This series of articles is my personal critique of World of Warcraft based on my experiences and observations of ingame issues. I firmly believe that the game could’ve improved in numerous fields with just a bit more thought put into the game design, and that it had numerous opportunities to do so throughout the years. The first page will commonly address and analyze the issues in the game (some which are well known to the playerbase, some which are usually overlooked), while the second page will hold an attempt to present a viable solution for those issues.
Before anything else, I would like to say that World of Warcraft has been one of the best games I have ever played, as no other game had me want to play for over 6 years. There was so much to do, to see, or to experience. Playing with thousands of others ensured I would meet different kinds of people and see something new every day. But good stuff never lasts, there’s really no denying that the game has become something less over the years. Blizzard has continuously worked, updated and adapted the game throughout its life cycle, making some decisions for the better and some for the worse. The game has become more complex, more rich in terms of quantity of the content and game mechanics, yet still on the far end of their design decisions there are those that simply sucked the charm right out of the game.
Intro – Massively multiplayer online games are obviously populated with many different types of players, some of which like to play together cooperatively with their friends, and some who like to compete against other players. This is where MMOs usually separate their interactivity by defining PvE (Player versus Environment) and PvP (Player versus Player) content.
The basic premise of Warcraft has always been „Red versus Blue“, in other words the story about conflict between the Alliance and the Horde. WoW itself was a really interesting idea during its conception, because unlike in the popular strategy Warcraft games, where you would command armies, here you would experience this Red versus Blue struggle from a first person perspective. You would take a role of a single unit in their respective armies and contribute towards supremacy.
When WoW was still fresh, the PvP we know today did not exist at all. There was no structured PvP, but only organic World PvP, where players from opposite factions would engage in combat once they stumbled onto each other in the wilds. These two gameplay aspects were really close to each other, but today they feel like two very distant relatives. In all of these years, through all possible opportunities, despite all of the new technologies it has, World of Warcraft never succeeded in bringing that conflict between factions to life.
A Brief History – The division between these two parts of the game started in the earliest days of WoW. Players that enjoyed the PvP aspect more than anything else in the game wished for the whole PvP to become more fleshed out. To make PvP more accessible, Blizzard introduced Battlegrounds so that people could know where the battles would be taking place instead of hunting other players all over Azeroth.
The initial system for obtaining PvP items was pretty punishing. PvP had unique rankings, where players could rank up and climb the ladder that was mathematically determined behind the scenes. The only factor you could see was how many enemy players you have killed in a weeks time. At the end of a week, that number would then decide if you would gain or lose a rank, depending on how your kills stood against other players’ kills. Only once you have reached a specific rank were you able to buy new PvP only items, but getting to that point proved to be both a challenge and a hassle, especially reaching the final ranks.
This was when the new Honor Point system was introduced; by killing enemy players and winning Battlegrounds, players would get Honor Points which served as another currency system. Players could now either save up, or use Honor they have accumulated in exchange for items.
The Battlegrounds, refreshing as they were, became the highlight of the game. However, as the PvE aspect grew in size and variety, and as more players were becoming successful in tackling the raids, a problem arose when those players proved to be far too powerful for the average PvP player in the Battlegrounds. Since the passionate PvP players didn’t want to be forced to progress through raids just to be on equal footing as PvE raiders in Battlegrounds, Blizzard then added more powerful PvP gear so that PvP players could grow equally strong without having to bother with raiding, but this just kept generating an even bigger distance between PvE and PvP.
As time went on and patches and expansions kept coming along, items have become branded as PvP and PvE specific items, with specific stats that only apply to one area of the game and not the other. As these items kept getting stronger and stronger, their price had to go up as well. Eventually it all just turned into a grind for better gear, as you had to play PvP for hours and hours every day for weeks just to be able to get a single item.
Since it was all about getting points as fast as you could, players often even kept avoiding conflict with the other faction just so they could finish the match by completing the objectives as fast as possible, since victory would always award more points than simply killing enemy players. This was most evident in the Alterac Valley Battleground; instead of keeping strategic points under your control, it was all about storming the enemy fortress and killing the NPC boss. Over time players simply stopped defending their property and switched focus on full frontal assault so they could earn points more quickly.
As a contrast to the PvE raids, Blizzard then implemented the Arenas to be the cutting edge PvP content, refreshing itself with each Season. The Arenas were now a thing, similar to Battlegrounds, but smaller in scale, they would insure that it was all about skill and less about grouping and swarming the enemy. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case, thanks to how much items scaled in power, it was obviously only about which items one would bring to battle.
Arenas had their own system of progression, your Arena Rating would be determined by how well you played against other teams. By winning more often you would gain rating, and by losing you would lose rating. This meant that Arenas were an activity only for the most dedicated and hardcore. To appropriately reward them, they would of course need to have their own super powerful item rewards.
As new tiered rewards kept being introduced, the older ones had to become available at lower ratings, because you still had to maintain your rating in order to get the good stuff, so the only option was to make old stuff cheaper. This again, resulted in players playing a small bit of arenas to acquire more powerful items than the usual Battleground PvP rewards, and then returning to battle in regular Battlegrounds where they would be more powerful than an average player who hasn’t the time to dedicate into arenas.
This was all fine and dandy for a hardcore PvP player, but at this point they completely forgot what the point of PvP in WoW was all about. PvP is now an activity completely separated from Azeroth, as you are no longer playing World of Warcraft but instead playing World of Arenas or World of Battlegrounds.
Worlds Apart – The gap between PvP and PvE kept getting wider and wider, until it reached a point where both of them hardly even knew the other one even existed. In an attempt to bring the World PvP back to life, Blizzard added specific PvP content in Eastern Plaguelands and Silithus. Eastern Plaguelands had you capturing and defending a couple of towers for your factions, while Silithus had you scouting for collectibles, but this was far from an interesting experience.
Instead of epic showdowns, people just kept sitting there, defending their towers, because hardly anyone bothered to show up and engage in battle. This was because players quickly realized that the rewards were far better in Battlegrounds, which were also much faster and had a very clear way to ”win”, unlike the activities in Eastern Plaguelands and Silithus. These World PvP zone specific objectives would return with some improvements with the first expansion.
Each of the zones in Outland had their own PvP objectives, and they worked most of the time; there were always enough players present because everyone kept leveling up in the same place. However Terrokar Forest had a rather unique system going for it that would actually try to combine both PvP and PvE worlds. If all of the objective points would be under one of the factions dominance, their players would get extra rewards from bosses dropped inside dungeons located in Terrokar Forest. This was a great start towards something new and fresh, but sadly it never evolved into anything more as Blizzard decided to chase a different aspect of PvP.
Red vs Blue – The way PvP is supposed to be played and designed is that Alliance would be attacking major Horde cities and vice versa, not gather in some ditch that’s separated from everything else. However attacking cities doesn’t quite work today for a number or reasons; not only are there no rewards for doing such things, but it is also close to impossible because most of the player base is simply camping in their cities, sitting in Auction Houses at highest levels for their own reasons, and also because all of the NPCs guarding the cities are maximum level and keep respawning indefinitely in a short amount of time. This means that the only way to engage into this kind of PvP is on the final level.
Thanks to Heirloom items and Arena gear, playing PvP is harder than it needs to be for anyone that’s not already at maximum level, because players with high level characters buy Heirloom items for their own low level characters which they then use to beat the competition in low level PvP brackets. This basically means that you can’t really do it effectively at any other level until you reach the final level beforehand, and even on maximum levels, things also get pretty imbalanced because of Arena gear.