Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Burning Crusade PvP

The Burning Crusade added a lot of PvP variety to World of Warcraft. The first arena season started last weekend, and I've been strangely quiet about it. The reason for that is that I'm personally not much interested in PvP. But lets have a look how PvP changed with the Burning Crusade.

The battlegrounds still exist, and BC has added one new battleground to the mix, Eye of the Storm. This is a 15 vs. 15 players battleground in which the gameplay is similar to that of Arathi Basin, the side which gains 2000 points first wins. You gain points by holding towers and capturing a flag which spawns in the middle, and carrying it to one of your towers. Battlegrounds constitute a kind of casual PvP, where you join a battleground whenever you feel like it, and accumulate honor points and victory marks, which you can exchange for items.

The arena PvP is a lot more competitive and less casual. You need to pay gold to even participate. Every team needs to play at least 10 matches per week, and you need to participate in at least 30% of these matches to get points. Relmstein has a good explanation of the arena scoring system. The principle is the same as the chess ELO system, you should quickly rise until you are at the same level as people of the same skill level as your team. Then your rating should stabilize, as ideally you are paired against people of similar skill level.

The pairing makes my ears ring, bringing back memories of the leagues in Magic the Gathering Online. The principal problem is that even the very best computer can only pair you against a team selected among those that are actually online and available for arena combat. If a 4 am in the morning there are only 2 teams waiting in the arena queue, one ranked very high and the other very low, sooner or later the computer will decide that the two have waited long enough and pair them against each other. Which gets the low ranked team a crushing defeat, and the high ranked team a victory which isn't worth much in points, satisfying neither. But of course if you could "game" your playing times in a way that you'd always be paired against worse teams, at least you'd probably win all matches, and might end up with a higher score than if you fought teams of equal rank. The number and quality of teams waiting in the queue will vary with time of day, and (due to the 10 matches per week rule) day of the week. So some people will definitely try to prey on PvP noobs, while others will start howling loudly about the unfairness of the pairing system. Been there, done that, was the same problem in MtGO. The pairing system only works really well during the first prime-time of the week, when everybody is eager to get his weekly matches done, and lots of teams are in the queue. Expect some trouble here in the future.

The third form of PvP is overland PvP. Many Outland zones have one form or another of this. As I mentioned before, this is the form of PvP that works least well right now, because very few servers have an equal population of Horde and Alliance. With Alliance outnumbering Horde by between 1.5 : 1 to 2 : 1 on many servers, overland PvP is a very static affair. Horde occasionally tries to catch Alliance sleeping, but as soon as the Alliance awakes and strikes back, Horde quickly gives up because it is frustrating to fight against superior numbers. Halaa is under Alliance control at least 90% of the time, and at least 3 out the 4 six-hour periods per day Auchindoun is controlled by Alliance as well.

PvP is mainly interesting for the weapon rewards. If you save up enough points, or marks, or whatever you need for that particular reward, you can get yourself an epic weapon which equals raid epics in quality. This epic weapon can then help you a lot in beating PvE content, and make you kill mobs faster. You can also get armor as PvP reward, but here the use is often more limited. PvP reward armor tends to have lots of stamina and resilience, which is great in PvP, but sub-optimal for PvE for many classes.

So to a certain extent, if you play on a non-PvP server, and you don't like PvP, you can simply ignore the PvP going on around you, and you don't miss out on much. PvP is optional, and any optional alternative modes of gameplay are generally a good thing. The only thing that bothers me a bit are the zone-wide buffs that controlling all PvP objectives in a zone give to one faction. This can be as much as 5% bonus to both the damage you are dealing and the experience points you are earning, and it applies to PvE. With me on a server where Alliance outnumbers Horde 2:1, and me playing Horde, I obviously get this bonus very rarely, while Alliance players run around with that bonus all the time.

The last time I played PvP intensively was between patch 2.0 and the Burning Crusade, when I used it to get myself an epic weapon for my warrior alt. If you, or just one of your characters, can't get into raids for some reason, being the "wrong class", PvP can be a good alternative to get hold of an epic weapon. And once in a while it can be fun to fight other players instead of artificially stupid mobs. I wouldn't say that PvP in World of Warcraft is perfect now, but it definitely is the best and most coherent system they ever had, after numerous system changes.
I blogged a bit about World PvP; after some early fun in Hellfire, it's tailed right off. Terokkar, it seems like a ninja-raid of whoever wants to run Auchindon next grabs the towers within a couple of minutes of the zone going neutral, I've never seen a proper fight there, and Nagrand, like you say, is almost always Alliance controlled, with a couple of Horde doing the odd bombing run, but never enough to take outright control.

I'm quite keen to get into the Arena, but dawdling along and only being level 66, it'll probably be for half a season at best. I'll be very interested to see how the matching system works, if there's a large enough pool of teams in each battlegroup, I think it might be fun, but if it's a smaller number of more dedicated teams, maybe not. I can only see myself doing it competetively in a 2v2 team, though, don't really have the time to sort out tactics and the like in a 5 man team, but with the point calculations, purely for getting hold of an epic weapon, it looks like it'll be better being in a five man team losing ten matches a week than being in a two man team with a 50:50 win:loss record. Hey ho.
While PvP is a blast, the imbalances can get very frustrating. Chance will usually help a person to be on the "good" side of an imbalance often enough to outweigh the times one get owned.
The problem with PvP is that it's not balanced, and the imbalance exists on many fronts.

Individually, you have level, class, gear.
Collectively you have organization (such as a PvP guild group or bored raider group on Vent against a PUG).
You have potential game map inequities (think AV).
In world PvP (as you pointed out) there is a population inequity.

I'm still chuckling about the LFG call I saw just before the BC release:
"Need one more for all-Warlock 60 WSG."

Thus I have said, and still maintain, that PvP in most cases has not really been about skill.
Pre-BC, give a player shot at AV with a level 51 toon versus a 60 in questing blues-and-greens versus a 60 with Tier 2 or High Warlord gear -- it's a no-brainer.

Maybe Arena will bring skill to the top with smart match-ups. Given that PvP has been the "poor stepchild" in a PvE world, recent history would lead me to guess that Blizz will use the Arena player base as the "testers" for the Arena components.

All-in-all, to endure the potential frustrations, you just have to:
-- a deadly serious geared-up PvP-er of the right class with the right mods and add-ons in a PvP guild
-- ...laid back enough to take the ups and downs as they come
-- Choose-to-win: Pick the time and BG type that your faction typically wins and stick to it

Personally, I'm also curious to hear an account of how an organized group of BE toons would do in PvP. Seems like with a tool like Vent and some coordination the mana tap and arcane torrent (silence) racials could be overwhelmingly powerful.
Such as: Rogue sneaks in (or mage blinks in) and silences the casters, pally rushes in and renews the silence, etc.
And silence not only hits the "traditional" casters, but stops things like warrior intimidating shout; thus you not only stop spell damage, but fear effects too.
On my server, the biggest Horde guild (they're fairly well known across US servers in regards to raid progression) makes a point of evening the odds. I saw all 3 Hellfire points were Horde controlled when I was level 62 and decided to try and get some easy tokens. About 5 seconds after I'd turned Broken Hill grey, 3 Horde from this guild all but instagibbed me.

Same thing in Nagrand, although at the very least if you can stay on a wyvern there you can at least be effective even if you're probably too low level to be participating. I also got dead lucky and killed a level 70 shaman as a level 64 rogue about 1/2 a second before his mage friend nuked me.
My server is pretty close as far as population is concerned, and actually we have trouble trying to "lose" Halaa. We had all of our guards dead, and no Alliance in sight to try and take the town.

They're all doing something else I guess, I wanted to do bombing runs! :(

I'm a level 70 Paladin on Shattered Hand. I've been retribution specced since level 10. I recently changed to holy so I could get runs etc. I just wanted to know what do you guys think would be the best combination(partners) for 2v2 Arena and 3v3 Arena?

and also do you think I should respec to retribution to do arena's or just be a healer?
Horde occasionally tries to catch Alliance sleeping, but as soon as the Alliance awakes and strikes back, Horde quickly gives up because it is frustrating to fight against superior numbers. Halaa is under Alliance control at least 90% of the time, and at least 3 out the 4 six-hour periods per day Auchindoun is controlled by Alliance as well.

I am on a release-day PvP server with a similar large Alliance-Horde imbalance. But what you are seeing on your server is nothing like what is on our server. Despite the numbers, Horde tends to win more often than they lose. I can't recall the last time I saw Alliance holding the Auchinduon towers, while Halaa flips back and forth 3 or 4 times a night.
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