Competitive play has always been an integral part of the Guild Wars
experience, though much like the game’s PvE elements, there
have been a number of significant changes over the years. In some cases
this evolution has been much more gradual, such as the continuing
reevaluation of key skills in the PvP meta-game. Yet even some of these
seemingly minor adjustments of the key mechanics that have helped set
franchise apart from the
fantasy crowd since the very beginning have had a rippling effect. The
end result is a shift from the series’ original integration
between PvE and PvP to a much more distinct separation between these
two primary aspects of gameplay.
Continuing the journeys of my Ritualist, I initially traveled north
through the Far Shiverpeaks and into the Verdant Cascades with the
intent of conquering one of the more difficult dungeons from the Eye of
the North expansion, Slavers’ Exile. Along the way I decided
to pay a visit to the Norn at Gunnar’s Hold, mainly to see if
any of the skills released with the expansion might be useful for me or
one of my heroes, but my attention was quickly diverted by the Norn
Fighting Tournament. During the preview event leading up to the
expansion’s release, the tournament struck me as the perfect
way to test out different builds for use in the Random Arenas, though I
never did get around to seeing if my theory had legs since I was more
focused on dungeon crawls at the time.
After besting everything that the tournament could throw at me I
decided it was finally time for me to get back to my competitive Guild
Wars roots, so with a simple click on the world map I found myself at
the beating heart of PvP, the Battle Isles.
first launched in April
of 2005, PvP was a much different beast than it is today. The guild I
was in back then started out keenly focused on first obtaining a
Celestial Sigil to purchase a guild hall, and from there climbing up
the Guild vs. Guild (GvG) ladder. At the time, winning a battle in the
Hall of Heroes was the only means of obtaining the Sigils which sold
for astronomical amounts of platinum considering the age of the game.
It wasn’t long before Sigil Traders were added as a means of
keeping the economy in check, which was a significant, and somewhat
controversial first step in the ultimate separation between the
competitive and purely PvE aspects of gameplay.
For guilds to compete on that level, it was initially necessary to
ascend – which is fancy Guild Wars
terminology for completing the PvE mission arc up to a specific point.
Guilds that made it that far believed they’d earned the right
to charge whatever price they saw fit for the sigils, noting that guild
halls were only of use to those guilds able to hold their own on a
competitive level to begin with. In other words, if you
weren’t good enough to earn your guild hall, you
didn’t deserve to have the option to buy your way in cheaply.
On the flip side, many guilds simply wanted a central gathering place
for their guild and considered being forced to PvP to earn one a poor
design decision. Meanwhile, PvP-centric players countered with the fact
that if they had to play through PvE content to unlock core skills and
capture elite skills, then there had to be some give in the other
direction as well.
An interesting timeline can be drawn all the way back to those initial
outcries from different factions within the player base that ultimately
leads all the way up to the current state of separation. While some
ties still remain, even key elements such as earning the favor of the
gods (which unlocks travel to certain areas such as the Underworld and
Fissure of Woe that I spent time exploring as chronicled in my first
‘rediscovering Tyria’ article
have been altered so that it’s no longer necessary for a
given region to hold a winning streak in PvP for PvE players to have
additional zones to explore.
As things currently stand, each aspect of gameplay is wholly
self-contained which was ultimately a necessary step in the overall
progression of the franchise. A key link in that chain has been making
small tweaks to skills which has afforded the development team the
freedom to make balance decisions that can keep certain team builds
from becoming too dominant in the PvP meta-game while conversely
adjusting the way those same skills work in a PvE environment. This
keeps specific skills not only viable, but fun enough to justify one of
the 8 slots on your skill bar.