With one of Guild Wars 2's largest PvP updates right around the corner I managed to steal steal a few minutes of time before Thanksgiving to ask Devon Carver, Design Lead, and Josh Davis, Content Marketing Manager, a handful of questions regarding the update and the wider goals of ArenaNet's Player versus Player focus. Here's how we got on.
Ten Ton Hammer: The announcement that structured PvP will be receiving significant changes has been met with a variety of reactions. Some people don’t view the changes as “major” while others, like myself, are incredibly excited. Why do you think these changes are major and why do you see them as important to the game?
Devon Carver: We are completely reworking the way that PvP works “under the hood.” Getting into matches is going to be a new and better experience, as is matchmaking itself. The systems that people interact with every single time they play sPvP are getting an overhaul, and that’s why these changes are going to have an impact for a long time. Matchmaking is a great example. The more we are able to not only improve the matchmaking in PvP but also expose the levers and knobs we are using to determine what is a good match, the more fun people are going to have in the game. There will be far fewer fights that see one team completely outmatched by the other. And that, ultimately, is what makes a mode like sPvP last a long time—people being able to find a challenge appropriate to their skill level.
Ten Ton Hammer: There’s a real push at the moment to market Guild Wars 2 as an ESport. The WTS has been brilliant to watch. What do you think is holding Guild Wars 2 back from being a commercial ESports game and what do you think it does right?
Josh Davis: In regards to what we’re doing right in the competitive spectrum, I think our gameplay catches people off-guard – they’re not expecting something so fluid and refined from the MMO genre, where historically it’s been more about how high your gear score is or how much you’ve nailed down your skill rotations. Once people get in and try our combat out, they’re hooked. Going forward, our main focus is creating an engaging gameplay experience for our core player base – the players that login every day. The features we’ve recently announced are another stepping stone towards this goal, something that we’re aggressively tracking. As we continue to work on new features for PvP, we’re always going to keep both ends of the spectrum in mind – our core players and our hardcore players.
The World Tournament Series and the weekly ESL Go4GuildWars2 Cups are the highest forms of PvP progression, and we’re ecstatic that we’re able to offer these kinds of opportunities to our players, but it’s just one facet of the overall PvP experience.
Ten Ton Hammer: Many people play ESports orientated games such as DOTA 2, LOL or Hearthstone for nothing more than fun and the pure competitiveness (I’m one of them!). In contrast many people don’t pursue Guild Wars 2’s PvP because they cite that the rewards aren’t worthwhile. How are you going about attempting to change this mindset? Do you think it’s possible or even necessary?
Devon Carver: We are aware of the perception around PvP and rewards and it is something we’ve been actively working on. The additions of reward tracks and gold to PvP over the last year have made a major improvement in the overall level of rewards available in PvP. We’ve also added PvP exclusive armors and a back item. We’ve continued to add to the reward tracks and provided tracks with rewards specific to living world as well as festivals.
Ten Ton Hammer: I notice that Rank will now play a part in matchmaking and yet there are still dozens of PvP servers where people stand AFK win trading in order to rank farm. Is it not entirely pointless to even factor this in based on rank because of the current and previous player abuse of the system? If you are to pursue a rank “factor”, would a rank reset not be worthwhile?
Devon Carver: The biggest factors in the new system are rating and group size. Rank is factored in but doesn’t have as much weight. The rank system is really there to reflect the amount of PvP you have played, not necessarily your skill level. It’s possible to be an extremely skilled player who is just getting into PvP just as it is possible to be far along in the rank system without ever being a “top” player. Secondly, using rank in the matchmaking is about having more variables to tweak. The more information we can use about you as a player, the more likely we can find a good match for you to play in. The beauty of this system is that we are going to be actively working with players to make adjustments to the matchmaking. So, if it becomes an issue, we are ready and willing to address it.
The more information we can use about you as a player, the more likely we can find a good match for you to play in.
Ten Ton Hammer: I’ve played Guild Wars 2 since Beta and still love the current maps and the Capture Point Game Mode. I can however appreciate that some players would like to see more maps and more game modes. Can we have any update on the status of both of these things or are they reserved for an expansion pack? Í¾)
Devon Carver: Our team pulls inspiration from a variety of games and genres, but ultimately we want to make sure that whatever game mode we choose to introduce takes advantage of everything Guild Wars 2 has to offer rather than shoehorning in something in that doesn’t quite belong. As always, we only talk about and showcase new features and additions to Guild Wars 2 once we feel we have enough to show our fans to get them excited.
Ten Ton Hammer: With enough time spent PvPing I actually managed to break into Guild Wars 2’s Leaderboards but taking only one day off of sPvP and I fell out of the top tier of players. Will the new system allow you to maintain more of your standing without having to always PvP every single day?
Josh Davis: Our previous leaderboard used your matchmaking rating as the core stat that determined your position on the leaderboard, something that allowed frequent and wide swings in ranking. After December 2, we will be basing your positioning off of ladder points – a stat that you can either gain or lose in fixed increments based on your probability of winning a given match-up. There’s no cap for ladder points, however, so the only way to ensure that you’re able to maintain your position on the leaderboard is to progress at the same rate as your fellow competitors. We’re also planning to reset the ladder at the start of each test season.
Ten Ton Hammer: The Meta in Guild Wars 2 changes very little because unlike MOBA’s that introduce new Heroes frequently the addition of new skills, traits and weapon sets has seldom happened in GW2. As a result matches can sometimes feel static and predictable because you know exactly what build everyone is going to be using. What’s the short and long term intention behind attempting to mix up the Meta so that it doesn’t remain the same for months on end?
Our running philosophy on balance has long been to “shave” things that appear to be outliers in terms of relative strength.
Josh Davis: Balance is something that we’re constantly discussing internally. Our running philosophy on balance has long been to “shave” things that appear to be outliers in terms of relative strength. This can result in a small increase or decrease in power, depending on the scenario. One of the most interesting parts of balancing Guild Wars 2 – outside of the imposing task of weighing all changes against PvE, WvW, and PvP – is keeping tabs on NA, EU, and China and how each region tends to approach the meta-game. Ultimately, we feel that the most important thing is to make sure that every profession has a purpose, and to this end, our hand in meta-shaping normally focuses on increasing build diversity for each profession and reducing gameplay that’s not fun. If there’s one thing that every player that plays Guild Wars 2 has in common, it’s that regardless of the content they play, their character or profession will remain a constant factor, and it’s because of this that we are so keen on making that experience with your chosen profession as fun and rewarding as possible.
Ten Ton Hammer: I absolutely adore Team Arena but have often found it incredibly difficult to find a team. Advertising on the official forum is hit and miss, while asking in game can fall on deaf ears: many don’t seem to know you can also use the LFG Tool for sPvP. Is there any intention to make the process of finding a team easier?
Josh Davis: One of the reasons I’m so excited about the PvP changes coming December 2 is because there will be a clear path of progression in terms of how players grow and learn to become better. Starting in custom arenas and hot-join, players will be able to get their feet wet in a very casual environment. Once you feel comfortable with your profession and your build, you can start jumping into Unranked Arena play, where you’ll get the full structured PvP experience and benefit from the new match flow features as well as our extensive matchmaking rework. Most importantly, the matchmaking rework will allow you to queue by yourself or with up to four other players, and the system will strive to match you against opponents of the same group size. Essentially this means that as you find players you enjoy playing with, you can continue playing together in the same arena type without having to jump straight into Ranked Arena, like the former system. We strongly believe that this new system will allow for teams to come together much more seamlessly and painlessly.
Ten Ton Hammer: What is your long term vision for Guild Wars 2’s PvP? What market are you trying to target and what level are you trying to raise it to? As a side question to that do you also think that unlike DOTA 2 or LOL that are free to play that Guild Wars 2’s Buy to Play model is limiting its PvP potential?
Josh Davis: Guild Wars 2 is unique in that we’re one of the few MMOs that is actively pushing and supporting our hardcore PvP player-base by providing consistent opportunities for competition, not only in online events such as the Go4GuildWars2 weekly cups, but also on an international stage at the World Tournament Series events. Another thing that sets us apart is our strong stance on power progression – we don’t want anything to do with it. We put a heavy emphasis on individual skill rather than gear score. As a competitive individual myself, that’s something that I feel people can rally behind. If you like competition, fluid combat, and team-based strategy, Guild Wars 2 is for you.
Ten Ton Hammer: As a final question, for anyone who plays Guild Wars 2 but doesn’t delve into its PvP why do you think they should participate?
Josh Davis: The upcoming changes to matchmaking, paired with the release of unranked arena, will provide players with a safe yet structured environment where they can get their feet wet. a big goal of ours has been to reduce the amount of walls that stood between PvP and the rest of Guild Wars 2, we made big steps with the April Feature Pack when we introduced reward tracks and a host of other changes. After December 2, we will have removed one of the final barriers to entry to PvP. Getting into PvP in Guild Wars 2 has never been easier or more rewarding as it will be on December 2.
Ten Ton Hammer would like to thank both Devon Carver and Josh Davis for taking the time out of their very busy schedules to answer these questions.