Dead as a Doornail: On World PvP

Looking back at my time in Azeroth, many of my stand-out memories involve World PvP. The ebb and flow of old school Southshore / Tarren Mill battles. Advancing one minute, running for my life pursued by a pack of deathguards, three blinking mages, two shamans and an angry warrior the next. Aoeing the deathguards and then sitting down to drink and being ambushed by the obligatory rogue skulking behind enemy lines. Attacking Crossroads and being flattened by the always awesome Sergra Darkthorn (who should definitely be the next War Chief). Retreating back to Ratchet or hiding, shadowmelded and praying that the aoeing mage won’t come any closer.

So it will come as no surprise to learn that one of the things which stood out the most to me in the avalanche of MoP data we’ve just been handed was this:

With some of the changes it’s pretty enticing to get out into the world and mix it up. By accomplishing some of the outdoor PvP quests and objectives I can actually raise my weekly Conquest cap, which means I can build my PvP set that much faster. I’ve flown over some pretty intense looking outdoor battles, and I can’t help myself as I jump in and work toward increasing my cap for the week.

(taken from here).

and this:

With world PvP, what we’re trying to accomplish is identifying what will naturally emerge with world PvP and then have the game support that better. In the past, I feel our attempts to create an area for world PvP haven’t been particularly successful, at least from the standpoint of them actually feeling like world PvP. Wintergrasp was a neat zone, and it was cool for the first time to go knock down a fortress with a tank, and Tol Barad was…alright, in that it gave players things to do as far as going out there in huge numbers and taking over these bases, but it didn’t really feel like world PvP. Really, what it felt like was a big battleground, and as you saw, kind of over time, it became more and more like an instanced battleground, because that’s the direction things take when you have a natural push for objectives. 

World PvP is kind of best when it happens on its own, when the conditions of the game naturally encourage the PvP to happen. What we’re hoping to do is identify places where that naturally happens, and then give players a bonus for winning those areas–the conquest point cap will be raised. An example is, back in the day with vanilla wow, we would have done something along the lines of ‘oh hey, if you take over Southshore or Tarren Mill, we’ll give you an increase to your conquest point cap for the week.’ It gives you a reason to engage in world PvP without being really heavy-handed. Instead of ‘ok this is the only way to get your awesome armor,’ it’s ‘hey, taking over Southshore is fun.’

(taken from here).

Ignoring the fact that I am one of those few people who does like Tol Barad, I got really hopefully and excited when I first read these two posts. Thinking it over in my head, however I hit a bit of snag which brought me back to earth with a bang.

Every single server I have characters on is heavily skewed in favour of one or the other faction. Take the server I currently call home, the Horde are an endangered species. We’re lucky if peak time provides 15 of them in Tol Barad. Without some sort of artificial system in place, they will always be on the losing end of spontaneous world PvP, which makes it less attractive for them to get off their flying mounts and participate. It also makes transferring to a realm which either has a more balanced population or one in which your faction of choice has the higher numbers more attractive, especially if you take PvP seriously. This has a knock on effect, as more of the weaker faction transfer out, the issue then gets worse and worse for those left behind (on both sides).

World PvP in which you hugely outnumber your opponents or are vastly outnumbered is not particularly interesting or exciting for either side, especially if you’re on the smaller team. Attempting to balance the teams is of course one way around this issue but that comes with it’s own set of problems. Artificial constraints, whether in the shape of balanced numbers, instancing in the zone and so on is also a direct contradiction of this statement “World PvP is kind of best when it happens on its own” and neither does it contribute to the “fun” element. I find the most frustrating factor about Tol Barad right now is that I rarely get to play with the people I want to play with because we can’t ever get in together. So if Blizzard wants pure World PvP, the opposing factions congregating  somewhere and slaughtering each other for kicks, then they can’t have artificial limits but somehow they need to balance populations better. Otherwise on servers like mine (in fact all of the three servers I play on), then this is never going to work.

I remember Wintergrasp on Kazzak EU as Alliance before balancing was introduced. Our half a raid group going up against a veritable horde of Horde. If you could get a demolisher within spitting distance of the Keep it was a good day (to die repeatedly), not to mention my fond memories of being graveyard camped by two full raids. Managing to kill the cocky mage who strayed too far from his healers was considered a success in the face of such overwhelming odds. I have to admit the masochist in me actually had fun but the vast majority of people, well they just stopped participating. The rewards just weren’t good enough to inspire people to try. Which is another aspect of the issue, the second you add a reward, however insignificant, it changes the game. Back when I was first introduced to the joys of World PvP, the honour system hadn’t been introduced. We killed each other because we could and because it was fun. Like-minded people were drawn both to certain locations and to each other. Then the honour system and it’s rewards were added and suddenly people who had no interest in pre-patch World PvP were all clambering over each other to join in. Fast forward to now and rewards (whether it’s in the shape of an increased conquest cap or anything else) means that people who aren’t necessarily into World PvP without rewards will participate, further screwing the smaller faction.

Is it time to start merging servers so we can all have a balanced and happy MoP, full of boisterous and spontaneous world pvp? I don’t know but if Blizzard intend making good on this, on servers like mine something needs to change. Otherwise it’s going to be as much fun as taking the towers in the Bone Wastes is at the moment. If you actually see a Horde, you have to blink to make sure you’re not hallucinating and then, once you’ve proved they’re real, you end up letting them go because endangered species need nurturing not pounding to a messy pulp.

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