Structured Player vs. Player
Now before I discuss this in details, I have to admit a few things. I am not the most credible person to talk about PvP and e-sports. However, I will stick to describing my experience, and try to give you information you can use to make your own mind.
My prior experience, and the context
I have played quite a bit of PvP in both action games and RPGs (especially Descent 2 and Aliens vs. Predator classic, but also Guild Wars). I did play PvP in other games, but not as much as those three games. My Guild Wars PvP experience includes Guild vs. Guild and Heroe’s Ascent, but not at top tiers. I did most of my PvP in what I call casual PvP styles: Jade Quarry, Fort Aspenwood, Random Arena, and to a lesser extent Alliance Battles. In fact, I did a lot of FA, JQ, and RA. My main reason for sticking with casual PvP as opposed to GvG or HA is mainly that the latter two require a higher time commitment and organization, a luxury I cannot afford due to real-life demands.
The context is the Guild Wars 2 press beta, where I expect that a lot of players I fought with and against were pretty much as clueless as me. That is, I can talk about the experience, but I expect it to change quite a bit as people learn to play better. I did get many kills and more wins than losses, but that‘s probably a mix of me not being a total noob and my foes being noobs. I don’t mean that in an insulting way, we were all noobs there, some more than others. There are some players that could consistently kill me too, overall I was probably average.
My experience in PvP
I played hot-join games only, as there was no other type of game available at the time. The hot-join NPC dude did say that you could create your own game, but the option was not available where it should have been. Clearly, that is a feature they mean to have in the full game, but was for some reason not available in the press beta.
Too bad, I was hoping to test whether I can make a private game to have a duel. We could do that in Guild Wars 1, and so I assume that it’s possible in Guild Wars 2 as well, but it was not possible in that build. I was really hoping to make a video of some epic rooftop duel…
I played mostly as Mesmer, and I got to try out many weapon combinations. I also played around with weapon swaps. The Mesmer’s survival ability lies very much on your ability to confuse your opponent. If your opponent is wasting his attacks on your clones, then you get to do damage on them without much risk. If however they figure out which one you are, or you fail to distract them, then you are squishy. Having done a few duels against another Mesmer, I am happy to report that I won those duels easily because he kept attacking my clones while I managed to keep my attacks focused on the real one. Proper use of stealth and shatters also played to my advantage.
Team size and frequency of encounters
I am happy to report that in the games I played, 1vs1 were very frequent, but I also had my share of larger fights. 2vs2 were frequent, and 3vs3 happened often too. Of course, unbalanced fights happened as well, 2vs1 etc. One thing that is interesting is that playing well could allow you to survive against the odds, and often delay long enough to get reinforcements. What starts off 2vs1 often becomes 2vs2, for example.
The maps contained many shortcuts and places to climb in. We could see fairly far in some places even at ground level. It was relatively easy to find your way to your objectives, though I can see that learning the maps would give an advantage… especially proper use of places you can climb, which can reduce your traveling time by offering shortcuts.
Combat is fast (enough) and furious
Combat is fast and furious, and yet in larger encounters I could see people getting into formations. Melee professions were naturally frontline, and squishy casters tried to keep themselves clear from the center of the fight.
Death was not immediate though, only some builds could kill very quickly. However it was clear that players did more damage than they could heal. Fights always resulted in deaths or someone running away.
There was a degree of chaos to the fights too, but it was manageable. It was clear who was ally and who was foe, and where not to stand. Aiming was easy. However, it was clear who the skilled players were in any given fight, there was a real sense that player skill matters.
I found this to be more fun than casual PvP in Guild Wars 1. There was more emphasis on movement, professions and builds seemed well balanced (at least for a beta, it was not perfect), and I truly felt that player skill mattered more than build. The combat was easy to get into, and it was intense.
Combined with skilled-based weapon skills, weapon swapping, and other such great innovations, PvP is sure to keep me entertained for a long time.