Where Will PvP Go When Cataclysm Hits?

Every new expansion for World of Warcraft comes with all sorts of new PvP goodies for competitive fans. What will Cataclysm bring to the PvP table?

As you may have noticed, this week at ZAM is all about World of Warcraft in celebration of their amazing fifth anniversary while boasting some of the highest subscription numbers of all time. In a previous article, we discussed the past six months of competitive World of Warcraft, so this time, with Blizzard's next expansion peeking around the corner, perhaps it's also best to see what's in store for the future of World of Warcraft PvP.

If we look at past World of Warcraft expansions, it's interesting to see key focal points of each addition. The Burning Crusade, for example, really focused on emphasizing arena PvP without adding much in terms of battlegrounds. Wrath of the Lich King, on the other hand, was a little bit more balanced in its PvP focus, as it introduced the massive Lake Wintergrasp battleground while also bringing a few new arena maps for competitive fans. Now, with Cataclysm set to come out at some time in the next year, the new PvP buzzword on everyone's mind is Blizzard's promised "rated battlegrounds."

Even though the previous expansions focused extensively on Blizzard's arena system, at least two times the number of players participate in Battlegrounds than in arena. It's quite easy to see why Blizzard wants to bring the attention back to their more established battleground system. In this way, it doesn't seem that there will be many new additions to World of Warcraft arena (perhaps an extra map or two), but players are still looking forward to reviving competitive guild rivalries.

One of the neat things about Blizzard's new rated battlegrounds is that it appears to be the golden bridge that will bring arena fans back to the epic battleground scene while also giving battleground fans an access point to snag arena gear that was previously denied to them. While it has not been confirmed how many points a rated battleground will give per play, these rated BG pieces offer a second way for players to get arena points-sounds like a great move by Blizzard.

So what can we expect to come with Blizzard's battleground improvements? It's highly probable that a new 10-15 person map will be introduced with Cataclysm, and it will probably play right along with the theme of post-apocalyptic Azeroth. This time around, Blizzard definitely needs to introduce a new PvP objective, however, as they've already done Capture the Flag (Warsong Gulch), Capturing and Holding Points (Arathi Basin) and the odd combination of both, Eye of the Storm.

Considering the fact that Lake Wintergrasp featured some neat vehicular PvP, it's easy to expect that a new competitive battleground will feature some kind of vehicle addition. Something new, like a limited respawn system with a focus on mashing enemies until they run out of lives also sounds like a great idea, or even an attack / defend map with teams alternating at a midpoint. Blizzard did point out that they would be introducing "special epic ground mounts" for players to ride in battlegrounds, so it seems as though flying mounts are out for now.

In addition to all of this, while most casual players have complained about their inability to access most top-level PvP gear, a lot of arena veterans are also complaining, but they just want more stuff to spend their arena points on, once they get a full arena set. While it's great to be able to purchase gems with arena points, one thing that Blizzard might want to look into is introducing cosmetic purchases for PvP fans. An assortment of battleground-only epic ground mounts is a great addition, and I doubt there would be anybody complaining if Blizzard threw in some more cosmetic tabards, or PvP-themed pets.

But what does this new expansion mean for competitive PvP? While it would be fun to watch an epic 15v15 game of competitive Warsong Gulch at the next Blizzcon tournament, something tells us that battleground PvP just won't catch on as a workable spectator sport. Heck, even 5v5 was considered to be too "confusing" for spectators when tournament organizers first tried it out, so 3v3 seems to point to the largest number of characters we can comfortably watch.

Ultimately, the chance of competitive rated battlegrounds replacing WoW arena as the 'main' competitive feature of World of Warcraft is very small. Blizzard has been working very hard at keeping a stable competitive PvP audience, and arena is really the only venue that can attract other gaming tournament organizers, like the MLG Pro Circuit and the ESL Masters tournaments. If Blizzard does this right, rated battlegrounds should provide a great alternative source of PvP competition for arena-tired players while still helping more casual PvPers get the arena gear they need to properly compete in the arena setting.

If you throw in some cosmetic PvP rewards - something that has been sorely lacking in TBC and WotLK - and Blizzard does a good job of revitalizing its older battleground settings (revamping Arathi Basin and Warsong Gulch for a more "Cataclysmic" feel would be great!), then this Cataclysm expansion may just be the first to get the best of both old and new World of Warcraft PvP worlds.

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# Nov 30 2009 at 4:20 PM Rating: Decent
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Rated battlegrounds in WoW may just be enough to bring me back to the game, at least for a while. They were by far my favorite part!
Rated BGs
# Nov 27 2009 at 9:33 PM Rating: Decent
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Hmm, while it might be tougher for announcers, I think it'd be fun to see more and more league play out of battlegrounds. Especially ones like IoC. The Island can provide for some interesting matches, without leaning towards the all-out Zerg that is AV.

And I can see matches in EotS being called more like a basketball game.

Announcer: And the momentum has shifted towards the Fel Reaver ruins, solid push from the Alliance on both it and the central flag.

Announcer: Oh look! It seems if a warrior and a mage from the Horde side are attempting to ninja the Mage Tower while the focus in on the Reaver. Ohh, bad luck for them, they hit the respawn timer from that last Reaver wave.

That's..just my thoughts. I'll but some more coherency to it later.
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Rated BG's: bringing the strategy back to MMORPGs since 2010
# Nov 27 2009 at 6:40 PM Rating: Good
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Quote:
But what does this new expansion mean for competitive PvP? While it would be fun to watch an epic 15v15 game of competitive Warsong Gulch at the next Blizzcon tournament, something tells us that battleground PvP just won't catch on as a workable spectator sport. Heck, even 5v5 was considered to be too "confusing" for spectators when tournament organizers first tried it out, so 3v3 seems to point to the largest number of characters we can comfortably watch.

I have to say I disagree with this. The reason 5v5 is too 'confusing' to watch is because it's just what its name suggests: 5 people fighting 5 people. '15vs15' isn't comparable to 5v5 because battlegrounds have additional objectives rather than a simple "kill everyone". It isn't just "15 people fighting 15 people".

If arenas are WoW's version of micromanaging, battlegrounds are WoW's version of macromanaging. High-end Rated AB for example, will be all about keeping a steady balance of defending and attacking players. If you steamroll node after node with all 15 players, the opposite team will just capture all nodes you aren't at and win. It will be all about scouting around and keeping your team informed as to how many players are going where, and then responding to an assault correctly by either sending out defenders or attackers of your own. Teams that have a couple of 3- or 4-player squads running around will beat teams that just bring 15 folks in an attempt to steamroll everything. To actually 'spectate' rated battlegrounds, we'll need multiple cameras to keep track of what's going on, but I reckon it's just as doable as spectating strategy games.

Quote:
Ultimately, the chance of competitive rated battlegrounds replacing WoW arena as the 'main' competitive feature of World of Warcraft is very small.

This, I also disagree with. Precisely because macromanaging is easier than micromanaging, a lot more people will do rated battlegrounds. Arena will still be the pinnacle in showing off what an awesome warrior you are, but battlegrounds are more about tactics than anything else. And if you can indeed play rated battlegrounds with random teammates, it will also be more accessible.

In the end, I reckon, arenas will not be replaced by rated battlegrounds, but the former - while requiring more individual skill - will compliment the latter, which should become the 'bread and butter' of PvP everybody participates in, in a similar fashion as unrated battlegrounds currently are.
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Rated BG's: bringing the strategy back to MMORPGs since 2010
# Nov 27 2009 at 7:34 PM Rating: Excellent
Thanks for the reply Mozared! Actually what I meant by "main competitive feature of World of Warcraft" is the forms of competition that can be used for tournament settings and so on. Competitive being the key word here, as competitive World of Warcraft players simply refers to someone who plays in tournaments and other competitions. I guess you could take it to mean someone who competes, but I guess I should have clarified ;)

As for your other point that 15v15 would not be too hard to watch, you have to realize that each of the players playing in a 15-person team is controlled by an individual player. In Starcraft and Warcraft III, it's simply two players with a lot of units, so it's easy to see where the "main point of conflict" is, and then move the camera like so. With things like Arathi Basin or Warsong Gulch, you've got, at minimum, two or three points of conflict between two teams. Spectator sports are all about making sure you can center the action on a single focal point, otherwise it tends to confuse audiences. It just seems unfeasible to expect rated battlegrounds to have any success in terms of being a spectated e-sport just because there's too much you're missing if you're trying to catch all the action, and there's so much more you're missing if you focus on one area.

5v5 wasn't too confusing in the sense that too much was happening everywhere, but it was just because nobody could really see any key plays and understand why someone died, aside from "THEY'RE HITTING HIM, THEY'RE HITTING HIM, HE'S DEAD!" 3v3 is a much smoother spectator sport because announcers can point out clutch plays, like "solid counterspell here, and a vanish to blind on the priest..." If you tried to do that with a 15v15, all you'd end up with is "and the pressure group is pushing on Stables, it seems as though even though the defenders outnumbered the attackers, the attackers still beat them all of." You could try to focus it down as well, but then while announcers and spectators are watching this mid-size battle at Stables, suddenly the Blacksmith and Mines get taken by two two-person teams overwhelming the 3 guards, and now the spectators want to know what happened in both spots. You could just say "and mines, blacksmith and the stables were taken in a great strategy," but then you'd omitting a significant chunk of the gameplay.
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# Nov 28 2009 at 2:21 PM Rating: Decent
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In all honesty, who cares about the top 0.1% of players who actually compete and win?

The other 99.9% of us play for fun. Obviously fun is subjective. However, for me and others like me, Battlegrounds offer PvP where strategy usually matters more than twitch reflexes. Arenas are boring to a lot of people. We prefer BGs, but due to the fact that Arenas have been the "main" PvP for almost 3 years we feel like BGs are just there to farm honor and strategy doesn't matter.

I am excited to see rated BGs change the landscape and give a bone to the strategist who doesn't like twitch gaming. IMO tournaments are great - but WoW is not an FPS and since 99%++ of players will never play in a tournament I don't see why it should be anything other than an afterthought.
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# Nov 27 2009 at 8:36 PM Rating: Decent
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Quote:
Thanks for the reply Mozared! Actually what I meant by "main competitive feature of World of Warcraft" is the forms of competition that can be used for tournament settings and so on. Competitive being the key word here, as competitive World of Warcraft players simply refers to someone who plays in tournaments and other competitions. I guess you could take it to mean someone who competes, but I guess I should have clarified ;)

You're welcome! I find it funny enough that we can actually pretty much directly talk to authors of specific articles here - imagine what it'd be like if I could do that in magazines. Anyway;

Quote:
As for your other point that 15v15 would not be too hard to watch, you have to realize that each of the players playing in a 15-person team is controlled by an individual player. In Starcraft and Warcraft III, it's simply two players with a lot of units, so it's easy to see where the "main point of conflict" is, and then move the camera like so. With things like Arathi Basin or Warsong Gulch, you've got, at minimum, two or three points of conflict between two teams. Spectator sports are all about making sure you can center the action on a single focal point, otherwise it tends to confuse audiences. It just seems unfeasible to expect rated battlegrounds to have any success in terms of being a spectated e-sport just because there's too much you're missing if you're trying to catch all the action, and there's so much more you're missing if you focus on one area.

5v5 wasn't too confusing in the sense that too much was happening everywhere, but it was just because nobody could really see any key plays and understand why someone died, aside from "THEY'RE HITTING HIM, THEY'RE HITTING HIM, HE'S DEAD!" 3v3 is a much smoother spectator sport because announcers can point out clutch plays, like "solid counterspell here, and a vanish to blind on the priest..." If you tried to do that with a 15v15, all you'd end up with is "and the pressure group is pushing on Stables, it seems as though even though the defenders outnumbered the attackers, the attackers still beat them all of." You could try to focus it down as well, but then while announcers and spectators are watching this mid-size battle at Stables, suddenly the Blacksmith and Mines get taken by two two-person teams overwhelming the 3 guards, and now the spectators want to know what happened in both spots. You could just say "and mines, blacksmith and the stables were taken in a great strategy," but then you'd omitting a significant chunk of the gameplay.

What I had in mind is a situation where commentators focus on one 'area' by giving less details about individual skirmishes. Imagine a Warsong Gulch match with a 3v3 in the midfield and another 3v3 in one team's flag room. Rather than the commentator going "Awesome polymorph by the mage there, but countered by a blind from the rogue!", I imagine him saying things along the lines of "Aaand as the skirmish in the flag room continues, team X has come out as the winners of the fight in the midfield - priest X got off a lucky Psychic Scream, buying his two teammates time to finish off the enemy squad. They are now running up the tunnel in an attempt to grab team Y's flag!". Rather than specifically focusing on all the players (though this could possibly be done in the form of 'flashbacks' if one specific player did something seriously awesome), the commentator points out the special/extraordinary things that happen. If, like in your example, two crucial skirmishes go on at the same time, the commentator could zoom out and say things along the line of "and while team Y did an excellent job defending their flag, their attacking team has managed to take down all of team X's defenders and is now running off with X's flag".

Technically, it looks a lot like your example - it's just that that one goes completely for the 'macro position' where I think a compromise can be made. Because of the fact that battlegrounds last longer and the fact that killed players will be waiting for a ressurection, there is more time for the commentators to zoom in and out at will. I'll agree with you that this isn't going to work in the battlegrounds that have more than 15 players per team, though - IoC and AV would just be one big cluster@#%^ and the only way to comment on that would be to go 'all-out macro' which, like you said, will cause you to miss a significant chunk of the gameplay.

Whether battlegrounds will take the position arenas currently have in Esports/Blizzcon-like events, probably not. Though I won't be surprised if we do see a couple of commentated WSG/AB tournaments pop up.
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Gearscore for raiders is like Goldshire for roleplayers.
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