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Let's Talk About WvW Balance


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  • ArenaNet Staff

Hi Everyone,

I wanted to clarify something from today’s blog post while also kicking off a discussion on a topic that’s near and dear to most competitive players: balance.

It’s important to understand that as competitive handles competitive balance, we will continue to primarily use skill splits in order to minimize the impact on the rest of the game. It’s certainly true that not all issues can be addressed through splits, and we will continue to work with the skills team to make sure we are making the right changes for the entire game when splitting is not a viable option.

Mini Balance Roadmap

We have identified the overall power of the game has become an issue and we wish to address this in the competitive game modes.

The next balance update is going to be smaller than usual. We want to make a handful of very targeted changes to address the biggest pain points in the current meta, but we also want to bank some time for bigger plans moving forward. For a future balance update, we are looking at major adjustments across the board. The goal is to re-establish what the overall power level for competitive modes, and then bring everything down to meet that. In true gw2 fashion, everything is on the table.

With that said, we’re not going to nerf just for the sake of nerfing. Every change should make sense, and every change should be working toward a bigger goal. This patch is still super early in development, so I don’t want to go into too much detail, but it’s definitely something we want to talk about more moving forward. As mentioned in the blog post, we want to keep the community involved early and often when it comes to balance.

So, for the purpose of this discussion, consider these two future updates. First for the short-term: What outliers do you see in the current meta? Then think about the big picture: What issues do you see on a fundamental level that should be addressed? Think outside of the current meta and instead about what you want the meta to look like from a power-level perspective. Keep in mind that a majority of changes should be splits, but feel free to also call out issues that you feel cannot be addressed by splits.

This post is intentionally starting a broad discussion as a jumping off point into the new communication of the Systems team, but keep in mind that in the future our posts are generally going to be more targeted at specific issues as we won’t have as much time to handle giant discussions.

I wanted to keep this initial post fairly short, so please ask questions about anything that is unclear. Otherwise, let’s talk balance.

cmc

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Hi Cal and Welcome to the WvW forums, it is about time!

I think you do a good job of outlining the balance problems in the initial post. The problems are indeed that there is alot of volatility in the system and that alot of the contextual effects have gained the upper hand over the core stats. Conditions, boons, effects and traits make up a much larger portion of what impacts our balance than the core stats of characters and the stats on their gear. That also means that all these ever changing effects are also more impactful than basic derivative stats like hitpoint pools and armor ratings etc.

So where did it go wrong?

It started already towards the end of vanilla (2014) when the condition system was remade. That marked the start of replacing all the old open world balance systems with new systems more tailored towards instanced gameplay. Things that were unique was rebalanced like how confusion works. The addition of a direct damage component to that condition was something made for PvE that has kept causing balance issues for PvP ever since then. The volume was also changed so abilities that formerly added one type of condition now added multiples and classes that were restricted to certain conditions now had access to most of them - turning condition play more into loading up condition bombs and spreading cover conditions over a rainbow of effects that caused scaling and balance issues in the PvP modes.

Layers of cake on cake

This also marks the first time an additional layer was added to deal with the balance going awry: resistance. Resistance initially kept conditions in check during early HoT as cleanses couldn't keep up. However, it also caused a balance problem for the PvP modes on it's own since it created a very volatile- and difficult to manage balance with conditions, where damage and control became an all-or-nothing issue. This caused conditions to play differently and play in a way that we still see to this day, even if resistance has not been as prevalent in PoF as it was in HoT: namely, that conditions are loaded up and then suddenly do all their damage at once, instantly evaporating a character. Instead of being damage over time they add up to condition bombs in ways that are more difficult to manage than power damage (even if power damage too can have a very instant effect; you will at least see that effect come and you can evade it in different ways).

Later such effects include things like Winds of Destruction, Unflinching Charge (on Tome of Courage) or Shadow Meld that adds counters to counters, only to raise questions of if there should be counters to the counters of the counters and so forth. It is just unecessary complexity that makes it harder to keep track of balance. I believe they were added because you had lost control over the core balance and needed sweeping fixes to what had built up to become big problems due to the lack of attention and iterative work on these things that you now hopefully are looking to rectify.

What about power then?

Other than that, power damage (or all damage) is plagued by similar issues when it comes to boons. There are far more abilities today that do multiple things at once. There are plenty of classes and weapons where even the auto-attack has a power component, a condition component and a boon component. That is one of the sources to all the spam of these things, how they become so volatile and something that could easily be skill split. Several boons that used to be rare and dangerous in the past are piecemeal today. It wouldn't be too hard to just skillsplit all those extra effects away from the abilities in the the PvP modes and hopefully that will have an additional benefit of fewer calculations being made so server performance improves.

Traits in dire straits (and sultans of ping)

The final bit is the traits. There has been a massive inflation of trait power in order to cover up some longer standing balance issues. Plenty of classes today can amass stat benefits from traits that outweight their entire gear. There are 33-50% crit traits (equivalent of full stats choices on gear), some 600 ferocity from traits and powerful boons like fury or protection pulsing out of passive abilities. They should be rare, but have reasonable uptime so they can be ripped. There are few such mechanics left. If you look at older abilities and their mechanics the application is usually over longer intervals but also over longer cooldowns whereas more recent boons application mechanics have shorter intervals and higher reapplication, leading to a feeling of spam and what must become a strain on the servers to calculate when it is pinged back and forth between hundreds of players on maps or even on screen.

Purity of purpose

Another thing to look at are the layers that exist inherently in the systems. You have hard layers of effects (and counter effects) and soft layers of boons and conditions. On several of these factors there is an overlap that causes unecessary complexity when it comes to balancing: for example stability being a boon while the things it is meant to counter-balance are effects. You have a similar situation with cripple and chill relative superspeed where the effect just cancels out the conditions in order to give a more heavy handed counter to all the control condition spam. That's a band-aid to cover the balance issues of cleanses versus conditions with either damage effects or control effects. However, it avoids dealing with the underlying balance issues by adding sweeping to the complexity. There are potential gains in looking over what sort of effect should operate at what level or layer and try to streamline that a bit more to make your own jobs easier going forward; to get better oversight on direct balance and counter-balance rather than having unecessary crossovers.

Norms and exceptions

It is also important to look at what you consider the natural state of things to be. What balance should movement have relative control? What is to be considered normative and what makes playing the game fun? Keep in mind that the value we players attribute to certain things that later causes discussions about class balance often come from this form of core balance. Stability makes a good example here too. It is extremely unfun to play in an environment where control gains an upper hand over normative movement (and dodging) so stability has always been extremely important, at the same time it was made more volatile and spammy (that too with the late-vanilla to early HoT changes; and iterated on once since then) and the more rare and unoppressive it becomes the more valuable do the classes that can maintain it become. That opens up discussions like Firebrand vs. other support classes but in reality it is more a discussion of normative movement vs. oppression and that underlying balance issue. If getting to play your character even with Firebrands spamming books is not as common as it should be then discussing nerfing that class or buffing other classes becomes secondary and problematic.

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@Cal Cohen.2358 said:What issues do you see on a fundamental level that should be addressed? Think outside of the current meta and instead about what you want the meta to look like from a power-level perspective. Keep in mind that a majority of changes should be splits, but feel free to also call out issues that you feel cannot be addressed by splits.

Firebrand and Scourge? If you have more class who can give stability I think maybe the dependency toward Firebrand could decreased. Scourge? No need explanation here the boon corrupt is too strong.

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What we have to say carries little weight. Whatever I have to say about 'x' will be rebutted by those who main 'x', often with an invitation to 'git gud', as well as a comparison to 'y' as evidence that 'x' is fine.

So how about ANET decides what the TTK (Time to Kill) should be in WvW, under various situations, and start from there? Once you folks agree on a picture of what that looks like, you'll know right off what needs fixing.

Otherwise you'll just be tossing out -25% to this or +15% to that and hope it works - which is what I've observed to be the case over the past 20 months I've spent in WvW, and which I'm sure many more seasoned players will confirm has been the case since at least PoF or even HoT.

Thanks for the communication. :+1:

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Short Term: Scourge Boon corruption is and has been too high. Base Necro has some of the highest access to boon removal and Scourge just pushes that over the edge. Further, when combined with its area control (i dont mean CC), a single scourge can remove or corrupt a lot of boons on a lot of players.

Long term: Boon access. More class being able to contribute to key Boons like stability, instead of entire squads being dependant on a Firebrand would be better. Ie reducing Firebrand's stability access, and giving it to more classes.

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Chronos have been unplayable since the removal of the Illusionary Persona. Is there any plans to recover this huge loss? It suffers not only in PvE, where it's clunky and generally unfun, but it suffers also hugely in WvW, where clone generation is nearly impossible.I would bring much more discussion about how the removal of the trait hugely destroyed any chance for this spec to be enjoyable, but really: it's just about locked shatters.Adjusting the CDs of the shatters could've been a good compromise, if deemed necessary ( imo it wasn't ) but the complete removal is like playing a costantly handicapped spec that suddenly lost 5 skills to get 4 very hard-to-trigger skills, and they're not even available one after another.You can't create the clones roaming before getting smashed, and you can't create them in squads because of the huge AoE damage instantly killing them and the frenetic action.Realistically, if there is a plausible reason why this has to be the chrono situation from now on, at least tell me how we should play it because with almost 4 years on playing this spec and 7 playing mesmer I just don't get it.

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@shiri.4257 said:One side argues there are too many boons. another argues that there are too many strips. what a giant clown fiesta of gamers we have.

Right, but fixing one can negate the other.This was the mess created by ANET in which boon share was too OP so they had to counter that by making corruption easily accessible.Look at the biggest 'needs' in wvw. FB (must have), scourge to be carried by and counter opposing FB, bubbles? See where this is going?You have to start somewhere.

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This is more of a system wide change but hey why not state it. I would love for conditions to see a rework, i believe it would be overall more healthy for the game if certain skills were turned into dot abilities to preserve the dot playstyle and condies themselves took a backsit from dmg and instead mainly focused on debuffing and weakening.

Ofc some condies make sense to deal dmg but imo something closer to gw1 would be overall easier to balance, wouldnt scale to silly amounts of dmg/stacks and would overall feel nicer to the player than the current system.

This is a longterm suggestion btw, im not expecting something like that to happen soon but i think for the longevity of the game its necessary.

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For WvW specifically, most professions should have a build that can be a zerger(if you want that playstyle to continue) or a roamer. while you might have outliers like thief or ranger who are mainly dueling classes and therefore wouldn't work well in a large scale battle the 1v1 potential of those jobs should be the focus of their wvw builds. Druid, on the other hand, doesn't fit in the zerg because it doesn't offer the support it needs to and can no longer roam well because it's 1v1 potential was reduced due to pvp concerns. I don't mind ranger or soulbeast not having a place in the zerg as long as we can be the roamers and scouts of wvw but what Druid brings should work in the zerg but it doesn't. The good support builds either bring more to the table or it's the lack of damage mitigation and cleanse that Druids have and the weird targetting of it's heals and none of the Glyphs have any purpose in wvw at all, and they are next to useless in all game modes.

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@shiri.4257 said:One side argues there are too many boons. another argues that there are too many strips. what a giant clown fiesta of gamers we have.

There are both too many strips and too many boons. You nerf boon uptime without hitting strips and then strips become completely out of control and the shitty pirateship meta thats happening right now gets even worse. If you nerf strips but don't touch boon uptime then boons become completely out of control. Both sides are correct here, there isn't just one issue with the games combat right now there are multiple issues from individual classes to overall balance issues. If they address boon uptime in general so its not so easy to maintain every boon in the game but instead takes some skill and coordination to maintain them through the use of combo fields and multiple different classes and their mechanics, and address strips so its not just a giant mess of aoe that if you walk near you lose all your boons and people around you also lose boons because they happened to be standing to close to you and a necro hit 1 button and make it so if you want to effectively strip people you have to actually target and coordinate with other necro's or revs that would be pretty nice and bring some actual skill and brain usage back to the games combat.

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@Cal Cohen.2358 said:Hi Everyone,

I wanted to clarify something from today’s blog post while also kicking off a discussion on a topic that’s near and dear to most competitive players: balance.

It’s important to understand that as competitive handles competitive balance, we will continue to primarily use skill splits in order to minimize the impact on the rest of the game. It’s certainly true that not all issues can be addressed through splits, and we will continue to work with the skills team to make sure we are making the right changes for the entire game when splitting is not a viable option.

Mini Balance Roadmap

We have identified the overall power of the game has become an issue and we wish to address this in the competitive game modes.

The next balance update is going to be smaller than usual. We want to make a handful of very targeted changes to address the biggest pain points in the current meta, but we also want to bank some time for bigger plans moving forward. For a future balance update, we are looking at major adjustments across the board. The goal is to re-establish what the overall power level for competitive modes, and then bring everything down to meet that. In true gw2 fashion, everything is on the table.

With that said, we’re not going to nerf just for the sake of nerfing. Every change should make sense, and every change should be working toward a bigger goal. This patch is still super early in development, so I don’t want to go into too much detail, but it’s definitely something we want to talk about more moving forward. As mentioned in the blog post, we want to keep the community involved early and often when it comes to balance.

So, for the purpose of this discussion, consider these two future updates. First for the short-term: What outliers do you see in the current meta? Then think about the big picture: What issues do you see on a fundamental level that should be addressed? Think outside of the current meta and instead about what you want the meta to look like from a power-level perspective. Keep in mind that a majority of changes should be splits, but feel free to also call out issues that you feel cannot be addressed by splits.

This post is intentionally starting a broad discussion as a jumping off point into the new communication of the Systems team, but keep in mind that in the future our posts are generally going to be more targeted at specific issues as we won’t have as much time to handle giant discussions.

I wanted to keep this initial post fairly short, so please ask questions about anything that is unclear. Otherwise, let’s talk balance.

cmc

First, thank you for the communication. It’s great to see at least some interaction with the community. That being said, I do get concern from a lot of the suggestions I see for balance from my fellow players and hope you take some of these with a grain of salt. There’s a reason some companies keep balance a closed topic and for good reason.

Second, sounds like we’re going to see some dps reduction. That’s fine and all, but please be sure to hand out these nerfs to ALL professions and not just a handful. Also, keep in mind the sustain/defense abilities. It’s already a bit ridiculous how much sustain is given with just a few supporters. This will only worsen if dps is nerfed.

That’s all I have for now.

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  • ArenaNet Staff

@Turkeyspit.3965 said:So how about ANET decides what the TTK (Time to Kill) should be in WvW, under various situations, and start from there? Once you folks agree on a picture of what that looks like, you'll know right off what needs fixing.

Otherwise you'll just be tossing out -25% to this or +15% to that and hope it works - which is what I've observed to be the case over the past 20 months I've spent in WvW, and which I'm sure many more seasoned players will confirm has been the case since at least PoF or even HoT.

Thanks for the communication. :+1:

This is very much what I was talking about for the long-term, and one of the things we want to gather feedback on through this discussion. It's less about the 25% or the 15% for any given skill and more about defining what the power level should be, then adjusting all skills and traits to fit into that paradigm.

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WvW balance needs a limit on boons and conditions.It shouldn’t be possible for player character to get 25+ stacks of bleeding or 10+ stacks of burning for example. Or conditions, which lasts longer than 20 sec.It shouldn’t also be possible, to get or stack boons up to a duration beyond 1 min. It should only be possible for skills/traits to provide a boon or boons with 30 sec max. by 100 % boon duration.

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Honestly, I think it starts with boon share first and how many boons/stacks of boons can be pumped out and then it moves to boon corruption. I can understand in the PVE zones the need for boon and boon corruptions to be used on mobs but in WvW, I think the problem is widespread. Going down to the basics on how many boons should be shared and how much corruption to give would be an excellent start. Basically, there's too much power creep and while that is fine in PVE because the base-line mobs are kinda over-tuned in some places, it's not fine when playing PvP or WvW.

A meta I would be interested in (even if it's a pain) would be one where every class had a place in group raids. Currently, some classes are over-represented and other classes just aren't welcome. While there is the option of inviting scouts/roamers into squads for participation, in my experience only some commanders actually do this. Generally, if they're not with the commander then they're not welcome. Some classes just aren't welcome in squads period because they have very little to offer. I would love to see that change. I think a truly balanced meta would give each class something to offer to the group as well as options to roam/scout.

I agree with some of the posters about the FB issue. I play a lot of Firebrand, and sometimes I'm staying in game way past when I want to because the need for stability in groups There need to be either other classes who offer it or perhaps we could introduce food that can give stability or something else (potions etc). A bandaid to the problem would be offering food, as in a new one created by Grandmaster chef's or something.

Also, one of my biggest complaints is the perma--stealth and that so few classes have the ability to break it. Having the traps is practically useless in certain maps (mostly the red map). Nothing is more annoying than a thief/mesmer running all over your base when you have a full squad and can't isolate them to kill them (admittedly this is more a red-map thing than any other map). Either make it so you can drop more than one trap or do something about the perma-stealth.

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@"AllNightPlayer.1286" said:WvW balance needs a limit on boons and conditions.It shouldn’t also be possible, to get or stack boons up to a duration beyond 1 min. It should only be possible for skills/traits to provide a boon or boons with 30 sec max. by 100 % boon duration.

why do you want to nerf https://wiki.guildwars2.com/wiki/Persisting_Flames ?iam using it since years... its a good trait and not over powered.stop nerfing balanced traits.

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@Cal Cohen.2358 said:

@Turkeyspit.3965 said:So how about ANET decides what the TTK (Time to Kill) should be in WvW, under various situations, and start from there? Once you folks agree on a picture of what that looks like, you'll know right off what needs fixing.

Otherwise you'll just be tossing out -25% to this or +15% to that and hope it works - which is what I've observed to be the case over the past 20 months I've spent in WvW, and which I'm sure many more seasoned players will confirm has been the case since at least PoF or even HoT.

Thanks for the communication. :+1:

This is very much what I was talking about for the long-term, and one of the things we want to gather feedback on through this discussion. It's less about the 25% or the 15% for any given skill and more about defining what the power level should be, then adjusting all skills and traits to fit into that paradigm.

The level is considered balance, when I'm winning. ;)

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  • ArenaNet Staff

@Acheron.4731 said:

@shiri.4257 said:One side argues there are too many boons. another argues that there are too many strips. what a giant clown fiesta of gamers we have.

Right, but fixing one can negate the other.This was the mess created by ANET in which boon share was too OP so they had to counter that by making corruption easily accessible.Look at the biggest 'needs' in wvw. FB (must have), scourge to be carried by and counter opposing FB, bubbles? See where this is going?You have to start somewhere.

This is really the crux of a lot of things we want to address. Boons vs corrupts, damage vs healing, stability vs cc, among so many other things. These are all in the state of being extremely powerful as a way to counter the other side being extremely powerful, and are all things that we want to address moving forward. It's important to keep these balanced against each other, but we want the power level to come down.

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