On paper, World versus World seems my dream game mode. A sprawling map filled with objectives to undertake, three “sides” fighting over Keeps and Outposts and above all, enough room to roam without the constraints of a scenario based battleground. When I first played WvW alongside ArenaNet and Colin Johanson, I was giddy with excitement. It all felt far too big, so similar to Dark Age of Camelot and I could have envisaged that I’d spend a great deal of time there. Many of the early fights on the maps also felt reminiscent of the tooing and froing of Hillsbrad. As of recent weeks however and having recently joined one of Gandara’s top WvW Guilds, I have to say I find it an entirely dull experience as a Ranger (they're bloody everywhere).
First things first: I love PvP, I adored Dark Age of Camelot’s Realm versus Realm and I’m incredibly competitive. I should, then, fully enjoyed World versus World. Instead, I’m often left with the feeling that the whole concept went astray at the design stage and has never truly recovered after Orbs were removed. For World versus World to truly work, it has to have a purpose. There has to be pride in your server and you need something to fight for. In addition, you also need to have a willingness to protect what is yours as a server because to lose it would be catastrophic to the war efforts.
What we in fact have is a disposable game mode without consequence, with little thought and one which supports numbers over strategy. My problem with WvW stems from that most of this is incredibly obvious but little in the way of mechanics has changed since Beta.
- WvW maps are too small and as a result, allow players to far too quickly travel the map in order to respond to attacks, or ninja objectives.
- There is no fear of loss. Whether it’s a Keep, Tower or Outpost, it’s all irrelevant because they can be resecured so easily and their point contribution is negligible.
- Siege equipment isn’t ignored, but it’s purpose is largely poor. It’s poor because the maps are too small, dictating that the defenders can far too easily rush out and destroy it. In addition, it takes too long to setup and its damage is too weak to be feared. Worse, it’s more productive to build trebuchet’s next to walls rather than away from them. How is that even logical?
- Clustering to make maximum use of combo fields is just a ridiculous method of fighting. It results in classes that can’t participate becoming almost useless in WvW (Longbow Rangers, Thiefs, Mesmers) while fighting descends into one ball versus another. As a result, individual skill of player versus player goes out of the window and instead is replaced by who is the bigger group and who can splash the fastest.
- Additional objectives added to the maps such as Centaurs, Hylek, or Ogres while excellent ideas are completely neglected because they are, to put it simply, rubbish.
- Bloodlust, despite being an awesome idea, is neglected with no one (certainly on Gandara) undertaking it.
- Guards are too easily killed to the point where they might as well be removed. While I appreciate they are there to prevent single players capturing keeps, they’re still too weak even then.
- Upgrading almost everything is pointless because of the speed in which objectives change hands. While there are some benefits (certainly on Keep defence) it’s largely negligible.
- There are no unique rewards to World versus World to further incentivise play. Unique skins for reaching certain WvW ranks or a greater purpose to Badges of Honor are totally missing.
It’s an exhausting list to read and I’m sorry to say that almost all of these issues existed at launch and are still present today. Sadly for ArenaNet and when I last spoke to their developers, they stated that map size simply couldn’t be increased - the engine was at its limit. Worse, they can’t escape the “balling” of players because unfortunately, combo fields are here to stay. Limiting the effectiveness of combo fields or the number of people affected would royally alienate the playerbase. For Guild Wars 2, both of these issues leave very little scope to rectify the major flaws in WvW. While I’m not entirely convinced about the map size limitations (Eternal Battleground is evidence that they can handle huge maps) there is still potential here to right the ship somewhat.
If map sizes can’t be increased (let’s pretend), then re-designs are certainly a possibility. With Towers and Keeps so close together (both of which are largely pointless buildings) it’d be much better if the fat was trimmed from the maps so that you cannot easily move from point A to B point when attacking or defending. Adjusting the layouts so that there are just two keeps, at the most northerly and southerly points would create this space. In addition, amending the spawn points so that they’re in the middle would mean that if players did venture north or south, there would be a significant amount of travel to get back down.
On top of this and with fewer Towers I’d implement a greater point return from Outposts and Keeps, but also ensure that supply was pivotal. To lose your supply line would mean fewer base defences, fewer spawns, and an inability to repair or bolster your guards. Coupled with this would be support tools for Commanders, to tie in with additional objectives, that allows them to determine where controlled NPC’s spawn. Having the ability to command a Hylek army (that’s actually powerful) would massively incentivise the need to control these additional forces. What would also make them even more useful was if their attacks were themed: the Ogres could be exceptional at attacking Keeps while Hylek could provide a huge amount of AOE damage.
If that wasn’t enough, I’d boost the power of Guards so that their potency scaled based on the number of players attacking them. Doing this would slow down the speed at which you can capture Outposts, Towers and Keeps and in doing so, would actually allow opposing sides to respond. I’d further bolster Keep and Tower defences so that doors can’t be broken down in a matter of seconds.
I’d implement unique WvW weapon skins tradeable with Badges of Honor but also requiring certain WvW Ranks. This would set those who play WvW apart and allow them to be recognised for their efforts. Lastly and as a homage to Relics from Dark Age of Camelot, I’d reimplement Orbs of Power to just be single objects you have to physically bring back to your Keep. When controlled, the entire realm would receive a significant buff to their character.
Will any of this ever happen? Sadly not. Does it bother me? Yes, a great deal. WvW could be a brilliant game mode but at the moment it’s in a weird place that falls far short of its rivals (The Elder Scrolls Online). Until some serious changes are made to the maps, it’ll only ever be half of what it could be and that's a real shame. Forntunately for me I have a brilliant guild that plays the mode wonderfully and without them, I think I'd avoid it at all costs on my Ranger. Perhaps it's time I changed class...