Guild Wars 2 Redefines Open World PVP
- TemperHoof (July 2012)
Does Guild Wars 2 have Open World PVP or does it not? There still confusion on this subject and it feels like almost every day there is someone debating it. The answer to the question is not exactly YES and not exactly NO: I intend to argue that it’s something of both. This is because ArenaNet is not applying their game to the classic, chaotic ideals of Open World PVP as the genre has known it for so many years. Instead of adhering to the tried-and-true, they are rewriting the rules and redefining what it means for a game to have Open World PVP.
“The overall design for Guild Wars 2 does not support fully open world PvP and it would take a prohibitive amount of work to even make it possible. World versus world is our version of open world PvP, and while it isn't 'true' open world PvP for more PvP purists, it does contain many of the elements that make world PvP so exciting. Hopefully it will mostly satisfy people that want open world PvP.” — Mike Ferguson
Indeed, World versus World is ArenaNet’s version of Open World PVP. Unlike many games which allow for chaotic and boundless regions of non-level restricted and unbalanced player on player violence — ArenaNet has taken the elements of what they felt worked best from those games and made an effort to rebuild their own in a new way. Despite popular belief, WvW is not simply a static set of zones full of just structures to capture and upgrade. ArenaNet’s WvW is modeled off of classic Open World PVP mechanics, just with a bunch of new toys added to the mold.
Introduced in more recent Beta Weekend Events, it has become noticeably clear that WvW does indeed have thriving Player versus Environment content. In June alone saw the introduction of several dynamic events, bosses, and skill point challenges which often populate the standard PvE zones throughout the game. This content will likely increase during Beta Weekend Event #3 and fans of WvW will find that the various zones have a method to the madness. Like all Open World PvP games, WvW has level progression — and the maps reflect it.
I’m no stranger to Open World PVP. I know what it’s like and I know what it means to be part of that context. While perhaps it wasn’t the most hardcore of examples, my most recent experiences with Open World PVP have come from DC Universe Online. Players could join into a PVP server, which pretty much meant there were no limits to what could take place. Players of all level ranges could dive right out of the sky onto whatever zone they wanted and start beating up on people who just started a character. This gave the feeling of danger, and it was that constant threat of death that led a lot of people to work closely together and defend their own.
Ultimately, I feel that is what Open World PVP is about — the constant threat. Like an animal in the wild, you have to keep peeking over your shoulder for the signs of predators lurking in the bushes. The only difference is that DC Universe meant that many of those predators looked exactly like Ronald McDonald and were named something remotely close to Burgers McSpankYoAss. Does Guild Wars 2 compare to this? Well yes it does, because like DC Universe, a player has to start from the bottom and work their way up the food chain. With every level they gain, the more they can compete with other players until they are the one that everyone is afraid of.
Guild Wars 2 does not prevent a player from becoming the ultimate predator, it just changes the rules. Guild Wars 2 offers reason versus chaos and structure where there was no structure. ArenaNet is striving to redefine what it means for an MMORPG to have Open World PVP.
The popular definition of Open World PVP is: “Combat can occur between players in a non-instanced fashion anywhere in the game world where permitted by the server rule-set. Virtually all Open World PvP games place some limit on where and/or when this type of PvP can occur. This is typically done by zone, area, or character level. Regardless of the restriction, if this type of combat can occur, it is considered Open World PvP (Rift Wiki).”
Guild Wars 2 does indeed offer a non-instanced game world and four set zones for Open World PVP to take place in. They’ve made an effort to make two game worlds to suit this purpose. The basic world, Tyria, is the PvE segment of Guild Wars 2 that is in essence a giant safe-zone where people can enjoy a full game without limits and without the threat of other players. Here they can choose to relax, not having to constantly feel threatened and be able to calmly enjoy the game at their own pace. The Mists however is an alternate world within the Guild Wars 2 universe that could be the closest thing it has to an afterlife.
"The Mists is the oldest thing in existence and the space between worlds and realms, connecting to all worlds and binding the multiverse together, including the past, present, and future, and is the source of all things and where creatures from across the worlds converge. The Mists is the proto-reality that exists between the worlds which in turn are the building blocks of reality. It is where the various afterlives and the homes of various gods and other powerful entities reside. The Mists resonate from the worlds around them, forming bits of their own reality - islands of existence that reflect the histories of their worlds." — Guild Wars Wiki
World vs World is considered a war within the Mists, a war between worlds, a war between separate realities which clash time and again until the ending of all things. It is within this world that ArenaNet has chosen to construct Open World PVP within Guild Wars 2. While you as a player are not bound to the rules and restrictions of most Open World PVP games, preventing you from instantly progressing to the highest and most difficult zone — Guild Wars 2 does not. And it is from here that confusion about the Open World PVP system stems.
“In the Mists, players all fight at the same level. Any character below level 80 will be adjusted so they are roughly equivalent in power to what they would be at level 80. This makes combat among characters of any level not only possible, but actually fun!" — Mike Ferguson
Since players are instantly balanced to level 80 upon entering WvW, they know no limits. They can easily miss the careful design of the zones within the mists, or simply the developers have not fully encouraged them to pay attention at all to that design — mainly because it’s just not been finished and won’t be finished until August 25th. World vs World now offers five very sizable maps, three of which service as homelands for each world. These are identical in nature, as they are supposed to be alternate parallel realities of the same world.
Settled in the north of every homeland is a protected Citadel. This is supposed to be the central hub for an entire server. Within the boundaries of that Citadel a person can find safety as the primary guards are indestructible and do instant-kill damage to anyone who approaches that doesn’t belong. Players of an enemy faction may find it extremely difficult to accidently come across these instant-kill guards, as the city is nestled high upon a mountain and is the highest point on every map. A sharp escarpment in the south separates it from the rest of the map, allowing only players of its faction to jump down in relative safety.
Like any Open World PVP game, Guild Wars 2 provides a safe zone. Here players can shop, craft, gather supplies, and form groups. This is also the place where new players are supposed to begin their experience within World vs World. This was clear during BWE #1, when only the Citadel had a Tutorial NPC. They have expanded to all other zones since then, but that doesn’t change the fact that that Citadel is the official starting point.
But there is much more evidence proving that ArenaNet intends players to start with the Citadel at low-level, showing a keen sense of foresight when the game is post release and the world is scattered with several predatory players. The general area around the Citadel is nothing short of low-level content. The Citadel itself is home to a comfortable little town that can potentially be home to Renown Hearts in the future. But it’s the gathering nodes for Harvesting, Logging, and Mining that are all level 0 within this region — meaning that people at low level will earn the greatest amount of experience points here instead of jumping directly into the Eternal Battlegrounds; WvW’s central map and high level PVP content.
Heading either directly east or directly west of the Citadel will provide content that caps out roughly at about level 14. Mining Points offer a key indication of the regions difficulty by upgrading from Copper to Silver which can only be successfully harvested from level 10 players. While players can approach this point and mine from it freely at any level, they will not get bonus experience points for the daily, weekly, and monthly gathering achievements or acquire the precious ore to utilize for quick experience points in craft. The areas in the far-east and far-west are home to Skill Point challenges and basic 2-step Dynamic Event chains. Players in the surrounding region must kill a certain number of a creature to spawn a boss event that completes the chain.
With such large scale events in the north and a plethora of low level content, there is bound to be a large population of players at one point. This population will make it an uninteresting target for many predatory players due to the sheer number of activities within the region — inevitably offering greater protection for those new to the World vs World experience. Yet this does not hinder the brave or the bold from taking a strike party into the far north of each map. It is entirely possible for a small band of hardcore griefers to establish a small network of Ballista on one of the hills to camp this region if they so choose.
In the upper region of the East resides Mistwrought Dungeon, a small jump puzzle that is extremely rewarding for its minor challenge. But the path to Mistwrought is easily ventured for an enemy army, meaning that if players were to try risking this dungeon alone — they may find unhappy endings as enemies can easily single them out here without being noticed. Predatory players will likely be using Mistwrought as a popular camping spot, considering the tight quarters, the numerous ledges for clever hiding places, and the bonus rewards for raiding an enemy dungeon once a day.
During the Beta Weekend Events, Mistwrought’s enormous treasure chest would net a plethora of siege blueprints, decent gear that could be salvaged for runes, and Medals of Honor; the point rewards related to killing players and key targets in WvW. There is little doubt that people will see the value in these chests and realize that when in enemy territory the chance of getting even better blueprints and equipment increases exponentially. Without a doubt, the developers of Guild Wars 2 have placed this here as an incentive to create conflict and increase risk and constant threat.
The central portion of the map reveals Iron Ore to be the primary mining node, meaning that players should be at the very least level 10 for this region to get the most benefit towards their experience. Also this area introduces Veteran Boss Dynamic Events which are no walk in the park for a new player, and these will scale depending on how ever many players are present trying to kill them too. Each of these bosses are easily soloed at around level 15. This portion also introduces players to potentially facing up against NPCs like the Guards and Lords if the enemy had claimed structures in this area. Taking down a Tower or Keep is no easy business, but the player is encouraged to see how it is done within this region first before progressing to the Eternal Battlegrounds.
Dead center is another Dynamic Event allowing players to lay claim to the Temple of Storms. While the weather effects which follow do provide some additional support to your team, the Dynamic Event is more or less a suitable training exercise in preparation for allied camps in the Eternal Battlegrounds. Within the Eternal Battlegrounds you can gain the affection of other races like the Ogres and the Hylek to capture Supply Depots for your server. Helping the Quaggan build their weather node in the homeland maps will prepare new players for that experience.
Progressing south means an ever increasing risk. In the southern portion of every homeland there are two Border Camps for each enemy server. Like the Citadel, these Border Camps are fully protected and offer players a safe haven for crafting and shopping. These are the only entry points for enemies of any homeland, meaning that the southern part of the map is going to be the riskiest and deadliest portions — also the most rewarding.
During the June Beta Weekend Event, ArenaNet added several new Veteran Boss Dynamic Events to this region specifically. The creatures on this portion of the map are especially dangerous and highly aggressive, making it dangerous for low level players to try and venture here without a partner or purpose. Furthermore, the gathering points in the region require level 25 tools — highly suggesting this is meant for players who are at the very least level 25 to get the greatest amount of experience. Players who venture throughout the southern portions of the map should expect to run into a lot of enemy invaders from other servers. Even the Tutorial NPC suggests as much in the screenshot below.
By highlighting the southern Supply Camp, which is already captured by Red Server in this screenshot, it’s clear that ArenaNet expects this region of the map to be highly contested during release. Players who choose to spend a lot of time in this region playing out Dynamic Events and visiting gathering points between attacking and defending strategic structures will gain the greatest amount of experience. This also means these regions will be highly watched by predatory players. Anyone who ventures down here should establish a fall-back point, setting up a Ballista to rush back to if there is ever danger.
Since siege remains on the map for 30 minutes between each time it is manned, you can potentially keep a Ballista at a fall-back point permanently while you and your party are on patrol. You can also use siege to quickly take out monsters too, meaning it may be a good idea to establish one within firing range of a powerful boss. Players who are skilled can feel safer if they know how to properly arm the region they choose to play in — keeping keenly aware that each boss is nearby the rear-exit of each enemy server basecamp. This prepares players for the next stage of WvW, the Eternal Battleground.
The Eternal Battlegrounds
While anyone, at any time, can venture into the Eternal Battleground and gain experience — they may not gain it quite as quickly until they reach level 40. Unlike the homeland maps, the Eternal Battleground is the central map. No server has a Citadel here, instead there are three Border Camps and a short jog outside of each Border Camp players will find Platinum Ore gathering points; a level 40 material. Once again, the get the best experience, it is recommended to begin approaching Eternal Battlegrounds at roughly level 40. This doesn’t mean that no one beneath level 40 should venture into the Eternal Battlegrounds. On the contrary, there is always something to do as battle is likely happening somewhere.
Yet people who feel they want to get the best experience out of WvW should be mindful of their surroundings and know where to go when things are quiet. As they progress through the Eternal Battlegrounds they will find creatures to be more durable and a lot tougher to take down. Even Dynamic Events become extremely challenging and either cannot be soloed or cannot be soloed with ease. At various points throughout the map they’ll come across Mithril Ore; a level 55+ mining point. But the most precious gathering points are in an unexpected area. During the June BWE the new area was added beneath the Eternal Battlegrounds. While it is connected to the Eternal Battlegrounds, in many ways it is an entirely new zone.
While it was largely unpopulated by any kind of PvE element, the Jump Dungeon beneath the Eternal Battlegrounds was entirely PVP driven and included a lot of player driven traps and features. But the deeper a player ventures into the jump puzzle, the more precious the gathering points become. At the final stage of the dungeon Orichalcum Ore is plentiful. This is a level 70+ material, and it’s buried in the depths of a likely to be camped dungeon complex. Predatory players may find a little thrill in here, and large groups may want to venture down to do treasure runs while at the same time pausing to partake upon the precious minerals.
As different as it may be, there is little doubt that Guild Wars 2 does have a method of leveling progression to its Open World PVP. There is structure and purpose, though that purpose is not entirely evident. The one thing that it offers is the ability to harbor an Open World PVP population and give them a place they can call their own. At the same time, it can legitimize ganking and player harassment on an entirely new level.
Instead of players beating up on a faction within their server, perhaps inadvertently diminishing the overall population of their server leading to an eventual lack of activity — they are beating up on another server entirely. This means that if they demoralize and diminish the population of the opposing server, they will not feel the adverse effects and may even feel more rewarded in the long run. Instead of being known for your name, you are instead known only by the name of your server. To many Open World PVPers this is something of an insult, as they like to bask in their own fame from time to time.
But by giving credit to your server instead of yourself, you start to share that fame with others. While sharing may not be the nature of some players, it boosts the overall morale of the server and creates a friendlier gaming experience for everyone — not just one person. In Guild Wars 2 Open World PVP has a subtle effect on PvE. Players within PvE may never once step foot into WvW, but they will bask in the generous bonuses that WvW generates for them. At the same time, WvW players can potentially benefit from PvE players who may enjoy spending more time crafting and sharing material they find due to the WvW bonuses. All that matters is how all of that material is managed.
“We wanted to make WvW fun and easy to get into, so there’s no level grinding required—you can just hop into the battle using your normal PvE character, regardless of what level you are.” — Mike Ferguson
As Guild Wars 2 ventures closer to release, World versus World will likely see more and more PvE content steadily introduced. ArenaNet has promised and has so far delivered upon their wish to make WvW an independent gaming experience that will appeal to the Open World PVP fan. While one can argue that since it is not like games before it, then it is not Open World PVP. But in the gaming industry there is progression and change.
ArenaNet is offering their own answer to the Open World PVP spectrum, feeling confident they have worked out much of what turned off a lot of people to the experience in the first place. While the most gritty and overly devoted hardcore player may not be swayed, I have argued my point — Guild Wars 2 does indeed have Open World PVP, and it’s new.
Sure some of the elements may not be fresh and new, but the combination that ArenaNet has put together feels like it’s a completely new creature entirely. I look forward to seeing how it truly plays once the game launches in late August. I hope to see you there — lurking in the bushes like the elite predatory you claim to be.
An Official Retort —
Due to the popularity of this entry, I decided to make a slight amendment to it as an addition to the debate happening within the comments. Do enjoy! — TemperHoof
And the debate continues, which I expected entirely. This Blog is not the end all, be all of answers and fact. Everything here is prospective, and it pleases me to see such a thriving community taking interest in this subject — whether it is for or even against my topic. One thing I want to point out is the idea of the “Instance”.
“An instance is a special area, typically a dungeon, that generates a new copy of the location for each group, or for certain number of players, that enters the area. Instancing, the general term for the use of this technique, addresses several problems encountered by players in the shared spaces of virtual worlds.” — Wikipedia
There are a lot of people claiming World vs World takes place within an Instance, therefore leading to the point that it is not Open World PVP. Perhaps I should ask the general public to understand a simple fact: ArenaNet is making three games: three MMORPGs. One of which is called The Mists. It is a game complete within itself, with PVE content, level progression, end game, objectives, cities, and towns. In addition, there are NOT several copies of The Mists which spawn as it gets full. Once it is full, it’s full — you will have to queue for entry just like any other MMORPG that has a full server.
Just because it exists within the same package as Tyria, ArenaNet’s purely PVE MMORPG, doesn’t mean that The Mists is instanced out of Tyria. When you are inside of Guild Wars 2, you can just access your main menu and choose to instantly move to World vs World at any time. You are switching from one game to another, despite the fact they exist within the same universe and are connected to the same network.
By understanding that The Mists is a game completely and 100% independent of Tyria, that means that the world is NOT instanced. It is designed to support a large population much bigger than simple Battlegrounds. Unlike DAoC, the Frontier was not an independent MMORPG that was an optional part of the game. The Mists is a fully optional MMORPG that will be populated with content familiar to Tyria, but it will support large amounts of player on player combat.
Level progression plays a large part of The Mists, and someone who is level 80 will surely dominate a level 1 with ease. Furthermore, you can gank and grief however you please. I mentioned several examples in my article where you can setup Ballista. Now understand Ballista, these are fast-shooting giant sniper bolt launchers. These can hit players from crazy distances and practically do one shot kills. If you have two or even three Ballista setup side by side, you are going to cause a lot of trouble for the lowbie players and will get your satisfactory feeling of ruining someone’s day.
Furthermore you can camp Mistwrought Dungeon and kill lowbies there too! What I’m saying is The Mists is a game within a game: it is not an instance. By claiming that it is an instance, you risk devaluing the very Open World PVP games you use to support your own arguments. No MMORPG is just a big seamless world; everything takes place within a zone of some sort. Each zone can support a set number of players, just like servers. Each server can only support a given population. If you argue that World vs World is just an instance and not an MMORPG, then you are saying that every single game is also just an instance — just a bigger instance.
So the The Mists isn’t a huge MMORPG, in respects to its size — which is just five zones — it is indeed fairly small. Yet that doesn’t change the fact that it is still a large world for five areas, and despite it not supporting a flourishing, massively, and expansive world — ask yourself this. Do you truly understand how small the Open World PVP crowd truly is? In your imagination the size may be vast and huge, because you expose yourself to that game crowd a great deal. But does it truly give you an idea just how many people truly enjoy that game style versus the rest of the MMORPG population?
ArenaNet has created an MMORPG that they felt was large enough, at launch, for the target audience. In many Open World PVP games, you will likely spend a long time between each encounter. Or vast sections of the game turn into uneventful, useless graveyards of unused, underplayed content because the Open World PVP crowds find little use for those regions. ArenaNet has chosen to streamline it, cut the fat, keep things more straight-forward to allow for more frequent and consistent action to please the diehard PVPer with the ability to quickly drop into the game, find battle, and get the hell on with their lives.
They are reducing the need for extended camping; they are also increasing the activity by squeezing a sizable population into a smaller space. This promotes a more intense and active atmosphere, making that small world feel more alive and thrilling. There will always be something happening everywhere in The Mists, while in many other Open World PVP MMORPGs — nothing was happening but a few sparse scrims. Larger battles would take place in more popular regions as the rest of the game was vastly untouched.
My argument takes the point of view the The Mists is not an instance, nor battle maps, but a fully fleshed out mini-MMORPG married with two other MMORPGs. Therefore it is an Open World PVP MMORPG.
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