Archive for January, 2011

Cataclysm PvP… A Catastrophy… A Follow Up

Posted in General, MMO, PvP, World of Warcraft on January 29, 2011 by Armada

The amount of mail that I received in response to the Tol Barad PVP issues raised in one of my recent blog posts was staggering, divided and passionate. Similar to opinions of Hillary Clinton or Sarah Palin, the polarization is decisive and clear, there is no middle ground. While I certainly expected the passion both for and against my stance, I was surprised at the number of people who apparently took advantage of the exploits and but maintained that they did so to make a stand, to protest and to enact change… really?

Have you convinced yourself yet?

I can only imagine since I did not partake in the exploit myself, that this justification is nothing more than a thinly veiled excuse used to convince a range of exploiters that what they did was right. To be fair, I do want to make one additional point. I suspect that a not insignificant percentage (but not the majority) of those engaging in this abhorrent behavior are not the same cheaters we see AFKing every day in BG’s, going on follow during trash pulls because [insert lame excuse here] and that generally and consistently try to get as much “stuff” as possible for the least amount of effort. No the rewards for exploiting this time around were great, arguably the highest yet seen in game. Because of this, I do believe that some otherwise semi-honorable players were caught up in the “exploit fever” and convinced themselves that while they benefited just as much as the lowly leecher, that they were sending a message.

News flash, you were not any better that day. Protesting for a cause never yields personal gain and in fact the two are diametrically opposed. Once you gain from the protest, it no longer becomes a protest. Let me give you a strikingly similar real world example. Cable companies charge upwards of $100 dollars or more for me to simply receive a signal that they are already sending out to my neighbors.

Protest – Go without cable, call cable company. Write my congressman complaining about the monopoly they have. Create an anti-cable company website. Picket their building.

Lazy Exploit – Tap into my neighbors cable and enjoy the service for free.

The cheaters will use the “it’s a game argument” or “Blizzard is not really impacted financially” but they would be inaccurate and are just further deluding themselves. If even one person leaves the game once they get curb stomped in their first rated BG by a legion of fully geared PVP players with 2500 resilience gained through exploits, then in fact these cheaters are impacting Blizzard financially.

It might be harder to see the impacts, but they exist nonetheless.

So do the right thing… if you stood on that bridge to get your gear, delete it, you will feel better.

Cataclysm PvP… A Catastrophy!

Posted in MMO, PvP, World of Warcraft on January 14, 2011 by Armada

Since Blizzard first launched the battleground system several years ago, the development team has struggled mightily with continual problems, many of which are inherit in trying to maintain what is primarily a PVE game. Indeed, from balancing classes and rewards to combating exploits all while fighting a two front war of public opinion between two very dissimilar player groups, Blizzard has had to walk a thin line with very little margin for error.

Those that consider all of the factors working against Blizzard would, for the most part, agree that the development team has done an admirable job of being proactive in their decisions and most importantly, not compounding issues with reactive mistakes… that is until now.

With the launch of Catacylsm and the new PVP Battle Ground (BG) Tol Barad, Blizzard not only created an overly complex (dare I say boring) and ultimately flawed game, but their ill-conceived and reactionary response to the problems facing this single Battle Ground map and its mechanics have only magnified the problem while committing the far worse crime of breaking containment and negatively impacting the entirety of games PVP system.

For those are not yet familiar with Tol Barad (TB), this new Battle Ground was intended to be the new Wintersgrap and designed to provide a large siege mechanic of attack and defense by both factions. The problems start with a design flaw that quite simply should have caught on paper and in concept before a line of code was ever written and most assuredly should have been caught in Beta.

In its simplest terms, attacking the towers in TB are notoriously difficult and the map creation never considered the idea of “player flow”. So the vast majority of the time, defensive players simple stacked in one tower and played the turtle game. Blizzard compounded the problems exponentially by inexplicably, and most clearly without the proper amount of thought and consideration to down stream impacts, deciding to buff the honor gained for a successful attacking phase to 1800… yes 1800!

Let us pause for just a moment and consider just the honor amount alone. Anyone familiar with the Battle Ground systems knows how completely unbalancing this amount is. A typical BG will net a player anywhere from approximately 100 to 250 honor per win. This change meant that TB which can be completed every two hours was yielding up to 1900% more honor than the other Battle Grounds.
Another factor that astonishingly Blizzard did not consider is the human element. You would think after 6 years of development the Blizzard team would clearly understand that most players are lazy, exploitative and simply WILL find a way to game the system. From fishing in Alterac Valley and BG AFK’s (for free honor leeching) to multi-boxing, speed hacks and outright “botting”, the human condition and specifically that of semi-anonymous gamers should always be at the top of Blizzard list of considerations and factors, yet it clearly was not.

This lack of consideration combined with the bewilderingly myopic decision to buff honor to extreme levels as an incentive to mitigate a core flaw in the game has led to exploits so grave that its impact spills outside of TB and into the PVP player base as a whole.
While the honor has been reduced, the exploit has not be removed. I considered not detailing it on these pages and probably would not if the honor was still at illogicial levels. However considering that the damage is done, there is really nothing to preserve. So read on as perhaps the more it is exposed the faster the development team will take proper corrective steps. Outside of TB there is a small bridge that accommodates travel in and out of TB. Many lazy but enterprising players learned quickly and probably by accident that if you manage to use correct timing when your faction wins, that you would be awarded honor, even if you did not register a kill or participate in the battle.

After combining the flawed map and mechanics, the baffling and myopic response of Blizzard, the known and unfixed exploit of the map and the desire of a legion of players to game the system we must now take the toll of the damages. First, many players were able to net what amounted to several weeks worth of honor in mere hours. In effect these players could hit the cap in a single day, buy a few pieces of PVP gear, rinse and repeat. As a result, there are now contingents of players who have complete PVP sets in under a weeks time.

What does this mean for the players still leveling to 85 or those players that did not take advantage of these monumental mistakes?

How does it effect the larger PVP architecture?

Blizzard never intended for anyone, let alone entire legions of players/cheaters, to be able to acquire full sets of top rated PVP gear in a matter of days. The balancing implications are enormous. Those exploiters are now also competing in rated BGs, acquiring conquest points and incredible ratings as they annihilate new teams still running in green cataclysm and older PVP gear or perhaps for the luckiest, a smattering of a single item or two of the new gear.

Regardless the new teams and players have no chance and are not on equal footing. Sure the matchmaking system provides some level of mitigation as it tries in vain to match up similar teams but the system works with what is in the queue and trust me when I tell you that this impacts all PVP players.

Blizzard should bite the bullet and make a statement here. Just because the game lets you do something exploitive does not make it acceptable. Every player standing on that bridge gaining thousands of free honor knew they were doing something outside the boundaries of the intended and they should be dealt with swiftly. Blizzard clearly dropped the ball here, Blizzard clearly exacerbated the problem with a reactionary and careless response. However they can correct it and send a clear message.

The development team has the tools and can certainly determine who gamed the system. It is encumbent upon Blizzard to act accordingly and take the proper sanctions.

Socialism in Azeroth

Posted in MMO, World of Warcraft on January 5, 2011 by Armada

Today our growing guild reached level 9, which many of you may know is the maximum level that any guild can attain at this point in time, due to Blizzard’s daily cap on the experience that a guild can accrue. While I understand the reasoning for this artificial restriction, I maintain that there could be a better balance between limiting guilds from leveling too fast while still providing some separation from less active or smaller guilds.

Now let me preface this written opinion piece by stating two things; first, I support the idea of restricting guilds from leveling too quickly. This can be achieved in one of two ways, drastically increase the amount of experience required to level or restrict the amount of experience that any guild can attain in a given time frame, in this case, daily. Obviously Blizzard chose the latter option. Second, and most important to this discussion is the need to separate what are two very distinct facets of the guild leveling system; pace and separation.

As painful as it feels to see our guild hit our daily XP cap before I leave for the office each morning, I completely understand and support the restriction for reasons that are much more globally impacting. However while understanding the reason for and supporting the idea of such an artificial barrier, I disagree with the implementation choices made to achieve this limitation. The current system is simply too “egalitarian” (dare I say communist) in that there is now no real incentive for larger guilds or more active guilds to separate themselves as leaders in the guild leveling process. I do recognize that these same guilds have a leg up on smaller or less active guilds in terms of guild achievements, however I do not think I am being too “Adam Smith” when I say that a larger and/or more active guild should have some – even slight – advantage in leveling over a guild that is much smaller or less “active”.

Currently our guild hits the daily cap within a couple of hours each day. By the time many of us return home from work and log on to play, we have reached the cap and us evening players simply do not contribute to the guild leveling process. Add to this that I routinely see guilds that are literally 1/10 or even 1/20 of our size at the same level, which seems a little too socialist.

What it all boils down to is that in 6 months (+/- X as the duration is not really relevant) everyone will be level 25 and there will still be no difference in guild A,B or C. I was hopeful that guild leveling would function similar to the Arena/Rated Battleground system or even the old PvP rank titles in that only a small percentage of guilds who worked hard to unite the player base and then work their tails off to level would attain the loftiest of goals (aka levels).

I actually understand clearly the counter-points to this position and, to a large degree, agree with them. A mad dash of “zerg” guilds inviting anyone and simply hoarding players would indeed promote a quantity over quality type of server mentality, and that would most certainly not be a good thing. However I would add that, at least in my opinion as I only speak for my guild, the system could do a better job of promoting quality among guilds by differentiating them by level as well as achievements. I strongly believe it is possible to have quality in a large guild, although that is generally not the accepted belief. Additionally, I completely agree that the system should as one of its primary functions, promote sustainability and dedication to the guild and that purpose is – in large part – achieved with the reputation decay system.

For the record, I would prefer that no guild on any server at this point be anywhere near level 9… it should take longer. But as a benefit (or consequence depending upon your stance and perspective) to that, some slight advantage should be given to any guild that has either more active members or counts among its members extremely dedicated players. Keep in mind when considering this position that I am not proposing that guild size become the sole factor in the guild leveling equation. The problem really lies in the size of the daily cap and the wasted efforts of the bulk of the players in leveling their guild. I would firmly support any change that not only allowed large guilds some separation but also smaller but more dedicated guilds.

With the current structure in place, almost any guild regardless of size or dedication can hit the daily cap, so there is in fact very little differentiation (in terms of level) among most guilds. Even bad and semi inactive guilds can compete in terms of levels with the best guilds on the server. What I want to posit is a belief that a guild of 25-50 all star players should in fact be able to compete with a 500 player “more casual” guild. But most importantly, BOTH of those guilds should in fact outpace and separate themselves from the 25 player guild that is in fact, very mediocre, ordinary or even bad.

This level of differentiation would set dedicated/quality guilds apart regardless of quantity, thus separating the “wheat from the chaff” and really serving as a beacon of light shining to speak to the activity and perhaps quality of the guild and not just the size. I believe to do that as well as slow the pace of guild leveling, Blizzard should have increased the daily experience cap but at the time time drastically increased the amount of XP needed to level.

I would have no issue with the process of leveling a guild to max level (25) taking 12 months or more, so long as there some level of separation for the effort.