On the Differences Between the PvP and PvE Gear Models

MMO Melting Pot highlighted an interesting post over at Killing Me Slowly about gear, where Fulguralis compares his experience gearing up via raids versus gearing through Arenas, and finds the PvE experience… lacking. Fulguralis has some interesting points about how the VP grind is necessary because the raid drop tables are terrible. And yet, the VP grind is slow, while the CP grind is comparably fast.

On a completely related vein, Perculia and Hamlet have a great post up at FTL about Failure, Challenge, and the Decline of WoW, which touches on the transition away from the drop system to the badge/point system and the implications of gearing up through something other than the primary activity (5 mans vs raiding).

Consider the KSM and FTL articles together. Forget PvP for a bit, if you can. KSM expresses the frustration with the current gear process that’s described in FTL – one is the expression, the other the analysis. I recommend reading both, just to see how they intersect.

Okay? On to the PvP.

When I first read Fulg’s post, I was like… wait, PvP gearing is good? The hell? What are you talking about, Willis?

Then I remembered how much fun I had gearing up through Arena in Season 9. It was fun. Getting my Conquest gear was more enjoyable than my Honor gear. Two hours of Arena play and I’d get a piece every 1.5 weeks or so. Definite, measurable progress there – but also doing the thing that I wanted to be doing, namely working on rated PvP. I ended up doing about 6-10 hours of Arena every week – basically, whenever anyone was on in the guild who wanted to cap their CP, I would hop on to their team and play with them.

Compare that to the roughly 80 hours of grinding Battlegrounds it took to get my Honor set together, just so that I could play more Arenas. (I didn’t take advantage of the Tol Barad Honor Lottery.) It was slow. Really slow. And the devs realized this, eventually, and doubled Honor Point gains, but for a while it was harder and slower to grind out mid-level PvP gear than it was PvE gear. It sucked.

My perception of the latter obscured the former – I remember the HP grind sucking, while the CP grind was actually fun. There was no other way to get PvP gear than to do PvP, and that’s how it should be. I’ve talked to folks on Twitter who would be hugely frustrated with their PvE drops, and then turn around to do Arenas and get exactly what they wanted, on a consistent schedule, because it was the only way to get the gear you needed to play that part of the game.

The PvP gear process needed tuning, to be sure, but once it was tuned a bit (CP down, HP up), it’s hit a pretty decent balance. I don’t honestly think I have much to complain about with the process of gearing up within a Season. While higher rated players will gear up faster than lower rated players (thus widening the gap), that’s an incentive to get a higher rating earlier than later! Eventually, all other things being equal, everyone will end up in pretty much the same gear by the latter parts of the season, and games should be about skill and class composition, not about gear discrepancies.

So let me come right out and say: the PvP gear system has some strong points, especially when you start looking at the PvE gear problems described in the KSM and FTL posts above.

But let’s take a look at the two different models.

(I’ve had a long day at work talking to executives, so I’m thinking in bullet points tonight. Be glad it’s not a power point.)

PvP gear pros:

  • Gear is non-random, only purchased.
  • Comes from doing the activity it is designed for. Woah, I know!
  • Requires a night a week of effort to get a piece every week or so.
  • Rewards skill in that activity, not time, with more rapid gearing (higher CP caps), prestige items (2200+ armor), and (slight) gear advantage (2200+ weapons).
  • Eventually equalizes player base’s gear as season goes on.
  • Usually looks better than PvE gear. Sorry, it’s true.
  • Each season starts fresh with a gear reset.

PvP gear cons:

  • Gear value depreciates very rapidly at the end of a season. Conquest gear from one season is worse than Honor gear in the next, nullifying the efffort spent acquiring it.
  • No random drops means gearing can’t be accelerated.
  • PvE gear is sometimes better than PvP gear for PvP, encouraging players to spend time doing PvE for PvP gear.
  • PvP gear is boring. Not visually boring, but rather – each piece is pretty much the same. There’s no flavor or character around individual pieces. You don’t sit there and go, WOW, that piece not only looks great, but it has a really unique ability! No, you pretty much are stuck with Very Angry Gladiator’s gear.
  • (Theory: PvP gear looks better as a set to compensate for the lack of indvidual excitement about pieces.)
  • Each season requires a completely new gear grind.

Compare that to the PvE raid gearing model.

  • Some gear is random drops, some gear is purchased with points.
  • Some gear – like the absolute best gear, Heroic gear – only comes from raiding. The basic set, however, comes from doing 5 mans, which are not raids.
  • Requires 2-3 nights of play to get a piece every 2-3 weeks or so.
  • Purchased gear rewards time spent, not skill. Skilled players may be able to grind VP faster than unskilled players (making them spend less time each week), but they can’t get more VP each week.
  • (Dropped gear may reward skill – but it also rewards luck.)
  • Gear value relative to the content inflates over the course of a tier. As the content is nerfed, PvE gear becomes more effective to accomplishing it’s goal.
  • PvE gear retains its value when new tiers are launched, relative to the content it was designed for. If you get a T11 set, you will always be able to do T11 raiding with that set. Just because a new tier comes out doesn’t mean your raid gear suddenly sucks in the old raids.
  • PvE gear has unique stats and abilities, with each tier sporting new bonuses, with random, interesting drops, and with excitement about the randomness of drops.
  • Stratifies the player base over the course of a tier, as skilled raiders down Heroic bosses, promotoing player inequalities.
  • Gear is not reset with a new tier. Players who did well in one tier are granted an advantage in the next.

It’s interesting how different the percieved problems are, isn’t it? It’s like looking at mirror images of gear problems. PvP is constant, steady, and rewarding, but since the difficulty level of opponents is dynamic, the gear value deteriorates. PvE is slow, with a chance of random gearing, but becuase the content will be nerfed over time, gear improves and becomes more effective as the tier goes on.

Two very different sets of problems, but … one gearing model in common. The point/badge model.

The problems in PvP gear are between seasons – of rapid gear deflation, of no carry-over of value from one tier to the next.

The problems in PvE appear to be struggles to combine both a random and consistent gear reward model, with neither working well together. Changing from one tier to the next isn’t really an issue.

There aren’t a lot of easy answers here. It’s not like you can just say, points are the problem in PvE. Badge gear served a purpose, and if you take it away, then that task – providing catchup gear for raiders who struggled with the previous tier – still remains. If you leave that in there, then guilds will remain stuck in a single raid. (Now, you may ask: is that a bad thing? I am unqualified to answer that.)

There aren’t a lot of easy answers – for either realm of the game.

But at least it’s good to put the problems with PvP gear into a larger perspective.

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