For Guild Wars 2, it appears that three is the magic number.
Is WvW the Emperor’s new clothes? Does it matter if the Emperor is really hot?
Join me in my latest attempt to prove I’m not going insane — well, more insane than usual — with my unfettered excitement for Guild Wars 2.
Here are my top seven reasons why World v World will make you forget about sunlight:
1. Let’s be objective for a minute – or two weeks.
To be successful, any objective-based PvP scenario needs to have a clear, understandable goal.
Alterac Valley: kill the opposition’s main boss or grind their resources down to zero.
Wintergrasp: defend the main keep or take it over.
Ilum: go do Warzones instead.
Straightforward, easy to grasp and hopefully fun.
Where Guild Wars 2 takes this formula, slaps 200,000 volts through its bolted neck and screams “It’s alive!” is by adding many smaller goals within the overall framework.
The main aim when participating in the sprawling battle of Mists is to win for your world – or server. This is done by gaining any of the four types of objectives strewn across each map: Camps, Towers, Keeps and Castles and the points gained from each of them – checked every five minutes – add to the overall score of your world.
It is very easy to keep track of the current state of play in World vs. World thanks to the UI. The nifty interface gives you a clear tally of the current score, a visual breakdown of the split in territory and a guide to what potential targets – and points – are available.
Where things get complex – not complicated – is in managing your forces to ensure success.
Your big guilds might want to go storming into a keep and hold it for their own – which they can do – then dig in like the French in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
However — while farting in your general direction — said big guild might start noticing they are not getting supplies to reinforce their defenses. Those pesky, elderberry-smelling fiends outside are smashing into the gates; which the big guild suddenly can’t repair.
That’s happening because the supplies are being cut off on the road. The poor dolyaks are getting butchered by the intrepid siege force, starving the occupying invaders of what they need to hold their shiny new keep.
Soon the gates fall, backsides are punted and nary a Trojan Rabbit is needed.
This is just one example of how the different objectives on the map interact with each other and require movement, thought and responsiveness from all sides to reach for victory. Each objective is easy to understand, has a specific purpose and builds towards the overall point of the battle.
It is in the interaction between the purposes of the map and the desire of the players that ArenaNet has struck gold.
2. I AM IRON MAN!
Catapults? Pfft. Battering rams? Bah. Don’t bore me with your siege weaponry of yesteryear.
I want a Siege Golem and I want it now.
Seriously, I want to have my own fantasy-mech to jump into. I want to get all Tony Stark on the invading hordes, roll into my battle suit and spin through a crowd of fleshies before busting a door down.
Or wall, I’m not picky.
Either way, Siege Golems are fantastic. Just another flavorful addition to a multi-layered bag of goodness.
3. What can I do?
The array of possible roles you can play on a WvW map is startling. Off the top of my head:
a. Slaughter group: go out there and whup any invader who comes within eyesight of your objective.
b. Supply Escort: surround your friendly neighborhood dolyak and fend off the anti-PETA brigade until those precious supplies get to their destination.
c. Keep Guard: fire the cannons, pour the boiling oil from the cauldron and generally harass anybody who dares darken your doorstep. I’ll take first watch – I really want to tip the cauldron.
d. Recon: you sly devil. Off you go, staying out of sight, keeping tabs on moving forces and letting your team know just when to mount an incursion, when to spring the ambush and – most importantly — when to run away screaming.
There are many more different roles you can take on a Mist map, but none of them will be listed under your profession.
That is what I call a deep, absorbing scenario.
4. Don’t look down.
Imbalance can doom PvP quicker than you can say Ilum.
At launch, SWTOR‘s most infamous planet made Republic players lemmings; the few, poor and confused stumbled hopelessly into an Imperial meat grinder.
For a long time on my World of Warcraft server, Wintergrasp was utterly dominated by Horde at a ratio of 6:1. Blizzard then added their monster Tenacity buff to create a fair fight; but that is an artificial buffer and feels forced.
To prevent this problem, the most striking innovation in GW2‘s WvW is the three-world design. So smart it made Hawking nod in approval; it simply has never been done before.
Setting up three servers to engage across one encounter makes sure no single world gains utter dominance. Then even if it does, it’s only for a couple of weeks and they’ll be up against tougher opposition to take them down a peg or two.
In Guild Wars 2, the ranked server system will maintain balance. The triad of worlds will maintain balance. The multiple objectives across the map will ensure balance. The pole you carry while walking on a tightrope will assert…oh you get the idea.
Balance is vital for a worthwhile game; when it’s created organically by the players’ actions, it’s bloody brilliant.
This is the difference between Guild Wars 2 and many other MMOs: its systems make the players the deciding factor.
5. Chess with 2,000 pieces.
In a Guild Wars Insider interview with ArenaNet’s PvP system designers — Mike Ferguson, Jonathan Sharp and Matt Witter — it was estimated that each map could house around 500 participants. That gives the potential for up to 2,000 marauding lunatics. The servers who can approach the maps tactically are going to rise through the ranks quickly. Teams will flourish and intelligent play will win out, but let’s face it: there’s going to be a lot of headless chickens pecking at the nearest invader to pass by.
Anyone who has spent time in Arathi Basin knows that the sentence “Fight on the <expletive removed> flag!” is not just a command, it’s a way of life.
In World vs. World, there is no doubt a similar refrain will be screamed in despair by someone who knows what she is doing. The difference being that there are so many things you can do, an entire new language for berating your dullards will emerge.
I can’t wait.
6. Six Seasons and a Movie
Community is what makes MMOs different to other genres. Profoundly awful games can go on for years because of great communities. I loved the EverQuest society – not an awful game btw – because it policed itself and relied on its members. Parts of the game didn’t exist that do in most MMOs now; your only reliable resource was your fellow player.
I played that game for years longer than its own design truly merited.
The best MMOs recognize the importance of participation beyond the player and the environment and actively encourage it. But not just by relying on tertiary incentives — like the Guild Perk system in WoW.
Smart incentives are ones that unfurl in the process of actual gameplay. The WvW in Guild Wars 2 has many obvious design choices centered on establishing loyalty, rivalry and interdependence.
Guilds will have to communicate and form alliances to help maintain objectives. Conversely, rivalries will flourish as keeps are fought over and bragging rights are claimed. Both of these relationships make for strong ties within a server’s identity.
Build a game in which players are fiercely loyal to each other and you have it made.
7. Roll out the barrel
Here we are on the final leg of our journey — I do hope you went to the bathroom ahead of time.
The last ingredient is the most important: it has to be fun.
By “fun” I don’t mean “passably entertaining.” I mean enjoying yourself even when you are getting bludgeoned so badly that you want to run outside and scream. Pleasure that stays with you and keeps you coming back for more, even when it isn’t going your way.
Ever been in PvP with a bunch of howlingly bad miscreants? You know, those players who make you want to slap yourself just to feel a happier kind of pain.
When you are in a woeful team, you can do very little to make a difference and you soon find yourself frustrated beyond belief. Anyone who has done PvP dailies has been stuck, unable to get a win because you have been destroyed repeatedly while surrounded by a haze of incompetence — no, that Huttball is not made of glue; no, you can’t flip the road.
A string of those kind of games and the lack of variety in your experience will lead you to do the obvious thing: stop playing. Sure, you’ll come back again tomorrow, but if you get a few losses of the same ilk you won’t try for as long. It’s game play with diminishing returns.
Mists are so expansive and just innately intriguing there is always a different task for you to go after. If what you are doing isn’t fun, there’s plenty of other things to do without even leaving the zone. Not happy with what’s going on at your camp? Go to another camp, go hunt down a supply caravan, or protect it or build some ballistae or go kill some invaders at the door or, or, or.
There is always someone else to fight, something else to protect, or something else to knock down.
Have you watched any video of those keeps and castles? Big, tangible and imposing — they beg to be conquered and left echoing with the lamentation of your foes.
So there’s my view of Guild Wars 2‘s WvW PvP.
Quick, fluidly changing circumstances across a huge field of battle; each explosion in the distance just crying out for one more hero to take a stand.
There is always somewhere that you can make a difference and have fun doing it.
And after all, isn’t that why we play MMOs?
NOTE: No Ilums were hurt in the production of this editorial.