Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
On the way to e-sport?

A reader was asking me what I thought about the various class changes that Wrath of the Lich King will bring to World of Warcraft. He noticed that many of them seem to be for balancing, like removing all racial spells from the priest class, or giving druids a non-combat rez. Also lots of reagents have been removed, like rogue poisons and things like light feathers for levitate, removing some reagent-gathering from the game. His conclusion was that Blizzard is doing all that for their e-sports arenas. Balance is good for arenas, and so is the removal of reagents.

So, less atmosphere, less roleplaying, more arenas, more e-sports, is that the future of World of Warcraft? I'm not a big fan of arenas, so for me that would be a step backwards. But for other players arena seem to be quite popular. Are they fun, and Blizzard is right to push them, or are people just doing them for the epics? What do you think about the changes?
They are fun but broken... The rating system used is perverted by people in max gear, deleting their team and doing a new one, often with friend in lower gear, to boost them. The gear is THAT important in arena that it's then impossible to beat them.

Only way to fix this would be to adjust the rating of the team by calculating it from the gear owned by the players. Not even used, but owned. No cheat, no "new" team, fair games for all. Would that be hard to code ? No idea, but the current system is really bad and the "personnal rating" seems to fail at adjusting all that.
To make arena work as a anything remotely resembling a real sport, they need to move to a standardised gear model, where all participants in a given league get identical gear. Only by coming high enough in the S1 league would you qualify for the S2 one, etc.

That way people could still progress, but they would only ever be fighting people with similar equipment. If you are in the S3 league and want your friend to help a friend advance from S1, you'd need to drop back to S1 gear as well.

Right now, the relative benefits of skill and gear aren't right.
Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Sure, balancing the classes improves Arena gameplay, but it does that for all other gameplay as well.

Priest racial spells were always an oddball. Sure, they brought flavor into the game, but other classes did not have similar racial differences and there were legitimate balance issues. If you wanted to play a shadowpriest, you were better off choosing a Forsaken than choosing a Night Elf, for example. And it's not like it was a decent tradeoff. Night Elf priests did not have similar advantages in other areas. Removing that variable from the great equation that is class balance makes the balance easier to reach.

Also, good riddance to reagents. Those were always a chore, not something that really contributed to the class. Having a class require reagents for a spell or ability doesn't really contribute to the balance, because that character will not engage in a particular activity unless the reagents are in order. If he's playing his class properly, he will not run out of reagents mid-fight, and will not use those reagents conservatively. When was the last time you saw a hunter switch to melee because he run out of ammo or a warlock using an imp because he had no soulshards left? Or a rogue that DPSed without poisons? And did you think that he was doing nothing wrong? And that this was how his class was supposed to be played?

But maybe that's just me. I'd rather have one well thought-out game mechanic than two half-baked ones.
Arenas are fun for some people, but I noticed that all pure PvP-Players in WoW seem not very happy, even those with no intentions in leaving. WoW is more of a PvM-Game and you're going to notice that when you completed the actual best set (and participated countless hours in 4 small battlegrounds) at the latest.
Blizzard is lucky that only a small percentage of players really reach the top because those tend to be bored and resort to things like creating new teams to kill newbies because theres nothing meaningful left to do for them.

Turning WoW into a E-Sport Game requires three things:
- Gear has to be irrelevant
- Only one class, because a priest won't kill a MS-Warrior
- No leveling (not relevant for pvp)

If you introduce these changes it would not only kill WoW as an MMORPG, it would also create a simple "Fantasy-Counterstrike".
How can PVP in an item centric PVE MMO be fun anyways? :P
The gameplay of WoW makes arenas fun. Class spells like shadowstep, blink, charge, etc. makes the fights very fast and interesting. PvP, in WoW, is fun because they did really well on the core part of the gameplay. BG & Arena are boring / frustrating because of what we already said. They need to find a way to make it "more fair" or transform it in a CounterStrike like thingy (aaawww). Well, I'd love to see a good mix of PvE / PvP. Atm I dont see a game doing it right. Maybe Aion ? We'll see.
Am I missing something here, but isn't the change from a content (and gear) driven RPG based MMO towards an arena (and PvP) driven system a bit drastic way to counter a new challenger (read: WAR), which is based on RvR (PvP) based RPG MMO?

For me this means downgrading the rich lush lore into a necessary evil to go through to to reach the bliss of Arenas. Never mind the immersion factor, let's cater for the hardcore, that's what they are stating with this thinking.

And saying 'hardcore' I mean the definition which Harbinger Zero made in his post: someone playing the game to win, whatever it is they think they are winning. Casual being someone who is playing for the fun of it, not necessarily to achieve.

Well, when the changes come in, I guess I'll be changing regardless of what my friends may think.

Why not separate the Arena duelling and end game raiding from the content alltogether? Would serve better to cater all the audiences and no one would get frustrated over the other, right?

Perhaps I'm reading too much into this, but it seems to me that Blizzard may be positioning themselves for a new business model. If you will humor me a moment:

We know that Blizz has two non-MMOs slated for release within the next year or so (D3, SCII). These cater to similar but different slices of the gamer population, and though they're almost assuredly going to be popular, both are free to play on BattleNet once you've purchased the box.

Then we have this elusive rumor of 'Project Hyrda', which no one at Blizz will even whisper about. My guess? It's their new MMO, which directly competes with WoW for subscriptions and players.

So what is the solution? Rather than abandon WoW, it seems to me that Blizzar is retooling the game to be more accessible as a pure PVP game. The class balancing issues are just the start, because as so many other commentors have pointed out, gear has to be balanced for PVP to be 'fair'.

I envision a business model crafted thusly: New MMO will full $14.95/month subscription fee, and a reduced fee for WoW, with the game now skewed more towards quick Arena/BG matches, much like a FPS.

This doesn't prohibit people from raiding, but with the new MMO likely drawing the majority of the players interested in progression, the player base for PVE will be drastically diminished in WoW. PVP though is quick, requires less intense collaboration, and provides a sugar-rush of gratification (all for minimal developer time). Blizz comes out with new BGs or Arena maps once in a while, adds some features here and there, and calls that sustainment.

Just a thought.
Why not separate the Arena duelling and end game raiding from the content alltogether? Would serve better to cater all the audiences and no one would get frustrated over the other, right?
Well, while that may be true, separating the playstyles even further would undermine one crucial strength of WoW: It offers something for everyone, even if that something is less-than ideal for any specific playstyle. This strategy allowed WoW to harness the network effect better than anything else out there. WoW has also been criticized of pigeonholing people into instances (that includes the Battlegrounds and Arenas), which not only diminishes immersion, it also limits player interaction.

Hell may be other people, but so is heaven.
As long as WoW's arenas are still part of the MMORPG it will never be an esport. For a game to be competitive all players need to start with the same equipment (in WoW that would be gear AND freedom to select class on the fly based on matchup/situation)

If you were able to select whatever class (each class came with the top equipment) for each and every match, THEN it might could be an esport ... although a very boring one to watch.

But the way it is now, no two players have the same equipment going into a match. Imagine if the NFL tried to "balance the teams" by letting the RAMS take touchbacks from the 50 yard line?

It's not a sport when one side is imbalanced. And no matter how hard Blizzard tries, WoW just has too many balance points to ever make the game equal for every single class in every matchup.
WoW's entire PvP system just needs a massive overhaul. The excessive time requirements to farm a set of honor gear to even try and be competitive in arenas is obscene. Add to that the problem of many players turning to arenas for PVE gear and you have a massive amount of frustrated players. I think that the arena tournament realm was a step in the right direction. Get the competitive PVP players all in one place and as far away from lower arena brackets as possible.

Let's hope that they get PvP gear right in WotLK and somehow make it ineffective in PVE. They certainly figured out how to do the opposite and make many PVE items/weapons extremely suboptimal for PVP.
The underlying problem with pvp in WoW is that healing is too powerful.

If you let a resto specced healer go at it unmolested, it would be impossible to kill anything until he was OOM.

But if you nerf their healing that throws the whole pve game out of wack. If you lower the bosses dps to compensate, then the tanks need to be reworked since they are build to handle much worse things.

Then you've got weak tanks and healers, so you have to nerf the dps or they would dominate.

Which negates the heal nerf you just did for pvp!

So they give everyone CC to avoid the nerf loop. You don't have to outdamage the healer straight up; you have to outdamage him after hes been cycloned, curse of tongued, sheeped, hammered, feared, stunned, trapped, etc...

It's not too much fun to be a resto shaman or paladin when you have to stand still for at least a second or two to heal.

In short, esport my ass. Can't be done without ripped the rest of the game to shreds and putting a torch to several classes.
I don't think that arenas are that popular based on the gameplay. Most people (including myself) play arenas because it's an easy way to upgrades. I've gotten three pieces of S3 from arenas, purple items that were much better than what I was wearing and things I won't replace until T6 gear, just by going in and playing my ten games a week. For the most part, I don't even have to win, just play, and it advances me quicker than any other PvP would, and probably quicker than most PvE. That's why I play the crappy PvP killfest they call arenas instead of something I prefer that's more objective-based like AB or EotS.

As for the priest racials - having high-level priests on both sides (human and forsaken), they're nifty, but yeah, no other class really has them. It's a shame to see Devouring Plague go, I'd like to see that show up as a talent at some point.

On no longer using reagents - good riddance.
The increased focus on arenas was one of the things that killed WoW for me. As someone else posted, gear will outdo skill any day of the week there, and if you have someone who is already wearing full arena gear, even last o the previous season's, they become nigh invulnerable to anything but someone equally equipped.

I'd have more respect for the system if people started off with designated gear levels. The arena focus has forced many changes, nerfs in some ways, rebalanacing in others, of the PvE game simply because those powers were too nasty when used PvP.

I don't think you can truly have a PvP and PvE game living side by side. AI isn't to the level that making an NPC only as powerful as a PC of the same level is fair, as a human can easily outthink that computer and cause the situation to become a farm. Conversely, reducing the PvE power of the character means that it takes longer to do simple tasks, which is also not desireable.
Guild Wars arena competition is always full.
PvP arenas are always the busiest part of that game.
Money is involved in the GW setting though...

Who knows.
I don't know, but I'm playing with alot of ex-shadowpriests and ex-pvpers over the changes in WAR, that were so mad, they left WoW.

Come on guys order needs more I can crush you. :)
I don't see how balancing classes has anything to do with arenas, especially some of the changes mentioned. Sometimes class changes due to pvp, sometimes not.

The priest ones probably are, and taking away downranking probably is, but other changes like eliminating reagents is more about taking one small annoyance away from the players. (I always assumed they were going to someday add more racials to all the classes, instead of taking them away from priests... oh well).

WoW has always had pvp balance changes and pve balance changes that affect the other part of the game. Really it's nothing new, but rather a reason to play a game that focuses on one or the other. It seems they are still trying to balance the two, after 4 years, and still not succeeding as well as players hope.
I think separating PVE and PVP gear, etc. is the only way to salvage PVP for WoW. The original idea with making PVP gear accessible through BGs was to allow a larger audience to upgrade and compete in Arenas AND start end game raiding (PVE).

Trying to gear up for PVE by running normal instances and heroics takes forever, and good luck trying to find normal instance runs consistently enough to gear up properly. It takes forever.

In my opinion, making S1 gear (and then S2 gear) available without running instances opened up end game raiding to a lot more people, but in the process, destroyed PVP for people who like to PVP. It became the same old gear grind that the normal instances were.

I don't know how many times I have heard in BGs that people just wanted to give up to get that last badge they needed for their next S1 or S2 piece. Or people who did arenas only to get their gloves, since gloves didn't require a rating...

In other words, they tried to kludge the gear grind for PVE raiding by making PVP gear more accessible, and in the process, destroyed PVP for PVP'ers.
It's sad when devs feel the need to change their MMO so much and alienate long active players instead of just developing a new game.
It's sad when devs feel the need to change their MMO so much and alienate long active players instead of just developing a new game.
Eeek double post, sorry!
The level of cynicism here is pretty high, though I think the original post lead everyone down that path. All of the balance changes we've seen seem to be centered on widening the circle of "allowed" raiding classes and spec. Everything from unifying buffs to normalizing tanking/healing/DPS to spreading out racial abilities, while impacting PVP, will keep people from being ungroupable. See this blue post for a idea of Blizzard's position on the topic.
In my opinion... Blizzard is focusing too much on arena for pvp. Part of what makes WoW so fun is the variety of things you can do. Soloing, Raiding, 10s, 25s, 5-man instances, 10, 15, 40 man bgs, 2v2 3v3 and 5v5 arenas, they are all fun in their own right, and what makes the game great is that they're all available to do. Sometimes I get tired of pvping, and go do an instance. Sometimes a raider gets tired of raiding, and goes and does some random bgs, or plays a twink.

Blizzard shouldn't be putting all their eggs in one basket, and only balancing and building things around arenas. They should be expanding the potential in all pvp activities.

Lake Wintergrasp is great, so I'm not TOO worried that they only care about arena, but I think there's room for improvement in the way battlegrounds work. And not just to remove afkers and botters, but also to bring back premades vs premades (not premades farming non premades) in bgs.
Hey Tobold,

Great blog! I just found you...Yes if you are a PvP junkie then arena's are a blast to play. I do agree that the rating system is broken and could use an overhaul.

P.S. if you don't mind I would like to add a link to your blog from mine.
The hunter and mage changes have finally killed what little interest I had left for the game.

I think WoW must be doing much worse than we might think. I notice Warcraftrealms hasn't updated its concurrency data in months.
WoW isn't even close to an E-Sport. Go play counterstrike and team fortress 2 even then come back to WoW. You will notice the major difference is skill. There are no stats, there is no gear(well tf2 kind of has gear, but not really). If you hit someone with a rocket you won't ever get a miss, or resist. E-Sports will never have random numbers decide the victor.

Have you ever asked why the arena came about in the first place? I'm pretty sure it has something to do with the huge amounts of people that would gather outside Ironforge and Org to duel. Dueling was SO much fun. Blizzard tried to bring that fun main stream with Arenas, however you can't have 1vs1. Also when you dueled you would show of your gear that you earned in a raid, you could take to people, craft, trade, be SOCIAL. There is no social in arenas. Arenas suck really. The difference between a fresh level 70 and a s4 is just plain silly. I'd be willing to guess that gear makes these characters 10 levels stronger then they are naked.
It's not fun to me. It's very irritating and I choose to ignore it as much as possible. But, as you stated, they like to balance the entire game around Arena/PvP.. so the changes are felt whether you use it or not.

I'm not okay with that.. it hasn't been big enough to push me away yet, but if it continues, it soon will.
The main problem with the system in TBC was that it was the only method of PvP gear advancement in the game. If you wanted to be good, you had to do arena.

If they change that with this expansion, then I can agree to disagree with arenas. Until then I'll always have an axe to grind with the forced grinding of arena points in fishbowl PvP so you can compete...
E Sports and BGs ruin the reason I play an MMO in the first place.
World pvp is where it is at, wheres the player community?
Crafting on wow is a joke, all the good stuff is raid dropa and
pvp rewards.. and idiot can get pvp gear from a BG.. it is that easy.
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