Last week, we sat down to chat with two of ArenaNet’s chief members on the World vs. World design team. As many of you may know, Tuesday March 26th marks the release of the long awaited “WvW Patch”, bringing a host of upgrades and improvements to Guild Wars 2’s massively scaled player versus player content. “The Razing”, part three of the Flame and Frost series of updates, has a ton of new stuff for just about everyone, but the key changes are coming to World vs. World and Habib Loew (Gameplay Programmer for WvW) and Mike Ferguson (Lead Designer on WvW) had lots to say on the subject.
CULLING TRULY IS DEAD
An “End of Culling Party” can happen come 3/26, as Habib noted during our interview. He really wouldn’t mind seeing people toasting its death either, as the notorious process which keeps anything more than a few players from being visible on the screen at once in large battles has finally met its demise. For those who were unaware, Culling is a limitation of the servers, in that they weren’t able to tell the client about every character in WvW (or for that matter any part of GW2 where there are a lot of players on screen at once). In order to get rid of culling, the programming team had to address all of the things it was helping them with before (cutting down on bandwidth utilization, processing power, etc.). They highly optimized their data stream so that when they send all of these messages about all of the game’s data to the client, they’re not overwhelming your network connection. This was the biggest piece of it.
Additionally, now the client (because of these optimizations) can show up to 300 characters on the screen at any one time. That’s 300 visible and moving characters on your screen at a time. Anything over that, Habib says, will be represented by their name and server tag. Even when you get over 300, you’ll still know that they’re around, as opposed to before these fixes when they were simply invisible and killing you from the ether. But, in allowing the client to do this they also have to take players’ systems into consideration so they don’t cause Joe Smith’s rig to spontaneously combust next time he steps foot into the Eternal Battlegrounds.
Culling is finally dead!
There are two new graphics options that are world versus world specific: the first is a hard character limit which controls the 300 character cap. If you want the game to show less than 300 you can make it so with this slider, to a point that feels comfortable for your system. The second is a world versus world character quality. It allows you to change which proportion of the shown models are rendered at high quality, and which are rendered at a lower quality. This will be based on proximity, so the characters closer to you are rendered fuller, and the people further away are rendered more poorly. So many things can vary in terms of a machine’s performance that Habib wasn’t comfortable giving out “recommended” specs, but said the in-game “recommended” settings should work wonders for us all.
WUB VEE WUB GETS ITS OWN PROGRESSION SYSTEM
This new WvW progression system is intended to enrich the WvW part of the game, in the same way that Map Completionists, Legendary items, and Ascended Gear, as well as cosmetic items are out there for the more PvE-minded folks. None of the progression earned in WvW will affect the PvE side of your character, so if you’re not into the massive PvP you won’t be missing out on anything. Mike talked about how it’s specifically tied to WvW, and only WvW.
As you progress in rank, by merely doing the things that are part of WvW (killing enemies, defending, escorting dolyaks, flipping capture points, sieging, etc.) you’ll gain ranks, and WvW skill points to use on WvW specific skills. These skills aren’t something you’ll keep on your hotbar, but rather things that will help you be better at WvW tasks (carrying supply, doing more siege damage, taking less siege damage etc). This way, based on your point allocation, you can be better at specific WvW roles for your side, or become a jack of all trades. These are all passive abilities that are on all the time, and won’t affect PvE in the least.
WvW Skills Preview
The ranks, of which there are around two-thousand come March 26th, will come at you relatively quickly. You’ll get WvW XP for participating in events, killing enemies, taking keeps, guarding keeps. The team expects players to gain a new rank every hour or so, and every so often within these ranks you’ll get a new title that will display to your friends and opponents to let them know how into the war you are. Each rank gives you an ability point, and to go progressively further into different WvW skills, you’ll need to spend more points. So the first point in Siege Damage might only cost one point, but by the time you’re hitting rank three or four of that skill, you’ll need more and more points.
The ultimate goal is that this new progression system will add thousands of hours of playtime to WvW, and finally give WvW players something to work for aside from winning or losing keeps for server bonuses. This puts the partaking of world versus world in a whole new light, as now your character can earn a lot of WvW-specific progression skills, titles... and that’s not all. The Badge of Honor system is being overhauled too.
BADGES OF HONOR = PHAT LEWT
Items in GW2 have both an appearance and stat boosts that can be interchanged by various means. With the March 26th update, WvW players will have a whole new way to obtain various special, and other items that were previously only purchasable with karma. With your badges you’ll first buy one component (the stats: Knight’s, Carrion, Cleric, Berserker’s, etc.) and then a second component (the visual look: racial skins, and so forth). Later on, if you decide you want the same stats, but a different look, you just buy a new skin and recombine them. It’s a lot like item transmuting, but for WvW bought gear. Worth noting is that the stats are the same as those you’d get in any other part of the game, and the visual skins are the same as well, so no one who doesn’t partake in WvW will be missing out. Rather, this is a way for WvW-loving players to actually get stuff they previously would have had to go PvE for. Something that will delight a lot of the members of one of my guild, I must say.
Both Mike and Habib said the ultimate goal is to create a system of rewards for WvW that will be easy to expand with the rest of the game as new and more rewards are put into other aspects as well. If a new karma vendor has a new look for an item, this way they can put it in WvW as well, and vice versa. It’s the beginning of systems that will be expanded over time. Mike even coyly hinted: “I just have this feeling that there will be more armor in our future.”
One of the Living Story's new characters: Braham
All these updates to the WvW system are only part (though one of the most keenly anticipated parts) of the March Guild Wars 2 patch. There are also changes and additions coming to the Guild Bounty system to help smaller guilds get their missions on, new content for the Living Story including two brand new characters brought into the fold (a Norn and a Charr hero), and even Leaderboards for all sorts of in-game stat tracking across servers and the game as a whole. It’s been seven months since Guild Wars 2 launched to critical and commercial success, and it doesn’t seem like there’s a hint of these guys slowing down. If you’ve been waiting for WvW to get some love before diving back in, tomorrow’s patch seems like a good a time as any to give it a new look.
Bill Murphy / Bill Murphy is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.