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Monday, October 29, 2007

Guild Wars: Costume Brawl

This Halloween, we got a new mini-game - Costume Brawl. In a nutshell, it's a 5v5 PvP format with random team selection and fixed skill bars per class on Hero Battles maps. The actual costume flavour seems very weak. You get the skin of a Hero of the appropriate sex and class. Given that it's Halloween, monster skins would have been a much better choice. I'm guessing that was what they wanted but presumably it would cause animation issues since players have a much wider selection of animations than monsters. Alright, I'm not a big flavour person so let's get down to the important stuff - game mechanics.

Personally, I think that the format itself seems pretty good although I didn't get to play it enough to be sure. The skill bars could use some tweaking but that's pretty par for the course at this point - ArenaNet's track record on preset skill bars is not good. Tactical splitting and play skill are definitely important in this format, and the lack of skill bar building makes it slightly (but only slightly) more friendly to casual players than the usual PvP formats with their near-vertical learning curves.

For average to experienced players, the Ranger is head and shoulders above the other builds. This is a capping and splitting format, so survivability and mobility are the order of the day - and just as in GvG, the Ranger has the best average 1v1 matchups of all the choices available. The other bars are generally at least playable with the exception of the Paragon, which I wouldn't recommend.

Note that this is a very violent format, with relatively weak healing options, so all the characters pack self-heals. The nice thing about this is that it fixes the good-monk-equals-win problem of Random Arenas - mixes of most character types are at least semi-viable, and player skill is generally more important than the class selection. That said, player skill is important enough that generally the key to winning or losing is who you get on your team, which can be frustrating at times.

One more tip:


In a splitting format, picking and choosing your fights is very important. If it's 3v1 against you, head for the hills and just try to stay alive. If you can escape without being snared, you'll either be taking up a bunch of their team, giving your team numbers elsewhere, or you'll live to collapse on that 1 other guy somewhere else on the map. I see bad players fighting helpless odds virtually every single match. Keep an eye on your radar and start running before all the guys in the area have you in spell range.

If I was a betting man, I'd say that this format is a testbed for some similar stuff in Guild Wars 2.

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Blogger Sausaletus Rex said...

I, having played and blogged it to death, obviously love it. As you say, the design team fails at build making. Even the better characters have some glaringly awful choices - poor attributes, that stinker on the bar and the less said about the Paragon, who already was at enough of a disadvantage that they didn't need an awful build, the better - even though the basics are there.

And I still hate the capping mechanism. It promotes passive, evasive play, although the maps are nice and tight and force a lot of shrine battles. But I could do without the running around the map and standing in place while the bar finishes filling up even though I can't think of a better way to make the format as painless and mistake-forgiving.

But it's fun, it's fast, it's beginner and PvE scrub friendly and if this is a test for something similar in GW2 then my opinion of that game's potential has just risen considerably. I honestly wouldn't mind having a format like this - albeit one with a few more choices - replace the RA as the entry level PvP option.

10/29/2007 04:16:00 PM  
Blogger Clamatius said...

Right, I think this is a better format than RA.

Note that terrible bars don't matter as long as they're all equally terrible. I always used to like the M:tG preconstructed decks on the rare occasions when they actually had even matchups. The issue I have is that the Ranger bar is one skill away from the constructed bar (Antidote Signet instead of Mend Condition) whereas the other characters... well, not so much. Clearly, the real thing that makes the Ranger bar is Natural Stride - mobility and survivability all in one slot.

I know what you mean about the capping mechanism. I like the idea of AB, but in practice the best tactic is to never engage unless you have a massive advantage and just cap instead. To fix that, you'd have to mess around with the scoring system a bit. In CB, at least you are strongly incentivized to engage because it's much faster to get points that way than wait for morale. There aren't as many shrines and only the morale shrine actually gives you points so cap-and-evade isn't the best strategy as it is in AB.

10/29/2007 04:28:00 PM  
Blogger Sausaletus Rex said...

Note that terrible bars don't matter as long as they're all equally terrible.

Yeah, having everyone constrained really takes away a lot of the issues that plague other formats (Takes away a lot of the fun and creativity, too, but, you know, this is Team Fortress, this is the RA shortly after release when no one had any unlocks and everyone was running the premades and no one had any idea what the hell they were doing. This is entry level shit that lacks the depth and complexity of more robust formats but also lacks a lot of the pain and suffering, too.). It could be a bit better balanced but for a casual format, it's probably fine. Give the Ranger Escape or something janky instead of Stride so they become a lot less of an interrupt spitting god-mode tank. But, you're right, one of the big things you want to do in a format like this is to make sure that everyone has a flaw so that no one is too far ahead of the pack, so you don't necessarily want to optimize everything. Some weaknesses and inefficiencies to keep certain characters and mechanics from getting crazy and everyone stands a chance is actually a good thing.

I know what you mean about the capping mechanism.

The maps here are much better than the AB maps. I'm not really familiar with the HvH maps but from what I've seen, these are a step above and I'm glad they stuck with the new maps and haven't added the promised two old ones. The three shrine one, in particular, is awesome. The CB maps are a lot cozier, a lot easier to cross paths, a lot harder to run away without running into the enemy. And the smaller party size means you have a lot more fair or almost fair match-ups. So they're good at forcing play into combat and not hide and seek mode. And, as you say, it's much easier to win by killing than it is by capping - the benefit from the shrines is important (Morale are actually the worst. They only give you 2 pips on the morale bar. The other ones give you a mere one but they toss in something important like faster attack rates or a health buff that aren't exactly going to win the game for you but do make it easier to mount a comeback.) but the biggest one is forcing your opponent to split so you can get some uneven fights that you can turn to your advantage, so it's a conflict between sticking together to be a powerhouse and splitting apart to counter your opponent's moves that works out really well, in practice.

And, as far as improving it goes, I actually think just making the capping mechanism faster would do wonders. Not the morale system but the rate at which shrines are captured - at least for one or two characters there, not superfast but just a little bit quicker than it is now. Hell, just eliminate the difference in the rate depending on how many teammates are there - the bar goes up super fast as long as you have at least one more than your opponent. It's just there are so many times where I'll ninja off to a shrine only to find no-one there and then it's waiting ten or twenty seconds doing absolutely nothing (Beyond figuring out the best place to stand so I can shave a few milliseconds off my travel time) while I cap the shrine and then another few seconds to run back to the fight. It slows the game down, robs it of that kinetic frenzy of go, go, go, here, no, wait, over there, do this, do that, retreat, regroup, that's going on. And that's cold time that could be cut out, somehow, because just when you're feeling the beat, just when you're getting into the groove, the game takes you completely out of it. There's no tension, just waiting. It's different when the enemy rounds the bend trying to keep you from capping and that's when you tighten up and ready yourself for flight or fight. But if you win that fight, that just means you're delaying the waiting to cap part for a little while.

Making capping faster makes it easier to split, and put a lot more emphasis on chasing down your opponents as they're running across the map, sure, but that's actually a good thing as far as I'm concerned. Everyone splits all over the place anyway and being able to quickly alter the shrine picture makes it easier for teams that are getting rolled to get off the mat - and that swinginess is key in a beginner friendly environment.

10/29/2007 06:08:00 PM  
Blogger Clamatius said...

I think the cap rate is fine when there are people on both sides there, but it could use being faster when there isn't anyone there.

I'd go for making the cap rate the same to start with but slowly accelerate the longer there's noone from the other team in aggro range.

10/29/2007 09:01:00 PM  
Blogger Sausaletus Rex said...

So it would work like health pips? And if you had multiple characters you'd get a jump start on the curve? I could live with that.

10/30/2007 07:53:00 AM  
Blogger Clamatius said...

Yep. I'll suggest it to Izzy if I see him anytime soon. It's entirely possible they've already tried something like it, o'course.

10/30/2007 08:59:00 AM  

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