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.