I really like the ice berg metaphor they are using for Structured PvP right now but maybe not in the way it was meant. Right now there is a flashy front to it but underneath is a rather big problem for all those involved. Other amusing iceberg metaphors could be the top being the current SPvP iteration with the rest being what was promised and what is needed to make a decent system. Or I could just say it is an iceberg of issues that funnily enough may be sinking this next Titanic MMO or at the very least their Esport aspirations which could have brought in a lot of media attention and many many new long term customers.
The very visible part of that iceberg that anyone who has been apart of SPvP be they casual or hardcore has noticed is the distinct lack of people. Open up the hot join browser and you will only ever see a handful of full servers whereas on release and a month after it seemed rather vibrant. People seemed to either not be playing it anymore for whatever reason or have left all together, either way we have a problem… And no they’re not doing tournies much either. There are a Plethora of problems underneath adding up to the unsatisfactory experience and I’ll try and list as many as I can without making this ramble to overwhelming.
1. Pug Stomping
The lack of people has caused this distinct issue that is present in just about every multiplayer game to become a much greater problem than is really appropriate. The main issue causing this here is that the further you go up the elitist modes the less population there is to sustain them, paid tournament players who have to wait for insane amounts of time for a match will just go down to the free ones and roflstomp the competition. When there isn’t enough people available those free tournie people go to hot join and roflstomp randoms and guess what, most of these randoms being roflstomped probably won’t play anymore because it just isn’t fun.
A rather ugly cycle as you have experienced and skilled players playing against those who could be new to system, casual pvpers, or just not as good but still enjoy the combat. It is a very hard place to learn in, or to enjoy a friendly game and it stops many from taking it further as well as stunting growth from new players. All this because it hasn’t reached a critical mass of players to support the system. Now it does seem like an easy fix, widening the player pool by combining servers or even whole regions but at the moment I don’t know if the server architecture can handle it and untill then we have a system that is very unfriendly to new players.
While there are individual rankings it means nothing because in terms of choosing opponents to fight the game throws it out randomly meaning you could be facing a new team or a well oiled killing machine. I really don’t understand what they were thinking when they made such a bare bones system but having an environment where the pro players or just really experienced teams can be thrown at a group or person whom are just playing for fun or playing there first game is very bad design.
It makes an environment where new players really can’t learn very well, they need to be able to fight teams of similar level and experience in order to improve and make new strategies or just to learn how to fight as a more cohesive team. When your facing a pro team though a new strategy you want to try is useless in a way if your not getting the time or chance to actually enact it. It is a system in a way were the good get better and the new are left with their face constantly getting pushed into the mud. It’s not friendly, it’s not fun, and it turns away many new players from trying the tier above them (hot join to free, free to paid).
Now from what I understand of the PvP talk yesterday this is one of their priorities which is great to see as implementing it will have a huge difference on the quality of those initial matches but right now, because of the lack of players people wont see much of a change since it is a very small pool of players we are taking from. Maybe though with this initial change we will see more coming back and I hope so.
As the community has said though a matchmaking system in the current tournament set up really doesn’t work for segregating the more experienced or professional teams. The tournament set up tends to just pool from available players, and going by the amount of current players and maybe even into the future a ladder system would work far better in combination with a ranking and matchmaking system to give people more fights on par with their abilities.
3. Menu, UI and Options
Right now the entire system seems very simplistic and not in a good way, there are a lot of little extras while not supremely important by themselves, together make for a cohesive PvP experience . It is these little things that a lot of people are getting quite used to having in competitive environments and the lack of them is rather off putting.
- Leaderboards – accessibility of these is very important as believe it or not us PvP’ers like to brag and we definitely like our epeens being stroked, I know there are some placed on the forums but that is just not enough. They need to be far more fleshed out with win lose ratios and maybe even stats about these wins, the players they won with and against and stuff like that. Another thing that probably should be there is ratings for teams as well as individuals, since when you get into paid people will mostly be running with the exact same crew. Also it would be good to have rankings in free tournies, maybe even in hotjoin were if you press the play now button it tries to set you up with similar ranked people.
- Match Statistics – these are really simplistic right now and in now way are helpful to individuals and teams alike or how a match was progressing. Kill counts, damage, damage taken, control types used, time spent on points… all of this and much more should be included.
- Social Aspects – the Mists aren’t working as a social hub in the way Arenanet intended and really don’t help people form groups together. A social system should be here to help people from across servers connect together and form groups for tournies and such but it should be more then just a simple LFG tournie system and should be fleshed out with systems for people just wanting some fun matches or looking to fight certain classes, builds or class combos. A social tab with lots of options available.
- Hot Join – It just really needs way more options and pieces of information available to people, aggregated rankings of the people currently in the match would be one thing I would like to see but I’m sure there are heaps of other things. Also there should be a filter available were you can sort out matches based on certain options like map type, map size, rankings, friends and such.. that we go a long way to making it more useable.
- Communication – I know Arenanet has said before that there not going to reinvent systems that are already available, ie Ventrilo and such but during SPvP matches, especially tournies I think it would be nice to have and in built chat systems. Regardless of the matchmaking system team communication is very important during these matches and those without will be at a severe disadvantage. Having it is just a way to equalise the playing field.
- Traiting and Builds – the trait system right now is really a mess when it comes to PvP and at times very frustrating. It should be a lot easier in the mists to alter a build by taking away and putting in points wherever you want without having to reset the entire thing if you make a mistake or want to change a single part, of course there should be a save build function to lock in choices but this needs to be easier to use. The other thing I don’t know how they missed is the ability to save multiple builds, people like trying out many different builds and roles and may have a handful they like and which suit different situations they may want to keep and having to completely reset a build every single time is an unnecessary nuisance.
The bit I think would make a huge difference is to make all these systems, the hot join and tournament UI’s accessible anywhere in the world be it in PvE or WvW, you shouldn’t have to go to the mists every time you want to have a match. The mists will still do fine as a PvP lobby type area with the tutorial sections, merchants and PvP locker. People really don’t want to always travel to the mists or hang around there inbetween matches and by removing this rather large obstacle to entering a structured match we would probably see more players trying it out and a lot more concurrent users for all the different tiers.
I was going to go into certain class mechanics and such which are considered unbalanced by the community but I don’t think I’m going to now. There is a lot of contention surrounding the debate with some, especially those whom are more expereinced saying LtP with there being certain counters to the many harder hitting skills or availability of important buffs. There are some imbalances that are agreed on by all in the aspects surrounding classes that make them more powerful then there really should be, this includes downed skills effectiveness, safe stomping abilities like mist form, and the fact that even in this small scale environment people coming out of stealth still aren’t rendering properly at times. These need to be addressed.
Suffice it to say Arenanet really needs to start improving this aspect as right now it is completely ruining the meta game. The further you go up the tiers, hot join to free tournies, free to paid the less build diversity you see and the more constricted group composition is. Each class has a very limited range regarding what is optimal in this sort of group environment. Not only are the viable builds quite limited but many of the classes are lacking the ability to be certain roles in combat, and yet some have a have many more options then others. It is an issue with the differentiation of weapons and their skills, and with trait options that needs to be addressed and will take some time to work out.
As they clarified in the Video Arenanet is taking the slow and steady approach to development in regards to only changing a certain number of skills for each profession at a time with small adjustments to the skill and damage and I believe this to be the right approach. While it will take a long time at this rate for the classes to see more diversity we know they are taking it seriously and aren’t just blindly making changes that may do more harm then good. We just have to play the waiting game.
5. Disconnect between Game types
Right now SPvP is completely disconnected from everything else in GW2 but sometimes I think this may be doing more harm then good. Having the system completely non gear based was a very wise decision and one which should never be changed but I think it would be a good change to give the SPvP players a better sense of accessibility to areas outside of the mists. Many of the points on Arenanets development list are going the way of giving new initiates to PvP a more accessible system, and many of my options are asking for the same things so it would seem fair to give those more focused on PvP the ability to switch over to PvE or WvW now and then.
Nothing from structured transfers over which is a real shame in a way as some people have spent exorbitant amounts of time collecting pieces and making a look, there is a great customisation system in the mists that is being entirely underutilised for people that want to venture outside into the big wide world. Customisation is an option that is far more important then people give credit for, LoL for instance is a very competitive environment which thrives off it, People like having the option to control their characters looks and constantly taking this away from them is just plain mean.
The biggest disconnect I think comes down to the fact that all this time spent on structured PvP doesn’t improve your character in any way, going from PvP where you may have spent hundreds of hours and had access to all your skills, weapons and abilities to a scaled down version of yourself is just not fun. The philosophy of GW2 that I fell in love with was the idea of being able to mix and match between game types at will but at the moment they really haven’t gone far enough with letting structured players enjoy the rest of the game.
What should be happening the entire time is that at the least your character should be earning experience which would go a long way into making other areas of the game more accessible. To go that step further I would like to see karma rewards and maybe even a little silver now and then as this way when people do want to try out other areas they can have the gear to play on an equal playing field with others… you know.. like they get when they want to do structured PvP. I think it’s also an issue that nothing you earn in structured has any monetary value and is completely account bound meaning no sharing with others, it would have been fun to see people trading, swapping or selling certain armors, weapons and crafting materials.Ultimately my point is you shouldn’t be penalized for enjoying structured over other game types
6. Artificial Gating
One other small issue that isn’t really connected to the other points but needs to be changed is the whole tickets system because right now it just seems to be a silly restrictive mechanism that serves no real purpose. People should be able to pick the game type that suits them or their team at any time regardless of how much they have played previously. If you wanted to gate the certain tounament types a ranking system or maybe matches played as that class would have been better as that shows experience enough to compete on some level.. tickets are just silly. Also the fact that these are available as purchases from the cash shop has lead people to believe this was nothing more then a cash grab, and with the likelihood of playing better teams then yourself it means those whom are just starting out really won’t have much ability to gain many of these to get further practice in Paid Tournaments and thus are forced to pay to play in a certain way.
Now comparing this all to the system in the original Guild Wars like many have makes GW2 seem so lacking in many many ways, now the original took a while to get everything up and running as well but considering Arenanet already had a working model to build from the lack of vital and a fleshed out PvP system is unusual. GW was a PvP game at it’s heart and what has gotten many people upset is that considering the amount of effort and time as well as constant updates that has gone into the pve world compared to that of PvP make it look like it is no longer the developers focus.. in fact it seems like it is once again the tacked on experience we usually see. Now I don’t expect and I don’t think others expect a complete turn around in priorities and an abandoment from PvE development but I would like to see a bit more balance in their priorities. As I’ve said before, build a decent mouse wheel and the mouse will run forever.
The system they have right now is a complete barrier to new players enjoying the game and sticking around and they are the lifeblood of the game as the continuing influx creates are more stable population. Even for the experienced and hard core players much of the game is inaccessible at times and it is missing many of the core features people have come to expect in a competitive PvP environment let alone one that is aiming to be an Esport. People are leaving the competitive scene at the moment which is plainly obvious to any at least partially interested in structured and the sad part is that once people leave it is often very hard to entice them to return.
The main issue as I said before is the lack of a sustainable population, one thing I was thinking that maybe they could sell off this individual part to people, pay 15 dollars or so just to get access to the mists and all of structered PvP. I know CoD can make people pay $60 every year for a multiplayer lobby but not Anet as you neither have the devoted following, the brand recognition, or the breadth of options, systems and mechanics such games have. Also they have to consider that they are competing against games such as LoL and co who give people the core game for free. Once the SPvP system is improved such a thing would bring in a lot of new players who might hopefully stay and maybe even purchase the full game if the experience was good enough.
There are sooo many options in the market right now that creating a full experience is needed in order to keep retention otherwise people just go to the game that does it better. Now Guild Wars 2 holds a lot of promise as a decent PvP centric game and it probably is one of the best competitive PvP experiences in the MMO field right now (that doesn’t include MoBA’s) as they have done a lot of things very right. Non gear grind based pvp that has a lot of inherent customisation and flexibility, very interesting map design and layout allowing for a few different strategies which complements certain builds, and some decent visuals which are very visceral and able to convey certain important points to people that may be unfamiliar with the mechanics.
Right now it just needs more and it all needs to be more accessible, now I am not going to whinge like some and stamp the ground saying NOW NOW NOW as I have other parts of the game I enjoy, but the longer they leave the development of these vital systems the less hope I hold for the future of structured PvP which is a shame as I love it immensely.. more so then WvW in fact as the quality of group and individual fights are much better. I have never enjoyed a PvP environment in an MMO this much before, I am usually not one for large zerg fights you get and I’m not usually one to grind insane amounts of time for the appropriate gear to PvP in. Guild Wars 2 removed the worst features of those games in favour of promoting a competitive PvP scene, they have the foundation I hope it is enough for now and that the end experience is everything people wanted and more.