Weight Classes

Last week’s comments on the NA Silver League explained the problem of server mismatch rather briefly. Let’s explore that at some length using boxing weight classes as a metaphor. TLDR: the week’s WvW matchup is only competitive if at least two servers are in the same weight class with no one from a higher weight class, so most weeks will not have competitive matchups for most servers.

The idea of the three leagues is to divide the servers into three weight classes, but reality is more finely parsed than that. Wikipedia lists seventeen weight classes for American boxing, and some alternate systems add more to the top instead of capping at “heavyweight” (like “super heavyweight”).

Absent unusual circumstances, assume that someone from a higher weight class will always beat someone from a lower weight class. It might be a close fight between a flyweight and a light flyweight, but a welterweight should crush a featherweight. (Some few people fight consistently above their weight class, which fits perfectly into our metaphor because servers with strong WvW guilds can consistently beat more populated servers without strong WvW representation. Just consider them to be the weight class they fight in for the purposes of this discussion; “weight” is determined by WvW strength, not total server population.)

In a three-cornered fight, two people from a lower weight class would have a legitimate chance if they teamed up against a higher weight boxer. In practice, boxers are not trained to coordinate, so people get in each others’ way, hit each other, etc. The martial arts movie standard of attacking Bruce Lee one at a time is not (quite) as ridiculous as it seems. In WvW, coordination is even less feasible; imagine that each boxer has hundreds of arms that are independently controlled and that none of the boxers can communicate directly with each other in the ring. If coordination were more feasible, you might expect the Eternal Battlegrounds to usually have the two losing servers fighting the winning server, for example both Red and Blue attacking a Green Stonemist Castle from opposite sides or Red stabbing Green in the back when Green presses Blue; I more often see Green zerging one side of Blue while Red poaches a Blue tower or goes after Blue’s borderlands. To borrow a different metaphor, it is easier for the hyena to scavenge from the lion’s kills than to attack the lion.

Setting that aside, the TLDR takeaway should be an easy conclusion. If your trio is a middleweight, a lightweight, and a flyweight, the middleweight will win. If you have two flyweights and a middleweight, the middleweight will win. If you have two middleweights and a flyweight, one of the middleweights will win and the flyweight is gonna have a bad time. If you have three middleweights, this will be a really great week of WvW.

Those last two options are competitive, although only for the middleweight servers. If you live for the fight, rather than the easy win or the crushing loss, no one is having much fun except the middleweights in the last two options. The flyweights are always getting crushed, and that one lightweight is not doing much better. There will be some good individual fights and great moments, but most fights will be 2v1 or 1vNPC, neither of which is good PvP.

If you like playing in godmode, or if you prefer to lose, this situation is great for you. The goal of the system, however, is to create roughly balanced fights. I saw this work perfectly recently, in a highly competitive matchup where the servers’ scores were within a thousand points of each other all week and all three servers had the lead at some point. Ideally, that is supposed to happen “often” rather than “once that I remember.”

Ideally, if you have three leagues, you have three weight classes: heavyweights in gold, middleweights in silver, lightweights in bronze. The system of seventeen weight classes is closer to the WvW reality, and we may need that “super heavyweight” class.

Note that the leagues are of defined sizes. If you have seven heavyweights, the lightest one fights with the middleweights. Maybe the heaviest middleweight is competitive with the lightest heavyweight, but that is more of a hope than a plan and not much solace everyone else in that league.

I do not know Gold League well, but my understanding is that there are 2-3 super heavyweights and 4-6 heavyweights (depending on how you rank those, last minute server transfers, etc.). Given population caps and the difficulty of coordination, being a super heavyweight does not grant a huge advantage, so I expect most weeks to be mostly competitive at the top, but I imagine that the #6 server in Gold is going to be in some pain.

I am also led to believe that at least three servers were competing for that #6 slot, so there will be some heavyweights in Silver. Silver certainly has some cruiserweights. The same probably applies to the bottom of Silver and top of Bronze, but that group of 4-6 bantamweight servers seems more tightly clustered.

I think we have laid out all the pieces. Let’s combine them. Because I play in NA Silver, which has nine servers, I am going to run through the cases with nine servers.

In the best case scenario, everyone in a league is in the same weight class and every week is competitive. In the worst case scenario, everyone in a league is in a different weight class and no week is competitive. The first we know to be false. The second is unlikely but may be closer to reality. Let’s see what happens if we assume that each league has contains several weight classes.

Consider the easy case of three trios in a group of nine: A beats B beats C, and your nine teams are AAABBBCCC. The best week will be AAA/BBB/CCC. We have a pre-determined winner when there is an A in each matchup: ABC/ABC/ABC or ABC/ABB/ACC, and remember that there are several combinations possible for those (A1B1C1, A1B1C2, A1B1C3, A1B2C1, A1B2C2, A1B2C3, A1B3C1, A1B3C2, A1B3C3, repeat for A2 and A3). When two As are paired, that matchup is competitive (with a guaranteed loss for the B or C), the matchup with the other A is predetermined (A wins), and the third may be competitive (BBB, BBC, and CCC are; BCC is not). Note that the only times a C can win a week is when the matches are AAA/BBB/CCC or AAB/ABB/CCC. Otherwise, you know you are going to lose as a C.

You can re-do this with different numbers of As, Bs, and Cs to see what happens. The more As you have, the more guaranteed losses you have for everyone except those As. The fewer As you have, the fewer competitive weeks you have for As, because A automatically wins unless the trio has another A. If you do not have at least 3 Cs, all the Cs always lose because there is never a CCC week.

I suggested that the reality was closer to ABCDEFGHI. It almost certainly is not that bad, but let’s see what happens if you just expand it from three weight classes in a league to four: AABBBCCDD.

First, we know that an A will win the league and no D will ever win a single matchup. Second, the “best week” has fallen to the one where three Bs face each other; in every other possible matchup, either one server is definitely going to win or one is definitely going to lose (or both). AAB, AAC, and AAD are competitive weeks for the As, but that third server is just a tetherball of pain (metaphor mixed again). The same applies (with slightly less pain) to BBC, BBD, and CCD. We already established that ABB, ABC, ABD, ACC, ACD, ADD, BCC, BCD, BDD, and CDD are all matchups where you know the winner before it starts.

The more weight classes you have in a league and the more spread they are, the more difficult it is to create competitive matchups, even defining “competitive” as “two of the three have a chance while the third has a guaranteed loss.”

The reality of WvW is not as clearly defined as weight classes and ABCs, but it is probably a lot closer than many servers are willing to admit to themselves. Also, you can argue about whether A1 is a super middleweight or a light heavyweight, and you can argue about whether C1 is a super bantamweight or a featherweight, but you cannot argue that C1 has much of a chance against A1. There is some fuzziness at the margins, but with NA Silver reportedly having 4-5 weight classes, those margins matter in a couple of the matchups in a couple of the weeks, which is not a lot out of 21 matchups over Season One.

As I said, I expect Gold to be more competitive: fewer servers, closer weights. For those who care about WvW, all eyes are at the top.

Bronze, I am led to believe, is more of a DDEEELLLM situation (instead of ABC). That could be strangely interesting. There will be a bit of a fight at the top, and the lower ranks get to be competitive with each other even if they will get stomped by the top. In boxing, weight differences matter more at lower weights because a few pounds is a few percent difference, but in WvW, the smaller the values the more sheer randomness is a factor. Bronze could have some really fun matchups, or it could be just utter crap for everyone. As I said, randomness.

But that’s just me, no WvW expert, writing this Friday before Season One starts. We have two months of experimenting with WvW seasons ahead, so please be sure to come back and crow if I am hideously wrong and a huge Silver whiner yaddah yah. And if the leagues are much neater on the EU servers: awesome, go you.

: Zubon

Americans love an underdog, but in American fiction, the underdog usually wins.

25 thoughts on “Weight Classes

  1. bronkitus

    ANet has to be collecting metrics on participation. Maybe a more fluid cap on numbers allowed into WvWvW, or “outmanned buff” also locks the dominating servers out of sending additional players in.

    Reply
  2. bhagpuss

    I think outside of maybe the top six, most people you’re likely to see in WvW are just there to have fun. I’m not sure all that many people have ever taken any of it all that seriously but since all the Achievement bells and whistles were added winning or losing has been observably less important, at least going by the way both behavior and public chat changed, than the Achievements, loot and personal targets.

    Of course, no-one wants to get stomped over and over but the whole atmosphere seemed to change a long time ago from “our server MUST win” to “let’s all have some jolly good fun and make a profit while we’re at it”. When it does come to actual “success” as a server, as I said earlier, on Yak’s Bend we’re used to stasis. We’re a perennial mid-table team, never in danger of either challenging for trophies or fighting relegation. It’s been like that under every variation of WvW so far and I don’t expect this one to be any different.

    I have to say I rather like it that way.

    Reply
    1. Zubon Post author

      You have attributed the exact same opinion to yourself, your server, and most players in the game. You are also aware that your opinions are very unusual. What leads you to attribute your opinion to the rest of your server and the other dozens of servers where you have never played?

      Reply
      1. João Carlos

        TC server here, we are fighting the gold league, the 2 top servers. We were the 4th server, so you and everyone can think we will be strombled by the other two, like ever happened everytime we fought that otehr 2 servers.

        Surprise. We are on top. Against SoS and Mag!

        I think it is because the wvw ahievments brought a lot of new players to wvw. So, now TC have numbers for fight that other two servers. Take note our zergs continue to be lower numbers than the zergs from the other two servers, but it is the first time I see TC have zergs at all 4 wvw maps. Normally we had only one zerg that changed maps.

        The bad thing is that all 4 wvw maps have queues now and Eternal Battleground now is Eternal Queue.

        @Zubon, bahgpuss is atributing that opinion to everyone from his server because he is hearing that opinion form eveyone trying wvw now. The map chat is full with taht comments.

        Reply
        1. Jeromai

          Are you even aware that SoS and Mag are 5th and 6th ranked? They aren’t top two. Wait till we come up against Jade Quarry, Sanctum of Rall or Blackgate, then speak again.

          Reply
  3. j3w3l

    It will be far less balanced in the top tier than you think as well. Going along with your analogy it’s more like the heavyweight going against the super heavy weight has narcolypsy and as such will fall asleep at odd times. When both are awake it’s a good fight but as you can imagine in those down times it lets a few good punches to get through… This if course really skews the fight.

    Also I’m not sure about other servers but the ones up top communication quite often between themselves. A lot of the guilds know each other quite well now and occasionally start short lived trucks to attack two points or not contest borderland. Some of them even have a good enough report that they favour certain guilds and will avoid combat with them if there is another target.

    Reply
    1. João Carlos

      Strange, because until now (friday, saturday, sunday and monday) TC is wining against SoS and Mag and it is a result no one thought was possible. I have no idea how the other leagues are behaving, but golden league is being more balanced than everyone thought was possible, the 4th server is wining against the first and second server.

      Reply
      1. j3w3l

        TC are.. and have been the 4th server for a little while now, sos while having decent oceanic have been a bit weaker in other times and have kept their 5th spot(close against sbi), and Mag have only recently received some decent transfers coming up from the 7th spot. that result isn’t unlikely at all

        so considering that we have both the first 3 and bottom 3 servers of that league matched up against each other then of course this is going to be the most balanced in gold. It’s close now but once these servers start getting pitted against the others it will be far from balanced.

        Reply
  4. Merus

    I play in one of the top six – there’s some agitation that Jade Quarry is basically guaranteed to win because they’re one of the super heavyweight servers, and have more fights exclusively against just heavyweights.

    On the other hand, the heavyweights know this is coming. I’m pushing my guild to reach out to the other heavyweights and propose an alliance during weeks where we’re both fighting a super heavyweight, in part because of how entertaining it’s going to be if we 2v1 the entire week and that super heavyweight loses.

    Reply
  5. bhagpuss

    I am always extremely careful not to do what you suggest I have done. Look at the qualifiers:

    “I think…”

    “I’m not sure…”

    “…seemed to…”

    I apply a qualifier to everything I say that is opinion in order to emphasize that it is only my opinion. Where I speak from personal experience I add a second qualifier to indicate that. For example:

    “…observably less important, at least going by the way both behavior and public chat changed”.

    Unless I’m using a sweeping statement of “fact” for ironic, emphatic or comic effect I try to avoid making statements of fact at all unless I can back them up with evidence or I believe them to be self-evident. “Of course, no-one wants to get stomped over and over”, for example, is a phrase I specifically used to include all three of those elements. On the face of it it’s intended to reference, humorously, a self-evident “truth” while simultaneously undercutting the validity of that truth by referring back to your own ironic nod to those who like to lose. I don’t just throw this stuff together without thinking about it, you know.

    When it comes to evidence-based argument, I didn’t actually go back through the records at mos.millennium to confirm my memory that Yak’s Bend has been mid-table for most of 2013. I probably should have, as memory is a highly unreliable witness, but I didn’t think the statement “We’re a perennial mid-table team, never in danger of either challenging for trophies or fighting relegation” was likely to be sufficiently controversial or inaccurate enough to require citations to firm it up. Had I been in doubt, either of my facts or of how likely they were to be believed, I would have done some fact-checking and provided links.

    I’ve been playing WvW since launch, always on the same server. I’ve had ample time and opportunity to observe the way it has developed, to watch what people do, listen to how they talk about what they do and follow some of the pre and post match conversations both in open chat in game and on the forums. My observation over the course of more than a year is that while there are some people taking things quite seriously, a lot more aren’t. The exhortations and exasperation expressed by certain Commanders frequently suggest that this is something of a known issue amongst the more motivated and serious-minded WvWers.

    Naturally, I can only comment on what I become aware of, which is at best a series of snapshots and since I only play on Yak’s Bend even these qualified observations can only apply to what I see there so it is indeed a leap of imagination to project this onto other servers outside the top six (where I understand that things are very different). If, however, we can’t speculate and imagine, there’s not a lot we can say about things outside our own direct experience, which would make for dull reading, I feel.

    Reply
  6. darkeye

    I’m in favour of some kind of handicapping system in situations like this, but the prevailing consensus is that the stacked servers should win and the game mode should be unfair, which is really aggravating when it gets trotted out. I get more enjoyment out of close contests no matter if my server wins or loses. At the start of a week, I take a look at scores, if it is an easy win or crushing defeat, I don’t play wvw that week, if the scores are close then I spend a few evenings in the mists.

    Reply
    1. Jeromai

      I’m starting to think that all this bruhaha is an attempt by ArenaNet to cater to way too many subsets of players all at the same time.

      Players who are looking for competitive WvW fights like the close matches and endless stalemate, because there’s always something to do and ample targets (also harboring hope that their server will win, and thus put up a good fight) abound. Their best ideal would have been the original ladder system, except that too close balance didn’t have opponent variety and another subset of player kept transferring servers to stack and changing the balance that way.

      Then there’s the stackers – players who are merely looking for the win. “Godmode is fine, thank you, we will just be on the winning server.” Objectively speaking, there are quite a number with this mentality, regardless of how the other subset repudiates them, given how WvW population changes during an easy or hard matchup.

      There’s the PvE map explorers, who need the easy weeks to finish their map exploration, or else all the forums wailing will begin again.

      And there’s the guerilla underdogs who take pride in standing up to two heavyweights even when they’re going to get smashed in the face if one so much as glances in their direction. (Distinctly rare mentality, but they’re still around.)

      Now the WvW league ends up providing both kinds of matches within the time period, but with more of a continuance factor and possible reason to play PPT and play better than a random matchup where playing well doesn’t affect a single thing in the long run.

      Reply
  7. Ravious

    Yeah it’s a totally different view from T1. I think I was happiest when SoR was like 5th or 6th. We did have that underdog mentality a lot of times, and it took months to march to solid T1. Now there’s a huge queue, and a very demanding normal population. I might WvW a few times a month, and sometimes I’m not sure all the culture stuff atm (don’t attack JQ we have a 35 hour no fire with them). And, I don’t most of the time want to get on VOIP either to hear some commander yelling (even though we seem to have a lot of EU commanders, and their accents make it fun).

    I do intend to get on for this season, but I am not sure how far I will get with the time required to get the meta-achievement.

    Reply
    1. Zubon Post author

      The meta-achievement is not ridiculous given 7 weeks to complete it. If you like jumping puzzles, that is 4/19 right there. (If you don’t like jumping puzzles, suck it up or complete all 15 other options, I guess.) I suspect that “capture Stonemist Castle 5 times” will be one of the harder ones, but that means do it less than once per week. “Gain 50 WvW ranks” also seems imposing, but a new character gains ranks quickly. 225 sentry points seems like a lot, as does 50 mercenary camps (of which there are 3 in the game). If you have long queues, you may have trouble, but the numbers are not too bad for the time covered. I imagine some serious WvWers already have the meta-achievement.

      Reply
      1. Jeromai

        The problem is that one can’t easily divide up WvW achievements into “do X number a week” unless they are soloable. Some are reliant on having the right opportunity, being in the right place at the right time.

        If you’re trying to do a jumping puzzle while an opposing server gank squad is operational, it’s not going to be a pleasant time unless you can muster a whole bunch of other allies (which detracts from the srs bsns war effort) to counter them. The alternative option is to wait for them to go to sleep and do it when it’s not their primetime. T1 servers don’t go to sleep, are active during all four timezones, sport a large population – some of which will be players who enjoy the gank playstyle. The only hope is that they may be stuck in queue. :P

        T1 servers defend their keeps with righteous blob fury and plenty of siege, not to mention a scout and sentry and yak escort network. There are times when it’s impossible for a lone thief to hit a yak or sentry, being that there are 10-20 guilded people running up and down the highway keeping an eye out. Nor is it all that easy to karma train, stuff can end up stalemated for quite a while, especially during NA primetime or timezones with no gaps in coverage for all servers.

        There are more gaps in the T2 servers’ methodologies, and thus easier weeks to garner achievements from.

        For those with plenty of time, they can afford to hang around until the stars align for the achievement. For others with limited playtime, this is considerably harder.

        Reply
        1. Zubon Post author

          You’re right, that is a big T1 difference. The achievements reward trading towers more than taking and holding, so defense just messes up the entire equation.

          I struggle to imagine coordination on T1 servers that creates that situation. You cannot defend everything. If you have two groups of 10-20 patrolling, and other groups waiting to defend, you are spread pretty thin with a cap of 100 people per map. A counter-blob should be able to ram a significant hole in a borderland. EB is small enough for that group to respond, but you cannot patrol an entire borderland.

          Reply
          1. Jeromai

            Let’s put it this way. Zergs run really fast with swiftness. Also, waypoints.

            And yes, the coordination involved is sometimes scary. You don’t need many on defence, just a few connected individuals who can call out to the blob and stall long enough for it to get there. Also, there can be scouts who trail the other zerg, so there’s always some forward warning of where they are. If one side does this well and consistently and the other side has gaps in their network, one has the advantage over the other.

            When I first banged into the T1 servers, TC only being T1.5, some observation of what the big boys were doing made it clear that our server still had quite a ways to go with militia training (and our strategies were stymying servers lower than us.) I figured they had to evolve this simply because their regular opponents were also doing it, so all three had to adapt to survive.

            A counter-blob works if your server has enough numbers to field one that can stand up to the field tactics of the other. What can sometimes happen is one zerg gets outplayed – the commander is less experienced, or is comprised of much squishier individuals than the other, or morale is shakier for whatever reason. All it takes is repeated collisions of the two opposing zergs, with one getting consistently rolled, and very soon, human nature means that attempted counter blob will start to rout at the sight of the other and fray at the seams, both in numbers and in morale.

            It takes a very solid commander that has already pre-built trust and respect with his zerglings that can keep morale up and steer the zerg elsewhere to take constructive measures and try new strategies that take advantage of the other zerg being -there- while we try to be here. (Golem rushes are pretty much the only thing that can go through doors before the swiftness fueled response. You cannot ninja if there’s a red name poking his head over every wall, ready to sound the alarm to all and sundry, while raining down arrows and trebuchet fire on your head.)

            There are only so many of them and they can get tired out too. If that leadership isn’t there, resistance put up just isn’t the same. It’s very discernable. I’m not even a commander and can pick up the level of disorganization the other blob is showing. Disorganized, panicked groups are food. A good commander on the other side will eat them up.

            Reply
            1. Zubon Post author

              Good militia commanders are very impressive, as are the guild commanders who lead 20-person groups over 50-person zergs. We have both zergs converge on our position, with a few minute delay between them, and the best WvW guild we have left took out ~80% of them (with support from the militia, but mostly due to better tactics and placement). They lost that supply camp but got about 100 kills.

            2. Jeromai

              If you’re ever bored, you should consider transferring to one of the top four. Even if temporary, just to compare and contrast. Would be interested to hear your observations and take on similarities or differences.

              It always struck me that lower tier servers would play more havoc in style and PvP-like as those tactics are more effective with numbers in a certain range, as compared to the really huge numbers of T1 where a sort of phalanx style maneuvering becomes more important when lag hits and most people can only spam 1 during a three-way in Stonemist.

      2. João Carlos

        @Zubon
        “capture Stonemist Castle 5 times” is impossible if Eternal Battleground is an Eternal Queue. And I don’t like jumping puzzles. While I think I will get most achievements done at the next 3 weeks, I am not sure if I will get all 15 acheivements.

        But maybe I have luck and find helpfull mesmers for complete the jumping puzzles…

        PS

        The kill 450 enemy players will be problably done in two weeks. This weekend I killed almost 200 enemy players while following the TC zerg. The keeps and ranks problably will be done in 4 weeks. But Stonemist will be a pain if it is impossible go to EB.

        Reply
        1. Zubon Post author

          Yeah, a few good zerg-bustings and you have a few tiers of the Kill 450.

          I found a mesmer for the first jumping puzzle, woo! Three to go.

          Reply
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