Pride is a big part of PvP. The pride of victory, the pride of improving, the pride of defeating someone you couldn’t before. And in the mass PvP realm of World vs. World, pride is just as present, and just as fun. To boot, you have a bunch of friends to be proud amongst.
But there are times where pride obscures the problems lurking beneath. Where pride prevents solutions from being aired because no one wants to admit there are problems. In the case of WvW, three kinds of pride gloss over core flaws that need to be addressed to improve the game mode and make it more fun for all involved. Including the people who want to proud of what they’re doing.
I’m going to talk about these forms of pride, the core problem they conceal, and the overarching solution that each problem needs.
Servers are a really big deal to the players of WvW. Due to megaserver, really that’s the only thing that defines a server nowadays. Each one has a culture, a reputation, and a joint presence on the fields of the Mist War*.
*A cynic would say that servers don’t have anywhere near that level of identity due to the rampant nature of transfers, bandwagons, and the like, but that’s only true to a limited extent.
But a lot of the vital roles rely too often on being done “for the server.” Defending held structures, escorting yaks, upgrading structures, building siege, refreshing siege, standing sentry, the list goes on. It’s a bunch of things that need to happen to retain an advantage, but their sole consolation is it’s “for the good of the server.”
For some people, that is enough. Most of their enjoyment is derived from the “warm fuzzy” of having done good work, no matter how much reward or acclaim is attached to doing it.
But for many others, the lack of rewards is a complete buzzkill. Refreshing siege and scouting out attacks on a structure may be needed, but it’s intensely boring and completely unrewarded. Meanwhile, players elsewhere are attacking and taking other structures for fun and profit.
The Concealed Problem: Rewards Suck
There’s no nice way to put it. No matter how important things might be to the overall war effort, the rewards for the vast majority of them suck. There is little incentive to do them beyond a sense of duty, and people get tired of doing it “for the server” over time. At that point, they quit in favor of what actually is rewarding*.
*Cue karma training, keep trading, and the like. Because offense is almost always worth it for the player.
Rewards need serious work to bring relative parity to all the various activities of WvW. It’s a tall and difficult order, but the existing reliance on “for the server” does nothing but postpone the work necessary to make everything in WvW fulfilling beyond a warm, fuzzy feeling that will fade with time.
WvW accommodates several different playstyles, from the strategic commander with his zerg to the roaming duelist. And as expected for any form of PvP, a fair amount of elitism and pride accompanies each playstyle. Some of it is in good fun (a havoc bragging about drawing a zerg to them, roamers gloating they outmatched a havoc), but others are never warranted.
The most clear case is of zergs. Commanders constantly call out to “get on tag” and “stop wasting time elsewhere, get here.” Guilds insist that others be on voice communication and follow directions, and “don’t be a rallybot.” Toxicity abounds around zergs*.
*Not all the time, but often enough that they stand out from any other role in WvW.
But why all the specific directions, demands, and sometimes even hatred? Because zergs are the best at doing everything. Well, not quite everything, but so much of offense and defense boils down to bringing the most bodies to bear at a single location as possible. Even the most good-natured trash talk threads came down to calling out zerg sizes (“Yours are always bigger and do less damage than ours!”) and siege usage (“Hide behind your arrow carts!”).
The Concealed Problem: Zergs are Too Good
This problem isn’t that concealed, since people have been griping about the efficiency of bringing a massive ball of people into any situation since the Beta Weekends. There’s been tons of suggestions aired to punish a zerg, or lower its effectiveness, but nothing has come into existence yet.
Digging deeper, the real problem lies in how to discourage zergs without making players unhappy to see more players. It’s a design cornerstone to encourage cooperation and part and parcel is what I’ll term “The +1 Problem”: adding one player should always make things better. The most direct ways to punish a zerg (movement speed decreases, stat nerfs, being on the wrong end of an AoE cap removal, etc.) violate this.
There are shades of this in the structure of the upcoming desert borderlands map, but more can be done to make zergs one option, rather than the best option.
For the first year or so of WvW’s existence, there was a simple equation: higher tier = higher skill. Thus, if a server wasn’t pushing upwards, they might as well have been last place in the bottom tier.
Fortunately that equation has broken down as the terms “Mass Exodus” and “Bandwagoning” have become facts of WvW life, especially when the word “season” gets mentioned.
But what has remained is the insistence that playing anywhere not at or near “the top” means players on low-tiers aren’t that serious about WvW. If a player really wants to play seriously, then they should transfer up to tier 1 or 2, because that’s where the people who truly care are. This goes double if it’s a guild.
This ignores that tier, scores, and the like are purely determined by coverage and the PPT differences superior coverage creates. While exceptional play by a group of people might change the balance of power, that has minimal effect compared to whoever is able to have more people outside the primetime hours of their opponents. Eking out a +50 PPT advantage in primetime means nothing if another server is able to pull +400 every night.
Ultimately, all Tier 1* is is a guarantee that enough coverage exists that those small skillful advantages won’t be wiped out by the 15 people who play at a different time.
*And to a lesser extent, Tier 2, especially with the “4 T1” problem currently existing.
The Concealed Problem: Scoring Needs an Overhaul
No amount of “global war,” “best performance over time,” and “just 2v1 the server with the off-peak advantage” is going to change the fact that no one likes the scoring system. Not too long ago servers made their name on only playing “for the fights”…until everyone who PPTed around them pissed them off and they left for other servers.
The scoring system doesn’t work. It doesn’t measure player skill, it doesn’t even measure corporate skill. All it measures is relative population advantage over a period of 24 hours. If WvW wasn’t intended as any sort of competitive mode, that might be okay*, but three tournaments and counting says that it’s definitely considered a competition.
*I’m straining the definition of might here, I’m sorry.
There are several ways to approach creating a better scoring system, and the vast majority of them have been covered in detail since Guild Wars 2 released*. Still, I’m going to cover several different options and show what’s good, bad, and ugly about each. Soon. (No ™)
*And since been buried under pages and pages of posts. To boot, the official forum’s search feature couldn’t find a haystack, much less the needle within it.
WvW pride is part of the appeal of the mode, but too often pride has been used as a way to gloss over deep-seated problems with it. How bad rewards are, how effective the zerg is, and how terrible the scoring system is should never be covered over because “that’s the way things are, take pride in what you do have.”
These deep flaws need to be corrected, otherwise WvW will always be fighting staleness as “the new” fades into a realization that key parts of the game mode are still awful. One does not put a new coat of paint on a house with a cracked foundation and declare it ready for sale. The foundation itself needs repair.
As such, I will be making analysis and suggestions to address these three core flaws in the coming weeks*. There are no silver bullets, but a suite of medication should do the trick.
*Oops, already started on the rewards angle. #sorrynotsorry