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Monthly Archives: September 2012

Time to write up my impressions of WvW, now that I’ve had a few excursions out to do battle on behalf of Gandara server against whoever the hell we’re matched up against today. I’d been meaning to do this anyway, even before Spinks mentioned that she hadn’t seen many bloggers talk about WvW yet. Honest. I’m coming from the perspective of an old Dark Age of Camelot veteran, so I remember the halcyon days of bashing on keep doors and zerging in Emain Macha. For WvW, I’ve played with both my warrior and engineer, and in both cases they were in the level 30 to 40 region – so a full bar of skills, but some way to go in building up their traits.

Firstly, WvW is fun. I recognise that’s a subjective statement, but it bears making. I’ve enjoyed myself when I’ve been out there, and judging from the chat channels I believe most players feel likewise – certainly there’s been very little of the “OMFG this is so boring!” whining that MMO players usually aren’t shy about making if they feel it’s justified. I’ve enjoyed the open field fights, assaulting keeps and defending them – when I can get into WvW at all. Which leads me to…

WvW is popular. Apparently, a lot of players like WvW. How can I tell? Well, partly because there are plenty of people to fight alongside and against when I get in there. But mostly because a lot of the time I can’t get in there. The WvW maps are population capped, which does wonderful things to improve server performance and game balance. However, it means there are lengthy queues to get in there at peak times – well in excess of an hour, from my experience, to the point where I don’t often bother trying on a weekday evening. I’ve done much of my WvW on Sunday mornings which go from no queue very early, to a bearable queue as people start waking up and logging on. Not sure what Anet can do to alleviate this easily – just raising the pop caps, even if the servers could take it, would make maps more crowded and zergy – but if WvW remains this popular they’d better start working on something. I don’t begrudge others their fun but let me have some too, damn it!

WvW is rewarding – but not overly so. Almost anything you can do to help your side is treated as a Dynamic Event and rewards XP, karma and coin like any other DE. Capture a tower? DE. Defend a tower? DE, with success defined as “keeping the enemy out for a set amount of time”. Seize a supply camp, or intercept one of the enemy supply caravans? DE – along with progress on the ‘Yakslapper’ achievement for killing supply dolyaks. You can make a fair bit of XP in WvW but – and this is the key point – nothing out of line with what you could be earning in PvE. This saves WvW from being full of people who hate PvP but just want to farm the rewards, which is an issue with certain other games.

WvW has its incentives pretty well worked out. All of those Dynamic Events I mentioned are rewarding you for actions that help your team win. There are no rewards for AFK leeching, so the game is free of that plague. The rewards for just killing players aren’t that great, so the game doesn’t seem to be degenerating into zergs that ignore the stated objectives whilst farming each other over and over again (cough, Rift Conquest, cough). The one activity that was abuseable and abused was escorting friendly supply caravans – there were reports of masses of players escorting perfectly safe caravans, well behind friendly lines, back and forth. Lord knows why. It may have been challenge free XP, but it certainly wasn’t very good or fast XP compared to actually playing the game. Regardless, the next day after I saw this reported on the GW2Guru forums there was a patch and escorting caravans no longer yields any rewards. Looks like ArenaNet understand that players respond to incentives, and if you give incentives for the wrong behaviour then that’s what you get.

WvW involves a lot of running. WvW has very few waypoints for instant travel compared to the PvE maps, and those that do exist become unusable if there’s fighting nearby. Expect to have to run from your side’s home base out to where the action is, and if you die and can’t be revived by friendlies then expect to make that run again. This is a deliberate design decision, I think. Having significant travel time to get around the map makes tactics matter, and makes killing an enemy and forcing him to respawn an actual victory – he won’t be straight back in your face 30 seconds later. It does comer as a shock after getting used to hopping back and forth between waypoints, though, and while the run is nothing compared to the old DAoC runs out into the frontiers it will come as a shock to the modern MMO generation who are used to very compact battlegrounds.

WvW is not for lone wolves. Not many objectives can be taken solo – you could take down a supply dolyak on the road, but that’s about it. GW2 doesn’t have any long duration stealth, so there’s no place for the rogue assassin/ganker. If you try running around solo, you’re probably just going to get killed. And then have a long run back (see above). And then get killed again. You need to team up with other players, or at least stick in close proximity to them. I don’t have a problem with this, but it may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

WvW lacks a well-defined enemy. In DAoC, the other two realms were fixed, and different. As a Hibernian, I knew that Albion and Midgard had not only different character races, but different character classes as well. the enemy were outsiders, they were Other Than Us. They had Clerics and Healers instead of noble Druids, they had dirty Berserkers and honourless Mercenaries instead of our proud Blademasters, they had weird guys like Theurgists with no equivalent in any decent realm. On the flip side – the enemy was fixed. You fought the same enemies day after day, week after week, and got to know which enemies to fear, which to despise, and who were honourable foemen. I’m convinced that both of these factors – a strong separate identity for your side and getting to know your enemies – contributed to the realm pride that made DAoC what it was. GW2 doesn’t offer that. There’s a regular rotation through different sets of enemies, but they’re all identical to the guys on your side. It weakens the sense of Us versus Them that binds a faction together, and is my only real grumble about the way WvW has been designed.

WvW is here for the long haul. I don’t see any sign that the mass of players are trying WvW once or twice, going “meh” and leaving it for either the more rewarding (in terms of cash and xp) PvE content or for the more concentrated hit of action in sPvP. the eternal battlegrounds are staying busy and the queues seem as long now as they were two or three weeks ago. The maps are large and complex enough to make battles feel different from one another. Tactics are still evolving – for example, last time I was there I saw “stay behind” enemy mesmers transporting enemy strike teams in to recapture keeps and towers we had just taken from them – but there’s no sign of the game settling down into a boring set of degenerate tactics (such as WoW’s Alterac Valley where after a while both teams ignored each other and raced to zerg the bosses). I don’t think WvW will become enshrined as THE endgame for GW2, especially if it continues to have hour plus queues at peak times. It will however be a popular part of the game for a lot of players and like DAoC’s RvR before it will generate loads of great memories and war stories – like the time my engineer killed a keep defender by dropping a crate on his head…

Over a year ago, Sanya Weathers wrote a bloody good post about people who demand you make your product something it isn’t.

At the time, she was inspired by some of the posts on the Prime: Battle For Dominus forums demanding, among other things, arena PvP in what was intended to be an RvR based game. Fast forward to 2012, though, and you could be writing the same thing based on some of the posts on the Guild Wars 2 forums.

Listen, kids – we get that you enjoy formalised raiding and love having gear progression. Fortunately for you, there are LOADS of games that have that. Both the biggest one and (in my opinion) the best have expansions coming up pretty soon so you can get even more formalised raiding and gear progression. Guild Wars 2 has something else in mind. So there’s going to be fresh new ice cream for those who want it, but for crying out loud let the rest of us have some cookies for a change!

Is that an imbalanced score or what? Seriously – since the Trading Post finally came up and stayed up for the masses of GW2 players, a lot of people have been amazed at how low the prices are, and how hard it is to get rich as a crafter. I wasn’t surprised at all – not once I understood that the Trading Post is game-wide, not just based on your home server, and once I realised how tight the supply of money is in the game and how little it goes up as you level, compared to the enormous level-based inequality in other games. Then again, I’m the sort of person who reads at least layman texts on economics for fun, and it’s pretty clear from looking at the world around me that most people… don’t.

A market exists to enable trades between players. There’s always some profit in a trade – each party gets something worth at least as much to them as what they’re giving up, or they wouldn’t bother to trade. What varies is how the pie is divided up, that is how much of the benefit each side gets. In a seller’s market there’s a scarcity of the good, so the price goes up until demand drops to match the available supply, i.e. it’s so expensive that it’s barely worth buying this stuff, and the benefit of the trade goes almost entirely to the supplier. If supply is plentiful, then the buyers get bargains instead. In Guild Wars 2 there’s an abundance of almost every good apart from certain dyes, jute scraps and mystic coins… and cold, hard cash. Because GW2 doesn’t have the rampant inflation in cash supply as characters reach higher levels, coin is also a scarce commodity meaning that people trade relatively little of it for the goods they want.

To make money in a perfect market, you need to be supplying something scarce – because only you control the source, or because the cost of setting up in competition with you is too high for most people – e.g. it took the resources of an entire guild to get me to max out weaponcrafting in DAoC, so for several months I was one of only three people supplying top end weapons to my realm. Apart from being in that blessed position, the only other options are to try and control the market to create artificial scarcity that you can profit from (e.g. corner the market and engineer a monopoly), or take advantage of or create an imperfect market by manipulating the information flow – by scamming, or by creating misleading auction house listings that make your real listings look like a bargain. These are standard tactics for WoW ‘auction house goblins’ but they only work because they are big fish in a small, fragmented market pond. The GW2 single market is too big for one player, or even a cartel of them, to control, and gives buyers and sellers too much information on what the other offers are to make it easy to scam or manipulate your customers.

Going forward, I suspect money will remain tight in Tyria – the supply is relatively limited and the game design has a LOT of cash sinks built into it. Demand on the market will continue to be for crafting materials as lots of players will pour the cash they have into levelling crafting as a way of powerlevelling their characters (remember that with enough cash, you can go from 1 to 80 purely by levelling up all crafting skills). There will also be an ongoing market for consumables, as in any MMO, so find the foods or buff items that are most popular and either supply those, or farm the materials needed by the people who can make them. Finally, you can try and take advantages of any imperfections in the market – for example, if you think demand for some commodity is going to go up you could buy loads now and sell it later when the price improves… however, in a free and liquid market it’s a lot harder to get ahead of the game that way than most people realise. Chances are others have already thought of the same thing and so it has already effectively been factored into the price. Remember kids – economics is actually pretty simple. It’s getting rich from it that’s hard!

Just a quick post after a long day at work. I’ll save both my wisdom from running around in Guild Wars 2, and my thoughts on the news that City of Heroes is flying off into the four-colour sunset, for another time. Instead, I thought I’d try to bring a little perspective to the Internet. Yeah, like that will ever happen.

If you care enough about MMOs to read an obscure blog like this, you’re bound to be aware A) that Guild Wars 2 launched last week, and B) that the launch was not without issues. You may also be aware that C) ArenaNet have both been fairly liberal with the ban stick and not shy about explaining why. Depending on your perspective, it’s either been a brilliant launch or you may be one of those people describing it as “epic fail” and “worst. launch. ever” by a bunch of humourless Nazis who took players money and then banned them from the game for the developers’ own mistake.

Understanding, as my good friend Ambassador Kosh was wont to say, is a three-edged sword. In Internet terms that means the rabid fans, the trolls and something remotely resembling reality. It most definitely is not a perfect launch. If I want an example of a perfect launch, I look at Rift. GW2 had a significant outage during which people couldn’t log in the first day, and then another one last weekend when they enabled email authentication on all accounts but the server that sent out the authentication emails stopped working, resulting in a load of customers who couldn’t progress into the game until they had clicked on a link in an email they never received. Oops. On top of that the entire trading post system has been down for most players for most of the week, so we can file the current state of the economy under “Economy? What Economy?” Oh, and the mail system was taken down for a while to fix an exploit, and players have been discovering the limitations of playing in ‘overflow servers’ when their home server is full (no WvW, and some issues with grouping up across servers). Plus, you know, a bunch of people got banned for exploiting a vendor for selling weapons at 1/1000 normal price (the ban stick was only used on people who bought over 50 weapons for resale/salvaging, so “I didn’t realise it was an exploit” doesn’t really hold water), for naming their character “verybigballsackk” or for the whole referring to people as “you fuckasses” thing – a clear miscarriage of justice if ever I’ve seen one.

On the other hand – I, and the rest of the players, actually got to play the game every day, including the first one. That’s far from guaranteed on launch day. There was very little staring at a “server down” message and no “you are 438 in the queue. Estimated wait: 2 hours”. Maybe I couldn’t dump stuff on the trading post and the queue to get into the virtual Valhalla of World vs World is insanely long, especially as you can’t access it during that semi-exile to the overflow… but I was still free to run around Tyria exploring, killing centaurs, stopping bandits from poisoning the reservoir, throwing snowballs at Norn kids, discovering weaponsmithing recipes at the crafting station and trying to get to that last [expurgated] vista in Metrica Province… and didn’t I feel a fool when I found the path to it I’d walked past half a dozen times. I got to play the game, and the game was good.

So yeah. Not perfect, but good enough for me. Worst launch ever? Have you kids even LIVED? And as for the bans – looks to me that ArenaNet are working hard to nudge players towards their definition of acceptable behaviour, instead of letting the player base settle to the level of the lowest common denominator… like WoW. I really, REALLY don’t have a problem with that.