2 July 2008

My take on the pvp question

BBB has opened up a can of worms over the relative merits and availability of pvp gear. Well, you know what I think about pvp gear. There is something seriously wrong with itemisation in Warcraft that encourages — practically forces — players to pvp for gear in order to progress pve content. But BBB's challenge is not to whine the loudest but to find a way to balance gear effectively in end game, so I'll stop whining and start thinking.

What's all the fuss about?
Pvp gear is easy to acquire relative to pve gear. You don't have to win to achieve anything, you don't even have to kill anyone, although it's quicker if you do. You just have to take part and know that your reward is waiting for you. No boss strategies to master, no unlucky drop runs to overcome. And in many cases the gear is better. For certain slots, it can beat anything you would fine before 25-man raids. So your average player starts grinding honour long before 70 in anticipation of a buying binge when they finally ding. The more reluctant pvper will maybe do some research, like BBB, and find a certain pvp reward is their best option for a particular slot and spend a couple of weeks in the battlegrounds to buy it.

So what?

Well, what this system does is discriminate against the players who don't like pvp. Someone who prefers pve content may work for months to collect the badges and luck-out on the drops to get gear that comes so easily to people who grind honour. The pvp route does nothing to teach a player how to behave in a pve encounter nor does it contribute anything to the life of a pve guild, yet that pvp player can quite easily take a raid spot from someone who consistently organises and attends heroics and raids and has helped a guild stay active and progress.

Anyone who tells you to suck it up and grind that honour because the pvp rewards are streets ahead of equivalent raiding gear is Missing The Point. You shouldn't have to, and in one sense the game doesn't require it. Any raid can progress on gear only available via pve routes. That's the whole point of the raid progression system. If an encounter required pvp gear, earlier bosses would be dropping it.

The problem then is not with the game, but with the gear. Either it is too easily obtainable, or the quality relative to pve gear is imbalanced.

An easy fix
BBB considers several ways to address the issue, including making pvp gear harder to obtain and making it only usable in pvp scenarios, but neither are particularly pretty solutions. They only result in discrimination in other ways. He concludes by saying he thinks pve gear should be as easy to obtain as pvp gear, therefore removing the incentive for players to grind honour for gear. I don't think this is a solution either, because while it might help put pve players on an equal footing with their pvp counterparts it doesn't address what I think is one of the most irritating consequences of pvp gear — that you can walk straight into a raid spot without spending any time learning to play with your team mates or contributing to the guild. And besides, pve gear is just fine thank you very much, it's a challenge to acquire and a suitable reward and the progression between encounters is good enough — it's pvp gear that's at fault.

So when I look for a solution of my own I find that it already exists in the game. Blizzard has already introduced mechanics to balance the different gear — remember resilience? Spell penetration? Hit rating? Mp5? These are all features of gear that bring greater benefit to one aspect of the game. The problem is they just aren't balanced properly. When a shadow priest only needs a few items to max out spell hit, it doesn't matter that pvp gear has none. When a druid tank finds resilience is the best stat for improving their performance in pve encounters, they are obviously going to hit the bgs. So the answer to this problem is right in front of us — we simply tweak the game mechanics to more strongly polarise the need for certain features in each aspect of the game. If you turned up to Karazhan in full gladiator gear you simply shouldn't be able to perform. It already works like that in one direction — if I walked into an arena in my Kara kit I'd be squashed like a bug. So why doesn't it work the other way round?

1 comment:

grayhammer said...

I'm in a bit of an opposing position here, because my schedule simply doesnt allow for raids. I can hit a heroic or two POSSIBLY once a week on my day off. I dont play large chunks of time on weekends and evenings when folks raid. So, if it werent for PVP and solo play, I'd have few epics. Now, I've been able to get geared via badges from those heroic runs. if I had not had those initial purple items from PVP and crafts, I could never have participate in heroics. PVP gear can provide the "good enough" gear that springboards a toon to the next level, via badges.

All in all I think its a fair balance of activities that can get a player the purples. Solo crafted items, PVP, heroics, raids and now merely rep grinds like SSO. I imagine that with WotLK the SSO model will be expanded, but thats just a guess.