ArenaNet are building an iceberg. They’re building an iceberg, but you’re not allowed to see it. In fact, you won’t see it until a huge update crashes into your Guild Wars 2 client, if I’m making the right sense out of their new blog post on structured PvP.
Bear with me. The gist is that ArenaNet don’t like to announce a thing until it’s really, definitely coming - indeed, many of the features they’re talking about now are already in-game. But somewhere beneath the waves, beyond the tip of the iceberg detailed here, there are long-term plans to develop Guild Wars's 5v5 PvP as a full-blown eSport.
The first step down that route is free automated tournaments, which are already rumbling away quite nicely in-game. Free tournaments are designed to draw in new players with a friendly system for random groups and some nice loot drops. The top four of eight teams in every free tournament are sent away with reward chests, glory, and rank points.
Anybody can join solo and be auto-grouped with other new players - a system designed to gently nudging nervous newcomers in the direction of a more social playstyle.
The idea is that free tournament experience will embolden players enough to jump into paid tournaments, due to arrive in-game imminently, with a pre-gathered team and no small confidence. Entry fee is paid for with in-game tickets, purchasable at the gem store, granted via a rank up, or found in free tournament reward chests. It's worth noting, too, that gems can be bought with proper money, the RL stuff.
Though the risk is greater in paid tournaments, so is the reward - all teams emerge with something, while first and second placed teams emerge not only with glory and rank points, but gems. ArenaNet expect that the very best players will make a profit on gems through PvP.
There’s more planned. In the near future, teams will be able to rent custom arenas - private maps for training in secret or fighting personal grudge matches. Teams can select which maps they want to play on, and customise them to their tastes.
No details yet on how rentals will work, but this is just the first step in ArenaNet’s journey towards deep, accessible, and properly supported small-scale PvP in Guild Wars. Also on the cards are leaderboards, match spectatorship, larger tournaments, and streaming. The eventual aim? Guild Wars as international eSport.
“We listen to you and we hear what you’re asking for. We want to see eSports grow worldwide, and it’s a big part of how we think here at ArenaNet. We design sPvP maps with commentators in mind,” says systems designer Jonathan Sharp.
“We think about streaming and how our game will do on streams when being learned by new players. We watch eSport replays/streams in the office. We watch GW2 gamecasts on Youtube. We think about how people will organize tournaments (small and large) within custom arenas.
“We talk about eSport matches while we’re at lunch. We think about how to best get new players into the game, while also making sure professional players have a way to grow their fame. We think about the best way to show high-level matches to the masses. Really… we just think a lot about eSports. Not just for GW2, but we think about growing eSports around the world.”
Have you tried the free automated tournaments yet? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.