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State of the Game—September 18, 2006

NPCs on the GvG Battlefield

by Christian Brellisford

Special note: Each State of the Game article presents the opinions and insights of one game observer. These observations are personal in nature and do not reflect the opinions of ArenaNet. While ArenaNet does review each State of the Game article to assure that it offers content that is respectful of all players, we intend to allow our reporters the freedom to inject some personal opinion into descriptions of the current atmosphere of competitive play in Guild Wars, and to express views based on their experience and observation.


Introduction

Non-player characters (NPCs) play a vital role in any Guild-versus-Guild combat. Teams use them to gain an offensive advantage over opponents, or use them defensively to make a stand and regroup after a setback. In an otherwise balanced fight, smart use of computer-controlled allies could give you that slight edge you need to overwhelm the opposition.

NPC layout depends on which guild hall you fight in. Some halls include a small group of Footmen and Archers that guard the front gate. Keep these alive to deter intruders sneaking around to flank you from a side path or from getting in your front gate while you fight elsewhere. Additional Archer NPCs like to stand guard on the upper walkways of guild halls and protect the entrances, though their exact location varies with different maps. Deep inside the guild hall a main group of Archers, Knights, and a Bodyguard surrounds the Guild Lord.

With the exception of the Guild Lord, these non-player characters have 480 Health and armor equivalent for their level and profession. Other elements of game play, such as Hexes and Enchantments, affect NPCs just the same as player characters. As befitting his status, the Guild Lord has extra Health and five pips of Health regeneration. Making him even harder to kill, he naturally resists Hexes and Conditions, which last half as long on him, and he even deals bonus damage to other NPCs.

The Guild Lord also has a special defensive property that diminishes over time. At the start of the match the Guild Lord can take no more than 50 damage per second. Once he takes 50 damage in a given second, any more damage in the same second is simply negated. By the 15 minute mark this has increased to no more than 250 damage per second.


NPC profiles

Guild Lord Guild Lord
Health: 2400
Skills: Cleave, Cyclone Axe, Power Shot, Warrior's Cunning
Thief Thief
Health: 480
Skills: Claim Resource (for unlocking gates)
Bodyguard Bodyguard
Health: 480
Skills: Glyph of Energy, Fire Attunement, Fireball, Firestorm, Incendiary Bonds, Maelstrom, Oath of Healing (only heals the Guild Lord)
Archer Archer
Health: 480
Skills: Pin Down, Troll Unguent
Footman Footman
Health: 480
Skills: Sever Artery
Knight Knight
Health: 480
Skills: Sever Artery, Gash, Healing Signet, Power Attack

NPC Strategy

NPCs attack when enemies come into range, so guilds should always pay attention to where they are fighting. If your team is in an offensive position at the flag stand (meaning you've pushed past the flag stand and are closer to the enemy base than your own), watch out for enemy Footmen and Archers inflicting damage on your team. And if you have to take a defensive position, make sure that you fall back enough so that your own NPCs engage the enemy. Many guilds try to kill the NPCs in front of the guild hall as soon as possible to reduce this extra damage.

NPCs can also be lured or kited out to make killing them easier. While fighting near the flag stand it is possible to pull out a Footman by closing on him until he attacks and then drawing him back towards the rest of your party. This type of kiting can be especially important if the enemy has turtled into their Guild Lord and you need to kill surrounding Archers, Knights, or the Bodyguard.


Turtling and NPCs

"Turtling" refers to drawing back into the shelter of the Guild Lord area. Its name derives from the practice of waiting (slowly, like a turtle in a shell) in the safety of NPCs for a more opportune time to strike back at the enemy, often at Victory or Death (VoD). The Bodyguard adds a large amount of AoE damage and can heal the Guild Lord, so it should be a priority to kill. Sometimes a Bodyguard will move forward to cast spells on the enemy team. Guilds should be aware of situations like this.

The attacking team can take advantage of a Bodyguard breaking position; sometimes they will focus on killing players but often they will focus on NPCs. The defending team should watch the party window and heal the Bodyguard when it takes damage. And, if the situation allows, toss some healing to the Archers and Knights. If you have been driven back to your Guild Lord, it sometimes helps if Monks divide healing responsibility for the NPCs (for example, by the right and left side Archers or by Knights and Archers), especially if the opposing team applies a lot of Health degeneration to multiple targets.

When fighting a turtled team it pays to be aggressive, but balance this aggression and avoid needless deaths. Guilds want to maintain an NPC advantage in case the match goes to VoD. To do this they will not only put pressure on the turtled team by attacking players, but also try and kill off any NPCs they can. As the NPCs start to die the defending team gradually loses their damage advantage and can eventually be overcome. And by killing NPCs you can assure your advantage at VoD.

If your Guild is forced to turtle, then your healers should always keep an eye on the NPCs under attack, while the rest of the team can add pressure to the attackers that have come into range. Especially in close games, saving even one extra Archer can make the difference at VoD.

The recent match between iQ and EviL at this past GWFC shows this strategy at its best. iQ had turtled into their base near the Guild Lord and EviL was trying to get NPC kills. iQ managed to save every Archer and Bodyguard that they could and when the match when to VoD they overwhelmed EviL at the flag stand and won the match. If iQ had let their NPCs die, then EviL would have had a much better chance of defeating them at their Guild Lord before VoD.


Splitting and NPCs

Killing NPCs plays an important part in split tactics. In order to pass locked gates on maps with Guild Thieves, the player must have the Thief with them. Thus both teams should be aware of where this Thief is at all times. If you are defending against a split, killing the Thief first can often buy your guild some extra time without worrying about "ganking" (a term for charging in and quickly killing the Guild Lord before the enemy can respond) or splitting. If you are on the offensive in a split you should make sure the Thief stays out of harm's way when possible, and to always leave the Thief outside the base and not inside. If the Thief gets left inside, the defending team can just leave it alive in there and you will lose access to their base.

Archers are also worthy of note against splits due to the skill Pin Down. Because mobility is vital on splits, a well-timed Pin Down from an Archer can make the difference between a good defense and a bad defense.


Victory or Death!

Victory or Death is an event that occurs at 20 minutes in GvG. This affects all players on the map, making them deal twenty-five percent more damage and reducing maximum Health by twenty-five percent (NPCs gain the same effect from VoD as players).

When all the non-player characters have gathered at the flag stand to engage in one final battle, the effects of VoD make the AoE spells of the Bodyguards very lethal. Guilds should try to keep their Bodyguard alive as long as possible even if it doesn't look like they have much of an advantage. Maps with catapults also come into play here because it is possible to bombard an entire enemy NPC group as it charges to the front gate. Often teams will hold out until this point so they can simultaneously catapult multiple NPCs.

Overall number of NPCs is most important at VoD time in a Guild Battle. If a match has gone this far, then teams benefit greatly from having more NPCs than their opponent. An NPC numbers advantage means one side has a higher damage output at the flag stand, which translates into a much better chance of winning.

Victory or Death also signifies that you only have five minutes left until the Guild Lord makes his way to the flag stand. Guilds will have to beware of potential side ganks and surprise attacks on the lone Guild Lord. He is much more vulnerable without the Bodyguards. The Guild Lord's movements are dependent on your opponent's Lord too. If the opposing Lord gets stalled half way to the stand then your Lord comes to a halt some distance from the flag stand, and won't move until the other Lord starts moving. Once the Lords come under attack on their way to the flag stand, they'll stop and fight until the attackers are gone. This ensures that a final fight with all characters will take place in the very middle of the map. By this point you have no choice but to win or lose!

While the large focus of a Guild Battle is on the two teams fighting each other, the ultimate goal of a GvG match is to defeat the enemy Guild Lord. This can only be done by plowing not only through the enemy team, but also through the NPCs that guard the base. Only then will one team emerge victorious!


Christian Brellisford is a college student currently studying video game design in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in hopes of pursuing a career in the field. A gamer since an early age, Christian has been involved with Guild Wars since the E3 for Everyone Event in 2004, and currently leads the Spirits of War guild. You can find him in game under the name Saidin Writer.