Some time ago I pre-purchased two games. The Secret World and Guild Wars 2. I played them both a little bit in beta weekends and from launch. However, only one has me firmly in its clutches. Why?
The Secret World has failed. Or, at best, is clinging onto a much smaller existence than was originally hoped for. I was following this since I first caught wind of it. Two things stood out for me: three faction PvP and the broad skills rather than deep levels and multiple classes approach to character progression.
As it turned out I didn’t even step foot into PvP. By all accounts it devolved into follow the zerg objective swapping. Whilst not a fan of PvP I usually at least give it a go in any game I play. However, TSW got this wrong from the outset by placing the three factions together in the world with no obvious friction between them. For me, this made PvP pointless. It made it a meta-game. Why head into the instanced PvP to fight against people who earlier I was grouped with for a PvE instance? For me, PvP has to mean something. I had this with DAoC and its realm system. WoW has never had it. I have hopes that GW2 will be more like DAoC in this respect.
GW2 gets the PvP right. Their WvW set-up owes an awful lot to DAoC. However, they neatly sidestep the faction/class balance issues that DAoC had by pitting servers against each other rather than factions. Warhammer dealt with the issue by having mirror classes on each faction. Lets be charitable and assume that was successful. Where Warhammer went wrong (which is pretty unforgivable given it came from the same firm that gave us DAoC) was in only having two factions. WoW showed us that this simply doesn’t work. There will always be a more favourite faction, and throw server transfers into the mix people will head towards the more heavily populated servers which are winning. Three factions on the other hand have some level of self balancing. When one server gets ahead then the other two will often ignore each other and concentrate on the shared threat. Hence why I was pleased with the following exchange in guild chat:
Me: Are we pwning in WvW then?
Them: We were, but now its 2 vs 1!
It’s not all roses though. The GW2 WvW zones have population caps on them, to stop the servers melting no doubt. This means that there are queues. And the queues are very long. The existence of any queue for WvW makes the traditional call to arms an impossibility. This will either make keep defence unachievable, or lead to a split between PvE and WvW whereby WvW guilds simply spend the whole time in WvW. Keep defence is important, otherwise WvW will devolve into win trading which makes the whole thing a bit pointless once again. Given the way the GW2 server populations are managed, with the overflow system for PvE, I worry that this is creating a big problem for WvW which by its persistent nature doesn’t fit the overflow mechanic. So only a fraction of the server’s population can actually get into WvW. As well as spoiling the call to arms possibilities this could also drive people away as not being able to play such a big, and fun, part of the game is frustrating.
Of course there is always the structured PvP. I played some of this on one of the beta weekends and found it pretty fun. However, for me I think it is largely meta-game and therefore of little interest. This was always the problem I had with WoW. PvP there has no in game meaning. The fact that you’ve won or lost just means you’ve got more, or less, of a resource that is entirely personal. What’s worse is that you still get resource even when you do lose, albeit in reduced quantities. Meaning that time spent is the only real differing factor. And we all know how much time a lot MMO gamers, myself included, can devote to their gaming!