Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Does WoW use PvP as filler between expansions?

I've noticed with the recent release of Wrath of the Lich King that a lot of people have started changing their minds about World of Warcraft. The game had been getting negative criticism about lack of innovation and poorly designed PvP systems. Some players hated that arenas had become the primary way of earning gear and that Blizzard was heavily promoting their game as an e-sport. Now all seems to be forgiven though as Blizzard is back to handing out highly polished PvE content. In fact initial impressions are probably even more favorable for this expansion. The difficultly level is more in tune with the majority of the playerbase and the lore is more traditional. No alien space paladins crashing their dimensional ship this time around.

Still it's only a matter of time before a majority of the player population once again reaches level 80 and starts in on the end-game. While raiding will probably be popular you can also expect arenas to make a come back. No really knows if they will once again become the primary focus of the game though. Remember the Burning Crusade raid progression was severely messed up and Blizzard hadn't yet put rating requirements on all the PvP gear. These two factors might help prevent arenas from dominating the end game like they did at level 70. I know a lot raiders felt that arenas steered players away from raiding and this probably generated a lot of negativity about the future of Worldof Warcraft.

Developers have to remember that players follow the path of least resistance. I hate quoting Raph Koster but I'm sure he said something along the lines of "Given a chance players will optimize the fun out of a game to achieve the fastest progression." Blizzard failed to account for how difficult it was to organize raids and how much easier arena rewards were to attain because they didn't require one. On paper the rewards for arenas and raids might have looked similar, but that wasn't the case in the game. Keeping a guild together while it made its way past Karazhan was a monumental challenge and pick-up-groups could often only do the first couple of bosses. Hopefully, history won't repeat itself with this expansion. Blizzard seems to be better at balancing the rewards and I think arenas and raiding can prosper side by side.

After all it's not like Blizzard can just ignore the demand for PvP content. Age of Conan and Warhammer both had impressive sales due to the fact that players now have an appetite for PvP in their MMOs. Plus PvP content usually requires fewer artists and developers then a new raid zone. I think Blizzard effectively used the arena seasons to keep people interested in the game and freed up some developers so they could work on other projects. That's not to say its easier to develop PvP content just that it requires less maintenance to keep it current. Once you have the reward system working in balance with other parts of the game, PvP systems are simple to keep updated. However, I don't think people play World of Warcraft for the arena seasons. Wrath of the Lich King has pretty much shown us that World of Warcraft is still the PvE King.


Anonymous said...

It all comes down to what they do with raiding. If the following are true, mass cancellations will occur in a few months:

1. If itemization is broken again as it was in B.C. (Many blue quest items were better than the epics dropping in raids, and the epics themselves did not progress properly through the tiers- this was not fixed until B.C. was six months old.)

2. The difficulty of the raids is tuned improperly again. Like it or not, most players have "average skill". Creating fights that require all 25 people to be online (no disconnects), paying attention every second (no kids, pets, telephones, or other distrations) and have instantaneous reaction times (no lag or other delays) was the death knell of B.C. raiding and the overall raiding community shrunk drastically as a result.

A lot of people used to whine about 40 man raids, and the fact that there would be people in the group who didn't pull their weight. But the beauty of that system was that you COULD have a few people go afk and not stop the raid entirely; you COULD lose somebody to a disconnect and not wipe on the boss unless it was one or two specific people (such as your MT). Most guilds had a hard-core 20-30 people who showed up for almost every raid, and the other 10 spots or so were filled by the more casual raiders. Which was fine.

So, we'll see. I honestly do not believe that people are going to happily tolerate 4 Arena season "gear resets" in a row this time. Not when there's other games with PvP now. Blizzard absolutely has to make raiding more accessible and more tolerant of the majority of the playerbase's foibles, or they will lose them once they consume all the PvE leveling content.

2ndNin said...

Isn't that the problem though, raiding should be about getting 10/25 people to focus for the period of time you are there, if a boss can be done with 2-3 AFK then you take 22-23 people and do it that way because it makes the boss trivial (lower chance at errors creeping in to wipe you).

The idea of a raid being easily doable with 10 sub-par players (not meeting dps requirements, dying in fires early etc) means you should wipe because otherwise the bosses are too easy for the players that are average. Fights need to be difficult enough to challenge us, not simply a case of filling loot slots.

Heike said...

But that's the thing - different enough to challenge doesn't have to mean absolute perfection every step of the way. I agree with the first anonymous.

I enjoyed TBC raiding, but (only as far as Hyjal/BT pre-nerf, though) it was really rough if a single LD or spotty connection meant a wipe. I think requiring 22ish people to really pay attention with a little bit of error is fine. That doesn't make it trivial, it makes it a little flexible.

I'm hoping that's what LotWK gives us. I love my casual, two-nights-a-week raiding guild but I like the fact that we have about 18-20 core raiders that show up every time but we can rotate different people in on different nights who are more casual - and we don't have to worry about wiping on a farm night because we have a couple of new people in who haven't experienced the mechanics.

Anonymous said...

@ Hoyke-

Yes you got what I meant.

Let's face it: most people are average players of average skill, intelligence, ability, and availability. That's why they call it an average. :-)

BC raiding was designed for perhaps the top 2% of people, those with the best connections, the best physical and mental reaction times, and so on. With no room for "overage" in raids for less skilled or less geared people.

I often told my folks that if they had merely made all the 25 man raids into 30 mans, they would have instantly solved 99% of the raiding problems in B.C. 3 Kara groups would have saved a lot of guild drama, and a few extra people in big raids would have helped to cope with the vagaries of connectivity and ability.

Then they borked the raid loot for the first six months and made Arena laughably easy in terms of time investment vs. raiding, with better rewards. Raid 20+ hours a week for a random chance at an item once in awhile, or Arena for 1-2 hours a week for guaranteed rewards on a schedule. It's no wonder many of the best and brightest fled raiding for Arena, or fled the game altogether.

And it snowballed because once good raiders started quitting and we had to backfill with "new" people who had no Classic raiding experience, raiding became excruciatingly difficult. After awhile recruiting became a nightmare and a huge timesink, we were begging people to raid even for farm raids.

To make a point: back in Classic, we could bring 4-5 new people on an MC or a BWL raid and expect our normal full clear. Stuff died, new people learned, all was well. Lots of laughter and fun on Vent because the fights were not so choreographed that you had to have 25 people on a hair trigger reaction time.

Come B.C., bringing 1-2 new raiders meant wipes because in many boss fights if even ONE person fails to do their job exactly right, there's no recovery. People would get really stressed really quickly and that didn't help retention either.

Add to that all the inherent problems with WoW that made bringing new raiders in very hard (they condition you to play solo for 70 levels and dump DPS as fast as you can, then they expect you're going to somehow intuitively understand threat management and teamwork in raiding?).

We did decide to come back and level to 80 because the one thing Blizzard does exceedingly well is leveling content. Thus far it's quite enjoyable, the artwork and scenery are nice, and so on. But we have not reguilded and have no plans to raid unless we find out that the raiding game is vastly different from B.C.

Our WAR accounts are still active, though lightly played while we level in Northrend, and that's where we'll be once we level cap WoW again, I suspect.

WoW Trader said...

Well the new season requires you to Arena (even for BG gear), which is an instant turn off for Arena haters. I love BGs but I will be switching from BGs to Raiding as my main end game, because I have no desire to go to BGs with no way of getting suitable gear. I enjoy BGs as much as I do 10 mans, but the BGs offer zero reward, and I'll be instantly out geared because I won't Arena.

Anonymous said...

@ Trader -

I'll admit I have paid no attention to how they will be dispensing gear from the BG/Arena vendors at level 80. It does not sound like much fun; I don't know many who love Arena, they mostly do it because it's the "least time for the most gear", so to speak.

I have a Field Marshal title earned under the old system. Even then it was frustrating. But now, I cannot imagine PvPing in WoW much. After having done it now for some time in WAR, I have gotten used to being able to fight back.

I have no desire to go back into WoW PvP, where I can be noob-coiled and stunlocked to death without ever being able to defend myself. WAR's classes don't work that way, thank goodness.

Openedge1 said...

Ahhh...right here is the reason WAR could never pull the numbers from WoW.
They can't even get a cool million players..

PvE with PvP is key...Ignore one, and you lose.

Relmstein said...

I think you may be right about games needing PvP and PvE to stay competitive in today's market. However, I'm not sure if any developer is willing to spend the money to release a polished PvP and PvE game at the same time.

Anonymous said...

The ideal game would have both PvE and PvP perfection... however there's no game on the market right now that does.

WoW has better PvE and PvP is whacked.

WAR has good PvP. I'd argue that the PvE is acceptable, but the rewards for it are not high enough right now so there's not enough participation.

That said, there are a lot of us who subscribe to both games. I am PvEing in WoW, and PvPing in WAR, and I'm pretty happy about it. I enjoy PvP very much but I have grown to detest Blizzard's hamfisted attempts at class balance, along with their philosophy on "shutdowns" (i.e. stunlocks, perma-fears, etc.).

Even at $30 a month for two subs it's less than a dinner and a movie, and more hours of fun.

The only loser I can see is Blizzard... because I will eventually run out of Lich King PvE content and cancel my WoW sub for awhile (if not permanently). WAR, on the other hand, is ongoing; hitting 40 is nearly irrelevant to continuing to PvP for the pure fun of it. :)