Will Stronghold Become the Dominant Game Mode in Guild Wars 2 PvP?
The competitive aspect of Guild Wars 2 PvP has been steadily growing since its launch, especially within the last year. Tournaments have been increasing in both popularity, with the ESL and Academy Gaming weekly tournaments, with occasionally seeing Guild Wars 2 on the front page of Twitch; and in prestige and prizes, with the cash prizes for some ESL weekly tournaments. This started in December 2014 with the World Tournament Series, which featured the best teams from China, North America and Europe competing in Boston for a total prize pool of $50,000 later down the road in March.
However, Guild Wars 2 is not considered an ‘eSport’ by the community at large, despite the growing competitive scene, and there have been many discussions on the forums and subreddit for this topic. It’s been suggested that balance issues and a somewhat stagnant meta may be the reason, with the domination of celestial and berserker builds. Some say that it’s the small player base compared to the dominating eSports. There does, however, seem to be one main issue with the PvP that the community as a whole agrees holds back it’s eSports status: conquest.
As a casual game mode for the average PvP player, there are very little issues with it as a whole. It has clear objectives and allows for each map to have a specific and unique secondary objective, such as the lords on the Legacy of the Foefire or the bosses on the Forest of Niflhel. This keeps the game mode simple and easy to understand, while allowing higher level strategies for say, ranked play. However, for eSports it has a fatal flaw and one that is not present in the larger games such as League of Legends, DOTA 2 and Starcraft 2. Those games are very much games of momentum: if one team has an advantage, such as taking towers in a MOBA (LoL, DOTA 2); it makes it easier for said advantage to grow. This creates drama, and allows two likely outcomes: the disadvantaged team loses or the winning team throws. This is exciting and makes the game a good spectator sport, which is necessary for a game to grow as an eSport. With the conquest game mode that Guild Wars 2 currently uses, this form of momentum has very little to do with a win. If a team is losing they can come back by playing at the same standard the other team has for the rest of the game, they don’t necessarily need a spectacular play, although it may happen occasionally. If one team has a double cap, all it takes is the other team to take that double cap and they can begin comeback. It removes the suspense factor of “who’s going to win?”, in a MOBA, it could look as though one team is at an advantage, but there could be a lot of outs for the other team, but in Guild Wars 2 if you see that the score is 325 to 100, the team with 325 is going to win 9 times out of 10. This, once again, removes drama and entertainment for the common spectator, hindering its growth as an eSport.
Does this mean stronghold might become the dominant game mode? Well, ArenaNet wants Guild Wars 2 to be a competitive, popular eSport and have been working for this for quite some time now. They have never shied away from this mindset. The stronghold game mode and Champion’s Dusk (the one map shown to the public for the mode thus far) are clearly catered towards this goal and towards the “MOBA eSport” community. The map is comprised of lanes including objectives in which you need to destroy to progress, has NPCs that spawn and push forward in the lanes to help you take those gates, and resources that you must to collect over the course of the game to seal the victory. This fixes the aforementioned problem, as it gives the game potential to create the drama and big plays that make spectators enjoy a game.
This all points towards stronghold becoming the dominant PvP mode for competitive play; however, it’s hard to determine what will happen within the rest of the community. Having said that, it stands to reason that due to a possible rise in the popularity of eSports and the stronghold game mode, the established popularity of MOBAs, the general disdain for conquest amongst a large part of the community and finally, the fact that ArenaNet will likely prioritize stronghold in the future, stronghold will more than likely become the dominant game mode within Guild Wars 2 PvP.
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