Hypothesis: the GW2 WvW Season One design for matching servers in large groups was horrible game design that turned WvW into PvE for most servers, but it may have been commercially successful in that it gave lots of easy wins to players who never wanted balanced matchups anyway.
(Sorry Europeans, this is entirely looking at the North America servers.)
Season One was never going to be even vaguely balanced, and I do not know if ArenaNet even pretended it was. Even with two weeks guaranteed to be the best possible matchups (effectively the pre-Season tiers), the NA outcomes were still:
- 8 servers never placed first in their matchup
- 9 servers placed third the majority of the time
- The winning servers in each League went 7-0-0
- 5 servers had 4 or 5 first place finishes, usually meaning that #2 lost to #1 and #3 lost to #1 and #2. Gold was the only League where there was any competition between 3rd and 4th place, rather than a cliff.
Not all the results were pre-determined. For example, pre-Season transfers moved Fort Aspenwood from “maybe” to “dominating” in NA Silver, especially since it harvested guilds from the other Silver servers; Stormbluff Isle’s expected population advantage failed and left them in third place. For example, Jade Quarry’s easier schedule did not help at all when Blackgate went undefeated; Sanctum of Rall was expected to be third place in Gold, but Tarnished Coast beat them out. Did TC have the easier schedule there? Given the way points were assigned in Season One, being top of the bottom could beat being bottom of the top.
I have been belaboring the point for two months, and I have no heard serious disagreement, so I am going to take it as a given from here that WvW Season One (NA) was a series of scheduled bloodbaths. You could see the entire calendar in advance and predict outcomes pretty well. If you want to disagree and say that it was predictable in retrospect, the comments are open.
Where I did hear disagreement was whether this was a bad thing. Many people like turning WvW into PvE where you get rewarded for fighting doors and NPCs, rather than that risky business of competing with other players. PvP is not Lake Wobegon, and MMO players are more interested in character advancement than challenge. Fighting an evenly matched opponent is hard, whereas getting WvW levels for fighting a door is rewarding. I cannot argue with the cost-benefit analysis.
WvW Season One set up situations where lots of big servers got guaranteed wins, rather than having balanced fights against other big servers. If players just want to be on the winning team and get rewarded for showing up, and you want to give the players what they want, this is a great system. It is not quite “most people are winning most of the time,” but you certainly make more people happy on big servers than you make unhappy on small servers. The sheep are being served up in bite-sized portions, even if the casual WvWers enjoying the meal are also sheep. They get to think of themselves as wolves when they outnumber their opponents 3-to-1, kind of like the players who think they are Sun Tzu because they had 100 gold for a commander tag and why isn’t everyone following their orders?
The number of MMO players who want balanced matchups and fair fights is going to be small. You satisfy more customers by serving up easy wins.
But wasn’t the point of having WvW to have something that caters to those players? GW2 has many systems and areas of play, so you target different audiences with PvE, sPvP, WvW, dungeons and Fractals and world bosses and… Well, yes, but only if someone at the top remembers and values that more than the metrics that say how many sheep are milling about in WvW for easy forage.