I was originally going to post this article on Skill-capped. After some deliberation, I decided it would be better suited for AJ. I needed something meaningful for my 1000th post on this website. Even if you don't read this entire post, try and think about what you REALLY value in PvP. Consider what makes you happy and what makes you feel rewarded. The future of WoW PvP rests in the ability not to create balance, but instead to make the game into a rewarding and enjoyable experience.
I've mentioned countless times in threads and on social media that WoD PvP feels scripted. My attitude is not uncommon. Plenty of other players have also expressed feelings of redundancy in gameplay. Overall, enjoyment of PvP seems to be at an all time low. While quantification of player satisfaction is often difficult to guage, the drop in sub numbers--down to a point in which Blizzard will no longer report them--suggests that less and less people are enjoying World of Warcraft. The goal of this article is to show how the scripted feeling of PvP and the lack of rewarding gameplay has contributed to the growing sentiment that PvP is not nearly as fun as it used to be.
What IS the Script?
I should first explain what I mean by 'scripted.' In order to do this, consider how a script works. A script is a series of relationships between conditional statements. A conditional statement is a simple if, then relationship. Here is an example of how this 'scripted' PvP paradigm might play out in an arena match:
-If the enemy Mage uses Polymorph, then I will use Counterspell
-If the enemy Mage is Counterspelled on Polymorph, then I will use Polymorph.
While this may not seem damaging at first, consider the fact that nearly all of the important decisions we make during an arena game revolve around this algorithmic way of thinking. For every enemy action, there is an optimal player reaction that is determined by the 'script' of PvP. For every matchup, there is one optimal strategy. This makes winning feel significantly less rewarding and meaningful. The script makes arena wins feel less like an experience full of ingenuity and creativity and more like persistent, monotonous labor. If you know exactly how a game will play out, your experience will ultimately suffer.
As an aside, there is one thing that we often shake our fists at in PvP. Although we tend to hate RNG, it is the only thing that interferes with the normal operations of the script. Consider an arena game where two teams perfectly matched. They have exactly the same gear, play on the same latency, and have the exact same strategy. Assume that either team will try its absolute best to score a kill while preventing deaths of its own teammates. Under these conditions, what would determine the outcome of the match? It would have to be RNG! If one team gets a series of critical strikes or multistrikes at the right time, it will allow the match to deviate from its harmonious scripted balance. I should add that RNG (and specifically critical strikes) actually contribute to our enjoyment of the game. Oftentimes players will suggest removing crits from the game. Doing so would be damaging to our enjoyment of gameplay. While it may seem meaningless, scoring critical strikes is one of the most intrinsically satisfying elements of gameplay. We love seeing the big numbers. We are enamored by our own ability to deal damage that lights up as slightly bigger font on our screen. I am not kidding. Big numbers feel better, and in a game we are wanting to feel good.
Holinka's Pacing Argument
Recently, PvP developer Brian Holinka posted on Twitter that the average length of games during the World Championships was five and a half minutes. Loosely veiled behind this metric is the idea that PvP is improving because the duration of tournament games is getting shorter. It is true that spectators want shorter games. During Cataclysm and especially during Mists of Pandaria, many players argued that tournament matches were exhausting to watch. It was quite common in MoP to see two wizard cleaves battle it out for 10-15 minutes in a series that could potentially last five games. All in all this provided for a very boring viewer experience.
The problem with this argument is that the pacing does not matter if the match itself is painfully predictable. If you carefully watch the final series between SK-Gaming and Skill-Capped, you can see just how repetitive the game is during its 5.5 minute average duration. Every 30 seconds, Skill-Capped's RMD does the following things:
-Uses either Bash or Cheapshot on SK's Warrior
-Cyclones SK's Warrior
-Kidney Shots SK's Shaman (the kill target)
-Deep Freezes SK's Druid
-Polymorphs SK's Druid
While there is some degree of variance to how this setup is executed, the fact remains that every 30 seconds the RMD is doing exactly the same thing. So in a five minute game, you can expect the same exact thing to happen over and over and over until SK-Gaming makes a mistake or Skill-Capped falls to the attrition of dampening. And by all means, I'm not blaming either team for playing the way they do. For the most part there is no flexibility with either team's strat. I had the opportunity to talk to Healingstat (Skill-Capped's Druid) and I asked him why they never tried to kill SK's Warrior despite him sitting in Battle Stance for the majority of the game, sometimes without a PvP trinket. His reply was that they had played thousands of games against each other and that the 30-second setup strat on the Shaman is the only strat the consistently works. In other words, deviating from the script of going Shaman is utterly futile. There is no point in playing creatively because it does not win games. (I should add that I also heard that Boetar raged at Joefernandes for intervening a Blind because he "didn't know what to trinket." If there is anything that grossly reinforces the script, this is certainly it.)
Bring Back Reward
Of all the things that threaten WoW's ability to remain the most successful MMO of all time, its the fact that the game itself feels unrewarding. While I feel like the script has definitely contributed to this, there are numerous other examples in which gameplay itself does not feel like a rewarding experience. One instance of this is the conversion of many abilities into passive perks and set bonuses. Nature's Grasp was removed from the game and instead turned into a set bonus connected with use of Barkskin and Ironbark. Cold Blood was also pruned and converted into the four piece set bonus for Assassination Rogues. The real damage of pruning is that it left many of its removed abilities into mechanics attached to other spells. Two abilities became one. Two globals became one. Passives are not fun in virtue of being passive. You do not actually perform them--they just happen. Mages don't look at their Flameglow reducing damage and say, "Man, this is awesome!"
Another gross example of unrewarding gameplay is the conversion of many hardcasted damaging spells into instant cast burst abilities. Ice Nova is an ability that not only removes 50% of your root control, but also tunnel visions gameplay into managing two charges of a boring spell. Casted spells always feel better than instant casts. Hard casting involves risk and should result in high payoff. While I do think the class has some deep seeded balance and design problems, Destruction Warlocks are a perfect example of well-balanced risk/reward. Chaos Bolt is a long cast time that deals large damage. When it successfully lands, the Warlock feels like they have done something that required diligent effort. Compare this with the feeling of using two Ice Novas. There is little to no risk (outside of breaking CC). The ability is pressed and the damage is dealt. End of story.
The Hybrid Problem
While this has been an important point of discussion for ages, something needs to be done to address the strength and role of hybrid DPS in matchups. Hybrid healing was gutted for Balance Druids, Shadow Priests, and Elemental Shamans but still remains a problem for Feral Druids, Enhancement Shamans, and Retribution Paladins (perhaps WW Monks to an extend as well). These physical DPS classes are able to provide instant cast heals to themselves and their partners and are able to maintain high damage AND healing throughput over the course of a 3v3 match. There is no good reason that an Enhancement Shaman should be able to do 20k DPS in a game while also doing 10k HPS.
Although he is one of the most controversial posters on this site, Bilian's PvP video continues to be one of my favorite PvP videos of all time. The RMP clips remind me of a time where gameplay was creative and each player made unique contributions to scoring kills.
BigmoranMember Since 28 Apr 2012
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