A Price For Everything

Blizzard responded to the problems plaguing Tol Barad with an unexpected and interesting change:

Tol Barad: Winning as an attacker now rewards players with 1800 Honor Points, up from 180. Winning as a defender still rewards players with 180 Honor Points.

It’s interesting because while it doesn’t address any of the problems with the mechanics and rules of the battleground, it directly addresses the problem of motivation. Winning Tol Barad on offense is now the single highest Honor Point per minute activity in the game, bar none. Winning it on defense is as good as it was before, and losing it from either position still nets you nothing.

From a software developer’s point of view, I totally get this change. Compared to fixing the code around capture mechanics or victory conditions, a quick change to the reward structure is easy to implement, test, and deploy. It doesn’t preclude further work on the code to address the fundamental problems with the mechanics of the battleground.

But messing around with player motivations is a tricky, tricky thing.

If you’re gearing up for PvP and I offer you a choice between grinding out a dozen battlegrounds for a piece of gear (random BG finder), or a single one with some conditions (Tol Barad), you’re going to go for the single one. Would you rather spend 4 hours getting that gear, or 20-30 minutes?

The rational answer is, of course, the latter. But – and here’s the kicker – it’s only a rational choice if you meet all the conditions. And the conditions now include which side you’re on, not just if you win or lose.

Consider how you can spend those 30 minutes:

  • You can attack Tol Barad and take it, hitting the jackpot and getting 1800+ Honor.
  • You can defend Tol Barad successfully and get 180 Honor.
  • You can run maybe 2 random battlegrounds. Let’s say you win one for 120 Honor and lose one for 40? So there’s 160 Honor.
  • You could fight and lose the battle for Tol Barad, gaining nothing.
  • You could go do something else and come back later.

If you zone in to Tol Barad on offense, the decision is dead simple: fight. Fight for all you’re worth!

But if you zone into Tol Barad on defense, you’re now facing an interesting choice. It’s because you aren’t considering just this battle, but the next one too.

  • If you stay and fight hard and win, you get 180 Honor this battle. You’ll also be able to get 180 Honor the next battle, too, if you hold it.
  • If you stay and fight, but lose, you get no Honor, but you get a chance to get 1800 Honor the next battle. But you wasted 20-30 minutes of your time now in doing so.
  • If you throw the fight, surrender Tol Barad quickly, you have a good chance to get 1800 Honor the next battle, while spending none of your time now. You can go run some random BGs in the meanwhile.

If you only look at this battle, staying to defend makes sense. If you look at your overall Honor gain, though, throwing the battle and surrendering on defense is the absolute best strategy. It’s an interesting twist in that it benefits both sides to pursue this tactic, allowing Tol Barad to change hands every single battle, giving everyone equal access to the zone. The rewards for winning when attacking are so unbelievably good that both sides can see the obvious advantage to this arrangement.

By motivating attackers to win, this fix has also motivated defenders to lose. Tol Barad should no longer be held by one faction exclusively, which is a good thing. A very good thing, even!

But it’s at the cost of the heart and soul of the zone: the battle itself. When a game is set up so that one team should throw it in order to maximize their returns, they will do so, and it will cease being a game. There’s no competition, no struggle, no motivation to win. It becomes a meaningless, empty, and brutal ritual.

I think we’ve just found the price at which a battleground can be bought.

UPDATES

January 4th, 2011: The attacking side now gets 360 Honor Points, down from 1800. From Zahrym’s post:

While the goal with that change was to provide more incentive for the attacking forces to claim victory, it ultimately led to an undermining of the spirit of competition in Tol Barad. We’ve just applied a hotfix which has lowered the attacking faction’s gain to 360 Honor Points for a victory. The defending faction will still earn 180 Honor Points for a victory.

This is about as good of a change as Tol Barad could hope for at this point. It still convinces people that there is some value in attacking, without giving people a reason to trade wins.

I don’t think this is the final state of Tol Barad. There are numerous problems with the structure of the battleground that keeps it from changing hands very often in a balanced environment. But those will take time to fix.

In the meanwhile, I’ll go back to ignoring this island a little while longer.

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31 Comments

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31 responses to “A Price For Everything

  1. I don’t PvP (so far), and that depresses even me. Whether they made the conscious decision to … pervert … the zone, or it just so happens that that is what happened as an unexpected side-effect, really doesn’t matter, except in the latter case we can hope they fix it.

    • I think this was a quick patch that was easy to implement that would break the logjam created by the capture mechanics. A better fix will take time.

      At least, that’s my hope. :(

  2. Rob

    [My server, as I believe most servers, has more horde PvPing than alliance.]

    Now why will alliance even bother defending, when they can wander off and do something else, and get better honor-per-hour attacking later?

    Fewer alliance defenders means fewer horde attackers, and more honor means more horde wanting to get in, leading to even worse horde queue times.

    I already can’t get into (literally) half of the TB games. This is going to make it far, far worse.

    • Why will /anyone/ bother defending? Just hang out in the Hold and wait for the other team to capture everything. In an hour you can come back and collect your victory on offense!

      I actually think you’ll see more people queue for it, on both sides. It’s an easy way to get Honor gear, which will drive people to participate. (It may not do anything for your queue times, as the incentive is on both sides. But more people will get in, overall.)

      • Rob

        You said it yourself: “Why will /anyone/ bother defending?”

        They won’t.

        They won’t hang out in the hold.

        They won’t even queue at all.

        Just a prediction from a grumpy old man…

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  4. On the one hand, *excited* “WOHOOO! FREE HONOR!!”

    Yet on the other hand, *no so excited* “Whoopty-friggin-do. Can you just grant me my 1800 honor when the time for the fight starts so I don’t have to bother sitting there?”

    It’s a perfectly abusable fix, as you’ve pointed out. The only reason you have to defend now is strictly to piss off the other players by denying them 1000% of your honor reward. But that’s not very motivating compared to you getting your own 1,800 honor if you just hand it over.

    It’s an easy fix, but how often is the easy fix actually a good one?

    • Mat from WI remarked on twitter last night: “you either get two rational sides who trade, or one incredibly dumb side that doesn’t get it. So dumb.”

      I guess I’ll level up and go collect my free PvP gear now. I can run Heroics in that, right?
      :-(

      • Rob

        He’s assuming sides work together as coherent entities towards a common goal, when they’re actually made of distinct individuals working towards their own goal.

        In other words: why would I waste 20 minutes queuing and /dance’ing in the middle, when I don’t have to? Answer: I wouldn’t. And nor would anyone else. Tol Barad’s logical conclusion is to turn into a 5v0, maybe 5v2 if you’re lucky.

      • Tol Barad sure is a cluster of fun!

        It will be interesting to see if anyone bothers showing up for defense after a few days’ time.

  5. Ew…that’s all I have to say about that.

  6. Actually I do have one other thing to say…is there a book like Archavon used to have that has stats? If so it might be interesting to go grab a quick snapshot of that and then again in a few weeks to see what if any has changed.

  7. Lycanthrope

    I do not even care about pvp, other than what is necessary for the meta, but this strikes even me as incredibly sad. They thought about this? Seriously? This was the one and only fix they could come up with? Maybe incite a flurry of faceroll newbies to roll for easy honor and hope they get the pvp bug; but those are not going to graduate to mature pvp enthusiasts when the inevitable nerf hammer falls. I can only think it will put a further bad taste into the serious participants.

    • Wintergrasp was great for players new to PvP as well as the experienced folks. That was one of the things I liked best about it – even people who didn’t like PvP could still go do Wintergrasp because it was so big, so epic, so much damn fun. A lot of players I know started doing PvP just because of WG.

      Time will tell if Tol Barad fills that role.

  8. Dakotarick

    If I log into a battleground I am going to do whatever it takes so my team wins. This whole idea of taking turns or trading seems a little goofy to me.

    1,800 honor for doing what? REALLY? When amount of honor gained becomes the reason to play the battlground the experience will suffer for everyone.

    • I know. I don’t even really like the achievements that take away from winning; having the major reward for a BG be best achieved by throwing it really sticks in my craw.

    • Right…witness the number of idiots in AV on holiday weekend who have no strategic idea beyond “BLITZ!” but want to score a quick upgrade to cover their PvE GS inadequacies and know that AV’s the best honor return for time by far.

  9. Dan

    On my server at least, but I think others are doing it. We have win trading going on, despite it being against the rules. A free 18oo honor for 5 min of sitting there? Blizzard had a good idea, but they implemented it badly. I personally believe they need to shut down TB, for a couple of weeks and figure out how to restructure it.

    • The more I think about it, the more I think this was just about opening up the dailies to both factions. T-Bad wasn’t changing sides often enough to allow people access to the dailies and rep grinds, so the PvP battle was (temporarily, I hope) sacrificed for equality of access.

  10. Since this change was made TB has been utterly, utterly packed every single (daytime) battle on my server. And it changes hands every time because defense are throwing it (but still fighting).

    It’s nice to have more reliable access to the zone – and to be able to afford a new piece of PvP gear every battle – but the fight itself feels even more pointless than before and the honour for victory just makes random battlegrounds *also* seem pointless. Even if you can win 10 random battlegrounds over the space of two hours you still don’t make as much honour as you can get from 5 minutes in Tol Barad as an attacker. Battleground honour gain already felt slower than it had to be, but now I fear I’ll be “ruined for the ordinary” for a good while after this temporary fix is reverted in favour of a more permanent solution.

  11. This hasn’t changed anything on my server. We are primarily Horde but when the Alliance takes it over they don’t let it go. We have been locked out of Baradin Hold this entire week.

    People have to be willing to work for the honor bonus and not just hold onto the raid boss.

  12. Morghanae

    Just thought I’d confirm: on my server (Dark Iron) for the past few days it has been generally understood by both sides that the defender will throw the battle so that each side can reap a ton of honor. The event rarely lasts more than 5 minutes, and queues for it (even in the wee hours of the morning) are obscene. I’ve queued for offense about 15 times in the past two days and haven’t made it in once, much like most of the people queued for it, I’m sure. Its gone from a battleground to a honor lottery in a short amount of time.

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  14. Dan

    Some things are inherently unethical. This collusion between players to trade wins in Tol’Barad is unethical and dishonorable. This kind of thinking and behavior is easily transferable to the real world with much greater negative impact on people than in a game. I’m disgusted that people actually think it’s okay.

    It’s the “end justifies the means” kind of thinking. Justification of behavior in this way is reprehensible and can lead to horrible consequences.

  15. Avele

    On my server Madoran (horde side) we pretty much always won Tol Barad before the change and I would get called in to fight maybe 90% of the time. Since the change no one queues on defense, it switches back and forth every battle and maybe 8-12 lucky folks get 1800 honor per battle. I have been lucky enough to get in on an attack one time since the change. …………………We lost Tol Barad maybe 3-4 times before the change. All but once (that I am aware of and I was playing a lot as I was on vacation) we won it back the very next battle. It is definitely more challenging to win attacking; at least it was when the defense wasn’t just 10 guys having a dance party in the center; but it wasn’t impossible. Not remotely. And isn’t attacking supposed to be tougher than defending? Wasn’t there already plenty of motivation for trying to wrest it from the defense? As it stands now, TB is a farce.

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