Battlegrounds and PvP
Article by Garrett Fuller
We are nearing the one year anniversary of World of Warcraft, a game that many of us spent at least a good month of that year playing. In any online game Player vs. Player is always an important part for people to test their skills against others, not just Artificial Intelligence. PvP as it has become known really incorporates a skill level that some players may never know. I’ve seen friends type faster than a court reporter and spam spells or switch targets at lightening speed. I’ve watched people throw the mouse at their computers, heard the curses over Team Speak or Ventrilo, and even seen people quit games over this wild competition that exists.
WoW offers PvP to players in two forms. The Battlegrounds give players a chance to form up in forty or ten player raids and fight over specific objectives. If you play on a PvP server, you also have the chance to openly hunt down and fight players in any of the contested zones. With these two options available many hardcore PvP players continue to talk about the flaws and benefits of this system. A good friend of mine asked a question that I think sums up concerns over WoW PvP, “What is the spirit of Warcraft PvP?”
Many online players forged their opinion of PvP playing other games. In Ultima Online there were no rules. You left town, you were a target for Player Killers. The only warning you had was the name in red on the screen. It was truly a risky environment to play in and it was fun. Not only did you die, but you lost your gear and loot, could today’s players handle such a loss? I seriously doubt it. The next big PvP game in my experience was Dark Age of Camelot. Luckily, the entire game was not a battlefield, but certain zones were. The combat was fast and furious giving rise to all kinds of tactics and theories. If you died you lost some experience and had to deal with sickness for a few minutes, but you kept your gear. The risk was not as high, yet the competition still remained. So how does World of Warcraft add to this growing phenomenon in online games? First let me say that I respect Blizzard tremendously as a company and revolutionary in video games. That being the case, why have they handed us a milk-fed version of what real player competition should be?
The Battlegrounds offer players the option to enter an instance to fight over different objectives. There are several problems with using an instance to promote player combat. The first being the queue system, having to wait in a line just to enter the fight becomes tedious quickly and can discourage players from joining. Game trends also can affect the queue system. Warsong Gulch for example has become an unpopular Battleground due to the poor rewards it offers in comparison to Alterac Valley. This has caused the instance popularity to die out among players. In Alterac Valley depending on how the Battlegrounds are shaping up you could wait a long time to get into a great battle which lasts over four hours. Or you may enter right away only to find out that the side you’re on is losing quickly and many people are leaving the instance before the death blow is delivered. One thing is for sure, the queue system has created stagnation in the spirit of PvP. With these queues in place players are doing one of two things, waiting in line to get into the instance or actively playing inside. This slows down the chances for PvP all over the game. Having instanced areas for players to fight is not necessarily a bad idea. However, allowing players access to them is very important. Blizzard needs to present more options for players to get into these Battlegrounds than they currently provide.
Next we enter Warsong Gulch, the simple Capture the Flag scenario that Blizzard added to its ten vs. ten Battleground. Warsong can be the perfect place for a quick PvP experience. The games do not last too long and you can have fun in several ways. Fighting in small groups or running the flag across the board both give players a thrill. One of the main issues with Warsong for many players is actually getting into the instance for a fight. Many times the queues say “Unavailable” or have a long wait. Also, once the Frostwolf Clan rewards for Alterac Valley were revealed players began to ignore Warsong in favor of better loot. This has led to a drop in members for Warsong causing less chance for the casual player to find a good PvP instance. For the casual player Warsong is a great place to PvP, if you can get into the instance before it is time to walk the dog or put the kids to bed. It seems that the Capture the Flag scenario was a great idea from Blizzard, but they did not back it up with loot that players strive to win. With items like “The Unstoppable Force” and “The Immovable Object,” there is no reason to play in the other Battleground. This loot issue does create problems for the average player on many levels. Because PvP in WoW is quickly becoming an item driven game, the casual player has no way to compete with hardcore players. For someone who only has two hours a night to play their PvP options are limited. With “Warsong” as a ghost town the other option is to wait in a queue for Alterac Valley and hope you get into a good raid. Please understand this is the case on the server I am playing on and may not hold true on every server.
All hope is not lost on the Battlegrounds. Continuing to play heavily over the course of Labor Day Weekend I found great battles in Alterac Valley. Despite waiting in several queues I never got into Warsong Gulch. Fighting in Alterac certainly had its share of great moments. For players who like to give commands or zerg over the enemy, Alterac is fun. I changed my play style from the looting and hiding test and took a more active role in the battles. The small group element is missing from Alterac Valley. Even though you can find smaller fights they are few and far between. The fun is really found in the teamwork. Our raid had done so well throughout the day that when we logged into a new instance the opposing side simply all left. This “I quit” loop hole can take a lot of the fun out of PvPing. Having to wait in a raid queue only to enter the Battleground and watch the other side quit because you are winning is very frustrating. Forget about an honor penalty for killing lowbies, how about an honor penalty for bailing out of a raid early before the fight even starts. This promotes players shopping around for easier fights, creates queues, and adds more time spent waiting to battle. This type of game play definitely kills the spirit of PvP.
The next Battleground option is Arathi Basin, a fifteen vs. fifteen player instance which allows players to gather resources to win the Battleground. This will hopefully pick up the small fight PvP that Warsong Gulch had once provided but now seems to be irrelevant due to the better rewards in Alterac Valley. Let us hope Blizzard boosts the fighting and competition level a little more with this instance.
Playing on a PvP server still gives competitors a place to run each other down. You constantly run the risk of being rolled by another player or group. This remains the truest form of competition. While roaming the Plaguelands there are still plenty of good fights out there for small group or solo competitors. If you like stealth and assassin skills then camp one of the entrances for an instance dungeon and take out solo players walking by or waiting on their friends. On a PvP server it is impossible to pass up a fight anytime anywhere. Unless of course you are outnumbered, then it becomes a race to get away. What we have done as an alternative to waiting in a queue is simply gone to areas we know other players will be and attack them. A great place for random PvP is right outside the Alterac Valley entrance of either Horde or Alliance. Many players are out there waiting in line to get in, so why not make that wait more interesting. The other option is to get a small group and go off to the popular farming spots among players. You will always find several players grinding through monsters for loot. Show up and challenge them to a fight, you will be amazed at how quickly the word goes out. These challenges maintain the spirit of open PvP throughout the game which is great for both the casual and hardcore player.
One of the biggest PvP topics lately is raiding towns. If you play on a PvP server being able to raid a city like Orgimmar or Stormwind puts the “War” in Warcraft. The problem is Blizzard has added the dishonorable kill system for Civilian NPCs. So raiding a town will bring you dishonor points. This has ruined any chance of the Horde or Alliance unifying to join a single giant fight. Granted the lag would be awful, but the ability to raid a town and gain something from it should be available to players in the spirit of PvP.
Blizzard’s rank system takes into account something that average PvP players may not be able to gain, the bonus honor for winning a Battleground. A player who goes out and randomly PvPs around the world will end up with less honor than someone in the Battleground who is able to gain a victory. Some players can spend all day PvPing outside a Battleground and still lose their rank at the end of the week to those who played inside. This brings me back to my earlier point of someone entering an instance and doing very little work to gain honor, while someone else is actively fighting outside the instance and losing their rank. This can get very frustrating as ranks and rewards constantly change. I understand Blizzard’s point to keep a flexible system where the top players could change weekly; still with the in game loop holes it can be difficult for players to maintain ranks.
In conclusion, is the World of Warcraft PvP system perfect? No, there are plenty of loop holes to exploit. Is the game fun? Yes, like any other online game you get out what you put in. If you are disappointed in the Battlegrounds, try going to an area and starting trouble, create your own fights, or join a guild that randomly PvPs all the time. I hope we see more improvements from Blizzard in the future with respect to rankings and Battleground availability. A great suggestion that came to me was to open an entire zone for random PvP where you could earn rewards and gain bonus honor without entering an instance dungeon. Another idea would be to have consequences for actions in PVP. Not only to your players but to your faction as well, this would at least off set the many rewards that players fight for. Hopefully with these types of options Blizzard will add to the spirit of PvP in World of Warcraft.
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