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Sealed Play for Guild Wars


Why do it?
The Guild Wars tournament ladder has been running for some time now. We've had fun seasons, exciting regional championships, and even the first Guild Wars World Championship. These are great events for guilds to compete in, but what do you do if you get a bunch of new players together with varying levels of PvP skill?

If you were playing certain popular trading card games, you would suggest some form of limited play. Limited play is a type of competition where each player or team is given a randomized pool of cards, miniatures, or other item to choose from in order to build an army, deck, or player. There are different types of limited play (booster draft, Rochester draft, sealed) but the easiest is sealed play.

Sealed play is a great form of tournament play for a variety of reasons.

  • First, it is an easy entry for new or relatively unskilled players. By limiting the number of skills to choose from, new players can quickly decide which ones would work well together instead of going through the entire list. Also, as new players they have not unlocked many skills and those available are somewhat limited for competitive play.
     
  • Second, it is a test of a player's Guild Wars PvP knowledge and ability. Experienced players will frequently end up with a roster of unpreferred skills. Instead of playing with skills they are comfortable with, they have a limited amount of time to study ones they are unfamiliar with.

If sealed play is done with the entire team (as it was at the Guild Wars Factions Backstage Pass event) it encourages interaction and discussion between all of the members of each team. Skilled players get to share their knowledge with newer players, while new players sometimes up with their own combinations that the more seasoned player might have overlooked. It makes for good social interaction and experimentation.


How we did it
At the recent Guild Wars Factions Backstage Pass event, we tried sealed play for Guild Wars for the first time. Here is how we did it.

In most collectible games, players purchase, trade for, or find all of the resources that they play the game with. In Guild Wars this includes skills, items, armor, runes, and so on. The main focus of Guild Wars, though, is on the variety of skills you use when you play. This is what we focused on during our first hosted game.

We brought in the winners of the recent Guild Wars Factions Backstage Pass contest, most of whom had never met each other or played PvP together. (Certainly none of them had ever played Guild wars Factions, either!) To test out the sealed play concept encourage interaction and discussion between the players, we created two decks of sealed Guild Wars skills. Each deck contained 200 skills we randomized from Guild Wars Factions (25 per profession).

Normally, each deck would be completely randomized but since this was our first foray into sealed play we made each deck the same.

Each group of 10-12 fans was given a deck and instructed to use the skills on these cards to build a team of four competitors. We used a special 4-vs.-4 setup due to time constraints. In the future, this would be for 8-vs.-8 play.

Each skill could only be used once, with the exception that any character could run Resurrection Signet if they wanted. Each team had roughly 20 minutes to examine the skill deck and work together to come up with four competing characters.

We then set them up at the LAN with PvP characters equipped with their chosen skills. Then the battle was on!


How it worked out
Though we intended to give the teams up to 45 minutes to study the skills, time was limited; after a mere 20 minutes they were out of time. Each team found its leaders right away, and each team members examined the available skills and gave advice. By limiting the pool of skills each team could use to build their characters, it forced players to use skills they might not normally pick and see how they interacted with each other.


How we will continue to test it in the future
We are looking at sealed play for Guild Wars as an additional competition to run at live events. We want to provide fun and exciting competitive opportunities for players ranging from those trying out Guild Wars for the first time all the way to the most skilled and experienced GvG players. Sealed play is a great format that will allow this spectrum of players to compete and have fun together. Watch for announced Sealed Play events at certain trade shows to come soon!

At championship events, we want to give the best guilds their opportunity to be tested and show off their prowess in a variety of ways (and not just Don't Break the Ice! or Crazy Chicken). We will certainly keep the focus on the existing rated GvG play that works so well, but offering additional skill tests for fame and prizes will probably be well received.

Our first experiment in sealed play went well, but we can't rest on our laurels just yet. We will start testing it in house in order to refine it further before bringing it public in the summer of 2006. Watch for upcoming articles on sealed play in the near future.