WvW Changes Coming in Heart of Thorns

While Guild Wars 2 has a lot of unique aspects to it, WvW is one of my favorite features. With the new Heart of Thorns expansion, we are now getting the new map that we have been asking about for months, as well as some additional ways to get bonuses for our home server. What does this mean for the WvW community? I’ve been in quite a few games that have arenas and battlegrounds that are only open 2-4 hours a day or only provide small scale PvP, but 24/7 WvW is a great way to incorporate PvP on a large scale. Many players have felt that PvP in general has been somewhat neglected due to the minor changes being made here and there, with few major updates, which is why I’m excited by the WvW changes coming with the Heart of Thorns expansion.

For those of you that are not WvW regulars or have yet to get the chance to try it, WvW is essentially triple threat PvP on a large scale. It is 24 hours, seven days a week and focuses on capturing and holding objectives against two other servers throughout the week. With a variety of siege at your disposal, you can attack at the objective or from a neighboring structure. There is quite a bit of map to cover as well as some various objectives that, like the regular maps, have various elites and groups of mobs to kill.

The WvW Mindset: From Offense to Defense

In the past, WvW has been a game about offense. Unless someone is actively trying to capture a garrison or a location with a waypoint or upgrade on it, there’s really not a lot of motivation to defend. While some servers will place siege everywhere, bunker down and stay out of combat for the most part, many players tend to let a tower fall and just come back to recapture it later. The incentive to defend has been relatively low overall.

However, ArenaNet is introducing a new borderland with new mechanics that may change this mindset. They are trying to push towards making defensive play more important. Defending points throughout the week will be more important than it has been in the past, changing a number of common tactics in current WvW. I believe that this will have a mostly positive effect on gameplay. After all, there are quite a few servers that have more than enough coverage and are getting bored with the game. There was a point where a given group would be asked to defend a few different locations. One commander would ask for help in Eternal Battlegrounds while another would ask for defense on the home borderland. Lately, it’s been all too frequent that groups have had trouble finding somewhere they can help without overdoing it. (Yes, there is such thing as overdoing it. When a group is in a situation where they outnumber the enemy three to one, it tends to get really boring.)

On the other side of things, smaller servers already have trouble covering the maps they are given. While the forums may not always accurately represent the overall opinion of a server, I have seen quite a few complaints about numbers and not having the coverage to compete with the other servers. When the score of the first place server more than triples the other two servers, that may indicate a balance issue. Are they expected to try and expand already thin coverage to the new map? With the implementation of a system that promotes defensive play, as well as the new bonuses, how drastically will it affect servers that don’t have 24/7 coverage to back them up? I can imagine the gap between servers will only grow that much more, especially in situations where there is a single server that has more coverage than the other two servers combined. Many players continue to move to high-population servers, only increasing the already large WvW community. It seems like it could be somewhat demoralizing for smaller servers in such a situation.

New Borderlands

As for the map itself, it sounds a bit like Edge of the Mists in the sense that it may not have a major influence on overall points-per-tick (as you gain points every so often, based on the amount of territory you hold). While I don’t necessarily want another EotM map, I do hope they do enough so that it does not turn into another “karma train” situation. In addition to server bonuses, there seem to be various rewards from the terrain, such as walls that raise up to help with the defense of a tower, and magma tubes for much quicker transport (similar to the warps in EotM). Some of this is seen in the official trailer.

Guild-vs-Guild Game-mode

We’re extremely excited to see the new GvG system as ArenaNet seems to have found a happy medium between the old system and the “modern” GvG. While this isn’t directly related to WvW, it will most likely have a significant effect on the WvW population. There have already been some servers split about what to focus on, often leading to a rift in that server’s WvW community: those that want open-field fights and those that are more objective-oriented, fighting almost only on point. There have been many instances where guilds have jumped servers to find more GvG-friendly communities, largely in the first 3 or 4 tiers. Servers with guilds that focus on open-field fights may very well end up moving primarily to the new gamemode and focusing less on WvW in general. Of course, that’s only if modern GvG groups accept the new game-mode as it is and don’t decide to go back to doing things in WvW.

Other Things to Consider

Not all of the features have been announced, so there’s still some speculation going on as to other systems in WvW that may be addressed. While this will most likely be something for later down the line and not in the expansion, there are some things that have been largely suggested and only partially addressed.

A big part of WvW that leaves a lot to be desired lies in squad and commander tag functionality. For those that are not familiar with squads, they are essentially a 50-player group that shows a supply count for squad members and its own channel. Squads have always had the potential to be very useful, but I rarely see them utilized. Part of the problem is the current limit. Anyone can join on a commander tag, yet there is a 50-player limit. While guilds generally don’t run 50 strong on their own, it presents a problem if random people start joining and locking up slots. That’s not such a problem now, as squads generally are not utilized.

Another issue is the overall lack of functionality. You get a few icons to put up, a supply count and…that’s about it. You can view who is in your squad with the supply count, but there’s no way to remove people from your squad if you don’t want them there or so others that are actually with you can join. You can disable your tag and then enable it again, but then your entire squad has to rejoin. Even if squads had some sort of UI where you could manage members who have joined, that would improve the overall organization of squads. However, this is only one of a few desired features that I have frequently seen. With the new maps, features and other content coming to WvW in the Heart of Thorns expansion, it would be great to see functionality that allows players to better organize their teams and improve even further on the WvW experience.

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