Posts tagged tbc
The title of this article is meant to be facetious. I understand Blizzard shouldn’t rush the release of a patch as complex and game changing as 3.0. There are still many elements of the expansion’s design that have yet to be fully considered and refined. But the release 3.0 is impending, this much we know given Eyonix’s statement from over a week ago.
With the release of Wrath of the Lich King approaching, we wanted to provide you with some important information. In preparation for the expansion, we will be issuing a new content patch in the coming weeks. Much like the patch made available shortly before The Burning Crusade’s release, this content patch is designed to bridge current game content with that of the expansion and will contain some exciting changes and additions.
Doom and Gloom?
There are people in the WoW community who believe 3.0′s release spells doom and gloom for the remainder of The Burning Crusade, especially raiding. And certainly the precedent set by 2.0.1 would suggest people are likely to give up on TBC raiding to bide their time, just as they did for vanilla WoW when 2.0.1 was released. However, people are overlooking one obvious condition that existed at the time of the TBC content patch’s release: it was the holiday season, and TBC was scheduled to come out merely two weeks after the season’s end.
Every guild I’ve been in has never been able to raid during the latter half of December. Last year, my guild didn’t raid at all from December 16th to January 1st. The release of 2.0.1 in December of 2006 merely aggravated the annual problem. By the time most people had returned from vacation, there was only two weeks remaining before TBC was scheduled to hit the shelves. Tack on the facts that a flat honor PvP gear system was an entirely new concept, providing means for people to easily obtain items better than even some of their PvE gear, and that guilds needed to downsize with changing end-game raid sizes, it’s no surprise many guilds decided to simply halt raiding altogether.
I think people fail to realize 3.0 has the potential to be released under very different conditions than 2.0.1. The concept of honor and arena-based gear is no longer fresh. Most of the people looking to obtain gear from PvP have already achieved their goals. 3.0 could potentially be released before the holiday season, as well. If 3.0 goes live in early October, and Wrath is slated for release in early December, I guarantee some people will return to test the new talents in both raid and PvP environments for a little while. People won’t have to worry about Christmas or finals, so why shouldn’t they return? And why shouldn’t they return if 3.0 may provide the tools to better succeed in raiding content they haven’t successfully cleared?
An early release of 3.0 would be highly beneficial to the game. Certainly, it could possibly create a few major short-term problems, but it would be a small price to pay for thoroughly testing the changes and creating an expansion that has more polish and stability than TBC. Why? Because I don’t think the Wrath beta or the PTR will provide Blizzard with the fully-developed perspective needed to accurately assess the possible consequences of the changes they’re making. Especially when it comes to the viability of certain specs and classes in raids.
3.0 Should Be a Prolonged Bridge to Wrath
Well there will be raid beta testing in the Beta, but don’t forget the upcoming PTR will allow even more testing prior to changes being made live. I do 25 and 10 man raids myself and believe me I know full well what the changes will mean for a Holy Priest. But until players are able to test them in a raid environment, then it really is only theorycraft; which is of course still valuable and often very accurate.
So said Wryxian on WoW’s European forums.
Anyone who’s played through WoW’s three betas and muddled around on the PTR’s knows the fallacy in this statement. Using the beta and PTR phases as the only forms of testing doesn’t always produce a patch that is entirely polished and stable. Certainly, it worked well for Sunwell. But consider the time and conditions of Sunwell’s testing phase. Illidan was first killed in June of 2007. Being relatively easy, Black Temple had been put comfortably on farm status for several months by hundreds of guilds.
When 2.4 hit the PTR in February, my own guild had been clearing BT for four months, bringing down the weekly time we spent on it to merely one night. And we did this as a guild that didn’t even place in the top 100 for Illidan kills in the U.S. So there were literally over a hundred guilds in the U.S. alone hungry for new content to conquer, and many of them took advantage of 2.4 on the PTR to satiate their appetites by testing the Sunwell. Guilds like Vis Maior exemplified this desire masterfully.
The situation now is much different, however. My guild only just defeated Kil’jaeden less than a month ago. We don’t have Sunwell comfortably on farm. And it takes us most of the week to clear it. Furthermore, the gear requirement for Sunwell is much tighter than it was during the days of Black Temple and Hyjal. So using previous instances to supplement gear for skilled recruits puts a further dent in some guilds’ schedules. Certainly, there are guilds out there who do clear Sunwell in merely a day or two, but these are mostly the top guilds in the world. So it is a far fewer number of guilds now in a situation similar to one that existed when 2.4 hit the PTR.
I also feel people will be far less inclined to test raiding on the PTR when there will be no new instances introduced in 3.0. I know I won’t even bother, even though I did test the Sunwell.
Also consider that many people don’t have their entire guilds on the beta right now. Even if they do, I doubt they have enough people leveled to 80. There’s a good amount of people from my guild on the beta, but I am the only person who has come close to 80 (and I stopped at 79 because I wanted to wait for Storm Peaks to reopen). Another member is quickly making his way there, but so did others before they stopped altogether. And while I realize premades were just made available on the beta, they are decked in PvP gear, which will give people only a limited view of the possibilities of some specs and classes in raids.
That’s not to say I don’t think there won’t be any raid testing done in Wrath’s beta. I think a few guilds will at least try to form a loose alliance to attempt some of the raiding content. I know if I had the time I’d possibly join a pick-up raid just to see what’s up. But I don’t see the extent of testing going any further than it did during TBC’s beta. I imagine most of the 10-man version of Naxxramas will be cleared, but I expect only the first boss or two of each wing in the 25-man version to receive any attention from beta testers.
It is for this reason I believe Blizzard needs to use the live version of 3.0 as a prolonged bridge to Wrath, providing opportunity to further recognize the problems that might be less obvious during the beta and PTR testing phases. I also hope Blizzard aims to release it some time in early or mid-October, well before people become inundated with finals and the impending rush of the holiday season. Had 2.0.1 been released well before the holidays, or had TBC’s release been pushed back slightly, some discrepancies in talent and game design would have perhaps been noticed before TBC’s release. Not all, of course, but enough such that TBC would have been more well-rounded at release.
That said, they shouldn’t rush its release if they aren’t confident in the changes they’ve implemented for the beta and the PTR.
3.0′s Possible Effects on Raiding in TBC
There’s no doubt the patching of 3.0 on live servers before Wrath’s release would have both positive and negative effects on the remainder of raiding in TBC.
How Can 3.0 Help Raiding in the Short Term?
As it currently stands, the end of Sunwell has been a rather daunting obstacle for most guilds’ ability to “win the game,” or rather to clear TBC’s raid content before it’s “over.” And many guilds that have already defeated the content are looking for a fresh approach that could change the way they farm it. Just take a look at the ratios of prior boss success to each new boss kill:
- 1.4:1 for Kalecgos to Brutallus.
- 1.5:1 for Brutallus to Felmyst.
- 1.3:1 for Felmyst to Twins.
- 2.4:1 for Twins to M’uru.
- 2.8:1 for M’uru to Kil’jaeden.
Notice the ratios are roughly similar for the first three comparisons. Then, suddenly, the ratios spike for the final two. This suggests guilds have likely fallen apart or hit walls at both M’uru and Kil’jaeden. My own guild hit a wall temporarily on Kil’jaeden, even though we did swimmingly on M’uru. And the the exact opposite happened for the number two guild on my server, which hit a wall on M’uru and then took Kil’jaeden down with ease.
With this in mind, I think another bone needs to be thrown to people still raiding. My guild killed M’uru way back in early June, placing 40th in the U.S. And despite the fact that M’uru received a huge nerf after this, still only 221 U.S. guilds have killed him (as of writing this article). So 85 days have passed since our kill, meaning only two or so U.S. guilds kill him each day.
Personally, I think there are a lot of tools 3.0 could bring that would prove beneficial to defeating the later boss encounters. I’d love to be able to pick up flourish, gift of the earthmother, genesis, and living seed. Flourish alone would be awesome for when the raid collapses in a clump during Kil’jaeden, just to cite one example of how 3.0 could benefit the raid.
In terms of pure DPS potential, there should be an overall boost. Even if some classes worry they won’t measure up to others, most should still be receiving talents and new abilities that increase their DPS. Even though Blizzard is attempting to make certain buffs redundant, meaning battle shout and blessing of might wouldn’t stack with each other, the fact that many buffs will become raid-wide, where previously they had been group-exclusive, should counter the problem. So too should new buffing talents.
Furthermore, some specs and classes that were previously “weak” in some situations will undergo a general increase in viability. So guilds will also have more tools to create optimal raid compositions with higher regularity.
How Can 3.0 Be a Detriment to Raiding in the Short Term?
There are some mechanic changes that are a little concerning for TBC raiding that 3.0 would bring. As one example, some of the tools used for tanking by specific classes will be revamped entirely. Warriors will now have a shield block that lasts only 10 seconds on a one-minute cooldown. As anyone who has done Illidan knows, this means shear will need to be changed. Since the ability needs to be countered by blocking, dodging or parrying it, and the cooldown on the warrior ability that ensures this as possible is currently higher than the cooldown on shear, warriors would be unable to tank Illidan reliably. This would leave the job to protection paladins if shear were to go unchanged.
That said, Blizzard has stated they are cognizant of the problems 3.0 could create for existing encounters. Bornakk said as much in a response to people’s concerns about shear:
Changes can be made to encounters if we feel they are necessary to allow the fight to work right. That said, the release of the patch isn’t tomorrow, it’s sometime in the coming weeks, so you still have time to work on the raids. Good luck on Illidan.
Personally, however, I worry Blizzard will miss at least a few needed changes, making some encounters temporarily impossible or extremely difficult until they are hotfixed.
But it’s the more subtle and sweeping changes that worry me most. The adjustments to threat and threat generation particularly come to mind in this regard. For one, blessing of salvation will no longer produce a flat 30% reduction in threat generated. Instead, most threat reduction will come from using reactive abilities targeted on individual people, reducing their current threat by a small percentage with each use (on top of existing reactive abilities). Of course, some of the disparity could be well-countered by providing tools to tanks that increase their basic threat generation. However, I know warriors will require strength to really see a substantial boost in their threat scaling, and currently their tanking gear has virtually none.
So while DPS generally receives a boost, I worry people will reach the threat ceiling easily in TBC, which would render the increase to DPS moot.
The heightened restriction on the use of drums and potions could also introduce new problems. As it stands, many classes rely on chain-chugging potions and using drums to improve their performance. But a raid-wide vampiric touch, new class specs providing mana regeneration, and general improvements to talents and abilities could counter these problems. Then again, the inability to downrank creates another mana problem. So Blizzard would certainly be taking a risk introducing these new concepts to existing content.
How Could 3.0 Be Beneficial in the Long Term?
Regardless of the detriments 3.0 could bring to TBC raiding, I think the benefits are too good to overlook. Despite the fact that there will be a difference of ten talent points, ten levels, and gear, releasing 3.0 at least a couple months before TBC’s “demise” will at least provide Blizzard some context to use for further development and polish of Wrath. And I believe this is important to better ensure a smooth release of Wrath.
That Said, Don’t Rush It
Even writing about the importance of testing Wrath concepts by using the live version of 3.0, I don’t want Blizzard to rush the patch. Obviously, I want the company to fully consider where it wants to take the game generally with Wrath before its concepts are dumped on our heads. So, although I’d love to see 3.0 on live servers by mid-October, I wouldn’t if it was unfinished and buggy, with concepts that have only been preliminarily evaluated.
We’ll see what happens, I guess.
Yesterday was my birthday. I’m not sure I could have received a present better than the one I beheld last evening when Kil’jaeden was banished back through the Sunwell. The reward is immaterial, but it is one I will remember for years.
Many people have come and gone through the guild. Some still persist as friends, and some as fellow raiders. Building and keeping this guild together for the past year and a half has felt like a full-time job for Silver, myself and Siafu. And, finally, we have been blessed with adrenaline-based euphoria and pride to reward the work we’ve put into the guild. To reward the work put in by everyone who helped us get this far: our members, our raiders, our core. They are just as deserving.
Our kill was the 64th in the U.S., and 144th in the world. While we did not place as well as we did for M’uru, I am still more than content with the results. We endured many people leaving or taking breaks as a result of burn-out or real life. What surprises me most is that we actually had to call off a raid last week. And, yet, people still put in the effort to show up for the rest of the week, work through the earlier bosses, and then put the entirety of their hearts into Kil’jaeden. And so we’ve defeated the final boss of The Burning Crusade.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t expect us to get this far. Did I have my doubts when things seemed bleak? You bet. Anyone I’ve confided in can attest to that fact. But one of the very reasons I set out to create the guild was to fill a hole left by my server after vanilla WoW. In the original iteration of WoW, Proudmoore never got beyond the Four Horsemen. Some think even Gothik, but I have conflicting reports about that. Apparently, at least one guild kept their Gothik kill secret intending to surprise their competition with “Naxx Complete!” But they never defeated the Horsemen before raids began to dissolve with the impending release of TBC. So where Proudmoore failed to complete vanilla WoW when the cap was still 60, we have managed to become the first to achieve such a feat for the server in TBC. And I hope there will be a few right behind us. Our goal was to create a better server in this regard, and we have succeeded.
What has surprised me, however, is our placing. Particularly on M’uru. We were 40th in the U.S. and 98th in the world with that kill. That’s certainly not top tier in the sense of placing on the front page, but I could care less about that. We’ve done it as a guild that raids with a rather relaxed atmosphere. And for this, I had many of our members approach me after the kill grateful for the calm and collected raid we run. It was a change from their previous kills. A change from getting chewed out after every single wipe.
Criticisms about the Sunwell aside, playing through this level of raiding has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had in my time gaming. Thank you, Blizzard. And thank you, Lunacy!
That’s the the alliterative phrase I’d attribute to the current state of WoW. There are many bright points in WoW’s situation, but there are also some persisting flaws. As with any “State of the Union” address, my “State of the Game” address is largely based on opinion. Some are universally agreed upon, but most are personal. This should be kept in mind.
In general, WoW has always been easy to play. The learning curve its basic controls and actions is very small, and a tutorial guides people through its simple processes. The introduction of new abilities is gradual, so as not to overwhelm a new player with too many abilities. And the quest and leveling process ushers people through portions of the game with some increasing difficulty.
But it also takes a lot of time, practice and effort to “master” the end-game. So, while WoW is generally “easy” to play, it has a lot of potential for difficulty. Just ask any of the high-end guilds what it was like trying to kill the first versions of Vashj, Kael’thas and C’Thun, and ask any highly rated arena teams what it takes to win tournaments. More on this topic will be discussed in the PvE and PvP sections.
WoW’s UI has always been top notch. So much so that Blizzard has even felt the need to disallow certain functions, as some mods could essentially “play” the game for people. Need to decurse someone? No problem, just hit your decursive hotkey and it’ll automatically decurse anyone who needs it! About to completely overheal someone? No problem, just keep casting, and CTRaid will stop your heal with 0.1 seconds to spare! These are two examples of features for which Blizzard has removed functionality.
WoW’s UI is also extremely customizable visually. If you’re sick of screen clutter, you can typically find mods that are minimally invasive. And, hell, if you want to play with a Hello Kitty UI, have no fear… you can!
WoW offers a unique atmosphere that is distinctly Warcraftian in nature. Its graphical engine caters more towards the concept art on which the game is based. For this reason, Blizzard has managed to avoid the artificially rendered feel I think DAoC and EQ2 brings to the table. Blizzard has been shameless in its attempts to shirk this faux realism. And while some people dislike this, I am one of the many people who actually appreciates it.
Visually, the game has only ever improved. The sheer amount of detail and quality in the designs for most of TBC’s zones, especially Silvermoon City, Nagrand, and Sunwell Plateau is enormous. And the percentage of quality zones when comparing the zones of TBC to those of vanilla WoW is much higher. I imagine the quality will only continue to improve with WotLK.
Musically, WoW has also made some incredible advancements since the game went live. A simple comparison to reflect this can be made by first listening to vanilla WoW’s intro music and then TBC’s. The difference is quite clear. And while I admire what Jason Hayes did for WoW and Warcraft III, I think Russell Brower is simply a better composer. Nothing yet compares to the compositions for Black Temple and Eversong.
Questing and Leveling
The questing and leveling refinements made to the content added in TBC has been nothing short of awesome. Each zones’ quests are well-concentrated into specific hubs. And the progression through each zone is fairly clear. You don’t have to hop around from zone to zone doing various quests. You can simply go from HFP, to Zangarmarsh, to Terrokar, to Nagrand, to BEM, and then to Netherstorm and SMV. There is minimal jumping between zones. Overall, leveling in Outland is a great experience. All Blizzard needs to do for WotLK is repeat the general zone design and quest hub concepts, and simply improve the quality of each quest itself to make it an even better experience.
Old World Content
Recently, Blizzard made some improvements to this content by increasing the leveling speed and adding quests and a new hub to Dustwallow Marsh. They also added some new flight points to relieve some of the problems with the way quests were scattered across the old world continents. With that said, however, I think the way in which non-60 quests are scattered is still problematic and could do with a complete revamp. But I guess I don’t have access to the statistics for player retention, and maybe that’s why Blizzard hasn’t found the need for it. I am however curious as to how many new players end up quitting before having the ability to enter Outland.
The classes have come a long way since the game went live. And TBC’s release changed the situation many classes were in. Feral druids are now viable in general for PvE, though it took a few months after TBC’s release to fix the itemization problems for the spec. Shadow priests are also more viable than they were in vanilla WoW. Discipline priests are incredibly viable for PvP. Arms warriors are overpowered for PvP and actually synergize incredibly well with a raid heavy on physical DPS. And so on. Definitely, some trees are still inferior to others. Retribution paladins (especially those of the Alliance) definitely need some work. But, overall, Blizzard has made some incredible strides.
Also, WoW’s general dynamics of interaction between classes has typically been much better than in other games I have experience with. In DAoC, I chose not to spec my shaman for healing simply because standing out of LoS and spamming group heals in PvP was incredibly boring. However, that left me with a generally weak spec as a shaman. So I’d often go back to playing my spiritmaster, which was overpowered as a PBAoE class running with healers that could AoE stun and give me a chance to wipe entire zergs.
So, in regards to general class dynamics, even if WoW has had weak specs at various points in time, it has been generally better than its predecessors. I can’t say much for the current crop of MMO’s, however, as I haven’t played them.
Giving every single 5-man in TBC a heroic level 70 version was a novel concept that the game desperately needed. Instead of offering level 70 players only five or so decent end-game 5-mans, TBC has sixteen. They also offer gear that is above and beyond what vanilla WoW’s blue dungeons had to offer. So this has made WoW’s PvE game much more accessible to casual players.
Dailies are a godsend. No longer do you have to mindlessly grind or gather to make money. For those of us who found both incredibly boring, dailies are a nice added option that TBC has over vanilla WoW. And the introduction of the Shattered Sun Offensive dailies has only improved the feature.
I think TBC’s raid content is generally higher in quality than that of the original WoW. While vanilla WoW definitely had a few awesome encounters, TBC has a much higher percentage of encounters that fall into at least one of the three categories I consider important: innovative, difficult, and enjoyable. Difficult encounters are not always decent, however, as the challenge could simply result from flawed or random mechanics, instead of well-crafted scripts.
What is awkward about TBC’s line of progression, however, is that two of the most difficult encounters existed dead in the middle of the “big picture,” so-to-speak. Hell, before Sunwell, I considered Kael’thas to be #1 in terms of technical difficulty, though not in terms of repeatability. And Vashj is well up there with Kael’thas, Archimonde and Illidan. However, the Four Horsemen still trump all of those encounters. Then again, that may be a result of the fact that loot yield per person was generally lower in vanilla WoW, since you needed tanks with enough T3 to decrease the possibility of having attempts screwed over by taunt resists.
Another issue is that Hyjal and BT are not generally difficult. Certainly, Archimonde is challenging, and phase two of Illidan is tricky. But the only other seemingly uphill battles we faced were getting people to do the ghosts on Teron correctly, figuring out the trash before Kaz’rogal, waiting patiently for people to figure out the reflects, interrupts and dispels on phase two of RoS, and healing Gurtogg. That’s it, really.
Sunwell Plateau has changed everything, however. Every single encounter is difficult. And I have enjoyed both Brutallus and Felmyst immensely. I don’t enjoy the Eredar Twins, however. But their difficulty serves the purpose of providing everyone with an instance that is an overall challenge. If M’uru and Kil’jaeden are equally as enjoyable and difficult as Kalecgos, Brutallus and Felmyst, it will have be the best produced raid instance the game has yet to offer. It has atmosphere and everything that makes a good raid instance.
As far as the nerfs to Kael’thas and the lifting of attunements go, I have nothing against them. As much as people like to say “they’re making an already easy game even easier,” I think it’s important to understand that the raiding game isn’t easy for some people. Sometimes, you just don’t have the time to raid enough and see the end-game content without the help of slight nerfs and increases in item quality. And most of these nerfs have been inconsequential for guilds on the bleeding edge of content, anyway.
The only recent raiding development I find questionable is the intention behind the Sunwell gates. I suppose Blizzard is concerned that people are going to clear the instance too fast, as there are so many guilds higher in quality than in the days of vanilla WoW, and gearing up is a much easier feat. Surely, unless there are encounters as difficult (read: as impossible or near impossible) as versions 1.0 of Vashj and Kael’thas, they are going to be killed quickly by the likes of Nihilum and SK Gaming. Both of these guilds have the resources to easily beat any doable encounters within several hours of release. But then this is to be expected given their sponsorship and sheer number of quality players.
I know a lot of people playing the game consider itemization to be broken. And for many their reasoning is that they feel their gear has been cheapened by the fact that decent quality gear has become easier and easier to obtain through PvP and badge gear. But I think the intention behind the increases in the quality of badge and arena gear serve a much better purpose. And that is to provide otherwise casual players with the opportunity to artificially advance in the game when their progress would otherwise stagnate. It also gives people starting fresh a chance to “catch up” and at least come close to having the quality of gear necessary to join guilds who have already progressed partially into Hyjal and BT, something that would have taken months upon months to do in vanilla WoW.
From a business standpoint, this is incredibly important. Players who naturally get stuck on Vashj and Kael’thas, because their guilds aren’t good enough to kill them, will end up eventually quitting the game as they grow more and more frustrated. And it truly doesn’t matter for those who have already moved far beyond that content, as it has already been seen and done for them.
For those already making headway in Sunwell, and those who have already killed Illidan and Archimonde, I would pose the following question: What does it matter to you that people can now obtain gear generally lower in quality than the gear you can obtain from Archimonde, Illidan and Sunwell? Certainly, with the caster haste gear, I can see why you would probably argue that you care because the pieces are overpowered for their ilvl. But can casual players also pick up a Skull of Gul’dan? Can they pick up a Tempest of Chaos? Do they have a shot at a Warglaive or Memento of Tyrande? Nope. So what does it matter in the scope of the bigger picture?
As one of the players in Sunwell (and well into it… working on the Eredar Twins), I don’t really care. I raid to kill shit. I don’t raid because I want my epics to look larger than my competition’s. And, if anything, it makes recruitment less frustrating, as I can actually look at some of these people, if the number of geared applicants remains too low. It also means I can seriously consider the decent players I know on the Horde side if they ever choose to switch factions. Overall, this new availability of decent items is a good thing. And, because Blizzard has approached the increasing quality with incremental release cycles, it doesn’t generally outpace the gear available for guilds pushing progression.
In another grain of itemization, Blizzard has gone from misunderstanding the stats classes want and need for PvE to creating items that optimally support many different roles. There are still some optimizations to be made, however. And some of these optimizations may actually be best addressed through class changes, as opposed to revamped itemization. Still, compare T1 and T2 to T3, T4, T5 and T6 for a holy paladin and you’ll see the vast improvements that have been made towards optimization since vanilla WoW. And the introduction of new types of stats have also created some situationally interesting options.
Furthermore, the new system in Sunwell where people can swap items designed for one spec or class to another is pretty awesome, as it minimizes rot. Now, if only Blizzard would do something similar for weapons.
PvP is the part of the game I have the most problems with. It definitely has a lot of potential, given the game’s fundamental mechanics. However, certain aspects of the system are incredibly flawed.
First of all, the support for various PvP systems as part of the end-game is lopsided. Arenas receive the most emphatic support from Blizzard. And the e-Sport experiment has been, in my opinion, one of the biggest mistakes Blizzard has ever made. I don’t understand how Blizzard can have had the common sense to recognize that Uwe Boll doesn’t deserve to make movies based on video games, and yet didn’t recognize the fact that attempting to meet the balancing standards of e-Sports would be problematic. WoW simply has too many mechanics encompassing too many systems and areas of the game unrelated to arenas. As with any MMO, overwhelming problems are going to be created when trying to focus the game on one area. If Blizzard really wants arenas to be made into an e-Sport, they should just make tournament realms permanent and balance the classes in isolation on those realms.
Many class balancing decisions have resulted from performance in certain arena brackets, due to the increase focus of PvP on arenas. This is a flawed approach, considering different classes perform better in different PvP settings. For example, while druids are overpowered in 2v2, 3v3 and WSG, they are pretty well-balanced in 5v5, AB or AV. Then consider mages, who are pretty damn weak in 2v2. Though they are weak in this bracket, they are well-balanced for 3v3 and overpowered for 5v5. Also, I can’t count the number of times my flag running support in WSG has been fucked over by two mages chaining novas and sheeps. Mages have also been the primary class I’ve seen excel at interrupting flag caps in AB and AV.
Also amongst all of this focus on arenas, BG’s have become neglected and have been relegated to supporting a flat system with extremely limited rewards. Perhaps this is because Blizzard has statistics suggesting BG’s are unpopular these days. But, honestly, I think the unpopularity can be attributed to the fact that arenas simply offer better rewards. I know the rewards are why I arena, but I’d actually prefer to play rated WSG games over arena any day of the week. And there are a lot of people in my guild that say the same thing. With that said, however, I like having variety, as well. Having robust systems for both arenas and BG’s would be better than having emphasis on simply one or the other.
I also believe it would be in Blizzard’s best interests to offer the option of obtaining s3-style gear from a rated BG system, as well as from arenas. They should perhaps offer some way to obtain the off-set items from arenas, as well, so people can actually choose what style of PvP to compete in. It would also give specific classes more opportunities to excel, as they will have a variety of options to choose from. That said, I’m not opposed to giving mages a new talent in WotLK that makes them more viable than they are now for 2v2 without making them even more overpowered in 5v5.
But something of concern relating to all of this discussion is the fact that Blizzard needs to fix its ratings system. Point selling and win trading has caused a myriad of problems for arenas. I absolutely loathe losing games to point selling teams raising their rating back up from 1900. It causes so many issues for people trying to climb out of mid-rated arenas into the upper tiers. So this is something that needs to be treated with urgency. Tom Chilton has stated changes are on the way, but we’ll see. Their last batch of changes didn’t fix the problem, so I’m pessimistic.
Also, given WoW’s PvP systems, I want to consider my experiences with DAoC and what I believe WoW comparatively lacks. Quite simply, DAoC’s RvR (realm versus realm) was and still is unparalleled in terms of innovation. Its only problem, really, is that the game itself is clunky and other systems terribly flawed.
To elaborate on the positives, however, DAoC had three realms (or “factions” to use WoW terminology). Each realm had their own frontier, which was set of non-instanced zones in the dedicated RvR area of the game. Each frontier was built to be primarily controlled by only one realm, and that realm would have two “border keeps” allowing entry into the frontiers. So, for example, Albion would have two border keeps for its four frontier zones, and Hibernia and Midgard would also have their own portal keeps and zones.
In order to get to the opposing realms’ frontiers, you had to take a boat and then travel on foot. This meant spies could spot you and alert the realm about your presence and muster up a defense. Also, because of the length of travel, this meant offensive units had to have a compact strategy and focus, as there were no graveyards that would pop you nearby. If you wiped, you had to spend time travelling back to your old location. This made some battles truly epic and gave defenses time to recooperate before the offensive realm returned for another attempt.
Each frontier had capturable keeps and towers, for which the mechanics were intricate and well-designed. Being on top of a tower, building or wall provided a range bonus. In addition, towers and keeps offered ballistae, cauldrons of boiling oil and NPC guards which could give defenders an upper-hand in catching large offensive groups off-guard. To give you an idea of how pivotal these were for a defense, just imagine 40 people dying simultaneously to boiling oil and the only people surviving being tank classes. So storming keeps and towers with brute force numbers proved difficult when even a small number of people remained to defend a building. However, if a keep or tower was proving difficult to capture, guilds and raids could bring catapults and rams to pummel the tower or keep to the ground before storming and taking it. It should be noted that, for some keeps within a realm’s own frontier that the realm had under their control, you could sometimes port to them from your border keeps (my memory is rather foggy on the conditions for portal, however). So this made the defense of keeps within your own realm easier than the defense of those you controlled outside of your own realm.
Furthermore, the fact that DAoC had three different realms was pivotal in balancing each faction. If one realm was proving dominant, the two other realms would often forge a temporary alliance to overpower the dominant realm. However, because what happened in RvR offered a decent amount of rewards in various areas of the game (owning a keep as a guild would give you bonuses in terms of damage done or damage taken), these alliances typically didn’t last very long. So, once the power had been taken from an overpopulated realm, alliances would usually dissolve. And these fluxuations in alliances created an RvR system in which no one realm was completely dominant.
Also, it should be noted that the most fortified zones in each frontier contained what were called “relics.” In order to take a relic, entire realms or extremely large guilds had to stage “relic raids” that would venture deep into the opposing realm’s frontier. First, you had to capture three specific keeps in order to open what was called a “milegate” that would allow you to enter the area in which a relic keep was located. Then you had to storm this relic keep and defeat both the powerful guards and players defending the keep. Only then could you capture the relic. Also, in order to capture a relic, you would have to own your own relic. So if another realm was holding your own relic within one of their relic keeps, you’d have to get it back before taking theirs. Controlling an enemy relic would give you a 10% bonus to damage.
It’s important to note that none of this was instanced. Everyone had access to the frontiers, and there was no player limit. So some battles were truly epic in scale.
This just gives you an idea of a new sort of system WoW could potentially have, and it is something I think WoW is lacking. With that said, Blizzard does plan to add a world PvP zone in WotLK called Lake Wintergrasp. This zone will also have siege engines and destructible buildings. However, I think the two faction setup of WoW will be detrimental to the experience on servers where one faction vastly outnumbers the other, unless Blizzard creates some sort of innovative mechanic that will turn the tides when one faction is at a disadvantage. Otherwise, I think people are going to try it out and then abandon it once they realize its problems. That’s if it doesn’t offer highly desired rewards, however. If it does, I think the underpowered faction will complain until Blizzard does something about it. I’m also pessimistic as to just how intricate the system was going to be. When AV was first described before its release, I was expecting something much more epic than killing NPC’s and clicking flags. The battle between players themselves is certainly awesome, at times, but that doesn’t even happen anymore.
What WoW does have over DAoC, however, is the concept of instanced battlegrounds itself. This concept gives Blizzard the option of creating experiences based on even match-ups, and this can often be much more exciting than massive zergs. WSG is definitely one of the highlights of WoW’s PvP system, IMO. I enjoy it as DAoC’s RvR.
So WoW’s PvP system has its positives, but it also has a long ways to go. And I think there’s a lot that can be done to make it worthwhile. Arenas need to stop being treated as the central focus. Variety needs to be supported on a greater scale. The destructible building and siege engine systems Blizzard is planning to introduce need to be as well-designed and innovative as those of DAoC. I would also enjoy something similar to the massive frontier-style PvP DAoC had to offer. One zone just seems so lackluster. I’d love to see an area with large zones with numerous keeps and towers. It’d be great to see my guild controlling a keep we could go and defend between raids when another attacks it (or retake if we lose it while we’re raiding). It would certainly give the game a greater sense of war, as well.
There are some flaws in PvP itemization that have had an affect on the quality of the PvP end-game. In addition to my belief that people should have more options for gearing up PvP-wise, you also have the added detriment that PvE gear brings to PvP. Certainly, PvP gear is supposed to be set on separate pedestal from PvE. However, certain PvE items are better than what you can obtain from PvP in various brackets. Simply put, a fully-geared s3 rogue in the upper tiers of 2v2 simply can’t compete with a rogue of similar skill decked in 4-piece T6 and sporting warglaives. And the issue is now compounded by the fact that these rogues, assuming they are progressing in Sunwell, can eventually have both the T6 and arena 4-piece bonuses, once they have the T6 bracers, boots and belt. So these rogues will retain the percentage increase to their core damaging abilities, while simultaneously maintaining a high level of resilience and having the ability to proc warglaives and burn people down with their 110 energy bar. Good game.
So what Blizzard could do is simply disallow certain PvE items from arenas. Another alternative, and one I prefer, is to find a way to further differentiate PvP items from PvE, especially in the weapon department. Perhaps add some kind of stats or use effects that specifically cater towards PvP healing, DPS or survivability. Otherwise, itemization will continue to be a problem.
On another issue, I’ve heard people argue that more PvP gear should have ratings requirements. And while I think this would be an okay approach to s4 gear, I think it would be a mistake to introduce these sorts of requirements for anything but items that come later in an expansion. Otherwise, new players will face an uphill battle in trying to obtain any sort of PvP gear. And this would lead to many moments of frustration and what I like to call “PvP rage.”
In general, I feel WoW’s playability, PvE and class systems are in a very good situation. I like the instanced style of raid content, because I absolutely hate spawn camping and competition (one of the flaws that caused me to quit DAoC). I am also glad casual players and alts have a shot at obtaining some generally decent gear, as well. However, WoW’s PvP system still needs some major advancements and tweaks. Also, unless I see a PvP system that is extremely well-designed, I can’t consider WoW truly awesome beyond merely its PvE. Until then, the game as a whole will be “almost awesome” to me.
So let’s take it up a notch in WotLK, Blizzard.
And thus ends my garrulous crusade. Posts from here on should be short and to the point on current events and experiences. My apologies for any TLDR gag reflexes.