WvW Commanders, Communications, and Balance. Oh, my!

The current situation in WvW for my server,
Gate of Madness
For the last two weeks my server, Gates of Madness, has been destroyed by the competition. This changed last week with the new match ups. Now we are the ones that are dominating. Turns out, neither of these situations is fun. Today I will be discussing some of the changes I would personally like to see in WvW. There is a major problem in the Command and Control department which I think comes down to commanders and communications. There is also a balance issue, both are the server level and the class level. Not all is bad though. I will also discuss the good side of WvW and how that can be built upon for the utmost success. I know not everyone will agree with me and I am probably not right about everything. My server is not a huge WvW server by any means. With that said, these are my thoughts.


The 100g icon
The current system for becoming a commander in WvW is to collect 100 gold, walk over to a vendor, and ask for a promotion. The main problem with this is that spending 100 gold does not, even remotely, correlate to a persons actual ability to lead. This shows in game. Many of the commanders on my server do not even speak in chat. They just run around in WvW with a train of people following their icon. The ones that do speak up often struggle with simple strategic and tactical choices. For a while we had a commander that would simply cuss and swear and tell people to party at the gate.

WvW Token
Immediately, I think all commanders should be refunded their 100 gold and have their commander title taken away (maybe give them an achievement or title as a thanks). After this a new system for distributing command needs to be established. Personally, I can think of three or four systems that would be superior to the current system. Firstly, they could replace the gold cost with a cost in WvW tokens (1000+ imo). This way the commanders would, at the least, have some substantial experience in WvW.

Secondly, Anet could look at making commander as an option for guilds to purchase through influence. It would have to be a fairly large amount of influence and only an option for large (say 100+ members) guilds. Again, this way there at least some assurances that the commander is competent and willing to lead in chat. Perhaps guild commander's squads could only be joined by other guild members.

Another option would be to have a rank system based off of the WvW achievements. In order to rank up you would need to complete the various WvW achievements. The person online with the highest score would be offered command, which of coarse they could turn down. With this system, the commander would be the person with the most experience currently in the world. This system could also cap the number of commanders to a fixed percentage of the players currently playing. Too many commanders in one place adds to the confusion.

A final idea would be pure democracy. Starting with a "nomination phase" people would select those they think should be commander. Next would be a "voting phase" where those present would vote for a commander. Finally, would be the "offer phase" where the player with the most votes is offered command. Again this system could limit the number of commanders to a fixed percentage of the current players on the server. There could also be a "fire the commander" option, where if enough players vote to dismiss a commander it becomes a public vote of confidence. If it fails, a new commander is selected.

All of the options and ideas I have suggested move towards ensuring commanders are competent and willing to lead. Not all are perfect, and some are better than others, but I do believe they all are superior to the current system. Bad commanders can ruin the game for a lot of other players. I have personally led a group on a borderlands server without the commander tag, only to have my plans ruined when a commander logged in. Players stopped joining my group and started following the commander, even though he was issuing no directives in the chat. Everyone was just following the icon. In another situation, on Eternal Borderlands, I have seen successful groups starved of players by bad commanders leading doomed missions, say to camp a spawn. Something needs to be done, and I think all my suggestions are a move in the correct direction.


Bad communications are not always
a result of bad equipment as Radar
used to prove on MASH.
Communications is another key area of WvW that I believe needs some work. There are some easy fixes as well as some ideal situations that I would imagine would take a lot of work to implement. I hope to go over what I think could work. The main goal would be to fix one thing, zerging. Personally, I do not know anyone that enjoys zerging for an extended period of time. Sure when you first arrive in WvW being part of a zerg can be great fun, but eventually it grows extremely tiring. Even the term zerg implies a mindless mass. Mindless play is not fun and should not be encouraged. The way to prevent this is to improve communications between players. Also, commanders need a clearer way of issuing directives.

A couple things that could make commanders lives easier would be a streamlined way of getting messages to players. The first thing would be to remove the "spam" filter for commanders and those being productive in chat. I have been leading a group before only to have the spam filter kick in preventing me from issuing commands. Another idea would be to give commanders their own public channel that only they can post to which shows up in the chat in a different colour. Sure we have squads, but that is not a public chat, and a lot of players do not know how to join squads. Also, the commanders messages often get lost in the confusion of chat. Something just highlighting the commanders statements would help in the heat of battle. An upgrade to this would be to have the commanders messages show up in a transparent text in the middle of the users screen. From my experiences in WvW it is clear that a lot of users do not read the chat box, and this can cripple attacks and sap the joy out of the game for those struggling to bring order to the mass. Force feeding people might be required as the default option.

What events might look like
on the WvW map.
The absolute ideal situation, in my personal opinion, would be to give commanders the ability to create events. For example, a commander would select a tower on their map and a drop down menu would appear. If they control the tower options would be given such as Rally Here, Defend, Upgrade; however, if it is not controlled options would be given such as Attack Gates, Attack Wall. Then these events would appear on the map for all to see as well as in the events pane in the player HUD. This system could be vastly more complex than this if desired, but simply options like these would help a great deal.


Balancing act for Anet, is like being
between a rock and a hard place.
Balance in WvW is a controversial issue. The way I see it there are two levels that WvW needs to be balanced at; the class level, and the server level. Not all is bad though and I actually think balance is the easiest thing to fix in WvW.

Starting with class balance. A lot of the gripes about class balance in WvW surround the thief and the mesmer. With respect to the thief it is their incredible burst DPS which can down someone before the thief even renders. Part of this is the rendering issues which are a result of the games culling decisions. Anet is actively working on this as evidenced in the last patch. Thieves can also stealth large groups of players, and golems, for extended periods of time. Mesmers on the other hand have their portals, which can move large numbers of players, and golems, quickly across the map. Players feel these abilities make the classes over powered in the context of WvW. I tend to disagree as I think most classes have abilities that rapidly scale up in WvW (Warrior banners, Elementalist AoEs, Guardian bubbles, etc), but a lot of the effects are under noticed and under used. I think a lot of this could be fixed with an educational campaign on ArenaNet's part, or perhaps simply making these abilities larger than life in WvW.

On the other hand, with respect to server balance, things are a little bit more tricky. It is hard to tell, but a lot of people feel the main source of the problem is that it is currently free to switch servers once a week. What has happened and continues to happen is large numbers of players move to the winning servers for a given week to finish monthly achievements, jumping puzzles, and world exploration. There are two ways to fix this. One would be to remove the free server transfer, and the other would be to move the PvE stuff out of WvW. This means no monthly achievements for WvW, and world exploration inside WvW would no longer count. The jumping puzzle would than have to be made accessible from outside WvW, but could retain its PvP elements. Either of these, or both, would allow the server scoring system a chance to create the most fair matches possible.

Quick mock up of how linking maps going improve flow.
Another option to help server balance would be to add flow to the maps. Lately I have been toying around with the idea of linking the maps together so that front lines would be created. What I am suggesting is that on each of the borderland maps instead of their being a supply camp and two spawn points at the bottom of the map, there should be a single keep. Inside this keep would be an Asura gate which would be linked to a matching gate in one of the keeps in Eternal Battlegrounds (EB). With this setup in order to attack a server's Borderland, your server would first have to gain control of their keep in EB. And in order to repel invaders from your server's borderland you would have to capture the southern keep and push them back out into EB. Both keeps could be controlled separately from each other. The Asura gates could be inside courtyards in the keeps which would have to be broken out of in order to take the keep on the other side of the gate.

Adding the above changes would have a prominent effect of creating front lines of sorts as opposed to the chaos that currently exists. It would be much more obvious to players where the action is. It would also put added pressure on the winning server. If they controlled one of the other servers keeps in EB they would face the full brunt of both servers. A failing I see in this plan would be that the limited number of maps for players to enter. Currently, it is already difficult to get on to the popular maps during peak times. The above system would only add to that burden. Even so, I think it is a step in the right direction and worth mentioning.

The Good Stuff

Somethings in WvW deserve praise.
Now, not everything is bad in WvW. There are a lot of great aspects to it as well. Firstly, there are tasks that individuals can do, ie scouting, assassinating, harassing supply, and there are things that require small groups, ie camps and towers, and finally, tasks that require a large group, keeps, and castles. This variety tends to ensure that anyone can enter and find something they can take on. This is great and something I would build on top of. Create more roles and tasks for individuals to take on, and give them the tools and abilities to do them. For example, give rangers and thieves the ability to mark targets on the mini map for all to see, thus helping the scouting role.

Another great thing about WvW is the distinct advantage that the defenders have. I have played games with attackers and defenders before where the defenders were on the same footing as the attackers. For starters most people do not want to defend, and defenders are always out numbered by attackers. Secondly, it makes sense that the defenders have the advantage. They got to the battle first, and have had time to prepare, that is why they are the defenders. Now, the attackers should have options and tactics they can employ to level the playing field, but the fact of the matter is the defenders should always start with an advantage. I would like to see this improved upon with say, suggested locations for build siege marked on walls. Also, siege weapons should stay indefinitely and not disappear when they are not being used.

Next, team work is most definitely needed. This on its own is a great thing. It makes winning that much more fun, but it also makes loosing kinda fun as well. It creates a sense of community that I feel GW2 is lacking. Now, as I have mentioned above new tools are needed to help enable this team work, but at the fundamental core there is something unique and special about World PvP in Guild Wars 2, and I feel it is the teamwork.

A epic siege of Stone Mist Castle.
Siege weapons are awesome. The best thing about siege weapons is that they multiply intelligence. That is, a smart group of players can use siege weapons to hold off much larger groups of players. Siege can also be used to level the battlefield against defenders. Smart positioning of siege, and more importantly smart use of it can absolutely dominate. For example, my server had just finished mopping up our borderland and we planned out next invasion of a neighbouring borderland. Once over on the other side we built 2 golems with our supply from our borderland, and moved them directly to the gates of the enemies garrison keep. We took the keep in about 7-8 minutes without anyone defending it, simply because we had a plan, and the right siege of the job. Since this was the first objective we secured upon entering the map there was no way for the enemy to predict this stealth attack. ArenaNet should continue working on ensuring that players have options to consider and tactics to use in every situation.


WvW is far from the lost cause some players see it as. In fact I think it is still an awesome way to spend your time in GW2. There are a number of things that need fixes and tweaks and we know these things are coming. In fact as I was writing this post a developer posted a preview of the changes coming in the Wintersday patch. Those changes forced me to re-write a part of this article, thus the late publication. I will be posting about these changes shortly after I publish this article.

We have also heard that there will be massive changes coming in the January and February patches. Although, we do not know the details, I trust ArenaNet to listen to the community and work on the problems that concern them, all the while, bringing out new content. The suggestions I have made hear are by no means the be all and end all. They are just ideas that I have had in my head for a while. I think they would improve the game, but I also can not see down the path ArenaNet has already laid out for itself. Personally, I have seen enough good in the format to believe they will get it right.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, great post as always! I Especially liked your ideas for commanders, seems it would make a lot more sense that way.