP battleground or a 5-man dungeon and everyone knows what a bank is for.

WvW has never had that clarity. To some it's a stage for large-scale PvP battles, for others it's a siege warfare sim. There are those who want to roam alone or in twos and threes to test their skill and prowess and those who are interested only in the current score or their server's standing in the league. There are vocal constituencies arguing that WvW should be geared towards Guild vs Guild contests or even individual duels.

Many of these interest groups do not play well together even when they are supposed to be on the same team. The whole mess isn't helped by Anet's unwillingness to truly own the form and settle on a clear and unequivocal direction for development.

Across the summer we suffered a series of often fatuous, occasionally momentous polls. We've been in a running series of "Live Betas" for most of this year and there seems to be no prospect of that awkward scenario ending. The entire game mode is being warped and twisted around us, changing from week to week, as a handful of developers attempt to wrest meaning from chaos without apparently having a set of blueprints or even some notes on the back of a napkin.

Sorry. Sorry! I didn't mean you!

And yet, despite all of that, WvW remains enormous fun. Great entertainment. A compulsive, stay-up-too-late, miss-a-meal-without-noticing thrill. If you read the forums you'll hear that WvW is dying or dead but if you log in and play you'll find the corpse up and dancing the polka.

As I write it seems from the scores that we have recovered from our weekend mugging. We will still most likely end the match in third place and next week we should be back in Tier 2, where indeed we should be by rights, having only drawn a wild card to breach T1 these last two weeks in any case.

Our glicko rating will almost certainly have risen but straws in the wind suggest that may not matter for much longer. WvW looks set to endure a lot more tinkering under the hood before someone finally declares the old jalopy ready to race.

When that day comes, if it ever does, I feel confident that there will still be plenty of us left playing, no matter what lunacies we've had to endure along the way. Whatever the final outcome - and of course MMOs rarely have final outcomes until they sunset and sometimes not even then - the one thing I remain confident in predicting is that WvW will remain great fun.

Maybe there's a way to break even that but if so no-one seems to have found it yet.


  1. To be frank, having spent the last five days in unranked PvP first trying to farm both Coliseum and Capricorn achievements, then only Capricorn (hoorah for getting it only once in ten maps or so), and then finally yolo solo-queuing on a "for fun" non-meta build when I was done and just feeling like being experimental and relaxing...

    ...I have come to the conclusion that this problem of everyone supposedly on the same team not seeing eye to eye with each other exists EVERYWHERE.

    WvW, PvP, PvE, RL, you name it, it's there. Humans are just prone to conflict, it seems.

    The only way to not make yourself deeply unhappy is to see it as not a problem at all. Having the expectation that everyone will share your goals all the time is a sure recipe for exteme disappointment or rage. I was surprisingly relaxed and chill through the whole PvP experience, I think I was just doing it to see if it could be done, less that I had a deep vested interest in succeeding.

    Seeing other people rage or give up in impotent fury though has gotten me thinking quite deeply on the question 'so when are the times that human beings do compromise and cooperate then?'

    If it so happens that goals are shared or happen to coincide, maybe. And if we need the other people over a prolonged period in order to succeed at something we want.

    Not sure if it's possible to design future game sandboxes such that the above occurs more frequently and with better benefits than full-on conflict though, but should be interesting to see.

    1. I guess I just expect supposedly organized, competitive game modes that actually have a scoring system and teams to bring out at least a modicum of focus and co-operation but you're right, it rarely does. Which is why I also think game developers should factor that in - heavily - at the basic planning stage.

      On the other hand I do enjoy the chaos. That's part of what MMOs are all about.

  2. I've patched my gw2 this week and intend to finally jump into HoT. It's gonna be my other MMO this winter, next to FFXIV. I feel really intimidated much to catch up with and apparently soloing HoT on Elem is pretty harsh. Will report back as soon as I got somewhere! :D

    1. Depends on your build. My near-full zerker Ele was about the roughest I took through HoT (pre-nerf) but Mrs Bhagpuss has an Ele that is incredibly robust and has no problems there. on the other hand, even right at the start when HoT was at its most unforgiving, I found it comfortable on most classes - it was a cakewalk on a necro for example.

      It's a lot easier now, anyway, whatever you play. And you're right, even accounting for the content drought, if you haven't played for a year there's an absolute ton of stuff you won't have seen.

    2. Imo, it's about how familiar or practiced you are with GW2 combat. Folks new or away for a long time will need extra time to get used to it again. Gotta keep moving most of the time, choose your channeling positions wisely and keep an eye out for all those orange circles.

      Ele-wise, imo, don't be afraid to "cheat" and use a tanky pet while going through HoT. I have rarely played ele, even while playing GW2 without pause for four years, and when I ran an alt through for the elite spec and to dabble with the feel of ele-style combat, I used both elemental glyphs liberally.

      Juggling two stone eles is a lot of "someone else tanking for you" potential, having one stone and one fire up is tank + extra dps help, and it was less stressful and enjoyable to sit back and glass cannon staff ele that way.

    3. Great tips, cheers you two! :)

  3. Heh, WvW is like a prime example of the player base never fully understanding what it wants.

    And here we are just goofing around with the new commander tag colors


  4. you're making me want to play wvw again haha

  5. you're making em want to play pvp again haha


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