Friday, May 21, 2021

The Rain, The Park And Other Things

It rained all day today. It's still raining now. I spent hours in World vs World, mostly defending our one and only T3 Keep or retaking the rest of our stuff after we lost it, which was about every five minutes. 

This week's event must have been wildly successful if the marker of success is how much time I've spent playing, when I probably wouldn't have otherwise. I killed close to a thousand players, ranked up more times than I can remember and made it into the final set of skirmish rewards, Diamond, for the first time in years.

Activity was about as manic as I've seen it. For most of the day no side in our match owned more than one upgraded keep. Almost everything was paper. There were players running around all over the place. Crystal Desert were on a mission to overtake us and go up to Tier Three at the weekly reset later tonight. They had close to a full squad runing all day, even at the times when there are normally none of them to be seen.

Just keep telling yourself that.
Despite all that action and chaos and effort, I didn't see a queue on any map, not even once. I've barely seen one all week and even the couple of times I did it was only one or two people. Measured by that metric, things were actually busier a few weeks ago, when there was no event of any kind.

This is Tier Four we're talking about, of course. Maybe the matches above us had deeper queues and more of them. Then again, much of the time when I check, Yaks Bend is listed as "Full" and you can't get any more populated than that. You'd think, right?

It doesn't work that way. No-one knows how it does work, exactly, but we do know it's not a head-count. It's an algorithm or I imagine it is. Everything's an algorithm nowadays. All ArenaNet will admit to is that they calculate how busy Worlds are by reference to a number of factors including but not limited to how many people log in to WvW, how long they stay and what kind of things they do while they're there.

By that measure, earlier this week about two-thirds of the servers were flagged "Full". Today it was just over half. It changes all the time but if there's a pattern to it I don't know what it is. 

I do know that when people wanted to move to a server that was always "Full" they would sometimes stay up until three or four in the morning in the hope they could catch it in one of the brief windows when it dropped to "Very High". Back in the days when people used the forums for more than just arguing and badmouthing developers, you'd sometimes get public-service posts letting everyone know some server or other had opened for transfers, which, naturally, meant that server would be "Full" again at the next update.

Mrs. Bhagpuss and I had a brief discussion abut it in guild chat as we were running to defend something or other this morning. I was venting my irritation at people who don't care about the match result and Mrs. Bhagpuss was explaining to me why I could go boil my head. She takes the very widely held view that server pride died when ANet changed the rules on transfers and moving to the winning team every six to eight weeks became the meta. 

I can't really argue with that. Server pride doesn't make much sense when there's a whole playstyle devoted specifically to switching servers. Even harder to take it seriously when you factor in the link system, where you don't even know which server it is you're on half the time. 

Just keep telling yourself that.
Even so, a competition is a competition and a match is a match. You don't get a prize or a title for after a pick-up game in the park but I would contend that you do still care who wins. Yes, when you all come back the next day and pick teams again you're probably going to end up playing alongside the kid you were trying to kick in the shins the day before but each pick-up match is a discrete event and each one matters or else none of them do.

That is the problem in a nutshell for a lot of people. None of them do. So why do they bother? Same million reasons anyone does anything in mmorpgs. Loot, gear, achievements, bragging rights, social pressure, fun, boredom... When GW2 began, ArenaNet wanted WvW to be the endgame. They included the maps in world completion and tied a bunch of stuff in the Mists to other features of the game. 

You can guess how that went down with PvE players. Once the dedicated WvW crowd that arrived expecting DAOC 2.0 had left in a huff, ANet moved quickly to pacify the people they had left. The problem was, they had a set of maps, rules and mechanics designed neither for pure PvP players nor monster-bashers. We've been living with a series of passive-aggressive compromises ever since.

Just keep telling yourself that.
All the many, many redesigns have failed. The last one, the supposed mega-revamp that would do away with Worlds entirely and heave everyone into some kind of ludicrously over-complicated parody of high-school, with everything built on popularity and cliques, thankfully appears to have died of lack of interest. What might replace it remains unspoken. 

My guess would be nothing. There's a conspiracy theory, so widely accepted now it might as well be confirmed fact, that ANet make major bank on transfer fees. Another of their dirty little secrets is how the links are decided every other month. Some of the decisions seem so nihilistic that monetary gain appears the only rational explanation.

Whether it's true or not that they couldn't do without the income generated by thousands of people paying to change the name of their team every few weeks, I suspect another well-founded theory will be proven to be correct. There's no-one left at ANet who cares enough about WvW to try to make it less disfunctional. 

Okay, maybe don't keep telling yourself that. And definitely don't tell anyone else.

There was a moment of moderate shock recently when one of the former WvW devs returned to work on it again. That was seen by some as a sign that life might be about to be breathed back into the corpse. It seems a bit of a stretch. It's not like much changed the last time he was in charge. Or, rather, things did change. Just, well, nothing that mattered...

The moment of truth will be when we get to hear the full feature list for End of Dragons. Back when Heart of Thorns was in development it included the biggest shake-up WvW has ever had. That was an unmitigated disaster. Path of Fire didn't even mention WvW let alone change anything there. PoF is generally reckoned to have been a popular, successful expansion. A lot of people still detest HoT. Draw your own conclusions.

As far as I see it, WvW is in maintenance mode now. It's there. It works. If you want to play it you can. People do. Still, even now, quite a lot of them. Mrs Bhagpuss and I played it for five or six hours today. It was fun.

Maybe that could be the WvW slogan: "Raining out? Bored? Can't think of anything better to do? Come play WvW"!

There are worse ways to spend a wet friday in May.

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