Monday, 7 April 2014

Time Of The Season : GW2

Everyone's off playing ESO. A bleak wind blows across all the other MMOs, making NPCs clutch onto their pointy exclamation hats as they wonder how they'll ever get those ten rats out of the old barn now.

Or something like that. A few weeks (or was it months?) back, when ESO was having beta weekends twice a week and three times on Sunday, it was widely believed that you could see the drop in GW2's population, particularly in World vs World. The topic came up in map chat quite often. Some reckless individualists even admitted to a personal desire to go try the thing for themselves. We burned them as witches, naturally.

Finally we got to the  Five Day Head Start, then the Three Day Head Start and eventually the velvet ropes came down altogether, the doors opened wide and in poured the desperate millions long-starved of quasi-naturalistic earth tones and fixed-cursor mouse-click combat. Or so I read. The only problem is, no-one seems to have told Henge of Denravi.

She said through a mouthful of moss...

A week and a half back, GW2's second WvW Season, aka The Tourney, aka Spring Tournament, began. Not to be confused with the second Season of GW2's Living Story, for which no date has been revealed, nor with GW2's sPvP Tournament of Legends, which begins either at the end of April (EU) or the beginning of May (NA). Really, someone at Anet needs to buy a thesaurus.

The second WvW Season (I'm going to stick with Season) follows a different format to the first, which had a fixed schedule. What's now good enough for dragons is no longer good enough for players, so we're going Swiss. It seems that in addition to cuckoo clocks, Heidi and negotiable neutrality the Swiss are apparently famous for a system of competition that irons out differences and matches like with like.

Who knew? Well, chess nerds and ANet's WvW dev team, it would seem. I imagine there's some kind of a Venn diagram that could be drawn there somewhere. The upshot is that after the first couple of weeks it should all settle down with top worlds playing each other, the middle playing the middle and you get the picture.

The importance of accurate, detailed intel cannot be overstated.


We had to start somewhere, though, so the first week used the existing Glicko system (invented by one of the lesser-known Marx Bros. or so you could be forgiven for thinking, given the results it produces). Yak's Bend, following an increasingly desultory and lacklustre performance, largely the result of burnout on the back of the extreme effort expended by all during Season one, had slipped to the bottom of Tier 4, landing us solidly in Silver League again for Season two.

The first match was a repeat of the last pre-season teaming - Yak's Bend, Borlis Pass and Sanctum of Rall. We'd won that match handily and we improved on our performance in Round 1. Six points in the bag. Under the Swiss System that gave us the other two six-pointers as our opponents in Round 2. Step up, bookies' favorites for the title, Fort Aspenwood, and dark horse, long-odds gamble, Henge of Denravi.

FA we know of old. We played them often way back at the beginning, when matches turned over much faster, and we've run into them many times since. There's fairly good feeling between the two servers, certainly no history of grudges that I'm aware of, and we respect FA as a borderline T2 server that has almost always been more than a match for us.

NPCs - they really do care!

HoD are a completely unknown quantity. I imagine we must have fought them at some point but no memory of it remains. For as long as I can remember they've been in a tier below us but in the weeks preceding the season it became apparent that something strange was happening down there. HoD were consistently racking up scores that emphasized their dominance in Tier 5, something that became increasingly relevant as Yak's Bend appeared to be hanging on to the edge of T4 by our fingertips.

I did a bit of research. Henge of Denravi, it seems, is the latest in a long series of Bandwagon servers: lower tier worlds to which a bunch of large and/or powerful guilds, disenchanted with or disenfranchised from the organizational hierarchies of their higher tier homes, move en masse, hoping to bootstrap a failing team back up into the big leagues. The most famous example is Kaineng, a server that propped up the other 23 North American worlds for months until, in a move resembling performance art more than competitive gaming, a huge influx of T1/T2 guilds pushed it almost all the way to the top before the inevitable crash and burn sent Kaineng tumbling all the way back to the bottom of the pile.

When the tag is down the tag is DOWN. No backseat driving.

By the accounts of the unfortunate players on Crystal Desert and Northern Shiverpeaks, who had to face them week after week, HoD have incredibly high numbers and incredibly low skill. Screenshots showed how they could queue a map like a T1 server (meaning they had so many players trying to get into WvW that they had substantial queues on all four maps simultaneously) but the consensus view was that once they ran up against a well-organized, seasoned, close-to-T2 force like Fort Aspenwood those numbers, largely representing a disorganized, opportunistic rabble capitalizing on the work of a much smaller core of experienced transfers, would melt away.

And at first it seemed that was how it would go. Early in the weekend the sheer size of the zergs HoD were able to bring to several maps at the same time was staggering. Mrs Bhagpuss's PC gave up in despair, sometimes requiring her to roam the Northern towers, refreshing siege and lobbing poisoned cows at distant supply camps, while her GPU had a little lie down and a quiet cry. I had a field day (and a camp day and a keep day) raining meteors on the never-ending waves of HoDs who seemed willing, happy even, to stand in the fire and die then run back to do it again and again again.

Gradually, though, their zergs thinned out a little and their organization, marginally, improved. The numbers were still enormous all the same. On Yak's Bend we all knew this would be a very different week to the previous one, when at one point we briefly held the full 695 available points for the tick and when, on average, we ticked over 400 throughout.

Every hour after after midnight counts double

Like all matches where one team runs rampant things were far, far less entertaining than you might imagine on the winning side, although I doubt it was a barrel of laughs for the teams being trampled over either. I have to say that I always feel a lot more motivated to log in and Fight for the Honor of the Yak when we are getting a drubbing than when we are running tedious, boorish Karma trains for hour after hour.

In magnificent contrast, this weekend was largely one of stolid, sometimes desperate, defense against overwhelming numbers and it was more enjoyable and very, very much more exciting because of it. I've always enjoyed keep defense and we had ample opportunities to savor it in all its flavors this weekend. Could have done with the repair bill thing happening a couple of weeks early but otherwise it was all good.

With Henge of Denravi an unknown quantity, we did entertain hopes that our acknowledged strength in defense might see us holding second, should HoD turn out be as disorganized as we'd been led to believe and should FA tear through them as expected. After the weekend it seems clear we are looking at third place with our much-vaunted defense at best making defeat appear respectable. No points for style, sadly. Much more surprisingly it seems FA might not have the measure of HoD after all.

Bringing in the Yaks, Bringing in the Yaks, We'll come rejoicing, Bringing in the Yaks.

WvW matches have a variety of interlocking rhythms. Reset night, weekend, time zones, all can have significant impacts on the relative performances of the teams involved. Consequently it's too early yet to be certain of the result. Nevertheless, as I write this, just after midday on Monday, Henge of Denravi have a solid lead over Fort Aspenwood of twenty thousand points with Yak's Bend gamely hanging in there 15k behind FA.

A win for HoD would be a real upset. If it happens I wonder if FA will call on TESO to take the blame. I see absolutely no sign whatsoever that it's had any impact at all on Yak's Bend. All the familiar names are there (except one, the charismatic commander who arguably led the entire server to victory (well, second place but it felt like victory) who's allegedly left for good in favor of playing StarCraft) and there are countless names appearing that I haven't seen for weeks or even months.

No second place for us this time round I fear. Pre-season predictions mostly place us fifth but I think we could do better than that. There's a long way to go yet so don't go counting those North Camp chickens just yet, HoD.


8 comments:

  1. So, the last hope I had to not see a queue for WvW was the ESO launch... and that not happened?

    I had a bad feeling when I read ESO had a smooth launch day...

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  2. Our guild moved to FA a couple weeks before the tiers for this season were determined. Ours and the other guilds were pushing everything we had toward staying in gold. With SoR bleeding points to SBI/DB for 3 weeks straight and the "we want an easy silver win" PvE crowd not showing up it was soon realized it was mathematically impossible for FA to stay in gold (we had to tick 695 pretty much 24/7 to stay up). Once that inevitability hit, a fair number of large WvW guilds jumped ship to stay in gold. They want the gold league fights, GvGs, etc. So you can't really blame them for leaving. Those of us that stayed are still fighting to the best of our ability, but HoD is definitely a t1/t2 server (coverage-wise) at this point. They also have some good guild groups. The result is an even match when our guild groups meet, a HoD-favored match the majority of the time when our guild groups meet their guild groups + pug force, and an overwhelming HoD-favored match when our coverage wanes and HoD is still queuing maps.

    *Hopefully* this HoD pugstorm subsides during the week and we'll see if we can make a match of it. But if their coverage stays strong like it's been, there's not a lot FA, or anyone else in silver, can do here.

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  3. Continued...

    The sad thing is, this same scenario will likely play out in the next season as well. ANet will attempt to make an even playing field by opening up free transfers to lower-tier servers, thinking everyone will spread out. But they don't seem to understand human nature. Everyone is going to pick a server and stack it to get an easy win.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the insight - that's very interesting. There's always a lot of politics behind the scenes in WvW and it's hard enough finding out what's going on on my own server let alone the other 23. Here's hoping for good fights, or if not, at least plenty of bags from HoD :P

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  4. I moved from SBI to FA right before free server transfers went away. Glad to see they are still mixing it up.

    On a side note, Bhagpuss, can you please reach out to me on Steam (TheScree) or Email (scree@scree.org)? Would appreciate it.

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  5. What GPU does Mrs. Bhagpuss use? A year ago, motivated by WvW, I upgraded mine to a NVIDIA 680. Before WvW I never really felt the itch for GRAPHICZ. But boy, running ultra-high settings and staring down a 100-man zerg is a sight to behold.

    -Ursan

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    1. We checked that just yesterday because I'm not having any major problems even with my settings on high. Turns out that when I upgraded the two PCs a couple of years back she just went for the extra ram and the new CPU but didn't upgrade the GC like I did, which I'd totally forgotten, so hers is actually four years old.

      Amazing how well it runs GW2 and even Landmark, considering, but we are now both going to get something a bit more modern. It won't be anything up to the standard of your beast though!

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