Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
World of Warcraft e-sports

You guessed it, it's "WoW PvP day" here on Tobold's MMORPG blog. And that wouldn't be complete without mentioning Blizzard's recent announcement of "e-sports" tournaments. You pay $20 and get a brand new level 70 character in full epic gear on a special tournament server, where you compete against others in the arena to win a part of a prize pool of $250,000. As there will be probably more than 12,500 players trying this, Blizzard will make loads of money from that.

Syncaine from Hardcore Casual and me often disagree, because he isn't casual at all. But for once I totally agree with him, when he calls this e-sports server a form of legalized RMT: If there is a new class you'd like to try out, but are too lazy to level up and equip it, you can pay $20 and get a fully equipped level 70 power-leveled by Blizzard themselves. It's both cheaper and more safe than a Chinese power-leveling service! And completely legit! And nobody forces you to actually play in the arena on that server. Bring your whole guild and finally see whether you could beat the Black Temple in your $20 epic gear!

Or of course you could enter the arena and compete for money prizes. Wait a minute! How do you call an online service where you pay a fixed sum to be allowed to participate, in the hope of winning a huge money prize pot financed by all the other participants, by winning online games? Yes, illegal gambling, that was the term! Well, the legality of it of course depends on the country where you live, but how exactly is Blizzard e-sports different from lets say an online poker tournament?

And as if that all wasn't enough insanity, Rob Pardo hopes to turn this e-sports thing into a spectator sport, by "retrofiting" spectator mode into the arenas. Note to Rob: in a spectator sport the audience needs to be able to follow what is actually happening on the field. Right now, even if you could watch an arena game, you wouldn't understand anything of what was going on, as you don't see who uses what abilities and spells most of the time. And sometimes you don't see anything at all, because all the rogues and druids are invisible. And when something happens, it all goes so fast, that you can't follow the action. So WoW arenas as a spectator sport would need slow-motion replay, with the invisible people made visible to the spectators, and with all the spells and abilities being used shown. That will be very, very hard to implement.

I think trying to turn World of Warcraft into an "e-sport" is a very bad idea. You are reducing a huge virtual world with many different options and modes of gameplay and character development into a tiny arena with arrested development and only one type of gameplay, which isn't even the best balanced one of the game. And as the rules of the e-sport change with the rules of WoW in general, players don't even get certaintly about how their class will play. There is already a big outcry on the upcoming warlock nerf, now imagine you just paid $20 for a tournament warlock when the patch hits and nerfs you!

I have a far better proposal for Blizzard: Instead of having one game that does everything, split WoW into two different games. Leave just the battlegrounds in WoW, take out the arenas, and make a new game which is all about arena combat, e-sports, and tournaments. The new game would have no grind, no character development, and thus no way that the less skilled player could beat the more skilled player by having the better gear. Then you could balance WoW perfectly for PvE, and the new game perfectly for PvP, and wouldn't have all those problems at the interface of the two.
There is an easier way to try out a lv 70 character; it's called the PTR.
Last time I went on the test server, my character had the best gear available (as far as I can remember), as well as bags full of gems to socket. I also got ganked immediately I logged on, but that is another story!
No need to spend $20.
this is the same crap that destroy all games when they made truckloads of cash

They want to monetize even more the game with the e-sport shit (and im sure that they will include ADS even if you have to pay to play there)

When i started playing this was a mmoRPg, i mean ROLE PLAYING, no competition PVP, mostly a pve game with some rp and casual pvp

if you want to play a pvp game play at least guild war and you dont have to pay the montly fee
One interesting thing about this is that it will show once and for all which classes/specs are the best for arena pvp, since there will be no leveling/gearing/pve/sentimental considerations. The players (or at least the successful ones) will simply choose the best combinations.
One nitpick - from the Blizz site (

"On tournament realms, you can roam free on the original continents of Azeroth and Kalimdor. However, instance portals leading to dungeons and Battlegrounds will be deactivated, as will the Dark Portal - thus, Outland will not be accessible on tournament realms. There will also be no computer-controlled enemies anywhere in the world."

So no trying out PvE content.
How do you get potions and other consumables then?
I think turning arenas into an e-sport is a good idea and it's especially exciting for us fans of PvP. Since the tournament severs don't have any instance content its kind of wrong to call it a legalized form of RMT. In fact the pre-made characters on the PTR have more power to get into new PvE content. I know its easy to bash parts of a MMO you don't enjoy and I've been guilty of it also

On a side note if you actually play a lot in the arenas you start to recognize every class ability based on animations. Having to see the UI isn't really a requirement for spectators who are familiar with the arenas. Now for non PvP fans it might be useful to have a window where the name of the spell and ability appears when its used.
Wonderful lack of research about the actual tournament realm and failure to mention free PTR 70's.

Anyways, Mr. Hardcore Casual, is usually wrong about whatever he is trying to complain about. If he was the hardcore casual Mr PvP that he claims to be, he would be talking about the fact that Arenas are destroying World of Warcraft's class balance. So much crap is getting done to fix arenas that the general WoW audience is suffering horribly as classes become insanely overpowered or underpowered outside of Arenas. If this continues, WotLK's PvP-based zone will be utterly worthless.

I've stated it a thousand times over: the Arenas are becoming a separate game entirely, and they need to be cut off from the main WoW game. The underlying class and gear systems are meant for PvE encounters and objective-oriented PvP. Without massive, game-changing updates, it will never be balanced properly for e-Sport Arena play.

Blizzard will slowly kill WoW if they continue down the line of balancing for Arenas while completely screwing the rest of the game. They need to separate Arenas into an additional game that in turn can be balanced properly with little effect on the original game.

Maybe we are seeing a little bit of this with Tournament Realms, but the Arenas have proven to be the single most disruptive force in WoW's history effecting both PvE and PvP negatively from gear rewards to overly aggressive class changes.
Special venders are put into the arena server which have gems and head/shoulder enchants for people to customize their gear.

You can't use any consumables in the arenas!!!
For me, my first reaction to WoW Arena as an e-sport was, "Did you check that against the hoax sites?"

But as I understand it, this $20 character will be on a 'special server'. I don't really see that as RMT, unless you can transfer your PvP monster to your usual server. It's just another tournament - Blizzard sets the 'board', and you pay to play. But I didn’t see any mention of banning or standardizing add-ons or macros used for 'performance enhancement' :)

The whole thing is kind of ironic, since the PvP that 10 million subscribers pay to participate in is anything but balanced, and is constantly changing.

Personally, I already concede that I'm too old to play twitchy PvP with the youth except for casual fun. IMO, if one didn't already have a lot of top-end Arena experience with a good team with a good PvP class combination with tried-and-true add-ons and macros to give you as much of an edge as possible, you'd probably be buying $20 worth of frustration.

From a larger perspective, there are a lot of possible 'takes' on this.
What impact will this e-sports perspective have on WoW resource management at Blizzard?
What impact on game balance -- yeah, remember, WoW is an MMO?
I guess that casuals can now claim to not only subsidize raiding, but also Arena e-sports development...
Patch 2.4 giving away PvP gear like never before now seems like a transparent move to nudge (push?) WoW players toward an e-sport business model.
Blizzard has yet to make a move toward competition raiding, so is raiding going to be a poor stepchild in WotLK?
Can we officially declare world PvP and the battlegrounds dead?
I wonder.
As you say, local laws vary, but around these parts the definition of gambling requires that there be some element of chance. What Blizzard is doing seems to be skill based, so it is more like a sporting tournament with a prize than gambling.

All of what you have said about WoW PvP recently seems to point towards GuildWars as the possible PvP role model, where PvP is a separate and distinct game from PvE.
Although I would like to watch some arena fights as a spectator i don't think i like the shape that WoW is taking.

Viv/Blizz wants to keep cashing in and maybe, as if they weren't being greedy enough, Viv management is putting pressure on Blizz to come up with new money wagons.

Play-for-Cash is already being implemented mostly in US with a FPS game that I don't remember the name so Blizz, in its old vein of creating nothing, is trying to get on that boat as soon as possible.

But the think is, when you put money on a game, if people start playing for money instead of fun or acomplishment (yes, sometimes they are mutually exclusive, go figure) they are stripping away the innocence inherent to a fantasy world.

It seems to me that the new tournament servers will be an on-line version of a casino with all it's downsides...

Oh well, long live capitalism... :S
As you say, local laws vary, but around these parts the definition of gambling requires that there be some element of chance. What Blizzard is doing seems to be skill based, so it is more like a sporting tournament with a prize than gambling.

Well poker players claim that theirs is a game of skill as well. :) In a WoW arena at least the pairing is done by chance, and that has a huge effect on the outcome. It is a skill-chance mix, just like poker, and thus not necessarily legal everywhere.
Note there are no hostile NPCs on the Tournament server, nor can you zone into any instances... It's purely there for Arenas and World PvP.

I also don't see it as RMT, any more than paying a $15/mo subscription fee is RMT.
I believe the arena matching system is roughly related to the ELO chess system which is not chance based.

The tournament server has several gear options equally available to all participants so it really does come down to the strategy of what classes and gear to pick. Heck, I've pretty much never gotten higher then a 1650 rating and I'm thinking of entering.
It's RMT for the simple reason I can now pay $20 and test endless talent/gear/class combo's without the need to spend any gold on that testing. I then take that research and dominate whatever server I normally play on, giving me an advantage over anyone who does not spend the 20 to test. No different than paying a gold farmer a certain amount to get enough gold on a normal server and do it there, just that Bliz provides a flat rate for the testing.

Oh and Heartless, aside from PTR not being up at all times, getting reset, and NOT providing the same freedom the RMT server will, you are almost right... And it's not Arena's ruining class balance, it's Blizzard's attempt to have any kind of meaningful PvP in a PvE game that is the problem. Before Arena's we had BG class balance, and it was no different.
Essentially, what is argued is that purchasing intellectual information and test time = purchasing RMT.
So the RMT commodity here is additional information about, and test time in, a niche virtual world segment. ISTM that one might as well argue that buying a WoW guide at the bookstore is RMT :)

The problem that I have with the assertion that this is a form of RMT is that the person who gains this "intellectual and test" advantage doesn't really gain much, if anything, compared to what they're probably already doing on their ordinary server.

If you're trying the same toon & team you're already playing, I don't see much gained there. You're just queuing on a different server.

If you're trying something different, well, you would still have to recreate the toon you were testing in the tournament server environment -- good luck with that before the WotLK compatibility patch resets everything.

Non-issue IMO.
The type of people who could take advantage of this are already so hardcore that they're the ones writing the guides :)
I don't think it's as simple as that, otherwise everyone would be downing raid bosses just from reading a strat guide, right? Even knowing the exact strat, guilds still have to go out and actually practice the execution, dealing with repair and consumable costs.

Imagine if Blizzard let you pay $20 to put your guild on a free pots/repairs server, and let you try out any instance you wanted. You get the instance on farm, then come back and do it on a live server. Same thing here, just apply it to the Arena.

Having unlimited access to testing in a live environment is a huge advantage on a competitive level.
Blast! You stole my post for the day... I was going to suggest the same exact thing.

Ah, well. /agree :)
Well, let me attempt to explain myself...

First of all, Arena doesn't have any consumable cost even on the live servers, so that is really a side issue that doesn't lend itself to comparison with raiding.

According to the article:
"Starting in April, there will be two rounds of online qualifiers in Europe, South Korea, North America, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau. Entry will cost £12 in Europe, 20,000 won in South Korea, $20 in North America, and NT$450 in the other three regions. The qualifiers will run for six weeks, and teams will play 3-vs-3 matches, with the top four teams advancing to the regional finals. Winners of the regional finals will then vie for a slice of $27,000 in cash prizes, and the winners of the global championship will net themselves a $75,000 grand prize."

IMO the "free pots/repairs any raid server" analogy is a flawed one.
The article describes a "tournament" -- to be clear, from a web dictionary: "A sporting competition in which contestants play a series of games to decide the winner." This Blizzard event might be different, but I've been in a number of tournaments in a variety of sports, and none was an open test environment such as you're describing. The organizers named the competition place, schedule, pairing, etc, by a set of guidelines published in advance or governed by a sporting organization.

As I read it, you don't get the equivalent of "your choice of instance". You're paired by Blizzard. You only get to play 3v3. You play over a six-week period, and then advance (or you're out). There is a qualifier, then a regional, which suggests to me that this isn't an open-ended test environment, but a structured environment with some clearly-defined parameters.

And even if we entertain your analogy of "free raiding"...
Guilds have already had more than six *months* to try to get into MH/BT. I really don't think that offering six weeks raiding with gear of your choice and free consumables for $20 would be that big a deal. I think that if people tried the "open raiding" you describe, the typical reaction would be like the reaction I've seen to people after they've 'beaten the game' with cheat codes -- a combination of 'been there, done that' and 'not worth the effort again in 'real' mode'.

A better analogy, IMO, would be (bear with me) if some stereotypical Chinese gold farming operation teamed with Blizzard to establish a server that, for $20, taught you to farm your own gold efficiently. Then you'd be buying the "intellectual information and test time". But you'd have to spend your own time to build the farming character and do the actual farming.
Sounds like people are just outright upset that PvP is getting some attention, while the "watch youtube, install mod x, and have consumables ready" raiding isn't getting the same treatment.

It's called evolution. Don't fret guitar hero fans, your mashing of 8 buttons against mobs controlled by a computer will continue to be the dominant part of WoW. Its just that Arena is somewhat popular, and its a way for people to compete with other people.

Almost every FPS video game, which is where I came from, has tournaments, etc, to play against other teams or players.

And stop the insane remarks about the tournament realms being RMT, or anything even remotely equivalent.

Go join the PTR and defeat any boss you want.

Hell, you get to TRANSFER YOUR CHARACTER to the PTR most of the time, which means you get a free toon transfer, with your gear and items, to play on the PTR server. You and your guild can all go down whatever raid boss you want on the PTR, without worrying about atunements or gear!

PTR = RMT? Not to me. Its a temporary character. Just like the tournament server. It's for those of us who like to PvP.

And, resto druids in PvP are pretty imbalanced atm (they don't die). Hey guitar hero players (raiders), do you only bring druid healers because PvP has made them so overpowered? Do you skip over Paladins, Priests and Shamans now?

Didn't think so.
There will probably be some interesting world pvp on that tournament server. ^^

Balance is frustrating though how am i supposed to know if i am doing well as a player with such imbalance? How does anyone really know how skilled they are?
evolution?? they are just making the game pvp cause is a lot cheaper than to give back content

i remember molten core being extremely popular

enjoy your World of Guildwarscraft
pvp players
n1ck illustrates once again that PvE and PvP are completely different games.

I agree with n1ck...split off the Arena to separate servers and balance them around their team duels. Leave the rest of us to play WoW.
In a WoW arena at least the pairing is done by chance, and that has a huge effect on the outcome.

Even if the matchings were perfectly matched the actual combat has huge random elements - A mage casts rank 9 fireblast, it does 664 to 786 damage (+gear bonuses). Whether you get 664 or 786 is entirely chance based, like you're rolling a dice or drawing a random card. If blizzard want it to be entirely skill based it would have to be a set amount every time otherwise it's a skill/chance game, just like poker however much you argue what the actual skill/chance balance is.
That will be very, very hard to implement.

There's been UI mods that display your action above your character as scrolling text forever (same as EQ or something?). Blizzard just needs a version of that working for all participants, viewable by the spectators.

Showing invisible players isn't so bad either, might be hairy but not complicated.

The rest, I agree with.
"Leave the rest of us to play WoW."

Right, because if you aren't fighting NPC's, you aren't playing WoW. I must have forgot that part of the ToS I agreed to. Forgive me.

Sorry to let you know, there are enough PvP'ers that we aren't just going to go play another game because you tell us to.

I'm sorry that the epics I use don't require weeks and weeks of learning an encounter, and hoping that once the encounter is beat, I might, maybe, hopefully will get an epic, although its probably unlikely. If you find enjoyment with that, cheers! I don't, so I take the road less travelled by (although the path is starting to get worn).

Anyone who is crying about WoW PvP...why are you so upset? Because raiding isn't the only way you can play endgame now?

This is a video game. I play it for fun. Getting gear is fun, playing in BG's or Arena is fun. To ME.

I pay my monthly fee, you pay your monthly fee. If this game wasn't fun, I wouldn't pay a monthly fee to be so upset and a video game.

Think about it for just a second. If you are so mad about WoW and what it is now, stop paying your monthly fee. Since I like WoW just the way it is, I'll keep playing, and paying.

Sometimes the logic used by people is so biased that it's amazing that it is supposed to be taken seriously.

You tell me that I'm playing WoW wrong, and that Blizzard needs to totally change WoW to be centered only on PvE. See the problem? You want the game designed around you. Any designs that I like should be taken out...for the benefit of your playstyle.

Hey Tobold, I know the "Hardcore Elitist Raider", "Casual", and "PvP'er" label is thrown around here a lot.
Instead of talking about Hardcore raiders, casuals, and PvP'ers, how about we discuss another type of WoW gamer:

People who won't stop complaining until the game is designed specifically for them, everyone else be damned.

I have no problems with Blizzard adding new PvE content to WoW. Bring on the 5 man and 25 man dungeons. Once WoTLK comes out, I will be FORCED to fight NPCs that you so love and adore, in order to level.

WoW is too PvP centric?

You mean how only certain profession recipes drop from BG's? How certain profession recipes rely on PvP rep?

Oh yeah, thats right, profession recipes have to be obtained through PvE play. Heaven forbid a PvP'er be able to enchant his/her own gear. We have to go out and find a Kara raider for enchants. Yet, that's ok. I won't call out to the gods of WoW to nerf PvE because of it. I just accept it and move along, because ultimately I choose to play this game, or not.

Look, I'm not trying to start a flame, but it does get old when as a PvP'er, I am constantly told my gear is "welfare" when I had to earn it. Or that the way I play WoW is wrong, because I'm not fighting the same bosses...over, and over, and over, ad nauseum.

Somehow, WoW is a PvE game, and us PvP'ers get everything. Hell, we already have 4 battlegrounds, by 2010, we may have a whole 5 battlegrounds total!

Sorry to spoil your complaints, but WoW is still based around PvE. I'm not getting a new battleground, or a new arena style.

You fighters of NPC's are getting a new 5 man, a new 25 man, and more badge of justice rewards. PvP'ers are getting...gear with some different stats...

I have no problem with raiders, I tease them the same way they tease my PvP "welfare" gear. But at the same time, it gets old being told that I don't play WoW right because I don't play WoW the same way as you.

Here I thought that most people that frequent this blog want more options. Apparently, a lot of people only want more PvE options.

PvP abilities interfere with PvE.
PvE abilities interfere with PvP.

Deal with it. I do.
as far as I'm concerned, it's a pretty even out skill tournament. Everybody will have their teams they signed up with against teams other people signed up with playing with similar levels of gear against people of similar levels of gear. It's more about skill than the current arena anyways where gears can vary a lot depending on the amount people have played arena.

I'd also like to say that everything in the world if based on the off chance of luck, so maybe you should just make everything illegal, since obviously life is a gamble.

Not my favorite post of yours tobold :), still love you to bits though.
PVP and PVE should be separated....

or make some PVE skill unusable in PVP , just like engineer stuff unusable
I'm all for separate arena servers for people who love to play PvP in the most balanced environment possible. But paying extra money to participate in the hope of winning a $75,000 prize is clearly gambling. WoW arena PvP is not, and can never be, free of chance elements. A rogue performs differently against a priest than against another rogue or against a warrior. So even if there are many teams with the same score and you only get matched against teams of the same score, there is chance involved what the class mix of your enemy will be.

And of course $75,000 will bring out the worst in people. I bet there will be some stories surfacing about people cheating, Blizzard had already to ban cheaters at their last tournament attempt. Turning a game into a fight for money is a very, very bad idea.
"But paying extra money to participate in the hope of winning a $75,000 prize is clearly gambling."
--Sorry, but I can't leave that just hanging out there :)

First of all, just about every tournament in any sport will have an entry fee.
Do you really think that all tournaments are gambling?

I suppose gambling is a matter of degrees.
However, typically "gambling" refers to games of open-ended betting on an uncertain outcome, usually with the perception that everyone has a roughly equal chance of winning. An increased wager will bring an increase reward on winning. The one betting often has no control at all over the outcome.
In the case of a tournament, in this case (as is typical) there is a fixed entry fee (of $20), and all entrants gain the opportunity to compete (contest of skill) for the prize. In other words, this is not a case where you pay $20 and there is a random draw out of a barrel; nor can you pay $40 for a chance at $150,000.

Some people claim that this WoW tournament is the same as poker.
Well, let's consider that:

In the WoW tournament you set the team and gear of your choice from exactly the same set of choices given to every other team (as is typical in sporting events with standardized equipment).
In poker you play with what's randomly dealt.

In a tournament situation, typically over time certain persons consistently distinguish themselves above their peers. You'll hear names like Tiger Woods & Roger Federer -- my point being that a casual player or team has essentially no chance to defeat the top pros.
I don't follow poker, but I would guess that it would be much harder to consistently win in a game that begins with a random element. I recall reading a while back that in one of these tournaments the previous year's winner didn't even survive the first round. IMO a casual player would have a much better chance of winning against a top poker player. Often these games of chance are played based entirely upon percentages.

Put another way...
Tobold, do you really think that if you entered you'd have the same chance of winning the WoW Arena tournament as everyone else?
If not, why not?
Are they luckier, or more skillful? :)
I wouldn't win a poker tournament either, but that doesn't make online poker legal everywhere. As long as it isn't PURE skill, but a mix of skill and chance, there is a degree of gambling in it. How much chance is necessary before it becomes illegal depends on local legislation.
Tobold, I understand your point, but honestly, there is a huge difference between holding a tournament with cash prizes, that has an entry fee, and gambling ala Blackjack or Poker.

When you gamble, you are staking your money against someone else's money to win his/her money. You are wagering a certain amount of your money to win someone else's money.

In a tournament with an entry fee, you are paying to get in, to get a chance to compete. Once you are in, you compete with random people, WITHOUT wagering your money to win their money. Instead, you are playing to win some price, albeit cash or property.

Once you are in the tournament, if you win 5 matches, you haven't won your opponent's money. While you are competing with each opponent in the game of choice, you are not thereafter taking their money because they lost.

I can almost guarantee that most jurisdictions would not consider a cash prize tournament to be gambling.

If I invite 50 people to play paper rock scissors, and charge them $10 to join the tournament, would you consider that gambling?

If I then promise that whomever wins the tournament will be compensated with $100, would you consider that gambling?

Because at the end of the day, there are only 2 transactions going on here.

Entry fee to host to get a chance to play.

Payment if you are ultimate winner.

At no time does the winner of each game get money from their opponent, which is what gambling is about.

Not true, what you just describes is exactly how texas hold em poker tournaments work. Only at 'live cash' tables do you play with cash and try to continually get other people's cash. In the tournaments you pay an 'entrance fee' and then are given an amount of chips but these chips aren't really cash. Then all players play until the final winers win a cash prize. Same thing. Two transactions going on. Also, in wow, tons of pecentages or prevalent, just like in poker. There is the chance in wow, that even in the best gear, you could roll low hits all the time because thee are random spreads of damage the original spells do - so just like in poker there IS the chance you could get AA in the whole every time - and there IS the chance you could crit every time in wow, or get 27 off suite in poker.

And inviting people over to your house to play rock paper scissors for money is gambling - you are just doing it in one collection tme instead of little ones each time. Are the police going to come to your house - no, not unless you start doing it every night and strangers start showing up and then, yeah - you would be runing a gambling center.

In most jurisdictions that would be gambling. Legally no different than playing poker.

At least here in the US.

In fact when blizzard offered prizes for the first arena several teams were left out because of the laws against gambling in thier home states.
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