Zubon quite correctly pointed out in discussing some of Guild Wars 2 endgame progression that structured PvP remains insulated. It’s a small nod or jab at what I feel is a rather large problem. Guild Wars 2 is two separate games.
The first game is the one I mostly write about. It is the one most Guild Wars 2 bloggers seem to be playing. Except for gear-based arena-like PvP and player dueling, it is mostly a complete MMO. It has PvE, dungeons, and server-based PvP (WvW). This first game is what gets media attention, player attention, and probably generates the most income for ArenaNet. A PAX Prime interview by Massively has one anonymous ArenaNet dev stating with regard to that second game that ‘most people who play Guild Wars 2 only play PvE’.
The second game is structured PvP where when entered all that hard work done in the first game vanishes. All skills and equipments are unlocked. Builds can be changed without any gold cost. And players fight in about a fair manner as can be expected in an MMO. The second game has its own currency (Glory) uncaring about any of the dozen currencies in the first game (and vice versa).
There are some small ties to the first game. One example are the achievements. Daily achievements in sPvP will net the one laurel per day allowance. Gathering achievements points now also has a first game reward attached so players wishing to accelerate their advancement in that regards usually max out daily achievements in both the first game and second game each day. Regardless, the ties are mostly menial and only feed in one direction towards the first game. This also has the effect of making the reward structure in the second game “pure”. Players know that someone with a shark rank emote did not get it by grinding out some first game task.
Switching lanes all too quickly, I’ve always loved PvP in the games I play. Team Fortress 2 remains eternally in my Steam list. I’ve played PvP in vanilla World of Warcraft quite extensively, and I was usually constantly queued up for PvP in Warhammer Online. Yet in Guild Wars 2, which I have played well beyond any of the aforementioned, I’ve barely touched PvP even though I have had a great time playing it. The reason: it doesn’t help the first game, which I love more.
World vs. World (WvW) is part of the first game. Sure, it has its own culture much like how the high-level Fractals dungeon or ultra-elite speed raiders have their own culture. Yet, even though it is largely PvP-based I can progress the first game by playing it. For example, the latest ascended-tier weaponry requires empyreal shards which can be gained by doing jumping puzzles, dungeons, and taking out camps and towers in WvW. As each area has a single daily dose of empyreal shards it is logical that WvW will play in to the mix of how I got empyreal shards. Playing in the second game will not help me get an ascended weapon.
A reward structure does exist in the second game based largely on rank emotes and armor- and weapon-skin shopping. However, the latter further insulates the first game from the second. All the trouble players go through in designing their character’s looks are washed away in sPvP. Sure, the look can be recreated eventually, but it can be a jarring transition. The reward structure is also rather boring, in my opinion. The goals of being the best, or having the highest rank, only apply to the hardcore that will likely play sPvP without major goals anyway. It’s us commoners that need more.
There is no easy fix. Watching the Guild Wars 2 PvP TV Twitch stream, as I do pretty much daily, one ‘caster gave away all his gold because all he did was sPvP. The amount was around 22 silver. It would be nice if I got some gold from playing sPvP (especially since an economist is monitoring things like gold/hour, etc.), but that band-aid fix would apply in a single direction towards the first game. To make a gold award meaningful in sPvP, gold would have to become meaningful in sPvP as well. Still even providing first game rewards based on second game play is a good start.
The way I see it there are two routes. My preferred route is to provide stronger links back to the first game so that it feels more like the difference between choosing to play a dungeon or WvW where I will get rewarded along first game terms either way. Unlike the most efficient (CoF P1), I don’t really care if something is 20% more efficient as long as it is fun and feels rewarding. For me sPvP is fun, but it’s lacking that second bit. If I could use Glory to buy things like empyreal shards, I’d be ecstatic. sPvP in Guild Wars 2 does not feel rewarding even unto its own second game though so ArenaNet has some hard work either way. The other route is to further split the second game creating more internal reward structures meaningless to the first game, balance the second game without regard to the first by further splitting skills and traits, and even perhaps having the second game go free-to-play. If it is to remain insulated might as well have it stand on its own legs.
ArenaNet claimed the first year was to refine the base game, and in my opinion, it has done that in an amazing way with the first game. I feel like I have plenty to do with regards to progression and gameplay… in the first game. The second game has not been considered for such a refinement, and I think it’s well past time that the progression/rewards developers start to focus on sPvP.