[GW2] The Impossibility of WvW

The more I play WvW in GW2, the more I must believe that the developers’ goals are different than mine and from what I thought they stated. As implemented, WvW is a PvE system with periodic steamrolls and occasional good fights. Either good fights are contrary to the design or WvW is performing very far from its design.

The dominant problem remains the mismatch in weight classes, and I have heard no solution for it nor even real awareness that it is a problem. Let me narrow that: it is not the case that the weight classes are in neat groups of three, so the majority of the matchups will feature an odd server out (two heavweights with a middleweight or one heavyweight with two middleweights) or even worse matches. The Spring Tourney system designed to mitigate this problem has yet to do so, and unless there is some reason to unite against the winning server, I am not sure that any system can.

Let’s go to the scoreboard to see how it has worked out so far. After running numbers a few ways, the clearest I found was to compare the ratio of the winning team’s points to the losing team’s. High numbers indicate a blowout: the top server dominated the other two and/or the bottom server should not have been on the same map with the others.

Round 1, EU: 1.50, 1.28, 2.06, 1.52, 1.55, 1.12, 1.03, 2.90, 3.02
Round 1, NA: 1.23, 1.53, 1.67, 3.71, 3.60, 1.27, 1.27, 1.55
Round 2, EU: 1.39, 1.17, 1.54, 2.11, 2.19, 1.73, 2.84, 5.56, 6.11
Round 2, NA: 1.94, 1.68, 1.46, 1.86, 2.27, 1.98, 2.17, 1.96

How do you want to define “close”? In 34 matchups, we had 4 where scores were within 25%, 6 more within 50%, then 12 where #1 was less than double #3, followed by 12 utter routs (double-plus, ranging all the way up to 611% (!!!)). Part of me wants to call that 1/3 each for pretty close, not close, and utter rout, but that involves defining “pretty close” as anything less than a 50% difference. If I saw a basketball game that ended with a score of 115 to 80, I would not say it was a “pretty close” game. So 12% where the matchups seemed to work? There were more matchups where the difference was 200%+ than it was less than 25%.

That hides a mix of good and bad. On the good side, there will be relatively good fights at some times in some places. On the bad side, some of those fights will be worse than implied because of the difference between weekdays and weekends; the aggregate worked out close, but one team zerged the other for three days then the other zerged back for four.

The gaps in the scores are less bad than I had expected, although having two EU Bronze servers held to 5-digit scores shows a horrifying breakdown of the system as populations get small. I’ve been on both sides of that mismatch already during this Tourney, and it’s not much fun on either side. I’ve been in an unstoppable karma train that took every objective in EB, and I’ve been Outnumbered in our Borderlands with 30+ players from both servers attacking our keeps. And in either case, you say to yourself, “what’s the point?”

: Zubon

And that is “what’s the point” relative to a MMO.

12 thoughts on “[GW2] The Impossibility of WvW

  1. Jeromai

    ” unless there is some reason to unite against the winning server, I am not sure that any system can”

    JQ – 92k, TC- 91k, BG – 57k
    (as of this time of writing anyway)

    “And in either case, you say to yourself, “what’s the point?””

    I think this harkens back to each individual’s goals of WvW. (I’m planning a semi-related post on hotjoin sPvP vs solo/team queue soon.)

    In the case of WvW, I’m not sure that the ideal being striven for is a picture perfect complete balance point where all three sides have equal PPT. That happened as best as possible using the initial system, and what resulted was stagnation – seeing the same servers over and over again with very little reason to strive for PPT, yielding boredom to those that played for score and the field over to the warriors and soldiers who were just looking to clash in an endless Valhalla.

    I’m certainly not saying the Swiss style tournament is perfect either, but this seems like a 9 week experiment in creating a “campaign” sort of experience, where there is some variation of servers being met on any given week, but also times when the same servers will meet again. A reason is also given to play for points as that adds up to an overall goal to strive for at the end.

    So now we have a situation where some subsets of players are happy and others unhappy at any given time, but this (in theory) changes over time and location, providing a variety of experience for all types of players seeking WvW – the “good fights” even match seekers, the EZ mode steamrollers get to steamroll and weep depending on numbers and coverage (and flee to EOTM if all else fails), the tacticians have ample opportunity to flex, etc.

    I think one thing the WvW league is demonstrating rather well is that WvW is not just about individual battles and fights, but also about larger strategy, and most importantly, morale, communication and server coordination.

    Smaller population servers are indeed getting the shorter end of the stick here, because really, what’s happening is a lack of people to form a cohesive community. It’s a problem that even affects PvE in the low leveled zones that the Megaserver is hoping to solve, though that won’t help the WvW servers any.

    Bottom line: Folks who stay in the smaller population servers need to have reasons for staying that outweigh the advantages of larger communities (eg. like the small town feel, like small scale fights and roaming without getting mowed down by an 80 man blob, have their own private guild community to find enjoyment without being concerned about server community, do not find PPT important and prefer more 1 on 1 style duels and encounters, etc.)

  2. Eri (@ausj3w3l)

    Well, I know in the upper leagues it was the competition itself that was the point. To beat the other teams and even those vendettas you might have against specific guilds. but slowly over time, and without any sort of valuable updates this did slowly devolve into that “what’s the point feeling”.
    That competitive drive was great while it lasted but it wasn’t something that was very well supported.

  3. bhagpuss

    My first thought is that, when it comes to GW2, ALL the developers’ goals are now different from what they stated. It’s an utterly different game from the one they told us they were making. Moving on…

    As always, I can only speak for my own experience on a single server, the perennial T3/4 Yak’s Bend, which I realize may be very different from what others see or have seen happening higher or lower in the table. Also, although I am a committed WvW player, I am not in a WvW guild nor am I in the server’s voice-chat, so my observations are at at least one remove from the core. With that caveat…

    YB has a very stable WvW population. Many of our commanders have been around for a year or more and our C in C (not sure how official that is these days) was one of the very first to get a Commander tag back in Sept/Oct 2012. He’s been a constant presence on the field ever since. A very significant number of the people I see in WvW day after day are the same people I saw there 6, 9, 12 months ago or longer even than that.

    It’s my strong impression that the main purpose of WvW is social. The Good Fights matter, yes. We all want good fights. Winning feels good, so we like that too. Losing can be even better. Going down in a blaze of glory, all guns firing, making the victor wonder if the prize was worth the fight, feels more satisfying than any easy win. Win or lose, though, the “point” of WvW is the intense feeling of belonging it creates.

    When you do a repetitive task for a Heart NPC and get one of those “thank you” notes in the mail it has absolutely no emotional resonance (other than sympathy for the poor intern who had to write it). When you spend ten minutes running around Garrison tagging every last arrow cart and five minutes later someone says in /team “Anyone tagging Garri?” and you can say “Just did it” you get the glow of satisfaction that comes from doing something for the team.

    Multiply that countless times in a session every time you call position on an enemy zerg or spot the small group trying to ninja Hills by cata and you get an addictive and fulfilling stream of tiny endorphin rushes that make the whole enterprise feel like a good thing to be part of. WvW provides something similar to the social structures and rewards that in other MMOs would come from raiding and guilds but opens them out to the entire server.

    That’s what I feel and it’s what I sense from the actions and conversations of many WvW regulars. I think it explains why so many spend so much time there even though YB has stayed pretty much in the same part of the Table month in, month out, forever. While everyone likes to win and we all want to see the server do well, I imagine most would dread drifting up to T2/T1 even more than they’d dread slipping to T6 or further. The sense of a natural community of like-minded individuals would have to give way to much greater organization and being a good egg who turns up and does his best would no longer be seen as sufficient.

    The Seasons are extremely welcome because they add a structure that comes with both a purpose and a reward but does not risk de-stablizing the solid foundation we have built over the last year and a half. The levels of motivation and attendance have been very significantly increased during both Seasons because a) there are both incremental and final rewards of a tangible nature and b) you get a grade.

    In the end, though, the Season mainly adds a sense of urgency. Because it has a finite duration it concentrates both activity and attention. I would definitely say that in both seasons the mood has been more upbeat and positive throughout, win or lose, than in a regular match. People take the losses with better dignity and crow less over the victories (well, the people I haven’t already blocked long ago for one or other of those social faux pas do, anyway).

    If ANet ever move away from the “World” part of WvW, all this will be lost, at least for me. Stripped of my Yak’s Bend identity I can’t imagine any of the above remaining true.

  4. Merus

    Like I’ve said before, I get the sense that the WvW team are well aware of the zerg v zerg mentality and the relative unpopularity of defense. They’d like to do something about it, but detecting the difference between players who successfully defended their location, and players who stood around while others defended, is apparently a little difficult for the game at the moment, which defaults to rewarding too generously.

    But it’s entirely fair to say that ArenaNet’s perception of their game now is different to when they launched. To an extent, this always happens with a launched product, but that doesn’t help the people who preferred the original vision.

  5. Kaluu

    “And that is “what’s the point” relative to a MMO”

    I see the point being that we are playing with and against people in living rooms and bedrooms, in the cabs of semi-trucks at rest stops late at night, and who knows where else, across the planet. This is all of that and nothing else.

    Of course there are flaws. There are no systems managing humans that are not flawed and that is inherent. Neither Anet nor the players ultimately have control over who is playing on which server, at what time, how well their level of play, what they like to do when they play, or even what they will do next. That right there is why games between people have been the favorite pastime since man invented the first one.

    We love to play games between each other. We rail against the owner of a team, some enjoy being the leader of a team, some cheer and boo the players on a team, and we love to root for losers and winners, We keep score, change the way we keep score, or not keep score at all. We love to play for the joy of the game and/or we love to play for the rewards when we win against our opponents. We treasure battling wits and then shaking hands and congratulating each other when it is all over, with appreciation for the play we both enjoyed. We mentor, we teach, we learn together.

    Anet would have been foolish to leave people vs. people out of their game. So many enjoy that kind of thing, and always will. The rest of it? The scoring etc. are simply attempts to contain and channel forces of human nature and give us a measure which is integral for many.

    If I misunderstood your question, then sorry.

    1. Zubon Post author

      Yeah, you missed that one. Perhaps if I had included a TV Tropes link or a metaphor: “what’s the point of a football game where one team only has five players and the other has a full squad?”

      1. Kaluu

        If one believes it is how you play the game, not whether you win or lose, then there’s no problem. Many teams may just as well have 5 players, as well as their whole team does against superior competition, from amateur to professional sports, from chess and ping pong clubs to world class Olympics. We do our best, get our asses kicked sometimes, and find enjoyment where we can. Fortunately, as PuppyK says below, there will be an eventual settling of the competitive match ups, unlike the realities of many life’s competitions.

        No, I didn’t miss that one I don’t think. I just changed the paradigm to one in which competing in a game we enjoy is its own reward. It’s all about the game and all its parts. I chose to ignore a perceived dissatisfaction in the balance of the contest as paramount to what many of us enjoy in a game.

        That link to TV Tropes has a funny cartoon to the right of it and embodies in a way my point. Who enjoyed that contest the most?

        I know what you are saying and it is the way many people feel. I hear talk from time to time that turn out is low on a particular week because people are disheartened at an uneven matchup. That is the time people either learn to pick themselves up or lie down and let life walk all over them. It’s one of life’s lessons that any game can’t help but always project. Another one is sportsmanship, but that is something a lot of these kids have no clue about. That though is a different discussion entirely.

        I’ve regularly seen weaker servers do ok on just one or two maps. I am on a server that does well on just one or two maps too often enough. We have a lot of fun. Sometimes a server population as a whole just takes the week off, bitching and moaning. I have a lot of respect for the players who come out regardless. They have heart. It’s an old time worn cliché, sure, because it’s been used for all time. It still carries the same weight and relevance today as always.

        1. Jeromai

          Exactly. To stretch the metaphor, this football game has more than two goalposts or endzones (whatever version of football you prefer) and there are multiple fields to play on. That group of five may be able to find a way to score that the full squad cannot get to in time, or that group of five may be professional quality athletes fighting against a squad of high school rookies.

          The numbers on each side may shift over time, or the spectators waiting in the wings may climb down to join their favored team if they feel encouraged and not unwelcome.

          And as some feel the point of sports is to support a (sometimes arbitrarily picked) team through thick and thin, WvW can be played that way too for a sense of community and unity.

          Or it can be played to have fun with friends, or indeed, to win – for the sake of competitive victory and a feeling of fiero, or for a shiny trophy and material $$$ reward. And different people and servers place differing weights on all those reasons for WvWing.

  6. Puppyk

    I think the way the Swiss style works is perfectly fine. Of course the scores are massively different the first few weeks, there have been guild movements and a fresh batch if players joining the league so it will take a while for that to balance out. There is no way for this to happen after two weeks as there is no way each server could have been matched against all the others to find out who their best match is. This weeks matches are muc closer and will be more so the longer the season goes on

  7. jcSadOne

    What’s the point?
    To have fun of course. “Fun” is hard to define, but usually for me, it comes with feeling that I have achieved something and with the heat of the struggle.
    That said – WvW is (or was, because I haven’t played for a long time now. I don’t even know where are my GW2 installation dvd) really unfun for me.
    First – there is no sense of achievement for me. The keep I’m taking with my guildies is not ours too keep, because it’s more profitable to lose it and retake it.
    Second – there is no fun from heat of the battle, because there is none. Since beta I remember maybe 2 fights, that was really intense and was worthy of time I’ve spend in WvW. And both of them was in first months after release. After that it was – either we roll over them, or their zerg roll over us. Such fun wow, so intense wow wow.

    1. Jeromai

      This perception brings up an interesting question about how to highlight the depth in any system. Do you know -why- one zerg can defeat another though, and no, it’s not just numbers?

      There is a great deal of proper positioning involved. The zerg commander can withdraw and bait another zerg into stretching itself thin, and then reversing on it to take down bits of the other zerg (a numbers advantage within that local situation while the rest of the bigger zerg has fallen back elsewhere.)

      Individiually, whether the members of the zerg know where to stand (and/or are built/traited) for best survival and damage can also play a part, along with whether the commander knows where best to place himself and his zerg.

      Take sPvP. Good sPvPers can read and predict enemy animations and skills being used against them and plan/utilize appropriate counters for that. Whereas me, I’m personally at the level where it’s just, “oh my god, something hit me from behind and I went down, what the heck was it” *scrolls back combat log still trying to figure it out*

      I presume that those playing at a higher level have a lot more fun with the format than those who play it at a lower level.

      Of course, the question also arises whether the format should still try to interest those that are coming in new at an entry-level and/or those who have no interest in going too deep, and whether it should be players or developers who ought to take more responsibility on that front.

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