Studio Update: World Restructuring and the Future of World vs. World

Hi all,

Mark your calendars! The first weeklong beta event for the WvW World Restructuring feature takes place from 24 September to 1 October. Today we’re here to outline development and beta testing plans for World Restructuring and talk about the future of the World vs. World game mode. We’ll start by describing the overall vision for the feature and then describe the functionality that will be introduced in the first two rollout phases.

World Restructuring: An Overview

World Restructuring is a feature that aims to address player population imbalances and create great matches. It achieves this by deprecating the current concept of “shards” (aka worlds/servers) and introducing a matchmaking system to the game mode, where players, guilds, and alliances (player-managed groups of guilds) are programmatically redistributed to new “teams” (previously known as shards) on a set schedule. This gives us more flexibility and granularity when creating new teams and helps address natural fluctuations in population over time. It’ll also give players more agency in choosing who they want to play with on an ongoing basis and allows long-standing communities to continue playing together.

Matchmaking, when teams are destroyed and recreated, occurs at the beginning of each season. The term “season” in the context of WvW describes the period of time between each matchmaking event. The length of a season is not yet finalized, but could be up to eight weeks long. Before a season begins, players can select which of their current guilds (and by extension, the alliance) they’d like to play with for that season. Once matchmaking occurs, any changes to a player’s selected guild will not take effect until the next season. While the composition of each team is static during a season, you’ll be matched up against different opponents each week using the existing one-up, one-down match up system.

Active WvW players that have not selected a WvW guild before the start of a season will be automatically matchmade onto a team. New players, or players that were inactive for an extended period before the start of a season, will not be automatically placed, but will have the option to choose which team they’d like to join. Teams will become locked (or “full”) once they’ve reached the population cap, like the current system.

Matchmaking will initially use factors such as WvW participation and playtime to place players, guilds, and alliances on teams, but we’re open to adding additional variables to matchmaking (e.g., time zone) once we’ve ironed out the initial kinks with the system.

The functionality detailed above will be rolled out in multiple phases, each with its own set of beta tests.

World Restructuring: Phase One

Phase one of World Restructuring includes a substantial backend overhaul of how World vs World works, but most of this is invisible to the player. On the player-facing side of things, it will feature matchmaking support for unguilded players and guilds. Alliance functionality will come in phase two. The goal for this first phase is to ensure that the system works at scale. We’ll be keeping a close eye on player population balance, queue times, and victory point disparity.

On 21 September a new tab for the World Restructuring feature will become available in the in-game World vs World menu. On this tab, you’ll be able to choose which of your guilds you’ll want to play with during the World Restructuring beta event. Please choose your WvW guild before 7:00 a.m. UTC (11:59 p.m. Pacific Time, 23 September) on 24 September or you may be matchmade onto a team as an individual player.

The beta event match up will begin at WvW reset on 24 September. A WvW bonus experience event will be active between 21 September and 1 October (100% bonus to World Experience, a 25% bonus to reward-track progress, and a 50% bonus to magic find).

At the conclusion of the beta event on 1 October the World and World Linking system will be re-enabled and WvW will return to the current state. For example, if you were on Gandara before, you’ll be back on Gandara once again. Depending on how well the first beta event goes, we may choose to run a few additional tests without significant changes to the feature. Each matchmaking event provides our team with incredibly valuable data for tuning the matchmaking system.

World Restructuring: Phase Two

The next planned addition to World Restructuring will be alliances functionality. This will allow multiple guilds to group together for the purposes of matchmaking. Each team can include multiple alliances. Our current plan is to limit Alliances to a total of 500 players, the same maximum size of a single guild. We’re trying to strike a balance between allowing existing player communities to be able to stick together while preventing the creation of juggernaut alliances. This number is flexible and will be finalized based on what we see during the beta events. The timeline for delivering alliance functionality largely depends on how well phase one goes. If we identify a large number of bugs or core system issues, we’ll need to focus on solving those first.

Beta Development

We’re approaching the development of World Restructuring differently than what you’ve seen from us in the past. Our intention is to release the smallest, functional versions of the feature onto the live servers, beta test it for a limited time, and then use your feedback to improve future iterations of the feature. We’ll rinse and repeat until we’ve landed on a satisfactory implementation and then polish the feature, remove the beta tag, and fully release it.

The reasoning behind this approach is straightforward: WvW is a complicated game mode that’s played in numerous ways. Some players enjoy fights, some enjoy taking objectives, and some enjoy running away from fights (he-he). Experiences can even vary wildly between shards (we’re looking at you, Maguuma). Finding the best solution for population balance that considers these differing playstyles is a challenging proposition and not something that we can do without your input. We need feedback from our players to help narrow in on the right design. We’ll be looking at both hard data and the conversation in the community to determine the feature’s future.

This approach comes with some trade-offs. For one, the initial implementation of World Restructuring will have a limited feature set. You might immediately identify some features that would be nice to have. That’s great! Tell us what you’re thinking and why you want it. This is exactly the reason we’re doing this. We want to build the things that our players want and not waste time on things they don’t.

The second trade-off is that the frontend of the system will be a little rough—using “programmer art,” as we call it. We’re going to hold off on final art and user experience polish until we’ve locked down the design of the feature. In other words, we’re going to focus on making sure the system solves the problem before we make it look nice.

We’ll be monitoring and participating in dedicated feedback threads on the official Guild Wars 2 forum for each beta event. That’s the best place to have your voice heard, whether you’re a solo player, guilded, a guild leader, or a pug commander. We’ll also keep you up to date with our latest observations and decisions regarding World Restructuring via regular updates on the Guild Wars 2 blog.

Looking to the Future

World vs World is an experience unlike any other—an epic combination of battles on a massive scale, competition, community, and of course, rivalry. It scratches an itch that many of us have had since the earliest days of Realm vs Realm gameplay in PC gaming.

WvW, as it is today, is good—but it could be great. As we stated in the July 2 Studio Update blog, our leadership team views WvW as a cornerstone game mode of Guild Wars 2 and we intend to support it as such—and we say this while acknowledging that in the past WvW players haven’t consistently received the support or attention they deserve.

So, let’s talk about future plans and priorities as we know them today, largely informed by your feedback and our own assessment of the mode. These priorities are subject to change as we continue to listen, observe, and learn. If they do change, we’ll let you know.

Player population balance is a critical component of any competitive game or game mode, and imbalances can have a marked, negative impact on gameplay to the extent that the experience no longer reflects design intent. As such, World Restructuring is going to remain our top priority until we feel that it’s been satisfactorily addressed. This will likely remain our focus through the release of Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons™.

After World Restructuring, we’ll be looking to make WvW more rewarding, with a focus on active play. There’s two major parts to this. First, we’ll be looking at improving individual rewards for participation and performance. This will be a mix of adding new rewards and improving older systems. As an example, we’d like to address how support players are under rewarded. Skirmish tracks also take longer to progress than we’d like, especially for new players. Second, we want to give players and guilds reasons to care about winning their current match up and reward them for exceptional performance during a season. Longer-term, we’d also like to introduce systems that would allow guilds to flex and compare their WvW prowess.

Once both population balance and rewards are addressed, our theory is that WvW gameplay may see a significant shift. Players tend to naturally optimize their gameplay towards “the goal”, and with that comes new strategy and meta. At that point, we intend to look very hard at core WvW systems (upgrades, scoring, siege, etc) and balance them to ensure that the WvW experience is still reflecting our vision. No system is safe from iteration!

Everything described above is aimed at addressing foundational issues affecting the WvW experience. Our priorities beyond this point are highly flexible and will undoubtedly be influenced by the community and the needs of the game mode. Expect more communications, just like this one, down the road.

Before we wrap up this section, we did want to mention that we understand how important profession balance is for World vs World gameplay. To address this, after the expansion releases, we’ll be dedicating design resources to overseeing profession balance for the Live game in a full-time capacity, supporting PvE, PvP, and WvW. This will allow us to deliver balance updates on a much more consistent cadence.

Wrapping Up

That’s it for today! If you have questions or feedback regarding World Restructuring or our overall priorities for WvW, please drop us a note on the official forums. ArenaNet staff Raymond Lukes (Lead Gameplay Engineer) and Josh “Grouch” Davis (Head of Live Operations) will join ArenaNet Partners MightyTeapot and Roy on 16 September at 7:00 p.m. UTC (noon Pacific Time) on Twitch for a live discussion regarding World Restructuring and the future of World vs World, so we’ll look to address as many of your questions as we can then.

Thank you for reading. We’re incredibly excited to finally bring World Restructuring to life and we’re looking forward to building World vs World into the experience we all know it can be.

–The Guild Wars 2 Team