Foreword: please read the entire post before commenting. I was a little bit too quick to post it, and as a result of adding ideas and thoughts to it, it's now a little hard to follow: I start with an example before explaining the main problem (inductive reasoning). All the important stuff is at the end.
Ever since WotLK ended, I've had the opinion that the problem of WoW PvP is not balance, but the systems. In fact, the things I'm going to talk about have always been in place, I just didn't notice them because I enjoyed random battlegrounds, skirmishes and 2v2 up until Cataclysm. I don't want to make this a nostalgia thread or a rant on bringing back skirmishes, but a few words have to be said about skirmish: reintroducing skirmish arenas, with the way the game has evolved since they were last active, would be a stupid decision. Back in WotLK individual skill was a much bigger factor than it is today - this is both due to developer decisions and players getting much better in these 4 years - arena is all about team synergy now, individual skill doesn't even fascinate anybody anymore. A single player just won't be able to make enough of a difference on his own to make it fun in the slightest, perhaps with the exception of one or two specs, and I'm not even going to talk about the obvious problem of team compositions and how predictable it will be. If they are reintroduced in the original implementation, people will play them for a short while, and then it will just be another dead area of the game.
Let's forget about the other PvP modes for now and focus only on arenas - it is a little game of its own, there's nothing that feels or plays quite like it, and it has a community of its own.
A huge problem with the arena system is that there is only one, ranked, mode. I believe it applies to everybody, or at least the vast majority, that you're not always in the mood to play serious, to play to win. And I believe every arena player has been in a situation where you wanted to try playing with some other people or your friends - just for fun - but couldn't due to being locked to their "serious" team. The real reason people want skirmishes back is because arena players simply don't have anything to do when they're not in the mood to play serious, or when their team mates are offline, or whatever other reasons not to play ranked. Ever noticed how many people buy Arena Pass just to be able to mess around without putting their live ratings in danger? it's always a very short sparkle of interest, because AP isn't really that good of a solution, but it's a good example of what people want.
And so, why not do the obvious thing, the thing that exists in several other super popular games?
Give it a a matchmaking system to match equal teams, but no ladder and no statistic tracking at all. No need for teams too, just let any party of 3 queue for it, even cross realm parties. Characters will still have MMR attached to them, and the average of that MMR will be used for the party - imagine it as if a temporary arena team is created. It just won't matter, it won't give rewards, it won't be displayed on the UI, the matchmaking system will extend its search range a lot quicker (aim for 2-3 min queues tops, even at the cost of equal matchups), and there will be no competition based around it. An organized skirmish, that's exactly what it should feel like.
Firstly, this will be a less serious environment to play in for the veterans, a polygon to run new teams or just play for fun, something you can queue any time of the day carelessly, something you don't have to commit to. And secondly, this would be a wonderful thing for new PvP players. It's just like the real thing, but without the pain of losing; I know people who tried arena, sucked due to being new, and never touched it again because they just kept losing. WoW arena has a very steep learning curve at least due to the amount of information you need to memorize and get used to before you really feel like you understand what's going on, being put straight into a competitive environment makes it that much harder; on top of that, gear is a much bigger factor than it's ever been, but let's discuss this another time.
Now, since I've touched the subject of new players... Let's go back to the real world where PvP isn't just arenas. The general consensus on AJ is "who cares about random BGs", but it is so much more important for the game overall than people think. Random BGs is the first place people unfamiliar with PvP go to, not only because of gear, but because it's the only type of PvP you can queue solo for. This is where they get their opinions about the PvP side of the game, and do you honestly think it's a good one if every second active poster here is botting, and some of you even actively support it? If I continue this subject I'll have to repeat myself a lot from an earlier thread about honor and battlegrounds, but key points were: the honor grind must be shortened A LOT, it's totally wrong that getting starter PvP gear takes so long; winning/losing shouldn't be as important as it is (random is random); and botting should be at least risky and more complex to use than it is today.
Another problem with the systems is how weird the matchmaking system is. Why do you sometimes not get a high rated team from your realm that you KNOW is queueing, and instead get 10 min queues into a team 700 rating below you? Why do you sometimes experience the opposite and get the same team 3-5 times in a row when you KNOW there's other teams queueing, and you even have to sit and wait for them to finish their game when they bump into somebody else? Why do battlegroups still exist even though it's been many years since it's possible for cross battlegroup matchups? all battlegroups do now is slow down queues for everybody and give out free rank 1 titles from 5v5 shares. Why does it take years to fix an exploit in the RBG MMR system, an exploit that people made thousands of euro on, and even humiliated Blizzard by making 5000 rated level 1 characters for the purpose of advertising? Why do RBGs have a much, much better effort:reward ratio in a game that's based entirely around character/gear progression? RBG is easier for the individual player and gives everything that arena does plus more (higher cap), that's wrong on so many levels. Imagine how all of this mess looks like to new players.
It is the oldest and ugliest system in the game by far, it's had so many things built on top of it and patched that it's just an archaic abomination.
There's so many great ideas out there. It doesn't even have to be unranked mode - that's just my take on it and an idea I haven't seen discussed before. Think about weekly challenges/tournaments with rewards - regular 100k gold tournaments would be intense. Introduce observing, at least in ghost mode like on a certain private server, but preferably more like the 5.2 Brawl (can keep it tournament-only). Introduce a best-of-3 mode for it, and allow it to be used in wargames.
Think about getting rid of end of season rewards completely. End of season rewards only promote cheating and boosting by now, and their value as an achievement of skill diminished to the point they're almost irrelevant. You could replace them with the aforementioned tournaments, or do other things like temporary per-season achievements that turn into FoS (f.ex. a new Arena Master per season, Flawless Victor, 2.2/2.4/2.7 per season). You know how fun it is for new players to get a RBG achievement every 100 rating they advance? Imagine if Arena had something similar, and you got Gladiator at say 2.5k, Duelist at 2.2, etc. And the seasons are really short so it doesn't get stale - you don't NEED TO introduce a new title and set of gear every single season.
Think about reintroducing 2v2 in some shape or form (f.ex. with a healing debuff, because right now healer/dps vs healer/dps is impossible), with rewards or achievements to it, especially something for the newer and less experienced players - 2v2 is actually one of the greatest and easiest ways to learn other classes as well as a great way to pass time when bored, it solves nearly every problem I mentioned here.
The way PvP works right now doesn't allow new players to enjoy the game. This is my entire point with this post. The biggest and most important reason that arena activity is dying is that old players are quitting, but no new players are picking up WoW PvP because it sucks to play with randoms and tank down to 1k rating on your first session. There is no "entry level" in WoW PvP, you're thrown straight into ranked 3v3 where you get crushed by people fully geared and most likely with years of experience because WoW PvP hasn't really attracted players for years. THIS is what needs fixing, and it's much more important than balance.
I'm not saying that balance is irrelevant, but no matter how good and balanced the game will be, it will never attract new players if the systems stay the way it is. There's a couple of very good changes in the patch - they fixed gear progression, which was the reason S12 had half the active teams compared to S11 (despite being a fresh expansion), and they also listened to our complaints about rating decay - we haven't even fully acknowledged how huge that change will be. Ultimately I'm making this thread in hopes to motivate them to work the PvP systems more, I imagine it's an easier task than balancing and is more useful at the same time.
Most of these won't even require too much developer work hours, and they won't affect PvE or other parts of the game. You can stick with temporary title rewards or gold and it'll be just fine for us, don't waste your precious developer time on tabards/mounts/pets. We just need a bit of your programmers work hours. Please make PvP fun again.
JontepMember Since 06 Nov 2012
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