Guild Wars 2 Player-vs-Player and the Changing Face of MMO Gaming

Gaming has always been about an implementation of cooperation and competition and MMO games have always tended to follow this trend. In fact, many games nowadays steer towards one side of that spectrum or the other by providing either a huge cooperative experience with PvE or a massively competitive experience with lots of PvP. Right now, the king of the competitive experience happens to be EVE Online by putting together a massive sandbox that contains everyone vying for the same space, but most MMORPGs are very themepark.

I am personally not much of a PvP player and I prefer story, narrative, and cooperation needed for teamwork in games with thoughtful dungeon experiences. However, player-vs-player is what a lot of gamers to go MMO and other games to get their fix and as a result, we need to look at how games are approaching this.

Since the days of Ultima Online (it’s still those days, btw) player vs. player has been an arena rife with its own type of teamwork, griefing, and even cheating. In many ways, we’ve even seen how changes to PvP affect the PvE experience for other players by looking at how World of Warcraft tried to keep the two balanced without ruining one or the other.

Right now Guild Wars 2—a buy-to-play game from ArenaNet—has implemented one of the most interested set ups for player-vs-player gameplay in an MMORPG that I’ve seen in a very long time. Trying hard to compile the best of PvP across the genre while giving nods to many other games that came before them.

For the sake of brevity, I’m only going to cover one of the types of PvP in Guild Wars 2—there are a lot of them—and that’s the realm vs. realm style called “World vs World vs World.” This game is fought in what’s called the borderlands between three different servers and the populations from them strive together to take various points across the battlegrounds. This differs from tournament and team modes, but it’s by far the most invigorating and interesting innovation brought to the field by GW2.

Leveling the Battleground

One of the first things that new players will notice is that they can join in the World vs World conflict almost immediately. There’s no need to level into a particular battleground—like much of Guild Wars 2 you’re automatically scaled up to 80 along with everyone else.

In the standard PvP and tournament, you’ll also have your skills and equipment reset to a much closer-to-level set—that can be upgraded and built within the Heart of the Mists realm to enhance your gameplay. However, for the World vs World conflict you’ll find yourself mostly persisting a lot like you do in the PvE worlds.

Also: Keep in mind, that because you can mine resource nodes, craft, and even earn experience from participation, when you get downed by enemy players you will need to repair your equipment. As a result of this, World vs World participation can be a little bit costly—although the fun and the experience boons can certainly make it worth your while.

The Siege Team: World vs World

Player-vs-player battles often come down to particular maps and specific teams and usually there’s only two of them—in World vs World Guild Wars 2 ups the ante by adding a third faction to fight and die on the battlefield. As each of the maps in WvW can support up to 500 players (with a scalable apparent upper limit of 2,000) there’s no lack of mayhem and excitement to be had rampaging across the countryside with your zerg in order to encounter and pillage the enemy.

Anyone who has played large-group PvP before will recall how disorganized but fun it can be when the number of people on each side begins to exceed 30. In WvW it’s not uncommon for both sides to field 20-50 people in order to assault a position or a castle. In fact, most skirmishes do not happen in open fields but instead in front of and around fortifications.

This is where GW2 really begins to shine.

Most of the PvP is about a particular type of battle: capture the point. It’s almost a sort of RTS built into a grand scale PvP where there’s fortifications, there’s resource camps, and there’s even ways to use castles and towers strategically protect resource points. Both castles and resource points are important to hold because a resource point—while typically largely unguarded (except perhaps for a castle being on the road to it)—can mean the difference between repelling a siege and falling to it.

Resource points (or resource camps) produce a WvW product called “supply.” Supply is used to fix the walls of castles, repair their doors, upgrade their fortifications—which can be battered down by opposing armies. However, that’s not the most innovative and fun portion of the game, but it’s how castle walls go down or doors are punched in.

That means siege weapons.

The Weapons of War: Engineering a Castle’s Defense or Demise

With enough supply on hand and the purchase of a particular item, players are able to build siege weapons in the field or on castle walls (or inside.) These run the gamut from battering rams, catapults, mortars, arrow-carts, ballistae, and even trebuchets—for the most part each one is a solution for a particular problem, stopping people from hitting the castle walls, or destroying other siege weapons.

I spent a lot of time just manning an arrow-cart (imagine a pepperbox on wheels that launches hundreds of arrows at a volley) protecting a castle wall from invaders—while the invaders rushed to set up a trebuchet on a hill outside the walls so that they could lob boulders into the wall to eventually bring it down. All the while, inside, players rushed with supply to repair the castle wall and a team of players went out into the field to sneak around and kill the trebuchet.

The enemy team also had the smart idea of cutting off our supply line to the resource point so that we stopped getting supply (and thus couldn’t as easily repair the wall or build siege weapons.) As a result, players started using invisibility and small group tactics to go to the resource point, grab supply, and run it back in order to keep building defenses.

I’ve also been part of a siege team looking at the outer wall of a thickly fortified demesne. As a main team was keeping the defenders occupied at the gate (even deploying a battering ram) we quickly set up catapults at a further position against the wall. While the defenders tried to keep our skirmishers away from the gate, we hammered a section of the wall until it crumbled—once the breach was had, we flooded in and destroyed the siege machines on their battlements, allowing our skirmish team at the doors to hit the doors directly and kill the defenders at the gate.

That’s just a small taste of what WvW in GW2 brings to the MMO scene.

There’s something to do for everyone: being part of a vast attack trying to wear down the defenses of a city by being an engineer, controlling a siege machine, defending the controllers; or protecting a castle via siege machines or firing down from the walls, or even running supply to keep the defenses fed. It’s exhilarating to find a role or just rush valiantly into the skirmish, swinging alongside your allies in an attempt to push the enemy back.

Do you have a favorite PvP experience? If so, post it below and let me know.

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