I want to start out by specifying that while their are many features in Guild Wars 2 that are attractive to me, its World versus World that ultimately made me buy the game. Oddly enough, lately, its the last thing on my mind when I do actually play. So I decided to contribute to the solution rather then ignoring the problem and not attempting to share my opinion on the situation.
The real problem with WvW is not just one thing. Its a systemic problem that has many design choices that are now restricting its success. As this will likely be several “parts” long, I’ll try to keep each post to a single focused issue and present my solution to this issue. While many believe they know the problem facing WvW, I find that more as evidence of it not being a singular issue then any one problem being wrong.
Part One: The Zerg
So whats the first problem I find facing WvW right now? Right now its the risk verse reward dilemma of servers travelling in zergs. Why is this a problem you ask? The moment that a lone player feels he cannot contribute to the success of a server in WvW is a point of failure from a game design standpoint. WvW encourages and even reinforces the belief that one must travel as part of the herd to be ‘successful’. While sure, small groups of players could potentially take points, its almost impossible for them to hold the points if your rival servers are travelling en masse. These types of encounters demoralize small teams, guilds or players banding together from travelling together in the future.
Further damage is done to the minds of the average player when they login to a battleground and discover no commander present. Zerg mentality must be easy to find or the player is then further pushed from play when he cannot find the group that he has previously discovered is necessary for success. The issues compound on top of each other. Unfortunately after the mess is over, you find yourself with a player going elsewhere in Guild Wars 2 to find some other source of entertainment.
The zerg mentality also has led to certain behaviors by battlefield commanders. I took the time to travel with a zerg commander on Stormbluff Isle and was rather appalled at the lack of meaningful encounters we ran into. A few times we came across some lone invadedr or small parties (3-5) of enemy invaders and large portions of the zerg broke off to destroy them (gracefully returning when the slaughter was over). Was it a satisfying encounter for my zerg companions? Perhaps. I know for sure the combat was so lopsided that the enemies surely didn’t enjoy it (again reinforcing their need to travel in larger numbers to be successful).
Additionally during my time travelling with the zerg, we ran and destroyed multiple enemy supply camps. The commander called this “the route”. It was clear why, when in my 3 hours spent with him, we ran to every supply camp in the Eternal Battlegrounds in a circular route (deviating once to defend a tower). We grabbed supply from the enemy camps, those that were missing it, and then we moved on. We didn’t defend the point… nor was the “point” to defend it from the invader faction from taking it back. We just took it, and moved on. This fact, and the 3 hours spent pointlessly swapping supply camps led me to wonder why players would continue to participate in such useless maneuvers.
I talked to the commander afterwards and he gave me some shtick on how we were denying supply dolyaks hitting up the invader keeps/towers. It clearly was a gesture meant to deflect questions from silly noobs like me. Unbeknownst to me, we had trebs from our main keep hitting the center of the map and our efforts were technically denying supply for the defenders to repair with. Okay, that makes sense. Except in the three hours of sieging, we weren’t actually stopping them from repairing the walls (nor did we actually try attacking at any point). You see, every time they flipped the supply camps back their team picked up supply and manually ran it over (thus prolonging the “siege”).
So this trip down my recent WvW experience hasn’t been in vain (though I do apologize about the length of this document…). Clearly I take issue with several things stemming from the Zerg mentality. Lets summarize for those of you who glazed over the wall of text;
Zergs discourage behaviors such as;
Ultimately what zergs do is award victory to the team with the most players.
How do we change this? Their are a few potential changes that could influence smaller group play. Most of them have to do with map design, unfortunately, so I realize they aren’t something easily inserted or developed right now in GW2 gameplay. You can, however, jury rig behaviors through rewards.
The first thought is that their are far too few points to attack or engage. By limiting the number of potential assault sites to 7 locations in Eternal Battlegrounds, you have unfortunately created scenarios where the battle is easily picked up by zergs. Travelling from one location to another is simple and painless, and defending 7 points in EB is rather easy with matched invader strengthed forces.
Imagine, however, if instead of 7 points of contention for your side that you doubled the potential capture points for one servers side of EB to 14. Fourteen capture points spread over a larger area in positions that would make travel to-and-from more difficult. All of sudden, that zerg could not possibly defend all the locations if an enemy split up. In fact, a server that broke into smaller 5 man parties to hit multiple points on an enemy server would actually be at an advantage. The only response a servers zerg could have to defend against ten 5 man parties is to split their own force up to defend against the attack. The balance becomes more interesting when you add attacking another servers points at the same time your trying to defend your own.
The give and take of more conflict points means smaller sized engagements that encourage a more strategic look at how a commander deploys his forces throughout the map. The potential for a zerg to take and hold that many points becomes almost impossible (in sPvP we call this back-capping) and nearly futile. Does this mean Zergs would have no place? Absolutely not. For assaulting a major point, like Stonemist, the Zerg would provide the necessary bodies to hit such a large and juicy target.
In conclusion, I feel that doubling the number of capture points would encourage a more tactical battleground in WvW. It would in essence make larger lumbering zergs obsolete by forcing them to deal with a more practical force of guerrilla warfare. Is this the solution to making WvW more engaging? Perhaps, but on its own … no. Thats why this is just part one