State of the Game—October 9, 2006
Observer Mode 101
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.
Observing and the UI
Ever wanted to know just how those top guilds climb the ladder on their way to prestige and prizes? Well, if you want to find out and get some serious entertainment at the same time, give Observer Mode a try.
Observer Mode is a feature in Guild Wars that allows players to watch the top 100 guilds compete against other guilds in Guild-versus-Guild (GvG) combat. It is a great tool for players to see what other teams are running and helps people learn more about competitive play in the game.
Here are a few UI navigation tips for watching GvG matches in Guild Wars:
- Auto Camera will move the camera slowly to targets engaged in the main fight. This option is best for hands-free operation, but can be limiting to players who want more control. It is on by default, and will return to this default setting every time you switch to watch a different match.
- The Score Chart works in Observer Mode. Press "O" to see the morale and Health of both teams.
- You can open up multiple copies of the party window, one for each party. Press "P," then click the icon at the top of the window to open another one. Click the icon at the top of a party window to switch between different sides. Use this in Heroes' Ascent to keep tabs on more than one team.
- Clicking on a player moves your camera to that player. You can see what skills they use but you can not directly see what they target. Their Energy, armor, items, and exact Health all remain hidden.
- The 'U map' also works in Observer Mode and shows you additional fixed points where you can move your camera. Scroll the mouse wheel to zoom the map in or out. Seeing the location of both teams lets you track flag running and split action.
Learning through Observer Mode
One of the powers of Observer Mode is the ability to see what skills players are using. If you have the player selected and that player uses a skill in the match, it shows in the Observer HUD. Spend a little time cycling through players and you can see the different builds that the top teams are running.
But as top players will tell you, GvG combat is not always about the builds. Individual skill and how people use their character skills, as well as team tactics, are at the core of competitive Guild Wars. Teams can't simply copy a top level build and expect to do well with it. Those top teams have hundreds of games under their belts and know every trick in the book, so keep that in mind when you watch them execute a seemingly simple build.
But there are ways to learn from them.
To get the most out of Observer Mode, you should first determine the type of build used by the character you are watching. Once you have a good grasp of that, you then need to see how that player uses those skills. Top teams have incredibly efficient skill usage and rarely make mistakes, so learning how they play is just as important as learning what they play with.
Currently, Observer Mode does not show what a player has targeted. But it is still possible to figure it out by looking at the graphics. If a Mesmer just used Energy Surge on someone you can look in the party window at the enemy Health Bars to see who just dropped or you can look for the spell animation of Energy Surge on a target within casting range of that Mesmer. Infuse Health is another easy one to spot. If you suddenly see someone take a large amount of damage from a spike, and recover it almost immediately while one of the Monks or secondary-profession Monks has just lost half their Health, chances are you've found the Infuser.
In competitive Guild Wars, nothing beats experience. And if you are not actively playing, then you can use Observer Mode to place your existing experience in context of the larger picture and gain enhanced knowledge of the game!
Observer Tips by Profession
Monk – Monks are one of the most exciting classes to play in GW; you are always getting focused on and constantly having to use skills to help yourself and allies. When watching Monks be aware of how they time their skills. Are they waiting for a spike to cast Infuse Health? Or are they more dynamic, healing the team like a Boon Prot?
Also look at how they manage their Energy. Even though you can't see Energy levels, you can extract some useful information from the design of their builds and how they use skills. Are they a Mesmer secondary with Inspired Hex or are they relying on Signet healing when low on Energy? Keep an eye on the party windows to see when they use key skills like Protective Spirit or Blessed Light. Lastly, Monks are so vital to a team that they continuously use any method to keep from dying, often running far away from attackers. Anyone planning to play a caster can learn a lot from watching how top Monk players use positioning to stay alive.
Mesmer – Mesmers in the current metagame are Domination heavy. They frequently equip skills like Energy Surge, Blackout, and Diversion. But top Mesmer players are some of the most efficient spell casters in the game. They use Blackout on Warriors or off-target Monks, or they will use Energy Surge to keep a target at low Energy and simultaneously add pressure damage. Diversion timing can make the difference between a win and a loss at a high level of play, especially in close games. These players monitor the battlefield for key targets to shut down such as smite Monks or other Mesmers. Good Mesmers are hard to find, and copying the Skill Bars of top players is only one small step to getting better.
Warrior – Skill Bars on Warriors come in many flavors. From Axe to Sword to Hammer, they meet different needs for different teams. As you observe Warriors, try to determine the skills they use and how they fit into the overall team build. But most importantly look at the targets they attack. Good Warriors repeatedly switch targets to enemies with lower Health or soft armor. Note how fast they change if their target gets healed or Enchanted. And see how quickly they jump on targets of opportunity. Also notice that Warriors use Frenzy and then activate other Stances to overwrite it when they take damage. Warriors also tend to bring a defensive self-heal like Healing Signet. Watch how the Warriors use this to help their Monks save Energy, or when the Warrior has extended beyond Monk healing range.
Ranger – Knowledge of positioning is paramount when observing Rangers. Watch how top teams spread out their Rangers to make it harder for the enemy to target them, or use height advantages when available. Try to figure out what kind of Ranger you're watching; is it a high-damage Ranger using Melandru's Arrows or is it a disruption Ranger using multiple interrupts? Top teams commonly use Rangers to split off with a smaller group or even go solo. When observing this, see how a single Ranger can "kite" multiple enemies using snares like Crippling Shot. In cases like this, it is also important to observe how Ranger characters keep themselves alive. They use skills like Troll Unguent, Distortion, or Ranger Stances to increase their mobility and survivability.
Elementalist – In the current metagame Elementalists are used mainly as a support role. They usually bring Water snares and defensive skills like Blinding Flash and Heal Party. When observing these types of characters, be aware of which opponents they target, and when they use skills. For example, many will use Blinding Flash as soon as a Warrior train converges on an ally. Anyone playing a GvG Elementalist will want to watch the top teams' positioning of their support casters. Often Elementalists seem like they are far away, but they are usually still helping the party with long-distance healing. Top teams may even use Water snares on these characters to completely shut down enemy split attempts.
Necromancer – A lot of the current metagame Necromancer builds involve spike or the skill Tainted Flesh. When observing spike games, watch how teams coordinate their damage by using certain skills at certain times. It also helps to examine how a spike team deals with splits, and vice versa. Tainted Flesh Necromancers always have an eye on the party window so they know when party members get Diseased. They will also cast these buffs on pets and other allies as well.
Endless Learning Potential
Observer Mode runs continuously, broadcasting top 100 GvG matches 15 minutes after they start. Even if you've done a lot of PvP, you can still find something interesting in Observer Mode. Building up your knowledge of what the opposition might add to its arsenal always helps.
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.