Today I wanted to to talk about Guild Wars 2 sPvP—specifically, PvP Leagues and their rewards. I have always popped into some PvP matches every now and then, but when PvP Leagues were announced I was extremely excited to participate and see how far I could go. Over the past two seasons however, I’ve had trouble playing consistently during the season because, quite honestly, I have not been strongly motivated.
Motivation is the biggest problem for me and, from what I’ve seen, has been a similar problem for many during a ranked season. Motivation for playing the entire season just isn’t there. Right now there are two things to motivate players: 1) Get to a certain division and 2) finish ascension legendary back piece achievements. I do think it’s natural that people who don’t PvP a lot stop playing ranked after reaching a certain ranked or finished getting the rewards but I feel the system itself can be better. Going into the third season, the best or dedicated players have already finished the back piece achievements and getting tier and division rewards is the next best reason to play for these players.
The unique PvP tickets you get from these rewards however, don’t have much use outside of getting the back piece, unless you like mini llamas. Buying Shards of Glory with tickets is a waste as they are super cheap on the trading post and are relatively easy to get if you PvP. I guess you could technically make another ascended precursor back piece. It seems to me that if you do play for extra tickets, it is best to save these tickets for next year’s PvP back piece. But that could be a problem in and of itself if players continue to accrue these tickets without anything to spend them on.
Overall, I feel the motivation to progressively get better and to have challenging matches should be one of the major factors when playing ranked matches. It is the main reason why any PvP player consistently queues up.
Issue #1: Profession Balance
This is getting better every quarter but it’s still worth noting as profession balance for PvP hasn’t been the greatest. I can understand the difficulty of balancing across PvE, WvW and PvP, but that is a discussion for another time.
Specifically Thief and Warrior have had trouble in the past two seasons and even some time before that. This season you’ll see both of these professions more often than before, but I’m not sure how they’ll do in higher tier play. I think ArenaNet is slowly but steadily getting each profession in a decent spot to be viable to some degree in high tier play. While this should definitely be the goal, the issue is the slow progress it is taking to get there.
Major balance updates right now happen every three months. So it took 3 months to see Thief/Daredevil and Warrior/Berserker relatively used in Season 2 and another 3 months for them to be back in regular use in Season 3. Now Guardian/Dragonhunter is the profession on the decline and in need of some help. There’s also the issue of obvious “overpowered/broken” updates that are fixed either later in the season or after the season is over. One example that comes to mind is Season One’s bunker meta that was painful to play in and how it took about 2 weeks into Pro Leagues—which at the time was a month into the first PvP League season—before ArenaNet finally did something to balance that.
Issue #2: Queues
This is something that has plagued PvP Leagues—and even unranked for different reasons. Either way, queues have always been an oddity.
Ranked matchmaking has gotten better over time, but as it is still fairly new I can’t judge too much on it yet. It was quite evident in Season One—and a bit in Season 2—however, that queues were a major problem with organized teams fighting a mix of solo queue and duo queue players. It still happens every now and then, but it’s now less frequent. The population of players and the divisions players are in may play a part as well, but with no metrics to look at it is hard to say for certain on the matter.
The issue with three or four man groups usually causes a lack in communication with the other solo/duo players and, in some cases, one or two of the players in the larger group is less skilled but it brought up to a higher level due to how queues work. For those that don’t know, group matchmaking will work based on the highest division in the group. So if an Amber player, Emerald player & Sapphire player queued together, the matchmaking would be based off the Sapphire player. The results of this is that there’s usually at least one person who doesn’t react, fight or rotate as well because they’re playing against stronger opponents which is a liability solo/duos usually don’t want to deal with. On the flip side, people who solo queue don’t want to fight organized teams. If you duo queue, that’s a risk you take.
Then there’s the issue of class stacking with up to 3 or more of a single profession on a team. Someone needs to switch because in some cases it’s not the best thing to stack so many of a single profession. Then the person swapping may not be on a profession they’re as comfortable or skilled with. You probably already see where I’m going with this downward spiral into less than ideal matchmaking situations. So far in Season 3 though, this issue has also been better probably due to having more diverse picks available.
Issue #3: Divisions
“What about division prestige as motivation” you might be thinking as each player works toward getting to legendary or to that division they are personally proud of reaching. Sadly there are two parts to this issue as 1) any dedicated player can get to Ruby and 2) many players that reach legendary or the division they want either start playing whatever profession/build they want—which may or may not be good for those they end up queued with—or just stop playing for the season.
For those who don’t know, the ranked system is made of pips and tiers. There are a certain amount of pips per tier and a number of tiers per division. Both of these numbers vary per division, but once you complete every tier in a division you are moved up to the next division. In Amber—the 6th and lowest division—you can’t lose pips or tiers. In Emerald and Sapphire—the 5th and 4th divisions respectively—you can lose pips but not tiers. And lastly in Ruby—the 3rd division—and in higher divisions you can lose both pips and tiers. At no point are players able to lose and drop down to a lower division.
Division crossing is more of a time spent type of deal where any competent player can get into Ruby just by playing enough games. Keep in mind I’m not saying a fresh, new PvP player per say although it is not impossible. The reason it’s like this is that players who aren’t as skilled at PvP can finish the achievements for the back piece. It may take longer for said players but in the end they can obtain it. Ranked should be about progressive skill and a little luck. Making it easy to climb the ladder all the way to Ruby—which sits in the upper half of league divisions—doesn’t make either the games or the system competitive. In fact, it just means that the player were tenacious enough to play the games needed to move up a division irrelevant of their actual skill. I can see crossing from Ruby into Legendary being more of challenge due to having more pips and tiers to cross; maybe this is the trade off ArenaNet wanted.
Then the second of the issues I brought up—where players reach the division they wanted and are “done”—has two very real problems. First is when players start playing whatever they want, no longer caring for making meaningful progress through the divisions and making it harder for those players they queue with that are still trying to make progress or just have serious matches. For example, let’s say my Revenant PvP play is Diamond level but my Scrapper and Tempest PvP play, the only other professions I play in PvP, are Emerald at best. If I reach Diamond and then suddenly I need to play other professions to finish the League Professional, I have a problem. My team also has a problem because if I swap to a Tempest or Scrapper, I’m essentially handicapping my teammates. Then equally worse is that the players stop playing which can create longer queue times as there are fewer players queuing for matches which degrades the quality of matches that players get queued into.
Issue #4: The Ascension Back Piece Achievements
I have a few qualms with the Ascension achievements. The achievements are broken into four sections each of which reward an item for completing that section. Finishing all 4 sections and combining the 4 reward items will give you the Gift of the Competitor—one of the four items required for crafting the Legendary PvP back piece. The way the Ascension achievement completion works is that the more you progress the faster you’ll get the needed four items for the legendary back piece. While there are four PvP League Seasons in a year, players are able to finish the legendary in just two out of these four PvP seasons.
I strongly believe that you shouldn’t have been able to obtain all of these items needed from the achievements without participating in a full year of PvP League. Making it a yearly achievement creates a motivational end goal for all players where everyone has a specific end date to get certain objectives done. This would be much better than what we have now as it would promote players to continue to play and do well throughout all of the seasons and not rush through it in the first half of the year.
Then there is a part of the achievements themselves that inadvertently cause problems for players trying to progress. The League Professional achievements require players to win up to 10 matches on 2-3 different professions depending on which achievement section you’re on. The first problem with this is that some players do not want to play more than one or two professions in PvP. This problem is debatable, but understandable as many players may enjoy playing only one or two professions in PvP.
The second problem with these League Professional achievements is that a player’s secondary professions may not be up to par skill wise in the division they have reached with their main profession. This is going back to the example I used in the division issue.
As a whole, I don’t really like that the back piece—the best, most prestigious ranked PvP reward—is accessible by pretty much everyone with the drive to do so. Guild Wars 2 has always been casual in that sense, where you can get almost anything you want if you put in the work. That’s fine. However, I feel that PvP should be a measure of work and skill and that both should rewarded instead of just playing a lot of matches.
I wholeheartedly believe that anyone can get to Ruby if they play enough games. It all depends on how many games a person is willing to put the effort into to get there due to the way pips and tiers work in Amber, Emerald and Sapphire. Players that put in the extra games beyond this and have the skill to continue to progress higher should get something significant for their efforts. I don’t think that being able to make the back piece before a majority of players is enough and goes into the problem of what do leagues offer those players after they have finished the back piece.
It feels like ranked play in Guild Wars 2 isn’t motivating enough and it lacks drive. It may be due to the structure of PvP League or due to the population of GW2’s PvP scene, but I feel it can be better than it is now. ArenaNet is the type of company that they may miss the mark on their first run at a feature, but they work to vastly improve on it the next time around. Living World Season 1 to Season 2 is a perfect example of this. Hopefully we see the same improvement when ArenaNet works to make PvP Leagues better for year 2.