Tag Archives: Rated Battlegrounds

Fence Jumping in WSG and Terrain Exploits

There’s a spot near the middle of the Horde fence in WSG where, if you approach it just right, you can jump onto the fence and then on to the other side. It’s over the tunnel entrance, to the left of the little juke in the fenceline, by one of the torches.

No matter the faction, pretty much every twink FC knows about this jump. Pretty much every twink knows about this jump after playing level 19 for any period of time – you see people going over the fence all the time, you better figure out how to do it quick or you’re going to be SoL. I expect that this is not as commonly known in Rated Battlegrounds, but skilled FCs know how to do it.

Seriously, this fence jump is the worst-kept secret terrain exploit in PvP. I’m a terrible jumper, and even I can do this jump.

It’s a little odd, then, that Blizzard GMs have finally come out and started saying that this jump is illegal and will get you a warning and a ban:

“Hello Dakoduh! My name is Game Master Rodoux. I’m going to need you to refrain from hopping up there on the fence in Warsong Gulch.” This was followed by a temporary ban when the request was not honoured.

In addition to the GM whispers, twinks are reporting that people are getting disconnected mid-jump. I haven’t had it happen to me yet (and I have jumped the fence in the past week, I FC at level 70 after all) but I’m sure it’s probably a matter of time.

I don’t think this situation is like the terrain exploit charges in the Walls of Wintergrasp. It’s pretty clear that there’s a glitch in the Horde fence, and that you have to hit it just right to get over. There’s no corresponding glitch in the Alliance fence, there’s nothing really ambiguous about this – this is a terrain exploit.

Yet… it’s been in there since WSG launched six years ago, and it’s something that tactics and strategies have adapted around. It’s one of the quirks of the terrain, just like the rocky patches around the zerk huts or kiting melee around the tree stumps while firing at them. Your opponents will use it against you, so you better know how to do it in response. It’s been reported many times on the forums as a bug, but has never been fixed. So folks do the jump.

My working theory is that all changes to the battlegrounds right now are due to balancing issues in Rated Battlegrounds. The developers have already stated that their focus is on level 85 PvP, as that’s where most of the player base is at. The BG graveyard changes earlier this year were aimed entirely at disrupting healer-heavy comps in rBGs, by preventing healers from getting back to the FC quickly.

And if your FC is skilled at jumping the fence in rated play, they have an advantage in getting back to their healers quickly. Graveyard blocked? Go fence. Fence blocked? Go ramp. Healers, keep moving to the left until you meet the FC. This isn’t rocket science – there’s a slight imbalance in the map due to this exploit. Even though it’s been there since the beginning, it only matters now because of rated play. This shouldn’t really be a surprise that Blizzard is treating it as an exploit.

But it is, a little bit. The timing is odd. This is one of those quirks which showed you knew what you were doing in Warsong Gulch, that you’d played the map enough to know all the tricks. It’d been there for ages. And it never got fixed.

The warnings, bans, and DCs are likely precursors to an actual fix of the fence. (I so want to see Orc Peons out there repairing the fence when this gets fixed. For real.) The GMs know it’s a problem, they’re watching out for it now, word is getting out that it’s no longer okay for this jump.

The dead-letter law of terrain exploitation may not have been enforced for 6 years with this jump, but it is now.

Part of me does get frustrated with Blizzard when they suddenly start handing out bans for behavior that’s been accepted for years. That’s the part of me that says, fix your shit, Blizzard, it’s broke, don’t blame players for this. More importantly – don’t put players into a position of choosing between using a jumping exploit or not to win in PvP, because even if some don’t, others will.

The other part of me says, yeah, but just because everyone does it doesn’t mean it’s not still a terrain exploit. It sucks, because it’s part of the charm of WSG – but it’s hopping over a fence that is obviously supposed to block movement.

Here’s to hoping that Blizzard fixes it soon so the issue is put to rest.

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The Persistent Problem of PvP Rating Exploits

Velidra sent me the link to the above video of a Destruction Warlock tearing apart battlegrounds with his bare hands. The guy takes on 3 Rogues at once and walks away the sole survivor. If I walk away from an encounter with a single Rogue, I usually count myself lucky. Three of them at once? Game over, man. Game over.

But not for Adouken.

I enjoy PvP videos. They usually make me feel bad about my own UI (how do they do that with so few addons?) but they make me feel great about the potential of my class, and I try to learn from them as best I can.

Videos naturally show a skewed version of a player’s skill, but that’s doesn’t mean that players who show off their skills in them are somehow faking it. They might not be that good all the time, but damn if they weren’t that good at some point, when the cameras were rolling. Odds are pretty high that they are that good, and that they operate at a high level of play all the time.

I don’t play anywhere near as well as you see Adouken play in that video – far from it. Watch that first segment and realize that he’s casting Nether Ward inbetween the time a spell is cast at him and the time it reaches him. You notice how it looks like he reflects Death Coils back at their caster? He’s casting his own Death Coil while his opponent’s spell is in the air. That’s awesome.

There is an objective difference in skill between Adouken’s player and me. While it may not be easy, surely, we can measure it somehow, right?

That’s where PvP ratings are supposed to come in and help us know the great from the good, the poor from the mediocre. They way they work is simple, at least in concept.

  • There are two numbers used in the rating system: Matchmaking Rating (also called MMR) and your PvP Rating. You have different values for each bracket.
  • Your Matchmaking Rating changes with every win and loss, and is used by the system to try to find a level of skill where you’ll win about 50% of the time. You can think of the MMR as measuring your aptitude, your potential rating.
  • Your PvP Rating is based upon your performance over time, changes slowly, and is what PvP achievements, gear rewards, and titles are based upon. PvP Rating, in theory, measures your performance over time.

The goal of the PvP rating system is to match you up with people of equal ability, not to allow you to win all the time.

That’s kinda weird, isn’t it? From a sport perspective, it would be really strange to have a system that wasn’t based on win/loss records (performance). But you also have different leagues and ways of stratifying talent that don’t exist in computer games – local, regional, and national competitions, playoffs, major, minor, and little leagues. So instead, the goal is to put a number on you and say, this is an arbitrary level you’re performing at.

All other things being equal, you should win about 50% of your matches against teams and people of similar PvP rank.

But that’s not how it works.

THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE MISSING MMRS

So a funny thing happened in the 4.2 Patch notes.

  • The individual Matchmaking Rating column has been removed from the Arena scoreboard.
  • The individual Matchmaking Rating column has been removed from the Rated Battleground scoreboard and replaced with a team Matchmaking Rating.

This is kind of curious, isn’t it? What’s going on here?

I’ve said several times that Blizzard is trying to encourage people to get into Rated Battlegrounds in patch 4.2, and that many of the changes are with this in mind. You might think that a change like this is just to make it so that people who join rBGs don’t see how outmatched they are and throwing the match immediately.

While this makes a limited amount of sense, it’s not what’s going on. Yes, this is to try to make Rated Battlegrounds more fair, and therefore more attractive. But hiding the personal MMR is aimed at stopping a series of exploits people are using to get titles in both Arena and Rated Battlegrounds, exploits which are running rampant right now. The most common exploit involves using alts to boost the main characters’s MMR, then winning enough games at the various high levels to get the desired titles.

If you’ve been comfortably playing in a lower Arena bracket, you may have noticed that the last 2 weeks have been rather… more painful than before.

You’re not imagining things.

THE PROBLEM WITH MMR, OR WHY THAT TEAM JUST STOMPED US

[Player]: How about a joke before you go?
[GM]: Your Arena rating.
[Player]: /facepalm

Consider the following facts about how MMR works.

  • Your team MMR (different from your rating, mind you) is equal to the average individual MMR of all the players on the team.
  • In the event of a win, individual MMR should go up, thereby raising the team MMR. Losses reduce MMR, but not as much as wins do.
  • Players on new teams start out with 1500 MMR.

Let’s look at how this works out.

You start the season out with your two friends and start playing 3v3 on your mains. You win some, you lose some, but your individual MMR rises and falls together. If your MMR hits 1800, your teammates are also at 1800. Your MMR, and eventually your PvP rating, accurately reflect your team’s performance to date. Everything is rosy.

Now let’s say one of you has an alt you want to bring in. Maybe it’s because it’s a better comp, maybe it’s just time for a change. Now you’ve got two people at 1800 MMR and one person at 1500 MMR, so your team has a MMR of 1700. You’re facing teams which are a little worse than you were doing before, but maybe the alt is undergeared, so it balances out.

What’s interesting is that it might balance out to fair matches in the 1700-1800 bracket, your individual MMRs are now going to be out of sync. The alt will always have a lower MMR than the other two main characters, and can never catch up.

Now let’s take a step back and change the conditions a little bit. You have a 3v3 team, starts fresh at 1500 and goes to 1800. Two of you drop your mains and swap to alts. Your team’s MMR is now 1600. You’re facing easier teams than you did at the 1800 bracket, so you win, even though the alts might be a little undergeared. They gain +200 MMR, you gain +200 MMR, you’re now at 2000 MMR, they’re at 1700 MMR – and your team is back at 1800 MMR.

With me so far? You’re still playing at 1800 MMR teams, but your personal MMR is 2000, your team’s alts are at 1700.

Now, you swap to to one of your alts, and one of your teammates swaps to their mains. 1500 alt, 1700 alt, and 1800 main are now on a 1666 team. You play until your teammate’s main is at 2000. (You’d be at 1700, the second alt would be at 1900.)

You see where this is going, right?

By cycling through alts, teams are able to artificially boost the individual MMR of their main characters.

Now let’s take this a step further. The team cycles through once or twice, everyone’s mains are sitting around 2000 MMR. The alts are all around 1800, which is really where people’s skills are at.

So the team hops on their alts and loses every single match. Their MMR tanks. They go from an 1800 MMR team to a 500 MMR team in a night. Those characters have terrible MMR now, which is exactly what they want.

Because now, you have a crop of alts at 500 MMR to swap into a team with a 2000 MMR main. The team’s matchmaking rating is 1000, so they’re going to be facing significantly easier opponents. But they’re capable of playing at 1800 MMR, so they dominate. The main’s MMR shoots up to 3000+ while the alts are climbing back up to 1800.

And then once everyone’s mains have an MMR of 4000+, they all rejoin the team and play enough matches to bring their team rating – and therefore their PvP rating, which gives the Gladiator titles – up to the desired level. Yes, their MMR will fall from the heights it reached, but the PvP Rating will rise to meet it somewhere in the middle.

When that team comes and stomps your 1000-rated group you and your friends put together to screw around on with perfect CC chains, huge burst damage and flawless target switching… they should never have been playing you in the first place.

BUT WAIT, RATED BATTLEGROUNDS ARE EVEN WORSE

You know why MMR boosting is an even bigger problem in Rated Battlegrounds? It’s not because they’re BGs, and it’s not because I am trying to pick a fight with rBGs this week.

No, it’s because:

  1. There are 10 people on your team, and
  2. Rewards are based on your individual MMR, not your team MMR.

Nice, huh?

Swapping alts (or even players who don’t care) in and out of BGs can be done like in Arenas, but it’s a little easier to boost MMR due to the number of low rated alts you can bring to the team. If you have 2 players at 1800 and 8 players at 1000, your team will be at 1160 MMR and (hopefully) get matched accordingly.

The coordination required to alt swap and lose MMRs is harder to do with 10 people than with 3. There’s a lot more time involved with Rated Battlegrounds, and the effort put forth by a low-rated character is often the same (or more) than a high-rated one, but the high rated one will get rewarded disproportionately to their efforts. While there is some alt-swapping going on, it’s not as easy as some other methods of boosting your MMR.

No, the best thing to do is to work with a strong group until you’re all up to a decent level – say 1800-2000 – and then PuG like crazy. Get into the worst groups you can find who still have a chance of winning, and play with them. This has the same effect as the alt-swapping MMR boost – when you win, you win big, when you lose, you don’t lose that much – with none of the headaches of having to swap alts yourself. You can go from PuG to PuG, increasing your MMR with each win. You may not win as consistently as you do with your set group, but you will get a great rating, which in turn gives you access to the PvP titles. You don’t even have to win any matches at your new MMR to get the titles, because nothing is based on your team’s MMR or rating – just your individual rating.

Remember back when you thought people’s rating really measured their skill?

/AFK FTW

At some point above, you probably wondered how people can preserve their ratings while losing.

Well, if you leave a match before it finishes, it doesn’t count. This is how win-trading works – people queue in off-hours, trying to get specific teams to match up against, and leave the match if it’s not them. When people leave the match as soon as things start going a little wrong? They’re leaving to preserve their MMR, which gets modified at the end of the match.

You didn’t think people were /afking because they were scared of you, right? :-)

WIN TRADING

Another reason why people /afk out of an Arena (or Rated Battlegrounds, though I think this is less common) match is because they’re trying to trade wins with another team.

This often happens late at night, when there aren’t a lot of teams playing in the different brackets, and it’s been a problem since Arenas started, but obviously if you can find a team who will throw the match for you, it’s a great way to get your PvP Rating to match your possibly inflated MMR.

I don’t have a lot to say about win trading. Don’t think it doesn’t happen, because it does.

WHY BLIZZARD IS HIDING INDIVIDUAL MMRS

Given that there are two different types of MMR inflation going on in both types of Rated PvP, you can start to see why Blizzard is trying to hide that value. It’s not going to prevent the problem from happening, especially not in Rated Battlegrounds, but it can reduce the precision with which people are doing it now. There will be more guesswork when exploiting, both in boosting and tanking individual MMRs.

There’s a concept in security circles called “Security through Obscurity,” which is a way of describing any security system that relies upon something being hidden for it to be secure. It’s usually treated as a bad thing, because once something is found that relies on it, it’s completely insecure. In cryptography, if your sophisticated code algorithm uses a single seed to generate codes, once the seed is known your code is useless. In piracy, if you bury your gold but don’t put a lock on it, anyone who finds the gold can take it.

In other words, security through obscurity is generally not very secure.

There’s a temptation to say that hiding the MMRs is just that – not making the system any less susceptible to exploitation, just hiding the problem. People can still do the things they’re doing now. You are going to face teams who are boosting themselves, who have great gear and skilled players but are playing with an MMR well below their real skill, and you won’t be able to tell anymore.

But, removing the data points does make it more difficult on the exploiters. Not a lot – not like a complete revamp of the MMR system would – but a bit. It’s a relatively simple change in terms of development time which will have some impact. That’s why it’s happening now.

I don’t really like this change, but I see that Blizzard has to do something.

Will teams still be able to boost their MMR into the stratosphere? You bet. As far as I can see, as long as the three conditions I laid out about the MMR system hold true, boosting is possible. You can’t have flexible teams and not have this kind of potential abuse. Will it be harder for other players to find out who is boosting? Yes, it will.

It’s not great. But it’s a start.

IT’S ALL RELATIVE

Man is the measure of all things.

-Protagoras

The interesting thing about the PvP Rating system, at least the Platonic ideal of the PvP rating system, is that it provides a way to compare people with very different character types. No matter what you play, or what your team is like, it should provide a relative measure against other players. The values are arbitrary and entirely dependent upon the actions of other players, as well as your own.

I think about other rating systems that assign a numeric value to your ability – college aptitude tests like the SAT/ACT, IQ tests, even professional placement exams – and they all measure ability based upon fixed criteria. Here is a test, there are right and wrong answers, how did you do? (Please note, I am an old fart, and I still think of the SAT as having all multiple-choice questions, none of this fancy writing stuff.)

Both types of test assign numeric values, which of course makes them more scientific.

But more than that, both purport to measure aptitude, but one is easy to game for your advantage, while the other is not. Why is that?

Take a look at the exploits again. Each one of them involves using other people. The system isn’t the problem, the people are. The system relies upon measuring you and your teammates, and your performance against other teams, which provides two places where it can be exploited.

Your opponents can really only modify your rating through throwing a match and win-trading, which is one kind of problem. You and your teammates can modify it through careful manipulation, boosting some characters, tanking the ratings of others, and preserving gains through /afking.

If these ratings were static and based upon some kind of objective performance, this kind of exploitation would not be possible. You can’t cheat an aptitude test by trying to throw off the bell curve and flooding the test pool with people who are going to score 0. You can’t get a 1600 on the SATs by being better than everyone else in your testing pool – you have to get every question right.

There are objective measurements of player skill, even in an environment soaked in relativity like PvP. Go back to the video at the top of the page. The player’s reaction time is faster than many others. They choose the right spells and abilities to succeed. They position themselves well, they use their abilities in the correct order. There is a measurable difference between that kind of play and my own, and that means we could construct a static test to measure it.

But static tests are hard. They have to be randomized, administered sparingly, maintained and updated. I don’t know how it would capture performance in the field fairly. I have only the vaguest ideas how a static PvP test would work. Perhaps like kata in martial arts, where mastery of a ritualized set of moves – perhaps a scripted PvP encounter for each class – is required to move to the next level?

That doesn’t feel much like PvP to me. PvP requires other players, living, breathing, thinking teammates and opponents.

And yet, as soon as we bring other people into our measure, we open the door for manipulating that rating.

SKILL > RATING

PvP Rating is not equal to skill. As much as we would like to have a system that really represents skill, the PvP Rating system is not it.

The more I look at how the PvP Rating system is being manipulated, the less I respect it. There are a lot of highly skilled players with high ratings, where ability and performance are in sync. But there are plenty of other teams that are taking shortcuts, who are going for the quickest way to their desired goal. They’ll stomp through the lower brackets while boosting a friend’s toon. The only incentives that aren’t about gaining the coveted rating are designed to get people into Rated Battlegrounds – everything else is about getting your numbers up.

Players who deliberately game the rating system sadly affect other players. A 2500 player playing in the 1250 range artificially depresses the ratings of people who would naturally be in the lower brackets. The upper brackets, in turn, get filled with people who have artificially inflated their ratings, giving the people who actually perform at that level easy opponents, inflating their ratings in turn.

The more players who game the system, the more imbalanced the brackets get.

And none of this is a reason to not play Arenas or Rated Battlegrounds.

  • Arenas remains the best place to learn how to win fights in PvP, period. (The only other activity that even comes close is dueling, which is really 1:1 Arena.) Yes, it’s a death match. Yes, there are strict limits about what you can and can’t use. Yes, you’re going to have unbalanced matches. Try to win them anyway. Learn from your losses.
  • Rated Battlegrounds delivered on their promise – they let you play BGs with the team composition you want against really good opponents. You have to win the individual fights, you have to execute a strategy, you have to do it against an organized opponent. Yes, you’re going to have unbalanced matches. So what? Get stronger.

As long as PvP Ratings are a relative measure, players will work together to game the system and artificially inflate their ratings. The exploits I’ve discussed are just some of the ways that players are trying to get around the system.

Is this cheating? Yep, you better believe it. Creative use of game mechanics, my foot.

But while it unbalances PvP, it’s not a reason to abandon Arenas and Rated Battlegrounds.

Skill is not equal to rating. Skill can’t be gamed, it can only be acquired through work and talent.

Screw your PvP Rating. Focus on improving your skill instead.

If you do that, all the exploits in the world won’t matter one bit.

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Disguising Sticks as Carrots: the 6/16 Conquest Point Cap Update

The 4.2 Patch notes have been updated last night (6/16) with a dramatic shift from punishment to reward regarding the Conquest Point cap changes of 4.2.

The entire set of patch notes are below, with my comments following. Updated information is in red.

  • The minimum cap on Conquest Points earned per week from Arenas is now 1500 1350 at 1500 or less Battleground Arena rating. The maximum cap remains is now 3000 2700 at 3000 or more Battleground Arena rating. The cap continues to scale non-linearly between those two points. For comparison, during season 9 the cap ranged between 1343 and 3000.
  • The game now separately tracks different Conquest Point caps for Battlegrounds and Arenas. The cap for Arena rating will always be 2/3 of the cap for Rated Battleground rating at any given Arena rating. Battleground ratings receive a bonus of 22.2% to the cap they generate, meaning the cap from Battleground rating now ranges between 1650 and 3300. Players may earn a total number of Conquest Points per week equal to the higher of these two caps, but once players have reached the cap for either Arenas or Battlegrounds, they can no longer earn Conquest Points from that source. Conquest Points from Battleground holidays only count toward the total Conquest Point cap.
    • Example: During the first week of Season 10 everyone starts with a rating below 1500. Therefore, the cap from Rated Battlegrounds will be 1500 1650 and the cap from Arena rating will be 1000 1350. In the first week, the character wins enough Arena matches to reach the 1000 1350 point cap. After that point, Arena wins will no longer grant Conquest points for the week. However, the character can still earn up to 500 300 additional points, but can only earn those points from either Rated Battlegrounds, or from the Conquest Point bonus for holiday and/or daily random Battlegrounds. The following week the cap will be recalculated based on the character’s ratings, and it is possible Arena rating could now generate the higher cap. The second week, the character’s cap from Arena rating is 1600 1800, and the cap from Rated Battlegrounds is 1500 1650. The character has a total cap of 1600 1800 Conquest points for the week. Up to 1500 1650 points can be earned from Rated Battlegrounds, but the last 100 150 must come from a different source.

The situation remains essentially the same, with sticks replaced by carrots. The ratio is slightly different, the math is more complicated, but the design goals are identical to last week’s version.

Players are being encouraged to go to Rated Battlegrounds, and it has nothing to do with slowing down the rate of acquisition of gear.

Take a look at the changes.

  • The gap between Arena and RBG caps has been reduced from 33.3% to 22.2% across the board.
    • The gap for the lowest-rated players is now 300 Conquest Points, down from 500.
    • The gap for the highest-rated players is now 600 Conquest Points, down from 1000 points.
  • The Arena cap for high rated players has been increased 700 points.
  • Instead of phrasing the change as a penalty to the Arena cap, the change is now phrased as a bonus to the Rated Battleground Cap.

High-ranked Arena players now continue with a majority of their play in Arena matches, but will need to do some Rated Battlegrounds, Zulroics, or raids to get their remaining 600 Conquest Points.

Since there haven’t been any changes to the Arena Conquest Point per hour rate on the PTR, low-ranked Arena players are now able to gain gear at the exact same rate that they got it in 4.1. Unless the prices for Ruthless Gladiator’s Gear go up, there is no change to the absolute rate of acquisition.

If this was PvE, then this would all be a moot point. Gear increases are relative to a static encounter difficulty, so you can make the argument that you can choose to do, or not do, Rated Battlegrounds, based on the desires of your raid group.

But this is PvP. The encounter difficulty of PvP is entirely relative to other players. Players who play Rated Battlegrounds, even who play them poorly, will gear up faster than players who do not. 

Rated Battlegrounds are not giving out more Conquest Points relative to their current version. Rated Battlegrounds are not being made a more attractive investment of one’s time – but they are being made into a requirement to stay competitive.

The only substantial change in this update is psychological. The stick has been replaced with a carrot, but there’s still a stick there. Cutaia pointed out this morning that this kind of change worked well before with Rested XP – changing the model from “Tired = XP Penalty” to “Rested = XP Bonus” made it vastly more attractive to players. That the time spent leveling didn’t change wasn’t important – giving players a bonus instead of a penalty changed their behavior. Rested XP is a bonus!

But it’s also the speed at which you were expected to level with originally. Whoops.

Ignore the hands, people!

The challenges of moving players away from Arenas into Rated Battlegrounds are substantial. It’s hard getting 10 people together when you’re used to only getting 2-5. It’s hard when rBGs don’t have enough players to offer newbies a fighting chance. It’s hard when the coding has been broken, when the maps aren’t tuned well, when you need a very specific comp to be successful. It’s hard.

I appreciate that Blizzard is at least looking at the way in which this change is presented. I really do. It didn’t go down well when it was announced, Blizzard is obviously trying their best to fix the the queue problems in Rated Battlegrounds, and they have to do something.

But no matter how these changes to the Conquest Point changes get spun, their purpose remains the same:

Get players into Rated Battlegrounds at any cost.

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The Carrot and the Stick: Rated Battlegrounds and the Conquest Point Cap of 4.2

Ed: Please see my next post for the PTR changes of 6/16/11.

There has been a conflict brewing in the Arena community over the last few weeks over an upcoming change to the way Conquest Points will be awarded starting in 4.2. From the PTR notes:

The game now separately tracks different Conquest Point caps for Battlegrounds and Arenas. The cap for Arena rating will always be 2/3 of the cap for Battleground rating at any given Arena rating. Players may earn a total number of Conquest Points per week equal to the higher of these two caps, but once players have reached the cap for either Arenas or Battlegrounds, they can no longer earn Conquest Points from that source. Conquest Points from Battleground holidays only count toward the total Conquest Point cap.

This is a somewhat confusingly-worded note, but the intent is that there will be a fundamental change in the way Conquest Points are earned. The only way to reach the weekly Conquest Point cap will be through doing Rated Battlegrounds, not Arenas. You can get 2/3rds of your weekly CP through Arenas, then the remainder have to come from Rated Battlegrounds.

If you want to be competitive in higher-end PvP, you must play Rated Battlegrounds in 4.2. That’s the intent behind this change. All rated PvP is not equal. Zarhym writes:

So, as many of you are interpreting this change, it is to encourage more participation in Rated Battlegrounds. We see the fact that participating in Arenas is by far the superior way of obtaining top-notch PvP gear, in terms of time investment, as a problem. If you want to maximize your Conquest Point gains in patch 4.2, you’ll need to participate at least a little bit in Rated Battlegrounds.

We know this may not sound very appealing to those of you who have grown accustomed to spending as little as an hour a week getting the top PvP currency in the game via Arenas over the last couple of expansions. To put things in perspective though, the total number of items that can be purchased with Conquest Points today is much larger than what you used to be able to buy with Arena Points pre-Deathwing world explosion. And there is no longer a requirement to “grind” unrated BGs for Honor each season, so the real time investment isn’t changing as much as some players are perceiving it to be.

On top of that, the frank reality is that the total time investment required in season 9 to get all your points has been much, much too low, as you could do that from a few 2v2 Arena games each week completed in less than an hour’s time. It shows that Rated Battlegrounds are currently sub-par in terms of the rate at which points can be accumulated.

We do feel this change is necessary to keep the time investment vs. high-quality item accumulation in check, even if it doesn’t read well on paper. However, as always, your constructive feedback is welcomed. :)

This is an interesting response, because there are two reasons given for why this change is being made, not one.

  • First, to encourage participation in Rated Battlegrounds.
  • Second, to require more time playing to get high-end PvP gear.

The first one is obvious, but what’s interesting is that it’s not the focus of Zarhym’s post. Of course this is being done to motivate players into playing Rated Battlegrounds. But why? After the first sentence, it’s not mentioned again and the entire response is about the problem of time investment versus gear acquisition.

Doesn’t this strike anyone else as being a little odd? Give one reason, then talk about another one that’s not really related to the first?

Let’s say that the problem is that Conquest PvP gear is too easy to get – a problem that I’m not sure is a real problem, but I can accept it for now. It’s not even that it’s too easy, it’s that it doesn’t take enough time each week if you do Arenas. Put the problem another way: too many Conquest Points are awarded per hour in Arenas.

Okay! That’s a solvable problem!

When we’ve seen similar problems with Battlegrounds and Honor Points in the past, you know what Blizzard has done? They adjust the rate of points gained in a battleground. This is not rocket science – we’ve had several Honor Point adjustments when developers felt that it took too much time to gear up via Battlegrounds versus Heroics (patches 3.3.3 and 4.1 most recently, if my memory serves me correctly.)

The logical response to Arenas giving too many Conquest Points per hour is to reduce the number of CP awarded per match, not to send players into a different activity. I’ve seen many good, creative suggestions about how to handle this on the official forums and Arena Junkies. Any of a number of solutions could be implemented to increase the time per piece. In fact, Blizzard has already done this once before in Cataclysm, normalizing the CP per Arena win in 4.1 so it took at least 7-8 victories, regardless of bracket, to reach the minimum cap instead of 5.

First I’m asked to believe that the graveyard changes of 4.1 were an anti-camping measure, and now I’m being asked to believe that these changes are to solve the problem of Arenas awarding too many Conquest Points per hour?

I… I actually feel kinda insulted by this post. I never thought I’d say that about a Blizzard blue post, but … there it is. I know I’m supposed to take a page from the Vulcans on just about everything, but… really? Really?

You really expect me to believe this is about CP/hour?

THE PROBLEM OF RATING

I think there are numerous problems affecting Rated Battlegrounds right now. These problems drive players to disproportionately avoid rBGs and favor Arenas, which in turn causes problems since Blizzard must justify the development cost of Rated Battlegrounds. My hunch is that, much like in Tol Barad, Blizzard feels that the solution to these problems is one of scale, not design, and that by adding more people the problems will resolve themselves.

They might even be right.

Gevlon describes the underlying problem with Rated Battlegrounds when he writes:

Rated games have about 50% win rate. A bit more when you are underrated and a bit less when overrated, but after you reached your “real” rating, it’s 50%.

If you played rated BGs, you know it’s absolutely not true.

The objective of rated play is to determine ratings. That sounds silly to say, but I think it’s important to come out and say it. It’s not about being “better” or “harder” – it’s about putting quantitative measurements on people’s play, which in turn can elevate the level play with good matching. Ultimately, though, it’s all about assigning numbers.

In theory, every team (and player within that team) has a equilibrium that they’re moving towards, a rating that represents their true ability demonstrated over time. Players should converge on their real rating as they play, and – in theory – they should have a roughly even chance of winning against someone with the same rating. Through the crucible of rated play, your team’s measure is taken.

When it works, ratings can be a hugely compelling incentive towards playing Arena because they guarantee that you’ll win some of the time. You can pick up a new partner and after a few hours of play your rating will settle to that point of equilibrium. Once you’re through that initial period – and it’s often surprisingly fast – things will settle down and you’ll start winning about half of the time.

This is not the situation in Rated Battlegrounds. Team MMRs – the measurement of the overall team’s ability – are often wildly mismatched. And I’m not talking about 100-200 points difference – we’re talking 1000-1500 points variance. That’s just ridiculously unfair matching.

If we assume that the same matching programs are in use between Arenas and rBGs, then the problem isn’t that there’s buggy code – it’s that the finder slowly relaxes its standards until it finds a suitable match. Let that sink in for a minute. Assuming that it’s working correctly, the hugely imbalanced match was the best match it could find.

Which, in turn, means that there aren’t enough teams in the system, period.

At best, there are clusters of teams in the queue, grouped around certain rating points. At worst, the queue is empty enough that the clusters don’t exist, and it’s all about finding any match.

I expect that the truth is somewhere in the middle of those two extremes – the few teams that survive the initial beatdown get established, allowing them to rise a bit, which in turn lets them win against the hapless newbies. It’s a vicious cycle where the strong thrive and the weak are pushed out, causing fair competition to cease at the lower skill levels. (Oh, hi, Warsong Gulch 10-19 bracket before the twinks left. It’s nice to see you again.)

Cross-battlegroup queues was the first step towards solving this problem. Making same-faction matches possible was the next step towards solving this problem, as it effectively doubles the size of the matchmaking pool. Requiring Rated Battlegrounds to cap Conquest Points is a logical step in this progression.

As long as Rated Battlegrounds require a full raid group to enter the queue, this problem will bedevil the system. Twink battlegrounds have similar problems with population, but can draw from individuals queueing in addition to guild groups. Arena 2s and 3s will enjoy fairer matching (and more accurate ratings) than 5s or rBGs due to larger populations to draw from, which in turn is due to the relative ease of coordinating smaller groups.

Much like Tol Barad, Blizzard needs to do something to get people to play Rated Battlegrounds. If the problems are not simply technical, but rather one of scale and player distribution, then driving PvPers into rBGs is the logical solution.

Much like awarding 1800 Honor to the attackers for a victory in Tol Barad, I expect that this will work… in much the same way, sadly.

THE CARROT AND THE STICK

I think we’ll look back fondly on the problems we had with Tol Barad during the first few months of Cataclysm, because this change to Arenas is going to make the TB debacle look like child’s play.

I confess, I was nervous when Rated Battlegrounds were announced as part of Cataclysm. The idea sounded all well and good, but the devil is in the details of implementation. How would ratings be assigned? How would losses be handled? What would this mean for the current setup? I had dozens of questions without any answers.

- “Preparing for Rated Battlegrounds,” June 2010

I wrote that a year ago. Let’s take a look at some of the problems Rated Battlegrounds have had since launch.

  • Having both 10-man and 15-man rBGs proved to be very difficult to staff for, causing 15s to be underplayed.
  • 15s were cut to drive players into 10s, which removed half of the battlegrounds from rated play. This left only two types of games – Capture the Flag and Resource/Node Control – on 3 maps. (10-man Arathi Basin was added later to compensate.)
  • Compositions which dominated these two games – especially the 4-healer/1-tank teams in CTF – caused a very defensive type of game, necessitating major changes to all rated maps, which in turn affected non-rated play.
  • Wins were often not recorded properly, sometimes causing teams to lose MMR for a victory. Can you imagine going through the effort of putting together a 10-man raid, downing a boss, and getting penalized for it?

On top of that:

  • Due to a lack of players, inexperienced teams will usually find themselves facing far superior opponents. This demoralizes the new players while boring the experienced ones.

The devil is in the details. Any one of these problems might not be enough to cause a mass exodus from rBGs, but over time, they’ve whittled down people’s desire to play them. Looking at the list above, as well as the cross-battlegroup and inter-faction changes designed to bring more people in to Rated Battlegrounds, paints a rather gloomy picture of this part of PvP.

In Tol Barad, Blizzard used a carrot to get people to fix the problem of people not playing it anymore. By offering massive Honor Point rewards for winning on offense, they caused rational win-trading by masses of their playerbase, completely undermining the zone. They made 2 more changes to the reward structure before finally implementing the solution that actually “fixed” Tol Barad – change the game mechanics to allow for an easier final base cap.

The carrot got people back into Tol Barad, but it didn’t solve the problem.

It backfired pretty badly, to be honest. I’d be shy of offering carrots after that week, too.

So, instead of a carrot to draw people in to Rated Battlegrounds, Blizzard now offers us a stick. And make no mistake about it – this is a stick. If you don’t do Rated Battlegrounds, you will fall behind in Arenas. Instead of offering better rewards from rBGs – or poorer rewards from Arenas, which works out to the same thing – we get an ultimatum. Instead of making Rated Battlegrounds more fun than Arenas, we get handed a chore that must be done.

You will do Rated Battlegrounds if you want to cap Conquest Points each week.

Period.

THERE’S ALWAYS A BIGGER CARROT

Tol Barad has more incentives to play than Wintergrasp, but players are less enthusiastic about it. Rated Battlegrounds have more rewards than Arenas and normal battlegrounds, but participation is low. Conquest Gear is too easy to get, while Honor Gear is too hard.

What the hell is going on with PvP in Cataclysm, anyways?

It’s so strange to be writing about the problems with Rated Battlegrounds when, for me personally, Season 9 has been a blast. I have had so much fun screwing around in Arenas it’s not even funny. This is, admittedly, a very personal perspective – we finally have enough folks interested in Arenas in my guild that we have a definite PvP subculture growing. Some weeks are bad, but most are good, and the time spent in the Arena has been rewarding on a lot of levels.

I still think a lot about my motivations that led me to write Replay Value, and why it is I’d rather PvP than raid. Arenas play a large part of that right now; it’s more appealing to me, with a somewhat fractured schedule, to know that I can bang out my weekly cap in a night or two of play, no matter the comp I choose to go with. I hang out with my friends, we have fun, we win some, we lose some, we have fun. Bring the player, not the class, right?

All of these little carrots that Blizzard manipulates in-game help us justify our specific choice of activity – in-game. They guide us towards certain things that we want. If we want to be a respected PvPer, we’ll probably want a PvP title, so we’ll work towards it. Perhaps we want a cool mount to show off our raiding skills, or a title that shows how much we like Fishing.

But there are bigger carrots out there, motivations that have nothing to do with in-game bling.

  • Am I having fun?
  • Am I enjoying spending time with the people I interact with?
  • Do I have a sense of accomplishment for the work that I’ve done?

Sure, the loot is nice. Shiny purples make you feel like, damn, I done good. Having a character with accomplishments makes you feel better.

But what happens when something in game simply isn’t fun for people?

This is the biggest carrot of all that a game, any game, can offer – this is more fun than the other things you could be doing right now. Why are mobile games so popular? Because they’re more fun than just waiting around in line somewhere. You can play Angry Birds on your phone for a few minutes while waiting in line at the DMV. You can play Words with Friends while killing time at the coffee shop. You can play World of Warcraft instead of watching TV, to unwind at the end of a busy day.

Why are Arenas popular right now? Is it the easy loot? Sure, that’s part of it. But they’re also more fun than Rated Battlegrounds for a lot of players. When I took my casual PvE-oriented guild into rBGs for a night, we got matched up with teams way beyond our rating – and we got stomped. The next rBG night we begged and pleaded for people to give it another try – and got stomped again.

We haven’t been able to fill out a rBG team since. Arena teams? Yes. Regular battleground groups? All the time. But no more Rated Battlegrounds.

This is not an easy problem to fix. Rated Battlegrounds aren’t fun for those who aren’t already good at them, so inexperienced teams find themselves matched up against good teams who destroy them, which drives the inexperienced teams away, perpetuating the imbalance.

I find myself thinking about the bigger carrots more and more these days. Why did I find Wintergrasp so much more fun than Tol Barad? Why do I prefer Arena to rBGs? Are these little carrots even worth it anymore?

Having little carrots replaced with a little sticks makes me wonder about the bigger carrots.

THE PROBLEM OF MINIMUM COMPETENCE

I witnessed a fascinating exchange over Twitter a few weeks ago between members of a highly progressed raiding guild about Rated Battlegrounds. It went something like this.

  • GM: I’d like to put together a Rated BG team.
  • PvPer: Please make sure that the people on it are good, or we’ll get destroyed.
  • GM: Well, this is something that I think a lot of people are interested in.
  • PvPer: Seriously, people need a 1900 Arena rating, or this is a waste of my time.
  • PvEer: I was leveling a priest specifically to help fill out our PvP team, but since I don’t Arena I’m not sure why I’m bothering if that’s your attitude.
  • PvPer: I appreciate what you’re doing, but I’m also being realistic here. It’s not enough to have a priest. We need good players in every position or it’s not worth our time.
  • PvEer: Thanks for demeaning my contribution before I’ve even made it.
  • GM: I just wanted to have us run some rBGs, people.

Rated Battlegrounds are like raids in organization, time investment, and composition. You need to have certain roles filled, players need to invest time in getting appropriate gear, and players need to be able to execute their roles correctly.

They are unlike raids in that the difficulty of the activity will vary from encounter to encounter, and will never get easier – at least if the rating system is working correctly. You will go from getting your ass kicked all the time, to getting your ass kicked some of the time, to getting your ass kicked occasionally but still losing roughly half of the time. Raiding generally doesn’t work like that – you get your ass handed to you for a while, then you make progress, then eventually the boss goes on farm status and you move on.

The conversation I watched unfold on Twitter had two people arguing two very valid, but conflicting, points of view.

The first point of view is that you need to be good enough to play with us. Raiders already know this, and many raid teams enforce strict rules about who can raid or who cannot. If you ignore the labels, the PvPer was actually espousing a philosophy of minimum demonstrated competence – you have to put in the time to show that you can perform up to a certain standard before you get the job. You have to be able to run Heroics before you raid. You have to be able to play in the Arenas before you rBG.

The other point of view is that you need to value the contributions of the members of your team, no matter the level of competence. Dismissing someone’s effort of leveling another character to 85 and gearing it up for rated PvP play based on an arbitrary qualification absolutely destroys their motivation. The PvEer in question is an excellent raider with strong loyalty towards their guild, but without a lot of PvP experience on that character. By adopting the attitude that it’s a waste of his time if people aren’t already really good, the PvPer made his participation conditional on the PvEer’s performance – which is not good for building a team.

(As an aside, flip the roles around and see how this conversation applies to raiding. It’s a fascinating exercise.)

The problem here is that the bar for minimum competence in Rated Battlegrounds is high, because mediocre and fair teams don’t keep playing.

Guilds are in an awkward position here; many have preexisting raid teams of skilled PvE players who would like to try rBGs, but don’t have the same level of experience or commitment to PvP yet. They can’t even practice in regular battlegrounds to help gear everyone up – they can only hope to find a like minded group to war-game with, which is time fighting without improving even basic gear. PvPers in non-PvP guilds are in a similarly awkward situation, having to mentor and assist their guild in preparing for an activity not everyone signed up for.

The new guild system only exacerbates this problem. Guilds are tempted by the new achievement structure to expand their normal spheres of activity. Players are encouraged to do things in guild groups, further increasing the temptation to have guilds just try out things like Rated Battlegrounds – even if there’s not a solid PvP core. Players who want to both raid and PvP either have to find a guild which is a good fit on both, or consider splitting their time between guilds by having a PvP toon in one and a raiding toon in another – a hugely awkward solution.

I brought up this conversation because it reflects a real problem with Rated Battlegrounds – there’s not really any way to do them causally, unlike raiding. You can’t bang your head against them and make some progress. The content doesn’t get nerfed over time, things won’t get easier naturally. You never outgear your opponents, and the way things are structured now, you must have a good level of gear and competency across the team to have a chance. The similarities to the heyday of 10-19 Warsong Gulch twinking are apt.

The only way to make rBGs more accessible to casual PvPers is to lower the overall minimum competence required by flooding the system with weaker teams. Otherwise, the pool will remain populated by dedicated PvP teams who will crush aspiring teams as a matter of course.

I’ll let you try to find a good way to spin that inconvenient fact into a press release.

TAKE IT TO THE MATTRESSES

I keep coming back to that blue post about this change and wondering what the behind-the-scenes discussions are like at Blizzard regarding Rated Battlegrounds. Only they have the real numbers behind participation – only they can really tell if the amount of developer time spent on the key PvP feature of this expansion has been worth it. Are enough players playing rBGs to justify their cost?

The change to how Conquest Points are being awarded in 4.2 isn’t about slowing down gear acquisition; it’s an effort by Blizzard to get players back into Rated Battlegrounds to solve a number of problems that, upon due consideration, stem from not having enough teams distributed throughout the rBG system.

That’s okay. I can understand it. This is their business, and ultimately this is about their bottom line, not mine. I can be curious, I can have opinions about it, but let’s face it – my criteria for the success of a game (is it fun?) is different from theirs (is it profitable?). I can enjoy an activity that isn’t making the developer any money and call it a success. The popularity of Rated Battlegrounds, and therefore their profitability, is not really my concern.

At least it wasn’t, until Blizzard just made it my concern by affecting the fun I was having elsewhere.

There are things I care about as a customer of any product or service, and there are things that I decidedly don’t. I care about the product I get, the service I receive, and the price I pay. If you fail to deliver what I paid you for, here are some things I really don’t care about:

  • Your other customers.
  • Your internal problems.
  • Your bottom line.

This is just business; it’s not personal. I don’t care about your other customers if they’re taking away development resources on things I’ve paid for. I don’t care about your process problems which cause you to be 6 weeks late in installing a circuit, and then cause you to do it wrong. I don’t even care if you’re going to take a loss on the transaction. None of those are my problem.

Don’t get me wrong: I understand that problems happen, I provide goods and services too. I value long-term partnerships, and don’t throw them away because of isolated issues. I want us both to be successful. I want my partners to make money and have a profitable relationship with me.

But when someone says the reason they failed to deliver something they promised due to an internal problem, or due to other customers, I remind them that I don’t care about their problems. I care about my problem, which is that you failed to deliver on a promise!

And if you can’t fix it and make it right, then I will start looking to take my business elsewhere. It’s just business; it’s not personal. You screwed up, which I can forgive, but then you tried to make your problem into my problem, and I don’t forgive that easily.

It took me several days to realize that my reaction to Zarhym’s post was exactly the same reaction I have to someone telling me they’re going to have to limit services I receive due to process problems that resulted from, say, a reorganization, or a new product launch. And hey, prices are going up, too!

I was actually quite relieved when I realized this. Like, okay, I get why I’m pissed about this. Got it.

Why should I care that Rated Battlegrounds need more teams playing it? I enjoy playing PvP with the people I play with. We tried Rated Battlegrounds, didn’t enjoy the experience, so went off to play Arenas instead. It’s not a judgement call on the Rated Battleground product as a whole – it’s just that it wasn’t fun for me and the people I wanted to play with. Other people love them, which is great! But not us, not right now.

I like Product A, and have liked it for a while. But now, in order to enjoy Product A, I have to also buy Product RBG, which is more expensive, is more of a hassle to assemble, and takes longer to deal with. I can get Product A on its own, but I get less than I used to without Product RBG.

And this change is because sales of Product RBG are low. It’s a quirk of the product that if more people had Product RBG, it would probably be easier to use, which is arguably a good thing for the vendor.

But how is it good for me, exactly?

Other people’s problems are not my problems, and I don’t appreciate it when they try to make them mine.

THE PROBLEM OF SHUT UP AND DEAL WITH IT

I don’t think it’s my place to say if Rated Battlegrounds are a success or a failure. In my world, that’s a business evaluation that only Blizzard can really perform, because it really only matters to their bottom line.

As a player, however, I have to look at it and ask why I’m being asked to change my behavior. Why am I being asked to stop having the fun I’ve been having in Arenas and start having less fun in Rated Battlegrounds? Does it add up that this is really about slowing down gear acquisition?

I think that’s what bugs me the most about this change. I understand corporate logic; you can’t come out and admit that a game is not attracting players, because that’s a tacit admission of failure in the marketplace. That’s not going to happen. It’s dumb of me to rationally expect Blizzard to come out and say, “Rated Battlegrounds are not doing as well as we would like; not enough teams are participating, so we’re going to force our PvP players to participate – despite their unwillingness to do so to date.”

Yeah. Not going to see that in a press release.

But this is the second time that major changes have been introduced to PvP due to Rated Battlegrounds that affect other parts of PvP, and the second time that such changes have come out with misleading explanations. And much like saying that the graveyard changes were to prevent camping (when they obviously were not), saying that the changes to Arena Conquest Points are to slow down CP/hour is simply … wrong. Dishonest. It doesn’t hold up.

Come right out and say it: we need more teams participating in the lower rating levels of Rated Battlegrounds. That is the fix that’s needed. If rBGs are to have a chance at being successful in this expansion, more people absolutely need to be convinced to put forth the effort to give them a try, casually, to give the matching algorithm a chance to work.

There’s a little carrot called gear that’s being held out to PvPers to get them to play Arenas and Rated Battlegrounds. The stick is now there, too – if you want to stay competitive in Arenas, you’ll do your rBGs and like them.

I don’t expect this to change, and I don’t expect Blizzard to say anything more on the matter.

All I ask is that that we be honest about why this change is happening, and make our choices accordingly.

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Filed under Cynwise's Battlefield Manual

Battleground Changes in 4.1

Patch 4.1 is going to bring some substantial changes to battlegrounds. The patch notes are up in a relatively final format, so I finally feel comfortable talking about them.
Let’s take a look.

HONOR GAINS DOUBLED

The rate at which Honor Points are earned has been doubled.

Thank goodness for this change. When the new system debuted at in 4.0.1, we assumed that the reason Honor was so hard to grind was because we weren’t at 85. Once we hit 85, it became clear that no, it just took a lot of time to get gear.

Then Tol Barad happened, and … well… let’s just say that if you got gear during that week, your grind was short, and if not, it was long. It felt about as tough as the grind in mid-Wrath, before Blizzard adjusted it to take as much time as gearing up for Heroics.

This will be good for PvPers gearing up. It may have unintended side effects when combined with the new Justice Point conversions, however. We’ll have to see how it works.

Speaking of conversions…

PvP AND PvE POINT CONVERSIONS

Conquest Points are now purchasable from the Valor Quartermasters at 250 Conquest Points per 250 Valor Points.

Honor Points are now purchasable from the Justice Trade Goods vendors at 250 Honor Points per 375 Justice Points.

Justice Points are now purchasable from the Honor Trade Goods vendors at 250 Justice Points per 375 Honor Points.

I’ve written about this change at some length before. Good? Bad? Tough to say until we see how the Honor and Justice gains pan out; my guess is that regular Battlegrounds will be a great way to get DPS into Justice Gear.

FOCUSED/BRUTAL ASSAULT

This change is aimed at Flag Carriers in WSG and Twin Peaks, and is going to make their jobs more difficult with the aim of shortening games.

After 3 minutes of both teams having the flag, both flag carriers will get Focused Assault, which increases damage taken by 10%.

Every minute afterward, an additional stack will be applied to increase damage taken by an additional 10%.

After 7 minutes, Brutal Assault will be applied in place of Focused Assault. In additional to the damage debuff, this debuff also caps the player’s movement speed at 100%. The damage taken debuff works the same and will add 10% to the debuff up to a maximum of 100% damage taken.

My take on this is that it is directed entirely at rated battleground matches, in an attempt to make the matches move faster. A good FC/2-healer team can keep themselves alive for some time, which prolongs the match. Most of the changes we’ll see to battlegrounds have this theme – make it easier to attack, harder to defend. This will have interesting implications in all brackets.

It also is a direct blow to Druid FCs, as their speed in Travel Form helps them be superior flag carriers compared to other classes. Damage Avoidance will now be key, so expect to see Blood DKs and Prot Warriors as FCs even more often.

10 v 10 ARATHI BASIN

Arathi Basin is now available as a 10v10-player rated Battleground.

While this is going to be weird, it’s necessary to add some variety to rated play. Right now there are two CTF maps and one Resource map; this adds in a second Resource map.  With the loss of the 15s, there needs to be more variety in Rated Battlegrounds, and this helps quickly add AB back into play.

FASTER FLAG CAPS IN AB/BfG

Flags should now cap in 7 seconds, down from 8.

This is another rated change. By taking a second off of the cap timer, bases should flip a little more often, which would invoke new graveyard conditions and resurrection vectors, making for a more dynamic game.

GRAVEYARD CHANGES: BATTLE FOR GILNEAS

Players who die at a control point that they own will now be teleported to the next closest graveyard, instead of the one at which they died.

If a player’s team owns the Mine and Waterworks, and dies at Waterworks, they will be teleported to the Mine.

If an Alliance player’s team only owns Lighthouse, and dies at Lighthouse, they will respawn at their base.

If a Horde player’s team owns Waterworks and Mine, and dies at Lighthouse, they will respawn at Waterworks.

The simple summary is: you will always be sent away from the base you die at, no matter if you control it.

This is a substantial change to make this battleground more dynamic, designed to make node defense more difficult by sending the defenders away from the node (just like the attackers), allowing a larger attacking force to actually overwhelm a node, instead of having the resurrection wave of the defenders keep them up.

Look at the example they used above:

This is a departure from the Arathi Basin paradigm, where you resurrect near the node you are defending. Attackers will still need to fight at the flag, but defenders will need to coordinate reinforcements between nodes. Instead of stationary teams, you’ll have to constantly replenish each base’s forces.

In some ways, this is an anti-healer change. Stationing a dedicated healer at each node in the current design allows a defending force to keep the base. This change will send the healer away from the base, allowing the attackers more time to kill the defending DPS. Right now killing a healer only gives them a window of about 15-45 seconds to burn as many people down as they can, and that’s not much of a window.

I have a few questions about how the resurrection vectors will work in certain cases (what if Alliance controls Mine but not LH or WW, for instance? Do they go back to the spawn point?) but will have to see how this shakes out.

Keep in mind non-rated play will be affected, just like rated matches, so coordination of team strength in a PuG will be key to success.

GRAVEYARD CHANGES: TWIN PEAKS

More changes to the graveyards and resurrection vectors, courtesy of rated battlegrounds:

Players will now only spawn at their base graveyard when they die in the enemy base.

Defending players will respawn at the middle graveyard.

Midfield players will respawn at the middle graveyard.

Attacking players will respawn at their base graveyard.

This is an interesting change.

First, it’s interesting because it reminds me that I still haven’t finished my guide to Twin Peaks, but I’m seriously lacking the motivation to do WSG 2.0 when WSG 1.0 is still so interesting!

Also, it’s interesting because it’s very deliberately making it harder to defend your base and the FC. No longer do defenders go back to the base graveyard, instead they move up to midfield. Balancing that change, however, is a huge penalty to attackers – getting sent entirely across the map, instead of rezzing at midfield.

Here’s a quick and dirty diagram of how it will work:

There are two problems these changes are trying to solve.

  1. Defenders, and by defenders I mean defending healers, currently can get back into the base, and back to the FC, very quickly. This change will make it easier to take down the FC.
  2. Sending attackers back to midfield was an insufficient penalty, allowing a team that focused heavily on offense to weight the field towards the enemy base, causing a turtle. (Defenders would rez by base, offense maintains pressure to keep them there.) This change makes the field more dynamic.

Frankly, this is going to mean more fights in midfield, which given some of the TP turtles I’ve seen, might not be a bad thing. This fits in very strongly with the anti-defense theme we’re seeing in this patch, which might make rated battlegrounds more exciting – but it also might be like introducing nets to football.

One item of note – I don’t see anything about fixes to the Leap of Faith exploit some people have reported in Twin Peaks. (Priest dies, rezzes, pulls FC up to GY, FC can’t be killed.) Hopefully that will be addressed in this patch, too.

GRAVEYARD CHANGES: WARSONG GULCH

This is the graveyard change that will have the greatest impact on players, as WSG is available at level 10, while Twin Peaks and Battle For Gilneas only open up at 85.

The graveyards outside both bases have been lowered in elevation and are no longer on the same plane as the main flag room entrances to either respective base.

When this change was originally announced, there was uproar because of the context in which it was presented – as an anti-camping change. It’s not. If anything, it will make graveyard camping easier, not harder.

No, this is purely a change for rated battleground play, and it’s the first change where rated play is going to dramatically impact non-rated play, including leveling characters. Let’s take a look.

This is how the Warsong Gulch graveyard currently operates.

The GY is on the same level as the main structure, which allows for numerous vectors when characters resurrect. They can rush to the flag room to assist with defense (about 15 seconds), they can assist with graveyard defense (immediate), they can go to the balcony (about 18 seconds), or they can leap down to midfield.

The proposed changes moves the GY down onto its own level, like so:

This change eliminates a number of options from the GY, most notably going directly back to the flag room. Resurrecting characters will be unable to get back into the base without going down to midfield and then running around to the tunnel or ramp entrances.

I hate to say it, but this change is really targeted at healers in rated battlegrounds. Rated BGs should have 2-3 healers, and with the current layout, healers are only out of a FR defense for about 30-45 seconds. This change is to open the window of opportunity for the attackers to take down the FC once the healers are gone.

As for ganking? Well, this change actually makes it easier to camp the enemy graveyard, especially with multiple healers:

Place your ranged up top, your melee down below, and your healers out of range of the GY. Once in position, your healers are essentially untouchable, and your DPS can grind the opposing team until they give up. Contrast that with the current layout, where you can directly engage your attackers if they are on the same level, or retreat out of range of ranged attackers firing through the hill below you.

Don’t believe the hype. This change is not about graveyard camping.

This is the first change made for Rated PvP where I think it’s going to have a negative effect upon the non-rated battlegrounds, especially leveling battlegrounds. It takes away the strategic depth of the Graveyard and limits player choices to essentially two routes – back up the tunnel, or out into midfield on offense. The lowest, non-mounted brackets will find this a real challenge to get back to the flag room, which can often mean the difference between a cap and no cap when everyone runs at the same speed (except Druids and Shamans.)

I’m not saying this change shouldn’t be made; I don’t play enough rated battlegrounds to know if they’re too defensive right now or not.

But this is going to have impacts on lowbie PvP that might – and I stress might – make WSG a lot less fun to play. We’ll have to see.

RESILIENCE SCALING CHANGES

Resilience scaling has been modified for linear returns, as opposed to increasing returns. Under the new formula, going from 30 resilience to 40 resilience gives players the same increase to survivability as going from 0 to 10. Resilience now scales in the same way armor and magic resistances do. A player with 32.5% damage reduction from resilience in 4.0.6 should see their damage reduction unchanged in 4.1. Those with less than 32.5% will gain slightly. Those with more will lose some damage reduction, increasingly so as their resilience climbs.

I’ve posted on this before, as well – the stat will change so that the effect of the stat becomes linear, instead of the stat. Oh, just go read the post. :-)

Overall this is a positive change. This will improve the survivability of people with lower Resilience ratings. That first piece of PvP gear should feel like it matters. Improving survivability early on while gearing will be a very good thing.

The higher levels of Resilience will be less effective, though, but again – that’s probably a good thing. Too much Resilience can go to your head.

UNDOCUMENTED ENCHANTMENT CHANGES

These aren’t from the patch release notes, but rather a compilation of changes discovered on the PTR at TwinkInfo. To sum up:

  • BC enchants which require an item level of 35 will now also require a character level of 25. (This removes the +15 Resilience, +6 Stats and +150 Health enchants from the 10-24 brackets.)
  • Several items, like the Haliscan Jacket, have had their item levels lowered, so they can’t take BC enchants anymore.
  • Wrath enchants will now require a minimum level of 50. This impacts the 49 bracket significantly.
  • Netherweave bandages and higher will have level requirements.
  • MP5 enchants have been converted into Spirit enchants.
  • HP5 enchants have been converted into Stamina enchants.

Most of these changes will actually make it a little easier to make a new twink, removing the effectiveness of some of the grandfathered items. While I’m a little disappointed I can’t bust out my Inferno Robe with +150 Health on Cynderblock anymore, I’ll get over it.

(Thanks to Psynister for the tip on this one.)

OTHER CHANGES

There are a host of achievement changes in 4.1, mostly tuning and bugfixes. PvP trinkets and Every Man For Himself will get a new spell effect, Escape Artist is no longer sharing a cooldown.

But the changes above are substantial enough. The smaller battlegrounds are starting to feel the effects of rated play, and we may see more changes coming to other old favorites soon because of it. This is new territory for battlegrounds, which means it’s a little scary and exciting all mixed together.

Let’s see how it all works out.

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The Battle For Gilneas

The Battle for Gilneas is one of three new PvP battlegrounds introduced in Cataclysm. It is a relatively straightforward 10v10 resource match between the Horde and Alliance, set in the wonderfully gloomy atmosphere of Gilneas. There are three nodes to control – the Lighthouse (LH), Waterworks (WW), and Mine – and each node generates resources for your side. Each node has a flag you need to click and channel for a few seconds to capture. The more nodes you control, the faster your team gains resources. First team to 2000 resources wins.

If this sounds like a 10-man, 3-node Arathi Basin, well, that’s because it is. This is a half-court AB, designed to be fast and engaging.

Let’s take a look at the topology of the battleground.

If you haven’t seen one of my topological maps before, I go into a lot more detail in their original post, but the general idea is to only present the logical flow between objectives. Large circles are capturable nodes, small filled in circles are graveyards, and colored circles are graveyards which do not change control. Squares are important locations, but non-capturable. Terrain is pretty much ignored.

Looking at the map, calling BfG “a half-court AB” isn’t really a joke – it’s the AB map cut in half, with the Blacksmith removed. The three nodes are arranged in a rough triangle, with the Overlook in the center. Capture two of the nodes and hold them to win. Any two will do.

The Overlook is one of the more interesting elements of the Battle for Gilneas. It has no flag, no resources – but you can see every single node from it. This is something that sets BfG apart from AB – the ability to actually see every flag from a single point. In AB, at least two nodes are always hidden from sight from the absolute best vantage points (Farm, Lumber Mill, Stables). Not so from the Overlook. There is a tactical advantage to holding this spot, though it comes at the cost of not fighting near a flag.

The flow of this battleground is, thankfully, very linear. You are fighting within a triangle to capture nodes at each point. In the center is a vantage point that lets you see what is going on, but ultimately you will shift your team around the triangle.

The terrain in this battleground is really well done. While the flow of the battle is deceptively simple, the terrain is varied and forces you to become acquainted with the numerous choke points and obstacles between each node. A river cuts through the southern part of the map, encircling the Waterworks, but is not a huge impediment. The area around the Overlook is full of gullies and ridges, perfect for funneling your opponents into traps and area of effect spells.

Like with any other battleground, I encourage you to just run around on the map and see what it’s like. You can experience it without the thrill of combat using the new War Games feature.

WINNING THE BATTLE FOR GILNEAS

Fight at the flag!

I am absolutely serious about this: you want to win, fight at the flag.

I am amazed at how many people I see who have apparently forgotten how to fight at the flag in my short time in this battleground. The attackers let themselves get pushed away, intercepted before they ever come close to capping the node. The defenders let themselves get lured away down the road to the Overlook, until half the team is fighting over a piece of land that only has intelligence value, while the node gets capped behind them.

That kind of behavior doesn’t fly in Arathi Basin, and it won’t fly in Gilneas, either.

Get to know the terrain. If you’re attacking, use the buildings around the various nodes to mask your approach. Approaching from the Water Works seems to have more cover than the Overlook. Get between the flag and the graveyard and force the defense away from the flag. Make it so the rezzing defenders have to go through you to get back to the node.

Defense, intercept them away from the flag, but then fall back and do not chase. Don’t get caught up in the thrill of it all and let them sneak around to cap the undefended node.

Reinforcements arrive quickly in BfG, so call out incomings early, often, and as accurately as you can.

If this all sounds like the strategy for Arathi Basin, well, that’s because it’s the same strategy. First to 2000 points wins, after all! The smaller team and map size makes for some pretty intense fights around the flags, with everyone having to contribute to succeed. But it’s basically the same game.

I like the Battle for Gilneas. It’s taken many of the good qualities of Arathi Basin and Warsong Gulch and combined them into a fun game. It fills out the 10v10 bracket nicely, a nice addition to the smaller format that formerly was limited to Warsong Gulch. The rules are familiar, but the map is all different, which makes for an interesting and fun experience.

Just remember – fight at the flag!

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Upcoming Changes To Rated Battlegrounds

There have been a few changes announced to Rated Battlegrounds that caught my attention recently:

  • The 25v25 bracket has been removed.
  • Rated Battlegrounds will use Arena rules for consumables and Engineering items.
  • BG Teams of 80% or more guild members will earn experience for their guild.
  • The number of Conquest points you can earn each week is based on your highest PvP rating.

We’re still 3.5 weeks out from Cataclysm’s launch, and I expect things will keep changing over the next few weeks.  And to be honest, these changes make me ask more questions than are answered. But, still, we can adapt to these changes pretty easily.

The 25v25 bracket has been removed, making it much easier for people to organize consistent, solid teams.  I think 17-20 players is still the magic number for a good, solid core, as that gives you the ability to swap people in and out based on the needs of the week, but having 8-12 won’t be a bad thing either.

The biggest question I have about this is: what happens to Alterac Valley now?  Will it remain a 40v40 contest, or still be reduced to 25v25?  While I am personally hoping they keep it in its current incarnation – it is far more accessible to casual PvPers than Isle of Conquest – the change to 25 would make it easy for a 25-man PvE raid to run an AV in between wipes.  With the removal of the 25s bracket, that no longer seems to be a possibility.

I confess, I’m a bit depressed by the ruling that Rated Battlegrounds will follow Arena rules on consumables and Engineering items.  That means no Swiftness potions, rocket boots, parachute cloaks.  That also likely means no nets from Tailoring, too, so those excellent PvP professions will have their utility diminished in Rated BGs.  You may be better off having other professions with static bonuses, like Blacksmithing, Enchanting, or Jewelcrafting, ready to go instead.

This ruling isn’t totally unexpected – it allows for a consistent fighting experience between the two ranked events (Arenas and rBGs) – but I do lament their loss.  Being unpredictable in a fight is one of the keys to winning, and professions are an excellent way of doing that. My biggest question is, will they take these rules and apply them to non-rated Battlegrounds, too?

I haven’t been following along with the guild changes too closely, but letting Rated Battlegrounds grant guild experience if 80% of the members are guild members seems a mixed blessing.  When coupled with the removal of the 25v25 bracket, this means if you have 8 or 12 people in your guild join a BG, you’ll get guild benefits from it.  If you don’t, it’s not a big deal.

But is it?  I mean, this is a discussion that goes way beyond just Rated Battlegrounds; if some activity awards something, then there’s incentive to pursue that reward. You can choose not to follow that incentive, but it’s still there.  The guild experience awards create an interesting problem for players and guilds alike; do you try to create an organization that participates in all different kinds of activities together, or focus on one type of activity and excel at it?

I know that my personal situation is influencing my thinking here. Most of my characters are in a casual raiding guild; I very much enjoy the interaction there, but more people are interested in raiding and running randoms than in PvP.  Will our guild have enough interest to make PvP night a viable option? Will other guilds be willing to take good puggers over fair guild members?

I don’t know how this is going to work out.  The changes to guild cultures that guild experience will bring are pretty far reaching, but I’m not saying they’re bad – just that there will be a lot of changes.

What surprised me most out of all the tidbits in that blue post was the news that your weekly Conquest point cap will vary based on your highest PvP rating.  This makes sense, I guess?  I hadn’t really thought about relating the two together, but I suppose that if you let people do well accumulate more points you encourage and reward them for doing well – and set a minimum threshold for just showing up.  Maybe it’s because I’m not really all that interested in ratings (which is an entirely different post), but I think we’ll need to understand the scale and scope of this one before passing judgement.

In my previous post on Preparing for Rated Battlegrounds, I mentioned that I was nervous when they were first announced.  I’m still nervous about them. Adding in the pressure of guild experience has actually made me more nervous, not less.

It’s fine; I’m a patient sort.

Let’s see how it all turns out.

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Preparing For Rated Battlegrounds

I confess, I was nervous when Rated Battlegrounds were announced as part of Cataclysm. The idea sounded all well and good, but the devil is in the details of implementation. How would ratings be assigned? How would losses be handled? What would this mean for the current setup? I had dozens of questions without any answers.

We have more answers now than we did then, and while there are still many, many unknowns, the shape of Rated Battlegrounds is starting to coalesce into something we can have a conversation about.

So what do we know so far?

RATED BATTLEGROUNDS ARE A RAID, NOT A RANDOM

The defining feature of rated battlegrounds is that they will require you to assemble a full team, like a raid. You don’t have to be in the same guild, but you will have to assemble your team before you head in. You can’t do this on your own.

In other words, rated BGs require a premade.

This shift mirrors the current PvE philosophy, where you can queue for dungeons and heroics solo, but raids require a group. The new reward system (which I’ll talk about later) reinforces this separation, giving the highest tier of points to raids, rated BGs, and arena, and a lower tier to heroics and regular BGs.

What does this mean for us?

  • Playing in rated BGs will require a network. We have to start expanding our friends list to include good PvPers who can fill out your team, much like finding good tanks and healers.
  • Don’t wait; start joining premades now. This is the best way to learn how to work together as a team, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and expand your network. Even partial premades will teach you a lot about working as a team.
  • Start making guild plans now. If there is interest, consider creating a guild BG Leader position to organize and lead PvP teams. Just like raid teams need a raid leader, rated BG teams will need organization and leadership.

BATTLEGROUND SIZE MATTERS

A corollary to treating rated BGs like raids is that the size of your team will dictate which battleground you fight in, not your preference or random chance. So if you have:

  • 10-man: Warsong Gulch, Twin Peaks
  • 15-man: Arathi Basin, Eye of the Storm, Strand of the Ancients
  • 25-man: Alterac Valley
  • 40-man (unrated): Isle of Conquest, Battle for Gilneas

Alterac Valley is currently a 40-man bg, but in Cataclysm it will become 25-man. I wondered about this when it was announced, but in the context of Rated BGs are Raids it makes sense. AV will become the 25-man raider’s battleground of choice. It’s a brilliant move by Blizzard – they needed a BG that 25 man teams could run, so why not take the most PvE-like one and make it available to them? This way both 10 and 25 man raiding teams can hit the bgs on off nights or after a raid. AV is going to remain a popular BG because of this change.

The biggest problem I see is that it appears not all rated battlegrounds are going to be available at all times.  I’ve seen conflicting posts about this.  Some say that they will have a featured battleground, much like the old Holiday Weekend BGs, that will offer extra points and help consolidate players into a single queue.  This would be ideal for constructing dedicated teams.  What would be less ideal is having only a single rated battleground queue available at one time and rotating between them, which would require some tough staffing decisions.

My hunch is that a core of 15 players is going to be the team size of choice for serious PvPers.  This gives you access to 5 of the 6 rated battlegrounds, with the flexibility of pugging for Alterac Valley.

Here’s what this means to us.

  • If you are a raider, get familiar with WSG and AV now, and TP when Cata hits. Your guild may want to run these three as a warmup to a night’s raid, as an alt run, or as a regular event. Rated Battlegrounds will be an easy way to pick up gear and gems, help with guild leveling, and with the new currency system can contribute to PvE gear too.
  • PvP teams should try to size themselves to run 15-mans consistently. That gives you 5 bgs to rotate through on a regular basis, and puts AV within reach with server pugs. When a few folks are out the 10 mans are still available, and if you have 20 you can split into two 10s.
  • If you are practicing or learning BGs, get the basic achievements now. If people start asking for credentials to get into pugs, which I don’t like but am sure it’ll happen, you should at least have a Victory under your belt.  Veteran (100 wins) of a battleground will have a lot of weight, and Mastery of that battleground will make you a hot commodity.

We’ll have to see how the queues are really implemented before we can plan our teams out.  Having a flexible roster, rotating people in and out through the night, splitting teams, and getting good puggers will all be important skills of your guild’s battleground leader.

NO RATING PENALTIES FOR LOSING

We don’t know much yet about how ratings will be calculated, but we do know that losses will not lower your rating. This is a very good thing.

If you join a team that is struggling, it doesn’t lower your rating. You can try out different combinations, experiment with different strategies, and be a social networker without it affecting your score.

I’m really encouraged by this. By removing the penalty of failure, Blizzard makes it easier to bring casual PvPers into the game and makes losses more like a raid wipe. Imagine the opposite scenario: what if raid wipes caused loss of your raiding ability or standing, say by destroying gear?  Other games have incurred that sort of penalty, but we’ve thankfully moved on in WoW.

Speaking of gear…

GETTING PVP GEAR

The PvP gear grind in Cataclysm continues the trend we’ve seen in Wrath of consolidating tiers in both PvP and PvE , with PvE moving towards a point-based system.

In short:

  • Hero (PvE) and Honor (PvP) points will be the low tier, easier to get rewards from normal battlegrounds and dungeons.  There will be a cap on how many you can own, but no cap on how fast you can earn them.
  • Valor (PvE) and Conquest (PvP) points will be the high tier, harder to get rewards from raids, rated battlegrounds, and Arena.  There will be both a cap on how many you can own and how many you can earn in a period of time.
  • You will not be able to stockpile Valor and Conquest points between seasons/raid releases.  When a new tier of gear comes out, your high tier points will convert to lower tier points.

So far, these changes unify the two systems and honestly don’t introduce a lot of changes in how you gear for PvP.  Regular BGs will give you honor points to get started, and Rated BGs/Arena will give you top end gear.  A nice benefit is that you won’t lose your Arena, er, Conquest points when a new season comes out, but that they’ll convert to Honor points instead.  So you can go buy gems or something.

About that top end gear:

  • Personal ratings will no longer be required for top-tier PvP Armor.  (And thank goodness, since this was a huge barrier to participating in Arenas.)
  • PvP weapons will be divided into two tiers, equivalent to those gained by raiding on normal or Heroic difficulties.
  • Normal PvP weapons can be purchased with Conquest points and no minimum personal rating.
  • Heroic PvP weapons can be purchased with Conquest points and require a minimum personal rating.

Removing the personal rating requirements for PvP armor is huge.  HUGE.  This levels the playing field between players for both Rated and Arena play.  The rating requirements on armor in the current system created a self-perpetuating gap between those with it and those without; this removes that dichotomy nicely.  Keeping the rating requirements on 3 slots (instead of 12) means that the rating will reflect more on your skill than on you outgearing your opponents.

The caps discussed above are welcome changes to PvE, and already familiar to PvPers. We’re used to having the Honor Cap (and hitting it all the time).  Having to spend those Triumph badges means I’ll have to finally buckle down and either get those last few heirloom shoulders, a bevy of heirloom trinkets, or … what, Crusader Orbs?  (I assume I can turn them into cash somehow.)

The other cap, a cap over time on the Valor and Conquest points, are in place to limit the amount of upper tier gear you can get in any given week.  Ghostcrawler described it as making the system “less grindy,” which I think it does.  Once you’ve hit your cap for the week, you’re done.

No word yet on if PvP gear will be available in Tol Barad, the new PvP questing zone, like there was in Wintergrasp. Crafted PvP gear, however, should be quite good at the start of Cataclysm.

STATISTICS CHANGES

The stat changes in Cataclysm are huge.  Dizzying.  Some stats are going away, others are going to be used differently… here’s where we still don’t know enough to make good plans.

One thing we do know, though, is that there will be more Stamina on armor.  A LOT more.  Health pools are going to increase in relation to damage output, which is great news for battlegrounds.  Burst damage in PvP has been a problem throughout Wrath, and a slower pace will be a welcome change.

Interestingly, the place where I’ve seen this slower pace the most has been in the level 19 twink bracket, where health pools are also huge in comparison to the damage done.  If you want to get a feel for how Cataclysm battlegrounds are going to play, visit that bracket.

CROSS-BATTLEGROUP BATTLEGROUNDS

Battlegrounds, rated and unrated, are going to pull players and teams not just from your Battlegroup, but from all servers in your region.  This should even out the queues and give you someone to play pretty much all the time.  It should also erase faction imbalances within a battlegroup, which is freaking awesome all around.

My only concern is with latency, as this potentially adds another leg between you and your opponent (between your server and theirs.)  There are a lot of technical ways around that, though (moving both clients to a neutral server, peer to peer, etc.) so it remains to be seen if this has any impact on actual play.

And for twinks?  This makes freezing your experience viable again.  No more destination battlegroups!  If you want to try experience-capped brackets, but don’t want to change servers, now’s a good time to start making a twink.

BATTLEGROUND SCRIMMAGES

Blizzard calls it “war games mode,” but that makes me think of a nice game of chess, so I’ll call it scrimmage mode.  Scrimmage mode lets you challenge other teams to a battleground fight.  Faction doesn’t matter.

The experience and feedback you can get from this is invaluable.  Set up two 10-mans and run Warsong Gulch or Twin Peaks — and then compare notes.  Who did what well?  Who did what poorly?

Scrimmage mode — fine, WAR GAMES mode — is going to really be a powerful tool.

Even if it makes me want to play chess.

GUILD LEVELING

Guilds will progress in Cataclysm, gaining perks and… other… stuff?  as their players do stuff with the guild.  The details are kinda fuzzy, but one thing is clear — PvP will contribute to guild leveling, hopefully on equal footing with PvE.

If there was a case to be made for harnessing your guild’s latent PvP tendencies under a guild Battleground Leader, this would be it.  Do PvP with your guild, help the guild level.

Seems like a good thing to me!

(Now if only we knew more about what those levels actually do…)

CASUAL BATTLEGROUNDS ARE STAYING

The most welcome news to me is that causal, non-rated battlegrounds aren’t going anywhere.

I like being able to log in after a hard day of work and relax in the battlegrounds.  I don’t want to stress out about it, I just want to PvP to unwind.

And I still can.  Thank goodness.

CATACLYSM IS COMING

Right now, each week seems to bring us news on Cataclysm: new changes to classes, professions, game mechanics. A lot of it seems to be a tease, something to keep players interested as Wrath winds down.

But enough information has come out now that you can start taking steps, even simple steps, to get ready for Cataclysm’s inevitable release.  You can start thinking of battlegrounds as a group activity instead of a solitary one.  You can start networking with other PvPers in your guild an on your server.  You can start putting together premades, or even found a PvP guild.

Rated Battlegrounds are coming.  In a few short months, they’ll be here.  When they were first announced, I was nervous.  Now?

I can’t wait.  Bring ‘em on.

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