Thursday, August 31, 2006

What Makes the Healer Class Unpopular? Part3

How to make a Happy Healer

If you are looking for an truthful answer then you need to ask difficult questions. Probably an ancient eastern proverb but right now its just how I am tackling the priest problem and it is a problem. Just look at the population numbers for any MMO and you'll see what all the complaining is about. The fact that clerics and priests are required for any advanced encounter and that they are rare is just another time sink. So lets get our hands dirty, our brains tired, and are fingers cramped by trying to figure out what can be done.

What's the difference between healers and other classes in MMORPGs?
1) They focus on achieving victory by keeping others alive
2) They have to be more aware of hitpoints and other player's actions.
3) Their ability to heal is most effective in groups

What are the negatives aspects of these differences?
1) No direct damages done to enemies from healing
2) They have to be good at multi-tasking to watch everyone's health
3) They are required to be constantly paying attention which often leads to higher burnout rates in raids/groups
4) Dealing damage to enemies draws attention away from healing and uses mana
5) Soloing can be much slower for priests then grouping

It just doesn't seem like a priest receives enough credit by healing people. How come there's no videos on YouTube of epic priests healing people for 5k? Because its boring and people are more impressed by damage dealt directly then damage dealt by healing the main tank.

Some abilities that address direct damage:

1) The Death Bubble: Give priests the ability to bubble allies in a shield which bursts and deals damage to the enemy that hits them. Assign the damage to the priest but assign the agro to the shielded target.

2) Lifeburn: Warlocks sacrifice others but priests are all about self sacrifice. Thus allow them a spell that uses their own life to deal damage to an opponent. Blood Elf paladins are already getting a similar ability in Seal of Blood

3) Wand Mastery: Allow an talent or ability that allows priests to cast a healing spell without interrupting the auto wand ability. Other spells should stop it but come on allow them to heal while doing mediocre wand damage

Multi-tasking is one of the big problems I personally have with playing a priest. Its not that I am lazy but its challenging to keep the main tank alive and watch out for suicidal dps classes.

4) Auto-Heal: An ability that automatically casts a priest's small heals on party members with less then a certain amount of life. The ability can have a slow cool down so its not as effective as manually healing. But it would allow a priest to watch one health bar and not miss out when someone else takes damage. There is already a Emergency Health Monitor mod in World of Warcraft so I guess the developers are not set against lessening the multi-tasking healers have to do.

5) Auto-Self-Heal: When not in a group the priest can use a ability which automatically heals them for a low number of hitpoints without interfering with any other casting. The ability uses up mana for every heal so think of it as a heal over time that the priest can end or start whenever they want

If you notice, all the changes I proposed don't interfere with the priest's ability to heal others. They basically allow the priest the do a little more direct damage to targets and have a bit more survivability in solo combat. Feel free to tell me what you think of my suggestions.

Part 1 - The History of the Hard to find Healer
Part 2 - A Healer does not a Hero make
Part 3 - How to make a Happy Healer

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

What Makes the Healer Class Unpopular? Part2

A Healer does not a Hero make

One of the popular attributes of a MMORPG is that it allows you to play the role of a hero. You get to go on quests, vanquish bad guys, and help save people. In fact one of the most involving features of these games is that its your avatar who is doing all these epic tasks. Now not everyone thinks of their game avatar as a facet of themselves but a connection between a player and their character does exist. Thus when a character is forced to not participate in any of these events directly it affects the player behind them. You have to face the fact that healers are never the focus of any heroic action in the game

1) Combat: You are forced to heal your group and keep your eyes on everyone's health. If a enemy attacks you must fade or shield while screaming for someone to get the mob off of you. In World of Warcraft if you wand enemies or go into shadow form after healing you are considered a bad healer.

2) Quests: You can trump easy mobs and maybe even handle a pull of more then one when soloing. It does take you forever to kill any bad guys and your progression is slow. If you run into a elite mob then you better bring help to defeat it. You aren't the hero embarking on an epic journey, you're the half dead messenger who runs back to town asking for help.

3) Dungeons: You walk in the back of the party. Since your the only one who can rez you are treated like a invalid who shouldn't stress themselves by doing anything physical. You aren't allowed to pull and in all likely you would die if you did. Encounters never require any special tactics or strategies from you except for.....wait for it....HEALING PEOPLE.

As you can see most of the main activities in MMORPGs aren't really conductive to a Healer acting as a Hero. You basically have to follow other people around and support them as they go on adventures. In fact the similarity between a healing class in a MMO and a superhero sidekick is remarkable. As if that comparison wasn't bad enough healers also have to deal with social problems that have gotten attached to their class.

1) Healer's Goals are Not Important
You are a support class and your needs are not important when compared to the needs of real classes. Healers are often treated as if their main purpose in life is to help other people progress. This attitude is very prevalent in the early levels but can persist up to the end game. This often forces healers to use the threat of leaving the group to get any of their goals accomplished. All the muscle tactics healers have to use to get their loot and quests often make them very jaded players by the time the reach the end game.

2) First to be Blamed, Last to be Praised
If the tank goes down it is because you weren't paying attention. It has nothing to do with the fact he charged four mobs while the mage was afk. If dps classes die its because you aren't cross healing and not because they didn't wait for the tank to establish control of the mob. Just last week I watched our guild's main tank lag out and get killed by Onxyia. Then a warrior with much worse gear managed to tank him since three of our priests were very coordinated on chain healing. We won and the warrior was given much praise and the head by default. When I mentioned that the priests were able to constantly keep him healed by being well coordinated I was informed that kicking ass beats out coordination any day.

3)You are a Healbot
You are a machine which groups are required to have to be able to defeat opponents. People input a tell about needing more hit points and expect you to output a healing spell. As if it wasn't bad enough that people treated your goals as unimportant but some don't even treat you as if you were a real person. One of the major complaints about raiding is that it makes players feel like a cog in a big machine since their actions are very restricted. Healers go through this every time they are grouped.

I've listed 6 negative reasons that I believe are partly responsible for the healer shortage in MMORPGs. Some are direct design issues while others are social issues which have formed because of the design issues. There is hope though since I hear developers have some control over design. It's not too far fetched that eventually someone might be able to make a healing class which was fun to play and useful to groups. While game developers might not have been eager to make such changes to healing classes they are beginning to see the negative aspects of healer rarity. MMO subscribers are less patient with bad design that causes long wait times and making a required class unpopular to play is definitely bad design.

Tomorrow I am going to try throwing some ideas around on how to make healers more fun to play. The problem of course is that everyone has a different definition of fun.

Part 1 - The History of the Hard to find Healer
Part 2 - A Healer does not a Hero make
Part 3 - How to make a Happy Healer

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

What Makes the Healer Class Unpopular? Part 1

The History of the Hard to find Healer

Its a infallible rule in MMORPGs that the best healing class in the game will be the class rarely played. Since the beginning of the MMO market priests/clerics/medics have been in short supply and our game experience has suffered because of it. Early games in the market often forced social behavior by requiring players to group to make progress in the game. This was a great way to build friendships in the game and MMO developers liked how online friends stuck around longer in their virtual worlds. However, once developers forced people into groups it became obvious that those with healers were much more powerful. As a result developers designed all enemy encounters around the assumption that a group would have a healer.

This often made enemy encounters impossible for any group that did not have a healer and as a result introduced long wait times. Everquest was famous for this since most players would refuse to do anything without a specific type of healer called a cleric. The cleric had the ability to rez other players who died and gain back their experience, which often was equal to several hours of grinding. Though most modern MMORPGs don’t have harsh death penalties we still see this behavior today as sub-healing classes are made less effective then the main healer. However, even if you combine all the healing classes together it still becomes apparent that they are much less popular then any other class. Because of this rarity certain trends now exist in MMORPGs as a result of this healer shortage.

Trends caused by Healer Shortages:

1) The Dynamic Duo: Gamers started to get their significant others into their game of choice and set them up as a healing class. Thus many online games are filled with husband/wife teams with one of them being the healer. If you're smart you would make friends with couples who play together.

2) Two boxing: Gamers would buy another account and play a healer on it. Then they would use a computer setup to play both accounts at the same time. Not as effective as having another person play but it did allow you to advance in the game without waiting long periods for a healer to show up.

3) Guild Sneaking: Just as a group requires a healer to kill stuff so does a guild require many healers to kill stuff. Thus guilds are often lax on requirements for their priests. Raiders wishing to make it into a big guild would often apply as their priest then slowly but surely switch to their alts once in. This worked great but often forced a person to spend much more time to fully equip two characters.

As these trends started to form in online games it became apparent to developers that the rarity of people playing healing classes was affecting their games. Yet most high level decision makers saw these trends as encouraging more subscriptions and commitment to their games. Everquest began to make very hard encounters that not only required healers but also required other specific classes. Dark Age of Camelot saw the introduction of buff bots which were needed competitively to keep beneficial spells on players in realm versus realm combat. Other games also took advantage of this design flaw and to this day we still see specific and rare classes required for progression.

Tomorrow I am going to try express my exact thought on why healers are unpopular with most MMORPG fans.

Part 1 - The History of the Hard to find Healer
Part 2 - A Healer does not a Hero make
Part 3 - How to make a Happy Healer

Monday, August 28, 2006

Back From Vacation

I just recently got back from a week long vacation in which I thoroughly enjoyed not having an internet connection. I enjoyed the sun, rode some roller coasters and didn't missed online gaming at all. That was the first day of my vacation. By the end of the week I was subconsciously quoting the Illegal Danish movies while whistling theme music from World of Warcraft. Luckily I got back Sunday night and was able to visit my favorite virtual worlds and recover from my vacation. Jeez now I know why people have laptops and why I need one if I ever do this vacation thing again.

Anyways while I was gone some things happened like:

1) Mythic announced a new expansion for DAOC
2) World of Warcraft Patch 1.12 was released
3) Blizzard's Alpha for the Burning Crusade started to leak

My reactions to the three:

1) What's DAOC stand for again?
2) Queues still long but now my mods are broken too.
3) Some Blizzard employee's little brother is in big trouble. God bless the little tyke.

All and all it looks like nothing much has changed since my vacation: R. Koster is still pretentious, Lum the Mad still hates RMT and my total site traffic is still a blink in the eye of Tobolds. The only difference I have noticed is that trying to take go-gurt onto a plane will get you tackled by a 7ft security guard. I don't know what's more embarrassing: that my readers know I eat go-gurt or that I shrieked like an Azerothian bunny when I went down.

Oh check out for some pretty good information on the Burning Crusade leak. Just take everything with a grain of salt since any idiot can make up some valid sounding gaming news and post it on a blog. Ummm except this blog, nothing here but 100% verified facts.

Friday, August 18, 2006

WoW's Server Stability and Zuljin Protest

Its no secret that World of Warcraft has had a history of horrible server maintenance. Most of this history is undeserved and comes from the unexpected success of the game which caused Blizzard to scramble to scale up their server architecture. However, its been a couple years since the release of WoW and one would think that new server hardware would be in place to deal with the large player populations. For the most part it is but there are still a few servers whose playability suffers during the dreaded "peak hours". During these hours from 7pm-11pm some realms suffer from server lag, long queue times, and crashes. Its frustrating to those who work during the day and can often only play on weeknights.

A small group of players from the Zuljin server seemed to have been fed up with the behavior and decide to draw attention to the problem. By coincidence and the similarity of nerd behavior players from Zuljin found out they would be attending the GenCon convention at the same time. In a moment of corny brilliance they decide to picket the Blizzard Booth at the convention. Complete with hand made signs and slogans the group managed to stick around long enough for a couple of bloggers to get photos. I initially thought the story was small but recent comments on blogs have made me realize there is a misconception about the rare "bad servers" Blizzard has for WoW.

While most people thought the protest was funny a few thought the players were just whiny. A few well known bloggers such as Heartless Gamer express the opinion that servers can't just magically be fixed. While I admit that most of the servers only have momentary lapses in performance there are a few that are routinely "bad" and could be fixed almost right away with higher end hardware. Blizzard already alleviated some of the problems with the character transfer feature and by charging 25$ a transfer made a decent profit in the process. But even with a more distributed player population a few still have too many players on them to operate correctly.

Recent forum posts by community managers point to a large scale server upgrade in the new few months in preparation for the Burning Crusade expansion. The upgrades will most likely fix the current heavy population servers but one has to wonder why it took so long. The truth of the matter is that Blizzard is a company and they balance customer satisfaction with profits. While nowhere near as bad as Sony Online Entertainment they still want to make as much money as possible while keeping their customers happy. Thus you can see how they couldn't justified large scale upgrades until right before the Burning Crusade. No one knows exactly how many accounts will be reactivated for the expansion but the numbers will most likely be huge, especially if digital distribution is used.

Other Links to Blogs on the protest
Broken Toys
WoW Insider

Remember one of the reasons EQ2 failed to beat WoW was server problems
Early Tobold Article

World of Warcraft Arena Rules

Recently a lot of posts on the forums were raising issues with the future arena system. Those of you who read the WoW forums regularly know that players always make guesses about game features before they are added to the test realm. Drysc made an attempt to nip some of this speculation in the bud by listing more information about combat for the arena system. Particularly important are the facts that potions can't be used and abilities with cooldowns longer then 15minutes can't be used. Thank goodness paladin shields are on 5min cooldowns so we'll still get to see them.

New Arena Information

-When a player enters an arena battle, all buffs and conjured items are purged/deleted. This is done to ensure no outside buffs or items from members outside of your team are able to be used in an arena battle.

-No consumables other than bandages and conjured items can be used while in the arena. There will be a waiting area similar to the current battlegrounds where players on the team will be able to conjure items and cast buffs.

-Abilities/spells/items with cooldowns longer than 15 minutes cannot be used while in the arena.

-Each arena team will be given a rating, and will be matched up in the arena queue against teams of a similar rating (matching within that specific cross-realm battlegroup). As time progresses the matching system will broaden its search up to a limit if a closely rated team cannot be found.

-Ratings adjustments are made in the same way that ELO ratings adjustments are made. This system works by adjusting each arena team's rating from a specific match based on the rating of the team they are up against. If a team wins against a team of a higher rating, the increase of their arena rating would be much higher than if they had won against a team of a lower rating. This system will help promote players improving their skill and besting teams which may have previously held the top spots.

-At the end of each week, characters receive arena points based on their team's rating. A team must have fought a minimum number of battles for the week, which we have announced as currently set to 10 games. A player must have played in at least 30% of the team's battles that week in order to be eligible to receive arena points. Each eligible player will then receive a fraction of the teams total awarded points to spend on arena rewards.

-Players may spend their points on arena rewards, or save their points until they have enough to get the rewards they desire.

-There is a limit to the number of points a player can stockpile, which is currently planned to be as high as the most expensive item.

-At the end of a season, players on a team are given a title based on their team's relative position on the ladder which will last through the next arena season

WoW Forums Link to Info
Blue Tracker Link to Info

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

PvP and the Burning Crusade

Today I wanted to take a close look at the PvP changes coming in the World of Warcraft expansion. It seems PvP is being modified into three distinct types, each with their own rules and rewards. I am going to give a short outline of each type and then a review on how they might affect overall game play.

World Combat
Each of the seven world zones in the Outlands will have a different PvP objective which can be fought over by the horde and alliance. Rewards for meeting a zone objective seem to include buffs or control of a useful location. For example some zones will have towns or graveyards that change factions depending on which side has recently won. Also reward buffs might be nothing to sneeze at since its been rumored that they will increase the amount of experience gained per kill in the zone.

Review of World Combat:
I like the idea of introducing world combat into the game but giving well defined objectives. I never understood people who whined about the good old days before the honor system. It always seemed to me that world combat was mostly about the ability to gank newbies in low level contested towns. As a result of this I am not sure world combat will attract those who miss the days before the honor system. However, if the rewards are good enough I predict these objectives could attract a decent amount of players. If the pvp towns have good quest rewards inside of them I expect players to actively fight to gain control of them, especially if they need to do a turn in. Also if the experience buff is a reward in a good grinding zone then I expect there always to be a decent amount of players fighting for the objective.

The Honor System
The honor system is being revamped so that honor points can be spent like currency. The ranking system is being removed so that the gear is available to anyone who has the points to purchase them. Some items might require specific tokens/points from certain battlegrounds along with general honor points gained from killing the opposing faction. The expansions will introduce a few more battlegrounds into the game though no specifics have been released yet. Developers have said that the rewards for the new honor system will be generous but not on par with the top end raid loots.

Review of the Honor System:
Loot wise the honor system is not going to change much. There will still only be a couple of useful epic items that require a decent amount of time to get. Still for those who don't like to raid this is going to be a useful boon to gain equipment. Even if half of the PvP population has the same equipment, think Unstoppable Force, at least they will be able to fight on par with most everyone but serious raiders.

The Arena System
This is the most interesting idea Blizzard has had in the PvP area. Basically its a gladiator pit fight that requires teams of players to fight matches against other teams with similar rankings. The format is varying with 2v2, 3v3, and 5v5 matches with each team have double the members as their format. Thus a 2 person team could have 4 members but only 2 could fight in a match at the same time. The winner of each match will gain points that are used to determine their ranking in comparison with everyone else. Matches are server wide and cross faction so it will be impossible to determine your opponents ahead of times. The ranking system will match up evenly ranked teams so that one sided fights will be less common. At the end of a three month period time (seasonal) the ranks will be given points which can be used to buy arena gear. Arena gear is supposed to be on par with the top end raid gear found in the 25 man instances.

Review of the Arena System:
I love this idea. Matches should go a lot quicker then battlegrounds and will become the ultimate way to kill 5 minutes. There should be no queue time for matches and even higher ranked teams should find opponents quickly. Also the ability to form a team and get team colors/tabard is a very nice way to join players together. Also if players are given the ability to view matches this could quickly become a popular pastime. As for the rewards they will require the most amount of time to grind to get because of the seasonal nature of the point system. However, there is no decay on the points once earned and there should be wide range of items available. Even a low ranking team should be able to buy something after the first season. I hope the season timetable is moved up from the implied 3 month period to something more in line with a month. However, I believe Blizzard will want to balance the time nature of the rewards to match the amount of time it takes a raider to gain their gear.

I hope you enjoyed this short review on the Burning Crusade PvP changes. Feel free to read the two interview articles below which are the source of most of the pvp information.



Monday, August 14, 2006

WoW Raid Limit Being Lowered

News broke over the weekend that raid instances in the Burning Crusade expansion would be capped at 25 players. The Raid/Dungeon forums were in an uproar over the change with many people blaming the casual gamer population. Most believe the new raid limit will allow smaller guilds to more easily field raid forces without worrying about large membership numbers. Since casual guilds usually don't track or force raid attendance having a large membership was the only way to ensure 40 concurrent members on at the same time.

However, not everyone was happy with the raid limit being lowered. Some self proclaimed "Hardcore" raiders pointed out negative aspects of lowering the limit including a drop in raid encounter complexity. Other raiders disagreed and felt encounters could still be challenging especially with both factions now having access to the paladin class. Also pointed out was that loot distribution between 25 players would ensure more drops per person. I like to look at both sides of an issue before I making any judgments so I am starting a list of the pros/cons for the raid limit drop. If anyone else has any items to add to either list feel free to suggest them in the comments section.

New Raid Limit Pros
-Drop rates increased in smaller raids
-Smaller guilds will be able to raid more often
-Pick-Up-Raids should be possible for every raid instance

New Raid Limit Cons
-Raid encounters complexity might be limited
-Larger guilds are going to have to downsize
-Raids won't be able to withstand slackers as much

A ton of other information about the expansion was also revealed in the gamespy article and I'll be writing more about it later. In the meantime I suggest being careful on the forums since every topic seems to be a vicious fight about something in this article.

PC Gamespy Article

Friday, August 11, 2006

Horde and Alliance Mis-Communications

I found an interesting article covering the language barrier between horde and alliance. Apparently the alphabet between the two factions goes through a hash function with a high collision rate. For those of you who don't speak geekinese this means that a lot words have the same nonsense translation. So while alliance can type "kek kek" to say "lol lol" to the horde, anything more complex runs the risk of being translated into more then one word.

For example the words kill, move, and fire for the horde all translate to the alliance as "Uruk". Blizzard purposely created the hash function to make communication almost impossible between the factions except for a few short chat phrases. This lets just enough communication to declare intent but not enough to coordinate anything. Thus you might see a horde and alliance grinding nearby but you aren't going to have spies giving out player locations in a battleground.

Usually I am not a fan of exclusion tactics in MMORPGS but the lack of communication between the Horde and Alliance really works for the game. After a few months of playing on either faction you really do despise the other side. There always seems to be a sense of animosity between the two because communication is impossible but ass kicking is not. Add in the basic ability to insult and taunt and you got a real grudge match going on. The only issue interfering with the system is the population imbalance between the sides.

Now picture if the Horde and Alliance could talk to one another. The insults would get much more nasty as the language would allow advance words and phrases. People can get pretty creative with insults after being camped for 45 minutes and most likely the Terms of Service would be broken many times over. Spying might become an issue in any type of large pvp event. Also players on both sides would be constantly bothered by those they defeated. Would there be any fighting at all if defeated players could just spam insults and accusations to the other side. Shudder... if you thought Ironforge of Orgrimmar chat was bad now.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Mythic Manhandles Next DAOC Expansion

EA Mythic either has one of the brightest futures in the MMORPG market or else one of the darkest. Depending on who you talk to the prediction swings back and forth between the worst and best case scenarios. One thing is for certain though and that is that Mythic's future doesn't seem to include Dark Age of Camelot.

For a long time a new expansion for the aging game has been promised to its remaining faithful subscribers. While not as strong as it once was the game still holds onto over 100,000 people according to numbers. The expansion was originally expected to be announced during this year's E3 tradeshow but Mythic spokespeople say it was put on hold so as not to detract attention from Warhammer Online. As several bloggers have noted already this is ridiculous since Warhammer Online has great reviews and hype surrounding it.

Despite this players still have been strung along with weekly responses that news concerning the expansion was coming soon. But so far no features or details have been revealed to the fans of the game. Recent word from the company blames the delayed announcement of the expansion on budget growth due to the EA merger. Mythic claims that with the larger budget they now wish to include more features in the expansion which is causing the delay. However, those who follow the inner workings of EA doubt that the company would want to promote DAOC when Warhammer Online was on the horizon. This seems to be the crux of the problem within EA Mythic. How do you design a new and better service without killing your old one?

The short answer is that you can't. As more MMORPG game studios are moving away from their first hit title they are finding it impossible to fully support two games. Lineage, Asheron's Call, Everquest, and others are all having problems with sequel games detracting from their own customer base. However, SOE and Cryptic Studios have had some luck by allowing customers to pay one fee to access multiple game titles.

Thus the future of DAOC might depend on how EA Mythic handles the pricing structure of the games that fall under their wing. Three years down the line we could see Ultima Online, DAOC, Warhammer and Ultima Online 2 all under their control. If DAOC players have a chance to pay only 5$ extra to play all four I guarantee that the future would look bright indeed. On the other side if Warhammer fails to gain over 150,000 subscriptions I fully expect EA to gut the studio.

Monday, August 07, 2006

WoW Battleground Topic 3: A Ladder System

Over the last couple years the player versus player system in World of Warcraft has grown wildly in popularity. Mostly this growth has been attributed to increased rewards and options for people wishing to match their gear and skill against others. Ganking still occurs but it has been reduced with battlegrounds attracting the more vicious players. However, the constant patching of raid content into the game has upset the balance of the battlegrounds. WoW is a item centric game and while skill is involved in playing there is an upper limit to its affect on a battle. At a certain point skill stops being a factor when compared to gear. Thus players who have the time to devote to end game raiding are often unkillable by their blue geared counterparts.

Its because of this that talk of a ladder system has been in the rumor mill and recently hinted at by the community managers. At first a ladder system was a low priority item like "player housing" or "hero classes" but the complaints have started to show up about raiders controlling the top rankings in the honor system. Apparently on some servers PVE guilds will charge a fee before allowing anyone to hit the top honor rank. Blizzard has recognized the problem and its been confirmed that it will expand the number of players who can hit each rank in the next patch. This will make it harder for guilds to block the upper honor ranks but not impossible. This is why a ladder system for selecting battleground opponents is needed.

Potential Ladder Systems

1) Use the meta level formulas that Blizzard has for items and give each player a score based on the gear they are wearing. People with Epic gear are squared off against each other first before being set up battlegrounds with blue geared people.

Reason its not likely: Players could easily carry around a set of green or blue items to cheat the system.

2) Use time played for a character to choose opponents. Most characters that have huge play times are the raiders who often put in 10-20 more hours more a week then a non raider. Players are unable to artificially change their time played variable and cheat the ladder system.

Reason its not likely: Some players use the game as a social venue and will often chat and play the auction house for huge stretches of time. There might be a good number of people who have the same time played as raider but not even be in a guild.

3) Use the Honor Ranks of players to determine opponents. While this system will still allow raiders to play against blue geared opponents it has a huge affect at the high honor ranks. Players who are rank 11 and over will be able to hold their own against raiders because of the pvp armor sets. This system stops the farming of honor against blue geared opponents by raiders and high ranked players. Since this is the main problem with the current PvP system I believe this is the most likely ladder.

Friday, August 04, 2006

WoW Battleground Topic 2: Queue Changes

No such luck on finding my queueing theory books so I’ve just decided to throw some numbers around to try to imitate the cross server battleground bahavior. I just went through a horrible three day seminar so hold with me as I try to use my brain again.

Lets start with some Assumptions:
1) More servers are Alliance heavy then Horde
2) Usually the ratio between the two doesn’t get worse then 2:1
3) There are some Horde heavy servers
4) Servers balanced between the two factions are rare, almost non existent
5) Server population average is about 3,000 (could be anything)
6) PvP participation is about 10% (could be anything)

Current Setup
A normal server is looking at a ratio of 2,000 to 1,000 players with either the Horde or Alliance being the more popular faction. About 10% on each side partake in pvp which makes it about 200 people on one side of the queue and 100 people on the other side of the queue. With this setup only 50% of the people on the more popular faction get to play the rest are waiting in the queue.

Battlegroup Setup
Lets say a battlegroup has around 10 servers
7 are Alliance heavy with a 2:1 ratio
3 are Horde heavy with a 2:1 ratio
Assume average population of 3000 with 10% playing in PvP

Alliance: 7x2,000 + 3x1,000 = 17,000 and Horde: 3x2,000 + 7x1,000 = 13,000
New ratio is 17,000 to 13,000
With this setup 76% of people on the more popular faction get to play instead of waiting in a queue.

Other Considerations
The rate at which games start and end in a battlegroup setup is going to be much quicker then just a single server. The 24% of people who are on the more popular faction and have to wait in the queue should expect their wait time to decrease by a factor related to the number of servers in their battlegroup. I expect WSG and AB battles to start almost immediately once you enter the queue.

On a side note my exact numbers were guesswork but I be willing to bet my ratio of Alliance heavy to horde heavy servers was a good guess. I also know in general most servers have more then 3,000 people on at peak time and pvp participation flucuates between 10-30% depending on how close it is to Tuesday’s honor tally.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

WoW Battleground Topic 1: Grouping Changes

Its not a secret that in patch 1.12 some changes have been made to the way groups are formed in the battlegrounds. Alterac Valley, the largest battleground, now automatically joins people into a large raid which they cannot leave. The leader of the raid is the person with the highest honor ranking at the start of the game. Some people love this change because it cuts down on small sub-raids forming for the purpose of farming honor instead of trying to win the game. While not common, this problem does cause an automatic loss when it does occur. Plus it seems as if the current system on the PTR works better for the new cross server playability.

Other changes have been suggested for the smaller battlegrounds which are the favorite targets of hardcore honor farming. The most extreme rumour is that they might limit the join as group function or eliminte it entirely. At the moment the highest ranking players on a server will always form a raid which then constantly attacks the Warsong Gulch and Arathi Baisin battlegrounds. Usually these raids will afk out when pitted against the top team of the other faction but will dominate everyone else. Usually these high marshall or warlord groups are very selective and normally don't invite anyone who is not in the rank 12-14 range. By this method they can control who hits rank 14 each and guarantee that members of their battleground raid are not fighting each other for the same rank. Its a dirty system and it seems as changes might be in the mix for Blizzard to change it.