Editorials

Restructuring Worlds: Review of Potential WvW Changes

On the last day of January 2018, a post appeared on the official forums explaining the direction that ArenaNet want to take with World versus World (WvW). For a long time players have been complaining about the current server system;  in many match-ups there have been servers that were empty with no one to play with, servers that dominated the same match-up weeks or months in a row, and even servers that have been full and locked completely so friends could not play together. These unbalanced match-ups are something the developers at ArenaNet have tried to counter with the server linking system, and this did solve the extreme situations with having servers empty and unplayable, but the actual issue of unbalanced match-ups still exists. In an attempt to fix this, now the developers are looking into something more rigorous.

The idea is to remove everyone from the existing servers and create new worlds, instead of having players stuck on fixed servers. Every season (of eight weeks), the worlds will be re-balanced based on a variety of criteria so that each will be roughly the same in size, day/nighttime coverage and strength. The way the developers are going to do this is by implementing a system that places players on worlds taking multiple factors into consideration. It will track statistics like playtime in WvW, commanding time, time frame playing, participation, and other yet-to- be- determined stats, and distribute players fairly over the worlds. This system will also try to place individual players together with friends and guild mates, but the best way to make sure that you get to play with the ones you want to is to join the same dedicated WvW guild or alliance – more on those later.

One of the most important things that will change has to do with guilds. Every guild, focused on WvW or not, will be given the option to declare themselves as a WvW guild, which will give their members the possibility to select the guild as their WvW guild and allow them to be linked with each other on the same world that is created for the next season.

Another important change regarding guilds is the introduction of alliances. With the new alliance system, guilds will have the option to form alliances with other guilds to be placed together on the next world that is created. Guild members who have set one of the alliance guilds as their WvW guild will be a part of the alliance and they will join their allies during the season that follows. However, there will be a cap on how large an alliance can get: ArenaNet is considering a maximum number of guilds, as well as a maximum of 500 to 1000 players which will be roughly 20% of a world’s population. This way they will prevent single alliances from completely taking over worlds and allow strong alliances to be balanced with weaker alliances/guilds and players so that the overall world strength will stay the same.

In the best possible outcome this will work out fine and alliances will be formed consisting of a good mixture of fighting guilds, the more casual PPT guilds, guilds aimed towards roamers and even some casual friends. Although, this won’t happen magically. There will be disagreements, toxic behavior and people simply disliking each other, but with the right tools, the community can solve these issues by themselves. ArenaNet have already said “no one can kick from an alliance” – no one will be in charge, instead allied guilds can simply leave and be placed on a different world for the next season. There will be alliances made that consist of strong and frequent players, but by having a capacity on alliance numbers at roughly 20% of the world population, the dominance of that one alliance will be lowered drastically. Changes to alliances (or dedicated WvW guilds) will take place at the start of the next season, so each season the statistics will vary between guilds, alliances, and servers, and the newly created worlds will be different.

All of this might look intimidating and it might feel like WvW will be completely different after this has been implemented, but in its essence, there is not that much changing for most players. Guilds will often form alliances on their server, roamers will find themselves roaming with different people as well as friends, and casual players can just hop in and find some action. But for some people, there is a lot that is going to change. People who are (or have friends) in different WvW guilds might not be able to play with all of their friends after this change. This is something that will be very important in my opinion; besides the raw account data, both friends lists and guilds will need to be taken into consideration. What if you’re friends with another player but not in a WvW guild? Prioritize so the friends get matched on a world. Or both in different guilds/alliances? Prioritize so they will be matched unless the world population demands different. How about the case of a single player with a favorite commander? Then the developers could look for a way to add the “followers” tab of the LFG to the selection criteria, so individual players can have a little bit of influence in who they will end up playing for that season.

Even though the developers are thinking of keeping transferring possible, the aim needs to be to create worlds on a level that minimizes the need to transfer. They will leave the option open for players to transfer between North America and Europe, but they also plan on keeping smaller transfers during a season possible. If someone wants to join a new guild on a different world, join with friends who joined an alliance, follow a particular commander, or is stuck on a Spanish server only speaking a bit of German, then players  will still be able to transfer to a world that isn’t full during the current season (and hopefully without a wall of gems). Keeping that balance between discouraging transferring and caring for the fun of the individual player will be a challenge, but it should be aimed towards fun (hey, it’s a game, right?).

When ArenaNet are going to implement these potential changes – a possible release date has not been given – they will have to make sure that this new system is working as intended. The creation of worlds needs to be as spot on as possible, looking at the needs of each and every player, but it also needs to be technically correct. A full balance between worlds will never be possible; capping objectives in the middle of the night will occur, commanders will pop up at 8 AM and fifty players can have the same day off, but this world balance should be aimed at everyday prime time – no one wants to see queues of 100+ when they just want to have some fun on their home border. If there are solutions to (skill) lag, frequent disconnects, being kicked from your spot in the queue (maybe add some sort of timer there?) and other technical issues, they should be implemented before or at the time the patch hits. But, most importantly, they will have to prevent this update to turn WvW into one big bugged and laggy disconnect party.

Even though a lot of players are not in favor of a change like this, if it’s well thought through it might be the solution that WvW needs. There are even some possibilities hidden behind this world restructuring that I think really have the potential to make WvW amazing. One of these would be increasing the number of guilds players can join at once. Many players have different guilds for different purposes and leaving a guild just for alliance purposes wouldn’t be fair. Increasing the guild cap should be straightforward to implement and would help out a lot of people.

I also believe implementing an internal VoIP, that could take over the use of TeamSpeak/Mumble/Discord that many in-game servers are currently using, would be a great addition to the game. Having in-game functionality for voice chat would not only make it a lot more accessible for players, but it  would also allow for automatic connection to the VoIP of the right world with less opportunities for spying and, maybe most importantly, preventing a lot of politics and drama between guilds, alliances and their private servers. I can understand that this would be a huge thing to implement, but it would benefit WvW, and other game modes in Guild Wars 2, so much that even just creating a version that is linked to the game, maybe in collaboration with a third party, might be a viable option.

There are additional changes that I think ArenaNet could look at to further enrich WvW. One of these is to make the lore of the battlefields a bit more related to the lore in Tyria. Name the worlds based on in-game events, factions or battles (maybe changing each season) and add a little bit of narrative to the Mists (similar to fractals). Don’t forget to allow Champion Commander Siegerazer to finally get a proper job and help guide new players through a (skippable) tutorial instance that explains the basics and adds a little bit more narrative to WvW.

This also presents a good opportunity to make winning a matchup or season worth it. Since individual rewards have come a long way and are pretty good nowadays (with reward tracks, legendary armor and more shiny stuff), the WvW update is the perfect time to add player/guild/alliance leaderboards with rankings every week/season, repeatable achievements per season for a player (easily achievable, with only a few hours a week playtime) or a nice goblet statue in the guild hall when an alliance wins the matchup. It could also open the door to a unique game mode within WvW: Guild vs Guild. They could create different overflows of Obsidian Sanctum (combination of the PvE mega server and PvP arenas) with 15 vs 15 or 30 vs 30 possible, and it’s own version of leaderboards, achievements and titles. Maybe all of this will stay a dream, but I can hope, can’t I?

With this new WvW system proposed by ArenaNet, I can see a lot of opportunities for growth of the gamemode with only a few negative possibilities. But don’t get me wrong, these possibilities aren’t just trivial thoughts and the way ArenaNet will handle these will either make WvW amazing or, in my opinion, finish it off completely. If the developers charged with these changes find the right solution to keeping communities, guilds and friends together, and can implement a technically sound system with a good balance between organized and casual guilds and alliances, then I can see a great game mode emerging again.

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