Gaze upon your enemy from across the grueling battlefield
So you're on the verge of taking a key point in World vs World. Just you and fifteen of your closest guild mates. The walls are nearly destroyed and the dwindling opposition left to defend the crumbling keep is struggling to hold it together. Victory is in your grasp as you envision yourself on top of their keep, overwhelming the keep lord, and taking back what's yours for the good of your server! Just then an enemy Asura pops out from around the corner, no threat at all. Five seconds later you and your guild mates...are re-spawning back at your servers spawn point, because little did you know there were 30 invisible Charr and Norn behind that tiny Asura.
If this (or a scenario like this) has happened to you while battling in World vs World, then you've probably been one of the many victims of the infamous "Culling" in Guild Wars 2. Culling in short, is what has been causing hordes of enemy players to seem invisible in WvW, making those epic battles a bit less epic and a little more frustrating. Hope is on the horizon however in the form of a blog post made by World vs World programmer, Habib Loew ,as it appears that the team over at ArenaNet have figured out how to do away with Culling in WvW, once and for all.
So What Is Culling?
"Culling" in Guild Wars 2 refers to mass groups of players seemingly becoming invisible to their opponents or even others around them. This happens the most in World vs World, but can also occur in PvE as well, during the larger World Events or where large amounts of players like to gather (I'm looking at you Claw of Jormag). This "Invisible player" issue is caused by the server limiting the amount of information it allows your client to receive, in order to cut down on server resources, but ultimately resulting in large amounts of characters not being drawn on the players screen right away.
The fix for this that is being rolled out with the March Update; which should eliminate culling completely and make the World vs World battlefield much more epic. To get a better sense of what to expect, ArenaNet has taken before and after screenshots with culling on and culling off.
There's a huge difference right? This should ultimately make those battles feel like actual battles, giving them that much needed "epic feel" that fans of large scale PVP have all been seeking. While this fix seems great however, I'm sure some are asking themselves if this fix will mean that they'll need to have a fire extinguisher on hand, in case their machine decides to throw a fit while trying to render everything on screen at once. Don't worry soldiers, ArenaNet hasn't forgotten about you either.
Options for Everyone
So what if you don't have a super computer that can run everything on max settings with a steady 60 fps frame rate? That's still all right because, according to Habib, Guild Wars 2 is giving you options on how you want other players to appear on your screen. The first set of options that can be toggled, are general character rendering options which include:
High resolution models - These are the high-res character models that you’re all already familiar with.
Lower resolution fallback models - These are the models that we’ve been using as placeholders in WvW while the hi-res models load. They differ depending on race and armor class, though human, sylvari, and norn share the same model.
Nameplates only - We don’t render the model at all and instead only show the nameplate for that character.
The second set of options allow players to control how many characters on screen are effected by the first set of options. The secondary options include:
WvW Character Limit - This controls how many of the reported characters render with a model and how many are rendered only with nameplates.
WvW Character Quality - This controls how many of the characters rendered with a model use the high resolution models and how many use the lower resolution fallback models.
So while lower end machines won't necessarily be getting beautiful high-resolution character models on the screen all at once. They will, at the very least, be able to see other player nameplates. Since positioning in Guild Wars 2 and in PvP in general is very important, being able to see where other enemies or allies are in relation to you is a fix that I'm sure many World vs World players would agree is a welcome change.
So is culling gone for good?
After this next update the WvW crowd might be inclined to think so, but it seems as though the PvE crowd might have to wait a little bit for the fix to come to the rest of Tyria. Colin Johanson took to the forums and had this to say regarding the fix:
"The initial release of this system will be for WvW only. There are additional complications we need to solve with PvE due to the number and variety of creatures on screen that WvW doesn’t need to account for. Later this year, we’ll be expanding as much of the changes to the PvE open world as we can as well."
So even though PvE players will have to wait a bit for the fix, it seems like ArenaNet is definitely moving in the right direction in regards to culling and hopefully after the fix has been tested in the March Update, we'll see the Culling fix soon find it's way to the PvE side of things as well. In the mean time, enjoy those massive battles and capture a few keeps for me.
Head over here for the full blog post by Habib Loew. See you game!