GW2’s potentially harmful eSport aspirations

It’s no secret that ArenaNet is trying to put Guild Wars 2 on the fast track to prominent eSport status.  They’ve designed sPvP to fit the model like a glove, more so than Blizzard with WoW.  Announcements have been made that popular sites like Arena Junkies and the Electronic Sports League are already paving the way for coverage.

I don’t know where I stand on eSports — I really don’t.  On one hand I think they’re entertaining to watch and get into, but on the other hand (a first hand) I’ve seen what trying to design towards them does to a game.  Before we begin, I know some of you absolutely love eSports and the type of gameplay that accompanies it.  Realize that we will disagree from hereon out, but try to see the perspective I am presenting.

In my opinion, eSports ruined World of WarCraft’s PvP.  One shot, clean kill, done deal.  Before battlegrounds, PvP in WoW had the potential to go the way of a true Horde vs. Alliance territory struggle and develop into something that fit both the lore of WarCraft, and the game’s natural tendencies at the time.  Battlegrounds came in, and in short order became a stepping stone to what is now the ever-popular Arena season model and a complete alteration to the game.  PvP revolves around arenas from gearing the most points (the best type of points) to getting the best gear.

Guild Wars 2 has one thing going for it, and that’s the fact that sPvP is almost a clean break from the rest of the game.  You have your main character that you use in PvE and World vs. World, but the second you go into the staging area for sPvP that character becomes almost like a different version of your character — a modifiable template character for the class you’re playing — and carries nothing over the line (either way) to impact the rest of the game.

I have confidence that this separation will remain in tact and nothing ‘physical’ will transfer.  There’s nothing stopping the mentality, though.  World vs. World is teetering on the edge of greatness and short-term intrigue.  The history of this industry shows that it doesn’t take much for a MMORPG company to cater to the extremely popular, public, and vocal community rallying around the sPvP type of gameplay.

If sPvP becomes more popular than WvW, which could EASILY happen, what will happen to WvW?  Balancing for a 5v5 game -will- impact balance for the 100 vs. 100 vs. 100 gameplay in World vs. World.  The same goes for WvW impacting sPvP balance; I don’t want to be one-sided here. But if sPvP has the interest of millions, and WvW interests thousands, which do you think will influence design?

Guild Wars 2 can’t have it both ways unless the template sPvP characters receive balance changes independent of how the rest of the game is balanced.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but right now sPvP and the rest of the game are not separate in terms of stats, abilities, etc.  Sounds like a simple fix to me, or at least the first step towards remedying the situation.  Next step will be to ensure that WvW is fun enough, and being developed for enough, that it will continue to interest players long-term.

So, that’s just me finding a thread, following where it goes, trying to spot potential snags that will cause the whole thing to unravel.  It’s what I do.  Forgive my theorycrafting!

  • Non-issue as ArenaNet has already said sPvP skills and such will be balanced separately from PvE/WvW, same as GW1 already has differences between PvP and PvE skills.

  • I hate instanced/sPvP. I have participated in it with guild members and it is fun. It is fun because it is non stop action. But it lacks one thing for me. It lacks the hunt. I love one on one fights and would hunt my victims. I would make sure they had full health. I would guess as best as possible that they had all their skills availble. I wanted them to be at their best. Then I would attack.

    If I won, I would emote a salute and move on. If I lost, I would place them on my list of must kills. If I saw them another day they would be hunted. I would try another tactic all in an effort to kill them. I would keep them on my list until I killed them. I created my own game within a game that way.

    I wish GW2 would allow me to know who I killed solo and those that killed me solo. The way it stands now I do not know my victims nor do I know those that made me a victim.

  • @Yarr: That’s good to hear. Have a source? I’d love to read up on it. Hopefully they’ll address ways to keep all PvP interesting and popular as well.

  • @Keen

    It’s been in Guild Wars 1 since forever, skills behave differently in PvP and PvE, their descriptions change, damage numbers all that good stuff.

    I dont see why it would be a problem if they just continue to balance things differently like they already have been doing for years in Guild Wars 1.

    Also remember that Guild Wars 1 had more than a thousand skills, and Guild Wars 2 has a much more restricted number of skills than Guild Wars 1.

  • Can’t find the print interviews about that at the moment, but designer Isaiah Cartwright talks about this in a PvP questions video at about the 4:55 mark:

    GW2 game designer Jon Peters mentions everything is subject to change for sPvP compared to other parts of the game, especially tournament play, but that they have tried to design things for all modes of play. Roughly at the 5:35 mark:

  • I don’t get why people are bringing up the skills being different in PvP vs PvE.

    Maybe my reading comprehension is awful, but I can’t seem to find in the original post where he is even talking about PvE vs PvP balance.

  • “Guild Wars 2 can’t have it both ways unless the template sPvP characters receive balance changes independent of how the rest of the game is balanced. Correct me if I’m wrong, but right now sPvP and the rest of the game are not separate in terms of stats, abilities, etc.”

    @Graev – well the OP talks about balance, and skills are certainly a major part of balnce, in fact is the major area they use to balance things. Armor is already different between sPvP and PvE/WvW. The devs mentioned that traits should remain the same and that makes sense, as the core part of builds. Stats are already different between sPvP and the rest of the game. What else is there? The GW2 devs have been pretty clear that they are adjusting the content for each section of the game, sPvP / WvW / PvE, not just making a one size fits all type of content.

    Keen’s overall post is certainly a valid topic about any game that has both eSport and regular play ambitions, including GW2. With many more games aspiring to that section of gaming, it is also a timely article. I was just pointing out ArenaNet has already addressed much of this so it shouldn’t be an issue with the game as a whole. They do have some experience with eSport from GW1 and hopefully are applying lessons learned from the first game to GW2.

  • That’s good to know that they plan to balance the content individually for sPvP. The videos seemed to be leaning towards balancing between PvP and PvE. I may have missed reference to a separation of sPvP and WvW.

    Assuming they’re able to balance for all three, I’m still not certain that the sPvP won’t take over as the dominant PvP form as it did in WoW.

  • Did sPvP take over as the dominant PvP form because sPvP is more popular or because WvW type PvP was non-existant/pointless/lame in WOW?

  • @Argorius: Arenas/Bg’s took over in WoW because Blizzard only developed for them. I don’t know what caused Blizzard to make that choice, save for how much easier it is to develop small gear treadmills.

  • I still believe WvW will end up being “causal PVP”.

    That’s because, given the numbers involved it’s going to be almost impossible to completely balance.

    You’re going to have days/combinations of players/skill levels all in play. Some days you’ll steam roll, others you’ll get rolled over.

    Some days the players will all join in, follow the plan and make it work. Other times, it’ll just be a massive, disorganised Zerg.

    sPVP will be where people go to complete with very specific team compositions and map strategies.

    They’re aimed at completely different players and play styles.

    If sPVP ends up being more popular with the “hardcore” PVP, that’s simply because they enjoy the format more. I don’t really take issue with that.

    WvW seems like a happy middle ground.

  • I too do not liek the eSport mentality but do understand it is something alot like and is good for the game overall since it would draw in crowds that normally wouldnt look into the game. Still though I’d rather they not have them and have a lower population base. I am of the opinion that sPvP and BG style PvP ruins world PvP in general.

  • I think sPvP became far bigger in way becasue it is mechanical far easier to design code and implement. Developers usually take the path of least resistance in terms of adding content and when designing good open world encounters require exorbitant amounts of time compared to the humble arena it is no wonder they choose the lesser option. It also feels like many developer teams don’t really understand open world PvP, I have seen a myriad of truly bad implementations so maybe it was just a smart move on Blizzards behalf to avoid that if they weren’t comfortable with it.

    here are somethings that transfer over from sPvP though, you gain many lvl 80 weapons in those chests which I imagine are equippable in WvW and outside the mists. I don’t see that as much of an issue though since gear is quite normalized in terms of stats.

    And yeh, balancing will always b an issue but I am sure as well that I have heard the devs specifically state they will be balancing them separately if it creates an issue.

  • Played wow arena just for the loot that was required to be somewhat competitive in BG.
    I never liked arena.

    Off topic: that new counterstrike releasing… Meh it got a radar displaying bad guys again just like in cs source.
    I can not play counterstrike with a lame radar like that. (I played normal CS from beta 4.1 and up)

    Does anyone know if there is a server option for the radar to just show friendlies in the newest CS?

  • It will be interesting to see how it pans out. Overall I feel that instances in general hurt world pvp so off the bat I’m not a fan of the spvp. However I do like the idea of it being separate from the rest of the world and nothing transfers between them. If this is true I think there will be a distinct separation between the two. In that some players will never step foot in spvp because it will gain them nothing and semi vice versa, even though spvpers will have to play the normal pve a bit before entering from what I’ve gathered.

    The way I see it panning out will be hardcore spvp, or you just don’t do it. Unless I’m missing some incentive to spvp why would I want to do it at all unless I knew my team was good enough to win? If I never gain anything that transfers back to the normal world and I know I’m not going to be the best in spvp, I don’t see myself ever stepping foot in it. Do both sides win, I think so. In that sense I don’t think it will hurt the game much. I actually like how they did this in comparison to other current mmos.

    Not being pressured by incentives into fake instanced pvp is a plus in my books.

  • Coming from an Esports fan who loves watching both LoL and SC2 to the point of seriously thinking of trying to break into casting for one or both of them… I absolutely agree with your stand on the way it influences MMO games.

    I hate the way it has changed PvP in MMOs like WoW, I remember in vanilla when PvP was all world pvp… when they didn’t balance the game around PvP.

    I personally think that unless you can completely separate the changes made between eSports PvP (Spvp in GW2) and the rest of the game (be it straight PvE, or WvW and PvE or w/e) you should not balance around PvP. It seems like GW is on the right track, at least I hope so.

  • In GW1 the different types of PvP survived separately throughout the lifetime of the game. Alliance battles, which was the precursor to WvW had a different, more casual player base than the more formal types: Guild versus Guild, Heroes Ascent etc. I have little doubt that a similar segregation will occur in Guild Wars 2. Many PvEers won’t be interested in sPvP at all, but will play WvW, since it’s less personal and it doesn’t matter so much if you suck at it.

  • @Roq: See, that’s already a problem. Why is WvW considered any less personal, or matter any less, than sPvP? You’ve already diminished it before the game even launched! I think you may have proven my point for me. 😛

  • While I would first like to jump on the bandwagon and reiterate that they have spoken at length at conferences and other events that they are completely willing to balance the PvP game and the PvE/WvW game completely independent from each other. They have said that, up to this point everything has simply lined up in such a manner that it has not been necessary to do so.

    As for my personal worries about PvP they do not lie in the sPvP realm. I truly believe that that aspect of the game is completely separate from the rest of the game. My worry is in the WvW meta game. Mostly because any successful RvR open world PvP system requires a carrot and quite a large one at that. Since they haven’t incentivized WvW outside of achievements and armor skins there simply does not seem to be enough. Other games have made it a routine practice of having PvP rank ladders, guild related RvR rewards, etc. GW2 has given us leaderboards in sPvP, but not in WvW? Guild based leaderboards and Playerbase leaderboards are something that WvW desperately needs to have continued incentive after the first several months. While WvW may not be the “same old same old” every day because of the nature of PvP, it still will become tedious if new elements, rewards and incentives are not adding/changed over the course of time.

  • @Roq: I personally always felt the opposite. spvp, and esport in general, is the casual type of PvP while world PvP is the hardcore one.

    Spvp is for people that don’t want to invest time in a game or risk anything.
    It is casual in the sense that it is direct action with no build up.
    More of a constant stream of low highs and low downs.
    It’s also the kiddie pool of PvP, always “fair fights” on “fair location” with even numbers. There is no challenge or difficulty in that.
    In GW2 I felt it was just a way of testing high level builds before investing the time to reach them in PvE.
    I did have fun during the beta events, and it surprised me a lot. I expected it to be boring but useful to test build balances. But that’s more of a testimony on the quality of the combat system.

    On the other side of the spectrum, world PvP is the real meat of what PvP can offer.
    It is hardcore because of the time invested and the much larger amount of knowledge and tactical/strategical intelligence needed to succeed.
    The server cooperation side of it adds diplomacy and working with other guilds.
    Gw2 has shown it wants to break the traditional guild nucleus to a more extended community oriented around the server population. (move that I approve of)
    Thanks to the preparation down time, incentives to fight due to some sort of permanence and things to lose.
    You don’t fight just for the sake of fighting, but for something more.

    In my view, It’s like comparing fighting sports(trained for sportsmanship)and martial arts(trained to kill)

    I really don’t see how someone can consider itself an hardcore PvPer by just playing spvp, or any E-sport for that matter.

    The dubstep PvP (WvWvW) will have its share of interest due to its impact on server wide PvE boosts in addition to its completely separated public hoping for that kind of thrill. (former DaoC, Shadowbane or Darkfall players)

    And as Keen, I hope they don’t balance the game around only one of those type of PvP, but both.

  • I think what killed world pvp in WoW were instanced BG, not arenas. And general design philosophy of funneling people in instance grinds for rewards (whether BGs ,heroics or raids) with 0 emphasize on in world interaction

    Now GW2 doesnt have world pvp first place. What it has is large scale conquest mode for casuals and objective based spvp for hardcore. Neither of them at the moment are personal reward oriented ( I dont think many people care about cosmetics). So its really about what you prefer to play

    Now balance wise – in www individual class balance really is secondary. Its more about coordination , supplies and siege weapons than about particular moves and counters on class level. It really doesnt matter much what they do to class balance for www – that is a totally separate game from spvp and even pve, where entirely different rules apply .

    If GW2 takes off as esport I think more general populace will play spvp and their soloq version of it. Just like in LoL. Yet majority people will play casually in WWW and PvE (just like in LoL as well)

  • There needs to be some sort of reward system in place for WvW to make you want to compete in WvW, an objective that the side with most towers/keeps gets access too (as Keen has spoke about in the past with references to DAoC’s Darkness Falls). I also feel as if WvW would benefit from some sort of ranking system similar to DAoC’s so the more you play there the more you get these “points” and can spend them on specific skills or spells, this would separate it from sPvP and give the people who prefer to WvW something to play for away from the competitive play in sPvP.

    I know that I will do both, sPvP due to the fact that its easy to pick up and play quickly, but I will mainly be in WvW due to the hunting factor that someone else previously mentioned, nothing better than hunting people down and getting that solo kill.

    In summary there needs to be decent rewards to entice people to compete for keeps and take part in keep defense if it is under siege.

  • @Keen – I play tournament chess and also casual chess with friends and on the internet. But, the increased level of competition that applies in tournament chess doesn’t devalue the fun that I get from the more casual forms of the game or reduce my willingness to engage in them. On the contrary, the ability to play in those more casual settings is a useful education for doing better in tournaments and increases the overall fun of chess.

  • actually, arenanet specifically said they DID NOT want to separate skills like they did in GW1 (but they would as a last resort)
    I still don’t see it having much overall affect on the rest of the game however, simply because the PvE game plays more like PvP than other mmos (little healing, no tanking, no damage variation between vs players and vs mobs) and thus there is less reason that balancing for one will damage the other.

    Either way I will be very happy for GW2 to become a popular E-Sport, but I don’t think it will become very big simply because its harder to follow than top down games such as LoL and SC

  • I see people talking about WOW and blaming BG for destroying world pvp.
    You do know that world pvp died before the introduction of BG right?

    The cause: faction imbalance. For instance on the server I played Alliance outnumbered Horde 3.5 to 1. I heard that was pretty common on other servers as well.
    People just figured why bother.. and worse. The zerg killed our quest npc’s over and over.

    Such fun world pvp.

    It can be fun, but sides need to be even in numbers.

    At least in GW 2 is 1 server vs another.
    There should be minor differences in population and even then there is a ranking system so well performing servers will end up fighting similar servers.

    World pvp GW2 —> WOW

  • @Evalissa: Unfortunately, I agree with the last statement about it being harder to follow as well. That is one of the reasons I theorize that FPS games have fallen to the wayside as the major esports to SC2 and LoL, because those 2 are much easier to follow for a more casual audience.

    What would be awesome would be if GW2 somehow put in a referee or spectator mode where you could control just a camera but float above the action, with a minimap attached showing full team positions and such, might make it easier to follow.

    While as I said before I hate when developers let PvP affect PvE balance in MMO games like this, I also would like to see GW2 become a legitimate Esport as any game that is added to the industry is going to help it grow which is good.

  • You also have to keep in mind, GW1s thing was Arena pvp. This will likely make it even more of a priority.