The 20 v. 24 War

When the battleground brackets were split in two – from x0-x9 to x0-x4 and x5-x9 – several other changes were made which were to have a dramatic impact that wasn’t apparent at the time.

  • Characters who had reached the maximum level of their account type (trial accounts to 20, vanilla accounts to 60, BC accounts to 70, Wrath accounts to 80) were now placed in the XP-off brackets, aka the twink brackets.
  • Brackets were standardized so the highest level of an account type (60, 70, 80) were no longer the highest level within the bracket for some battlegrounds.

These changes were made, in part, to remove expansion twinks from the leveling XP brackets. A known problem with level 60 AV would be “Molten Core guilds” – guilds of characters on accounts which never upgraded to Burning Crusade, who raided the old instances for the best gear possible, and who would show up and DESTROY the opposition in the 51-60 Alterac Valley bracket.

(Oh god. Those guys were so good, you have no idea unless you saw them in action. It was hopeless fighting them with a pug. Even my twinked Death Knight got steamrolled.)

Placing expansion twinks in the XP-off bracket (which, logically, is where they belonged in the first place) would have probably not caused much of an uproar without the reorganization of the brackets. PvPing at the top of the bracket almost always guarantees that characters will be as powerful as they can possibly become. The only exception to this was the 10-19 bracket, where level 10s gain a huge benefit to their stats due to favorable combat statistic scaling. Everywhere else, the 9-level gap was just too much.

Expansion twinks found themselves flipped from the top of most of the brackets to the bottom, suddenly faced with level 64 or 74 or 84 opponents. Arenas and Rated Battlegrounds were still open to them, but battlegrounds suddenly presented a very new challenge. No longer was it level 70s beating up on each other, everyone equal – now players had to figure out if it was better to stay where they were and enjoy beneficial scaling, or level 4 levels and get additional gear, talents, abilities, and health.

Surprisingly, most twinks stayed put. You lose a huge amount of effectiveness by leveling from one expansion pack to another, and the gear generally doesn’t catch up until you reach the endgame of the next expansion. The gear available at 64 and 74 isn’t that much better than the best epics of vanilla and BC. In a lot of cases, it’s still not beating the best epics. So there’s a compelling argument to stay an expansion twink, and the x4 twinks never really unbalanced the brackets. They adapted to their new situation.

Then Blizzard lifted the time restrictions on trial accounts, and the F2P deluge began.

CASUS BELLI

In Patch 4.2, Blizzard revised trial accounts to become Starter Edition accounts, allowing people to play up to level 20 for free. No longer restricted to 10 days, players could now take their time and gather the best gear possible, work on professions within the strict SE account limits (no primary profession over 100), and participate in PvP.

Level 20 Starter Edition twinks were born.

Due to the changes introduced above, trial account twinks were placed into the nascent 20-24 bracket, a quiet bracket that was populated by Cataclysm toons who liked the feel of lowbie PvP but who lacked many of the grandfathered BiS gear that dominated the 19s and 29s. The 24s weren’t wildly popular, but it wasn’t completely desolate.

That all changed with the F2P movement picked up steam. The population swelled with level 20 twinks, games became more regular, and a new culture came into the bracket, sweeping out the old.

But unlike the other, higher level expansion twink brackets, the 20-24 bracket has several key differences.

  • Combat ratings are more potent at low levels. Small differences in gear and enchants are magnified because each point matters more.
  • There is no expansion-induced power inflation at level 21. It’s not at the end of an expansion. While stats get less effective as you level through the 20s, there is no sharp decline like you see at level 10, 60, 70, or 80, so a level 24 character retains more effectiveness from level 20 than a level 74, or god forbid a level 84. Levels 83-84 are just brutal.
  • Starter edition accounts are substantially limited when compared to paid accounts. There are few enchants available for them to use. They can’t use the Auction House or mail, so BoE gear is practically impossible to get. Professions are limited. Guild heirlooms, like the head and shoulder slot items, are unobtainable. (Regular heirlooms are available, they just take time to get.) Faction changes are impossible, and quest rewards are distributed unequally between factions, preventing characters from getting the best gear. All of these restrictions add up to a sizable disadvantage in PvP.
  • Not every person in the XP-off battleground is a twink. These are Starter Editions, after all, and many of them are actually people trying the game for the first time. Shocking, I know! But unlike other XP-off battlegrounds, the players here didn’t select to be in the elite bracket – they just wanted to PvP. So there’s a wide variety of gear and player experience.

So here you have a sizable population of players joining a fledgling bracket at a disadvantage. They create their own community, they have their own sense of shared triumph over difficult odds – and having worked a bit myself on a trial edition twink, it’s hard work – but it’s fragile. F2P accounts want to play against other F2P accounts. They want to have that work be rewarded with a fair PvP experience.

But this is where the 24s come in.

THE VIEW FROM THE TOP (OF THE BRACKET)

How big of an advantage does a level 24 twink have in this bracket?

It’s one thing to run some simulations, to build out some test profiles on Wowhead and make educated guesses, but it’s another thing to see how it plays in the field. If you were to look at my level 19 Warrior twink, you might think she’s a real badass in the field. She’s not. No matter how good I make her, she’s still going to suffer in any DPS role because she can’t maintain time on target in the bracket.

Experience in the field matters more than numbers, so I rolled a hunter, leveled her up to 24 and twinked her out, and queued up to see how it played out.

Dear God.

I felt bad for what I was doing to the other team. I actually felt remorse for dominating the battlefield, which … I don’t think that’s ever happened. I’m not built that way.

Solo assault the Blacksmith with three defenders? No sweat. Kite one, pet on the healer, run away, use line of sight with the building to block fire, disengage down the hill, shoot through the hill… done. Base is mine, let’s find another one to cap.

Solo grab the flag, kill my way through midfield, destroy their offense playing cat and mouse in our base, get the winning cap? Exciting stuff. You start to feel like a big damn hero, gun firing rapidly as you strafe away from the pack of attackers, cutting them down one at a time.

I was a hawk among doves. I could get pulled down by a mob, or by the ever-present threat of a twink rogue ambush, but I would be sure to take a few of them with me, every single time.

Exciting? Yes. But – and I’m not joking here – it’s so easy to be good at level 24. I’ve never played a hunter before in PvP and I’m suddenly this titan of the battleground, FC and super-DPS all in one. I know they’re good at low levels, but not this good.

Properly played, level 24 twinks have a serious advantage to level 20s in the bracket. It’s not like the 70s, where 74s are common enough sights but rarely OP. (The OP distinction goes to level 70 mages.) It’s not like the 80s, where 84s are limited to a few select classes who benefit from insane stat inflation on Cata gear, above and beyond what is possible with level 80 Wrathful. No, there is a substantial, significant advantage being at the top of this bracket.

This could very quickly devolve into battles being decided by which side can field more 24 twinks, not about the contributions of the level 20 masses. After playing just a few games at 24, I can see that this is a very real concern.

The game is coded a certain way: level 24 twinks will hold every advantage in this bracket, should they choose to pursue them. The law of the game is silent in this time of war; there is nothing to prevent paid 24 accounts from stomping out the F2P PvP community.

BELLUM VICENI

One of the first interactions with the F2P viewpoint came on my first game after faction changing from Alliance to Horde. I went Worgen to get the Top Hat, but I rolled Alliance first because they have better Agility quest rewards, and I wanted to make sure I had them. I didn’t want to stay Alliance though – the queue times are too long (more Ally F2P than Horde) and I had friends on the Horde side of that server.

This tauren Sunwalker sized me up. “Looks like we have a traitor in our midst,” he bellowed. “Aluwyn’s Legguards? Ashen Gloves? Discyngage here is an Ally!”

I shrugged my shapely elven shoulders. “I wanted the top hat,” I said nonchalantly, fingering my rifle, crafted many years ago in Ironforge.

The tauren leaned in close as the timer counted out the final seconds. “I don’t heal Ally,” he hissed. “And no one else here will, either.”

Okay, I muttered to myself, loading my rifle.

Looks like we’re doing this the hard way.

The F2P community is openly hostile to level 24 twinks. The general opinion of 24s is that they are bad players looking to beat up on the weak, avoiding a fair fight to test their skills and learn from other players. There are shame lists on twinkinfo’s F2P forums, lists of 24s who are to be ridiculed on sight and avoided. There’s praise heaped on paid accounts who adhere to the F2P rules, letting fair matches continue  but allowing the F2P community to group up and circumvent some of Blizzard’s tighter restrictions.

Social pressure is the strongest weapon the 20s have, and they are using it in spades. If you’re 24, you’re bad. That’s a constant message that I hear in forum posts and in-game. 24s don’t want fair fights, they’re bad players who couldn’t manage to win any other way, who get their rocks off by beating up the weak. I hear that too.

I don’t blame them one bit for using this tactic. There’s a very real danger here of them losing the bracket they helped create. The more attention F2P PvP gets, the more people will look at it and go… hey, those F2P accounts are pretty weak, they look like … prey. And if enough 24s show up, not just bad players but good ones, experienced twinks, in sufficient numbers, then their games will die. They’ll either have to upgrade their accounts and roll 24s, or find something else to do.

The 20-24 bracket, as it exists today, is very much the result of Blizzard removing the 10-day limit off trial accounts. I think both sides realize and admit that. Starter edition toons are the reason it’s so popular now, and there’s real truth behind the statement that if it weren’t for F2P, few people would be interested in this bracket. The bracket was developing in a different way before the F2P accounts swarmed it, and while you could argue that they’re now the interlopers, F2P is here to stay in 20-24.

This particular fact is brought up usually to support Starter Editions getting their own, separate bracket, away from the 24s, because the disparity between the two sides is so very great. The 20s are waging a social campaign of shaming 24s, because the game itself is stacked against them.

THE MORALITY OF WAR

The 20-24 War is a battle of two opposing viewpoints of PvP combat.

  • PvP should be a fair contest. The true test of a player’s skill is in a fair fight; by making the playing field as even as possible, player skill and ability becomes paramount.
  • PvP should be unfair; victory goes to those who pursue every advantage over their opponents. If you put in the effort to increase your character’s abilities (through gear, professions, etc.), you should perform better than those who do not. Player skill is important, but that includes their skill in creating their character.

These two viewpoints are in opposition, but are not mutually exclusive. Warcraft PvP is inherently unfair; players enter battlegrounds at all levels with different gear, different enchants. This is how the game is coded, how it is designed, and the players have to adapt to it. But there’s still a desire for fairness, especially at the endgame, of having gear be roughly equal, classes be roughly equal, of performance being roughly equal, of player skill being the determining factor.

Twinks and full-time endgame PvPers both chase the best gear and enchants possible, not just for fairness, but so that they can perform as well as they can versus their opponents. If they come up against a lesser-geared opponent, they’ll beat them and move on. If they come up against someone with better gear, they do their best, but realize that they have to gear up and do better next time.

The ethics of gear are complicated. Is it fair to enter a battleground knowing that you’ve geared enough to make combat trivially easy in your favor? Is that your sin, or is it your opponent’s fault for not going to the same lengths you did? If someone queues up for PvP in broken gray gear, and you’re in enchanted heirlooms, are you morally obligated to hold your fire? Or do you kill them and move on? It’s not fair, to be sure – I don’t think anyone disputes that.

But is it wrong?

What if someone chooses to enter combat at a disadvantage? Do their opponents need to abstain from combat with them, or deliberately cripple themselves?

This is not just semantics for the 20-24 bracket. The core problem is one of perspective, and while the unfairness of 24 vs. 20 combat isn’t in dispute, the morality of it is.

Does the F2P movement have a right to exist? Are the 24s in it wrong for even being there?

That’s what this comes down to.

GRATIS VERSUS LIBRE: FREE AS IN BEER, NOT FREE AS IN SPEECH

The 20-24 bracket is unique in all the PvP brackets because of the presence of Starter Edition accounts. Unlike the other expansion twink brackets (70-74, 80-84), the choice between 20 and 24 is not one where there are advantages to both the low and high ends of the bracket that should be considered. Level 70 and 80 characters receive significantly better return on combat statistics, including Resilience, Haste, and Crit. But 74 and 84 have access to better gear, talents, and abilities. There are real choices here. A level 70 or 80 character has chosen one over the other.

And, most importantly, everyone in those brackets are paying customers.

I’ve been treating the level 20 community as equivalent to other expansion twinks up to this point, but that’s ignoring the very real difference between 20s and 24s: the 20s are there because they don’t – for a variety of reasons – want to pay World of Warcraft’s monthly subscription fee. Because of this, the 20-24 bracket is one of the only places where money provides a real advantage to gameplay in WoW. Fifteen dollars a month buys you the ability to pwn the bracket.

It gets you a lot more than that, of course, but it also gets you this advantage.

This debate is really about establishing a norm around the value of money and subscription services. Warcraft has been a subscription-based game for the entirety of its existence, which strongly implies that Starter Edition accounts are guests within the game; to be welcomed, but not to be considered the norm. If that’s the case, then the 20-24 bracket should be treated like any other PvP bracket – get yourself up to the top, gear up, and go to town. Players who choose to come into the battleground with trial accounts are just like any other undergeared, underleveled toon who enters a PvP bracket; a weakness to be exploited on the other team.

But, through sheer numbers, the F2P community makes up the majority of this specific bracket, so the social norm is different. The normal value of a subscription is inverted by the majority. Instead of “it’s your $15 a month, play what you want to play,” it’s now “this game is free, you’re playing $15/month to dominate it.” The normal ability level is the F2P level, not the paid level.

You can’t ignore the money on this one. You just can’t.

Should a player who pays nothing still have a good experience in WoW? I think most of us, with an eye towards the health of the game as a whole, would say – yes, if it convinces them to purchase the game. That’s a reasonable standpoint both from a commercial and personal point of view – the purpose of Starter Editions is to make money for Blizzard.

A smaller subset of people would say, yes, they should have a good experience no matter if they buy it or not. Often this opinion is based on self-interest – it’s nice to participate in WoW on a limited basis without incurring any costs – but sometimes it’s based on the idea that WoW should cultivate a good reputation within the F2P game community, that it’s something you can pick up every so often without paying for it.

And other folks would say: it doesn’t matter if they have a good time or not. They’re not paying customers.

Does the F2P 20 bracket have a right to exist? Do players who pay nothing have the right to dictate the norms and values of a bracket over those who do?

Does paying money confer rights? Should not paying money be seen as somehow morally superior?

The problem with saying the money doesn’t matter is that you’re then left with a case of people choosing disadvantage over advantage, and 20-24 isn’t as simple as that. F2P players want to have a game where they’re playing a fairly matched game, but the game isn’t set up to be fair.

The social pressure exerted by the F2P community is to ridicule the 24s, to accuse them of bullying and of being bad players, is entirely to maintain this fragile sense of fairness within the bracket. There’s an absolute need to demonize the opposition here, to make people look askance at even thinking of rolling 24s, because if too many paying customers do it, they can’t have their fun.

I think if you look at the situation closely, you’ll start to see that this is really an appeal to emotion, to the inherent moral superiority of the F2P twink – they have to overcome serious challenges to reach their maximum potential.

But all twinks have to overcome limits like F2P twinks.

ON TWINKING AND BULLYING

Are level 24 twinks bullying other players?

It’s a fair question to ask. Would someone have rolled a level 24 twink if it wasn’t for the purpose of playing PvP in a known lopsided bracket? Maybe. Probably not, but maybe. I think before the Starter Edition deluge, the 24 bracket was a nice compromise between 19 and 29 with a gear reset.

But now… ?

It’s very interesting playing 24 – for a while. It’s a challenge taking on multiple opponents at once, of figuring out how to make the most of your abilities to win, to be the decisive player on the battlefield.

But it’s very much like playing in the old 10-19 bracket, where twinks and levelers mingled freely. You have a few 24s, a bunch of 20 twinks, and a bunch of 20s who are not twinks by any means. Three tiers of players there – this isn’t a twink bracket, it’s effectively a leveling bracket that awards no XP.

Three tiers of toons, and two of them are twinks. Not one, two.

While writing The Challenge of Fixing Low Level PvP, I realized that the old-school twinks left the lowbie brackets, but new ones moved in in the form of geared levelers. Just because it’s a leveling bracket doesn’t mean that there isn’t still a strata of twinks, of min-maxed toons, in it.

The 20-24 bracket is unique in that it’s a locked bracket which should be given over entirely to the twinks, but isn’t. It has new players, really new, trying out the game mixed throughout. The legitimate Starter Edition accounts – those of new players trying out WoW to see if they’re going to buy it – are competing against both paid 24 twinks and F2P 20 twinks. F2P twinks with really good gear – BiS dungeon gear, BoAs, fishing hats, the best enchants they can get – are going to outclass those new players, by quite a bit. You only have to see players running around with 500-600 health at level 20 to realize that this is not a pure twink bracket.

If, in defense of the F2P movement, you have to be very careful if you’re going to accuse the level 24 twinks of bullying because they outgear the opposition. Are they rolling just because there are weaker players in the bracket? Almost certainly.

But that’s true of the F2P twinks, too.

PEACE TREATY

There isn’t really a level 24 twink culture anymore; it’s been subsumed into the F2P community, which is actively combating it for their own survival. I think the dynamic of the bracket is really interesting, and that my past few weeks of getting to know it have been enlightening.

My personal feeling is that the F2P PvP community that has sprung up deserves to survive. It represents people embracing serious constraints to create characters who are fun to play. It represents a nice option for veteran players who are just looking for a break from the game. If spinning it into its own bracket does that, great. If not, it will survive or perish on its own merits.

I think that’s an important point to make: a bracket, a community, needs to survive on its own merits. If it’s fun, it will draw people to it and resist attacks. If it’s not fun, people will drift away. It shouldn’t need developer assistance to do it.

But I also think that there’s a real conflict here between the F2P community and the normal PvP community, and that you have to stop and think about the arguments being presented that one takes precedence over the other. Things aren’t as simple as they seem. Don’t buy into the propaganda.

No matter which side of the war you end up on.

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30 Comments

Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual, Green Tinted Goggles

30 responses to “The 20 v. 24 War

  1. I have no sympathy for the F2P players. The veterans who want to play WoW for free know what they’re getting into. They get to play WoW for free in exchange for being slaughtered. I’m guessing many of the vets doing F2P were former twinks themselves who slaughtered new players without a care. The new players can pay if they like the game. There’s so much more to see and do beyond lvl 20, pay $15/mo if you want to experience the whole game.

    F2P players leech free gaming off us paying customers, we leech easy honor kills off their undergeared characters. There’s a problem here?

    If I had more time, I’d roll a lvl 24 twink and would destroy the F2P players. Insult me all you want. You smear excrement on my name on the official forums, I’ll smear your corpse all over WSG. Your pitiful slanders and delicious tears are worth my $15/mo.

    • My point to people who play a lot of endgame: you probably have some extra heirlooms lying around, right? Why not put them to use? It takes maybe 2-3 days to get to 24, and then you can dink around on getting BiS gear whenever you like. Park the toon in the STV arena and farm the AGM. Do some lowbie dungeons with guildies or friends with alts to get gear. It really doesn’t take long if you already have the heirlooms, and I feel better when gear is in use and on toons instead of wasting away in a bank somewhere. :)

  2. I really enjoyed the post, Cyn. I haven’t spent a lot of time in the lower PvP brackets since Cataclysm, let alone since the F2P change, so I’ve only just recently become aware of how much is going on there. Though I’ve seen a little bit of the emotion behind the F2P community from reading some of their threads on the New Players forum, I had no idea just how large (or vocal) this group is becoming.

    While I think that the F2P community certainly has a “right to exist,” and I recognize that not everyone is willing or able to pay $15 a month, I really couldn’t support developing a separate bracket for them. I completely understand why they want that, but with all the other things that Blizzard is busy developing and spending subscriber money on, I would prefer that their developers spend their time on making things *for subscribers.*

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the post. It was interesting researching it, of wading through forums to see what arguments people used over and over again. (I have no idea if my twink is going to end up on one of those shame lists, btw.)

      The interactions between the New Player Forum and the F2P community have been interesting to watch. The one truly negative effect I’ve seen from the changes to the Starter Edition has been in the NPF – trial accounts are swamping that forum. I separate forum for them would provide a safety valve to the NPF, which would be welcome on all sides.

  3. Nyka

    My first comment ever here, so first things first. I really like your style of writing and I check out the CBM and CFN blogs regularly. It’s nice that you always tackle the content from almost all different points of view that are involved. With that style you motivate people to think about the problem itself and take a stand on their own, not only following yours.

    About the topic: While reading I was constantly thinking: “Would be playing a lvl 24 twink in that bracket be good or bad for the community of a server?” I’m playing on a low populated server and while that has several advantages and disadvantages itself I think it’s not healthy if a server population drops below a certain threshold. My first thought was that playing a lvl 24 twink would harm the community since you demotivate the people who are just checking out the game, as getting destroyed over and over can’t be really fun. So they would just stop playing. But maybe it’s exactly the opposite. Given that those F2P people could actually afford the subscription fee they might be tempted to get a “real” account because they wan’t to become more powerful so they can escape the loop.

    So I’m still not sure wether I should check it out for myself or not. Probably i won’t since even tho the leveling process is quite fast in the lower levels everything else feels so slow (especially not having a mount).

    @Tzufit: While making a seperate F2P BG bracket would be the most obvious choice, I share your opinion that the devs shouldn’t put too much of their effort into the F2P stuff since their work is paid by our subscriptions.

    Anyway, keept it up Cyn!

    • Thank you! I’m glad you enjoy both sites. :)

      I think there’s an argument for the psychology you describe. It’s pretty clear that the paid version of WoW is super awesome compared to the Starter Edition in terms of power, scope, and abilities. But there’s a lot within the Starter Edition, too, and for many folks that seems to be enough.

      I honestly have no idea if Blizzard is going to change anything about the SE situation or not. I expect that things will remain as they are for a while, and that any improvements are geared towards making the first 30 minutes more accessible. Once you get to 20, you’ve gotten a good idea about how the game plays.

  4. I had no idea about the changes to the 10 day trial account (now Free to Play to 20 account). Wow – what a difference!
    I think at it’s heart the Free to Play account has to showcase the game… with enough teasers to bring those customers to a full paying account. If I spend 3 months trying to convince a friend of mine to play this game with me I want them to enjoy their Free to Play trial.

    That means that if they step into a Battleground I want them to be treated nicely by their own team. I want them to have a go. I want them to have a chance at winning against an opponent – even if they have to team up with another player to win. I want them to be in awe of another player’s ability and think “if I just put in more time and effort I could do that”.
    What I have no sympathy for are level 20 Free to Players who, because they are unwilling to pay or their parents are unwilling, get bored at level 20 and spend their time in the battleground entertaining themselves and ignoring team goals or picking on others. They have the right to level to 20 and play at 20 but they don’t have the right to stay indefinately at 20 and complain!

    • Cass! Good to see you back around these parts. :)

      The changes to the trial accounts have been pretty massive, and while WoW hasn’t really gone Free to Play (you can’t downgrade your account and go back to being a Starter Edition, for example), it’s gone close enough that it’s attracted a lot of attention from people who were hesitating before. I don’t think the original trial was all that friendly, to be honest, and the new method of doing things is much better.

      That said, while I tried to keep my own opinions in the background of this post, I’ve already said my piece on the ethics of gearing in PvP. If you want to deliberately hobble yourself in a bracket, that’s a choice you’ve made.

      While I’m not making my 24 Hunter my new main, I’m not deleting her, either. Sometimes, all I want to do after a hard day of work is pwn, and pwn hard. She’s a good outlet for that. :)

  5. Kierbuu

    The easiest solution to this problem is to freeze the F2P accounts at lvl 29 instead of 20. With the way spells are distributed now many classes don’t even get their brightest, shiniest toys until the mid-20s. If the point of F2P is to show off the game, let people access those fun levels. Freeze the accounts at 29 so the PvP brackets can get out of this mess. F2P can still twink out to 90% or so while paid accounts can go 100% twinking (if they want to).

    Oh, and I really wish Blizz would just lift the extra restrictions on proffessions. Let the lvl set the restriction. No point in making potential players blame the developement team for singling them out for making them artificially weaker.

    Personaly, I just freeze my F2P ‘toons at 19 and have as much fun as I can there.

    • I think the 19s games are a bit better than the 20-24, to be honest. The level of play tends to be VERY high in that bracket. 20-24 still sees a lot of midfield milling about.

      I think 20 is actually a good cut off point in terms of ability development; you’ve gotten some neat toys, but only enough to whet your appetite for more. 20 is good for PvE (better than 19, for certain) but there are quests that are *just* out of reach, and you’re getting into the real meat of the leveling game at that point.

      I don’t honestly expect many changes to be made on account of Starter Editions; Blizzard will look at subscription conversion rates and see if it’s working or not.

  6. Another great post Cyn! I had not realized that the expansion and F2P caps were considered XP-off; that explains some of the rumblings I’ve heard. However, throughout your post I had a somewhat callous but otherwise interesting thought about the situation…

    I wondered about a mechanic to this whole situation that seems to be an overlooked solution. You can pay 10 gold to turn XP-off manually just like the level 24 folks are doing! Now, I don’t know for sure, but I’m assuming you can do this even on F2P accounts as I’ve not seen anything to suggest you can’t.

    Even considering the F2P account limitations, a player that never plans to subscribe and plans to PvP should be aware of this at that point. They are planning their game play; they are experienced players. So why can’t these ‘F2P subscribers’ just turn off their XP at the 15-19 bracket? You know it’s coming if your choice is to only play the F2P game, so do something before you get to the 20 bracket! This now puts them at the top of a PvP bracket where they can fight in “fairness”.

    At the point that they are complaining about game play on the forums, they know the situation, and can do something so that they have the opportunity to fight a “fair” fight. If they really have to keep the same character instead of re-rolling like all the subscribers do, then I guess they are stuck with the choice they made.

    On a more optimistic note, if the XP-off manually doesn’t work, then I would recommend that Blizzard solve this by capping the F2P accounts at level 19. To me this would be the most mechanically efficient solution to the problem.

    • Thanks! A lot of F2P twinks are capping at 19, not 20, using the methods described in my guide to trial account twinks (forum version is linked in the article, original post is on GTG.) This is having a different effect on the 15-19 bracket than the 20-24; it’s softened some of the battles a little bit, but basically the 19s will remain the take-no-prisoners, play your absolute best, use everything you can bracket, no matter how many F2P show up.

      I think the reason Blizzard went to 20 is far more practical – that’s when you get a mount. Mounts make the game better, and hook players into wanting to level. (More mounts! Faster mounts!)

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  8. Back in February, I posted a somewhat tongue-in-check article calling for F2P games to sell the ability to PvP (Sheep and Wolves). I’m somewhat amused to see it coming true in WoW.

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  10. Mangara

    This is a great post. It gives a really interesting view into a subculture of WoW I hadn’t even considered until now.

    While reading the post, I wondered how it would be to play a lvl 24 twink healer in this bracket. Is the general opinion on them as unfavorable as for the dominating DPS classes? I think it could be fun as you have a lot more survivability and can really boost your team to victory through the other players, instead of practically soloing the BG. This could improve the experience for your teammates, instead of just your own.

    • Generally speaking, healers do well, no matter the level. Will you get some ribbing? Maybe. Tough to say; go in and try it out, if you find you don’t like it you can always keep on leveling! :)

  11. Well, anyone that knows me already knows my stance about the F2P posers and the amount of trouble and beatdowns they cause in my beloved New Player forum.

    Kill them.

    Kill them all.

    Then take their flags and kill them again.

    For every 1 F2P idiot post that pops up, I’m going to kill 10,000 of them and their non-paying friends. *cackle*

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  13. Bwappo

    What a tremendously nuanced article! I have no idea how I never heard of CBM and CFN until now, but I just spent a couple of hours reading through thoughtful and provocative posts on both blogs. Your treatment is exactly the kind of insight various XP-off communities need.

    While I don’t play in the 20-24 bracket, I can speculate that capping F2P accounts at the low end of a bracket is the core cause of the problem here. If F2P accounts capped at 19 or 24, we wouldn’t see nearly the amount of tension in PvP. But there’s more to it than that.

    I understand Blizzard’s intention behind F2P accounts is to primarily introduce new players to the game and convert them to paying subscribers, and I think you could make a secondary argument about retaining marketshare vs. competitor MMORPGs. That said, I think you nailed the issue when you discussed how a community needs to survive on its own merits. By capping F2P at 20, Blizzard makes it more difficult for the F2P PvP community to determine its merit.

    And not just F2P. 60s, 70s, and 80s all deal with incarnations of the same problem (as you noted). This results not just in a gearing issue. Prior to capped accounts getting moved to XP-off (which definitely needed to happen), capped accounts maintained their own communities, and communities in the game bolster the game experience for everyone. With the degradation of these communities comes degradation of the overall experience of playing WoW for some players.

    That’s the key point I want to make. While the vast majority of WoW players level to endgame, meeting others from these communities along the way gives WoW depth. When you tank a random dungeon on Cynderblock, just the experience of seeing such a powerful tank in action prompts the question, “how the heck did he do all that at this level?” And that question opens the door to learning more about WoW which players never witnessed until that moment.

  14. Lithogen

    Good article, it captures both sides of the 20/24 issue, something not seen by many posters who decide to comment on it.

    I think the whole thing is a bit over-dramatised.

    4 levels difference in Hp isn’t that much of a big deal. Most of 24 twink gear is BoA; which can be purchased by F2P’s. The filler gear is from bag drops; which both 20 and 24’s have access to. Enchants are a big crippler when it comes to the bracket. F2P’s have to level Enchanting themselves and use what’s on hand while twinks can purchase +15 Agility to gloves and weapons for extra punch. But skill and class selection can make up for that difference, not to mention teamwork.

    There are so many F2P’s acting like martyrs over it, that to actually take them with an seriousness or show compassion is now impossible. They know what they’re getting into each time they log in. There are the 24’s who have rolled strictly to bully, but like any bully, if he gets a taste of his own medicine he’ll eventually quit or find something else to mess with.

    But one thing remains as fact throughout the entire ordeal. Twinking is about taking advantage of what you have. It just seems that some of the F2P’s have yet to see what’s available past their own character sheet.

  15. andrew kemp

    I rolled a 24 hunter. Not because I like to pwn n00bs but because of AB. I played 39 hunter from vanilla until xp on and off brackets killed our bracket. I then decided to roll a 19 hunter and i assumed that people would play AB. However i was dead wrong. I then met this guy who did 24 tiwnks and he said that AB popped every 10 minutes. I was liek there is no way that I am not going to level up. The 20-24 bracket is in many ways very similar to the 30-39 bracket of old. The way that the new talents are set up you have many abilities at level 20 about the same as one owuld have in 39s. You still have ur aimed shot arcane shot and in my case explosive shot.
    In addition you had a good point about leaving f2p players alone and not jsut killing them. I definitely agree with this point. If i cross a kid with under liek 1100 xp i will leave him alone because it feels like a sin to just press explosive shot and arcane shot maybeonce to kill him. I will however go after them if they attack me first or are trying to capture a base. All in all however i believe that the brackets need to be seperated or the f2p players get some sort of buff like what i was thinking was the leg enchants of old. 400 hp and 12 agility would be huge especially against hunters who are burst dps and it is hard to get aimedshots off in pvp espec ially 1v1.

    also as a hunter we need to nerf hunters it is rediculous.

  16. gsdfgdfgdgdf

    you seem to be letting in comments to antagonize f2p 20s but not letting in comments that antagonize 24s?
    bias much?

    • I’ve been blocking your comments because you can’t be bothered to leave a real name/alias or email address, nor have your comments actively contributed anything to the discussion. Calling all 24s “hate inciting fuckwits” in your (unpublished) comments, no matter what some people did on the TwinkInfo forums, just proves the points I made in this post. You want to complain about behavior of folks on TwinkInfo? Knock yourself out, but go do it on TI, not here.

      You do know when claiming that I’m biased against F2P that I wrote one of the first Guides to Trial/F2P Twinking that was then crossposted to the official forums and Wowhead, right? You do understand how that makes you look, right? I may not F2P twink myself, but (up until your continued trolling) I was excited about the possibilities of the bracket.

      If you want to win people over to the F2P side, a cogent, well-written argument will serve you much better than continuing to rant in the comments on an old post. If you’d like to actively contribute to the discussion with such a comment, I welcome it.

      But cursing and railing against people who didn’t have anything to do with your problems? Yeah, I’ll continue to block those comments. Doesn’t matter what level you play at.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  17. Shigeru

    I can certainly see the f2p’s side of this dilemma. But also I think they need to understand they are essentially guests in our game. I believe the more combative and verbal they get they actually attract more p2p players who will take it to them in the battlegrounds.

    There are certainly other aspects of the 20-24 bracket that attract new twinks besides weaker opponents. You mentioned the grandfathered items. Also being the first bracket with mounts, yet still being a lowbie bracket with consistent queue pops is a draw. PvP before mounts is extremely slow. The next viable bracket with mounts seems to be 70 if you actually want to play and not sit waiting in queue. But then it is not the simpler PvP like the lower brackets.

    Ideally, what I would like to see from blizzard is loosening some of the f2p restrictions like higher profession skill levels, allowing some use of the auctions house to buy but maybe not sell, trading with players, and a gold cap that discourages gold farmers but gives them a shot at better enchants. Even with a level 20 cap then they could be competitive. I think the incentive on blizzard’s part would be having these f2p twinks makes a more active bracket and community that is good for the p2p customers. Sure they would run the risk of some who are only interested in twinkling going f2p, but I think most of us aren’t going to give up our level-cap mains that provide so much play value of their own and also fund our twinks with gold and heirlooms. I have 1 level 85 and a bunch of lower level toons. I have no desire to level up a bunch of alts to cap, just the 1. But I do enjoying tinkering around with my lower level alts for simpler gameplay.

  18. Marxis

    I realize I am late to the party, but I wanted to say awesome write up. Yesterday On my f2p Account (separate from my shared account with my parents) I ran into a Bg with about 5 24’s. Immediately I knew the match was going to end badly. I have nothing against 24’s, but I feel as if there ARE some there who want to antagonize the 20’s F2p or not. There will always be enmity between the two groups, but I feel this will die down to a simmer at some point. I have one twink, a Warrior, and I must say its fun wrecking Rogues. at that level they don’t post a threat. they run away if they get caught, and they can’t run away from two-handed Fury Warriors with piercing howl Muahaha >:D.

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  21. Bob Dole

    I’m pathetic, there is no way around it. If you comment consists of nothing but insults, then you are PATHETIC. If you argue, then you’re stupid and obviously logic is not your strong suit.