Blizzcon 2011: PvP Changes in Mists of Pandaria

In the course of Blizzcon 2011, Blizzard announced several changes to the PvP system, as well as planned additions to the Battleground and Arena system. It is worth noting that none of this is set in stone; Blizzcon announcements are more akin to ideas presented at a product planning meeting than actual release notes. I’ll try to keep the speculation to a minimum.

NEW BATTLEGROUNDS AND ARENA

Three new battlegrounds and one new Arena map were announced as potential additions to the PvP system.

The following are the proposed BGs:

  • Stranglethorn Diamond Mines: “Payload” gameplay
  • Valley of Power: “Murderball” gameplay
  • Azshara Crater: DOTA-style gameplay

And a new Arena map:

  • The Tol’vir Proving Grounds will utilize the sweeping vistas of Uldum and the Tol’vir art style with a simple layout based on Nagrand Arena.

Some of the terms describing the battlegrounds might be unfamiliar to you – I know they were to me, because I’ve never played Warcraft III.

  • Payload games are generally when the teams are split into offense and defense, with a moving objective – the payload – that needs to be protected. Generally, there are multiple checkpoints that need to be captured, and the teams are competing to move the payload along to the final checkpoint. One team will protect the payload as long as they can, then the other.
  • Murderball games (and there are several kinds) involve trying to get a ball or flag over the key or goal line of the opposing team. In some variations it’s anything goes; in others there are rules about who “anything goes” applies to. It looks like this one will have a ball that you carry that scores points, but also does damage.
  • DOTA (Defense of the Ancients) is a popular custom scenario for Warcraft III, where players control powerful units (heroes) to destroy the Ancients in the middle of their opponent’s bases.

For screenshots from the presentation, let me direct you over to the Hunstman’s Lodge. They have some nice screenshots from the livestream.

I wouldn’t count on all of these making it in to the final release of Mists, or of making them in with their current forms, but it’s nice to see some really interesting new ideas out there. While I like that Twin Peaks and Battle For Gilneas are variations on two very good existing battlegrounds, it would be nice to see something new.

Of course, vehicle combat was new, but it didn’t make for more compelling games. I’m interested to see how the DOTA game, in particular, shapes up – will players control avatars that give roughly equal abilities, removing class and gear inequalities? Some people would love that (skill > balance!), others would hate it (I didn’t level a Demolisher 85 levels.)

We’ll have to wait and see.

As far as the new Arena map? It’s about time. Getting the Ring of Valor back during this expansion wasn’t exactly an improvement. There was a great lack of anything Cataclysm-themed in Arena. Getting a Cata map an expansion later isn’t great, but it’s a sign that Blizzard is showing some attention to Arenas again and could indicate a Pandaren-styled map later in the expansion.

WORLD PVP ZONE

From the Q&A:

You did not mention a world PvP zone for MoP, maybe that could be the World PvP area for MoP?
The war between the Horde and Alliance will really heat up in Pandaria every patch, so we are looking forward to integrating that.

Cataclysm had a certain amount of “the war heats up” feel to it in the Blizzcon previews too, but World PvP took a hit on most realms. The biggest success for World PvP wasn’t the zone designed for it – Tol Barad – but rather Firelands on a PvP server. That’s where the real PvP has been happening, not in the island of musical chairs.

So it’s interesting when Blizzard doesn’t announce a featured world PvP zone after two expansions with a PvP zone as the PvP centerpiece of the expansion.

I think it’s incorrect to say that the idea of a world PvP zone is a failure just because Mists doesn’t have one at this time.

What I do think this implies is that world PvP zones are expensive to create, and that Tol Barad consumed far more development resources than it saw playtime.

I have in the back of my head that there’s a KPI Blizzard uses to evaluate the success of a development effort – player time over development cost. The idea is that something that is cheap/easy to implement and draws medium interest is better than something that costs 50% of your development resources but draws in the same interest. The ratio of player participation to development effort would seem to be a key success metric in any subscription model-based business that wanted to optimize development priorities.

And that’s what I think happened here. Wintergrasp was ambitious and brought in the players, but incurred major costs down the road when it couldn’t scale. Tol Barad cost too much to build relative to the number of players playing it, so Blizzard is going to try something else.

The other problem I see about prioritizing World PvP zones like Wintergrasp and Tol Barad is that they are effectively throwaway code with a limited lifespan. Unlike regular BG development, where you develop a map which will see use through future expansions, World PvP zones have a lifespan limited to their expansion. Halaa is deserted. Wintergrasp is deserted. Tol Barad will become deserted.

All that development effort for naught.

I don’t blame Blizzard for axing the idea of a World PvP zone. Tol Barad cut short development on both Twin Peaks and Battle for Gilneas – dramatically on BfG, as they had to scrap their original plans for a battle within the city and reskin Arathi Basin to get something shipped in time for Cata’s launch. Having development resources focused on Battlegrounds and Arenas is actually a good thing.

ACCOUNT-WIDE ACHIEVEMENTS

  • Achievements will now become available at the Battle.net account level. Many achievements will be shared among characters, including those for raiding and maxing out professions.

If you’re working on Battlemaster, you might have cried a little bit upon hearing this. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has tough achievements on alts, but not on my main.

There are a lot of questions to be answered about how this is going to work; if your total number of victories will count for Veteran achievements, if your meta-achievements will include the prerequisites on multiple characters.

But it’s a step in the right direction.

RESILIENCE AS A BASE STATISTIC

Big, major changes ahead for PvP gearing. Resilience will become a base statistic.

  • Devs like the way Resilience works in PvP, and how it gives a nice goal for players looking to progress/upgrade their gear in PvP
  • Resilience is a pretty huge barrier for people who want to start PvPing.
  • Resilience will become a base stat, and will increase a little every time you level.

I think it’s honestly easier to tell you what we don’t know about this change than what we do know right now.

Making Resilience a base statistic is a neat twist to the Valor and Vengeance system used by Rift – it allows the PvE and PvP systems to have effectively different damage systems regardless of the gear worn by players. That’s pretty neat! If damage gets out of control in PvP, they can either add more Resilience, or change how it scales so everyone takes a bit less.

The problem is that we don’t know how PvP gear will look in Mists. Will players still progress from about 25-30% damage reduction to 45-50% over the course of the expansion? What will the baseline reduction be with no PvP gear? Will there even be any more PvP gear?

I hesitate to even say that this is a good solution to the problems of low level PvP, because I don’t know how the scaling is going to work. Right now, Resilience has a flat application (10.74 points per % reduction) until level 35, when it starts to increase on a curve to hit a degree of normalcy at level 70. If this scale remains the same, then low level characters will start off with weak damage reduction that increases as they level. Unfortunately, burst damage is highest in the lower levels, and damage reduction is more necessary at 10-25 than it is at 50-80. So maybe they’ll start off with a good chunk of Resilience to help with lowbie PvP, or the scale will be changed…

… we just don’t know enough to say how it’s going to help certain areas of the game. It has the potential to be a good improvement to PvP at all levels, but we have to wait and see.

That said, I am cautiously optimistic that this is going to be a very good change, both for leveling PvP and endgame PvP.

NEW RACE: PANDAREN

Pandaren racial abilities are:

  • Racial – Epicurean – Increase the stat benefits from food by 100%
  • Racial – Gourmand – Cooking skill increased by 15.
  • Racial – Inner Peace – Your rested experience bonus lasts twice as long.
  • Racial – Bouncy – You take 50% less falling damage.
  • Racial – Quaking Palm – You touch a secret pressure point on an enemy target, putting it to sleep for 3 sec.

Okay, food, ok, more food, ok, XP, no biggie, bouncy, ok, nothing here to see for PvP…

… wait, was that a 3 second CC/interrupt I just saw?

… off the DR of many, many other CCs in the game?

/jawdrop

(Keep an eye on this racial and consider it a viable option for many classes.)

NEW CLASS: MONK

Wears leather, tanks, heals, melee DPS, has cool moves… it looks great!

I saw earlier today in one of the panels (and I’ve lost the reference now, sorry) that Monk healers will have non-targeted heals and need to be in melee combat to heal. That’s potentially very useful in PvP, particularly Arena combat. We may see a lot of Monk comps in Season 12 based solely upon this mechanic.

I expect Monks will be very potent in the early stages of Mists PvP, and that you would not be amiss in trying one out. If the Death Knights were any indication, it will take an expansion to really get them balanced out.

If Pandas aren’t your thing, all races can be Monks except for Goblins and Worgen.

LOOKING AHEAD

The situation for PvP is going to change a lot between now and the release of Mists of Pandaria. While many of the changes announced this weekend are exciting, there’s a lack of a single, defining PvP centerpiece for this expansion. Instead of Arenas (Burning Crusade), Wintergrasp (Wrath of the Lich King), or Rated Battlegrounds (Cataclysm), the focus is on an “increased conflict between the Alliance and the Horde.” We don’t know yet if that means World PvP is going to make a comeback.

We shall have to see what this diffused focus means for Warcraft PvP.

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21 Comments

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21 responses to “Blizzcon 2011: PvP Changes in Mists of Pandaria

  1. Ralod

    To note they are also adding back in open world raid bosses. On a PvP server those are going to be huge open world pvp events. On PvE servers they may be as well. I would love to see faction raid bosses that flagged you if you attacked them. That would make for some killer open world PVP, guilds would have to team up to get the kills and keep the other side at bay.

    • That would be awesome to see. :D

    • Den

      There’s already world bosses in Cata, like Julak-Doom (http://www.wowhead.com/npc=50089). They update the loot tables so they’re not terribad (we got 2 boe epics off the one we killed), but simply put, they’re not something folks really hunt down, nor do they stay up terribly long. Rift has similar things, but the zone shows when someone’s doing one, which encourages world pvp (and gives raiding guilds a reason to make friends with PvP guilds, since everyone who participates gets a little something).

  2. I still suspect that Pandaria itself would be a world PvP zone. I don’t think they want to freak out the PvE players yet, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

    Right now I’m still kind of underwhelmed about the entire expansion, especially considering everything that has to be cleaned up and wasn’t given a mention: Outland, Northrend, and the now soon-to-be-obsolete-again original continents. The PvP Hybrid “PvE Events” I’m not so sure about, but has some potential. I could easily see them turn into MoP’s Tol Barad, however.

    • I’m not so sure they’d PvP-enable the zones, to be honest. The freak out would be HUGE over that decision. There was enough consternation over the Tol Barad dailies happening in a PvP zone when folks thought they would auto-flag you.

      I have a feeling these PvE scenarios will be very faction-dominated, and that’s where we’ll see a lot of the Horde/Alliance war. Just a guess though.

      • I agree. If they PVP enabled Panderian, you’d see a lot less pandas in the world. No matter how easy and quickly you make PVP leveling, there is a large number of people who hate dying.

  3. GCM

    One thing not mentioned here, and perhaps that’s because it’s not limited to pvp, is the changes being made to the hunter class. Not having a minimum range is going to drastically change my PvP experience, and hopfully make max lvl hunters more flexible in battlegrounds.

  4. Will

    I’m hoping what they’ll do is maybe have each piece of PVP gear increase resil by a small percentage, say 2-3% per piece (not reduction, just a flat resil rating bonus). Hopefully, that’ll allow new players to jump in and be competitive, but make it so that the people that have earned their season gear still have a noticeable advantage.

    Assuming nothing changes about the talent trees, I’m seeing PVP becoming MUCH more skill-based; does the mage you’re hardcasting against have CoC or Frostjaw?

    • Something to consider – especially at high levels, having the same spec but very different talents to keep opponents off guard.

      Affliction with Shadowfury? Yes please!

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  6. Thanks for the review Cyn. I hadn’t noticed the achievements pushing up to the battle.net level. Does this mean, hmm, all my alts will have 310% flying speed since I have it (Long Strange Trip) on one?!?

    I have to reinforce to Blizzard, “please no world PVP zone!”. I still accidentally get queued for Wintergrasp sometimes and it’s a sad and painful experience. Last time I participated, there was 2 other people there, both from my faction. A joke. Please go back to the days of Vanilla and/or BC where these dedicated PVP zones don’t exist.

    Monk healing sounds a bit like playing an atonement disc priest. Stack dps stats, instead of healer stats. (i.e. INT instead of spirit. ) Fun, but can be difficult when you are constantly being targetted and need to run constantly. Atonement only triggers with Smite and Holy Fire (both channeled spells), so Monks will have that advantage of melee.

    • Painful hardly even begins to describe Wintergrasp in its current state. I queued up for it a couple of times a few weeks ago and it was nothing but an exercise in frustration. Pitting level 80s against 85s is a joke; with the massive stat scaling the former can pretty much be one-shot. Trying to attack the fortress was pointless as the siege engines don’t scale and can also be two-shot by a single defender, even when piloted by a level 85. And that’s not even talking about the simple tedium of running all over a deserted zone trying to level up in rank. I don’t know why they still invite you to queue for it in the PvP panel.

      So yeah, I reckon they are rethinking their stance on dedicated world PvP zones.

      • Paul

        All they needed to do was scale Wintergrasp to lvl 85. It would have remained popular.

      • The scaling is a huge problem, but because it’s a Northrend zone and not an instanced battleground, they can’t scale it without making things totally out of whack for those leveling through Northrend.

        I say that, and then I’m like… no one levels through Northrend in Wintergrasp. The very idea is absurd!

        They could have made it into a 40v40 instanced BG and I would cheer every time it came up on the screen. I don’t care that it doesn’t really work that way (it’s not a half-court BG like Strand, and attackers always have the advantage), I just love the place.

    • The achievement thing… let’s see how it all turns out. I think there are some real challenges there that need to be addressed, but perhaps Blizzard has thought them out and solved them.

      Monks sound really interesting for PvP. I keep waffling on if I’m going to roll a Pandaren one, or if I’ll take a chance on a more familiar race.

      And everyone knows my feelings on Wintergrasp at this point. Man, I miss that place.

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  8. I’m not certain that the reason they haven’t announced a world PvP zone yet is solely because of the resource costs. Wintergrasp launched well but then became a nightmare on servers with population imbalances once the developers started tinkering with it. Tol Barad’s initial design was head-scratchingly bad at launch and never really recovered its audience, at least on my server. It might just be that the developers have decided that making world PvP zones isn’t one of their strong points and they’ve concluded that it isn’t worth the headaches and the indignant forum posts.

    • Well, I think we’re talking in similar terms: the headaches equal real costs, the emergency fixes equal real costs, and the indignant forum posts equal unhappy customers, which indirectly equal a cost. But it’s likely we’ll never really know everything that went into this decision.

      As long as they give it a rest this expansion, and really think through anything they do for the upcoming ones, I’ll be a happy PvPer.

  9. Tin

    I’m relieved that they are not making a new world pvp zone. Blizz has shown almost no ability to balance these zones. And tieing access to a PVE raid through a PVP activity has always seemed counter-intuitive to me.

    I’m optimistic about the new BGs, and would appreciate speculation on which of those concepts lend themselves to RBGs. I think some malaise has crept into RBGs that is in part due to only having 4 maps and 2 game style options. The DOTA doesn’t strike me as RBG friendly.

    • I never understood how you could have a PvE raid in a PvP zone and expect it to work. I get that it was designed to, and in many cases did, encourage raiders to PvP. And when the PvP zone was unbalanced so that it switched hands a lot, that was fine. But when it was unbalanced so that it didn’t switch at all, that then created apathy and restricted PvE content for PvE players.

      The lack of maps and game styles in RBGs is one of several problems afflicting them currently; Murderball is probably the best, DotA might be good, it might not, it sounds very player skill based, which is more “pure” PvP than WoW normally gets.

      I honestly think we’re going to need to know more before going much further than that, though.