Honor system revamp and world PvP

Second batch of comments about the latest news on WoW’s upcoming expansion. This time about the changes to the Honor system and some more details on the “world PvP” that should also have a decent role in the new zones.

The first concern is that with the Arena’s rewards outclassing those coming from the Honor system, the role the latter will have in the game will have to be reconsidered. The impression I get is that Blizzard is trying to somewhat differentiate more the game on playstyles, in the sense that the Arena and Honor system will become two different, alternate paths that will become available in the hope of making everyone happy.

The “casual” player who ranted endlessly along these two years against that horrible Honor system will have it made more accessible, with the Honor points converted into cumulative currency (with the hope that they will also drop the “decay” over time) and where all the rewards are “eventually” reachable with enough persistence, while the “competitive” player will be contented with the Arena system that is going to work as a ladder based on “skill”, so again as a direct answer to what the players have asked for so long.

Initially I was thinking that they were going to use the ladder and calibrated matchmaking system even for the BattleGrounds and the Honor system, but after delving in all those details I have examined about the Arena system, now I’m more sure that they are aiming to keep the two separated exactly to split those two playstyles:

– One about time invested (the revamped Honor system unified with the faction)
– The other giving the illusion of “skill” (the Arena/ladder system)

With the second more selective and where the better rewards will be. So the two paths will be still alternate and aimed at two different types of players, but they won’t prefectly overlap since they are going to fit two different purposes.

See this lame graph I quickly made:

From the left to the right you have the progress and desirability of the reward, near the left there are the rewards more accessible but also weaker, while on the right you move toward the best ones, but also available to less and less players. Both “types” of players will be able to toy with both system but the very best rewards will be only for those at the top of the ladder in the Arenas.

I think Blizzard’s goal in this case is about maintaining the status quo, where only a very small group has access to the best gear, while the large majority of the players sit at the bottom of the pyramid and have a very hard time to move up from there, but with the difference that this time the top of the pyramid will be based on a ladder system built around that ELO rating system. So not anymore rewarding those players who grind the BGs every day at an insane level.

From THIS perspective the changes are good. Because the insane timesink that was the Honor system will be replaced by another quite awful timesink, but that is at least viable. While the Arena system will be based on a weekly ranking system that will measure the PvP performance instead of directly the “time wasted”. So in both cases the PvP will move away from that crazy incentive to never log out the game to not risk to drop in the ranks.

Our goal was not to create a system that involved a massive amount of time investment, it’s counter to all of WoW’s designer philosophy. We’ve never been focused on trying to be a time sink. Our PvP system in its current incarnation is very much like that, so what we’ve done is design a new PvP system that will go live with The Burning Crusade.

What is to still consider is that most people look at the Arena system as something widely accessible, while instead the truth is that it will become the higher-end of the PvP system, the most selective and hardcore.

With all these changes and the split between Honor system and Arena system I suspect that they’ll streamline the first, that now is divided between faction rewards and Honor ranks. With the Honor points transformed into “currency” their purpose directly overlaps with the way the faction grinds work (both become grindy exponential progressions). The underlying mechanic is the same so it’s possible that they will unify them into one.

The Honor points will become generic “currency”, while the factions will offer an incentive to play in every BGs instead of grind points in just one:

The Honor System will be a system where you gain honor points a lot like you do today, but you then just use those honor points as a currency, effectively. That will include items that were previously earned through reputation. We’ll kind of roll those into the Honor System, and it will also include a whole lot of new equipment for level 60 to 70 and beyond

There will be no more ranks in the honor system but those that have been participating will be able to keep anything they’ve earned to date including titles and equipment. The hope is also to encourage players to move between battlegrounds by having some equipment cost basic honor along with specific honor won in different locations.

Summary, with some guesswork:

– Honor points being converted into currency
– Ranks removed from the Honor system and migrated to the Arena/ladder system
– All current PvP rewards merged into one pool of items where each has a different cost
– Faction points being converted in BG-specific Honor points

So even if the items won’t be anymore ranked and will be unified into one pool, they’ll still be divided by BG, where to get one you have to spend some “generic” Honor points along with some “specific” Honor points you get from that BG. My guess is that the “specific Honor” is just going to be the new form of faction points (they said that they were going to revamp even the faction system, but no details yet), so with items requiring Honor + Faction points.

My opinion about the whole thing changed a lot while I was delving more and more details. Initially I was positively impressed, then disappointed when I figured out the way the Arena system was planned and finally went back to reconsider my critics after I placed every element in its place. I think that the plan they have is at least an improvement on the current situation. The Honor system was just stupid and it is being unified with the faction system, hopefully offering a better granularity for the rewards, instead of having to grind for months to just get a piece of armor. After all the juggling the system is more bearable. Still, it’s kind of weak for a PvP system, because they aren’t really tapping on what makes PvP fun in a virtual world.

But given the rules WoW currently has and pursues, overall the changes will work out better. So from a “functional” point of view they are okay. Then we can criticize the merit and the overall model used. For example I think the Arena system, will get EXTREMELY boring, redundant and repetitive. Since it will be highly competitive, after the initial popularity I believe most players will figure out they cannot compete and let the catasses to catass it. That’s what happened already with the Honor system: most people don’t bother.

What is important is to remember what the players really complained about. No, it’s not because they all want purple items and they want them be easy to reach. It was just because outside the PvP grind and the raid endgame there wasn’t much to do in the game. There weren’t “worthwhile alternatives”.

So it’s important to look at all this from the correct perspective. Instead of insisting on the fact that even after all the changes the best items will still fall in the hands of a small minority, what is important is to figure out if the “endgame” that comes in the expansion will offer something that is “worthwhile” even for the casual player. That is fun, that is rewarding. Whatever. Something different from what the game offers now.

People are interested into things to look forward to. This is why we read the previews. Because there’s some delusion about the current game and people are interested to know if in the expansion there is something for them.

In the case of the PvP we’ll see three different models. The Arena system on top, highly selective, with the best rewards dedicated to the most competitive players, then the Honor+faction system, nudged back and sitting on the lower end, with the usual structure in BGs. And then the “world PvP”, the one with “no reward” beside the fun you can get.

Sadly you can see how the last one is the one with the best potential, and still it’s the one completely irrelevant from the “function” in the game. It’s here that we enter in the merit of the problem. Essentially all these changes to the PvP system don’t add or transform much. People already ignore the Honor system just because they cannot compete, the Arena system will be somewhat more fair and practicable since it will depends more on performance than time, but what we’ll see will be just a slight shuffle of players. Some of the players who couldn’t compete in Honor system will have the possibility to compete in the Arena system, and at the same time some players who could compete in the Honor system, won’t have a chance in the Arenas.

Some players will move in, some out. My point is: for the great majority of the players things will remain unaltered.

The Arena system by definition will only interest (still seeing at things strictly from the functional perspective) a very small number of competitive players. So it won’t change the life in the game of the masses, the “world PvP” still has no reward (so again put aside for now), so what is supposed to have the significant impact on the playerbase is the Honor system. Even if we have ALREADY that system active in the form of faction rewards. So where are the changes?

There are two. The first is the hope that the Honor system rewards will be also revamped, so that they will require less of a huge timesink. The progress from one faction level to the next is way too spaced out, and it’s really a quite bad incentive since you see the reward too far away to look appealing. As we know these kinds of games are fun when the rewards are well-paced, frequent. If between an armor piece and its upgrade you are required to grind for three months full time then you can see how the system will still suck greatly. Here the problem is mostly about having to rely just on gear for the PvP rewards, so it’s more a structural flaw in the concept of the game.

The second is that, even if the Arena system will “matter” for a small number of players, it should still serve perfectly the purpose of the “time waster”. Without caring much about the loot to get at the end, the players could just like the cheap&quick fights in the Arenas. Even if you suck in the ladder system, it can still become a great way to kill time between an instance and the other, or group with a few guildies and have some quick, mindless fun. The idea of using very small teams and cross-faction matches is a great one because this will remove the queues and possibly have these arenas “always on”.

After all the players already duel all the time outside of the capital cities. The Arena system will become for many just that kind of low-commitment environment. In a game so strongly focused on “progress” and “investment” this could be a minor detail. But I suspect that instead it’s exactly because it will be so easily accessible that it could become truly popular and a phenomenon on its own. Again not because of the reward, but just because it’s a kind of casual playstyle within a broader game. With the big guys fighting for the carrot, while everyone else fights for the low-commitment fun.

A place where to go to “chill out”. Between a “serious” game session and the other. So the strength of the arena system will be in the fact that it actually LACKS a purpose. Instead of the big carrots at the end.

Let’s recap. We’ll have an Arena system with a double use. Where most of the players will go just to chill out and have some quick, mindless fun after an instance and the other, while a small minority will play it as an highly competitive environment, then we have the Honor system and the various BGs, which basically remains unaltered from what we have already in the game and where the players will farm points to get the loot. And finally we have the “world PvP”.

For the fun and the glory. But with no rewards.

Here is where I have some ideas that go in the exact opposite direction of what Blizzard is trying to do. To begin with, I would instantly remove forever the Honor points outside the BGs, so that the game goes back to that model I loved.

Then I would convert the “PvP objectives” in each zone to fit in the system I was suggesting to replace the current one. Flag those PvP objectives as “hotspots” and then reward Honor points for each kill the closer it is to the Hotspot. So that the PvP action can actually converge on those points and achieve three major goals:

1- Discourage ganking (no points if the kill happens far away from a PvP objective)
2- Leave relatively alone those who don’t want to be bothered (avoid the PvP hotspots)
3- Plug back the “roleplay” and “choice” into PvP (explained two links above)

Sadly this won’t happen and we’ll have to continue to deal with an half-assed implementation of world PvP. Exactly that part of the game with the most potential and that is instead the most deluding.

Some of the ideas they have about the mechanics and purposes are good. The point is that it’s the overall scheme to suck.

We also want to get world PvP flowing again in WoW. A lot of players missed it, so every Outlands zone was designed with a major PvP objective in mind.

All of the zones in Burning Crusade will include objective PvP areas. One of those was in a lush green zone we had our first chance to get a look at today called Nagrand. Smack in the middle of the zone is a neutral town that can be captured for the Horde or Alliance. The owner of the town will have access to merchants that have items unavailable anywhere else along with some other bonuses.

More interestingly, the gameplay surrounding the zone will involve stations set up on the four bridge entrances into the town. For instance, if the Horde holds the town, the Alliance will be able to set up griffon towers that players can use to fly across the town (on a rail) and drop bombs onto the NPC guards and enemy players. Attackers will have to aim and blast what they can quickly because defenders can run across the bridge (without dying of course) and click on the towers to knock them down. Once the NPC guards have been killed the town can be captured in the same way that flags are captured in Battlefield games.

See, these idea about the specific gameplay sound quite fun, the problem is the context.

Sadly the world PvP directly overlaps with the purpose of the BGs and this situation could be solved only with a more radical approach. So let me dare:

1- Remove those fucking diminishing returns on the Honor points, they were retarded since the very beginning
2- On the PvP servers only give Honor points in world PvP, nothing in BGs

Then the Honor system can be kept separated. From a side we have the “faction” rewards that are specific for each BG. As per the official description above, each reward will have a cost divided into “generic points” and points gained in that specific BG.

On The PvE servers, you would gain Honor points BOTH from fighting in a BG and in the world PvP. While on a PvP server the “generic” Honor points would be gained exclusively in the world PvP, while you would get in the BG instance only those points that are specific.

This would have the positive result of making the world PvP much more viable and popular on the PvP servers, while the cross-server BGs will also prevent the population in the BGs to thin out.

At the end this step MUST be done. On the PvP servers or it’s one or the other, you cannot support both. If there isn’t a purpose in the world PvP, people will just ignore it. Because after the initial burst everyone will still pass the great majority of the time closed in an instance. And that’s the death of the world PvP.

You need a reason to bring them out. The world PvP has the potential to be more fun, varied and compelling than just farming points endlessly in a BG. I think it’s time to valorize this part of the game and also offer it a role.

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