When a developer creates a certain product, or dreams up a brilliant idea, it’s sensible to think they’d want to hold onto it. While their original concept might change over time and be iterated upon, often the core of what made it great is retained. ArenaNet have, in their time, created some brilliant ideas and I would argue that out of all the massively multiplayer developers, they’ve always been at the forefront of pushing the genre forward. Whether it was the dual specialisations in Guild Wars 1 or the Public Quest system in Guild Wars 2, it hasn’t gone unnoticed by the media or fans of the genre. The success of Guild Wars 2 in the face of stiff competition has, in many ways, validated their choice to abandon many of the things that made Guild Wars 1 great. In the early days of Guild Wars 2’s development I remember clearly the reaction when it was first announced dual classes would be dropped or that Guild versus Guild would not be part of the game.
Having recent taken a break from Guild Wars 2 and having returned back to it, I realise just how much I’ve missed the game but also how many of the decisions ArenaNet have taken are the right ones. They’ve certainly made some mistakes along the way and I’d have to say, they’re an incredibly stubborn company. How long did players requesting account wide dyes, or account wide WvW ranks, get knocked back before they realised, actually, it was a good idea? Despite that, there’s still one topic that they are very much head in the sand over and it’s Guild versus Guild.
You would think that after all this time, that there’d be a clear statement regarding the future of Guild versus Guild (or other PvP modes for that matter) and while there has been a recent topic discussing its possibility, having thought about it again recently, I don’t think it’s a good idea. First and foremost, I have always wanted Guild versus Guild in Guild Wars 2. It was (and still is) one of my favourite game modes in the entire genre, yet I’m not sure because of design decisions that ArenaNet have taken, that it would actually be worth playing or watching.
Part of what made Guild versus Guild so appealing was not just the tactics involved but also that it was worth watching. You could learn a great deal from following a single player, especially in the higher ranked matches. Unlike in Guild Wars 2, Guild Wars was also a lot slower paced with positioning of incredible importance. This allowed you and your Guild to spread out (with the exception of those pressuring) in order to pick holes in your opponents defence. Where Guild Wars 2 is concerned, it doesn’t really work like that when 10 versus 10 go head to head.
If you’ve ever dropped by the Windmill during the early months of release for some Guild versus Guild, Obsidian Sanctum now ArenaNet have transformed the area, or participated in WvW you’ll likely be aware of the method of combat: balling. People undertake balling because it allows you to gain maximum stacks (or splashes) from combo fields. As a result, players don’t space out and trying to pinpoint the behaviour of one player (certainly as a viewer) is near impossible. Instead, all you can witness are those who’ve died and which team - within a matter of seconds - is steamrolling.
It doesn’t make for great viewing and even participating is a little strange. When you’re in the “ball” it feels like your personal skill goes out the window in favour of simply cruising through your skills when called upon, when you bash heads with the opposition. In contrast and although far from a perfect game mode, structured PvP at least has some semblance of autonomy and viewing pleasure because the Capture Point mechanic encourages separation of players and personal skill, instead of the reliance on balling.
I’m not suggesting that the Guild versus Guild matches in Obsidian Sanctum aren’t tense or tactical, but it favours certain classes and builds and a bullish play style. Were this to move over to Guild versus Guild as was seen in the first Guild Wars, I honestly think it’d be a very stale game mode. Would I want to watch it? Probably not. Would I want to partake? Not over the existing structured PvP.
Despite this, I wouldn’t write off additional game modes but I do think ArenaNet are right to not bow to pressure. Yes Guild Wars 2 has been out for two years, but in that time I haven’t found structured PvP any less entertaining. If ArenaNet were to pursue an additional game mode, I’d like to see Heroes’ Ascent added. The Hall of Heroes already includes game modes ideal for Guild Wars 2 and better still, because most of the maps for Heroes’ Ascent were well designed, surely ArenaNet could simply remake them.
The real risk for ArenaNet by implementing new PvP game modes is that they risk cannibilzing structured PvP players (if the new mode is too good, there’ll be an exodus from the existing mode). Not only that, but ArenaNet are notoriously positive towards the casual experience of drop in and out play. Heroes’ Ascent requires serious coordination and would, without question, be a step up from Team Arena. Considering how difficult it is to get 5 players together even with the Looking For Group tool in game (or advertising in map chat) an 8 versus 8 game mode would almost certainly become niche: that, for ArenaNet, is not what Guild Wars 2 is about.