World of Warcraft Correspondent - A Look at Wintergrasp
MMORPG.com World of Warcraft Correspondent Robert Duckworth pens this article discussing Wintergrasp, a PvP zone that will be released with the launch of the game's upcoming Wrath of the Lich King expansion.
Lake Wintergrasp is a new PvP zone in the continent of Northrend that will be released with the upcoming expansion pack Wrath of the Lich King (WotLK). Unlike previous attempts by Blizzard to create smaller world PvP objectives, such as the city of Halaa in Nagrand or the Auchindoun Towers, Lake Wintergrasp is going to fill up an entire zone. While the past world PvP objectives created by Blizzard mostly ended in failure, it looks like they learned a good deal from them and will finally get it right with Lake Wintergrasp.
World PvP As We Know It
Many players have had problems with previously implemented world PvP objectives. In the original version of WoW, there was the infamous Sithilus PvP. Players were asked to run around the zone picking up piles of sand and then carrying them to a sand collecting machine which would then give their faction one point, out of two hundred. That's a lot of sand to be carried. The event remained as exciting as it sounds, with players coining a not so original term for it, "lolsand". Not only was the premise behind lolsand boring, but the reward was a mediocre zone wide buff.
Another example of a world PvP objective, this one from The Burning Crusade(TBC), was the neutral city of Halaa located in Nagrand. With TBC Blizzard implemented rewards that were more concrete then just a zone wide buff. Killing the opposing faction would give players Halaa Battle Tokens that they could then exchange for gear or even an epic mount. Unfortunately a couple of problems cropped up. For one thing, players had no need to ever control the city of Halaa except on rare occasions. Players would also not bother to attempt world PvP around Halaa unless they were specifically farming the rewards from doing so. With the large amount of guards protecting the controlling faction as well as the general lack of players in Halaa there wasn't much PvP happening.
Also in TBC were the Auchindoun Towers. Every six hours players were expected to fight over six towers that would give their faction control of the zone. The reward this time were Spirit Shards, a type of token that would drop off of any instance bosses in the zone. The rewards were quickly outdated though and any incentive to actually care about the towers disappeared.
While world PvP continued to exist in the original WoW, even after the world PvP objectives were added, once TBC came world PvP basically died out. Players have come up with a variety of reasons for this, and there are three major ones:
First, there are no longer instance hubs like the infamous Black Rock Mountain. All of the instances in TBC are easily accessible, and all of the quest hubs are very well protected by powerful guards. Flying mounts have also been looked down upon as they marginalize any sense of world PvP. Instead of riding through the lands with the possibility of getting attacked, players soar high above the landscape, immune to everything until they reach their desired destination.
Second, Blizzard never gave world PvP'ers any quality incentive. All of the worthwhile rewards for PvP came from the battle grounds and the new arena system.
What Lake Wintergrasp Brings
Onto Lake Wintergrasp itself. Blizzard released a large number of details on the zone at their World Wide Invitational, but has been pretty silent on the matter since. What is known is that the entire zone plays out like a large battle ground with a specific objective in mind. One faction controls the keep, known as Wintergrasp Keep, and it is their job to prevent the enemy faction from destroying it. In order to assist the defenders, Wintergrasp Keep is surrounded by walls, albeit destructible ones, and four towers. Each tower acts as a stationary siege cannon, letting players bombard any attackers that get to close. Of course it wouldn't be fair if players had to go up against cannons and walls with no help. This brings about another new major feature, the introduction of Siege Vehicles. From Goblin Shredder units to Flying Machines that act as bombers, there's a large variety for players to choose from. Siege Vehicles will most likely be the only way to destroy castle Wintergrasp.
Strategically placed around the map are points of interest for players to fight over. As well as the defensive towers mentioned before there will also be capturable graveyards and even destructible bridges. According to Blizzard, the bridges are meant to be choke points as they make up the only three passable routes across the river running through the middle of the zone, dividing the keep from the attacking forces. Of course with flying mounts players will have no problems getting across the river, but the bridges are vastly important because they are the only way Siege Vehicles can make it to castle Wintergrasp to destroy it. If the defending faction manages to destroy all three bridges the attackers will be unable to maneuver the necessary destructive force of the Siege Vehicles to take down the keep.
Only one faction defends or attacks Lake Wintergrasp at a time. Much like the Auchindoun Towers, there is a timer set so that players have the ability to enjoy their hard earned rewards after taking control of the zone. From the looks of it, the reward system that Blizzard is planning to put into place is the most complete one to date. The reward system actually recycles the past reward styles of both Halaa and the Auchindoun Towers but on a much larger scale. No longer will the rewards be a zone wide buff of some sort, but will actually encompass the entire continent of Northrend. Whichever faction controls Lake Wintergrasp recieves a token from any bosses they kill in Northrend, basically Wintergrasp Spirit Shards. These tokens, just like the Auchindoun Spirit Shards, will be exchangable for PvP items and most likely other kinds of items as well. There will also be another form of token called a Wintergrasp Mark of Honor. This token is essentially the same thing as a Halaa Battle Token gained through killing enemy players within the zone. Of note is that Blizzard plans to incorporate these Wintergrasp Marks of Honor into the traditional honor system of rewards from battle grounds, potentially creating a necessary drive to gather a large number of them. At the moment there is no word on the duration of the reward timer, but due to the nature of the system it will most likely be six hours.
If those rewards weren't incentive enough, Blizzard has claimed that the zone will have a large number of PvE objectives associated with it, that Lake Wintergrasp will be the "Elemental Plateau of Northrend". Whether this means quest objectives, or more likely special resource nodes that can only be found within the zone, players should always be able to find someone to PvP with.
How's It Lookin'?
Lake Wintergrasp is shaping up to be what looks like an incredibly fun zone for PvP'ers. Not only the hopefully constant PvP due to fights over PvE objectives, but also all of the incentives players are given for participating. The reward system looks as it if will benefit everyone on the server from participating, but it could have it's problems as well. Like the Auchindoun Towers Spirit Shards, the tokens from Wintergrasp might eventually be worthless. Especially if the items bought with the tokens are not updated at the same rates as the Arena and Raid tiers. If the rewards are no longer worth the effort then there will be a repeat of past attempts by Blizzard at world PvP. Many players will simply stop going to the zone to PvP and decide to spend their time in places where they can achieve real rewards.
Flying mounts could also continue to be a barrier to world PvP. There is no word if they will be outlawed in the zone. There's a reason why flying mounts are not allowed in the battle grounds, and it seems like that same reason should be used for this world PvP zone as well. Blizzard does say they have a system that will fix realm faction imbalances though. What this system is exactly is not known yet, but there are rumors that the longer you hold control of Wintergrasp the harder it will be to keep it. At this point in time Lake Wintergrasp has not even been tested yet on the beta servers, so how its all going to come together is up in the air. If Blizzard can address all the major issues currently holding back world PvP though, then this new zone will be amazing.