[GW2] WvW Seasons and Commercial Success

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.

: Zubon

20 thoughts on “[GW2] WvW Seasons and Commercial Success

  1. bhagpuss

    “Stormbluff Isle’s expected population advantage failed and left them in third place”. Yes, and how did that come about?

    http://bhagpuss.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/match-report-ybsbieb-season-1-week-6-gw2.html

    Yak’s Bend and Ehmry Bay, working first separately and later in loose alliance, put in a massive effort for the entire week specifically with the intention of overcoming SBI’s numbers game, thereby making the playing field unattractive for the large retinue of casual and fairweather players who had become accustomed in previous weeks to doing exactly what you describe, namely running around in huge Ktrains banging on doors.

    There may be arguments over whether YB and EB double-teaming SBI for an entire week was or was not WvW working as intended but there is no dispute that a) it happened and b) it was entirely unexpected. The outcome of that Match, SBI not just being beaten but forced into third place, changed the widely-anticipated final result of the Silver League.

    Maybe I’m biased. I was fortunate enough to play the entire Season on possibly the only server that not only finished significantly higher in the competition than just about anyone predicted but which was also was demonstrably the collective architect of it’s own success. The Season had its longueurs to be sure but it also contained the single best week – by a wide margin – of my entire WvW career and a couple of other very good weeks as well.

    I loved the Season. I think it’s what WvW should always have been – focused, purposeful and with defined victory parameters. Going back into the Ladder system this week, even though we have a very close, hard-fought grudge match going on, seems flat and stale in comparison. We’re fighting but we don’t really have a reason to fight, or not one I understand.

    ANet need to come up with a better-tuned League next time. As I’ve suggested before, I’d split the Weekend and the Week into two Leagues for a start. Every team needs to play every other team an equal number of times, too. The League is the way to go, though.

    I do get the strong feeling that ANet would really prefer WvW to be primarily PvE in a PvP setting rather than straight-up players fighting players for territory. As you say, that will almost inevitably be more popular and presumably more profitable. In the end we will get what they want to give us.

    1. Zubon Post author

      I’m surprised it did not happen to SBI more. It seems like everyone hates them, including people who transferred off the server and take joy in targeting it in WvW.

      You were also fortunate to play on a server where that was possible, and one that got to be the B fighting Cs, so it was possible to rally people with some wins. The middle of each League was potentially interesting. The top and the bottom was uncompetitive crap, especially when they paired the top and the bottom.

  2. Jeromai

    What I wonder about is whether the addition of extrinsic motivation has screwed up any intrinsic motivation in the game format. I got my chest, got my mini dolyak, was mildly dismayed to learn that all the effort put into inching the score up over Sanctum of Rall wouldn’t yield any temporary finishers or recognition after all, and now don’t feel like WvWing for a while.

    Of course, one more missing Living Story achievement (curse those RNG fractals) and an excess of two Tower of Nightmares key colors might have something to do with it too. Distractions galore.

    1. Ravious

      I don’t feel like WvW’ing either, but more because our server morale just fell apart when it became clear you would beat us for third place. Now we’re back in the arena with BG and JQ wheee.

      At least Mrs. Ravious really lucked out with an ascended weapon in her WvW basket. That was nice for the househould.

      1. rasli

        Didn’t realize got beaten by TC has such a big impact on your morale, thought you were already broken by BG.

        1. Lythiea

          I preface this statement saying that I’m on BG, which means that according to most posters my impressions aren’t valid since we won. Since this post seems directed at those who enjoyed seasons because there was more pve and less balance than before, I’m just trying to add another perspective. I’m also on a big WvW guild on BG (KnT). If you don’t think my opinions valid because we won then there’s nothing I can say to change your mind anyways.

          The thing I really liked about seasons were that all factors were at play: server/guild politics, scouts, communication, leading new people there for the achievements, commander personalities… All of this on top of the the actual fighting itself. Since seasons ended, this has not been nearly as prevalent. This is in part due to people being tired and the holidays of course, but there was a general malaise the months before seasons as well.

          I can’t speak to the state of fights in Silver League. I imagine they weren’t as satisfying. Where they honestly that comparatively more exciting before though? I used to be on Dark haven when the game started… Honestly, those fights were lackluster anyways in comparison to t1/t2 fights.

          But for the duration of seasons in gold league, the fights WERE harder. Especially during the first week… Holy Lord was that a great match. Past that week, certain fights were certainly harder than others but not in a predictable manner. I don’t think anyone could have predicted the in fighting that went on within SoR. Maguuma, SoS and TC both were stronger, more entertaining opponents than SoR both on terms of map politics and individual fights. TC could teach all of us about hard line defense and protecting yaks. Mag were incredibly good at being the needle in the button of any upgrade with more dead yaks and flipped camps than I can count. SoS stands out for the engaging, tough as nails open field fights we had with Aug… Memorably distracting our commander enough with fun fights that JQ was able to back cap Bay. You didn’t always know what was coming. You didn’t necessarily know who would team up with who. It was FUN. I’m pretty certain even some of the t2 players would agree.

          1. Zubon Post author

            Your observations are perfectly valid. Given the victory over JQ’s easier schedule, your server’s success is to be celebrated. Tier 1 is exactly where WvW Season One worked well. If you did not enjoy it, Season One would have been a debacle beyond the telling of it.

            I might suggest that your experiences are not representative of what the other tiers saw in Season One. You said you found Bronze League fights lackluster versus Tier 1 during the Season, which probably speaks more to the low WvW population in Bronze than the effect of the Season. A couple of servers in each League enjoyed the Season. My friends on Maguuma just gave up on ever playing WvW again after facing at least one Tier 1 server almost every week for two months. I have spoken at length about the Isle of Janthir experience. I have yet to notice anyone in Bronze who enjoyed the Season, but they must be out there.

            I am glad that you enjoyed Season One. It was more or less designed with your server’s experience in mind. It just did not translate well for most of the bottom 20 servers, even some of the winners in the other Leagues.

            It is not the winning vs. losing that is the issue. It is the orders of magnitude between a Blackgate and a Maguuma or a Stormbluff Isle and a North Shiverpeaks. (There are more orders of magnitude between the latter pair.)

            1. Lythiea

              I would agree… But the issue there isn’t seasons being a bad overall idea: The issue is, yet again, server population imbalance. Seasons merely highlighted an already existent problem. And, of course, the ‘transfer before seasons’ advertising made that issue even starker. Personally, I’m in favor of merging lower tier WvW servers… Essentially, t1 NA has been doing this on their own. Not the servers as a whole: Just the WvW component. Or potentially pairing lower tier European servers with lower tier NA (if that is even possible) in a temporary ‘mist alliance’.

              I realize no one in the lower tier servers want queues but… I’ll gladly sit the 30m in LA to get better WvW competition. Once EotM is officially released for that matter, I might actually enjoy the queue more than the main map, lol. But for any server population rebalancing to work, the queue system needs to be more transparent. It needs to be an actual queue for one. :/ Transfers also need to be only purchasable via real life money.

            2. Zubon Post author

              Given server population imbalance, Seasons are a bad idea. Until they fix that problem, they should not build atop it a grand scheme that depends on population balance to work properly. It would be like putting jumping puzzles in the original Guild Wars.

              Combining servers is definitely an option. The spread in weight classes is far too extreme for anything one might call Season Two.

  3. Coppertopper

    You have to ask yourself though “what drives PvP IRL?”. It’s land or mineral rights or strategic advantage or a sack of cash. No one fights for free. This is why games with a strong PvP component need a healthy PvE focus driving players into the fray.

      1. Coppertopper

        With as small as the WvW maps are, I think both ideals are satisfied. If you want to chase down the Zerg, go to the swords. If you want small group PvP, ruins (or the PvP arenas). I’m trying to think of a game that satisfies your thinking, but every MMO out there has a PvE component driving the PvP. The only real PvP for PvPs sake games are lobby based.

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  5. sleepysam

    I don’t follow the commercial success connection? How do WvW wins translate to commercial success? Because you get points to buy things? Haven’t followed the system closely enough to understand that.

    1. Zubon Post author

      Think of the corporate level, not the player level.
      I’m suggesting that, while PvE-izing WvW ruins it as WvW, getting a small increase from the PvE players might produce greater revenue than capturing 100% of the originally intended WvW (niche) audience.

      1. Jeromai

        How so though? Buying WvW boosters to increase speed of rank gain? I’m not sure finishers are terribly popular, except possibly among the small scale / roaming / PvP crowd.

        Or just retention of interest, leading to increased spending across the board. (Which may only work once before the novelty and newness of leagues wears off.)

  6. Zubon Post author

    More so the latter. Keep PvEers playing, attract more. WvW players don’t have much need for gems anyway, although I know a couple who drop $20/month or something, convert to gold, and never worry about affording golem blueprints.

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  8. Merus

    Honestly I think the biggest motivator for ArenaNet isn’t trying to encourage PvE players – for all its faults, the season was intended to give each weekly matchup a larger context, and it would have succeeded at that if it hadn’t also highlighted the inadequacy of the current scoring system.

    No, I think the biggest motivator was to give the WvW team an excuse to not update the game for seven weeks. PvP and WvW are necessarily on a relatively slow update cycle, because you need to give the meta time to settle down before you know what changes need to be made. The PvE teams, on the other hand, are pumping out content because they’ve got their pipeline all set up, which leads to multiple updates in a row with just PvE content, and very little new for PvP and WvW. This breeds resentment and the sense that PvE is what the game is about, because it seems to get all the love (nevermind that PvE content is easier to create).

    Saying that there’s a seven-week season, and no WvW updates will happen until the season finishes, lets the WvW team concentrate on their new maps and mechanics without feeling obligated to push out another trait line.

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