Guild Wars 2 will incorporate two completely different types of player versus player (PvP): structured, competitive PvP and World vs. World (WvW) PvP. We've already given our hands-on impressions of GW2's skill-based competitive PvP so naturally this preview will focus on WvW, one of the most anticipated features coming to GW2.
WvW PvP is exactly what it sounds like. The objective-based mode will pit hundreds of players from three different realms against one another in an epic battle that lasts for two real-life weeks. The mode feels a lot like Dark Age of Camelot's Realm vs. Realm, but the Guild Wars 2 version expands upon the realm vs. realm idea almost to perfection.
Anyone can join in on the WvW battle and several GW2 game designers have stated that WvW should act like a stepping stone for those players who are interested in learning about PvP but not quite ready to jump in to the competitive side of things.
As you enter in to World vs. World, regardless of what level you actually are, you'll be scaled up to level 80. You'll retain all of your skills, abilities, and armor, but it will all be scaled up to level 80. This is different than in competitive PvP where everyone is given the same gear, and all of your abilities and traits are unlocked.
What this boils down to is that if you're a level two player fighting a level 60 player in WvW, the level 60 player will have a huge advantage over you. They'll have a variety of skills and better gear than you do, even though you've both been scaled up to level 80 in the environment. In competitive PvP, everyone is on an even playing field, but that's not the case in WvW.
Additionally, player kills aren't very important in WvW. Enemy names and their servers don't even show up in WvW. All you see when you're fighting against, let's say someone from the Blue Realm, is "Blue Invader." I'm sure people will eventually figure out what server they're fighting against, but initially this will lead to folks focusing more on their own community and teamwork rather than dogging on a different server, which is common in MMOs.
So how does WvW work exactly? Realms are divided in to Red, Green, and Blue, and each team is fighting for control of points spread throughout four massive maps. Different types of points add varying amounts to your team's total war score, and every five minutes the game totals how many points your team holds and adds that to your realm's cumulative war score. At the end of two weeks, whichever team has the highest war score, wins.
Holding objectives isn't easy, and it can take hundreds of people to attack a point successfully against another team. The World vs. World map itself is broken into four massive areas, one for each team and a center map in the middle featuring Stonemist Castle. Each map has various points that each team can try to attack, including resource camps (worth five points), towers (worth 10 points), keeps (worth 15 points), and Stonemist Castle (worth 25 points). Each point, once captured, spawns some tough NPCs to help defend it.
In order to capture a point, your team will need not only the pure strength of players but siege weapons as well. Siege weapons can be built by teams to accomplish specific objectives and to help overrun pesky defenders. The different types of siege weapons are arrow carts, ballistas, catapults, siege golems, and trebuchets. Each siege weapon requires a blueprint to create, which you can purchase from a siege master. Teams can also build cannons, mortars, and boiling pots of oil, but they don't require a blueprint, just supply.
Unfortunately, you can't just use the blueprint and magically a huge catapult spawns. Your team has to actually build the weapons with a resource called supply. Spread throughout each of the four WvW maps are supply camps that take about two to three people to secure. Camps have different amounts of supply within them, and players can carry 10 supply around at once. Supply caravans also wander around the map from place to place, automatically replenishing the supply in that area.
Each siege weapon requires a different amount of supply to build, and it's important that your team focuses on building one or two weapons at a time, since supply camps can oftentimes be far from where the weapon has been placed, and you don't want to have to make too many trips back and forth to the supply camp or caravan. Supply can also be used to repair doors, tower walls, or be used to purchase defensive upgrades from a quartermaster, so it's important to defend your supply caravans and stockpile as much as you can.
As there will generally be hundreds of people participating in WvW PvP at any one time, ArenaNet has developed a purchasable rank called Squad Commander as a means to direct people who to listen to, where to go, and what objectives the team should be focusing on. As the rank doesn't give any power, I figure that only people who want to be the Squad Commander will actually buy the rank (ANet didn't say how much it will cost yet). Being the Squad Commander just allows the player to talk to and direct everyone in the realm via chat. The Squad Commander also gets an icon above their head in game and on the mini-map, so it's always easy to see where they are.
This all may seem a bit overwhelming at first, but as you step into WvW to actually play the mode, it's quite self-explanatory and extremely enjoyable. In WvW, you can gain experience points just like you would in the normal Player vs. Environment (PvE) portion of the game and you can theoretically level all the way up to 80 in the WvW environment.
Aside from personal gratification, WvW also offers realm rewards to incentivize realms to work together. Every five minutes your realm's points are tallied, and those points not only go towards your overall victory, but towards realm bonuses as well. As your team earns points, you'll unlock bonuses for the whole realm, not just those participating in WvW.
These bonuses do things like grant extra gold every time you kill something, increase maximum player health, increase experience received per kill, and more. As your team earns more points, they'll unlock more bonuses, and after you've unlocked everything, the bonuses will start to increase based on how well your team is doing.
If you've read over all of this and decided that WvW isn't for you, don't worry about it. ArenaNet has stated that there will be realm matchmaking after WvW games end so that the realms who clearly enjoy fighting against one another will be able to do so, and realms who couldn't care less about WvW don't have to worry about it. This could potentially lead to some seriously epic WvW matches against the three most intense servers, and those are the types of servers I want to play on. But I understand that it's not for everyone.
With both World vs. World and structured PvP, Guild Wars 2's competitive scene is shaping up beautifully alongside the story-side of the game. Personally, I see myself jumping in to the structured side of things more than participating in world vs. world, but I love how ArenaNet has thought WvW out with matchmaking and realm bonuses, and I can see a vast majority of the playerbase jumping in there as soon as the game launches, which, hopefully, is soon.