Tol Barad: Winning as an attacker now rewards players with 1800 Honor Points, up from 180. Winning as a defender still rewards players with 180 Honor Points.
It’s interesting because while it doesn’t address any of the problems with the mechanics and rules of the battleground, it directly addresses the problem of motivation. Winning Tol Barad on offense is now the single highest Honor Point per minute activity in the game, bar none. Winning it on defense is as good as it was before, and losing it from either position still nets you nothing.
From a software developer’s point of view, I totally get this change. Compared to fixing the code around capture mechanics or victory conditions, a quick change to the reward structure is easy to implement, test, and deploy. It doesn’t preclude further work on the code to address the fundamental problems with the mechanics of the battleground.
But messing around with player motivations is a tricky, tricky thing.
If you’re gearing up for PvP and I offer you a choice between grinding out a dozen battlegrounds for a piece of gear (random BG finder), or a single one with some conditions (Tol Barad), you’re going to go for the single one. Would you rather spend 4 hours getting that gear, or 20-30 minutes?
The rational answer is, of course, the latter. But – and here’s the kicker – it’s only a rational choice if you meet all the conditions. And the conditions now include which side you’re on, not just if you win or lose.
Consider how you can spend those 30 minutes:
- You can attack Tol Barad and take it, hitting the jackpot and getting 1800+ Honor.
- You can defend Tol Barad successfully and get 180 Honor.
- You can run maybe 2 random battlegrounds. Let’s say you win one for 120 Honor and lose one for 40? So there’s 160 Honor.
- You could fight and lose the battle for Tol Barad, gaining nothing.
- You could go do something else and come back later.
If you zone in to Tol Barad on offense, the decision is dead simple: fight. Fight for all you’re worth!
But if you zone into Tol Barad on defense, you’re now facing an interesting choice. It’s because you aren’t considering just this battle, but the next one too.
- If you stay and fight hard and win, you get 180 Honor this battle. You’ll also be able to get 180 Honor the next battle, too, if you hold it.
- If you stay and fight, but lose, you get no Honor, but you get a chance to get 1800 Honor the next battle. But you wasted 20-30 minutes of your time now in doing so.
- If you throw the fight, surrender Tol Barad quickly, you have a good chance to get 1800 Honor the next battle, while spending none of your time now. You can go run some random BGs in the meanwhile.
If you only look at this battle, staying to defend makes sense. If you look at your overall Honor gain, though, throwing the battle and surrendering on defense is the absolute best strategy. It’s an interesting twist in that it benefits both sides to pursue this tactic, allowing Tol Barad to change hands every single battle, giving everyone equal access to the zone. The rewards for winning when attacking are so unbelievably good that both sides can see the obvious advantage to this arrangement.
By motivating attackers to win, this fix has also motivated defenders to lose. Tol Barad should no longer be held by one faction exclusively, which is a good thing. A very good thing, even!
But it’s at the cost of the heart and soul of the zone: the battle itself. When a game is set up so that one team should throw it in order to maximize their returns, they will do so, and it will cease being a game. There’s no competition, no struggle, no motivation to win. It becomes a meaningless, empty, and brutal ritual.
I think we’ve just found the price at which a battleground can be bought.
January 4th, 2011: The attacking side now gets 360 Honor Points, down from 1800. From Zahrym’s post:
While the goal with that change was to provide more incentive for the attacking forces to claim victory, it ultimately led to an undermining of the spirit of competition in Tol Barad. We’ve just applied a hotfix which has lowered the attacking faction’s gain to 360 Honor Points for a victory. The defending faction will still earn 180 Honor Points for a victory.
This is about as good of a change as Tol Barad could hope for at this point. It still convinces people that there is some value in attacking, without giving people a reason to trade wins.
I don’t think this is the final state of Tol Barad. There are numerous problems with the structure of the battleground that keeps it from changing hands very often in a balanced environment. But those will take time to fix.
In the meanwhile, I’ll go back to ignoring this island a little while longer.