State of the Game—January 14, 2008
2007 in Review
A look back at the PvP landscape of the past year
By Harold J. Chow
Special note: Each State of the Game presents the opinions and insights of one game observer. These observations are personal in nature and do not reflect the opinions of ArenaNet. While ArenaNet does review each State of the Game article to assure that it offers content that is respectful of all players, we intend to allow our reporters the freedom to inject some personal opinion into descriptions of the current atmosphere of competitive play in Guild Wars, and to express views based on their experience and observation.
Happy New Year! With another Wintersday coming to an end, let's take a look back at 2007 and the multitude of changes that occurred in Guild Wars PvP.
Automated Tournaments and the last ladder reset
The beginning of 2007 saw the very last ladder reset, with rating and rank meant to measure tournament performance more than measuring ladder grind. The K-value of ladder matches dropped considerably to make them more of a training ground for the Automated Tournaments and to discourage "smurf" and "pug" guilds. Unfortunately, the complete AT system didn't debut for another few months and many players and guilds lost interest. However, ArenaNet has since reduced the membership requirements for tournament rosters and implemented a single-elimination format for the top guilds in monthly championships. And while smurfs and pugs persist due to the excessively long wait for matches at the top of the ladder, they at least have a reduced impact on ladder standing.
Automated Tournaments eventually led to changes in Victory or Death. Victory or Death itself now occurs at 18:00 and the Guild Lord marches at 20:00. NPCs also began marching to the stand at different intervals. Both of these changes made matches resolve faster without precluding strong split tactics.
The Celestial Tournament
To tide things over until the full AT system went live, ArenaNet held the Celestial Tournament. The unprecedented number of participating guilds resulted in a diverse field of competitors and a compressed schedule for each round. Though marred by a number of forfeits due to scheduling conflicts, the CT allowed lesser-known guilds to compete against top guilds in a tournament setting, while also providing stellar match-ups between top guilds from different parts of the world. The Round 6 match between Team Quitter [QQ] and Esoteric Warriors [EW] provided a truly epic game, the video of which you can still find via your favorite search engine.
Heroes' Ascent went through much turmoil over the past year. Even after reverting back to 8v8 after a brief 6v6 stint, HA received map changes and new objectives for the Hall of Heroes. Holding builds became much more difficult to run due to the random objectives in the HoH. After several skill balances throughout the year, it seems balanced builds may have finally returned to HA. Oh sure, you still encounter spikes and gimmicks, but the format now feels more based on skill (instead of on build) than it has in the past.
Gladiators and Dishonor
Random and Team Arenas also saw quite a few changes. The gladiator title underwent a major shift in how points are earned, which inspired people to stay and fight even on a team without a Monk. To discourage people from running bars full of speed buffs, Arena matches now have timers to prevent people from simply running around the map until everyone else leaves. Party morale now decides victory if the match goes the full time. In addition, we saw the introduction of the Dishonorable Hex, which punishes players for repeatedly leaving battles prematurely. To top things off, ArenaNet implemented a system to easily report abuse from within the game. With fewer leavers and abusers, competing in the Arenas has become a much more pleasant experience.
Skill balances and mechanics changes
Mesmer - Domination Magic - Spell
Spell. Target foe takes 15..75 damage. If that foe is near a Spirit, all other nearby foes take 15..75 damage, and this Skill recharges instantly if it hits a Spirit.
Guild Wars saw a number of key skill balances in 2007 that altered builds and redefined professions. Ritualists, once thought of as strictly a bane on PvP due to their predominantly Spirit-spamming roles, found new life and acceptance thanks to buffs to Weapon Spells and nerfs to Spirits. Elementalist fire damage increased in potency. Assassins became capable of insane solo spikes—with and without daggers—only to have that capability toned way down. Mesmers gained the ability to interrupt Chants and Shouts, but lost some spike power with the nerfs to Spiritual Pain and Wastrel's Demise. Several skills had to meet the nerf bat before Soul Reaping underwent overhauls, and Necromancers emerged hindered by the loss of Energy flow from Spirit deaths and the lack of exploitable pet corpses but remained playable.
Shadow of Haste
Shadow of Haste
Assassin - Shadow Arts - Stance
Stance. For 10..40 seconds you move 15% faster than normal. When Shadow of Haste ends, you shadow step to your original location.
Team builds like zergway in HA and hexway in GvG came and went...and then came back again in more manageable forms. Other team "builds" like teleway, which featured eight random Shadow of Haste gankers, died with the skill. Passive team defenses became more manageable with nerfs to Aegis, Defensive Anthem, and Ward Against Melee. Various spike builds lost some power as well, but not so much as to destroy them completely.
Avatar of Grenth
Avatar of Grenth [Elite]
dervish/Mysticism - Form
Form. For 10..45 seconds, whenever you use an attack Skill, you also remove 1 Enchantment from your target, and your attacks deal cold damage. This Skill is disabled for 120 seconds.
Light of Deliverance Monks disappeared, and Ether Prodigy/Heal Party runners reemerged. Avatar of Grenth lived the life of a rock star—soaring to coveted heights of popularity before succumbing to a lethal overdose of nerf. Recall meanwhile played the role of cockroach, never quite going away. Despite becoming the target of several skill balances, Recall still emerged as playable. Skills such as Soldier's Defense led to "Victory or Death" losing its status as a Shout. Weapon of Warding experienced a surge in popularity with a reduction in casting time back in January. It redefined the Water Elementalist runner until it received a nerf later in the year. A subsequent buff then brought the skill back to prominence.
Early in the year, Weakness changed to reduce all skill attributes by 1 in addition to its damage reduction capabilities, thus making it a useful condition against casters and physical attackers. Eye of the North introduced the new Cracked Armor condition, which has finally made its way into several team builds.
The RAWR cup
Kudos go to Rebel Rising [rawr] and Guildcafe, who kicked off December by hosting the inaugural tournament of the RAWR Cup. This first, high-profile international Guild Wars tournament hosted by a third party provided fun and exciting competition for 72 guilds of varying skill levels. With guilds divided into three divisions based on skill level, even inexperienced guilds got a taste of tournament action and competed for prizes.
After requests for a new use for Balthazar faction, players found gratification in the new Zaishen Chest. Converting faction into keys allowed players to sell the keys to other players for gold to fund Guild Hall changes and player invites, or to open the Zaishen Chest themselves for the chance at rare items which could fetch even more gold or add a unique look to their own characters. In addition to rewarding those who had nothing more to unlock with faction, the Zaishen Chest seems to have encouraged more players to venture into PvP.
With all of the significant changes to PvP over the past year, what does 2008 hold for the Guild Wars PvP scene? In the first week of 2008, we've already seen the ladder changed to display only active guilds. Any guild that has not played a rated match within 90 days goes to N/A rank and no longer shows on the ladder. These guilds retain their rating, however, and if they play again, they become ranked again. With the most recent skill balances and the addition of the Zaishen Chest, hopefully we'll see an influx of new and returning PvP players and a revitalization of Heroes' Ascent and GvG.
Harold J. Chow is a freelance Guild Wars reporter. His in-game name is Guild Informant.