Rated Battlegrounds – A Golden Opportunity Missed

I can count on a single hand the number of times that Blizzard has announced an upcoming feature for the World of Warcraft where the implementation plans of said feature has me scratching my head and wondering “what could have been”. Unlike some failed new game mechanic implementations such as voice chat or meeting stones, the upcoming new rated battlegrounds have such potential to further enhance the Player verses Player experience on so many levels. Unfortunately, new details recently released regarding how these new rated battlegrounds will actually operate has tempered my anticipation and left me with so many questions along with feeling a high level of frustration and disappointment.

First let me detail just some of the key points of these new battleground mechanics for those that are interested.

* These new rated battlegrounds will support 10v10 and 15v15 brackets. It is important to note that the 25v25 bracket support that was initially announced has been scraped.

* The rated battlegrounds will require manually creating a “pre-made” before queuing into the system. This can be done within your guild and/or by utilizing the global chat channels to find players (in much the same way as PUG raids are formed).

* Honor scoring will be similar to the new Arena honor system

* No solo queuing

* Teams consisting of at least 80% guild members will receive bonus honor

Okay… so where do I start with my disappointment? I will try to divide my frustration into two facets; the mechanics of creation and scoring and the incredible missed opportunities and narrow focus of this “new” system. Let us start with the mechanics. Why and for what purpose would Blizzard not allow a single solo player to queue into a team for rated battlegrounds? If your answer is the “for the same reason you cannot solo queue into an Arena team” then you need to keep reading because the system is inherently flawed as I will explain.

I suspect that the development team might, at least in part, state that they feel solo players who queue together with the same mechanic as the regular battlegrounds, will be at a disadvantage to those who actually create a rated “pre-made” and that there would be little to no difference between these rated battles and the normal battlegrounds. While I concede that this is indeed a valid assumption, my response would be “so what?” and I would add that they would only be similar because you took the easy road in the initial design by not including differentiators (more on that in a moment). The short answer is fix both systems while you are in development mode.

No one, least of all me, is going to argue that a pre-made is not the best option for victory. A fact that any seasoned PvP fan can verify. However removing what might be the only convenient option for a not insignificant portion of the player base only means that elitism and prejudice (read the “gear score” mentality) will continue to run rampant. Blizzard has all but admitted that the Arena system, in its current form, was a mistake. So it seems to be that the fine folks at Blizzard should do a little history reading on George Santayana (yes I am going to make you Google it).

If Blizzard allowed players to queue solo there would be no shortage of players on both factions using this feature and as such, these more “random” teams could be paired up against one another. If the development team wanted to really get creative they could implement a system that matched up teams based on scoring that accounted for not only item level but also the number of players that joined “as group” or even how many belong to a single guild and/or server.

Let us delve into this for a moment. Just think about some of the great and creative matchups that could exist this new system. Not only could the system pair groups of pre-mades in similar gear – much like the way the dungeon tool works now – but in addition we could see for example, a 10v10 bracket matchup with an Alliance pre-made team consisting of 10 guild members in say level 270ish gear going up against a random Horde group of solo participants that are rolling in with 290ish gear (remember this are level 85 battle grounds so the gear will be increased). That might put to bed the question of which is more important; gear or coordination and logistics. Obviously skill becomes the “X-factor” here but there is a sweet spot to be found and the potential matchups are almost limitless.

As we now move on to discuss the missed opportunities, keep in mind that this new system has an incredible potential to really change and enhance the genre by making the mechanic more accountable on a personal level while also building a system that rewards performance, dedication and activity. Anyone who has spent any time in a BG or remembers the old days, can recall with extreme prejudice and disdain the AFK infestations, fishers and just flat-out leaching of honor that the system inadvertently rewarded so many players while penalizing the hard-working with unjust team losses.
What I speak of specifically is the way scoring will be done with no innovation whatsoever despite the potential here being enormous.

The new system could reward and incent the diligent and dedicated while weeding out those that look to game the system or watch Netflix while playing. This would be incredibly easy to do with some minor scoring changes. I will provide an example with Eye of the Storm for demonstration, but keep in mind that there are number of similar or even better ways to do this, however the concept is the same and could be applied across maps.

* Increase individual bonus for carrying flag to tower
* Award individual bonus honor for taking a tower
* Award individual bonus honor for recapturing a tower

Pretty self explanatory here. If you capture the flag, take a tower or recapture YOU should be rewarded with some extra bonus. The team still benefits as well.

* Award individual bonus honor for a kill (based on damage not final blow)

I am not sure if killing blows are part of the existing equation, but while they are great to display as a stat they should have no bearing on scoring. We have all done 90% of the work before only to see a well timed strike from a teammate result in a lost killing blow.

* Award a slight end of game modifier of bonus honor for top X in DPS
* Award a moderate end of game modifier of bonus honor for top X in healing
* Award a  end of game modifier of bonus honor for defending a tower

The differentiators. I tire of all the complaining that someone who has worked his or her butt off to be a killing machine and damage dealer does not deserve a bonus for their hard work, gear, ability and time invested. There should of course be other routes available to say, my protection spec warrior who will NEVER top a scoreboard in damage done, but can hold off 3 or 4 guys until the Calvary comes. On the other side of the equation we have healers who have long suffered from any lack of incentive in PvP. A good system will reward the “best” of the game in a number of areas with incentives to keep getting better.

* Apply a moderate end of game penalty modifier to bonus honor based on a lack of damage or healing
* Reduce group honor for honorable kills

If however you are not very good yet because of gear or skill, then you will still gain some honor but not at the same pace as those that have carried the battle. And if you are trying to game the system or just lazy then a good system will make it so that it is “not worth” the effort (or lack thereof).
At the end of the battle, a modifier will be applied to each individual based on all the factors above (and maybe some I have not even thought of) and honor will be awarded accordingly.

Lets look at a hypothetical example:

Base Honor for a WIN: 100
Base Honor for a LOSS: 25

Player A: Leads scoreboard in damage, captured a flag and netted 65 honorable kills. His modifier might end up being 1.25. His team won EotS so he gains 125 bonus honor plus above and beyond his in-game individual honor.

Player B: Also on winning team but decided to semi AFK most of the fight. He stayed at a tower most of game and was thus awarded some defense honor but ended up at bottom of damage/healing done. His modifier equates to .65. Based on his win he still gets 65 bonus honor. Not perfect but an improvement nonetheless.

Yes these are hypothetical scenarios and certainly open to argument (as is about everything in the game). But do not fall into the trap of thinking what we have now is satisfactory and could not be improved upon. It is one thing to not revisit a mechanic due to other priorities, but it is wholly another to add an entire new mechanic and to just copy over the flawed system. If rated battle grounds were deemed worthy enough to add to the game, then they are worthy enough to be done correctly.

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