Tomorrow, Guild Wars 2 's World vs. World PvP is set to receive its first major update since the game launched in August last year. I spoke to designers Mike Ferguson and Matt Witter about the upcoming changes and you'll find our full interview below. Read on for an overview of the changes themselves.
A progression system called World Rank is being added that will allow players to invest points in new lines of WvW-specific abilities. You'll now earn World XP in addition to regular experience while you're fighting on the frontier, with the amount of XP received being directly related to how long your opponent was alive before you slew them: a measure that should discourage spawn camping and reward players who stay mobile.
Potential bonuses include being able to carry more supply, increased damage for siege weapons under your control, and protection for your player from incoming arrow cart or ballista fire. The intent is to allow players to customise their role in PvP - for example, you might invest a lot of points in doing bonus damage to enemy guards to allow you to solo weaker camps and towers.
Points also allow you to earn titles that are displayed to the enemy. At the moment, enemy WvW players are named - for example - 'Desolation Invader', where 'Desolation' is the player's server. From now on, it'll be 'Desolation [rank]'. ArenaNet that it'll take between 2,000 and 4,000 hours of play to hit the current rank cap.
Finally, the World vs. World scoreboard is being replaced. You'll now be able to load up status maps of all four combat zones from anywhere in Tyria, providing quick oversight of the possession status of specific areas at a glance.
This is all in addition to the previously announced removing of 'culling' - the system by which the server reduces the amount of players on-screen at any given point in large battles. From tomorrow onwards, control over how many characters are displayed will be at your discretion. If your machine can handle it, this should mean a big improvement to the scale and spectacle of World vs. World.
What problem is World Rank intended to solve?
Mike Ferguson: Well, one of the things that we saw was that people didn't really have a sense of why they were competing in World vs. World over a long period of time, and there wasn't really a sense of personal progression. So we're really trying to give people that as you go out and you're fighting for your world you're also getting some benefits for yourself and you're able to show off to the enemy that you are a good combatant.
What steps have been taken to ensure that the game remains balanced?
Mike Ferguson: Like we said, we didn't want to do anything that directly [effected] player versus player. These buffs will help some players, but you can get some of those ranks really early on, and we made the costs really cheap so you can get a couple of ranks and buy a couple of lower level abilities. So if you're a low level player, maybe the first thing you do is you buy the first two or three ranks of Siege Defence - that way it gives you a little bit better staying power in the big sieges.
Are choices permanent in the way that traits are permanent - i.e there's a respec option - or are they “permanent” permanent?
Mike Ferguson: It's permanent, there's no respec option.
What's the logic for not being able to switch them around?
Mike Ferguson: The idea is kind of like our skill system in that you can constantly acquire points. Even if you have to spend a point into a line to realise “OK, maybe that isn't what I actually want to go for” you can just keep gaining more points and spending those in other places.
Speaking generally, have you found that World vs. World has been taken up by players in the way you expected?
Mike Ferguson: Honestly we got a much, much larger response than we were expecting early on. It turned out that people just really liked playing this style of game and we're rapidly responding as fast as we can to address some of the concerns that people have brought up. But, in general, what we've seen from the community is basically what we've expected.
What steps can you take to catalyse World vs. World in smaller or underperforming worlds? The PC Gamer guild moved servers en masse to so that we'd have more fun, but that's a pretty slash-and-burn solution to the problem of “Oh, we're not doing very well.” Is there a different way of fixing that problem?
Mike Ferguson: It's a tough problem because it's very based on your population. We actually want the movement to go the other way, instead of everyone crowding onto the bigger servers, we want people to be going out to the smaller servers, so we're looking at a couple of different things – but nothing I can really talk about right now, unfortunately.
Do you agree that that's an issue, though?
Mike Ferguson: Well, I play on Ferguson's Crossing. They're at the very bottom of the rankings, so it's a problem I'm definitely very familiar with! It's something we've been talking about, but it is a difficult problem to solve.
Are you planning to do any more with NPC commanders, in that regard?
Matt Witter: It's not out of the question, that's something that's on the table. We've danced around it - we can't really talk too much about that one either. But the breakout events so far have been really well received, and it seems like they're really helping people get out of their spawns. So it's doing exactly what we want, and hopefully we'll be introducing some different variations of it.
Mike Ferguson: Yeah, it's one of the systems we're looking at [expanding]. But it's still stuff that we're just playing with internally right now.
So the process is more about putting these things in one by one and seeing how they fare?
Mike Ferguson: Exactly.
Has disabling culling in World vs. World required a lot of extra engine work?
Mike Ferguson: Yeah, this why it's taken us six or seven months to actually get it out. We basically had to re-write the rendering engine and large section of the client to have these options in it, because we were trying to handle it all on the server side, and now we've changed that to put the power in the user's hands and that's just a pretty massive rework which is, unfortunately, why it took us so long.
Are you concerned that players will use a setting that's too high for them, to the detriment of their experience?
Mike Ferguson: It's a risk, but we feel that at that point we can hopefully instruct the users that if they change those limits they can improve their performance, instead of everyone suffering from not being able to see who they're fighting.
Do you consider the engine and client to be “done”, now, from a WvW perspective, or is there more to come?
Mike Ferguson: Well, we're never really “done”. We're hopefully done with this section of it, I can say that!
The community has been concerned about spying and cheating in WvW. Using proxy characters to hit siege caps, things like that. Is that something you're looking into, or is it a perception issue?
Mike Ferguson: We don't have anything set in stone right now with how we're going to deal with it, but it is an issue that we are aware of. We know that some people will go onto servers and just start dropping siege rams in the middle of nowhere. I think in the terms of service that if the customer service folks can go out and see that sort of stuff, we will ban those people, but it is definitely an issue that we need to address.
So it's more of a customer service issue than a game design problem?
Mike Ferguson: We don't want to put that burden on them as it would hobble progress on our end, but at the moment if you see [cheating] happening, report it and let our customer service folks deal with it.
Thanks for your time.
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