Saturday, August 20, 2011

Structured PvP in GW2: Conquest Mode

It seems that the structured 5v5 PvP in GW2 is going to feature conquest mode as the only gametype available at launch. The developer's intention is that each map will have a unique mechanic, or secondary objective that will shape the gameplay of that map.

The only example of a special mechanic we have so far is the inclusion of two trebuchets that can be used by players of the appropriate team to bombard enemies around the map, or destroy parts of the environment, opening up or closing off potential paths around the map. Players can also destroy the enemies trebuchet, and repair friendly trebs that have been destroyed. It remains to be seen how varied the unique mechanics will be across each map, and how much impact they will have on the way each map plays.

Ok, now that that's out of the way...

I have one major gripe with conquest mode as a competitive gametype, or any mode that uses a slow ticket bleed or gradual point accumulation to determine victory:

Defeat is a slow, gradual bleed-out. Something about it just feels like I'm fighting the clock, not the players. Aside from the rare game that comes down to just a few tickets or seconds, victory usually feels anti-climactic.

Instead of awarding points every time you complete an activity, points are awarded based on the passage of time. The whole game type is about gaining an advantage and then running out the clock. It's more about stalling than working to accomplish a final goal.

Ultimately game types like CTF, Sudden Death, Plant/Diffuse, or some kind of boss assault mode all produce more nail-biters, comebacks and satisfying games in general than gradual ticket/timer modes in my personal experience.

Conquest can be fun to mess around in solo, but if I'm playing with a real team and serious about winning, I'd definitely prefer to play some other game type. At least in other games I've played.

Hopefully Arenanet finds ways to make their version of conquest really exciting and competitive, but it has never been my favorite game type.

First GW2 5v5 PvP Map

The first map is called Battle of Kyhlo. It features 3 conquest points (first to 500), two player-controlled trebuchets, and destructible environments. Arenanet did an amazing job on most fronts. It looks really good, but my favorite part is the use vertical space. There are lots of ramps, walkways, places to jump too/from, roofs to run along etc. There are so many ways to move around the map that aren't necessarily obvious at first glance. They've clearly put a lot of thought into allowing players to get creative with how they move around.

I think my only complaint with the layout of the map is that the clocktower is too confined. The objectives encourage teams to split up at times, but most of the biggest fights (3v3s/4v4s/5v5s) will likely take place around the central point. Taking that into consideration it makes sense for the outlying points to be more confined spaces, like the top of a tower, while the middle point is more open and spacious. This gives you lots of nooks and crannies to duck behind during the small fights (1v1s and 2v2s) at the outlying points, and room to spread out and maneuver during the big team fights at the middle point.

The clocktower point seems like a bit of a clusterf^__^* fight now.

It's probably not important enough to warrant a change, especially since the whole map was designed around having the massive clocktower as the visual centerpiece and it's looking very pretty polished at this point, but it's something to consider for future maps.

Structured PvP Map Idea

Since Arenanet said they're going to be playing off the conquest mode for all their maps (at least initially); adding special mechanics and secondary objectives to make each map a unique experience, here's what I'd like to see.

There are two castles facing eachother with a some hilly open ground in-between. The no-mans land would have a few rocky outcroppings, sparse trees, and maybe a couple small thatch roof houses for cover and a shallow river (not deep enough to swim) cutting across the middle, separating the two castles.

Special Mechanic: Each castle contains a flag that can be captured by the other team for a significant amount of points. Your team's flag must be on the stand in order to capture an enemy flag.

Each castle has a main gate, which is by far the quickest route between the two bases. There would be a 2nd alternate entrance that would involve taking a much less direct route up a winding mountain pass, and entering the castle through an open postern door. Attackers using this alternate entrance would pass near the defender's respawn point, allowing respawning defenders to quickly intercept enemies trying to use this risky approach.

There would be two capture points, one located at the main gate of each castle. On this map holding capture locations would not reward points, instead they would be used to open or close the main gates. The point at the red gate would start under red control, and vice versa. As long as the red team controls their point, the gate remains shut, but if the blue team takes it the gate is opened and they have easy access to and from the red flag. Each team's spawn location would be positioned inside the keep in a way that would allow them to easily reach their own flag, and the postern door/mountain pass, but would be slightly removed from the main gate.

Basic Gameplay: The middle field is fairly open, so crossing the no-mans land between keeps undetected would be difficult (unless you're a thief). Teams could either focus on winning the middle team fight and opening the enemy gate to gain easy access to the flag, or they could run an offense/defense split and try to make use of the postern. If a team opened the enemy gate they would have to decide whether they send one person in to grab the flag, risking death if there are enemies defending the flag room, or go in as a group and risk having the other team come behind them and re-close the gate, forcing them to take the longer, more dangerous path out of the castle.

Flag Mechanics: The flag mechanics would definitely be subject to change, but this is my first thought: The flag would work similar to carrying a warrior banner most likely. The right side of the bar would be available but weapon skills would be replaced by unique flag abilities. However, using certain utility skills (like stealth and elites that replace your weapon skills) would cause you to drop the flag. Picking up or returning a flag on the ground would be instant for whichever team clicks the flag first. The flag would have three abilities: Stand and Fight, Throw, and Drop. Passing the flag to a new player would not reset cooldowns.

Stand and Fight would allow the player to use their weapons normally for 30 seconds without dropping the flag (it would be on their back for the duration), and would have a pretty significant cooldown (~2 min).

Throw would be a high risk, high reward skill with a short cooldown (~30 seconds). A ground targeting circle would allow the player to throw the flag to a desired position. Skilled players could throw the flag ahead of them and then use a blink/charge weapon skill to catch up to the flag and pick it up. Coordinated teams could use throw to relay the flag every 30 seconds, and dieing flag carriers could make desperation throws to nearby allies. A misplaced throw, or failed blink could easily lead to an easy enemy flag return however.

Drop would be similar to throw, except the flag would drop directly in front of the player without any ground targeting. No cooldown.

PvP Combat and Team fights

Gamescom was this weekend, and we got our first taste of GW2 structured PvP. I may make another post about the game-mode being used, but this is my impression of the skills and PvP combat in GW2 currently:

It's kind of weird to me that something like the warrior gap closer has a short cooldown and hits twice as hard as a normal attack. Tying big damage to everything just gives you an incentive to spam those cooldowns for damage instead of using them situationally.

Cooperation in team fights:
The team support skills are in the game, I just hope the effects are powerful enough that players don't just use them continuously for extra damage, or ignore them entirely in favor of builds focused on damage and personal survivability.

At the very least walls, ground heals, and condition removal are all skills that should be more effective in the hands of a player that watches the whole battle instead of tunneling one target, and that's important to me. Hopefully those skills are an integral part of high level combat.

In this regard there are two more things I'd like to see added:
1. A few ground target heals that do their healing instantly instead of forcing you to stand in one spot. Standing still in a geyser for 15 seconds isn't really practical in pvp. Also self healing should be toned down a little bit, and group healing buffed up across the board. Some self reliance is great, but I think players should be rewarded for watching their teammates backs, and not just their own skin. This doesn't mean that one player has to be "the healer", or that total healing (combined team healing and self healing) has to be increased compared to what it is now though.

2. Some CC that breaks on damage and has a longer effect than stuns/kds. These skills encourage players to do more than tunnel vision one target. Instead of just unloading all your blinds, stuns, kds, cripples etc on the target you're attacking (might as well in most cases), you need to simultaneously control one player while damaging another. This kind of multitasking and split-awareness is my favorite part of MMO combat. It also discourages recklessly spamming aoe damage and rewards players for communicating and coordinating what targets they are attacking.

Both of these things would encourage players to be more aware of the entire scope of a fight, instead of just tunnel-railing one target into the ground or throwing out as much aoe damage as possible.

Final Thoughts
I love the pacing and movement, and the skills seem to be designed with skillful and creative uses in mind. The skills in GW2 are basically a wet dream for 1v1s or 1vX fights, and those fights are going to be really fun regardless. I just hope the team fights don't play like a 1vX with allies 1vXing around me. I want to be coordinating and cooperating with the other people on my team, not ignoring them.