No Compensation without Participation: The Conundrum of Rewarding Defense in WvW

UPDATEBased on the reddit discussion thread, I have added the heading “Tiering Rewards Based on Actions Performed” below.

Defense in World vs. World is not rewarding. No amount of server pride, sense of purpose, and other intangibles can offset the fact that sitting in a tower, or coming to the rescue of said tower, isn’t worth bunk.

A player attempting to help the server out is literally sacrificing their time and active enjoyment. And very few people like knowing they have deliberately chosen to screw themselves while everyone they’re helping out is attacking, getting in fights, collecting bags, and the like.

Everyone knows defense isn’t personally rewarding. And people have been calling for it to be made worthwhile for pretty much the entire existence of WvW. So why hasn’t anything changed?

The Core Conundrum

It is really hard for the game to distinguish defending and afking in a structure. While a player can tell that immediately, rewards have to be handled by the game logic itself*. That’s why defense events cue on enemy players damaged or killed within a time period before awarding event credit.

*Having players decide who’s defending and not is asking for trolling that makes rams built around a supply depot look small-time.

Just Taking a Quick Walk

To provide further proof of the problem, rewind to Guild Wars 2’s release. Escorting yaks, a worthy cause crucial to the war effort, awarded event credit and rewards. A pitiful standard amount compared to going and seizing the local tower with five of one’s friends, but something.

People AFK walked yaks for hours. Contributed nothing, rarely actually defended said yak, and clogged up already packed-in-like-sardines queues for a mediocre reward. With lightning speed, yak escort rewards were eliminated. You can still escort one, but other than progress toward a nigh-impossible achievement, it grants no personal reward.

Constrained by the System

But dig a bit deeper, and the real problem lies not with some players’ tendency to take the extreme lazy, guaranteed way, but how event credit is designed. Currently*, event credit is based on three things:

  1. Damage caused to enemies
  2. Kill credit obtained against enemies spawned by the event (or for WvW, enemy players)
  3. Side objectives completed (destroying a structure, delivering a bundle, capturing a location)

*This is not official, but based on the tens of thousands of events I have completed while playing the game. Exactly how credit works is not known. Also, there are some rare exceptions to this, like the yak event that tracks time spent if the yak made it safely.

Side objectives themselves are specifically called out as part of the event dialog, with progress bars or numbers to match.

Nowhere in any of those is it possible to tell a defender apart from someone afking in the near vicinity. Yes, all of them require active, participatory play (the point of event credit), but successful defense is much more than simply shooting bad guys dead.

New Ways to Measure Defense

To be able to fix defensive reward, how defense is measured must be expanded to include everything that defense comprises.

Preparation is Half the Battle…

…So defense should start being measured from the instant a structure is captured, and not just when it is under active attack. There already is an event that is permanently up at the point of capture, and for the purposes of this post I will call it the “passive defense event.”

Increased Ways to Trigger Defending

As said earlier, defense is much more than the active moment of killing the enemies at the gates (or walls). A good defense can even deter active attack from ever happening. The following should confer credit toward rewarding defense:

  • Building siege
  • Refreshing siege
  • Repairing walls and gates
  • Dealing damage to enemies within event radius

The last one because oftentimes opening fire with a single arrow cart is enough to chase a havoc off, resulting in virtually no active defense credit. That is still defense, and should be counted as such.

Tracking Time

But that’s still not the full picture. Spending time keeping watch, the duty of a sentry, is also part of passive defense and preparation. White swords pale in comparison to someone calling out the size of the enemy and how many rams they threw down. Not to mention that the mere presence of a sentry can ward off havocs looking to ninja things.

Thus, tracking how long someone has been in the radius of the passive defense event should also be done*.

*I realize this sounds like rewarding afking, but bear with me. It’ll make sense in a second.

Factor in Structure Upgrades

Right now, all that an upgraded structure gives the defending team is time. Time to react to any eventual attacks, time to ready forces to spam the waypoint, time to run halfway across the map to wipe them in the Lord’s room.

While strategically, giving time is an amazing reward, personally it’s barely worth a shrug. Defense credit is so meaningless that hunting down the enemy pre- or post-cap doesn’t matter, they render the same number of bags.

Rewards should adjust based on how much has been sunk into upgrading a structure. Right now, there’s only a marginal change based on the type of structure being defended, with no regard to its upgrade status.

New Ways to Reward Defense

Now with a framework of things to track giving a more complete picture of all that defense involves, it’s possible to reward players who defend while not giving non-participants free loot. Additionally, incentives to defend can make it worth a larger group’s while to come running in to save the day.

Refreshing Passive Defense Events

Rather than the passive defense event being up permanently, it should end and refresh approximately every 30 minutes. When precisely it ends should fluctuate anywhere between 27 and 33 minutes to avoid people running to a valuable structure and building an arrow cart “to get it for the tick.”

Rewarding Passive Defense

With this in place, rewards in the form of event credit and a loot (“jiggly”) chest can be apportioned to those who have done enough to warrant credit. In the event that a player has managed to get credit at more than one structure, the most valuable is the only one awarded.

Just like the current event triggers, credit should only be given via things a player actively does (see Increasing Ways to Trigger Defending above). What time and the upgrade level of a structure do is act as modifiers of the total reward.

While I’m not going to attempt full numbers at this time due to complexity, I will outline the factors for determining reward. Also, any numbers I do use are for illustration and should by no means be considered final.

Building Siege

The amount of built siege required should adjust based on the size and complexity of the structure and any potential defense plan. “Optimal siege setup” resources exist in numerous locations and can be used to figure a good baseline for what a player is capable of constructing within the ~30 minute period of passive defense*. So while at one tower two arrow carts is a decent defense setup, at a keep nothing less than a dozen, five trebuchets, and a couple strategic ballistas will do.

*This doesn’t directly help the new borderlands map coming with Heart of Thorns, but likely setups can be inferred based on terrain and the existing map setups.

The same optimal siege setups can be used to detect likely trolling. If the average amount of siege in a place is only 5, and someone builds 10 in 30 minutes, 5 hours after the initial siege was placed (and said siege has been refreshed), it’s pretty obvious they’re not defending.

To prevent anti-cooperation, putting any supply into a built piece of siege should cause credit, rather than a set amount. This also prevents someone trolling for credit by building a trebuchet in the middle of nowhere.

Refreshing Siege

Any credit for refreshing should only count once per passive defense event. Further, each piece of siege should only grant credit once, preventing someone spamming F on a single arrow cart to get baseline credit. (This latter bit might be harder to track and implement, though)

Refreshing siege is what happens after the initial siege setup has been completed, so it shouldn’t count at all during the first passive defense event following a capture. No one should spam refresh while everyone else is trying to put supply in the right places.

Repairing Walls and Gates

This is something that happens following an attack when the enemy has been pushed back or wiped out. Similar to the complexity of building siege, walls and gates multiply the larger the objective is. Unlike siege, however, attacks rarely break more than two walls or gates.

Depending on how complex the system can be, repair credit can either assume that one or two walls or gates were taken down (typical tower/keep) or dynamically adjust credit based on the extent of the damage done.

Dealing Damage to Enemies

This is cut and dried. If enemies, or siege they build, takes damage, defending happened. This needs to give the highest amount of credit toward the passive defense event.

Time

Time is a modifier, chiefly there to reward higher a sentry or someone running supply to build siege over the bunch of folks who showed up to wipe the enemy out. For the passive defense event, the more time spent (up to a cap, say 15 minutes of the cycle, to prevent people from feeling pressured to never leave even if they need supply or want to escort a yak into the structure), the “magic find” of the loot chest increases drastically.

The reasoning for this is simple: sentries aren’t fighting most of the time. Their total loot drops are much lower than the average person running in a zerg. So rather than shower them in tons of quantity, give quality instead. Make it a unique attraction for standing watch over a tower.

Upgrade Status

Upgrade status is a multiplier. Rather than try to assign “value” to given upgrades, utilizing the existing mechanic of maximum amount of supply would work. For instance, a paper keep only gives 500 supply, while a fully-upgraded one gives 1,700. Dividing the difference by 100 means that a fully upgraded keep is 12 times more valuable than the paper one.

All rewards given by the passive and active defense events should take into account that multiplier. For experience and karma, it can be a straight conversion. For loot, it could be an additive (e.g., 12 more Badges of Honor).

The Loot Chest

Taking all these pieces into account, the loot chest should award based on total credit, up to a cap. Due to the number of sources, lots of fine-tuning would need to be done, but with the greater number of things being tracked credit can be much more granular than simple bronze/silver/gold. It’s enough data to build more options in.

Loot should be similar to what would be gained by attacking the enemy, or taking enemy structures. That means loot bags, Badges of Honor, greens and blues (use Silverwastes-type loot bags for simplicity), the appropriate ascended material (dragonite for defending a keep, empyreal for towers), and most importantly WvW XP.

Higher magic find levels caused by the time or upgrade status modifiers should cause upgrades to the loot chest’s rewards. Rather than loot bags, rare bags and champion boxes. Rather than just Badges of Honor, extra siege.

UPDATE : Tiering Rewards Based on Actions Performed

Some defense actions are inherently less demanding than others. For example, refreshing siege is hitting the F button twice. Even if there’s 40 pieces of siege to refresh, there’s very little work involved.

On the other hand, manning siege to decimate an enemy zerg’s rams is both active and requires being attentive. Taking the entire zerg out with some help is even more demanding.

Passive defense rewards should be tiered based on what activities were done. If only low-demand tasks like refreshing siege and repairing walls is done, there should be fewer rewards granted at the end.

To illustrate:

  • Pure passive defense (refreshing siege, building an extra piece or two): A couple loot bags, a few Badges, some wXP
  • Active deterrent defense (all or some of the above, but damage was done to enemies): several loot bags, some more Badges, more wXP
  • Active repulsive defense (active defense event triggered, enemy players killed): many loot bags, many more Badges, a lot of wXP

Reward Holding Structures

Upgraded structures should provide a blanket magic find buff in the vein of Perseverance to any players within the event radius. The more upgraded the structure, the higher the buff. (To prevent spam-killing creatures, said buff only triggers on killing enemy players.)

Advantages

Changing defense events to track more (and appropriate) kinds of participation, and rewarding accordingly, is instantly an advantage because defense is personally rewarding, both for the sentry and siege-builder folks and for the zerg pulled off the front lines to show the enemy their boot heels. But it does more than that.

Rewards Active Attempts to Defend

With all the elements in place, the zerg that arrives just in time to save the day doesn’t just get the bags of the enemies they crushed. They also pick up enough credit to trigger both the passive and active defense events.

Further, what if they fail? The structure falls, but even a failure could award loot at a lesser caliber than if it had succeeded. There can still be a monetary reason to give it a good shot, even if it appears hopeless.

Rewards Sentries and Supporters

Rather than being stuck with the knowledge that they’re getting a fraction of what everyone else is getting, they get the unique bonus of absurd magic find. Support-oriented players are no longer forced to do it out of the goodness of their hearts. They get rewarded for the critical work they do.

Incentivizes Creating Defenses

Oftentimes, a zerg will roll through an area, take everything, and leave. People wanting to hold the captured territory have to spend tons more time sieging it up, securing the supply routes, and being ready for the inevitable attack to take it back.

But with building siege giving credit toward the passive defense event that starts running the second the structure is captured, there’s a reason to stick around long enough to get the basic siege laid down and ready: rewards.

Does Not Reward People Who Don’t Participate

This is the key thing. Someone sitting in a tower hoping to get rewarded while they watch TV in the next room will get nothing. Someone else who builds up the defenses, refreshes the siege ever so often, and mans an arrow cart when a havoc comes knocking is showered in goodies.

Hard to Abuse

With the emphasis on participating, it’s hard to abuse a system like this. If a player sits in a tower that is never attacked, but they do all the tasks required to keep it running, they get loot. But that isn’t abuse. That’s them defending as WvW is built to allow and encourage*.

*From a strategic perspective, WvW has always encouraged defending due to defender’s advantage. The personal rewards have been what’s been out of whack.

Creates Mechanisms to Catch Trolls

Siege and supply-draining trolls are a nuisance. Right now, it’s hard to catch one and prove it, and the length of time it takes to get the proof to the right people assures that the troll still gets his lulz.

But with detection in place for amount of siege getting built in a large area, a siege troll is really easy to catch, with the same tools used to reward people for playing the game correctly. Such a person could have their ability to spend supply suspended pending a GM review.

Helps Reassert the Rewards Balance

Offense rewards more. Way more. To the point that karma training is regular and strategic decisions are sometimes made based on how profitable they could be. With rewards like these, the balance shifts back closer to even. Offense can still be really good, but a solid defense can be just as good.

Obstacles

This is not a simple suggestion:

  1. It’s a full-scale overhaul of how events track credit, specifically applying it to the case of WvW defense and what that means.
  2. It’s a lot more data to track and collate, particularly when it comes to building and refreshing siege.
  3. It will require plenty of fine-tuning to get fully right so that the rewards are good without being so good nobody ever wants to attack again.

Conclusion

Defense needs to reward more personally than it presently does. A lot more. More than that, it needs to reward the work that happens even when a fight isn’t brewing. Without good preparation, most defenses would be impossible.

This is stymied by the limitations of the existing event credit system, which cannot take into account the vast majority of actions done to make defense possible. Increasing the list of “possible credit” gives the ability to reward based on the more unique actions of WvW.

With this in hand, I’ve outlined a potential rewards framework that rewards both support-oriented players and people who come back to defend already-owned structures rather than karma training the map. It’s not a simple framework and will require a large amount of work to get right, but it should make defense worthwhile without rewarding people who never did anything.

All of this begs statements like “But this doesn’t look very fair to offense” or “Doesn’t give a good reason to try to take down an enemy T3. More like avoid it so they don’t get better loot.” I’m aware, and I’ll be addressing the offensive side of things next week.

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5 thoughts on “No Compensation without Participation: The Conundrum of Rewarding Defense in WvW”

  1. I don’t understand why they can’t just reward afking in the structure.

    If dungeon income for an average (not hardcore) player is 3G/hr, just give defenders some fraction of this and reward it to them even if they aren’t doing anything and are alive.

    Right now, even legitimate defenders don’t get anything unless they get kill or burn supply, even if they are repelling a whole Zerg with traps and siege.

    Like

    1. Because it’s an ArenaNet design paradigm to never reward AFKing if at all possible. Adding purely time-based rewards to defense events functionally creates that, even if the conversion rate is miserable.

      Like

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