Fortunate enough to be invited to a meeting with ArenaNet to discuss the latest Flame and Frost: Retribution update (due to arrive on 30th April 2013) it took me by complete surprise that a spectator mode for structured PvP would be arriving in a weeks time.
Unquestionably, many thought spectator mode for structured PvP was months away. Demanded by so much of the community from the very beginning, there is every possibility that the spectator mode devised by ArenaNet will finally provide Guild Wars 2 with the competitive tool-set it requires to truly become an E-Sport.
Before I get too sucked into discussing the structured PvP improvements that the Flame and Frost: Retribution update brings, it is first and foremost the conclusion of Rox and Brahams struggles against the combined forces of the Dredge and Flame Legion, also known as the Molten Alliance.
In real terms, this climax will see players battle alongside Rox and Braham as they enter the enemy's weapon facilities, the newest of dungeons to Guild Wars 2's already bulging line-up. Described as the greatest threat to Tyria and more deadly than anyone can have imagined, the technology the Molten Alliance have developed will have to be destroyed before they can fully arm for an invasion.
Within the weapon facilities players will encounter a variety of ultimate Molten Alliance warriors (some of which you'll see pictured on these pages) while trying to rescue prisoners and escape before the facility comes crashing down.
Designed as a single path dungeon (unlike the existing dungeons in game) and as the centerpiece of the update, the developers behind the dungeon content sought about creating the boss encounters first before working backwards, ensuring that they were both massive in scale and challenging.
When participating in the dungeon, you will be exposed to a variety of boss skills one at a time, and then in different combinations as you work your way through. For anyone who has already completed the pre-quests for Rox and Braham, you'll be familiar with some of these early skills during their respective boss encounters. The difficulty of the dungeon has been tuned to be particularly challenging with ArenaNet citing that a complete “run” by a hardcore dungeon group should still take around 40 minutes with the difficulty scale somewhere between a story and explorable mode variant.
Designed for 5 players, it's intended to be as accessible as possible for all players of any level to ensure it's fun and hopefully, highly repeatable. The enemies within the dungeon will regularly change (both type and skills) while dialogue differences each time you run it are intended to keep things fresh. Though ArenaNet were coy on the loot we can come to expect within the dungeon (why spoil the surprise?) they did state that the rewards would be visually stunning and entirely unique to this dungeon, with 4 new Retribution skins also available in the gem store, includingBraham's mace and Rox's shortbow. More excitedly, players will be able to purchase a Sonic Tunneling Tool from the Gem Store, a device that will allow them to travel for short distances underground!
What I found most surprising was the admittance that this dungeon hadn't been designed by the teams behind the existing dungeons and had instead been crafted by those who worked on much of the Wintersday content. Part of the reason behind this was to add a different feel and approach to what players can come to expect. One particular snippet was the discussion around the Molton Alliance Lieutenants and how differing combinations of them will challenge both melee and ranged players to ensure players are forced to use a variety of skill and tactics.
When it comes to the structured PvP changes, the biggest announcement is the addition of a spectator mode and server hosting. As you might have come to expect with ArenaNet, the spectator mode comprises of everything you could come to want from such a system and lends heavily from first person shooters many will be familiar with: fixed cameras, player following and most surprisingly the ability to see the build, skills, traits, weapon sets and attributes of the person you're following. Upon joining a Hot Join or Tournament server players will now be asked whether they want to join the Blue team, Red team, a random team or to just spectate.
As someone who isn't always keen to let others know my setups, it's strange to think that in noncompetitive matches players will be able to view exactly what makes my ranger so annoying. Thankfully I'll also be able to analyze everyone else on the server I choose to play on making for some interesting viewing as you watch. Although the spectator mode is defined as in "Beta", based on ArenaNet wanting to test it in a live environment, it's clear that a great deal of work has gone into laying the foundations for an E-Sport structure.
To compliment this spectator mode is the new paid for structured PvP server hosting that once again replicates first person shooters and allows for players to truly craft their own combat arenas. Some of the options include:
- Determining map rotations (or removing it all together)
- Member lists
- Ban lists
- Favourite lists
- Password servers
- Player limits
- Hosting tournaments
- Inviting other teams for scrimmages
- Enable/Disable spectator mode
What the combination of both spectator mode and server hosting allows is for true showcases of structured PvP matches through the likes of Twitch, that should finally open up the floor for ArenaNet to begin to carve out a corner of the competitive scene. Although they didn't yet state a gem price for the hosting of servers, for this to be viable it has to be at a relatively cheap rate or many will simply avoid diving into a purchase. For the Beta period however, the ability to create and host servers will be lead by the top tournament teams in both Europe and America as well as a select list of gaming networks until the full scale roll out.
On top of all of this and according to ArenaNet, the Flame and Frost: Retribution will see one of the biggest balance sweeps of structured PvP to date with an even greater number of split-skills between PvE and sPvP. All in all, Flame and Frost: Retribution is set to be one of the best updates to ever arrive for Guild Wars 2 based on it laying the foundations for future years of competitive play while bringing with it an epic conclusion to a story arc months in the making.
We'll have a greater hands-on preview of the up and coming content in the next few days, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for our video and written content!
GW2Hub would like to thank ArenaNet for inviting us along for a showcase of the new Flame and Frost: Retribution content.