So the new, instanced Wintergrasp has been here for a few weeks. Everyone should have updated their mount macros to let them fly when appropriate and not spam general chat with raid invite requests.
But how have the changes actually worked out for Wintergrasp?
I don’t know about you, but I still have terrible lag during Keep battles. There are still times I cannot cast any spell with a cast time, and we can still win or lose before the interface gives us a chance to react. What’s worse is that the lag can still hit you when you’re NOT in the Fortress. Throwing more than a hundred players together with vehicles without lag is a tough situation to solve; but instancing doesn’t seem to be the fix. Wintergrasp is still a lagfest.
Flying has been a mixed blessing. It’s wonderful for collecting resources when the battles are not going on, though aerial combat is somewhat challenging. Living on a PvE server, this is the one zone where you have to watch the skies while fishing… or just accept that you’ll get ganked occasionally. It’s the price for really great fishing.
Unlike some of the other BGs that received attention in patch 3.2, the gameplay and strategies in WG are essentially unchanged. I’m not seeing as many matches with huge population imbalances, but that hasn’t changed the strategies.
What has changed is how quiet WG has become. WG raids were large social events before the change, with people gathering, talking, joking, buffing, all to get ready to storm the walls. Trade and Dalaran general chat would get spammed; each battle for Wintergrasp was a server EVENT.
No more. While you are at least still teamed up with others from your server, the automatic queing has turned Wintergrasp into far less social affair. Organizing and participating in raids required human interaction, which in turn usually led to chatter, jokes, demands for buffs… and actual conversation. I got to know a lot of people on my server from those raids.
Now? The pre-battle buffs are gone. No more Mage tables, fish feasts, KINGS PLZ! – none of that. You go in self-buffed like any other battleground. There’s no gathering at the portal, since people queue up and go about their business waiting for it to start. The automatic queuing has really hurt Wintergrasp.
I have thought a lot about this phenomenon since 3.2 hit. At first I thought it might be due to lower participation overall, but even full raids are ghosts of the parties they used to be. Yes, players are mercenaries and go where the loot is, and the Argent Tournament offers loot that directly competes with Wintergrasp’s main draws. There are fewer incentives to Wintergrasp all the time, but that doesn’t explain why it isn’t a social event anymore.
To explain it, I turned to one of the key concepts of Jane Jacobs’ The Death and Life of Great American Cities, which is that urban design that brings a variety of people into physical proximity – squares, short blocks, street-level businesses – creates thriving, safe neighborhoods, while long blocks, highways, and insular housing projects do not. The portal room served as a central square which brought everyone physically together. From there you had access to the Trade and Dalaran General chat channels to organize your raid, while also having a steady stream of /says, /whispers, and /yells to draw from. You buffed people because they were right there; to not do so was to be rude, in public, and because the habitual buffers were noticed and praised. There were always people you could count on to organize a new raid when one filled up. Knowing the people around you is what a community is all about.
The steps and inner courtyard served a similar purpose as the portal room for defensive battles. People congregated there for mutual benefit, dueling, and shopping. Wintergrasp was vibrant and alive.
Now these spaces are silent, ghosts of their former raucous selves.
I’m not complaining about the changes to Wintergrasp — honestly, I’m not. I’m not asking to roll back the patch and go back to the way things were before.
I just wish that those changes had actually solved Wintergrasp’s original problems in return for giving up those things I really liked about it.