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.