World vs. World needs major changes, and while the recent announcement of WvW upgrade changes (and associated guild upgrades) could be a part of that, it doesn’t address the structural issues of WvW as a whole.
To recap on why, consider the unbalanceable problems already present in the mode. They’re the same problems that have existed for years, and no number of upgrades, maps, or similar feature changes are going to fix them.
Ultimately, the problems are present due to the focus on servers, a fluid collection of guilds and players, rather than the actual core of the mode, guilds themselves. For all the advantages guilds provide, including WvW’s very lifeblood, they have far too little focus.
Enter: The Alliance
Alliances, as I will present them, aim to reduce (or outright eliminate) the structural problems that WvW suffers from, and provide a system that caters to both the hardcore and the casual player of WvW.
Alliances have three facets: a maximum of 10 guilds, a consistent ladder, and regular seasons.
Maximum of 10 Guilds
Alliances can be of any size, up to a limit of 10 guilds. Guild membership limits functionally set the maximum size of an alliance. In other words, an alliance can have anywhere between 1 and 5000 people in it. While on the face of it, this sounds hopelessly imbalanced, hold that thought.
Every alliance needs to register, with any member guild starting the alliance and inviting the other guilds into it. This could either be done on a website (easier to implement), or in game (easier to utilize).
Guilds not within a registered alliance are considered mercenary guilds. More on that later.
The existing server-based system shows a consistent ladder, but limited to only 8 (or 9, in EU) tiers. Simply put, matches will always pit 3 alliances against each other. However, the number of matches dynamically changes based on the number of alliances present. For example, if there are only 9 alliances, only 3 matches are available, but if there are 42 alliances, 14 matches will happen.
This dynamic expansion allows for alliances to create their own experiences. Smaller alliances that want to do small-group tactics, roaming, and the like, will be able to exist, without being pressured by the fixed number of matches into zerg tactics. And of course, Tier 1-type matches with masses of players capping out every map will also exist.
If there isn’t an evenly divisible number of alliances, the 1 or 2 “extra” are considered mercenaries as well. “Extra” is determined by age of alliance; the newest alliances are mercenaries.
The ladder itself can retain a Glicko-based rating system, with specific adjustments made for the possibility of alliances collapsing, or several alliances forming from match to match.
Once a match starts, an alliance and all its member guilds are locked to that match until it ends. Even if a guild moves to another alliance, it won’t move to the new alliance until the next match begins. This is critical for balance and reducing population-jumping exploit scenarios.
Likewise, the players in each guild are match-locked. If they move guilds during the week, they don’t change who they fight for until the next match.
EDIT: Multiple Memberships and Alliances
Since players can have as many as 5 different guild memberships, there is the possibility of being a member of multiple alliance-affiliated guilds. For balance, a player can only participate in one alliance match. As such, a player with multiple guild memberships has to note which one they fight for week to week.
Similar to the match lock, if a player changes their fighting guild during the week, it doesn’t change their match until the start of the next one.
This could be implemented as either the guild they are representing at the time of reset, or a specific checkbox added to the guild UI.
Seasons are a great idea at their core, but they have always stung due to population imbalances that trump competition. Overall, the point of having regular seasons (perhaps, twice a year in spring and fall) is to create competition beyond the typical ladder matches. League size should adjust based on the number of alliances present, with overall 6-9 alliances being in each league.
Season-based rewards should be a mix of goodies for all players of WvW, and prestige-based rewards exclusively available to alliances and their members. To steal an example from the previous seasons, Mistborn Hero’s weapons for all players, and finishers and guild hall decorations for alliances.
Once a season starts, all alliance guilds are locked to that particular alliance (and their matches) for the duration. Members, however, retain a match-based lock.
All three of these aspects create a solid environment for hardcore, organized WvW play. Further, it’s play not just for maximum-population alliances, but also deliberately smaller ones.
But what about people who like dabbling in WvW, or don’t want the commitment of signing up for an alliance?
Mercenaries: The Fighting Reserve
Mercenaries augment alliance matches. They also provide a system for non-hardcore players to enjoy WvW without forcing them into Edge of the Mists. Anyone not in an alliance at the beginning of the match is considered a mercenary*.
*As noted above, guilds not within alliances, and alliances that are “extra” are also considered mercenaries.
Whenever a mercenary player queues into WvW, they are given an option of which match to play. Upon picking a match, the server compares population numbers for each alliance and slots that player into the least-populated alliance. Once selected, that player stays with that alliance for the remainder of the match.
This sounds restrictive, but a mercenary has the choice of every match being played. Potentially, this can include “free for all” sorts of matches similar to Edge of the Mists where mercenaries are fighting against each other*.
*One aspect to consider is how mercenary match locking will work with guilds and parties. One possibility is having the first person in a guild to queue in to a match locking all other guildmates, whether or not they queue into WvW. Another is less ideal, but maybe unavoidable: each person gets slotted by the balancing algorithm, regardless of affiliation. This leads to players getting separated from their friends, but is simpler to balance.
However, alliance members hold priority to queue into their matches. This means that if a map is capped and there are mercenaries within that map, an alliance member queueing in “bumps” a mercenary out.
Bumping should not be instantaneous. Rather, all mercenaries not in combat with enemy players when a “bump” signal is sent will get an option to switch map voluntarily for 30 seconds (perhaps with a minor wXP bonus for doing so). If no one volunteers, one is selected at random and given a 5 minute timer before they are removed from the map. If the selected mercenary dies, they are kept from reviving or waypointing, and told to switch.*
*Also, if more than one volunteers, they all get the bonus.
This gives priority to alliance members to decide their own match, but prevents mercenaries actively engaged in fighting from getting an unwelcome zone back to Lion’s Arch.
Mercenary matches function similarly to the existing Edge of the Mists: a free-for-all set of maps that have no bearing on an alliance’s score. The difference is that while Edge of the Mists can create (and destroy) infinite copies, mercenary matches should be restricted to a small percentage of active alliance matches and persist throughout the week. This provides an incentive to seek alliance matches, as well as prevents ghost maps from happening.
Aside: Population Balancing Data Analysis
Mercenaries present a unique challenge and opportunity. Ideally, they function as population balancers, filling in minor gaps in coverage or capability, while still leaving the onus on each alliance to show up and win over their opponents.
But to do that well requires capturing and analyzing data of both alliance and mercenary activity. Which mercenaries go to which alliance is a very important question, because done poorly it uses data that bolsters imbalances, rather than smooths them out. At minimum, I think the following data should be used to decide where mercenaries go:
- Average alliance population per hour, per day (establishes the baseline of possible imbalance)
- Average mercenary population per hour, per day (establishes how much is available to balance from)
- Historical scores and PPT per hour, per day (counterbalances, using cases where fewer, more skilled players outplay more, less skilled players)
Using these three factors, with statistical analysis and data over time, should provide a solid basis for balancing mercenaries into alliance matches.
Alliances, in concert with the mercenary system, provide opportunities for both the hardcore and the non-hardcore. It gives those who know exactly what they want out of WvW the freedom to do just that, while offering those who aren’t sure yet the ability to dabble.
Furthermore, as I’ll explore tomorrow, alliances address all of the problems that the server system has suffered from, either eliminating or reducing each and every one.
The Alliances Series
- Putting Guilds Back into Guild Wars: WvW Alliances
- Unbalanceable Problems: Why the Server System Cannot Work
- Heart and Soul: The Guilds of World vs. World
- The Case for WvW Alliances
- The Alliance Structure: Sidestepping the Problems
- The Pros and Cons of WvW Alliances
- Rewarding the Competition
- Implementing Alliances