The World of Warcraft PvP forum, featuring Jeff Kaplan and Tom Chilton as the primary presenters, was held in the main hall at BlizzCon. Tom is the lead designer and all around head honcho for the upcoming Lich King expansion. Jeff had the same responsibilities for the original game when it was first released. Together, they've been responsible for the design and implementation of various WoW battlegrounds, the arena system, and the inclusion of world PvP zones in World of Warcraft.
Although the Goblin staff are fairly ardent PvPers, we've always assumed that PvP in WoW is a sideshow event. You know, PvP was (we thought) something of a mini-game, but one that appeals to a minority of players. Not so.
PvP in WoW is, apparently, far more important to the success and popularity of the game than we had realized. The crowd that arrived to hear Tom and Jeff's comments on PvP was surprisingly large. We were caught off guard by both number and intensity of the participants.
Neither Tom nor Jeff, however, were surprised. It appears that the critical role that PvP plays in WoW is a phenomenon that is well understood. The various comments and ideas presented by the two men are included below. Most of these insights were either spoken aloud, taken from the Powerpoint presentation itself, or in response to questions from the audience.
A Couple of Basic Principles:
PvP should be fun for everyone, not just the hardcore. Despite this, the hardcore should have a place to shine. Balancing the two is a major issue.
PvP players should be able to compete in PvP, using only PvP rewards if they so desire. One should not have to be a raider in order to be successful in PvP.
The BGs are designed to be a rewarding, objective-based experience. They should reinforce the Horde vs. Alliance theme. The struggle continues, and the BGs is one of the places this is manifest.
The BGs are something of a hybrid of Warcraft 3 and Battlefield 1942. They must also compliment the existing game world, not something that's completely separate.
Though it wasn't specifically stated this way, the overall tone of the insights provided by Tom Chilton were the open acknowledgment that AV is currently unbalanced in favor of the Alliance. It is still possible for the Horde to win, though it may not be common. This is due to geographical features, NPC placement and behavior, and other nuances unique to the zone.
AV was the first battleground that was implemented in the game. The original idea was that it was going to be a non-instanced, persistent zone. The quests and NPC were present to provide content when no one else was in the zone. Now that it's instanced, these concepts were largely altered or abandoned.
Issues: the map differences are cool, but put balance in question. The bridge was specifically mentioned. The Alliance is assisted in playing defense simply by the nature of the BG; it gives them an advantage.
The AFK problem was acknowledged. Honor is awarded simply for being present. A loss in AV is rewarded, and this is wrong.
Now the NPC interaction is quirky. The pulling mechanics are so odd, they unbalance AV as an instance, again in favor of the Alliance.
Some AV Fixes:
The caves will no longer be a respawn point until there are no others available for you side. This has been an Alliance advantage (the tunnel respawn encourages defensive play for Alliance players) and will be neutralized.
NPCs will be “evened out”.
Anti-afk measures will be implemented. This will be addressed. The idea is that you get “flagged” as afk by being reported by other players. This debuffs you, and you don't get honor if you have that debuff on you. Once you get into combat, the debuff disappears.
The honor for killing NPCs will be redistributed to emphasize the end of the BG. You are thereby encouraged to win, instead of just farm.
Joining AV as a group will be implemented.
Queue improvements will also be implemented.
Seige weapons may play a part in AV, though this isn't confirmed at this time. They may be racially differentiated.
This was designed to be the opposite from AV – a short, fast BG.
The capture the flag mechanic was chosen very early. The bases were deliberately designed to be symmetrical. This solves many of the problems found in Alterac Valley. A lot of thought was put into base design; it was supposed to fit into the game world, both in placement and in art design.
The Gurubashi Catecombs
It was designed as a 5 v 5 single elimination format (i.e., basically an arena format); this was the original idea. It had an objective – eliminate the other team. The map needed to be smaller, and the entire concept cleaned up. It didn't make it into the game, but some concepts contributed to the Arena system later.
This was the ultimate BF 1942 meets Warcraft 3 mashup, and designed to be that way from the very beginning. The design map (a very early map showed on the Powerpoint screen) appeared very Atari-like, but when implemented appeared much better.
It was supposed to be a clear, simple design. It was meant to spread people out, and have very clear objectives. The sight lines were designed to be very clear-- you can see much of the field at any time.
The Eye of the Storm
The design team wanted an Outland-themed battleground. However, this was really a spin on tried and true gameplay. The only initial, significant change was to put the flag on a floating rock that moved around, touching many of the key features on the map. This didn't pan out, and the flag was placed in the middle.
Some concepts and lessons learned, per Tom:
World PvP is supposed to be spontaneous. It should also be objective driven, and reward participation and not just victory.
It should affect the world.
Silithus wasn't compelling; Eastern Plaguelands didn't give much of a reward (as it was just a buff). The problems with Hellfire Peninsula was that it was too long; pacing is also an issue. The problem with Zangarmarsh was that the objectives were unclear. In the Bone Wastes, the persistence of the victory (6 hours) was a boon. These lessons are now used when designing new world PvP zones.
Players are auto-flagged for PvP the moment you enter, even if you're on a PvE server.
There will be multiple objectives, as this spreads people out. There will also be a meaningful, persistent effect as your side wins.
No other details were provided (the bastards!).
Competition is the key driving force in the arenas. Players are expressing skill more than in a BG; your losses count against you, you victories are more rewarding. It's not a grind like the BGs are.
Your rating in the arena is translated into points at the end of each week. Your personal skill is rewarded. This is unlike BGs, which primarily reward time spent in the BGs.
The small, simple map is a major plus; the random maps are also a plus. This randomize the arenas and prevent exploits (or “map gimmicks”), and keep it all fresh. They also wanted to avoid any discrimination between Alliance and Horde (a lesson learned from AV).
As it's a “sport”, it gives you an opportunity to fight against other teams on your side. It doesn't represent part of the lore or backstory, and doesn't reflect on the Horde-Alliance struggle.
The Season 3 weapons will require a rating (probably 1900) to buy them. This is to prevent farming for points in Arenas, even though you suck, just to get a weapon.
And that, my friends, was the end of the discussion. The entire event had a very fast, interesting feel to it. A lot of data (which we tried to capture here) was provided in a very rapid manner.
We found the overall discussion quite enlightening. Though no topics were discussed in depth, the rapid-fire style of the presentation pushed a lot of data out to WoW PvPers in a short amount of time. Overall, it was nicely done. Hope you liked it!