Guild Wars 2: World Tournament Series Review

Guild Wars 2's World Tournament Series has ended in China. With a prize pool of $50,000 was it worth watching and does Guild Wars 2 have a future as an E-Sport?

As an individual who has rarely followed E-Sports I would have to say that Guild Wars 2’s World Tournament Series has converted me. While the World Tournament Series was far from perfect I do think it demonstrates that Guild Wars 2 has the potential to be an E-Sport but there needs to be some fundamental changes to future tournaments and the games balance.

My wife and I have followed the World Tournament Series for quite some time. Unlike me she has absolutely no interest in video games, knows next to nothing of Guild Wars 2 besides the fact “little men move about” and only watched the series because she wanted to see what game it was that was holding so much of my attention. By the end of the series and although her knowledge of the game is still limited, she thoroughly enjoyed watching the matches. My wife certainly isn’t the target market for Guild Wars 2’s E-Sports competition but she did pose some interesting questions to me as we were watching. I’ll discuss those in just a moment.

If you haven’t followed any of the World Tournament Series, the final in China saw 4 teams compete for a place in the finals with a chance to win a prize pool of $50,000. There was one team from the United States (Abjured), one from Europe (The Civilised Gentlemen) and two from China (Team Prime and Team Sala). All of these teams are made up of exceptional players who know Guild Wars 2 on an incredibly intricate level. Although I’d argue that The Civilised Gentlemen were the favourites going into the final, they actually lost out to Abjured. Timer controversy aside (TCG would have won their Battle of Khylo match were it not for the timer running out) I think the best team won on the day. While I hope to see TCG come back stronger than ever, the way in which they lost I think offers up a great deal of talking points in regards to the Meta of Guild Wars 2.

The Tournament

Overall I think the tournament was fairly well organised and promoted, it could have been better. One of the main things my wife raised was the fact that as someone who has never heard or watched these teams before, she knew very little about them. Despite ArenaNet providing some information on the teams, it didn’t particularly allow readers or new players to engage with the teams on a personal. Most of the descriptions surrounding the players were relatively thin in terms of encapsulating just how the player plays. If we are to take a look at Sizer’s description, it states:

The quintessential thief, Sizer’s strong map awareness and sense of player rotation will allow him to create opportunities to capture the enemy team’s unprotected capture points, forcing them to split up to compensate. Additionally, Sizer’s high mobility will allow him to quickly rotate into team fights, always giving his team the upper hand.  - Sizer

That doesn’t really tell me much about how he plays, what his strengths and weaknesses are or why he’s the quintessential thief. When compared with Magic Toker’s description, there’s very little to separate the two when that clearly isn’t the case:

His strong map awareness and keen sense of player rotations will help him keep track of players all across the map, knowing exactly where he needs to be to help his team out with maximum efficiency. - Magic Toker

What I feel was needed as part of the build up surrounding the teams were greater descriptors but also a photo of each player so we can humanize them. For anyone who follows these players and their Twitch streams, we know what they look like. But I feel it’s important to know who is behind the avatar. I’d also like to see the build they’ve most commonly used linked onto their profile page so that those with a passing interest in sPvP can see what the best are using. Lastly, a “best of” reel highlighting the play of each player or the entire team would round off exactly how and why these teams find themselves in the finals.

As for the tournament itself, there’s a couple of things I think were done really well and some things that need improving. What the tournament has on its side is a set of brilliant shout casters who are knowledgeable about the game and a roster of teams that are already amazingly skilled. I also think that despite community protests, the Capture Point mechanic is incredibly exciting to watch. To see Abjured and TCG fighting over Control Points and making brilliant use of map rotations goes to show just how good a mode it is. What it doesn’t yet have is a slickness to match speed or marketing. I think the biggest mistake of this tournament is unquestionably the fact that it was hosted in China. While I fully understand the reasoning (it’s a great marketing strategy) the quality of the stream on offer appeared as though transmitted using a potato.

When you can’t even see the names of players and the vast majority of your screen is a pixelated mess, it doesn’t quite send out the right message to viewers. I appreciate there were technical difficulties and that China doesn’t commonly utilise Twitch but I would have thought as a predominantly Western game, that this would have been considered first. If it wasn’t for Jebro picking up the Stream I’d have missed it entirely.

Besides that I felt the waiting times were too long in the build up to matches and that there was too little promotion from ArenaNet. Some interviews, tweets and forum posts doesn’t really strike me as marketing. It felt like the very basics of what was needed. This was the biggest tournament they’ve ever pulled off and yet I saw so few of ArenaNet’s developers making public appearances or marketing it. Even the PvP interview I held with ArenaNet’s PvP team to coincide with the tournament saw no support from ArenaNet. If they aren’t giving everything they have to making Guild Wars 2 an E-Sport, while giving away $50,000, it sends out the wrong message to the playerbase and viewing public.

With ArenaNet already having announced on the front page of their website that the next tournament is to be held at PAX East, I find it odd that they haven’t also provided a front page post praising Abjured for their win.  

Lastly, my only other bugbear with the tournament series is the fact that the Spectator mode that the shoutcasters use doesn’t particularly provide for multiple viewing angles. It’d be great if the game offered a facility, if spectating, to go split screen. Watching two points, or more than two at once would be beneficial to the viewing experience.

Thoughts on the meta

What my wife pointed out during the final matches between Abjured and TCG was why there were so few classes. I explained that this was the current Meta and that Engineers, Elementalists, Warriors and Thieves were the go-to classes. To take Guardians and Mesmers was questionable for a variety of reasons. To take the remaining classes was simply not viable. While watching Abjured and TCG I question the viability of both the Mesmer and Guardian and not primarily because of those classes but because of the sheer power of the Celestial Amulet. If you’re a class that can stack might, you’ve a huge attribute advantage over other classes that can’t. The repercussions on other classes is then huge because not only are they fighting classes that are capable of dealing huge damage, but classes that are notorious for being able to survive long periods of time. This leaves classes such as Mesmers or Altruistic Guardians, with severely limited options.

If we use Helseth as a perfect example, he’s an exceptional Mesmer. Without question one of the best in the world and yet for all his skill, it’s an uphill battle against a Meta that favours only a few classes. If you lack sustain, condition removal, or the ability to remain in a fight for long periods of time you’ll struggle to make headway. You could easily argue that a Mesmer being in the final is evident enough of their potential and in some ways I’d agree. What I’d counter that with, is the fact it’s so much easier on you and your team to simply choose an Engineer, Elementalist or Warrior. The exact same can be said for an altruistic or bunker Guardian where their damage is irrelevant and yet their survivability is barely higher than a Celestial Elementalist. The key difference being that the Elementalist can not only survive, but kill players in the process (while also having incredible mobility).

What I think needs to happen is for ArenaNet to make significant changes to the functionality of the Celestial Amulet but to also take another look at classes that aren’t getting a look in at this level. I’d love to play my condition Ranger in tournaments but it’s relatively pointless considering my Engineer has permanent swiftness, can deal conditions quicker while also having ridiculous range, survivability and an incredible Elite. There’s simply no logic to playing one. The exact same can be said for a wide variety of classes and I think that’s the biggest problem currently facing Guild Wars 2: its Meta is stale.

It won’t make for particularly exciting future tournaments if every competition brings only slight variables to the Meta. As it currently stands I’d say if you don’t have an Elementalist, a couple of Engineers and a Warrior you’re putting yourself at a huge disadvantage. The Thief I feel is the exception to this rule as while they don’t rely on bunkering or a Celestial Amulet, their mobility is unrivaled and for that very reason they’ll always be sought after. You only had to watch Sizer to see that.

Overall, then, I think the World Tournament Series was very good. It could however have been so much better and it deserves to be watched than more than 5,000 players. It threw up some genuinely brilliant matches and despite the image quality of the final I was genuinely on the edge of my seat. As to whether or not the Meta will see any changes any time soon, I highly doubt it. Unless additional skills are added, significant class changes made and a balance pass across all the Amulets, I think we’re in for a long road of seeing the same teams, running the same builds, for months to come.

What were your thoughts on Guild Wars 2's World Series Tournament? Was it a success? What would you have liked to see done differently? Let me know!

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About The Author

The only game to have distracted Lewis away from MMOG's over the last 15 years was Pokemon Red. Despite that blip, Lewis has worked his way through countless games in the genre in search of something that comes close to his much loved (and long time dead) Neocron. Having written for several gaming networks before Ten Ton Hammer, Lewis likes to think he knows a thing or two about what makes an MMOG and its player-base tick.

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