The “Skill Cap” of Guild Wars 2 PVP and the Implications


Guild Wars 2 provides the highest “skill cap” PVP environment of any MMORPG I’ve ever played, even moreso for GW2 tournaments.

Let me frame that statement in a broader context. I’m not saying that GW2 PVP is the only game that requires skill. Too often you hear gamers claim that Game X requires no skills, whereas in every MMORPG I’ve ever played, skill is a differentiating factor between players, particularly of the same class and spec. That said, for a variety of reasons, the extent to which skill matters in determining outcomes varies. There are plenty of games where gear is a huge factor and/or where there are specs that enjoy superior mechanics relative to other specs and classes.

What Makes GW2 PVP So Skill-Based?

  1. No holy trinity. Without dedicated healers, all players are responsible for managing their own HP.
  2. True tradeoff decisions. I have yet to find a see a spec that can do-it-all, because by design GW2 forces the player to make tradeoff decisions between talents, utilities, and most especially gear components (runes, sigils, and amulet / jewel). By comparison, there are specs and classes in other games that offer good damage, good survivability, and good CC. E.g. in WoW Cataclysm, Death Knights and Frost Mages were strong in all three of those areas, which is why they were the two non-healing classes that were over-represented in my experience at 2k and above in the 2v2 and 3v3 brackets.
  3. Downed state management. The downed state is reviled by some players, but I have grown to increasingly appreciate the rich complexity that it adds to the game. Finishing and reviving players one of the most critical factors in sPvP and especially tournament play, because it provides opportunities for players to counter one another as they try to revive or finish targets.
  4. Movement and aiming truly matter. The game’s dodge mechanic, which is shared across classes, provides an evade to an opponent’s attack, but it requires recognizing what is worth evading and timing the dodge accordingly. Likewise, many of the most potent attack or CC abilities require that the caster aim and time their ability use, especially with an ability’s specific animation, distance to target, etc.

Key Implications for Individual Players

Simply put, there’s a huge learning curve for any new player, and even for veteran players trying a new class. Stepping into the Mists for the first time on a new class is daunting, because you have to sort out the following:

  • Which weapons do I use in each set?
  • Which traits (talents) do I take that complement my weapon choices?
  • Which healing, utility, and elite skills do I slot to complement the capabilities of my spec or fill holes?
  • What gear components (sigils for weapons, runes for armor, amulet, and jewel) synergize with the capabilities of my spec?
  • How do I manage my profession mechanic (attunement “stance-dancing” for Elementalists, kits for Engineers, etc)?
  • Given all that, what’s the order of ability execution for maximum effect, and in which situations?
  • How do I play my particular build in solo and group situations?

Given all that and the game mechanics, the mistakes I have most commonly seen when players create builds are:

  1. Not understanding how the build holds up against direct damage, sustained incoming conditions, and incoming CC
  2. Pairing weapons that have different damage characteristics, e.g. for Warrior using mainhand axe (direct damge) and mainhand sword (condition damage)
  3. Not understanding what the build offers in a group context

For point #1, many players are not sufficiently spec’ing to remove multiple conditions, which may be part of the reason why condition-based specs are popular. Point #3 has much broader implications, especially in a tournament setting.

Key Implications for Tournament Players

Given the game design, GW2 tournaments are far more complex compared to team-based PVP systems in other MMORPGs.

First of all, there is no deathmatch map. I realize this is controversial choice and does not sit well with some players, but I think it was a wise choice. In a deathmatch system, there is no secondary mechanic to truly have to consider. You just need to kill your opponents. Therefore, your team can choose to turtle a match or try to outlast the opposing side, which doesn’t really create a dynamic experience. I’ve experienced my fair share of 30+ minute matches in WoW Arena, and only a fraction of the time involved meaningful action.

With GW2, the maps each have a secondary mechanic to manage (mini-bosses in Forest, trebuchet in Khylo, friendly NPC lord in Foefire, etc), and you accumulate points not just for killing opponents but for also capping and holding objectives. So you can’t really turtle a match. This creates far more consistently dynamic and engaging experiences, because there is a sense of urgency throughout the match.

As I wrote above, managing downed situations is critical in any PVP setting, but even moreso in tournaments, and you can even time your finish of an opponent to maximize their rez timer (rezzing is at 0:18, 0:38, and 0:58 of every minute).

Here are the most common mistakes I have seen from tournament players and teams, from the most straightforward mistakes to the most complex:

  1. Playing a spec that works in sPvP but doesn’t provide value in a tournament setting. Here are some common examples:
    • Running a tanky build that outlasts opponents in sPvP (“hot join”) but that can’t bring something meaningful to the table over than survivability: DPS pressure, sustained CC, sustained support, area denial, combo field action, etc. I’ve seen this happen multiple times with guildees in our tournament runs (including me), from BWE2 til now. People rave about how great a tanky build works in sPvP, how they can handle sustained 1v2 or 1v3 situations (which IMO is more reflective of the incompetence of their opponents than anything else). When we step into a tournament match against a competent team, they’ll usually ignore the tanks as they are not threatening, kill the tank’s friendlies, then kill the tank
    • Not having a sufficient amount of abilities to manage a downed state situation. By this I mean boons such as stability or quickness and/or having CC to disrupt the actions of opponents on a downed target. E.g. I’ve switched from Staff to Greatsword recently on my Mesmer for the GS 5 conal knockback.
  2. Playing a comp that isn’t functional. I don’t think you have to run particular class comps to win the majority of tournaments, but you do need a functional mix of roles for a team. E.g. we’ve struggled when we ran teams that lacked at least some support or sustained CC capability. For this reason when I’m on my Warrior, I’ve often played my “Captain Hammer” spec, because it provides sustained CC capability and it provides meaningful group healing.
  3. Lacking sufficient clarity in assignments and inability to make real-time adjustments. The way you approach a map in a tournament is significantly different from a PUG sPvP match. Everyone must be clear on at least their initial assignment, and players must communicate and coordinate meaningful events, e.g. I am about to be downed or I’m about to down target X, enemy Y is incoming to node A, etc.
  4. Not synergizing sufficiently across class mechanics. This offers a level of complexity beyond the previous three points. It requires that players intentionally build specs in such a way that they complement one another well, especially with respect to combo fields, one player locking down another so that they can land their Dragon’s Tooth, Hundred Blades, etc. And it requires practice and effective real-time execution to really make a difference. This is part of the reason why some people are running fixed, dedicated tournament teams. The time played together is crucial for maximizing effectiveness.

I’m still very much in the learning phase of tournaments, and I’ve been playing with various guild members and classes, so we’re learning together. I’m averaging less than a tournament a day due to RL, but I hope to engage in more tournaments soon :)

Let me know what you think!

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Posted in Game Design, Guild Wars 2, PVP
56 comments on “The “Skill Cap” of Guild Wars 2 PVP and the Implications
  1. Torathin says:

    But is the complexity good or bad for the game?

    It’s the biggest barrier for me getting into GW2 right now.

    • taugrim says:

      Torathin :

      But is the complexity good or bad for the game?

      It’s the biggest barrier for me getting into GW2 right now.

      It’s like picking up a new sport. You struggle with it initially, but as you get the basics down, you really start to enjoy it.

      My suggestion is to run a lot of sPvP, keep tweaking and learning. You’ll get through it. Everyone does, it just takes time.

  2. I’ve personally tried various builds for SPVP for many classes. Glass cannon of course is not the right mindset for these matches. With that said you cannot afford to go full defensive and just hope to be a rock you cannot move. You need force to push enemies off. Even if you outlast a 2v1 till help arrives it will be a 2v1 and a half because you bring nothing but self sustain to the fight. Many times I see bunker guardians who just are a “stall” which is great but that does nothing for my roaming ele that they immediately turn on while you stand there healing your self.

    With that said, finding that balance for your role is crucial. It took me FOREVER to find a balance for my ele that could provide meaningful damage and control. While not getting blown up in a stun.

    • taugrim says:

      Stephen Robert Woodhouse :

      I’ve personally tried various builds for SPVP for many classes. Glass cannon of course is not the right mindset for these matches. With that said you cannot afford to go full defensive and just hope to be a rock you cannot move. You need force to push enemies off. Even if you outlast a 2v1 till help arrives it will be a 2v1 and a half because you bring nothing but self sustain to the fight. Many times I see bunker guardians who just are a “stall” which is great but that does nothing for my roaming ele that they immediately turn on while you stand there healing your self.

      Glass cannon builds do work in sPvP, as long as they have sufficient escapability (e.g. Thief with stealth) or are protected by team mates.

      Guardian is probably the only class that can sustainably hold a point solo and clear them off the point, because they have excellent area denial skills.

      Stephen Robert Woodhouse :

      With that said, finding that balance for your role is crucial. It took me FOREVER to find a balance for my ele that could provide meaningful damage and control. While not getting blown up in a stun.

      Yes, it takes a long of time to find a really functional spec.

  3. Wish this had been posted a few days ago, lol. Me and a few guildies had been tweaking different classes/specs in random pvp to figure out what we enjoyed playing. After a few days of us learning our chosen classes pretty well, we decided to try tournaments. After getting steamrolled more times than I’d like to count, we realized that just because we could faceroll people in a random didn’t mean that we worked well as a team. Since then we’ve switched around roles (I re-rolled a bomb spec engineer for point holding and survivability until help can arrive) and have been doing much better. Highest we’ve gotten is second place, but hey, the game’s still new and we’re all still trying to get past the fact that this does not play anything like WoW, our drug of choice the last few years. Great post as always! Thanks for all the help you’ve given me, and thus my guildies by passing along information.

    P.S., thanks for clearing up the respawn timers, none of us knew how the hell they worked, lol

    • taugrim says:

      Nick Choops Mroczko :

      Wish this had been posted a few days ago, lol. Me and a few guildies had been tweaking different classes/specs in random pvp to figure out what we enjoyed playing. After a few days of us learning our chosen classes pretty well, we decided to try tournaments. After getting steamrolled more times than I’d like to count, we realized that just because we could faceroll people in a random didn’t mean that we worked well as a team. Since then we’ve switched around roles (I re-rolled a bomb spec engineer for point holding and survivability until help can arrive) and have been doing much better.

      What you’re experiencing is happening to a lot of other players, including people in our guild, who are largely competent players.

      Glad to hear you and your guildees are sorting things out. Honestly, even if I had posted this article several days ago, first-hand experience is the best teacher.

  4. shindakun says:

    I really need to get in there and check the PvP out, I never really played in GW1. It sounds like it’s going to be a good time when needing to take a break from the core game.

  5. Guardian says:

    Two factors I think negatively impact sPvP (I realize you are writing about tournament play, which, given smaller numbers and better coordination, is a separate ball-game):

    (1) Certain skill combinations by one player do *a lot* of damage relative to health (charge + quickness + hundred blades = 16k damage in one unavoidable hit; thieves do the same with pistol whip).

    (2) The ability to mitigate damage disappears when multiple opponents are involved. In 1v1 battles defensive abilities can counter the offensive burst of the opponent (dodging, healing, aegis, etc.). In 1v2 these abilities counter one player and leave the other player free to 1-2 shot you.

    The consequence of these two factors is that there is no room for error (a minor positioning failure and your character is dead before you can react) and the increasing returns to numbers encourages zerging.

    • taugrim says:

      Guardian :

      Two factors I think negatively impact sPvP (I realize you are writing about tournament play, which, given smaller numbers and better coordination, is a separate ball-game):

      Actually this article is about sPvP and tournaments.

      Guardian :

      (1) Certain skill combinations by one player do *a lot* of damage relative to health (charge + quickness + hundred blades = 16k damage in one unavoidable hit; thieves do the same with pistol whip).

      Pistol Whip is problematic because it can deliver high damage along with the stun.

      Hundred Blades requires multiple skills to setup.

      Guardian :

      (2) The ability to mitigate damage disappears when multiple opponents are involved. In 1v1 battles defensive abilities can counter the offensive burst of the opponent (dodging, healing, aegis, etc.). In 1v2 these abilities counter one player and leave the other player free to 1-2 shot you.

      In GW2: to avoid is better than to mitigate.

  6. Irulan says:

    All of us have spent a great deal of time even before launch and again after launch to find the over powered class. In GW2, I am not sure there is one or at least I haven’t found it yet myself. In other games, it was clear that there were clearly better dps, healing or tanking specs but those differences seem to be a blur in GW2.

    Since there is really no one out there to heal me, I can not afford to be the all out dps class. Or as you stated, being the big tank has no advantage in PVP or WvW, yet survivability is very important. As also stated, in a multi-player attack, death is assured. There is no escape. You will die.

    As much as I have to learn to inflict damage, I must learn to survive. I can not heal myself to the extremes that my paladin could in WOW. A self heal in GW2 just buys me time so that I can mitigate other damage and hopefully escape. So I must find a blance. It will be a challenge.

    The game is still young. It has been interesting to date.

  7. Blaze says:

    I’m sry but this post is just so way off for me.To claim the skill cap is higher in GW2 isa joke to be honest,no trinity makes the game way more easy period ! The doege mecanic require no skill to use and understand(unless one is a complete moron) not calling anyone a moron just talking in general.And the whole thing when you are on the ground trowing rocks is just silly.Trying to time a kill on a player on ground or running around is allmost the same apart from running away.Also i know plenty of people who left gw2 because they found out not having a gear pregression is actually really boring.
    Movement and aiming truly matter ? yeah true but still doesnt require any more skill then strafing or moving out of fire.GW2 is easy and just boring to me, thats why i left.But hey if you like it good for you.But to claim it require more skill is just plain dumb.

    • Blaze says:

      love my typos ^^

      • taugrim says:

        Blaze :

        love my typos ^^

        Honestly, you should take the time to properly spell and format your response.

        The typos make your post lose credibility.

        • Blaze says:

          So does your response.I was in a rush btw

          • Yamirashi says:

            Then wait until you can type without sounding like you’re just raging.

            After playing PvP in multiple games, I’ve seen the skill between players is much more of a factor in this game. Often when I would lose a 1v1 in WoW or SWTOR, I would be frustrated because I could tell from skill selection and movement that I was the more skilled player, but I never had enough time in those games to get to the top gear level before they would change it again. In GW2, I’ve gotten my butt handed to me on a silver platter on numerous occasions but its quite obvious in those cases the other player was just BETTER than me. Its a refreshing change of pace. And quite frankly the “simplicity” of the system adds more depth than dice rolls for blocks and parries and 40 ability buttons ever did.

          • jkwervo says:

            What you posted is pure subjective. Taugrim is well known in the MMO community and have provided insights in various games that have helped the PvP sector grow. All you did was post on a subject you disagree with, which you are entitled to, and pass it off as fact. It is not, and A LOT of players seem to agree with Taugrim’s assessment of the skill factor in Guild Wars 2. He’s pretty objective in all his assessments.

            Sounds from your garbled up response, you like the same tired system of the Trinity. You like the Gear Treadmill. In my opinion, you like the gear crutch, and that’s understandable.

            The PvP demographic has slowly transisted into what is called Normalized PvP. This is why League of Legends is popular. A lot of the FPS’s as well. It took awhile for the MMO landscape to steer away from the gear grind that’s been associated with it, and it’s a welcome transistion.

            PvP shouldn’t be about gear. Just like any sport, you have access to everything. Let your skills speak for themselves.

            Not only LOS is integral, as well as movement AND timing your dodge with the right attack. So STFU and GTFO.

            • taugrim says:

              jkwervo :

              The PvP demographic has slowly transisted into what is called Normalized PvP. This is why League of Legends is popular. A lot of the FPS’s as well. It took awhile for the MMO landscape to steer away from the gear grind that’s been associated with it, and it’s a welcome transistion.

              PvP shouldn’t be about gear. Just like any sport, you have access to everything. Let your skills speak for themselves.

              Agree with the above 100%.

              Great post!

              • Blaze says:

                After watching your streams on ilum were you lost most duals of course you agree with the bad players, there i said it.

                • taugrim says:

                  Blaze :

                  After watching your streams on ilum were you lost most duals of course you agree with the bad players, there i said it.

                  Depends.

                  Running “Iron Fist”, which is weak in 1v1s, I lost plenty of duels.
                  When I played “Assault Spec”, I won plenty of duels, even against better-geared players.

                  Spec is *rather* important in duels. Isn’t that obvious?

            • Blaze says:

              First of all he is not objective at all. Second all things equal in a gear based game skill still triumf in any game.What you call Normalized PvP is only something bad players need in general, like GW2 do.No matter what your opinion is GW2 PvP is easy and just really boring because there is no gear progression and trinity, that also make the game again more easy.So stfu jævla kronfjott.

              • domoto says:

                So this is old, but it’s people like you which are the reason most online PvP is awful. “all things equal in a gear based game skill still triumf in any game” – wrong, gear advantage especially with a PvP stat in place makes a *HUGE* difference, while skill can come in to play, the gear crutch is an epidemic with most PvPers. “really boring because there is no gear progression” – So tell me, once you max our your gear, do you stop playing that character? since if the gear progression is the only reason you did it, once you have it might as well quit right? If you don’t stop playing then the only two reasons I can think of for why you continue is A. You now have an advantage over other players, and would like to abuse it or B. You needed the gear to stand a chance against others who had the gear already…which GW2 solves by having it be there already…so essentially, what are you working towards?

  8. Seiney says:

    An excellent (excellent!) post, Taugrim.

    Guild Wars 2 has possibly surpassed Rift in its diversity of incomparable spec choices. I can finally feel like my latest theorycrafted specs can hold a candle to cookie-cutter builds. That freedom rewards a whole new skill set, creating effective builds for the environment and desired play style.

    If you’ll allow me to offer an additional bullet point- not being able to see what spell your opponent is casting via text on a castbar requires that you learn, anticipate, and react to the animation and context. This is an enduring challenge.

    • taugrim says:

      Seiney :

      Guild Wars 2 has possibly surpassed Rift in its diversity of incomparable spec choices. I can finally feel like my latest theorycrafted specs can hold a candle to cookie-cutter builds. That freedom rewards a whole new skill set, creating effective builds for the environment and desired play style.

      Agreed.

      For the classes I’ve tried in sPvP, there have been multiple viable specs, with tough tradeoff decisions.

      Seiney :

      If you’ll allow me to offer an additional bullet point- not being able to see what spell your opponent is casting via text on a castbar requires that you learn, anticipate, and react to the animation and context. This is an enduring challenge.

      Absolutely agree.

  9. Euchrid Eucrow says:

    taugrim :

    Blaze :
    love my typos ^^

    Honestly, you should take the time to properly spell and format your response.
    The typos make your post lose credibility.

    While the below grade school grasp of coherent sentence structure and lack of ability to structure cogent points in the midst of all that mess certainly is a good indication of lack of credibility, I think the content, or lack thereof, of his post even without such criticisms does a good job of destroying credibility all by itself.

    Lemme translate that for Blaze: Tollololollol you trollin’ bro! lolloolol!!

    • Blaze says:

      Well i’m guessing your just a ignorant yank so let me just say, the day you can even type one sentence in my native language then you can mouth off :) Jævla nisse :)

      • Euchrid Eucrow says:

        And I’m assuming you are just another knee-jerk youtuber spewing gutter posts. See, I can play the assumption game too! I said the CONTENT of your post was drek DESPITE the garbage way you organized said content. You just posted a bunch of troll spew that anyone with two brain cells and a finger could have posted. Do you want to participate in an intelligent discussion? This is the place. If you want to continue in the vein of your original post then the youtube comment section is that-a-way ————–>

      • taugrim says:

        Blaze :

        Well i’m guessing your just a ignorant yank

        You correlate ignorance with nationality?

        What an inane worldview.

  10. You’ve nailed it again. It’s the skill of it that keeps me coming back – because of IRL commitments I can’t really compete in gear-heavy systems like WoW. It’s quite clear that a novitiate player in WoW will get steamrolled by a geared player, skill or otherwise, who’s just /facerolling the buttons.

    GW2 allows for skill to shine through – and it becomes quite clear as a result why you’ve lost or won that fight. There’s no mystery, no “Where the f- did all that damage come from?!” type comments.

    PS: Interesting to see your switch to GS, I did the same last week and have been loving the implications. I find the playstyle requires you to be a bit less lazy but overall it’s quite rewarding. And it’s heavily under utilised and under represented, so less people know how to deal with it – an added bonus.

    • taugrim says:

      Richard Parry :

      It’s the skill of it that keeps me coming back – because of IRL commitments I can’t really compete in gear-heavy systems like WoW. It’s quite clear that a novitiate player in WoW will get steamrolled by a geared player, skill or otherwise, who’s just /facerolling the buttons.

      GW2 allows for skill to shine through – and it becomes quite clear as a result why you’ve lost or won that fight. There’s no mystery, no “Where the f- did all that damage come from?!” type comments.

      Yep, I love that dynamic as well. I did the WoW Arena thing in Cataclysm, but it was soooo much time to get geared up to compete.

      And that discouraged me from trying other specs or classes. I didn’t have the time or the desire to grind through all the levels and gear again.

      Richard Parry :

      PS: Interesting to see your switch to GS, I did the same last week and have been loving the implications. I find the playstyle requires you to be a bit less lazy but overall it’s quite rewarding. And it’s heavily under utilised and under represented, so less people know how to deal with it – an added bonus.

      There seemed to be a lot of GS Mesmers back in Beta, but I’m not sure what the distribution of weapons looks like now.

  11. I had hoped that The Old Republic would be more of a skill based game and less of a gear based game. In the past I believe Mr. Park has referred to this as horizontal or vertical based development. I sincerely hope that going forward, skill based game play becomes more of a trend among developers.

    The trend in gear based game seems to be, to find the class or classes which are slightly more powerful than the others; then pursue a gear advantage by any means available early in the games life cycle. After finding said advantage, then team up with like minded people to form premade teams to queue up matches, dominating newer and more casual teams of players in pick up groups.

    It seems as if in many of these gear based games you have a small number of teams at the top who dominate and bully the bulk of the player base through a clear cut advantage based on their gear, and using simple communication over vent, in a premade groups. This leads to feeling of frustration for the majority of players since losing the overwhelming majority of your matches tends to slow down the process of getting gear improvements.

    in conclusion I personally believe this is the single largest reason games like The Old Republic bled players almost from the start; (the feeling that pvp wasn’t fair or fun. And that a few teams had a big advantage.) Going forward I’d hope other developers follow Guild Wars twos example, its much less frustrating saying I need to change my build, or my tactics, or both and see immediate improvements than to say, I’ll need to spend hours in matches grinding for better gear to even have the slightest chance for improvements.

    • taugrim says:

      Noi (@Insly_Dngrous) :

      The trend in gear based game seems to be, to find the class or classes which are slightly more powerful than the others; then pursue a gear advantage by any means available early in the games life cycle. After finding said advantage, then team up with like minded people to form premade teams to queue up matches, dominating newer and more casual teams of players in pick up groups.

      Yep, I’ve seen this in many games.

      The funny thing is I tend to find PVP less enjoyable as I get fully geared up. The most fun is when you are just below or at parity with most players.

      Once I get a meaningful gear advantage, the challenge lessens.

      Noi (@Insly_Dngrous) :

      Going forward I’d hope other developers follow Guild Wars twos example, its much less frustrating saying I need to change my build, or my tactics, or both and see immediate improvements than to say, I’ll need to spend hours in matches grinding for better gear to even have the slightest chance for improvements.

      I hope so too.

      The market is already shifting in that direction: LoL, TSW, GW2.

  12. I agree with all your points. I’ve been very happy with the depth found in the game (at launch!) and look forward to what developers dedicated to esports will bring as time progresses.

    In addition to your points, I think you may have undersold the skill cap related to map knowledge/awareness. The maps are HUGE, especially for classes that struggle with mobility. Further, they get progressively larger/more complex as you win tournament matches. In some of my first games, I think I spent more time traveling than fighting. I didn’t play sPVP during the beta, and I think it took me until around rank 7 before I stopped treading water w/ regards to being in the right place slightly more often than the wrong place.

    Two big map related skill cap decisions IMO are:

    1) Knowing when to stay and defend a node vs when to leave and help a team fight or scout the third node

    2) Knowing when a team fight is lost and to peel away vs when you leaving will cause a team fight to fail

    There is a lot of strategic depth built into how your team chooses to answer those questions vs how the other team chooses to answer those questions. Further, the answers are important because getting them wrong (or even, at times, slightly wrong) carries a huge penalty due to map size/travel time. It can make the difference between capping an empty node vs allowing enough time for the team to get back on defense, or the difference between gaining a momentum advantage after a teamfight or not being able to change the current balance of the map.

    Loving the game, loving the blog.

    • taugrim says:

      Ottyssey (@MarkAllan0) :

      In addition to your points, I think you may have undersold the skill cap related to map knowledge/awareness. The maps are HUGE, especially for classes that struggle with mobility. Further, they get progressively larger/more complex as you win tournament matches. In some of my first games, I think I spent more time traveling than fighting. I didn’t play sPVP during the beta, and I think it took me until around rank 7 before I stopped treading water w/ regards to being in the right place slightly more often than the wrong place.

      Two big map related skill cap decisions IMO are:

      1) Knowing when to stay and defend a node vs when to leave and help a team fight or scout the third node

      2) Knowing when a team fight is lost and to peel away vs when you leaving will cause a team fight to fail

      There is a lot of strategic depth built into how your team chooses to answer those questions vs how the other team chooses to answer those questions. Further, the answers are important because getting them wrong (or even, at times, slightly wrong) carries a huge penalty due to map size/travel time. It can make the difference between capping an empty node vs allowing enough time for the team to get back on defense, or the difference between gaining a momentum advantage after a teamfight or not being able to change the current balance of the map.

      You articulated the map complexity well.

      It’s been interesting to see the evolution of the metagame over the first month after launch, especially how teams play the 3 maps used in tourneys.

  13. Yamirashi says:

    One way I’ve heard someone say it recently, most “PvP” in the MMORPG genre has actually been “CvC” or Character vs Character. You build up your character, level him up so he has higher stats, more abilities, and access to better gear, and then play him against other characters who may or may not have the same access to the same things. Nothing wrong with that game mode or that play style if that is what you want and like. But let’s call it what it really is, CvC.

    PvP takes the “character” out of the equation, and allows the actual player to match wits and skill with another actual player. I have felt much more connection as a player to the people I play against in sPvP in this game.

    Example: in a pug match recently as I was trying out a new spec for my Thief, I almost capped a node with no one coming to defend. At the last moment another thief from the other team came to meet me it was a 1v1 for the node. Both of us being thieves it was a drawn out 1v1 that was very intense and very close. I won that encounter and it was one of the most gratifying experiences I’ve ever had in MMO PvP. Since this was a PUG match, the next game had me and that thief on the same team and during the pre match time we spoke about how great of a 1v1 that was. It was 2 players against each other and had nothing to do with our characters. And neither of us had an excuse of “well you have better gear” or “you’re higher level”.

    • Ghuste says:

      Love this! I had the same thing in a spvp except it was mesmer on mesmer at my teams trebuchet, and it was one of the more intense battles I’ve had. We were both super low on health and I actually made a mistake and dived off the platform and died to fall damage, the other mesmer dived off after me in the heatof the moment and also died to fall damage, the next game was all laughs at the start as we were on the same team.

      • taugrim says:

        Ghuste:

        Love this! I had the same thing in a spvp except it was mesmer on mesmer at my teams trebuchet, and it was one of the more intense battles I’ve had. We were both super low on health and I actually made a mistake and dived off the platform and died to fall damage, the other mesmer dived off after me in the heatof the moment and also died to fall damage, the next game was all laughs at the start as we were on the same team.

        That’s a hilarious story :)

    • taugrim says:

      Yamirashi :

      One way I’ve heard someone say it recently, most “PvP” in the MMORPG genre has actually been “CvC” or Character vs Character. You build up your character, level him up so he has higher stats, more abilities, and access to better gear, and then play him against other characters who may or may not have the same access to the same things. Nothing wrong with that game mode or that play style if that is what you want and like. But let’s call it what it really is, CvC.

      PvP takes the “character” out of the equation, and allows the actual player to match wits and skill with another actual player. I have felt much more connection as a player to the people I play against in sPvP in this game.

      That’s an innovative way of describing it. There’s the additional complexity that CvC is also about class vs class, or spec vs spec.

      In a lot of games, the design creates differentials between classes and between specs, and the result is FOTM classes.

      What has really impressed me with GW2 is the extent to which there seem to be multiple viable specs for classes for PVP. I think it’s in large part due to the shared boon & condition mechanics, and the shared gear components (amulets, jewels, sigils, and runes).

      Yamirashi :

      It was 2 players against each other and had nothing to do with our characters. And neither of us had an excuse of “well you have better gear” or “you’re higher level”.

      Sounds like a great fight :)

  14. Swavaise says:

    Just want to say how valuable your posts are, and say a “Me, too” to those who like the different aspects of GW2. Leveling and zone completion, crafting, all of the usual MMO activities are well executed. But, sPVP is the best implementation I’ve ever seen – the ability to try any number of fully configured builds in any class without level grinding is like opening up the whole candy store to a kid.

    I started MMOs with Shadowbane (actually, through my sons who were epic players), which had great build variety and a relatively manageable leveling process, but I’m a casual player because RL just doesn’t allow me much time for the game. I know I won’t reach the highest levels of play, but in GW2 I won’t get left in the dust of the level and gear grind.

    • taugrim says:

      Swavaise :

      But, sPVP is the best implementation I’ve ever seen – the ability to try any number of fully configured builds in any class without level grinding is like opening up the whole candy store to a kid.

      I feel thesame way.

      Swavaise :

      I’m a casual player because RL just doesn’t allow me much time for the game. I know I won’t reach the highest levels of play, but in GW2 I won’t get left in the dust of the level and gear grind.

      Yes, this is one very attractive differentiator of GW2. It’s not about grind, which means time.

      Certainly you’ll be more experienced and knowledgeable with more time played, but that’s different from simply being outgeared.

  15. Gribble says:

    There are countless situations in GW2 where the enemy wins while being significantly worse a player than you.

    One example would be scepter condition necromancers vs. node defender (bombs/pistol-shield) engineers. Then only thing the necromancer has to do in this fight is press 1 to win. Actually pressing more than 1 is worse than just pressing 1.

    I have a problem with the WoW comparison. There is a big difference between ‘2000+’ rating arena and let’s say top 100 or better gladiator level.

    “True tradeoff decisions. I have yet to find a see a spec that can do-it-all, because by design GW2 forces the player to make tradeoff decisions between talents, utilities, and most especially gear components (runes, sigils, and amulet / jewel).”

    That’s nothing special in the mmo world. It’s just more pronounced at this time because there is no healer to back your errors up, the meta hasn’t settled in yet and people haven’t settled for the “op” builds yet.

    WoW didn’t limit you to builds, you would see gladiators having all kinds of builds (mobility, burst dps, sustained dps, survivability, support), but because information was so widely available for wow (arenajunkies and the wow armory for example) most people below that level just copied a premade build and went with it. If they were half decent players they would reach 2000+ with that.

    “Death Knights and Frost Mages were strong in all three of those areas, which is why they were the two non-healing classes that were over-represented in my experience at 2k and above in the 2v2 and 3v3 brackets.”

    While death knights were popular in 2000+ rating (as every other class, really…) they were the least (by a mile) popular in gladiator range except for s5.

    Mages were always top tier because of their good synergy with so many other classes.

    “No holy trinity. Without dedicated healers, all players are responsible for managing their own HP.”

    If you didn’t play like that on high rating wow arena, you wouldn’t reach high ratings in the first place. Of course the healer was needed to heal you, but ignoring your own survivability made you pretty much never reach gladiator level.

    Removing the holy trinity isn’t a bad decision, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t add more skill, it just shifts the skill. Where you have to put cc chains and interrupts on the healer to setup a kill with a holy trinity system or make sure your healer doesn’t get locked out if you go full on burst for a moment, you won’t have that with the GW2 system.

    You can’t just follow someone behind an obstacle (pillar for example) to kill him (just because he has low hp) without knowing where your healer is and if he can risk to follow you, whether you have enough hp to do that and without knowing the cooldowns of the enemy and your own. It could very well be your death if you just ignore those things.

    In GW2 it doesn’t matter where my teammates are at that moment. I just have to check my hp and my heal cd, that’s it.

    “Downed state management.”

    Yeah, about that. It severly limits your build decisions and weapon choices on some classes. As engineer for example you want to have a blind (bomb-kit or flamethrower) to not being knocked back by the downed player and preferably a knock back (flamethrower or battering ram) to interrupt enemies that are finishing your downed teammates. The third thing you probably want in a team setting is a stun removal and bam, your 7-9 abilities are all set.

    I know different builds work at the moment, but most of them are weak and in about a month when everything has settled and most people know the strong builds (which could be entirely different builds than I described) you will be very limited in your decisions if you want to succeed.

    There are engineer streamers that are successful with very squishy non utility builds, but the only reason they are that successful is that so many bad players are out there right now that don’t know what to do and just play for casual fun. That’s not talking bad about the bad players, I only wanted to clarify why there is such a high build variety at this moment.

    “Movement and aiming truly matter.”

    Again, the only positiv difference here to WoW is the dodge mechanic, because it exists for every class. Technically it’s not different to using immunities/reflects/vanish/line of sight (you can use LoS in GW2, but there aren’t many positions on the map that support it)/cc/teleports in any other game. In WoW pretty much every class has some form of this, it’s just different for each class.

    I can count the times I lost to someone in GW2 because he had more skill than me on one hand. GW2 is a lot more being in the right place at the right time (team coordination/team skill) than personal skill.

    It’s all about build x counters build y, but you have to use build y because you wouldn’t be able to beat a, b and c without it.

    “Key Implications for Individual Players”:

    “Which weapons do I use in each set?
    Which traits (talents) do I take that complement my weapon choices?
    Which healing, utility, and elite skills do I slot to complement the capabilities of my spec or fill holes?”

    Because weapons here are as much part of the skill set as traits and healing, utility and elite skills I will count all those 3 points as one.

    Comparing this to any other MMO it’s pretty much the same mechanic, hidden behind different “visuals” instead of one big skill tree or spec decision.

    At this time having the right build is very big, I give you that. So at this moment this is part of player skill and you’re absolutely right. After the meta has settled and there is more information out there, not so much anymore. There will be good builds available all over the internet and people will copy those.

    “What gear components (sigils for weapons, runes for armor, amulet, and jewel) synergize with the capabilities of my spec?”

    Yeah well, you started with WoW, so I will keep comparing GW2 to it. I will compare sigils/runes/amulet/jewel to gems/reforging and gear decisions in WoW. There is absolutely no difference except for utility bonuses on runes.

    Thos bonuses give you more options across classes than just another skill point in WoW that would do the same, but limited to a class. But most of the time those options wouldn’t make any sense for another class in GW2 or are bad in the first place.

    “How do I manage my profession mechanic (attunement “stance-dancing” for Elementalists, kits for Engineers, etc)?”

    I can only speak for engineers here. Those are just another skill bar, simply more skills. I don’t see where having 5 more skills (and still much less than in WoW) makes GW2 suddenly more skill-based than any other mmo. Of course it adds a decision making process over not having it in the first place, but how is that different than for example a druid in WoW that has to shift into different forms to do different stuff, or a rogue with his shadowdance.

    Yeah there are classes that don’t have that in WoW, but as ranger in GW2 your best bet at the moment is a shortbow, spam 1, use your interrupt and manage your positioning (like any other class in any mmo ever). Longbow/Axe-Warhorn damage is to easy to avoid for skilled players. The melee specs are gimmicky and you can make them work, but they are still worse.

    “Given all that, what’s the order of ability execution for maximum effect, and in which situations?”

    This is correct, but again doesn’t make it different from other mmos. In fact the order of ability execution for maximum effect is much shorter in GW2 most of the times.

    “How do I play my particular build in solo and group situations?”

    Same again.

    I agree with you in general, but “What Makes GW2 PVP So Skill-Based?” should have been “What Makes MMO PVP So Skill-Based?” in most cases.

    There will always be a huge difference between true high level players and the rest of the player base. No matter which game. But I feel like you are comparing the high level of one game (GW2) with the middle+ level of another one (WoW).

    I always thought I was a pretty good gamer in WoW and then I hit 2400 rating, was hit in the face by a big wall (this was in WotLK) and had to relearn PvP. Gladly I had the opportunity to play together with a twink of a rank 1 player for a while after that and was tought a lot. I still didn’t get higher than 2500 rating, but I haven’t seen one player/team in GW2 yet, that would give me the kind of competition I had back then, not because all players are bad, but because GW2 limits your teamplay to attacking the right node, who to kill first and things like reviving someone, removing conditions, buffing your group.

    I love the absence of the holy trinity, but it doesn’t make it more skill base, it only shifts the skillset. It removes a form of coordination between players that took a lot of skill on a high level though. I would even say there was no trinity in WoW, because except for a few exceptions that got patched, you can’t play a tank class in PvP.

    30+ minute fights in 3on3 arena are a sign of lack of synergy between your classes or lack of coordination/concentration. This is completly different in 2on2 though, but there is a reason 2on2 won’t give you titles in WoW and isn’t seen as competitive anymore. You either have 2 dps combos, that are quick matches (someone will die fast, be it the 2 dps team or their enemy) or 1 dps 1 healer combos which are very boring and lack the 2nd dps of a 3s team to add pressure through dps/cc/splitting damage, etc…

    And the solo power each class will make much more of a difference in a 2on2 setting.

    “there is no deathmatch map”
    I like this one. One small error or unlucky situation won’t decide the match. This is a good point.

    “I’ve experienced my fair share of 30+ minute matches in WoW Arena, and only a fraction of the time involved meaningful action.”

    If you’re talking about 3on3/5on5 I would say the lack of meaningful action was the reason for the 30+ minute matches, not the other way around. If you’re talking about 2on2, well I have talked about that and have to agree. 2on2 isn’t a competitive bracket anymore for a reason and doesn’t work well with a healer based system.

    “maps each have a secondary mechanic” and “managing downed situations”
    I agree here again.

    I think I know why people can’t agree on each others whether GW2 has a high skill cap or not. It’s the lack of a definition for “high skill cap”.

    GW2 very much lacks on the personal skill-cap level (you really don’t have a lot of tools once you are set on a build) and I would say is only mediocre in the team coordination part (about setting up a kill), but excels in the map control/team communication (communicating who has to be where and when: for example killing/stealing svanir) part.

    One thing on the personal skill level. I know this is debatable, but I can’t see skill in chosing the right build. If the enemy is lucky and has a counter build to mine, it’s already to late for me to change it and I can’t do anything to influence the outcome of the fight.

    Obviously creating a decent build takes time and a lot of thought. You can’t put a ship’s propeller on a car and expect it to work (your axe + sword example). But as soon as you have that decent build and another class counters it, you can’t do anything about it.

    There are no “one counters all” builds, which is good because it makes the game less boring, but it takes away from personal (in-fight) skill to be plain out countered by another class/build for the entire game. It adds to the team-skill in a way that your teammate has to do your job and you his. Real-time adjustment if you will.

    I would bet more players play sPVP than tPVP. You won’t witness a lot of the skill-cap you are talking about in an sPVP setting because most of it is team based skill-cap and rarely to be found outside of tPVP. As always I could be wrong.

    Sorry for the wall of text. But as someone who likes the personal challenge I feel like GW2 is lacking that part of high skill-cap. The team decision will always win or lose fights and the personal player skill will only matter a little bit.

    Ending this with: I haven’t played WoW over 1,5 years and will stay with GW2. I will do this because GW2 has a more casual/fun approach (meaning I can have fun even when my tPVP team isn’t online and there is less drama). But I have to be honest to myself and can’t tell myself that GW2 is very skill-based on a per player level. There are just not enough possible actions in a face to face fight that matter.

    • Gribble says:

      I could’ve written that a lot shorter.

      Key things:

      If after a fight I lose the only answer to: “What could I have done different?” is: “Nothing, except another build, that would lose me a lot of different fights!” then my personal in-fight skill-level doesn’t matter and the fight (given both players are on top of their game) is decided before it even began (by the build).

      GW2 skill-cap is more team coordination, not so much personal player skill.

      Your WoW observations aren’t at a skill-cap level, more of a mid-range level, but your GW2 observations are at a skill-cap level. You shouldn’t compare those in this case. (DKs were least successful on a skill-capped level, but extremely successful on a mid-range level – 2on2 isn’t competitive anymore, you don’t get titles for it, because of the 30+ minute games. 2on2 is not representative of WoW PvP and 30+ minute games shouldn’t happen in a 3on3/5on5 setting if both teams are coordinated => again mid-range level instead of skill-capped)

      If you count weapon/rune choice as part of the skill-based gameplay, you have to do the same for WoW, where you have to face the same decisions. Weapons in GW2 = part of the build in WoW. Runes/sigils in GW2 = gear/gems in WoW.

      Movement/Positioning is a little bit apple and oranges, because the lack of healers take a lot of the thought process away, but adds a different thought process. Having bad positioning in WoW makes you open to cc/not being able to use line of sight/being unable to be healed.
      GW2 positioning is more: stay at range or up close + use your dodge at the right time (equivalent to immune cds/mobility cds/vanish and so on).

      • Gribble says:

        And I point I forgot in the “summary”:

        Taking away the healer doesn’t add to the skill-cap. It adds to the lowlevel/midrange skill requirements. You always avoid every possible damage at skill-cap, there is no difference between WoW and GW2.

        • taugrim says:

          Gribble :

          And I point I forgot in the “summary”:

          Taking away the healer doesn’t add to the skill-cap. It adds to the lowlevel/midrange skill requirements. You always avoid every possible damage at skill-cap, there is no difference between WoW and GW2.

          Not having a healer requires everyone to support one another to a greater extent.

          We’ll agree to disagree on this.

      • taugrim says:

        Gribble :

        Your WoW observations aren’t at a skill-cap level, more of a mid-range level, but your GW2 observations are at a skill-cap level. You shouldn’t compare those in this case.

        Keep in mind the context. I played what was considered one of the weaker classes by the community – and objectively Prot Pally was very susceptible to being kited.

        I don’t doubt if my partner Kashmir and I had played a FOTM comp, we would have had no problem reaching 2200. How much higher after that? Who knows, it’s all speculation. I do know we outplayed teams with superior options in terms of mechanics and CC. But that was what make playing a non-FOTM fun and challenging.

        Gribble :

        If you count weapon/rune choice as part of the skill-based gameplay, you have to do the same for WoW, where you have to face the same decisions. Weapons in GW2 = part of the build in WoW. Runes/sigils in GW2 = gear/gems in WoW.

        The number of decisions and gear / stat customization in GW2 is much higher compared to WoW.

  16. I found the opposite pattern between tournies and sPvP. In the few gulds that I play with we consistently win tournaments – probably 5 out of every 6 games we win. I really think that this is more about communication than it is about player skill level. Because only five people are in tournaments you can’t have the zerg mentality that is found in 8 v 8’s, and as such you need to be communicating and responding quickly. My personal opinion is that the team that does this has the advantage. The other major difference I noticed was that 5 v 5’s require you to not flee because your obviously trying to achieve an objective. In 8 v 8’s sometimes the best strategy is to flee and go do something else, such as back capping, when the zerg comes. Thus, they require very different builds as one requires you to be able to work with your team and stay in the fight, the other requires a build where you need to have your escape skills. 8 v 8’s are definitely about solo play and is really more random, and 5 v 5’s team play – I find it much easier, and have had greater success, in the later.

  17. Reptilen says:

    Have you changed your mesmer build to sword/pistol and GS?

    I just started playing with GS myself, and found it insane in wvwvw and pve, though havent tested it in sPVP … please tell me your experience with it :)

  18. Reptilen says:

    Just tested it for some runs, it feels more powerful and kinda fills the ranged dps better. I do lack my chaos armor and skill 2 with staff for evasiveness, so I took blink and decoy which did it for me …
    I used Rage rune in GS which procs pretty often and deals good dmg, though im not sure if thats the best …

    I didnt play vs thief, which normally is my worst enemy, so I dont know if im evasive enough :)

  19. Irishbrewed says:

    I agree ten fold. And to confound the issue players get boosted to max level out the gate, which is why you see a whole lot of butt hurt whiners crying about shit they don’t even understand. There are so many builds and setups for each class, something I’ve never seen in an mmo. Now not all build will work, but a gret majority of them can be effectively utilized by a player that has “skill” and competence. There are also so much to the meta game. Strats are never etched in stone, it all varies on class make ups and the multitude of varying builds that can be at play any given game. You see a lot of FOTM, but that’s mostly due to average players not able to grasp the diversity and depth at their disposal. Teams that do continually look to build or diversify their strats and comps will eventually leave the Mesmer/Gaurdian heavy comps in the dust once the meta does mature. It’s very complex and thus the skill goes far beyond just a good set of binds & macros.

    Great blog Taugrim, keep it coming man. Are you still streaming like you use to man?

  20. Antipode says:

    Taugrim: you were never great at WoW or SWTOR. Yet < 1 month in to GW2 you claim it has the highest skill cap.

    Let it play out. In time people will be able to tell.

  21. Irishbrewed says:

    Antipode :
    Taugrim: you were never great at WoW or SWTOR. Yet < 1 month in to G/W2 you claim it has the highest skill cap.
    Let it play out. In time people will be able to tell.

    lmao, yeah no one agrees with that. You’ve obviously never seen the man play or don’t even understand what “great” is. He might not of grinded out top ranking in wow but it’s not because he lacked the ability to, the man ran one of the weakest comps and was very effective. As for SWTOR, dude was the one of the best on the server, wtf are you even talking about. You sir aren’t great at common sense.

  22. Jammy says:

    Whilst in some ways I find GW2 more skillful, in others I think it is lacking, some of which could simply be down to balance.

    For instance, I’ve started playing a thief, it is my fifth class that I’ve given a reasonable amount of time to and I have to say it is ridiculously easy (low skill) in comparison to things like engineer, necro, etc, it also highlights one of the issues, TTK.

    Now I’m, fine with GW2 having a lower TTK than some MMORPGs it does after all have faster gameplay, but when my thief can put out such burst that people can go down in 2-3 seconds, it just seems really low skill cap, I’ve always gone with the theory that a fast TTK == low skill cap in MMORPGs, even allowing for the faster pace of GW2, 2-3 seconds seems silly.

    On a side note, I thought they were going to build thief differently, but other than the lack of permastealth they seem to have just repeated the mistakes from other MMORPGs in that you can still pu tout massive burst from stealth (8-14k on a backstab)

  23. Wes says:

    ” I’ve experienced my fair share of 30+ minute matches in WoW Arena”

    All hail, Champion of the Arena Protection Paladin!

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