Let's start at the very beginning: There are two main types of PvP in Guild Wars 2. There's world vs. world (WvW), which pits three servers against each other in grand-scale, pitched battles. The other type is structured PvP (sPvP is becoming popular as an abbreviation for that), which takes two different forms but involves smaller, quicker battles on special maps. This week, we'll be looking at WvW.
World v. World v. World
Two weeks, three servers, four maps, unlimited mayhem. WvW is a protracted struggle for power between the teams of three different servers -- denoted as Red, Green, and Blue. Each server has its own home map, called Borderlands, that gives them something of a home-field advantage. There's a fourth map, the Eternal Battlegrounds, which has special features and a gigantic central keep. Each of the four maps is massive and dotted by a series of towers, keeps, and supply camps. You'll also find normal mobs out and about, as well as camps of NPCs to interact with.
Each structure that can be captured awards points to the team that controls it. These points vary depending on the importance and difficulty of the capture point; there are many supply camps that are easy to capture, so they don't award nearly as many points as the bigger keeps, which are rarer, better-defended, and therefore more rewarding. Every 5 minutes, scores are updated and teams get points for everything they control. At the end of the two-week period, the team with the most points wins. If you're interested in scoring, I suggest you take a look at Beliasta's point breakdown at Guild Wars Insider.
Icons on the world map and compass will inform you of which team is in control of different points. Crossed swords indicate that a point is contested, so if you're looking for a way to get into the action quickly, be sure to keep an eye out for those. Each capture point type is given an icon to represent what the point is: there's a tent for supply camps, a watchtower for towers, and a castle turret for keeps, all in the color of the team that controls them. In the image on the left you'll see something that looks like a pack animal, and it's just that -- dolyak supply caravans move from supply camps to other big locations, and if the dolyak belongs to an enemy, it's in your best interest to take it down before it reaches its destination. The map, then, is pretty easy to read; it delivers enough information to get you oriented properly with minimal complication.
At the end of each battle, teams are re-sorted based on performance, matched up with new servers, and the next bout begins pretty much immediately. This way the servers will be more or less balanced over time, which will hopefully keep matches interesting for everyone involved. Aside from the glory of victory, there are statistical bonuses tied to a server's performance in WvW. The better the folks in WvW are doing, the better life is for everybody on the server, with bonuses to all sorts of things from crafting and gathering to healing effectiveness and coin drops from kills. These aren't ridiculously overpowered bonuses, but they can stack up to make things pretty nice. Information on scores and world bonuses is available when you press N; you can see how long it is 'til the next score tally, how many more points you need for your team's next bonus, and how much of the map each team controls.
Getting started in WvW is as close to painless as it gets. You don't have to be at any level or unlock any special thing -- in fact, if you want, you can spend your entire gameplay within WvW. It's available the moment your character is out of the tutorial zone, so you're fighting with whatever armor, skills, and level you started with. You'll earn XP, gold, karma, and drops throughout WvW play, so it's an entirely viable option for character progression.
From anywhere in the world, you can open up your Hero panel (H) and click on the crossed swords icon on the left-hand side which brings up the PvP panel. This panel gives you some different information, but for WvW, all we care about is the shiny button that takes you to the Heart of the Mists. On your first time ever visiting the Mists, there'll be a short PvP basics tutorial to go through -- you'll learn about stuff like capturing points and 'finishing' enemies when they're in the downed state, and then you're free to go on about your way. Once you're in the Heart of the Mists proper, you'll find one Asura gate that takes you to Lion's Arch and another that leads you into WvW. If that sounds way too complicated, you can ignore the PvP panel altogether, head over to Lion's Arch, and avail yourself of the portals there. A little ways away from the capital city gates, there are travel gates that'll take you to the Heart of the Mists, the Eternal Battlegrounds, or any of the three Borderlands home maps. It's as easy as that!
Once you're on the map of your choosing, the fun begins. Wherever you go, you'll get spat out in a pretty tame area; there'll be portals to go back or switch maps, a couple vendors, maybe a repair dude or trainer, and generally not a huge chance of a screaming nutjob waiting to cut your head off right away. In every map but your own, you'll start off in a corner somewhere, and all the spawn points are pretty much mirrors of each other.
Waypoints are few and far (far, far) between on WvW maps. Like other waypoints, you have to travel close to them in order to unlock them, and given how rare they are (and how quickly the tides of battle can change) it's probably in your best interest to take the time to unlock 'em whenever they pop up near your path.
What to do?
Capture stuff! Earning points for captured structures is what WvW is all about, as we've covered before. The larger keeps and towers aren't really made for tiny groups, but if you're not running around in a mob, don't let that worry you! Things are definitely easier with more buddies around you, but even a small group (or a very determined and skilled solo player) can make a substantial difference in the long haul.
Remember those supply camps and dolyak caravans we talked about? Those are crucial. Without the resource called supply, defending armies can't do awesome stuff like making arrow carts (oh sweet Lord, how I hate those damnable carts!) and other reinforcements for their stations. With supply, attacking armies can make siege golems, ballistae, and more. Each player can carry 10 supply, and it takes quite a bit of the stuff to make different weapons of war, so the more your team has access to, the better off you are. If you're looking for a small mission, stopping other teams' supply caravans and capturing depots for your own team is an invaluable aid.
If you find yourself wanting to use supply, you need to visit your team's Seigemaster, an NPC who'll let you purchase a blueprint -- some of which can get pricey. With a blueprint in your inventory, you can doubleclick it and your skill bar will turn into a ground-targeted skill that lets you pick a build site. After you've placed the build site, your blueprint is used up and anyone can start adding supply to the project. Siege weapons take more supply than you're able to carry on your character at any one time, so beware of that -- it'd be a shame to waste the money and potential on a golem or trebuchet that withers on the vine.
If you're not sure you're in a position to make good use of supply, there are more options -- there are camps of NPCs scattered about the maps, and they're more than happy to turn mercenary for you, if you're persuasive enough.
If you do happen to be in a nice big group, along with assaulting the bigger towers and keeps, you can try en masse to capture something called Orbs of Power. Each Borderlands map has an Orb for players to capture and place in an Altar of Power at any controlled keep in map. These Orbs, which grant a 5% boost to the capturing team's HP, are heavily guarded, and will return to their spawning point (Cradles of Power) within just a few minutes of being captured. They're a potent bonus, but only if you can get through the defenses and beat a speedy retreat to place the Orb in an Altar to make use of it.
If you don't normally consider yourself the PvP type, I'm really hoping that you take advantage of one of the future BWEs to try it out. I'm not promising that everyone will like it, because that'd be truly stupid. But really, it's a lot more approachable than you might think, and you might like it a lot more than you expected; I've heard oodles of people saying just that. Another bonus is that the community is never going to be as forgiving and open as during these betas. If you're a current Guild Wars player, you might notice that PvP isn't really an inviting atmosphere; it can be really daunting to even want to try it at all, all things considered. It's very different, here and now. If nothing else, you'll be a little better informed than you were before giving it a shot. At best, you may find your favorite new style of gameplay.
Good news everybody! The next beta weekend has been announced: Servers will be open for business from 3:00 p.m. EDT on Friday the 8th of June until 3:00 a.m. EDT on Monday the 11th. I hope that those of you who got the benefit of a long holiday weekend were able to take full advantage of it. Last week the ArenaNet blog got updated with a post about naming conventions in Guild Wars 2, so if you're the lore and content-creation type, you might give it a look-see.
Never give up, never surrender!
Elisabeth Cardy is a longtime Guild Wars player, a personal friend of Rytlock Brimstone, and the writer of Flameseeker Chronicles here at Massively. The column updates on Tuesdays and keeps a close eye on Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2, and anything bridging the two. Email Elisabeth at firstname.lastname@example.org.