Saturday, December 29, 2007

Making raiding more like PvP

In World of Warcraft there are people who like PvP very much, and rarely participate in the PvE endgame. And there are people who like PvE much more, and rarely do PvP (me, for example). And between these two small groups there is a much larger group of players who like both, and whose decision to do one or the other is often influenced by relative ease and reward of the activities. Which means that many of them are currently doing PvP, because once you done an initial tour of the non-heroic dungeons, it is easier to advance your character further by doing PvP than by doing heroics and raid PvE. Yesterday we discussed one of many proposals to nerf PvP. So lets have a look today at possibilities to make PvE more attractive to balance it out against PvP.

If you look at the epics you can get by PvP, they aren't better than the epics you can get by raiding. So why do so many people prefer PvP? There are three reasons: Less organizational effort, a guaranteed minimum rate of return, and choice of rewards.

You do not need a guild or group to participate in battleground PvP. You just sign up, and a group is being assigned to you. The deserter's debuff prevents people from cherry-picking the optimum group. If you really don't like the group you have been assigned to, you can afk out, but then you won't be able to rejoin another battleground for 15 minutes. And the whole PvP battleground is likely to last only around half an hour anyway. So people learn to live with suboptimal groups. With the opposition often having a suboptimal group as well, it isn't as if having a bad class mix is dooming you to failure. Arena PvP needs a bit more organizational effort, but not all that much. You can still log on, see if other team members are logged in, and organize a quick arena battle on the spot. You need far less people than for a raid, and you don't have to worry about lockouts. PvP is much easier to organize than a raid.

The more controversial feature of PvP is the guaranteed minimum rate of return. You don't need to actually win in PvP to gain something, you get a certain amount of points just for showing up. Show up often enough and you can get some reward even if you never killed a single opponent. PvPers have pointed out that getting a full set of arena epics while losing every battle in 2v2 would take 66 weeks, which is longer than one arena season, so the mythical "dancing naked in the arena" team doesn't exist. But if you are part of a 2v2, a 3v3, and a 5v5 team, you *will* have several epics at the end of a season, even if you completely suck at it. Even more problematic are the "leechers" in battlegrounds. It seems the reporting tool of Blizzard isn't efficient enough to eliminate those, I still hear from guild mates that up to half of the people in Alterac Valley end up with no damage dealt and no healing done on the final scorecard. Youtube has videos of guys tinkering contraptions that press keys on their keyboards repeatedly to avoid going afk, and it takes only a tiny amount of effort to hide somewhere else than the starting cave and avoid getting reported. This part needs some improvement from Blizzard, so that people that put in a honest effort and lose are still rewarded, while those who don't even try don't get anything.

The rewards in PvP come in the form of points and badges, which you can hand in for a reward of your choice. [side-rant: a reward of your choice unless you are a tank. My warrior just collected spirit shards, which you get from doing Auchindoun dungeons while your faction is controlling the towers. When I finally had enough to hand them in for a helmet, I found out that of the three plate helmets there are, one is for dps warriors, and the other two are for paladins. I was told that this is the same for other PvP gear you get for honor or arena points, there is no tanking gear. Presumably because tanking gear is so essential for raiding, and tanks aren't useful for PvP. But it annoys me that I don't even get the option to PvP for rewards unless I respec.] If you ever tried to get a complete set of raid epics, you'll know how big an advantage the ability of choosing your reward is. In raids you get random rewards from a loot table, and you can end up with no reward at all even if you have the most successful raid and clear out the whole place without a single wipe.

So how could we change dungeons and raids to be more like PvP and regain popularity? Obviously we need to give PvE the same advantages of easy organization, and guaranteed rewards of the player's choice that PvP already has. Players need to be able to queue up for a raid and get assigned to a pickup raid, just like they are assigned to a pickup group for battlegrounds. Of course that necessitates "easy mode" raid dungeons, for example in a system where the current difficulty level is labeled as heroic, and an easier "normal" difficulty is introduced in which a pickup raid group has actually a chance to kill a boss. This is simply a question of number of trash mobs, respawn rates, amount of health the mobs have, and for how much damage they hit. Creating an easy copy of a raid dungeon like Karazhan is very easy by just fiddling with these numerical parameters. Once we have that, Blizzard only needs to introduce the queue system for raids, making sure somebody in the raid group can tank and somebody can heal. And of course they need to remove the lockouts for the easy mode raid dungeons.

Once our automatically formed pickup raid group is in the easy mode raid dungeon, they should get "raid points" for every trash mob they kill, and "raid badges" for every boss. There shouldn't be any epic loot drops, just points and badges, which then can be handed in somewhere for epics. To prevent leechers, the pickup raid group should be able to kick out people by majority vote. But otherwise sticking with the raid group you have been assigned to should be encouraged by the same deserter's debuff system that battlegrounds have. How many times you would need to go pickup raiding, how many points and badges you'd need for what reward has to be balanced against the effort to reward ratio of PvP. But in the end you should have a choice where gaining similar epics from PvP and PvE should take comparable effort and time.

And yes, that would change the face of raiding completely, it would make raiding accessible for nearly everyone. Which is actually the big advantage of the system. The "old style" raids could live on in the form of heroic raids, but at least everybody would be able to see the various raid dungeons and experience the various raid boss encounters.

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