Of course, WvW updates probably mean hideously long waiting times as folks hop in to check out the new shinies, so how about you go ahead and queue up for whichever Battleground you prefer, and we'll talk about the details of this patch while you wait.
The belle of the ball
WvW is getting hit with updates like woah. The biggest and possibly (we'll see, maybe) bestest is the so-called "end of culling." Culling, for those of you who haven't been hanging on to every word the devs have spoken, is the system that limits how many characters are reported to your client for drawing. That is, only the characters closest to you, and only a certain number of those, will be represented visually on your screen. One can easily see how this turns even the most innocuous WvW (you know, that place where heaps and scads of players from opposing worlds are trying to slit, burn, and otherwise mangle each other's throats) situation into a hideous deathtrap. It makes things confusing (where is all this damage coming from?); it makes things frustrating (where are the people I need to kill?); it makes things dangerous (oh shoot I thought that guy was totally alone!).
Of course, the benefit of culling is that it keeps your machine from chugging like a collegian on spring break. That brings about the fear that the end of culling might herald the beginning of WvW being only for those folks with beastly machines. ArenaNet is trying to circumvent that problem by giving players a handful of options regarding culling.
Characters can be rendered in three different ways: as high-resolution models that accurately portray individual differences between characters, as low-resolution models that render placeholders instead of unique characters, or as nameplates. That last option -- literally, just the nameplates for characters, without models -- might sound laughable, but it is a viable option for people who want to enjoy WvW without culling or a framerate that most slide shows would scoff at. Players will also be able to choose how many characters are fully rendered versus how many are just nameplates and how many are rendered in full detail rather than as the lower-resolution fallbacks. Again, the point of this system is that folks don't feel as if they're actively suffering with the removal of culling. We'll have to wait, I suppose, to see how well it works.
World XP, which will forever be known as WXP and for which I'm still trying to find a decent pronunciation (wuh-xpuh? wexpy? weexep?), is gained as you're playing in WvW, participating in events, and defeating enemy players. WXP is tracked on a per-character basis because really, who plays alts in the endgame, right? (That's not particularly fair of me. ArenaNet has stated that "this will actually help incentivize players to experiment with various different ability builds for each character" and that it creates "a long term goal for players of multiple characters, as they can strive to rank up multiple characters to help show off their dedication to WvW." So there's that.)
Anyway, you play WvW and you gain WXP, and that translates, after a certain amount has built up, into World Ranks. A cool thing to note is that the longer a player has been alive in the world, the more WXP she will be worth. Given that some people will have everybody on nameplates or low-res models anyway, it's not as if there is much chance for waging a vendetta, so I see this mostly as incentive to take down the impressive commander-types and other folks who tend to live forever. As you rank up in WvW, you'll find yourself getting World Ability Points, and occasionally, a new title.
World Ability Point placements are permanent, so make sure you choose wisely -- do you want to be able to hold more supply right away, or do you want to stack up your defense from siege attacks? Of course, since there's virtually no limit on how much time you can spend in WvW, you should be able, given enough time, to unlock and beef up on all the available abilities.
One of the things I expressed concern about in talking about guild missions was the relatively high barrier to entry that existed for smaller guilds. ArenaNet is addressing that concern in the form of a new mission type: Bounty Hunt Training. This mission type requires guilds to defeat a single bounty target within a 15-minute window. It's made automatically available once a guild has Art of War 3 unlocked and costs 72 hours and 300 Influence to build. Rather than grant guild merits, the Bounty Hunt Training awards 3000 influence on completion, which makes it perfect for smaller guilds that need to build up banks of Influence in order to unlock other mission types.
Other guild-type changes are coming in, including three new bounty targets, a handful of bug fixes, some UI improvements, and several new rewards (including a new weapon set!) from the guild commendation vendor.
And other stuff!
This patch seems to be picking up the pace of the living story. We've got three objectives -- helping Braham fight the Molten Alliance in the Shiverpeaks, helping Rytlock's training buddy on a mysterious mission, and foiling the attempts of the Molten Alliance by destroying its surveillance posts.
Leaderboards are also going to be A Thing. While they won't be visible until the team is certain that they're being properly populated, the first leaderboards we'll see will feature WvW rankings, PvP rankings, and total achievement points.
Next week is the beginning of April, and ArenaNet has been known to be mischievous on and around April 1st. I've no idea whether the team is too caught up in its monthly releases to have prepared a surprise for us, but one can always hope.
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.