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Quick Update: BlizzCon

In this interview, the last question was:

Q: Will the team address faction imbalance on realms?
A: The new WPVP system will solve a lot of these issues as sharding technology will place you into shards with others who have opted into WPVP.

So there you have it. World PvP in WoW’s next expansion won’t quite be as dead as suspected, although the lines between what constitutes “world” is becoming quite blurry. It will also be quite interesting to see what becomes of gankers when they are suddenly thrown into the same waters as other gankers.

Nevertheless, I can still see a carrot existing for the otherwise carebear player. Presumably, these “PvP shards” will be less populated, which might make finding and claiming those rare spawns just a bit easier. Or, you know, even scaring/killing off the competition.

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Impressions: BlizzCon Day 1

Well, now. I didn’t really see this coming.

The biggest news of the day, based on Reddit traffic, was clearly Blizzard’s teasing of WoW Classic. As in, they are actually making a vanilla server. Everything is still in development, so it’s technically possible that it won’t actually happen, but that would be pretty embarrassing given that they spent time on stage and even created a video about it. Important details such as cost and which patch stage they will be basing it on are still unknown – based on “server” language though, it’s possible it will just be, well, a server option in your normal WoW subscription.

Some people will undoubtedly be overjoyed. None will probably play a paladin.

In other news, the next expansion in WoW Prime will be… err…

WoW_BFA

Uhh…

Now, I’m sure there be a lot of people excited for WarCraft to get back to “roots” as a Red vs Blue RTS trope, but this is literally the most generic title and expansion theme they could have done. Sequel Escalation can be difficult to manage when there is no formal end planned – there are only a few more tricks Blizzard can pull once the Burning Legion itself is extinguished – but… this? “Battle for Azeroth” is something you write on a whiteboard with an underline, to denote that a series of actual title ideas will follow. Is this what people felt like almost exactly six years ago when Mists of Pandaria was revealed?

Looking at the MMO-Champ coverage, about the most interesting set of bullet points were:

World PVP

  • The PvP vs PvE server division is going away, replaced by an individual toggle. You can choose if you want to opt in to PvP or not when you are in town. Players that feel trapped on PvP servers have a way out. This opens up the game to changing and improving the world PvP ruleset.
  • New content like bounty hunting or assassination quests will become an option.
  • There will be bonuses to experience, reputation and other things when you are questing with PvP mode enabled to offset the inefficiency.

This is almost a complete game-changer for me. And probably anyone else trapped on an imbalanced PvP server. My primary server at this point is actually heavily skewed to the Alliance, but that just makes the Horde I do encounter especially surly while leveling. Or, you know, when faceless Cross-Realm hit-squads phase into your area. Now that problem is permanently solved.

It also, rather cleverly, creates world PvP hotzones with the carrot of increased Reputation (etc) gains. You could argue that these Reputation-farming zones would already be hot in a normal, always-on PvP server, and you would be correct. But now everyone there would be consensually engaging in (or preparing for) PvP, likely putting up more of a sport of it. And since the change in flagging requires one to be inside a town, you avoid opportunistic ganking, and presumably accidental flagging in the same design. Win-win.

There will be more to talk about in the coming days, I’m sure, but those are my first impressions.

PvP Servers

It has been quite some time since I’ve had to bother with the issue of PvP servers, but Shintar’s latest experience with a “classic WoW” server really sums up my thinking after the years:

The truth is, I’ve never had the urge to initiate combat with the opposite faction, so if I’m being honest I’m just making myself a punching bag for other players by going along with it. All that ever happens is that I get attacked by people who are several levels above me, in twink gear, or in a group. Sometimes things get turned around and they are the ones who end up with egg on their face, but that’s a cold comfort when compared to the amount of my time that ends up getting wasted by corpse-running and having to re-do quests. I’ve put up with it because there were no other options at the time, but weekends like these really make me wonder whether it’s worth it when I could be having fun with something else where other players aren’t able to ruin my enjoyment every step of the way. My free time is really too precious to me these days to waste it on nonsense like that.

Is there excitement on PvP servers? Sure. Although I would more describe that as anxiety, considering I’ve only ever gone on ganking sprees after being ganked myself. So, really, that would be what I say to anyone asking if they should pick a PvP server: “Do you want to spend your time ganking mostly helpless players over and over? If not, then don’t go to a PvP server.” Those rare moment of cooperation and peaceful coexistence do not make up for the time you spend getting killed in the middle of a quest. They really, really don’t.

What’s In a Name?

As a general rule, I try and remain as aloof as possible. It’s partly a defense mechanism against the eldritch machinations of an uncaring, absurd universe. But it is also somewhat necessary in an age wherein marketing departments have weaponized hype and doublespeak like “value-added” as if they are doing consumers any favors. In other words: wish in one hand, shit in the other, and see which fills up first.

Enter Guild Wars 2.

I signed up for the Beta like everyone else, with a current disposition of extreme skepticism. And I still am extremely skeptical. Will it “save” MMOs? Doubt it… assuming MMOs need saving at all. Is the holy trinity dead? As this BFF Report clearly shows, no, not in the sense that there will not be a guy who primarily tanks, someone who heals, etc. Even the whole “freeform” questing bit (which you can also see earlier in the BFF Report) does not necessarily move the needle, as a gamer who responds to ostensive purpose, no matter how flimsy said purpose may be in the abstract. Cave full of kobolds? Who cares? Oh, farmer Joe cares, because the kobolds are stealing the pumpkins? Let me go solve that for you.

That being said, I have been keeping up with the game, reading interviews, and so on. And what I am finding is that the little things are moving the needle all over the damn place. For example, here is Mike Ferguson’s Q&A response on a Reddit AMA interview:

Q: We all saw that enemy players are currently listed as generic invaders, and some are turned off by that. Will there be a toggle option for showing our name if we want to?

A: There’s been a lot of discussion about seeing enemy names in WvW. While I certainly understand the reasoning behind the request to see enemy names, we are fairly firm about not showing names of the opposing teams. I think of it this way, in a war people dont introduce themselves before trying to kill each other. When you are fighting in the mists for your world, you are in the middle of a giant war against two opposing forces who want nothing more than to take everything you own and kill you as many times as they possibly can. That guy who just shot you is not Bob the Engineer, he’s the enemy.

Not showing enemy names in WvW also helps players that are less pvp-oriented feel less threatened about venturing into the battle because seeing enemies as anonymous ‘invaders’ creates a sense that opponents won’t be able to recognize them and pick on them because of their lack of skill in a fight, so they in turn feel more embolded to go out and fight in the first place. Not showing names also makes it so people can feel as if they can ‘hide’ in a fight if need be, but still be around to help out. That’s a pretty critical part of making WvW feel more inviting for people that would normally never think about playing PvP in any other game.

We’ve heard “I usually dont PvP, but I love WvW” again and again from people in our beta, so even though showing names might make for a more competitive pvp environment, we’d much rather create a game that is more welcoming for people that don’t normally play the more hardcore PvP games. If you want to see enemy names and get to know the community of people you are fighting against, competitive PvP is the place to get that sort of thing in Guild Wars 2. WvW is the place where you fight with your friends and show your might against a faceless never-ending horde of enemies. It’s not about taking names, it’s about taking back that tower and claiming it for your guild so it can wave your flag right in the enemies face!

…now that is interesting.

A lot of blogging space has been dedicated to examining the effects of, say, LFG on community culture. For the record, I believe the LFG culture (such as it is) in WoW is merely the natural expression of difficult, group-based daily activities minus the desperation.

But it is fascinating to think about the possible effects of a struggle against an intentionally nameless enemy in GW2. Would people really feel “safer” being anonymous in a wider war? I think Mike Ferguson is onto something. Imagine you are trying to take a tower from a single defender, but he keeps killing you. In my own WoW experience, I feel the standard shame of defeat, but I also feel worse knowing that the defender can put a name to the face, so to speak. If we meet up somewhere else on the battlefield, he might recognize the fail paladin he defeated with ease earlier and go after me first. In my mind, that second possibility is worse than the initial defeat(s).

I know this happens because I did it all the time in WoW BGs. “Hey, there is that Boomkin made out of wet paper. Ha! Look at him run!” Inspiring dread ended up being a lot more entertaining than most of the BGs themselves. Indeed, one of the biggest draws of having a rogue was following someone around and Sapping them repeatedly, then watching their panicked, futile AoE dance afterwards. After they felt themselves safe, that’s when you kill them in a stunlock. Repeat until they just abandon their keyboard after the first Sap.

Take away the name, though? People could probably figure out that the Norn Elementalist who keeps trying to take the tower is the same player. I might even be wary of the nameless Mesmer defending said tower. But at the same time, perhaps we would care less. Perhaps it would make people more inclined to group with their own faction, since that this the only avenue of social recognition – you cannot be known and feared by your enemies, so you seek out the accolades of your server. Only your own team will ever know your name.

It is such a subtle, brilliant change that I cannot wait to see how it works. Not “if,” how.

Conquest from World PvP?

So the Blizzard LiveBlogging Q&A thing happened. Check out the transcript if you like. There was a lot of filler, but there was also some (panda) meat:

Comment From Eldacar
At Blizzcon Tom Chilton mentioned possible incentives for raiding enemy towns to encourage world PVP in mists, can Greg or Cory elaborate on this at all?

Mumper:
In regards to extra rewards for world pvp, we are contemplating the idea of increasing players conquest point caps by an extra 10-15%.

I am assuming they mean contemplating about the Conquest Cap being increased by 10-15% for just killing players in the world – and by extension, that world PvP kills will award Conquest points. If it is going to be possible to hit the Conquest Cap for just killing players in the world, sweet chocolate Christ you may want to evacuate PvP servers before the server transfer queue hits 14 days.

I am one of those players who chose PvP servers because I enjoyed the tension while leveling, and how it created meaningful cross-faction interaction. That is to say, if I saw a Horde out while in the world, there was something of a ritual taking place. We both would stop immediately, look towards each other, try to gauge intentions. Then I would do /wave. He would do /wave. We had exchanged something there, something tangible; an admission of mutual respect. “Even though I am trained to kill your kind, I am choosing not to. I cede to your sovereignty, if you cede to mine.” Those same actions might have occurred on a PvE server, but they wouldn’t mean anything.

Of course, those interactions were pretty rare. Auchindoun-US had a 3:1 Horde ratio for the longest time, so 95% of the encounters were attempted ganks (“attempted” because I quest as Ret in PvP gear, yo). Or outright griefing during holiday events, expansion releases, or in new patch content. When the Molten Front dailies and the Thrall quest came out, Alliance couldn’t reliably complete them for the first three days. I don’t have much taste for PvP servers anymore, so if I ever came back it would be rerolling/transfering to a PvE one.

Anyway, it is not confirmed or anything, but Conquest points from world PvP kills would solve world PvP pretty much overnight.

Comment From Guest
Hey there. Will Pandaria have a new Dalaran like city or will we be using the ones already existing ingame?

Mumper:
We will have separate player hubs for both the Horde and Alliance on Pandaria. Separate hubs means we do not have to make them sanctuary and will encourage world PVP. These hubs will have access to an AH, Bank and general vendors. Valor, conquest, profession and faction vendors will be scattered around the world to encourage travel.

Comment From Kubus
One of the current issues discouraging World pvp is the presence of highly overpowered guards around cities and hubs, 1-shotting anyone who engages in pvp. How will this be in MoP?

Mumper:
We know this is an issue in the current game and we plan to address it in Mists. We want to encourage world PVP, not make it a one-shot game for npc guards. This is one of the main reasons we decided to make two separate player hubs instead of a shared sanctuary.

And one more…

Comment From MattWedra
At Blizzcon it was mentioned that PvE Scenarios will be something that we will queue for…Will we be required to be in the area that the PvE Scenario will take place in order to queue, or will we be able to queue for them from the cities like we do for the Dungeon Finder. If they are instanced events how will this “get the players out into the world” other than standing around a specific area waiting for the queue to pop, or am I missing the idea?

Mumper:
We are planning to only let players queue for scenarios from specific spots in the world (where the scenario is located), not in the cities. We want players out in the world, not spamming the queue button in cities.

This should be some welcome news to the “you kids better go play outside” proponents. Not only will the separated Alliance/Horde hubs increase the frequency of faction raids (assuming these hubs are set up correctly), you also have mass groups of players hanging out at various points in the world to queue up for Scenarios (and likely group with who they find there instead of LFD). And, of course, groups of people hanging around being mostly distracted will be juicy PvP targets. One of the best places for free kills back in TBC was near those PvP gear/charter NPCs out in Nagrand, or near the tier 6.5 vendor on QD, for example.

Honestly, how well any of this works will come down to whether Conquest is awarded for world PvP kills or not. If it’s just plain honor for kills like normal, I dunno how effective any of this will really be. Probably about as effective as Molten Front PvP… which is to say not very much at all.