Tobold's Blog
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Why PvP rulez in WoW

I have an immense respect for the officers and raid leaders of my guild, because they have such a hard job whenever they try to put a raid together. You can't just take the first 10 people showing up or do a lottery; you need so and so many tanks, so and so many healers, this or that crowd control, this or that special class for some special encounter, and only when you have filled all those slots there are a few spots remaining for "random" dps classes. Apart from the classes, you often need to sort out raid IDs. And if the raid isn't trivial, you better check if people have the right talents and gear. And in the end there is inevitably some guy who is sulking because he didn't get invited.

Once the guild is past Karazhan, the next big organizational problem is how many of which raids to organize at what time. Keep farming Karazhan? Go for Zul'Aman or Gruul? Do an all out assault on Serpentshrine Cavern? Or some mix of all of this? Most likely there are people more and less advanced in your guild. The more advanced ones already have all Karazhan loot and can't stand the place any more, while the less advanced ones would need a couple more Karazhan runs before being ready for SSC. Juggling all of this is hard.

From the point of view of the guild member, the same problems appear, only from a different perspective. You have a raid ID from yesterday, but the people forming a raid today want to do a fresh start. Or the guild decided to go to a different raid dungeon than you would have preferred. Or you are of the wrong class, or wrong spec, or not geared up enough for the raid. Or the raid you want to go to is organized just on the one evening where you can't play. Et cetera, et cetera.

Now compare that to the alternative of doing battleground PvP. The epic rewards are of a similar quality, even use the same models in many cases. There is no raid ID, no class requirement, no spec requirement, no gear requirement, no time and date requirement. In the most extreme case there isn't even a requirement to actively participate, as the AFK leechers in Alterac Valley prove, although I'd always prefer to at least try to give my best. You can log on, jump into a battleground, play like you want, and even if the whole thing ends up in a complete failure you'll get a mark and some honor points. There are no repair costs, no costs for consumables, and nobody expects you to pay hundreds of gold for enchantments. And you don't need to pray for a lucky drop of the epic you want, you'll be able to get what you want by simply buying it for your marks and honor points.

I was discussing how to equip my warrior with a reader who sent me a couple of tips by e-mail. But he is a hardcore raider, and so he suggested I wait for patch 2.4 and buy the new sword for 150 badges of justice. Problem is I don't have 150 badges of justice on my warrior (he has 7, my raiding priest has 73). If I did the daily heroic for a month, or got into Karazhan raids every week for two months, I could gather 150 badges of justice. But of course by doing either 30 heroics or 8 Karazhan clears or a mix of both I would in all probability already wear lots of epics. The badges are nice to fill gaps, buy an epic for the one slot where by bad luck you never had an epic drop. But they aren't an alternative to PvE epics, they are a complement. If you are still in blue gear, your guild is raiding SSC or Tempest Keep, and you can't get a heroics group together on raid night, your best alternative is PvP. I'm not quite sure yet whether I really want to do PvP with my warrior, but I'm well aware that it would be the fastest way to equip him with epics.

And if even me, who hates PvP, thinks of it as the best way to gear up, you know why PvP "rulez" in WoW for the moment. It isn't that PvP gives "welfare epics" or that PvP rewards are too good or anything. If you can get into a series of Karazhan farm raids, like my priest did, you'll get a lot more epics in a lot less time, and those are really welfare, the welfare that your guilds gives you, not Blizzard. But to get the PvP epics you don't have to jump all the organizational hurdles and overcome all the constraints I listed at the start of my post. You can PvP whenever and however you want. Nobody can kick you out of a battleground group. And you don't owe anyone for the epics you receive at the end.

Imagine a WoW end game without any epics or rewards. Would be far less popular, I know, but it is just a thought experiment. If there were no epics, people would probably do the activity they like most, because entertainment would be the only reward. You would get some sort of "natural" distribution between soloing, 5-man groups, raiding, and PvP. Back to the real WoW as it is now it is easy to see how the rewards move the distribution away from the natural one. Lots of people do PvP not because they like competitive gameplay more than cooperative gameplay, but because PvP is the playstyle with which they still can get rewards without overcoming all those organizational problems of raids. Meanwhile heroics and raids are underpopulated relatively to the natural distribution, just because they are harder to set up.

And that is an aberration of bad game design. It is totally possible to imagine a game in which PvP is hard to organize, while PvE raids are of the jump-in-anytime variant. Being hard to organize is *not* an inherent feature of cooperative gameplay, being jump-in is *not* an inherent feature of competitive gameplay. If PvP was limited to premade groups, and only the winning group would get a reward, organization of PvP would become as difficult as organizing a raid is now. And if there were raid events for which you could queue up, get in anytime, have a reasonable chance to succeed even with that pickup raid group, and get a point reward regardless of whether you win or lose, a lot more people would be raiding. Having the better organized players in raids and the less organized players in PvP is just a design anomaly of World of Warcraft.
Tobold, if your warrior wants to stay a tank, I propose you do the following:

1) Do Battlegrounds until you get 15k honor / EotS badges and get the latest Gladiator Shield Wall. Great shield (lots of armor, hp and resilience in a way is helping as +defense is but to a lesser degree). With that shield, only the Mount Hyjal / Black temple will be a real upgrade. Gruul shield is a "sidegrade".

2) Do the daily heroics. Start with Mechanar Heroic (whether it is daily or not) until you get the Sun Eater Weapon. That is on par with the Karazhan sword.

3) Gather the badges from the daily heroics. Try to gather badges from Karazhan. Don't spend them yet, wait for 2.4 (ETA 1-2 months). Then buy gear where you miss a slot (strongly propose the breast plate & Legs, both are really good).

4) Have fun and enjoy the important tanking role. Tanking is still THE slot most sought in groups.

5) With 2.4 you will be SSC/Eye ready with your warrior. Promised. 15-16k health, 15-17k armor, 490+ Defense.
Yes, this is a correct analysis of the situation. I do think there is a layer of motivation behind this design. That layer is rather abstract and comes as a legacy from the values of the oldskool EverQuest users.

The Raid Game is the Leader Board of the uber. The PvP game is the leader board for a different type of junkies. The "Raid Game Leader Board" is defined by the progression chart, one point for every downed boss. The "PvP Game Leader Board" is measured in the Rating Value, and there is no way you can get on top of that from farming gear, its all about dedication.

Hence the PvPers wont complain that anyone can lose in BG's or Arenas and get the same gear as them, because the gear has nothing to do with winning. While the raiders will complain if the wrong organisations get too many Raid Points.

The EQ Legacy is the cause, the differences between the mechanics are the symptoms.
Having the better organized players in raids and the less organized players in PvP is just a design anomaly of World of Warcraft.

Not really. I've seen the same pattern in DAoC and Eve, to give two very different examples. "Complexes" and "Exploration" sites in Eve don't approach the complexity of a WoW raid (they generally have a 4-player cap), but they are equally demanding of the right setups, which require the right skills.

By the same token, dungeon-runs in DAoC were not as tightly-tuned as WoW Raids, but they were still much more formal and organized than the RvR groups typically were (there were exceptions of specialized gank teams, but generally RvR was just a gaggle of whoever wanted to come, I'm sure there are similar in WoW).

The only equivalent of what you talk about I've seen in PvP games were in organized competitive FPS ladders, where a clan had a maximum number of people who could come along and slotted people into the strategy like a football coach.

On the other hand, even in EQ, where numbers were fixed only by how much lag the participants could suffer and still contribute effectively, the same behaviours you describe emerged. So you've got only a few pieces of the problem laid out here.

> There are no repair costs, no costs for consumables

Just a small nit to pick, BGs do have repair costs, although they are much less than those from PvE.

As for consumables - well reagents and arrows/bullets used still have the same cost, as do any pots you chose to use. Of course in PvP people can chose not to use a pot, unlike in PvE. But technically speaking, consumables still have a cost. They just aren't used (as much).

But yeah, for those who hate PvP (like you and me), it sucks that PvP "rulez" now in WoW. Hopefully things will balance out over time as Blizzard continues improving the PvE game. Or I start winning more in BGs and Arena ;)
Interesting Post, as usual.

However, I have to disagree with the Term 'welfare epics' when it comes to Karazhan. Gearing up a new Tank or Healer is always a good investment.

Even if they don't participate in the regular 25 man Raids, they allow the main tanks/healers to at least switch roles/characters in 10 man runs or heroics.

With the right mix of mains/alts those runs are far more fun than an overgeared rush just because you want the badges. So everyone wins even if some get more out the runs than others.

And that is hardly a 'welfare situation'.
Agreed, epics from your guild are more of a welfare-to-work program. :)
yes the system is wacked right now. The effort to raid is great, but when compared to the easy way you can solo bgs for epics, it isn't worth the timesink & headaches.

I would love to be able to log on and quickly que for a raid that didn't take near the organization it takes now to complete. not because I want it easy but it would be fun. Just doing bgs or arena constantly is not fun. And having to go on 3-5hr raid runs is not fun, been there, done that.

I'm happily retired and enjoying other pursuits. I will try out AoC & WAR probably but I doubt I'll play either one longer than 3 months or so which is just enough time to see a majority of the basic content and learn what is in the end game.
I agree with all of this. I don't have PVE at all, i just hate all the hoops you have to jump through to actually get the chance to play.

Everyone who plays this game has conflicting schedules/Jobs/familes/commitments ect.. and this makes it very difficult to find the right people who all happen to be free for four hours.

Its hard enough to get the right composition when there are plenty of people around, these administration factors only help complicate the issue further.
Nice post. Sums up perfectly why I PvP over raiding when I’m not naturally a competitive player. Although that said, I’ve come to really enjoy a good PvP fight. The drop-in nature of WoW PvP is exactly what I’m looking for, and if raiding was as easy to organise successfully as PvP was, I’d do it as often. I am reminded of the hardcore raiders from vanilla WoW telling me to raid because ‘that’s the most fun, since that’s what most people do’ and thinking that it was just bullshit, it was clearly a case of people following the rewards. Now that there are good rewards elsewhere, people are voting with their feet.

It’s made all the difference as far as I’m concerned – there’s actually a viable end-game progression for non-raiders. I’m totally content in WoW these days slowly building up my epic flying mount cash and gradually acquiring the honour and tokens for the season 1 rewards.
Unfortunately, PvP in WoW is becoming more and more a group effort. On my server, Ruin Battlegroup, playing as Alliance, as a solo PvP'r, the only BG worth queue'ing up for is AV.

Due to how the system works, I needed to collect WSG, AB and EOTS tokens also. Over the course of collecting 30 tokens for each BG, I was on the winning side 10 times.

Compare this to my guildmate, who is a Prot Pally, a highly desired WSG Flag Running class. He plays only in organized WSG's, and wins about 95% of the WSG's he enters. Mainly because other organized groups will /afk out when they see another organized group.

So they sit and run over pickup BG groups. While as a solo PvP'r, I struggle along at half or less honor as he gets.
My RL Palidan friend summoned it up to me one night. He likes pvp because: the "drops" are guarenteed; he can log on and off when he wants, he doesn't have to deal with the stress of as healing the raid (raider's demand constant heals, pvp'ers in a BG take what the can get and are grateful), or monronic pug wipes.

I'm starting to like both (except the cost of respec my warrior) and switch back and forth when one becomes too much.

On side note, the S1 shield and the S1 chest good for tanking if you're tired of waiting for the drop.
As a paladin I must say that I enjoy healing in PvP situations much more then in raiding. PvP is exciting and requires you to pay attention but doesn't devolve into playing whack-a-mole with a bunch of health bars.

Also I've manged to collect a decent amount of retribution and holy gear from PvP. This allows me to be effective in healing an arena team or killing flag carriers in battlegrounds. When I was just raiding every guild I was in didn't allow healers to roll on damage gear.
Yeah, just to clarify on what's been said, you do get repair costs from battle damage in bg's, just not from deaths.
One comment about the new Sunwell Loot: the weapon you get from 150 badges is roughly Tier-6 quality, whereas running Karazhan for drops will only get you a Tier-4 weapon (e.g. Gorehowl).

In Arena Season 4 (upcoming), arena points will also get you a Season-3 weapon without a rating requirement, and that is also equivalent to a Tier-6 weapon.

So basically the best weapon available to a non-elite player will be bought, either from badges or arena points.
I think this is partly why altitis is so common. People level up a toon to 70 and struggle with what they should do in the end-game for lack of direction. It’s easier to re-roll a new character and go back to what they know. I think that’s part of why the dailys are popular. They provide a bit of direction to the people who are used to accepting and turning in quests.

My issue with the end-game right now is that the non-pvp and pre-Kara epics gained from the 5-mans and reputation vendors for level 70 are of SIGNIFICANTLY lesser quality. The gear reward is not comparable to the effort required, so people skip it. I’m talking mostly about the reputation rewards. Getting Honored with any of the factions in Outland is pretty easy, but getting to Exalted usually requires some effort, gold, planning and a few heroic runs of the instances that that give rep. By the time you can reasonably reach Exalted, you have something better or could have done it much more quickly by spending a weekend doing BGs. For example, the one-handed weapons are ~81 DPS from the reputation vendors while the bg rewards are ~91 DPS and have much better stats.
I have very mixed feelings about this topic. Sorry to be so long-winded. Hopefully I'll remain somewhat objective and not overly-negative, but this will tend to point out what I see as long-term weak spots in WoW's design, prompted by Tobold's post.

I enjoy the PvP battlegrounds, but having played my favorites, AV and AB, since before TBC release, they are wearing a bit thin. WSG just really isn't my bag. EOS is probably my current favorite. Premades are a real pain for the person who relies on PUGs. The bottom line, though, is that the lack of new BGs is becoming very noticeable to me now that we're more than a year since the last BG was introduced (and still only four BGs?!) -- and EOS is an only-level-70 BG. I am also *really* tired of the problem on the Horde-side in my battle group, where probably 1/3 or more BGs start with Horde outnumbered; it really gets under my skin because the problem has been around for well over a year, could easily be fixed, and is a factor in at least 10% of our games which are lost by close margins (and of course leads to the occasional quick loss against better PUGs). So I am left with the impression that Blizz is content to throw epics at the BG crowd and otherwise pretty much ignore them -- epics that will be replaced by WotLK greens in less than 9 months.

The good side of PvP -- ease of entry -- is also its bane, since if you're saddled with AFK leeches you're pretty much out-of-luck. The half-hearted AFK marking 'fix' has been around long enough to see that it failed.

Arena is quite different, and does require a good bit of coordination to succeed. And success is important, since if you muddle along with a low rating you'll see a new gear on the order of one-per-several-weeks. A big problem in Arena is, as Blizzard has tacitly admitted, lack of class balance. And the oddity that items that work in world PvP, duels, and BG PvP don't work in Arena PvP. And history would predict that Blizz will never solve the PvP balance problem.

On the other side -- raiding -- the other night I joined our Kara group 1 for a run up to Curator. No wipes, 3 hours, two epics (one PvE side-grade and one PvE upgrade), plus hitting 25 badges for a very nice wand upgrade that will serve decently in PvP too. Three hours, three epics.

But as brought up by a previous poster, I saw the 'other side' as a DPS caster priest; if I was also looking for some healer pieces I would feel bad to roll against our dedicated healers (unless they were going to d/e anyway). The nice healing mace dropped off Maiden, and I thought -- wow, that one item could make me viable PvP healer (with a spec change to Disc) -- but I won't roll against our PvE raid healers to get a PvP item.

That last issue makes me wonder if it would be possible to fuse PvE and PvP together better, rather than 'raider' or 'PvP'. The distinction probably came about TBC because Blizz correctly saw that raid gear dominated WoW 1.0 PvP, and actual PvP gear was very inaccessible and not as good as the raid gear. The Fix: Better, more easy-to-obtain PvP gear -- only to have the problem come full-circle when raiders hit the Arenas for weapons for raiding, leading to rating-protected S3 Arena items.

Finally, the popularity issue is probably much broader than 'leet PvP epix'. In spite of the considerable attention to raiders, I gather that there are many who have been stuck for quite a while on certain bosses, and who are growing tired of grinding the same tired content. Patch 2.3 stuck them in the same situation as the PvP crowd -- run the same content again for new (badge gear) rewards.

Woo hoo. Kara and heroics again. For leet badge gear. What fun.

TBC is definitely wearing thin. Talk of 'the last TBC patch' (2.4) and the WotLK will probably change play patterns much as the WoW 2.0 patch essentially killed 1.0 raiding. Blizz obviously hopes that a new area, another instance, opening up MH/BT, and stringing along the PvP crowd with long-timeline epics will tide TBC over to WotLK.
In EQ, it was common to join organized PUG raids. You would actually get DKP with the raid organizers, although you weren't officially in their guild.

Another factor was that the raid size in EQ was large enough that everyone didn't need to be on their "A" game. Sure, most of the raid did, but that still left room for a dozen or so slackers.

To this day, EQ raiding feels more "accessible" to me, a true paradox when you consider WoW's reputation for beaing "easy".

I've said a couple of times that the smaller raids perversely penalize anyone who wants to bring a friend or family member along.

40 mans were more casual friendly in that it was easier to bring your B string and C string guildies after you got it on farm.
This tension between PVP and PVE is staring to make me think about a radical possibility. What if Blizzard were to fork WOW into two games: one balanced for PVE and one balanced for PvP?

They'd both start off as the game is now, but from then on, all balance decisions in eWOW would be based around PVE content, whereas all decisions in pWOW would be based around PVP. Players could then choose which version of the game they preferred by picking server. Since WOW lack serious competition at present anyway, perhaps it could compete against itself?
The problem is they based thier game on the grind for gear. I think that most people playing the game right now would do whatever is most efficient for them to gear up regardless of whether it was fun or not.

if they released tier 7 patterns that required thousands of hours of primals and stuff that could be ground solo. PVP and Raiding would grind to a halt and then people would be screaming about competing for farming areas.

What frustrates me is thier fix to every frustration is a longer more tedious grind. Not story not fun events just a grind that is disguised less well each time they do it.

That's the traditional "mudflation" trap, and although scale and the slow pace of expansions (and lack of real competition) has slowed it in WoW, it's playing out according to the numbers.

From a financial viewpoint, WoW is huge. When it's 10 years old, it will probably still be bringing in half a billion a year and will have lifetime revenue in excess of $10B. But from a design and overall business management viewpoint, it's uninteresting (other than the sheer scale of success), and always has been, just the same things we've seen before.

WoW "beat the curve" on market growth for a while, but that seems to again to have been just a matter of scale, with the doldrums following the curve-busting being as exagerated as everything else.

I agree with you Dave. I was just trying to make the point that PVP isn't any more fun than PVE for most people. It's just the gaurranteed way to get epics for anyone that can't or won't get a group of 20 people together to raid. Anyone can do it so more people do.

But you are right. I think when the Mudflation finally blows up in thier fact I think it will be proportional to thier success. The fact that they've let the PVP and PVE gear get so ridiculous is making the gap from new player to old player so painful that the next game that gets it right will look really appealing.
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