The E-Sports team known as Team Paradigm have been gaining plenty of attention lately through their excellent show of skills in Guild Wars 2's structured PvP but also through their community interaction, the sharing of innovative builds and their focus on being the best. I managed to sit down with them, just after the end of the second Beta weekend, to have a chat about all things PvP.
GW2Hub: For anyone who might not have heard of Team Paradigm, can you tell us a little about yourself and how you’ve found yourself waiting for Guild Wars 2? What are your key philosophies as a guild?
Team Paradigm (TP): Team Paradigm is a very diverse and massively international competitive Guild Wars 2 structured PvP team. We are comprised of many members with experience in the top echelons of quite a few different games / genres. Guild Wars 2 is an excellent PvP focused game from a top notch developer with a history of not only making a great PvP game (Guild Wars), but in listening to and being apart of it's community. As a team we came together when Guild Wars 2 was coming closer to its current fruition, many of us excited to see the sequel to Guild Wars and definitely excited that ArenaNet was the developer. As a team our number one priority is to win and be the best and most competitive team we can be. We strive to not only win games, but to help the community grow as much as possible.
Team Paradigm is first and foremost here to compete in and host Guild Wars 2 structured PvP tournaments, but we also maintain a strong focus on the community. We have received a lot of support thus far, and are doing our best to release videos of our gameplay, strategies, builds, and anything else we feel could be helpful to other players. Doing our part to make this community and game somewhere we all want to be, and a game we want to log into and play is a top motivator for our team.
GW2Hub: What has been your impression of the sPvP Tournaments now that they have made an appearance during the last Beta weekend? Do you feel it has finally given a definitive purpose to structured PvP?
TP: The implementation of the tournament system is literally a night and day difference from last beta weekend as far as structured PvP is concerned. During the first beta weekend event, we were unable to join matches as a team and were limited to the “hot-join” 8v8 style public games. Being the first beta event and our first time jumping into the game we were ecstatic to just be playing the game and actually be doing PvP matches in the first place. Now with the implementation of the tournament system, we have had the ability to join and play as a team versus other teams and to be quite honest we're a bit spoiled now! As far as giving sPvP a definitive purpose, I think we all have got to agree that 5v5 tournament play is the preferred game method for our team. We enjoyed BWE2 immensely because of the tournament system in and of itself. We were in games from nearly start to finish, and despite a few very early “no roster found” errors that were quickly fixed, the system as a whole was implemented nearly flawlessly and lead to an entire weekend of tournament games nearly non-stop.
We actually ended up swapping servers from EU to NA purely to get more and quicker tournament queue pops the first night after the EU players seemed to have drifted off to sleep. I know for our team, and I think teams in general, the ability to finally join together as a team to face off against other teams in a structured match more than definitely set the stage for what Guild Wars 2 PvP will be all about. This being a very early beta, and in fact the first run at the tournament system and true structured PvP, a better showcase couldn't have been asked for.
GW2Hub: Overall, how well did you do? Did you encounter any teams that really caused you problems? I noticed a surprising number of pick-up teams that were unexpectedly organised, even asking for people to visit their Ventrillo or to jump onto Skype so it clearly shows people are keen to do well, even if they don’t have a guild to support them…
TP:Throughout the event we did pretty well. Our tournament roster played about seventy games together as a team with only one loss that was due to a bug not allowing our Team Captain to join making it a 4v5 situation. Besides the aforementioned situation our tournament roster did not encounter any real difficulties throughout the weekend, but the level of organization for some of the pick-up teams was a bit unexpected. There were quite a few pick-up groups that gave our (team internal) pick-up groups a run for their money scoring upwards of 250-300 range in some matches. We conducted a community event during the beta weekend as well where our players were running with our community guild (Paradigm Army). PA did not disappoint on the tournament brackets this weekend either sporting a single loss record themselves. Our teamspeak and skype channels were active all weekend with team and community members constantly forming groups and hitting the brackets. The tournaments and the event were a success and it's probably fair to say everyone involved had an excellent time playing the game.
GW2Hub: Tactically, what did you find worked best in tournament matches? I found that support professions or professions capable of achieving incredible defence were often key. Placing a Necromancer, Engineer or Guardian on the keep, while allowing the rest of the team to roam between the NPC’s worked exceptionally well. Was that something you encountered as well?
TP: We did encounter it, and to some degree employed similar strategies during our games. The strategies are nothing that is un-counterable though. Many of these defense heavy professions rely on long recharge utility skills to keep themselves and their team alive during contested battles. Understanding the mechanics of these professions and the builds associated was our key to dealing with them in a reasonable fashion. For instance boons can be countered by dispels, toughness by conditions, glass cannons by coordination and awareness, and the infamous defensive guardian by keen strategy and counter-playing their abilities.
We faced many different setups and builds, and while most were very similar we've not gone into a match and been at odds with how to handle a certain composition/build/profession. Our team employed a sustainable profession (Azshene's DefGuardian generally) to the keep throughout the entire event as a basic strategy. Having that middle capture point secured tended to grant us a good amount of flexibility when it came down to roaming the NPC mobs and the outer points. That all being said, everything is counter-able. Our biggest take away for the weekend was probably being able to adapt when something doesn't work as intended. Forcing a difficult situation just because its the plan should generally be avoided for an adaptive strategy.
GW2Hub: How are you going about your team composition in sPvP? Are you still heavily experimenting or have you already found what you feel works best? Have any professions really fallen flat for you in the sPvP environment that just won’t make the cut?
TP: Our team compositions thus far have been completely randomized. Our players are essentially still testing and getting a feel for these professions and trying to figure out which ones work best to their personal play-style. We are still 100% in experimenting mode as far as choice of professions goes, and our lineups are subject to randomization because of it. As it stands right now, everyone is just playing what they like the most while attempting to build their professions around each other a bit. That being said we've used ridiculous lineups like double Guardian, double Elementalist, and steady ReYoN holding down his Necromancer. The line up right now is of little importance, testing the professions and feeling them out to the point of finding enjoyment is a much higher priority for our team.
Every profession has a lot to bring to the table when it comes down to flexibility with builds, so we'll see what we end up sticking with and build comps from that. Speaking frankly the professions are generally well designed and versatile. If we had to pick on certain professions to criticize, it would be the Thief and the Ranger. In order to really speak on these would require a long in-depth analysis and an immense amount of theorycrafting and feedback which is a bit outside the scope of this interview. Currently there is little reason to bring a Thief in comparison to other professions, simply because anything a Thief can bring to the table, other professions can do it better as far as we have seen. While the Thief has a bit of everything in his arsenal, it simply doesn't excel enough at any of those things enough to make it worthwhile. It is a very “squishy” profession with a strong roaming capability. The problem is that an Elementalist fits that role just fine as well and can perform much better in most cases.
As far as the Ranger goes, it just doesn't seem like what a Ranger should be. The pet AI isn't where it needs to be currently, and the ability queuing system for pet abilities greatly inhibits “clutch” use of the F2 or pet active abilities. Additionally, pets randomly using a knockdown ability for example, can easily be the deciding factor in a fight and it just doesn't feel right from a competitive player's perspective. It may earn you the kill and win the fight, but not being in control of the ability feels much too random and not skill based. Currently the most viable Ranger builds are all centralized around the axe/warhorn and greatsword. Rangers are by and large unsuccessful when played with a bow (long or short) and that just isn't a Ranger. The fact that the other weapons work is wonderful, but it feels as though a Ranger should be at least viable with bows and they simply aren't right now. In contrast to the Thief, a Ranger can easily be brought in a composition and not be a hindrance to success, but the Profession just doesn't feel like a Ranger at all without bows.
GW2Hub: What is your approach to your members use of professions, are you keen for them to all stick to one, learning all the nuances of it, or are you very much of the mindset that all members should be capable of playing all professions? If the latter, is that viable?
TP: Currently there is little to no stress in regards to making our players pick up every class equally. Once the game gets released and the tournaments become frequent however, this may change. As stated before, right now it is a higher priority for us to find out which professions interest us the most and which ones might not be our play-style. That being said we're still spending most of our time theory-crafting, testing, and being in some sort of voice chat discussing the potential benefits and drawbacks of each build we design. Most of our members are trying out all of the professions in order to understand and counter their mechanics to the best of their ability.
Once the tournaments arise, we believe that every top player will be capable of jumping into any profession and perform at a tournament level. Mirroring the versatility required of a MOBA game for example, players would focus on a role more than focusing on the profession itself. Assuming the role of keep defender is currently well suited for a Guardian, but in later patches or in certain compositions a player may be required to perform the same job with an Engineer, Warrior, or Necromancer as the meta-games evolve. As far as viability of either strategy goes, it may be too early to tell. Our feeling is that our players need to be able to eventually play their role with the profession needed. As the game and specific meta-games evolve, this will likely be a necessary strategy adjustment and we feel it is best to prepare now rather than focusing entirely on one profession and being caught “with our pants down” at a later date.
GW2Hub: On the subject of NPC’s how did you find the dynamic? Is there anything you would change about it? At times I found the point gain a little too generous, and the NPC’s too easy to solo, especially if using haste. Would you like to see their difficulty ramped up to make it more of a challenge and the points harder earned?
TP:The NPC dynamic could easily be one of the most controversial issues from the beta event as a whole. There seem to be many varied opinions and theories on this subject as it has most definitely been a big discussion topic. Essentially our opinion is that the NPC mechanic is excellent, but the current implementation will need some adjustments. Arena Net should recondsider the buff gain as well as the points rewarded to something which is either less game breaking while keeping it easy, or making it more game breaking but impossible to kill with less than probably four players. This would add some depth to the game, and depending on which direction they went, initial and respawn timers would likely need to be adjusted accordingly. Should the NPC's require a team to kill, then they would also need to figure a solid way of making it more than a simple tank and spank encounter by possibly removing one of those NPC's in order to merge it toward a middle type of position to create strategic depth and solid map control for a secured kill.
Making the NPC strong enough to not just be cannon-fodder during a 4v4 or 5v5 fight would also be important. Full teams AOE'ing around the mob which still can't adequately defend itself will again end up somewhat lackluster. Giving the NPC some sort of AOE cripples, stuns, etc. to “punish” bad play and endanger a poorly planned engagement severely would likely be required. Aside from the actual engagement itself lies the issue of the “last hit” mechanic. On both sides of the fence there stand good solid arguments, but as the NPC's are currently implemented, the last hit mechanic can sometimes not “feel good”.
Stealing NPC's is a bit too easy for too much of an advantage currently. There have been many ideas tossed about on this issue, one of them being to make the NPC's “stompable” so the points are only gained for the finishing team. This idea has issues as well, and would require additional tweaking in regard to some of the immunity abilities. The mechanic of having the NPC's on the map is an excellent idea and absolutely adds an entirely new level of game-play and strategic depth to a simple king of the hill game mode. It's important to remember that this is in fact an early beta. The fact that ArenaNet has already come with this set of maps and dynamic features to their game modes is beyond promising. ArenaNet has a reputation for listening to it's player base and making very solid and balanced PvP atmosphere. Whichever way it goes, we are confident that the mechanic will be balanced properly
GW2Hub: How have you found the Meta game evolve from when you began playing? Have you seen any trends you’ve found surprising? I think the Engineer builds published by Azshene and Teldo are certainly popular…
TP: Generally speaking, we've seen many of our published builds being used since BWE1, however minions for Necromancer seem to be underused and for good reason. Most professions are still very limited in their effectiveness due to ArenaNet requiring more time to balance the game. It is still beta, and some polish needs to be and will be applied. The biggest piece of the meta-game tends to be reliant on an Elementalist being the roaming profession due to their high burst/mobility/ and ability to reset fights. Other than that, people seem to love the defensive Guardian. If there is any sort of established meta-game so far, it would be roaming Elementalist paired with the defensive Guardian bossing a centralized point.
Overall it's still too early to tell a complete line-up meta. We have only experienced Forest in a tournament setting, and the same rules will not apply to Khylo for example or for other map(s) when they are released. Unfortunately the meta of play whats broken and overpowered reared it's ugly head during BWE2. Mesmer for example had a very broken duelist build that people were attempting to utilize for easy tournament wins. This will unfortunately always be the case in a competitive setting. If something is broken, there will be teams that run it into the ground until it gets fixed. Beta being beta this is entirely expected, we are very confident in ArenaNet's ability and commitment to balancing the game for launch to combat this.
GW2Hub: On builds, when you go about publishing Team Paradigms, why do you think it is people are so keen to adopt them? Do you ever feel you should keep them private rather than public, in order to encourage players to find builds for themselves?
TP: We simply like to share what we're doing with the community. We get a lot of questions regarding our builds and strategies so we try to publish them as often as possible. It is our goal to help strengthen and grow the Guild Wars 2 competitive sPvP (e-sport) community in any way that we can. We are very passionate about getting Guild Wars 2 e-sports ready and will do all we can to spike interest in as many people as we can. If we get questions about the game, our builds, our strategies etc. we are very keen to answer them to the best of our ability and generate discussion and innovation throughout the community. Keeping our builds private would be counter-productive to our goal of a thriving and active community.
On our forums for example, one of the most discussed topics is definitely “rate/criticize my new build”. Our builds seem to generate and inspire new ideas just like any other builds posted. We see a lot of innovative builds posted and discussed every day leading to some fairly strong debates both on forums and in voice chats. Discussion and theory-crafting are a passion of ours, and we will continue to do everything we can to generate new ideas and builds. Our players are hosting individual profession theory-crafting events in our TeamSpeak for this specific purpose along with our livestream Q&A sessions. The Team Paradigm YouTube channel has enjoyed some success since launch which we greatly attribute to the community being very supportive of our team. We are very thankful for the support we have and continue to receive. It means a lot to us and it is what makes e-sports possible in the first place.
GW2Hub: Now that tournament matches has reared its head, do you see Team Paradigm competing (or trying to compete) across all fronts of Guild Wars 2’s PvP, including WvW? Do you feel it’s realistic to seek success in both of these elements or is it potentially stretching yourself too thinly?
TP: Team Paradigm is not currently seeking to compete at in WvWvW. As a team we are not interested in the game-type. We do not currently have any plans now or for the future to do so. That does not mean you will never see us participating in WvWvW, but that participation will be focused around community events and casual small group play if anything. There is nothing unrealistic about seeking to compete in both gametypes, it is just not something we are interested in doing.
We'd like to thank Team Paradigm for putting aside plenty of time to answer our questions and for providing plenty of insightful answers. Don't forget to visit their website over at http://www.teamparadigm.net/