Published on December 4th, 2012 | by Gary Kirwan
ArenaNet On PvP
The hard-working folks over at Guildwars 2 Guru hosted their first “State of the Game” round table discussion over the weekend, and despite a few technical difficulties, it all went rather well. Charged with the noble goal of raising discussions above the typical back and forth of forum warfare, a collection of the most experienced and dedicated players assembled. I like to imagine them sat in a great cavernous hall, tankards in hand, candlelight silhouettes dancing across the walls. They even managed to grab Jonathan “Chaplan” Sharp – ArenaNet’s man with the PvP plan. You may know him from the livestream as the guy with the admirable collection of hats.
First and foremost, it’s clear the game these guys are playing is not the same as the one we hop into occasionally for an evening of quick-witted repartee, casual swearing, and pre-prepared slanderous insults. As anyone who has ever watched a professional gamer in action knows all too well, the graphical interface certainly looks familiar, you may even see something you’ve achieved by accident once upon a time, but on the whole there’s only a passing resemblance to the experience of the majority of the player base. Despite this there were plenty of golden nuggets of information to be dug from the conversation, even for the casual PvPer.
ArenaNet have been pushing for eSports’ blessing from day one. Even during the beta weekends most of the teams represented here were working on strategies, refining compositions and getting a feel for the maps. ArenaNet even hosted tournaments with their in-house teams, posting videos across the intertubes to drum up enthusiasm and entice fans. It’s good to hear then, that their hard work is showing some promise as a representative of ESL.eu, the European branch of the Electronic Sports League, took to Reddit to gauge interest. It seems to have run out of steam due to current technical restrictions, but such a public display of support is certainly encouraging.
Sharp revealed talks with a number of organisations, so it may be further along than we think, but stated a number of things needed before that can happen, first and foremost a spectator mode. This may seem obvious but it really is integral to the viewer experience – without a way to broadcast, commentate and display where the action is, there essentially is none. The second feature which the professional teams are clamouring for is custom arenas, which were mentioned in Arenanet’s PvP blog post back in October. This will give anyone the option to rent a private server, set the parameters of maps and number of players, arrange practice matches or even host tournaments. In terms of growing the competitive community this cannot be underestimated. Give people the tools and they will invariably create content themselves.
Perhaps the most interesting part was Sharp’s account of the quest for balance between catering for the experienced players (i.e. those involved in the discussion) and the new player, fresh from the install screen. This is particularly important in a game with no barrier to entry, the player jumping in at level 1 is on a statistically even footing bringing skill and experience to the fore. To this end, the next feature they hope to roll out should be matchmaking, ensuring a new player will be drawn against other similarly skilled individuals when they enter a tournament and will, in theory, create a hospitable place to dip your toes. There are certainly people out there who have shied away from tournaments as they feel the risk of an organised team showing up and ruining their day is too great. Conversely it also means that the higher rated teams are more likely to bump into each other, providing them with competitive matches more reliably. Everyone wins. Duelling is also planned further down the list, so petty arguments can be resolved in a gentlemanly fashion – with cries of “OP class” and “my mouse isn’t working”.
It’s good to see ArenaNet actively conversing with the community and nurturing the eSports scene. The audience will only grow with a presence in professional gaming. so it’s in their best interests to get everything going as soon as possible. Many of these features are apparently working internally but, as usual, we won’t see any of it until they’re satisfied that it’s ready. The non-PvP related tidbits include patch plans going into the new year – each will have a different theme and contain a specific set of changes or additions (for example there will be a WvW & PvP patch, hopefully containing some of the things on his list). Their balance philosophy is also encouraging:
And a lot of time our philosophy is to do really small tweaks very slowly over time to rate things into equal, instead of basically doing wack-a-mole with doing huge buffs, then huge nerfs, then huge buffs.
After the mess created by some recent MMOs which favoured the “change everything all of the time” style, this would seem like a prudent approach. It can certainly be frustrating to see a particular problem go unchanged for an extended period, but that’s surely preferable to sweeping balance changes every other week. I would encourage anyone with an interest in PvP in Guild Wars 2 to give the video a watch as GW2 Guru did a great job. Even if your interest lies outside the realms of glorious triumph at the expense of your fellow man, there are some good insights into the creation process within ArenaNet, as well as their general plans for the future.