Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Flame On! WvW Catches Fire Again: GW2

The title of the eleven-page thread on the GW2 WvW forums suggests not everyone's happy with the changes to the ranking system that came in a couple of weeks back. For Yak's Bend, however, far from being terrible it's given us the best WvW action of the year and kept it coming for three straight weeks.

Mrs Bhagpuss and I were on holiday for week one so we missed most of the first Yak's Bend/Crystal Desert/Kaineng three-way. YB finished last but not much more than 20k points separated top from bottom. By all accounts it was a tight, exciting match so when the randomizer put the same three teams together for a second week there were few complaints.

Frustration leads to a slip in standards
I spent more time in WvW last week than I've done for a couple of months. Following a period in late Winter when we dominated our tier for a while, we moved into a long period of stagnation through the Spring, struggling with servers like Dragonbrand and Maguuma, who have both higher WvW populations and overwhelming off-peak coverage.

We held our own but week after week of matches in which the result was a foregone conclusion had an inevitable impact not just on morale but on interest levels in general. Yak's Bend has a robust and dedicated WvW community but at heart it's a PvE server. With stale, predictable matches week after week and lots of new PvE content flowing out from the Living Story pipe numbers in WvW dwindled noticeably.

GW2 has a whole family of red-headed step-children. Everyone thinks his or her particular favorite is getting the sticky end and, as has been observed in the past, ANet are stretched thin everywhere. WvW players certainly feel they aren't getting their due. The various tweaks and twiddles from the addition of Traps to the disappointingly PvE-oriented Ranks and Abilities have all been a little underwhelming. Perhaps only the removal of culling was received as an unmitigated success.

The thrill of the chase. Or something.
The new matchmaking system with its random factor that can throw the puppies in with the wolves seems to be another example of ANet's predilection for running test projects on Live servers. In response to the mounting criticism from players whose minnows were being pitted against WvW whales, ANet WvW Dev Devon Carver countered with this:

"We are going to wait at least a couple more weeks before changing any of the math behind the new system, but it is very likely we’ll decrease the size of the variation at some point."

In other words, the suck-it-and-see approach that has characterized WvW development to date. And I'm not complaining. With a set-up that pitches entire servers against each other in groups of three it's hard to see how much testing could be done away from the Live environment. Live testing is unavoidable.

The second round of YB/CD/Kain finished even closer than the first. Yak's Bend pulled into second, just 5k behind Crystal Desert, who won again. The highlight of a very entertaining week's fighting for me was the hours-long defence of Stonemist, which we held against repeated large-scale attacks from both sides, frequently at the same time. Stonemist Castle was a ruin with most of the outer walls down all evening and the Inner Gates barely standing.The sense of satisfaction and, yes, achievement when the attacks eventually tailed off and stopped and we were able to start repairs was delightful.

More important perhaps than individual glory and last-ditch stands, thrilling though those are, was the evident fact that any of the three teams could win the match. Positions changed frequently throughout the week and no server could afford to ease up at any time. So unlike the weeks and weeks of dead rubbers where at best we were fighting for second place and more often purely for pride.

Honestly, he never stops moving. Ever!
This week Crystal Desert got promoted, or randomized, I don't know which, giving them a short-straw placing in Tier 2 against Tarnished Coast and Sea of Sorrows. TC have getting on for twice the points of both the other two put together. Doesn't look much fun.

Yak's Bend on the other hand struck lucky for a third week. We kept Kaineng, who we
loathed when they were hot-join favorites a few months ago but with whom we are now perfectly matched in their depleted out-of-fashion decline. Instead of Crystal Desert we got back our old enemies Ehmry Bay, who we haven't seen since we sent them down to Tier 5 back in March, the same week we moved up to Tier 3.

It's another nailbiter. The last two nights I've been up there doing my bit, such as it is. Painting Eternal Battlegrounds blue, defending our frontiers, putting pressure where it's needed. Running around after Commanders I know and respect, or at least am amused by, in other words. EBay probably have the better of us and we probably have the better of Kaineng but the joy of it is no-one can be quite certain. Halfway through the match and still barely 10k between first and third.

Let's hope that when the next tweak to the algorithm arrives it does what's intended and every server gets matches as good as this. And keeps on getting them, week after week. Is that even possible? Probably not but we can hope.


  1. Next time CD is matched up against Yak's I will hunt you down and stomp your tail. Better watch out.

    But heh. CD's a victim of our own success. Getting obliterated by TC this week, despite a recent infusion of guilds. Outmanned even in EB. A TC zerg is a sight to behold, for sure. But I'm sure it'll settle down eventually. Glad to hear you guys aren't having the major up/downs of RNG this week.


    1. Hehe! Good luck catching me. Running away is my speciality.

  2. It is the first time I see someone say our Tarnished Coast zerg is a sight to behold. Everytime we fought with the otehr T2 servers I ever thought our zerg was small comparated to enemies zergs. Maybe we have commanders with more experience moving zergs and making maneuvers. They say for we stack at a place for not be visible and it is good stack there while mesmer make us invisible for we attack. Sometimes they say for we run to right and then run to left for frank the enemy.

    Anyway, you players from CD fight very well. Everytime you conquer a keep you try defend it to the last player.

  3. One thing all the movement of servers up and down tiers does is really highlight the differences in numbers/coverage and the tactics and level of organization that have evolved as a result.

    I've always theorized that the lower tier servers, having smaller numbers in WvW, would prefer havoc squad tactics / spike damage dealing builds and WvW in a similar fashion to PvP. Facing SoS and CD seemed to confirm that theory.

    Past a certain critical mass number (10-20+), zerg tactics where tougher group synergy builds tend to win out over loosely grouped individuals that are squishier due to the high damage tradeoff.

    Then there was the eye-opening experience with SoR, where their zergs are easily 40-80 people, split into melee and ranged teams, AND run specialized higher damage guild havoc squads and yak escorts, AND even have sentries and folks assigned to keeping lone keep-contesters away from gates. Phenomenal organization.

    Also something I'd probably never have the energy or impetus to keep playing that way for long, so maybe it made a certain amount of sense for the tiers to have stratified the way they had.

    1. TC is learning... this week I saw commanders asking for some players volunteer for stay at keeps as sentries. I too think yak escorts too is happening.

      However, I saw a weak point that SoR zerg had: they were glass cannons. No tough, no vit, only power and critical. They had a bigger zerg than us, but TC smaller zerg frequently destroyed SoR zerg because we were more resilient to damage. TC at some point of the middle of week had our zerg hunting SoR zerg for farm bags. I never get so many kills and bags than that time, just from our crashs with SoR zerg.

      My guess is that SoR and the other two T1 servers are learning too.

    2. I think reading about the incredible organization that goes on in WvW with some guilds/servers is a real eye-opener. I think YB has great heart in WvW and we never give up, but I've rarely if ever seen much sign either of the organization or attention to detail I read about elsewhere.

  4. Haha, I think everyone does think their area of play gets more attention the others. It's mostly equal I think except when comparing it against all these time limited events. I don't understand this though as if you asked the playerbase I think for the majority this would not be were they want development focused. It's nice to have but not the main interest.

    As for the WvW there is a lot more communication and coordination than people think. Our group has even coordinated with enemy squads in order to destroy the bigger and more dangerous zerg a few times. I only know half of what goes on with the commanders though.


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