Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Structured 5v5: Metagaming and "The Sideboard"

The metagame in WoW is terrible. I assume GW1 is similar, but less restrictive and punishing because you don't have to level each new PvP characters from scratch.

The problem with WoW (and GW1?), especially in a ladder, is that the metagame decisions are made entirely before you are given any information on your opponent, and in the case of the ladder, before you even know who your opponent is. Your team makeup, specs, and gear, are all preset before you enter matchmaking and find an opponent.

That kind of metagame has lacks depth because it's a complete guessing game. there's no reactionary element. All the decisions happen before the game, and are not incorporated into the game itself.

Here's a general example of a good metagame: the SC2 metagame revolves around popular builds, but your build isn't set in stone when you start the game, you always have the option to react and adapt. You can scout and find out what your opponent is doing instead of taking a shot in the dark and hoping your build counters theirs.

To provide an example that's more relevant to guild wars 2: DotA/HoN. Heroes are constantly shifting in popularity and perceived power, and there is a definite metagame surrounding hero picks and lineups. However, the banning and drafting system of picking heroes means that metagame decisions are incorporated into the game and given an element of strategy. The bans and picks are an important part of each DotA game, they are not technically a pre-game decision. The two teams are already in competition when banning and selecting heroes begins.

I'd like to see something similar done with builds in competitive GW2. Bring some of the metagame decision making into the game itself, and give it a reactionary element. Someone else mentioned the idea of the MTG sideboard in another thread, and i think the concept is something that could be a perfect fit for GW2.

I want to see some kind of pre-battle screen where your team is given some information about the line-up and possibly traits of the opponents, and given a chance to make adjustments and react. There are a ton of different ways you could go about it, arenanet just has to find the one that works for their game.

Here's kind of how I imagine it working, to provide a starting point:

Your team selects their professions, 2 weapon sets, and traits before a match, but each player also has the option of selecting a sideboard that includes a limited number of alternate weapons and traits. When you join a match you have a UI that displays your opponents team, player names, and professions, and you are given a limited amount of time to swap a certain number of traits (and weapon sets) from your sideboard to be used in the next match. Games are bo3 and teams can make adjustments from their sideboard between matches.

This lets you do things like sub in extra condition removal against a team that's stacking necros. Or if you're stacking necros maybe you'll use non-condition based builds and mindgame the other team into using bad builds, and then switch it up in round 2.

The designers can increase or decrease how much freedom players have in making adjustments, and how much information is revealed about the opposing team as they see fit. They could even do it dota-style, where each team alternates picking their professions and traits.

Anyway, the important thing is that they do something to bring a reactionary, strategical element to the metagame, and make it less of a pure guessing game.