Recently, ArenaNet implemented their Guesting feature to the game and ended free world transfers at the same time.Considering that it was a promised launch feature, the arrival of Guesting was welcome. The ending of free transfers was also something that the WvWvW community had been asking for so as to stop the bandwagon nature of players trying to join a top WvWvW server, and also a barrier towards the practice of guilds sending a player to a competing server to spy on map chat and player movement.
The problem for some servers was the timing of this move by ArenaNet. There had been a lot of server switching by major guilds and a mercenary mindset had set into the community at large. This was the ideally wrong time for these changes to finally come for a server like Stormbluff Isle.
Stormbluff Isle was a little different from the other top tier WvWvW servers in that it was mostly a large pug with a couple of large guilds, but no greater alliance like the other servers had established. We depended more on individual smarts and paying attention to what others were doing, along with a public teamspeak server for the various WvWvW players to join and hear what was going on with the other players. Since we had no alliance with central leadership, we had to find ways to succeed within our assemblage of pugs.
Surprisingly, it all worked out pretty well. SBI had been a tier 1 or tier 2 server for long than any other server up until the announcement that these changes were coming. We had developed a rivalry with Jade Quarry server due to the both of us always being in the top tiers and continually fighting each other. This even goes back to the initial launch month and the one day match-ups.We would be the #1 server for awhile, drop to #2 when another server recruited more players or established a new strategy, and then fight back to the top spot.
But all of this also created a lot of burnout for various players. Initial word of this burnout came months ago from some of the WvWvW guilds. Players were tiring of the same maps and the same exact matchups. They also were investing money into towers and keeps just to see their holdings evaporate over night. There was no second level to the WvWvW game. You logged in and faced a similar situation and similar goal nearly every day. If you wanted stats on your gear other than toughness and vitality then you had to go do PVE. WvWvW rewards were minor and lacked variety. The game needed a way to organize players beyond Commanders and their massive zerg. The WvWvW game needed updates.
The biggest blow for Stormbluff Isle is when War Machine left not only our server, but ran off to avoid the top tier grind and mentality for a smaller server. War Machine was an old established guild of the Guild Wars franchise. They were a top guild in the first game’s PVP and their presence on Stormbluff Isle brought along some of those same top PVP guilds. Not all of those guilds had an interest in WvWvW, but War Machine was large enough to field an important force in WvWvW. They also established the face and personality of the server with their tactics and persistence. They also worked very well with our pug nature and even soloists like myself came to know the differences and tendencies of their Commanders in spite of the Korean/English language barriers.
There were multiple things pushing War Machine towards leaving, many of which are part of the greater list of concerns that the other guilds have had, but it was mainly a sour reaction with another top tier server that made them decide to pack up and leave. They had become tired of all the exploits used in top tier to sneak into keeps and towers, and how abusing issues with the game had become the standard. So one night they decided to abuse them all themselves, publicly admit it, call out ArenaNet for the lack of fixes, and then announce their impending departure from the server and the top tier.
I’m not interested in lambasting War Machine for their behavior or anything like that. I understand frustration. Whether they should have done it in another way or not, as I said, I’m not all that interested in that discussion. I think the main point is that a guild that had been tied to the Guild Wars PVP scene for so many years would essentially bail out for their own sanity.
Following the move by War Machine, there was some discussion of what Stormbluff Isle would do, but the following difficulties in fielding enough players to replace them began the sentiment of decline for the server. By the time the arrival of Guesting and Paid Transfers was to be near, the WvWvW menality of Stormbluff Isle had depleted to a frustrated yawn. Many of the other WvWvW guilds didn’t have interest in doing what WM did and rebuilding in lower tiers. Most, wanting the pride of being top tier, decided to move to other top tier servers. Some followed War Machine to Kaineng. By the final week of free transfers, Stormbluff Isle’s WvWvW population was nearly non-existent. A panic had hit the other guilds and everyone began to act like dropping a couple of tiers was the end of WvWvW. The responses were somewhat understandable, but also very short-sighted.
Every problem that Stormbluff Isle had was synonmous with the way top tier play was going. The burnout not only hurt the WvWvW guilds but the strays and pugs like myself who do more than just WvWvW. When the PVE game gets more updates and you also play PVE, its easier to spend time in PVE than fighting the top tier grind in WvWvW every day. Perhaps more than some of the WvWvW guilds wanted to admit, the little people who filled coverage gaps and made distract squads were vanishing before the WvWvW guilds, and the WvWvW game success had depended upon these people more than some may think. When those people began to dry up, the burden of success fell even harder on the WvWvW-only players and this lead to more burnout and frustration.
The problem with leaving for greener pastures is that every top tier server in the same situation as SBI was. If I had to put money on the next burnout, It would be on Jade Quarry. The situation won’t be resolved by players. It’s an issue of updates and advancement of the game that must come from ArenaNet. The panic stricken exodus of Stormbluff Isle is just a sad tale of a good community growing bitter over one part of the game.
As for SBI now, it still has some good players, but we struggle to fill up maps with enough people to win our current match up. I didn’t leave because I had two guilds on this server already and I didn’t really want to leave a server full of nice people. It’s just unfortunate that the server has been a bit tainted by what happened.