Saturday, November 30, 2013

Match Report: YB/SBI/EB Season 1 Week 6 : GW2

It's been an epic week. Alliances, spies, emo meltdowns, excuses and accusations, commanders who never sleep and best of all action that matters all day, every day. This was the week we saw WvW as it can be and, in my opinion, as it should be.

Alliances were the big theme of the week. Should they happen? Are they allowed? Do they break the Rules of Conduct or are they Working As Intended? The arguments raged all week across the thirty-page threadnought that dominated last week's GW2 Match-up Forum. Not surprisingly, most of the naysayers were on the server being allied against but there was a strong element of denial from the Allies themselves, many of whom were at some pains to deny there was an Alliance at all.

As far as I can gather, not being privy to the High Councils of War on either Yak's Bend or Ehmry Bay, there was some discussion between a handful of guilds on each server prior to the match on the possibility of working in tandem to stem the tide of Stormbluff Isle's inexorable progress but no formal agreement was made. Come reset night there was a general rush of blood to the head and thoughts of alliances were largely forgotten.

And so it was!

In the first few days I can attest that there was very little open discussion of co-operation with Ehmry Bay. I didn't see a lot of evidence that we were timing our attacks to co-ordinate with theirs. Rather, both we and they had the same objective: don't let SBI have any of our stuff, take all of theirs.

Ehmry Bay bunkered down in their borderland, picking targets of opportunity as and where they could find them and for whatever reason SBI chose to leave them alone and concentrate their forces elsewhere. That was possibly their greatest tactical mistake. As I reported earlier, Yaks burned hard for the entire weekend from reset onwards, taking and holding an unexpected lead, while EBay's watchful patience and SBI's obsession with Stonemist Castle saw the supposed strongest server pushed into third place.

It seemed too good to last and it was. By Monday afternoon normality seemed to be re-asserting itself. As predicted the coming of the working week put a crimp in YB's ability to do much more than defend one map at a time, while SBI's stronger Oceanic timezone population saw them chewing through the points buffer we'd built up across the weekend. Ehmry Bay were shoved aside into third place as SBI came after us, snarling.

Call your guild Cat Biscuits, you're going to get Charr. Just sayin'

One of the most tense periods of the week saw one of our best Commanders staying on long after he should have taken a break while another sulked in his tent like Achilles, brooding on the loss of territory and the undoing of all his efforts of the long night past. Our long-suffering, unfed, un-rested leader tried several times to pass the baton to other Commanders but everyone had their hands firmly behind their backs so on he went, heroically and increasingly hysterically. In the end Achilles returned to the field, where he remained, seemingly sleepless, for the entirety of the rest of the match. 

By Tuesday things were beginning to look bleak. We still held the lead but the SBI dogs were snapping at our heels. Then came the spies. I was in Shadaran Hills on Stormbluff's Borderland, a keep we'd held since soon after reset, when the first spy was spotted, grabbing our vital supply by the armful and using it to build ballistas in a tunnel under the keep where they could serve no useful function.

From there things escalated from espionage to blatant cheating and the whole tenor of the competition changed. It's claimed by some, Mrs Bhagpuss among them, that the bad sportsmanship, carried out though it almost certainly was by only a tiny and unrepresentative segment of our enemy's population, had the immediate effect of galvanizing the wider Yak's Bend population in a determination to kick the crap out of SBI. If our previous supposed animosity towards them had been largely on the level of hissing a pantomime villain, suddenly it had crystallized into a very real anger.

You can never have too many golems - traditional Yak's Bend saying.

Least said about the copycat retaliation the better, I think. I'm all in favor of genuine espionage (Ash Legion, me...) and I believe sneaky tactics like making characters on other servers and infiltrating TeamSpeak channels to relay back intel all adds to the excitement and tension. Being able to destroy golems and deplete supply openly with total impunity, however, isn't spying, it's exploiting loopholes in game design and should be dealt with accordingly by the authorities prior to those loopholes being closed.

Whoever did what to whom when, there's no doubt that this was the point when the tide began to go back out for SBI. As the week wore on their progress stalled then went into reverse. The points gap between Yak's Bend and Stormbluff Isle began to grow and kept on growing. Excuses flew wildly - it was TESO beta weekend, it was Thanksgiving/Hanukkah, there was a huge PvE update, guilds had transferred in, or out...

All of these, of course, if they meant anything at all meant the same to all the servers involved. Bethesda's Beta invites didn't go out exclusively to key guilds on one GW2 server and no other; we all have populations more interested in PvE than WvW. Hollow words. Yak's Bend, for whatever reason, was able to motivate and mobilize its forces more effectively than SBI and that told and kept on telling.

Told you I was Ash Legion.

And so back to the Alliance. By mid-week that was very definitely A Thing. Tuesday and Wednesday evening it was still on the level of ad hoc, opportunistic timing of attacks, with YB and EB each paying attention to what the other was doing and changing plans accordingly, always with the joint intention of doing SBI harm. By the time I came home from work on Thursday, matters had progressed.

At this stage Yak's Bend had built what was almost certainly an unassailable lead. There was no doubt but that we'd take first place in the match. That was when the focus shifted from the week to the Season. We lifted our heads and looked to the horizon and there we saw the glint of Silver. It wasn't enough just to win: we needed SBI to come third.

There followed the most surprising and impressive segment of this already surprising and impressive match. For the best part of two full days, with no infrastructure provided within the game to foster cross-server alliances and no means whatsoever of enforcing them beyond encouragement, instruction and sheer peer pressure, Yak's Bend and Ehmry Bay managed to co-operate across four maps to work tirelessly and ceaselessly towards a single goal: keeping EBay's Points Per Tick far enough above SBI's to push them into second and keep them there.

Yak's Bend High Level Strategy Meeting.

It was hard work. SBI fought like cornered tigers on the field while their forum warriors and spies tried everything to undermine our resolve. When I went to bed on Thursday night, far too late, Stormbluff looked broken. At one point they owned nothing at all and their PPT was zero. Ehmry Bay had closed the gap by some seven thousand points with less than four thousand more needed to regain second place. I woke up expecting to see SBI firmly back in third.

They were in second, nearly eight thousand points clear of EBay. Again. So many reasons why this rickety alliance should have shuddered apart. We'd won the match. We had the points. Ebay stood to gain nothing of practical value by soldiering on. There was only half a day left before reset. And still the alliance held.

Non-aggression pacts continued to be honored. Commanders who didn't approve of the tactics nevertheless grudgingly agreed not to actively disrupt the efforts of those who did. Our goal and methods were explained over and over in map chat to make sure our pugs and militia understood both what was going on and why. Every effort was bent towards the single goal of coming out of the match with four points in hand over SBI not just two. If that meant giving EBay permanent residence in some of our homeland or knocking down keep doors then standing back and letting them claim the points and the possession then so be it. By all means necessary it would be done.

The Tick That Launched A Thousand Screenshots
And it was done. By the time I came home from work on Friday, Ehmry Bay were ahead of Stormbluff. Just. SBI never rolled over. Even when it was no longer even mathematically possible for them to recover second place (long after it had been obvious they would never make it) they were still fighting tooth and claw over their last tower.

I stayed up for reset, something I haven't done since last year. When the end of match message flashed across the screen I felt an immense sense of satisfaction and pride in what we'd achieved. Not because of anything I'd done, although I put in a lot of hours and pulled my weight all week, but because of the way hundreds, thousands of people had been able to come together for a common goal and achieve it despite considerable practical and emotional obstacles in their way and because I'd been a small part of that.

It's why we play massively multiple online games, isn't it?


  1. I just transferred to Stormbluff... just missed ya I guess :)

    1. See you in the rematch, whenever it happens. It's going to be ugly!

  2. Wow.. nice recap.
    I read about all that spying and active espionage.. good to see you got them in the end althoguh I believe some of your members began doing it in return as well.
    It is funny how some believed that this alliances and such would never hold, that it is impossible to maintain them and yet it seems you only need the right motivation

    Also damn you for making me want to jump back in. You think your out and then it reels you back in

    1. Real spies, like the Ebay ones I found crouching in a hole under our treb at Hills, I have no problem with - don't imagine anyone does. Find them, kill them, all good. It's the invulnerable ones from accounts on your server that are the problem. And yes, idiots jumping to other servers to give "payback" really aren't helping.

      As always in MMOs, though, I believe developers need to plan for the worst behavior they can imagine, not, as they always seem to do, assume everyone will play with honor and dignity. Anet are particularly bad at fixing loopholes in a timely manner, although to give them their due they are very good at fixing them properly when hey finally get around to it.


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