GW2: WvW – Variety or Balance?

After a few weeks of the revised (essentially “randomized”) matchups, some of the repercussions have been starting to make themselves known via forum board posts (read: complaints.)

Bottom line is, there have been some VERY uneven matchups taking place over the last couple of weeks.

To take my home server Tarnished Coast as an example:

Our first week placed us vying against our dear and bitter frenemies Fort Aspenwood and threw the lower tiered Sea of Sorrows in place of Dragonbrand into the mix.

This ended up much as one would expect: TC and FA duking it out and SoS doing their best to get underfoot. The matchup wasn’t too misbalanced (at least from my TC perspective, other TC’ers or FA or SoS people may have their own subjective opinions) in that there were still good fights in between various coverage gaps. FA and SoS have a stronger Oceanic contingent than TC, whereas TC tended to dominate in the Euro timezone, and NA and SEA were fairly even, if slightly skewed towards TC.

It may have indeed helped give a relaxing SoS a wakeup call and got them inspired to fight hard, even if comparatively outnumbered.

The following week pitched the number 1 NA server Sanctum of Rall against Tarnished Coast and Sea of Sorrows.

Heh.

Well, I personally enjoyed the challenge of being back-to-the-wall against impossible odds (as long as our commanders were still organized and keeping morale high.) And I found encountering a zerg that was built even more tough and resilient than a TC zerg very refreshing – in that we realized there was still a lot of room for improvement for certain guilds and builds, and generally had to be very focused in our movement and tactics. It was also fun showing SoR some of the more distinctly TC-evolved sneaky tricks and catching them off guard at times, even if the odds were against us from the beginning.

But I admit the pressure to keep obsessively fighting and holding out kept me playing way past usual hours – while it was obvious SoR had enough coverage for different guilds to take shifts and come in refreshed. Since I gave up being hardcore about ten years ago, it was easy enough to find new priorities for GW2 gaming time once Dragon Bash rolled around (Dragon Coffers were selling for 7-8 silver then! Price will only drop as the month goes on, y’know! Strike while the iron is hot! Farm farm farm! Sell sell sell!)

I don’t even want to speak for what SoS was thinking and feeling against SoR. Based on their forum posts and in-game actions, some of the more hardcore WvW SoS folks definitely have a lot of heart and pride and were holding out just fine – but suffice to say they were even more outnumbered as a server than TC was, in general.

This week, Tarnished Coast has still remained glommed onto Sea of Sorrows, and Crystal Desert has entered the fray.

That’s the server from which we received transfers of three hefty SEA guilds seeking larger and better fights, so you might imagine that the style of WvW combat CD is used to is certainly not of the same size and scale. With Dragon Bash providing a useful distraction for any GW2 players who both WvW and PvE, the impetus to hang around fighting battles against uphill odds is not very strong for most, which leads to blowout scores in the larger server’s favor.

Scores like this are kinda nuts. It's barely even Tuesday. (On the bright side, you can see I got some power-leveling via crafting done, taking advantage of the pretty high crafting crit chance bonus.)

Scores like this are kinda nuts. It’s barely even Tuesday. (On the bright side, in the background you can see I got some power-leveling via crafting done, taking advantage of the pretty high crafting crit chance bonus.)

Reactions have been rather fervent. From those hardcore enough about WvW to post on the official forums on a regular basis, I must add.

I’m shamelessly generalizing here, but let’s invent a typical hardcore WvW player who only lives for PvP and “good fights” and disdains PvE in any form. Such a player doesn’t mind fighting uphill battles and being somewhat outnumbered or losing and dying as they’ve internalized a value system where the bigger a fight they put up, the more ‘respect’ this earns them in the eyes of their opponents. A balanced even fight is their Shangri-La, because the outcome is uncertain and player skill has the largest impact here. Winning against low or zero resistance becomes as boring as PvE to these folks, because there’s no challenge. The worst thing that can happen is that no one shows up to be fought against, leading to the ultimate boredom as one roams around in search of opponents who simply aren’t there.

Such players miss the old system very badly as it produced the most even matchups for them.

Strangely though, there is another subset of players that seem to have an impact on whether queues pop up across WvW maps or not. These players tend not to post on forums, and turn up based on the scoreboard. They have been derisively called fairweathers or pugs, weekend warriors, or if one is feeling very very kind, “militia,” by those who fancy themselves a lot more dedicated to WvW. They do tend to be less well versed in the game format, and have builds not optimized for it as well.

You will rarely find them in WvW when your server is doing less well. Yet once a server pushes over 300 or so, there seems to be some kind of critical mass effect that attracts them into jumping in and riding the gravy train and pushing the server even higher and higher scores.

Hardcore WvW players tend to be very scornful of this playstyle. Me, I don’t know. It occurs to me that sometimes, majority votes can’t be wrong. Maybe it’s not so much what players say, but what they actually do.

Tarnished Coast has been massively queued across a good number of maps in this blowout week. (You could map hop freely last week against Sanctum of Rall during most times that weren’t NA primetime, and I think it got even worse past Tuesday – I wouldn’t know, I wasn’t there either.)

A number of these guys contributing to the queue are definitely beginner WvWers and primarily PvE players and probably not a few map completionists either. There are doubtless opportunists who leap at the chance to kill people when the odds are in their favor. Add on the regular WvW guilds trying to get on during their usual times for pushes, and things are definitely crowded.

I’m thinking – they wouldn’t stay in there, if they weren’t having “fun” with matchups the way they are.

Then there’s in the in-betweens, because I never believe in dichotomies. Call ’em semi-hardcore WvWers, casual WvWers, opportunists, militia, what-have-you, their behavior can reflect either extreme depending on personalities, available free time, morale and other conflicting priorities.

I suppose I’m one of this lot.

Speaking for myself, this week I haven’t been WvWing much either. Dragon Bash deflected me last week into achievement hunting and coffer farming, and my lowbie warrior was climbing the levels and getting better. Between the choice of being utterly bored for long moments and running patently outmanned enemies into the ground with way too many numbers – or getting run over while wandering around solo because the only opponents out have collected into wolf packs for survival, versus actually gaining levels every half hour to good music and racking in 0.75-1 gold at the same time, leveling the warrior is a lot more appealing.

And I can’t help but wonder if that’s a good thing.

(Cue the screams of horror of the heavily invested WvW players.)

No, I’m serious.

Assuming that one is a well-balanced GW2 player who does a number of different activities in game, and not just one primary thing, maybe it’s good to have off weeks where one can essentially take a break and go do other things.

One of the things I’ve always been perplexed about getting caught up in WvW was knowing when to stop. If you’re winning, you want to keep going. If you’re losing, you don’t want to log out and look like you’ve turned tail and run, so you fight on. The pressure can sometimes get a little nuts.

For me, it’s nice to have a week where I can mostly PvE and relax knowing that others, a LOT of others, are carrying on the fight. A week where I don’t feel guilty bringing in an underleveled character to goof around with and scoop up what xp I can when bored of the PvE level grind, or experimenting with a class/build that I’m really not that great with.

I might even bring in some alts to do WvW map completion, like no doubt many of the PvE population are now opportunistically doing. And maybe even visit the Obsidian Jumping Puzzle later this week – as long as all the EB keeps are controlled by my server. I am just entirely philosophically opposed to ganking and that whole puzzle is one big trollfest if it’s open to more than one server – I only enjoy going in when I know for sure there can be no red names there, period.

So despite the possibility of a temporary morale drop in a week where facing a server way too strong for us, I find I’m rather okay with the idea of variety in my matchups personally.

I think there’s the potential for greater inclusivity in that a lot more players may want to dip their toes into WvW this way.

The only thing I worry about is if the hardcore WvWers can get used to the idea. If they become too bored or too frustrated by the lack of good fights or a balanced even matchup, they may decide to take their ball elsewhere and play something else.

Which will also destroy the game format because it’s the hardcore WvWers that the rest rely on, for organization, for teaching and training, for being online way longer than they should, for leading and directing the militia to paint the whole map a certain color to begin with. Without them, the casuals won’t come in to play either.

It’s a funny kind of paradox.

Cater too hard for the hardcore, and the casuals won’t want to come.

Fail to cater sufficiently to the hardcore, and the casuals won’t have anyone to follow.

(And the in-betweens just keep doing their own thang, seeing how the wind blows.)

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8 thoughts on “GW2: WvW – Variety or Balance?

  1. bhagpuss says:

    I just posted on this same topic this morning. Yak’s Bend has had probably the best WvW of the year under this new system with three very close matches in a row. I agree with most of what you say above but I think what trumps everything in WvW matchplay is getting home from work on Friday evening, checking the score and realizing that any one of the three teams could still win.

    All through the long winter and spring of largely unbalanced T3 and T4 matches, where the outcome was rarely in doubt after the first day or two I’d convinced myself that the score doesn’t really matter I was focusing on improving my personal performance, having fun and generally making the best of things. Now we have had three close matches in a row I have to say that it’s right back to how it was last year – the score is EVERYTHING. And it’s more fun that way.

    I don’t imagine it will be possible to give all servers a close 3-way battle every week but I hope the next iteration of the system, which if Devon Carver is to be believed should come in week or two, moves us closer to that ideal.

    • Jeromai says:

      That’s true. That’s one of the points I missed in my post. That the old matchups led to even matchups in some tiers (T1 and T2 come to mind) but left other tiers stuck in uneven matchups in endless limbo.

      Variety at least allows different tiers to experience states of blowout or even battles based on the now trademark Anet RNG. 🙂

    • kichwas says:

      I guess I’m in between. When I’ve gone to WvW – which is only maybe less than 5 times since headstart – I’ve just gone for something to do, seeing it in the daily. Or the time I went with my ranger to get the wolf pet.

      There’s a score?

      Ok, I know there’s a score, I’ve even posted a pic of it on the Guild Wars 2 google+ page.

      But I could care less about it.

      As for the new system versus the old – I’m of the opinion that anything which serves to increase server stability is the right change to make. That means the methods need time to guage their impact and then adjust. The game is best served the closer to similarity the various servers have in activity.

      I say this as a Tarnished Coast player…

      A server which could actually do with shedding about 30% of its population to help out some of the other servers…

      WvW seems the motivator for a lot of server switches. Though since we are the roleplay server, that is also a big issue for us – and we get double impacted by having both PvPers and RPers come in in droves… and PvEers just go wherever the population is high, so we get triple hit.

      (A situation that would never have occurred if ArenaNet had just put the label RP on the two RP server when they were asked to a year before launch).

      I’m good with new system for the short term, as variety seems a good way to get people exposed to more, and as such thinking about where they are – which might help balance some of the population a little for many of the other servers, though it will likely do so by causing them all to shrink as people try to get onto TC and SoR…

      For the long term I see them flipping the dial on this back and forth, to ‘game the population’ onto and off of various servers.

      (What I’d really like to see is something like a ‘free 10% magic find for the smallest 30% of servers – that would even out server populations. and then create massive drama…)

  2. João Carlos says:

    I am from Tarnished Coast. I make WvW dailly because I like to complete the dailly achievement there. I play at WvW for one hour or two, complete the dailly achievement and end my day. I have more time for play WvW friday and saturday nights because I do’nt will go work next morning, but for my bad luck that days have a long queue. However, long queues show WvW is good game.

    IMHO, we are seeing a learning process. Servers will learn how to structure better, the commanders will learn better tatics and strategies (I really thought was stupid fight for SoS territory when our worse enemy was SoR, and I made my opinion public at team chat when our commander was losing too much time battling SoS and we lost keeps for SoR because we not used our time for built defenses), and eventually we will see guild migrating from higher rank WvW to lower rank servers (if Anet give us other free transfer week that process will be faster).

    A interesting thing I saw this week, when we TC are dominating all maps, is that some commnaders are saying to guys that the otehr servers are at the same situation we were last week, and things can reverse next week and we will need fight uphill. Anyway, kudos for CD, when they conquer a keep they defend it until the last player.

    Other intersting thing is that I saw two guilds making a GvG event inside a WvW map, they asked to everyone that was not member of that two guilds (from diferent servers) for not interfere. IMHO, Anet really need develop a tool for make GvG more viable inside WvW.

  3. j3w3l says:

    I’m a firm believer that you need a certain amount of imbalance in the matches as, like you said, it gives variety in the styles of play.

    I rambled about that exact same thing just after release when all the server ratings were very flexible and servers were rising and falling constantly. And even posted that opinion on the forums which was flames to no end. Each playerbase, the hardcore, pugs, and those inbetween need each other although each will be adamant they don’t and the differences in match ups provide for this.

    When your winning it gives the militia the motivation to jump in without the pressure and frustration.. It also gives the hardcore players and bit of a break from being serious.

    Even Being faced against terrible odds is ok as it becomes a learning experience for some and there’s nothing that creates a certain strength to a servers community like banding together against the odds.

    The problem us there needs to be a certain amount of balance to this imbalance. The old system had become far to rigid and resistant to change which left many getting bored being in he sane position. This new system however I think is the opposite and went overboard on the change. The best times were when every other week servers would go up and down one tier accordingly.

  4. BobTurkey says:

    Good take on CD. We are very high population but lots of PvE players. Previous two weeks vs Kaineng and Yaks Bend we somehow won despite their higher rankings. Very close games (8k between first and last) which we mostly just pushed past from second to first in the last 12 hours of the match-up. Morale on CD was very high, especially after upteen weeks of getting smashed by SoS’ massive SEA zerg. CD would have been happy to do the Kaineng/Yaks match up for at least a few more weeks.

    Cue this week. SoS, ok we know them and they will probably beat us, but at least its a fight, but TC? Really? We haven’t even controlled our own Bay keep since the start of the match up and often have only a few camps to our name. The more serious of us have enjoyed the challenge, but we have about one third of the players fighting that we had last week when it was close. This is made worse by coming off such and awesome close match-up the two weeks prior, and Dragon Bash.

    I like the new system and prefer it to the old and if we have weeks like this one in 3 or 4 its ok, but the nature of being ranked 11 (I think we are atm) is that we are going to have more match-ups where we get roflstomped by the top two tiers than ones where we get to cruise against some low ranked server. I hate to think how this system is beating up the T4 and T5 servers. They are going to get smashed pretty much every week just because there are more teams higher ranked than them, then there are lower ranked.

    Great idea, just needs to be a changed so we only fight server within 4-5 ranks of ourselves.

    Gobble gobble.

    • João Carlos says:

      Devs said that sooner or later (problably later) they will change the algoritm for make the random factor lower. We need think they are currently testing the random factor for see how the matches behave for have a better estimate form what is the best number for random factor.

      Anyway, I am from TC and congratule you from CD, you defend keeps to last player. Don’t worry, we were the first server at T$, so we were the 4th best wvw server. And we had some training fighting SoR (the first one wvw server) last week and we learned some tricks.

      My advice: “use this week for learn the trick we are using”.

      PS

      Yesterday you fell for a trick we like to use. You where trebing the garrison wall from your keep, our zerg waited the wall fall inside the keep at a corner of the outer wall, where you cannot see us and we had the cahnce to fast jump to outside the keep. After the wall fell, we waited you enter for attack the gate to inner keep. We jumped to outside the keep and fast run come from behind you from the hole you opened at outer wall. We get you from behind while you where occupied bashing the gate. I think I farmed maybe 20 bags.
      I guess you had that Return of Jedi moment: “It is a trap!”
      Commanders, learn how to maneuver zergs!

  5. […] the odds and trying to better ourselves as individuals and as a guild but this only goes so far. Jeromai and I have discussed WvW needing a certain balance of being outmanned, balanced, and apart of the […]

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