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Monday 15 October 2012 - 18:13

GW2 vs .GW1 - Lost Potential

By: Diage
Source: click here

Anet once made a game that had the best pvp of any RPG of any style. Now, before I get people who say things such as “That’s why it died, right?” or “There are a lot of games with better pvp” or “Guildwars 1 pvp wasn’t that good” I will clarify to say that it was by no means perfect. But, guildwars 1 was by far closer than any other rpg has come to a fantastic and fundamentally outstanding pvp game.

There were two main reasons for this. One of which Anet clearly understood and one which I don’t think they grasped to the fullest extent.

- The first reason is their separation of pvp and pve into two distinct realms. This was huge in guildwars 1 and helped to make it the pvp oriented game that it later became. They learned this and it is a great thing they continued to bring that idea into GW2.

- The second reason is the extreme focus on a truly team oriented combat. I don’t think Anet truly grasped how powerful this was. Guildwars 1 is the only game where the concept of self was moved from individuals to teams. Sure, towards the end, some teams got carried by really good players. At the start however, when GW1 was at it’s prime, it required every player to be on their game to do the best they can. The team utterly failed if a single player made a mistake at a wrong time.

This second point is the thing I want to talk about in more detail. First, I will mention why I believe they did not focus on this concept and hopefully address many of your immediate reactions towards my comments. I will then proceed to explain why this is not only unique, but profound and a powerful way to structure a game. In this second portion I will describe also what I mean by “team oriented combat.”

Guildwars 1 was looked on by many from the outside world as an unsatisfactory pvp model. This, however, was an unfortunate consequence of the lack of other good models. It was by no means due to the combat itself but more due to hidden in game mechanics, hard to grasp initial game play, and poor observation mode.

Hidden In Game Mechanics:

Hidden in game mechanics means that there were things happening under the scenes that observers couldn’t witness unless they already knew a lot about the game and that new comers had little to no hope of understanding unless they had a mentor. Things such as the many levels of required shut down that happened almost invisibly to observers as well as an energy mechanic that no observer could ever view. You may ask, why is their team under such pressure? It doesn’t seem like they should be? But in reality, the midline/backline had their energy completely depleted due to poor management. In GW2, a lot of this is resolved. Energy mechanics are mostly completely removed and interruption is clear and obvious for the most part (usually due to a knock down or an apparent daze.) What is even more interesting is in GW1, energy was an attrition factor that you couldn’t visibly see. If worked right, health is the attrition factor in GW2. This is clear due the auto attack mechanics and the self heal skills. You must manage your health and your cool downs to make certain you can defeat your enemies. This is a plus because it is more simplistic to see visibly and is a better model for viewing an attrition factor.

Hard To Grasp Initial Gameplay:

GW1 was also difficult for new comers. You had 8 skills you had to use as well as know nearly every skill you’d come across to be the most effective in pvp. So, you had to be aware of the 64 skills on your team and the 64 skills on your enemy team. Not only that, but you had to understand how to do many subtle tricks to win a game. Things like q-knock which took practice is a great example. It simply had too much of a barrier to entry that made it difficult for a new player to grasp and understand the game and not be terribly beaten by veterans of the game. There was also pretty much no way to practice the same style of combat you’d find yourself in in a GvG match. By that I mean, it was impossible to practice the delicate skills of GvG unless you were actually in GvG. This provided an environment that made it hard to learn to play the game and after getting obliterated enough times in GvG many people just didn’t stick around to actually learn and experience the game. GW2 on the other hand also somewhat fixed this problem. The skill building mechanism makes it easier for you to grab a build and have it have a higher chance of being successful. You also need not to learn every single skill but more or less understand what each class you’re going against is supposed to do. Not to mention how obvious it is what certain skills are going to do as they are getting cast, “Oh, there’s a red circle on the ground and a giant flame thing above me… perhaps I should move.” or “Well, that is a shiny blue wall that makes me hit myself… Maybe I shouldn’t attack through the wall.” These kinds of things help to reduce that learning curve and allow an easier entry to the game. Also don’t forget their nice idea of a server style match. If they redid their pvp to be more team focused and still offered the same pick up design, you would have a lot of opportunity to practice your trade, although, they might consider breaking them down into rank requirements or some other indicator.

Poor Observation Mode:

Finally, a poor observation mode was probably the most detrimental to guildwars 1 than anything. It almost made a match look more confusing than it actually was. If you believed that the mechanics where hidden while you played the game, they were only more hidden as you watched it on observer mode. You would watch and things would just sort of happen. You were given no cues to go off of and had no ability to discern why something happened. This mode was only useful to people who knew the game really really well. Even some veteran players didn’t find too much use in it. The importance of a good observer mode for guildwars both 1 and 2 is huge. You can’t possibly understand the contexts of any team oriented game without being able to freely view what is happening. Not to mention, an observer mode gives you perspective to your abilities versus the person your watching as well as the ability to cheer for a team you may see several times. It is a tool that creates a fan base, unlocks some mysteries of the game, and is a fantastic teaching tool for any new comer.

Theoretically, for these reasons listed, Anet decided that guildwars 1 was simply too complicated of a pvp structure. I can understand that quite honestly and it pretty much was. The thing they overlooked however is how many of those problems got solved by the innate design of GW2 mechanics. Throw in an observer mode that is extremely informational and you’d of had one of the greatest platforms for an rpg game you would ever encounter. Of course, now it is important to mention why this is the case and that leads me to part 2.

Guildwars 1 was and is the only team oriented pvp in any genre of any game I have ever found. At the current rate and direction game developers are going, it appears it will remain that way. Now, there are plenty of games that have team concepts, plenty of games that require you to play collectively, but no game that asks you to truly depend on your teammates.

Coordination Versus Team Play:

Certainly, Guildwars 2 requires great coordination and communication. As do many games; included are most of any FPS games and any DoTA games. I will give it to Anet that not many (and I stress the not many part and intentionally do not say -none-) RPG style games meet the requirement of needing at the very least communication or coordination. Many RPG pvp formats are just zerg fests that require only a finger be pointed or a massive series of individual might and fortitude.

Guildwars 1 As An Example:

In Guildwars 1 it took the entire team acting together as a single unit to get a job done. As an 8v8 fight or as two communicating teams working to split/gank. I will use an 8v8 example and it can be extrapolated to 3v3 and etc for which ever split team you are running. In an 8v8 team fight, there were three battlefields happening at any given time. (Yes, this adds into the complexity problem of guildwars 1, however a team comp of 5 helps to reduce this complexity issue while still maintaining the dynamic. ) There was the frontline, the midline, and the backline. The frontline was the spot on your team (in a standard balanced build) that generally dealt the most damage. They generally called strats and targets and could force separation in a team if they were skilled enough. The midline had a two fold job. They would be capable of swapping between a defensive role and an offensive role based on the current situation. They tended to be very reactive, however if you wanted to be risky and push pressure, the midline is the place where pressure starts. They had to either choose to shut down defense to allow opening for your frontline to attack or shutdown their offense to give your backline some breathing room and time to recuperate. If you were being aggressive, you would communicate with the monks and everyone would basically waste their energy in the hopes that the enemies energy would run out before your own did and you would score a kill and hopefully a wipe. Finally is the backline. They were the primary defense of your team. With exception to mitigating midline, they were basically the ones who offered the most support. If your backline went down, it would almost surely result in a wipe. It is the thing every player looked to destroy. Now, the levels of complexity that these fields worked together in was immense and what was amazing about the entire game was that it required every player to play together. It wasn’t about individual success, but more of how you fought together. A warrior could backline to relieve a monk under excessive pressure. A midliner could shutdown their offense in the middle of a game breaking spike to protect your warrior who may have been over extended. Your ranger hits a clutch interrupt on RC and spreads condi massively increasing the team wide pressure forcing their team into defense and giving your warriors a vital opening that could be achieved only if the mesmer shut down their air ele who would blind the warrior on spike. It was literally like finding the perfect combination to open a safe.

Reality And Guildwars 2

Although GW1 GvG was great (from my perspective), there was a lot wrong with it from a standpoint of a new comer into a game. It is insanely complex. Fortunately, GW2 mechanics solve that! (who would of guessed?) 5v5 team fights and a high emphasis on passive support and self heals means we can remove the backline. Downed state is almost at home in this respect in that it gives some safety to an attrition factor and could potentially make for some exciting team fight moments. If they improve the effects of passive defense while making it possible to shutdown at the same time, you wouldn’t need 8 people to achieve the same dynamics guildwars 1 had. The biggest reason this is true is because each player can essentially have two or more partial roles on a team due to weapon swapping. Imagine a guardian who focuses on support and can swap to hammer for some shutdown. Possibly an ele who can push out some strong control and swap over to fire to time up for a spike or push pressure out. Perhaps an engineer who layers the field with offensive power only two swap kits to provide excellent support. Combine this intricate game play with the already existent class combos and you have an outstanding game that focuses heavily on working together and maximizing team efficiency. Not just individual might.

I will end by mentioning that Guildwars 2 pvp is fun. It is just far from what it could have been. They ironically tried to recreate rpg pvp but ended up landing in territory that has already been visited before. The most original game I could ever imagine for pvp was and at this moment, always will be, guildwars 1. Further, I am not asking for deathmatch or for literal GvG. I am asking for any format that focuses on fighting as a team and offers alternative objectives that can act as an alternative means to an end and give the game more strategic depth. Capture points uses capture points AS the end and further does not focus on the concept of team fighting.

I apologize for the length, but I literally couldn’t stop writing as I had started. I honestly think it is worth your time to read it all, but I will offer a very quick summary below:

TL;DR: Guildwars 2 looked to be innovative, and in many cases is. However, the most innovative thing they could of done was kept the same game play as guildwars 1 gvg and just thrown in some of the already changed aspects of guildwars 2 to of made a pvp game that is simply unrivaled. Oh, and an observer mode.

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