Tol Barad, Wintergrasp and the Problems With World of Warcraft’s World PvP
For many MMO players, one of the most important aspects of a game is what we call World PvP.
PvP of course stands for Player versus Player. World stands for… well… world. Essentially this type of PvP occurs out in the world. No player limits, no artificial barriers which keep players penned into a particular area. Some developers have taken this idea and run with it, creating whole worlds that exist to be fought over, with significant in-game benefits being conferred on the victorious factions. Other developers have shied away from the idea of World PvP entirely. World of Warcraft has taken a sort of middle approach to the topic, attempting to provide both a massive scale to the combat, but also to keep a balance so that neither side can dominate completely through sheer numbers. Most of WoW’s content can be completed entirely outside the influence of World PvP if a player so chooses.
The first thing to keep in mind is that MMORPG players, whether in Warcraft or in other games will always go where the gear is. What this means is that players will do the content which provides them with the highest level of benefit. This leads us to our first major problem with WoW’s world PvP. Blizzard both in the past, and currently, has provided only small to moderate in-game benefits to those players and guilds who win in world PvP. In Arenas, and more recently in Rated Battlegrounds, Blizzard has provided top end in-game rewards to those who win consistently and accumulate enough conquest points. On the PvE side, Blizzard has also provided top end gear and other rewards for those who complete the Raiding content. Arenas, Rated Battlegrounds and Raids are all extremely popular. You don’t find nearly as many people out there in World PvP. Generally, people don’t feel that World PvP is important in World of Warcraft for a very simple reason: you cannot achieve the highest level of progression by engaging in it. By creating a system of rewards which leaves out world PvP’ers, Blizzard is clearly saying to guilds like Ruinous, this is not a game for world PvP. From our point of view, the solution is simple: provide better, more tangible rewards for winning in world PvP.
The second problem is also linked to the first: out of date content. Tol Barad is the current “world PvP” area in WoW. There are some moderate rewards for controlling this zone; some additional dailies, a raid with bosses that drop PvP gear. There is nothing particularly wrong with Tol Barad, it has its flaws (more on this later), but overall it is pretty fun. This problem though isn’t with Tol Barad, the problem is with Wintergrasp, Halaa, Venture Bay, Hellfire Peninsula, and the other world PvP areas that Blizzard has created throughout the game. The content that I just listed has not been updated in a significant way since it was created. This is content that was put into the game, someone worked very hard on it, many of us liked it and participated in it when it was new. Now though, these places are ghost towns. Why? As I said before, they were never updated, no new rewards were added. The amount of honor you can receive is less than you can get from losing your way through half an unrated Battleground. The gear that is available from these places is in some cases multiple expansions old, and much of it was barely worthwhile at the time. Even if a maximum level character could participate, they wouldn’t want to, the rewards aren’t there.
Finally there is a third core problem. Much of WoW’s world PvP isn’t even really World PvP. Tol Barad and Wintergrasp, Blizzard’s most ambitious attempts at World PvP are really more like expanded Battlegrounds. Both of these have a specific time limit. Both have a method of maintaining an artificial balance. In the case of Tol Barad, the number of players allowed in is directly proportional to how many the other faction is able to bring in, up to a maximum of 80 on each side. For example: If Alliance has 90 people in queue, and Horde has 50, only 50 players from each faction can get in. In this scenario, 40 Alliance players would be left out, waiting in queue. Not fun, I can assure you. In each of these cases, Blizzard has left behind the idea of outdoor PvP in favor of a more controlled gaming experience. Is it better as a controlled experience? Possibly, they do have 11 million subscribers, but popularity alone is a fallacious argument. What makes a PvP experience fun? That is subjective; each of us has our own preferences when it comes to gaming. I like big PvP brawls, really big, and it’s all the sweeter if there’s a tangible objective with rewards at the end.
There is a solution here though. It is very simple and doesn’t require Blizzard to do a whole lot, nor does it require disrupting anyone’s PvE content. Update the old PvP zones, make them relevant again. Many of these old PvP areas had no player limit; they were big, open ended and fun. Add rewards for conquering these PvP areas. The rewards don’t even have to be amazing, merely relevant to the current maximum character level. Would this fix WoW’s world PvP entirely? Hardly, there are fundamental balance problems that exist with WoW’s PvP in general. But, with World of Warcraft reportedly losing 300,000 subscribers recently(http://www.develop-online.net/news/3…ubs-fall-again), and the upcoming competition from Star Wars, Blizzard needs to step it up. This would be at least one step in the right direction.