Objective Hype: Putting the War back into Coward

If you’re like me, then you’re about to explode with excitement over Guild Wars 2. Linking to some information or a video might relieve some of that excitement, but that’s not really my style. Instead, I thought I’d take an objective look at a specific part of this upcoming MMO in order to calm down a bit. Or, more likely, get even more hyped. Oh why must you torture me so…

To start off, I’ll examine the meat of the Guild Wars franchise and the thing we all love to bits; PvP. (I say start off because I might do more of these Objective Hype posts, who knows.)

Elementalist fighting a Guardian in Guild Wars 2.

If you’re one of the people who are not excited about GW2 (where do you live and is it cool there? I’m dying of heat here), then maybe you should take a look at this nice post (stolen from Crimson forums). It’s a collection of released info on PvP and a nice basis for this post, go read. There is plenty of other info on that forum too, in case you’re interested.

PvP in GW2 is divided into two section which are so different that it’s a wonder they’re both part of the same game. It’s charming and innovative, but will it work?

Structured PvP

This appears to be instanced PvP combat, at the mention of which many MMO veterans immediately start thinking of battlegrounds, scenarios, battlefronts and the like. They’re all instanced combat where smaller numbers of players battle over objectives and slaughter each other in the process. But there’s a twist in GW2 that makes the same MMO veterans perk up their ears like they just heard a stealthed player step on a twig.

Unlike in any other MMO a player entering an instanced battle will lose all of his gear, levels, perks, etc. Or rather, he won’t lose them, they just won’t matter. You retain your name, race and profession, but apart from that, you’re just like any other player. That’s right, it’s a completely levelled field, there are no arbitrary advantages and the only thing separating you from winning or losing is your (and your teammates’) ability to play well.

The millennia old issue of gear and level affecting the outcome of a battle is gone. Poof, just like that! Let’s rumble, you and me, right now, in this here swine pen! Win or lose, I know I won or lost because of the skill difference between us, and not because you ran an instance 30 times until that Inflammatory Codpiece of the Ant +3 dropped.

A map for instanced PvP in Guild Wars 2.

Map of instanced PvP. Obviously.

That little detail turns boring scenarios, battlegrounds, battlefronts, etc. into something I’m excited about. Fair battle arenas? In my MMO!? Well I never!

Semi-bad
There’s a bit of a reason for concern too. The post mentions a match browser, something similar to the FPS server browser, where you can view all of the ongoing matches and select which one you want to jump into. It’s like ArenaNet are showing us what every other MMO developer hides, the wiring behind their instanced battle system. This might sound exciting, but I fear that such a detailed and explicit interface might be a bit of an overkill. If you allow people to avoid matches where players are missing and pick balanced ones instead, then you’ll never be able to fill any empty spots. It just feels like too much freedom is being given into the players’ hands, unnecessary freedom that will only generate confusion, indecisiveness and tarnish the experience of instant, low commitment PvP.

Match browser in Guild Wars 2.

But hey, I’m sure I’m smart enough to not let that get in my way, so it probably won’t be a setback for me. I’m just whining for all of the WoW players out there. (That was a joke. Sort of…)

Unstructured PvP

Look, there’s the WAR crowd shaking their heads and walking away, mumbling something about “good old DAoC”. An arena where everyone has an even footing isn’t your thing, eh? You prefer to pummel lowbies and undergeared players into submission by the dozens? Yeah, sure, you can claim that what you’re really after is coming on top when you’re the underdog, but we all know what really strikes your fancy. Regardless, if open world combat is your thing, then Unstructured PvP is for you. The official title of this PvP system is World vs World vs World (or WvWvW, as if WWW and WWF had a horrible, disfigured baby), but I like to call it “Planetside and DAoC got it right”- system.

As I understand it, and I’m pretty sure I’m right, there are no sides in GW2. There’s no Horde, Order or Guarfiant. You’ll be fighting the same side in instanced battles, possibly people from other servers. And you’ll be fighting the same faction from the other servers in WvWvW. I’m not sure how ArenaNet will explain that from the lore standpoint, because I’m not that familiar with Guild Wars lore, but I frankly don’t give a damn. Red is dead, unless they’re cuddly lowbies, in which case you annoy them until they ragequit (but not by killing them!). Not having sides is not only beneficial in that players don’t have to choose sides and potentially imbalance the numbers, but it also does away with much of the class/race connected balancing.

Though people do like having someone to truly hate. It’s harder to hate someone who is playing the same race as you, than to hate a disfigured bird freak or an anorexic pointy-ears. So I guess there’s one downside to not having sides. For me personally, that might be a good thing, as I tend to irrationally hate the other faction, even if they’re being nice. I’m weird like that.

A fragment of the WvWvW map from Guild Wars 2.

The whole thing is said to be larger than all of WAR's pairings.

I haven’t explained what WvWvW is and why you should be excited about it, have I? It’s like WAR’s ORvR, but with three sides (each side can consist of multiple servers) and a zone layout that features three starting zones and a central, contested one. Each server starts at its starting zone and tries to capture the central and later the enemy starting zone by way of capturing keeps, supply nodes and securing NPCs that will fight for you. The trick is that as soon as one side is pushing the enemy starting zone they are effectively blocking the connection between the other two sides, which means that they are forcing both sides to either attack them or not fight at all. An even smarter self-balancing mechanism that Planetside or DAoC had.

These wars last for two weeks at a time, after which the zones are reset and the whole thing starts again. Players will be able to transfer between these server sides, but it will have a timer.

Unlike Structured PvP gear and level matters in WvWvW. There will be something similar to WAR’s bolster system, but it will not completely equalise the differences between different levels of players. A bolstered level 30 will still be stronger than a bolstered level 20.

The bad?
As with any project of this scale, open world PvP can always go horribly wrong. If you make the NPCs participating in it too strong, you upset the balance and the players. If you don’t make the PvP intensive enough, you’ll end up having to incentivise players to fight, which is always an incredibly slippery slope. If the game’s code or the technology behind it isn’t top-notch, performance will suffer. Not to mention an absolutely gigantic amount of balancing that needs to be done for the game to be playable in both small-scale and large-scale PvP.

The one bad thing for any WAR player will be the news that there will be no collision detection between players (or body blocking, as they call it). Though there will be an interesting mechanic of your character being able to intercept any missiles, either physical or spells, and absorb their full damage by standing in their path. In addition, ArenaNet are mentioning area control and denial spells, which will affect the flow of battle. It doesn’t sound too convincing to me, but I’d sure like to see their missile interception mechanic in person (beta key, maybe? Please?).

More!

There is much more to be said about PvP in the upcoming Guild Wars 2, but I’m going to stop here. For now, at least. As much as I’m trying to contain myself, it’s looking more and more like the game will be the undisputed king among PvP MMOs, with players being able to pick the type of PvP they perfer. Open world PvP? A sprinkling of PvE? Maybe pre-arranged ranked instanced matches? Take a pick.

If ArenaNet can pull it off, of course. Let’s hope they can.

Sigh, this post has gone horribly wrong. I’m already a fanboy. It’s over…

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4 thoughts on “Objective Hype: Putting the War back into Coward

  1. Yeah, you pretty much hit the nail on the head… it sounds fun and cool to me up to the point where you said “no collision detection” , though the missile interception sounds interesting (how is that different from collision detection exactly?)… But… overall, Meh.

    • Well, I’m not that fussed about no collision detection. It does change things on the Open world PvP side quite a bit though, I really don’t want to see something looking like the WoW’s cluster fuck of mass PvP.

      Though judging by the original Guild Wars the game will have enough interesting content even if you avoid Open PvP. We’ll have to wait and see.

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