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.