Random Battlegrounds: Blizzard’s own Stanford Experiment

Today I want to talk of many things, primarily the three Gs of PvP, gear, graveyard camping and griefing with a slight focus on community. The PvP community understandably gets a bad press a lot of the time and I want to look at why and perhaps more importantly what we can do about it.

First up,

Graveyard camping. Now Cynwise has started a great series about the maths and logic behind graveyard camping (WSG and AB) which you should definitely go and read if you haven’t already. Now in the games I play, I see three separate but common reasons for graveyard camping occur over and over again.

1. 40 man premades in AV/IoC which are designed purely for this purpose. The idea is to trap as many of the opposing team in one location and farm the reinforcements down that way. They let the other team take the mines as well as any other nodes to keep the reinforcements as high as possible and then set about farming their way to the Bloodthirsty title. Whilst these are beatable,

for the average random team there is nothing they can do but choose not to res, afk or get farmed for fifteen to twenty minutes.

2. The second type occurs primarily in the 10 or 15 mans, when one team is vastly stronger than the other. The first clash goes very one sided very fast and then the bulk of the winning team scenting blood flood towards the graveyard. Keeping them penned in or dead helps you win faster because that way they are demoralised, trapped and not beating up your flag carrier or running/destroying vehicles in SotA.

3. The third type like the first occurs primarily in the 40 mans. Perhaps the other team are doing a far better job of defending than you and so the only the way you can win is by pouring back into your own base, wiping them on the boss and then camping them at the graveyard.

Now I don’t particularly like graveyard camping in which the flag carrier sits in the camping pack nor the premades set up purely for that purpose but in general I’m fine with the concept. If the discrepancy between teams is so great that you’re being camped at your spawn point, then it’s likely you’re going to lose regardless. The opposing team showing pity and moving back thirty yards so you can try and scatter, having buffed up is not going to make much of a difference. In fact from my perspective it’s worse, I don’t want to be zerged by five well geared melee who pitied me first, I’d rather they just squished me like a bug underfoot without first pretending to offer me a chance when we all know the reality is that the only option is die or stop ressing.

I’m sure if you ask many people, graveyard camping would come under the heading of griefing but in PvP, that’s such a massive and inclusive category. I suspect if you asked fifty people for their opinions, you’d get a huge list of things, sure they would have commonalities like cheating and botting but griefing is in the eye of the beholder. For example I class people who saunter in into lev 85 wearing gear that’s two expansions out of date or do less dps than (I am a Disc Priest remember) to be griefing me and I’m sure the DK called “Your Mother” when you translated his name out of their native language felt griefed when I took out my Mummy issues by throwing him off the LM repeatedly whilst giggling at him. The same goes for the guy who hit 85 yesterday and is on the receiving end of a rant from some one in arena gear who is sick of losing. However when you delve a little deeper, the root of the vast majority of issues seems to be a common one. Frustration, anger at losing, tired of playing with randoms when the other side are premading, sick of having no healers when they have three. Rather than accepting that life isn’t unfair, some resort to cheating or botting and others yell, swear and name call.

In many regards, it’s as if Blizzard are setting us up to fail. Random battlegrounds are not just a stepping stone for many, they are something people with gear do for fun and there in lies the rub. I played six games last night, five of those were lost and won by gear and bots (the sixth was AV). When five of your team die to one Ret Paladin in the time it takes to levitate from the Lumber Mill to the Blacksmith, it causes issues. The same for the SotA in which we ended up camping the graveyard because it saved us having to chase vehicles. I wasn’t healing, I didn’t need to, I was staring at my screen pretending I was a proper dpser as these people with no resilience repeatedly splatted. Before the game even started, the result was clear. It didn’t matter how well I played in either of those games, my part didn’t matter and that is annoying. We won half but apart from the AV one side or the other ended up graveyard camping because the overall item level cap was just too big.

At the moment, random battlegrounds are the Azerothian equivalent of the Stanford Prison Experiment staring the geared as the Prison guards, the bullies and the aggressors and those without as the Prisoners. Even with the patience of a saint, it’s hard to keep your tongue when for the fifth or sixth time in a row you end up with people who haven’t gemmed, enchanted or bought any PvP gear at all. Who flop over dead the second someone glares at them and then blame you for not keeping them alive even though according to the combat log that Mage did 120k damage to them in 2 spell rotates. In that AB I referenced earlier, just like Prisoners in that experiment, they turned  on each other in an attempt to prove to the “guards” that they, unlike the others had value. Under pressure, the community devolves at a frightening rate earning us a horrible hateful reputation. In many cases, they don’t even have to be losing to attack others, even a slight setback can cause an outburst. The current battleground system with it’s random teams, premades and gear differences is set up to turn people against each other.

Now I normally try and play the peacekeeper, amongst my own team at any rate. I’m sure the Horde who see a pint sized green haired thing charging at them would find that hard to believe but having done my own fair share of bullying as a bitchy teenager, I grew up into a woman who full well understands the harm that words thrown out so casually can wreck on those they’re aimed at.  Last night however, I found myself close to breaking point. Words of contempt bubbling up like bile in my mouth, I wanted to tell them why we were losing, that no it wasn’t because the Alliance sucked, no it wasn’t because we were facing a German team, it was because we were infested by bots, lazy players and idiots. People who seemed incapable of taking responsibility for themselves, who were too mean to buy gems, enchants and the basic blue pvp set. Who would rather cheat or bot because it’s easier than spending your own time but who find it acceptable to waste the time of others. I ended that game, not only annoyed with them but mad at myself because I’d come close to slipping, to losing my temper.

Now I’m not laying the blame for the toxic community solely on Blizzard’s shoulders but there are a few quick fixes which  go a long way to removing some of the ignition points.

  • Come down on the botters and the cheaters like a ton of bricks. Ban their accounts permanently or at least remove all the honour/conquest points they’ve accrued plus the gear they’ve spent it on.  The punishment for this has to be something which makes doing these things pointless.
  • Improve the matchmaking system so that premades meet premades rather than randoms. I.e. if I queue as part of a 5 man premade, I’ll be matched against a team compromising another premade.
  • Ban the AV preformer, scripts shouldn’t be able to access the battleground queuing system. Not only would you stop teams coming together with Real ID specifically to farm randoms but this would also cut off  one avenue for the bots to exploit.
  • From the second arena season of an expansion onwards, divide the end-game random battlegrounds into two dynamic brackets based on gear. That way you have the first bracket where 100k health meets 100k and a second one where gear beats up gear.

It’s rare in winning games or even closely fought games for one team to turn on each other and this little list would help make all games that little bit more even. Of course we’d still have to deal with bad language, lev 1 whispers from the opposing faction and emotes but it would definitely be a step in the right direction to ironing out some of the issues.

As for what we can do, well next time you hit the level cap on a character please put a bit of effort into a character before setting foot in a battleground. For the rest of us, yes it’s frustrating but it’s hard to fight properly when you’re spamming chat with expletives. At the end of the day, we reap what we sow and one way or another, we’re all in this together. You might not say a word in battleground chat but that still makes you apart of the problem, just as you’re a part of the issue if you turn up naked or sit afk in a corner for the entire duration. Take advantage of that Stanford herd mentality, call the bullies and the bots and cheaters out and more often that not, the majority will support you.

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16 Responses

  1. Being a noob PvPer, I sure wish they had a wading pool for the gear challenged like me. I’ve wanted to queue a few times but didn’t because I feel I’m probably a hindrance in my homemade starter gear. I’d feel a lot better knowing I’m not dragging everyone down because of my lack of knowledge AND gear.

    LOL! Great comparison to the Stanford Experiment!

    • We mostly don’t bite and I’d take people who try over the sea of bots and cheaters any day. It’s a shame we can’t play across server regions otherwise you could come and battleground with us.

  2. I hardly ever bother to gear myself when I go into battlegrounds, as I only pvp very casually and usually with other guildies (who -do- pvp much more than me). However, not all of us who aren’t geared are going around complaining in bg chat! I am well aware that with no pvp gear I am a prime target to experienced pvpers, and do my best to follow common sense strategies while in battlegrounds and make my healing useful. Even with gear I’m sure I’d be killed super often all the time, so I’m fully expecting death, death, and more death.

    I’m sure it’s frustrating for more geared players to get a pve equipped person like me showing up in battlegrounds, but I guess that’s how it goes unless blizz actually implements a more gear dependent BG queuing system, which I certainly wouldn’t object to.

    • “who aren’t geared are going around complaining in bg chat!”

      I think it’s much more the other way around. People with gear complain at those without, which sets off a chain reaction. Also pve gear is fine, I always make a point of healing pve geared mages/boomkins because their damage can be amazing. For me to get frustrated, it’s usually at people with less than 110 k health, people with gem slots but no gems, epics with no enchants and the like.

      Normally one or two people in a team without gear doesn’t make a huge difference because both sides have it, but take my games last night, it was terribly one sided. In that AB for example we had eight people with less than 115k health. The opposing team had 14 people with 160 plus and the damage to go along with that and 1 undergeared person. In the Sota, it was basically the other way around.

      I didn’t particularly enjoy either game because my involvement was mostly irrelevant. In AB, I took nodes but couldn’t hold them because the bulk of my team were being graveyard camped by a handful of theirs, leaving the majority of them to come and flatten me. In the Sota, four of our team were technically enough to hold all theirs in the graveyard.

      I know it’s random and that’s how it’s meant to be, but I much prefer games in which I have to play my class rather either steam roll or watch the rest of my team get steam rolled which is why I think Blizzard certainly need to look at better team balancing. Unfortunately I suspect they won’t though :(

      • Ah, yes, the dreaded ‘get out ungeared noob’ chants. Luckily I’ve avoided most of those, as you usually have to do somethings weird for people’s attention to be drawn to you (unless you’re in the leveling brackets with the crazy people saying you need gear to join!) Mostly the whining starts when the loss is inevitable, doesn’t it. Like at the end of AB.

        But yes, I agree that people probably should get some nicer gear if they’ve just dinged 85, no matter what they plan on doing. :)

        I assume that Blizz’s queue priority is on low wait times, not balanced teams, as my guess most people would first complain that they ‘never’ get into BGs before they realize how unbalanced the BGs are. Which is unfortunate, as I do think that more team balancing would be better in random BGs, seeing as teams that should go to rated BGs end up in the random BGs as premades anyway.

  3. I’ve always wished Random Battlegrounds would issue you a set of “standardized gear” like they do in the Arena tournaments. Then, your BG becomes much more about skill, communication and teamwork and less so on gear. That’s why I BG — the teamwork and competing against actual players instead of pre-canned AI routines.

    Premades are an entire issue in of themselves. I thought I read someplace that premades greater than 5-10 will be eliminated with MoP, but I could be dreaming. The whole concept seems unfair, and I can assure you that being on the receiving end of a premade is simply awful. I’ve taken the 15 minute penalty box debuff to avoid 20 minutes of graveyard camping in WSG before. That just isn’t fun.

    I love your comparison to the Prisoner’s experiment. My brain is now wandering off into other areas where this holds true — both in WoW and on the ‘net as well. Very thought provoking!

    • First of all, thanks for the comment. I would second the idea of standard gear, failing that I wish Blizzard would revisit the concept of adding semi decent pvp gear to the rep vendors like they did at the tail end of the Burning Crusade. Just something nice and easy that is accessible for all.

      From the Cataclysm (I think) patch you can’t queue in bigger numbers than fives, but because the AV preformer addon exists and because you can semi circumvent by counting down on vent and having both party leaders hit enter at the same time, people get around it. I really wish they couldn’t though. I’ve beaten 40 man farm groups in IoC twice now but they ought to offer achievements or epics for that, in the very least a feat of strength because to call it hard going would be a vast understatement.

      For me, the best pvp is against equal groups and right now that only happens once in a blue moon but we can remain eternally optimistic right? :D

    • Standardized gear would certainly solve the gearing issues, but unfortunately it would give people who are gear oriented little reason to go into BGs. :/

      But aren’t they considering something where everyone gets a base ‘resilience’ or something like that? And then gear just improves other stats or what have you. So that’s similar to having standard gear yet still makes you want more gear, if you know what I mean.

  4. I like Tome’s comment – a wading pool for noob PvPers. Unfortunately, it’s all or nothing out there, and that’s a damn shame. And it’s true – Erinys would hold your hand Tome, and it’s lucky I’m not there because she would spit on me in a BG :P We taurens are too ladylike to do that /grin

    I like this post Erinys, because you have touched upon the things that I wish the BGs would have:
    – sort by gear/health
    – premades vs premades
    – heavy punishment on cheaters (I had a cheater in a recent BG and it made me VERY ANGRY)

    • I think getting rid of the bots/cheaters by itself would solve quite a few issues. People turn to premades quite often because they’re sick of being paired with them.

      I’d never /spit on you though, always been fond of Tauren Druids, it’s Tauren Priests that make me cry :D

    • I know! I’d be wery,wery, scared to see Erinys coming at me in a BG if I were Horde emoting /chicken!

  5. @Mishaweha
    Really need to find a way of getting comments to stack in more than 3s.

    I think you’re right, pleasing people with low queue times is probably the intent of Blizzard’s focus. A bit more match making would make things more pleasant across the board though. In a lot of the games I’ve played recently the gear orientated whining has started prior to the gates opening, it’s not too bad if it’s in the last fifty seconds but a whole game of listening to people call each other names…. grrr. In one game, someone was too busy calling everyone else scrubs, he let a mage take the BS in front of him :(

    • Comment stacking is probably an option somewhere in them WordPress options, not that I know where. XD

      I’m not sure Blizz could sell, as it were, slightly longer queue times for more balance gearwise. I can understand why they wouldn’t want to think too hard about the gear either, as that adds another variable into their queue logic that they may not be taking into consideration, and my guess is refactoring their queuing system would be quite the task.

      I always think that the player who complains too much, the WHOLE BG, is not pulling their weight. Ever. Especially if they’re already looking for a reason they’re going to lose before they even start playing, instead of giving helpful advice. Sometimes I rise to the bait and tell them to be quiet, etc, or start calling out helpful advice in hopes that it ends the stupid chatter, but my guess is those people would always find something to whine about during BG chat even if everyone’s gear was even. *eyeroll*

      • Oh definitely. I spend quite a lot of time on the official PvP forums and the amount of people crying about stuff is amazing to behold. Healers, Hunters, Mages of all flavours, Monkeys, Premades… there is even someone claiming that they can kill all healers but those pesky Resto Druids :p

        In the last few weeks, I’ve seen an increase in people using battleground spy, going “oh they’ve got 3 healers and we’re got one” and promptly afking as well. They’re never going to please everyone but right now, I wonder how many people actually enjoy random battlegrounds. I do up to a point, as long as my team are focusing more on fighting the enemy than each other but based on a lot of the chat plus forums I wonder if I’m in a minority.

  6. What if….what if….

    There were no differences between PvP and PvE gear?

    There were no graveyard deaths allowed?

    There were graveyard deaths, but some penalty?

    I just feel in battlegrounds, the “all’s fair” seems to rule the day, as there are no real generals or admirals setting the stage. The players whom I know do PvP most of the time have given me sage advice, and I have never been so relaxed or so frustrated as I have been in battlegrounds. But Tome – remember what Cynwise agreed with me on – just go if you want. This is still all of our game, we all pay our dues, and we all do try to do our best. We need more of those players in the mix, not fewer.

    The other day, in LFR, one young “gentleman” was calling another one who had just offered some good advice, a “f******.” It reminded me of this Dave Cross routine where he asks someone in a queue for information, and the rough hillybilly says, “I don’t know, faggot.” I spoke up, and said told the asshat to stop. He told me to SHUT UP….and I was in the process of voting to have him kicked, which he immediately was. No more asshats.

    So the subtext is, we want to enjoy our game time, win or lose out of fairness and effort, and have no regrets.

    Wait, dammit…did I just project my own emotions again? Drat.

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