Sunday, June 29, 2008

Being on the Path, Part II

In a comment to Being on the Path, Messallina/Agrippina of Perenolde, writes:
I've only seen one other poster here who identified themselves as a gladiator level pvp'er, so even though this post is already filled with comments I still feel I can offer a distinct take on things. Also, as an additional disclaimer I will add that for entirely selfish reasons I am emotionally biased towards rating requirements for gear. Goddamnit getting gladiator skills took a long time and I want more tangible rewards besides just obtaining gear faster and a sweet title/mount!

Looking over Coriel's post, I see a couple of basic points that I would like to lay out before I respond to them:

Premise 1: Hope for achievement drives players (duh).

Premise 2: Hope is more important de jure than de facto. In other words, theoretically possible hopes motivate players more than practically possible hopes.

Conclusion: Rating requirements are inherently discouraging, even to those who won't get enough non-rating-required gear to the point where the only gear remaining has rating requirements.

Premise 2 is the weak one I feel, for the following reasons.

First off, I don't see any evidence for your de jure progression theory. You make an effective analogy with raiding, but there's no evidence offered that that is the case with raiding. It's like you cited something faulty in a scientific paper without checking the source. Back when I raided casual at 60 with a guild that was lucky to kill Nefarian before BC came out I doubt I would've cared two shits if Naxxramas had had some kind of blocking requirement for entry. I was worried about the present instance, along with the rest of my guild. Your claim was that de jure impediments demoralize people even if they have no plausible tangible harm, but I don't see any reason for that, and I don't buy that even pvp'ers who will never find themselves in a situation where their access to gear is limited only by personal rating will still be significantly demoralized by the rating requirements on gear. After all, the lower your personal rating, the slower you earn gear, which I know you understand: "In reality, of course, a casual PvPer is not likely to earn all the pieces of S4 before WotLK. But again, what is likely is not as important as what is possible."

Second off, I dont think it was accidental that rating requirements reached their apex for BC in the final season. For each day that elapses in this final arena season of BC players will care less and less about season 4 gear as lich king draws nearer.

Also, since I'm all about the empirical evidence, it's worth noting that more teams participated in 3v3 in my battlegroup in season 3 than season 2. Almost 40% more, in fact ( Arena Junkies; WoW Armory: Cyclone Battlegroup)

It doesn't seem that the 1850/2000 rating requirements significantly lowered (in one casual pvp'ers words) the "popularity" of arena from S2 to S3. After all, players have been "blocked" in arena from the start, given the stern title requirements since Season 1. Obviously, gear>titles for most people, but it's worth pointing out.

I should have introduced the concept of "Being on the Path" earlier, rather than attempting to force that one article to do double duty. I actually came up with it a long time ago, back in the pre-TBC days, just never really blogged about it. If you look at Casual vs Raider, Part VI, written in Jan 2007, you'll see the same idea echoed.

Essentially, I was looking at the introduction of Naxxramas, and the great flamewars on the forums between the casuals and the hardcore. One thing that struck me was the lower raid guilds, the ones in MC and BWL, sided with the high-end guilds, instead of the casual players who wanted Blizzard to spend more time on regular 5-man and lower content. This seemed odd to me, as the MC/BWL guilds had practically no chance of seeing very much of Naxx, and would have benefited much more from new 5-man dungeons instead of a new raid instance.

From the practical standpoint of who would actually experience the content, the split should have occurred between the AQ40 top-end guilds vs the MC/BWL/non-raiders. Yet the actual split was between those who could raid, and who could not raid; those who were on the path, and those who were not.

I can't really cite scientific proof of any of this. I don't have access to any real data. All I can offer is my observations and my experiences, and my theories and explanations. This is punditry, not science.

But the concept of Being on the Path is why I've usually concentrated my suggestions on ways to get more guilds raiding. To me, making it easier for guilds to raid is a much better use of resources than making additional 5-mans or even additional raid instances. That transition from normal guild to raiding guild is the most crucial transition in the game, and something which could use a lot more attention.

Premise 2: Hope is more important de jure than de facto. In other words, theoretically possible hopes motivate players more than practically possible hopes.

Premise 2 is not exactly how I would word it. I would invert it. Hopelessness (or the impossibility of doing something) de jure is worse than hopelessness de facto. Knowing that something is guaranteed to be impossible for you is a lot more demoralizing than knowing that something is most likely not possible.

Now, I don't know if this will really result in less people playing season 4. S3 was different in that most of the armor could be obtained. Yeah a couple pieces were out of reach, but you could still get most of S3. I felt it still came doing on the de facto side. As well, coming later means that more people hit 70 and started PvPing for gear. Not to mention that S3 pushed PvP into T6 territory, ahead of the vast majority of raiders, who were still stuck in T5 content (Vashj/Kael). All that combines into more people playing S3 than S2.

S4 is different. All the pieces have requirements on them, all of which are higher than the average. That immediately guarantees that at least 50% of the audience will not be able to get any of S4. However, PvP doesn't really require a lot of time or organization. It's pretty easy to just do your 10 games and go. So even if people aren't happy about the S4 requirements, they may still put in their 10 games. Some improvement is better than none, especially if the time cost is minimal.

If PvP actually required a significant time cost--like raiding does--I would expect participation to diminish sharply. However, because the time cost is so low, I'm not sure what will happen. I do think the rating requirements will diminish enthusiasm for PvP, and satisfaction with the game. But that is hard to measure and hard to see, and whether that translate into diminished participation or subscriptions is an open question.


  1. I have a a toon that just hit 70 not long ago and two 70s in full vengeful/vindicator gear, except weapons and shoulders. People who are good at PvP want some way to show it off, and it seemed like a good fit to have the current season items be very limited for those two pieces. Requiring ratings for most pieces seems a bit much to me and requiring them for items bought with honor is simply retarded.

    I suspect participation will slow down to a large extent once people finish picking up a piece or two at the reduced arena point cost. My new 70 is doing 2x2 to grab a few things and then will quit. My first two 70s have left their 5x5s and don't run their 3x3s anymore. I don't know how much longer they will be doing 2x2.

    Based on previous seasons, I probably would be able to get for at least one toon all gear except the weapons and shoulders again, but I'm disinclined to bother. I knew I wasn't good enough for the shoulders or weapons (boots and helm would be near the limit), so I didn't mind risking my rating to try something new or help people out. I'm not that interested in being so obsessive about winning that I can't do that.

    A big loser with the new ratings is the battlegrounds. I'm not motivated to do them when I can't buy half the honor gear without an arena rating. This means my battlegroup has lost a healer who usually tops the bg in healing, and I've lost a role I used to enjoy.

    I think one thing people forget is that there often are options for PvE gear - you can raid for it, buy it with badges, get it to drop in a heroic instance, or craft it. There are one or two pieces of PvP gear in Sunwell now (necks and rings I think) and a few more for badges (trinkets and cloaks). Other than arena or arena rated bg gear, I don't know where you can get pvp gear for the other eleven slots.

  2. Well first off thank you very much for posting my email. It wasn't until after I had written it that I realized it was just going to languish on the second page and never be read, which compelled me to email it to you in order for my work not to be wasted.

    As for your response, you definitely make good points. Given the nature of arena it is entirely plausible that people will enjoy it less while still doing it. Short of some real social science survey work there's no refuting or confirming that, all I can admit is its rational plausibility. Even as a elite player with elitist attitudes I also have a strong fondness for your utilitarian arguments about what designers should be working on, and how its better to invest in expanding raiding than catering to the hardcore minority.

    Buuuut...I still take issue with some things. For one I don't like the idea that rating required gear is always going to be out of reach. Speaking as someone who has never been better than mediocre at any other video game I've played (and I've been playing video games my whole life) I can say that advancing in WoW skill has felt straight forward and easy, in contrast to my experiences trying to improve myself at say, first person shooters. Arena skill is a time investment, like anything else. Those who care, do. I decided that failing a few undergraduate courses was worth getting gladiator skills (/self-bonk) and so I got them. WoW arena is not a meritocratic system that judges purely based on talent; like everything else in the game time investment is 99% of it. From my experiences with other games (and high school sports, for that matter, I was hopeless at basketball until I started practicing in the gym every morning before class) I see no reason to think I have better inherent reflexes, or multi tasking skills than the next person. When I started out arena'ing in S1 my teams were in the 1400-1600s until I started playing a lot. In other words, anyone so discouraged has a (relatively) clear path to improvement and rewards. So no, I don't think that rated gear will be impossible for even those who really want it.

    Not only that, but I think Sunwell has broken the path analogy for raiding. I raided in Sunwell on my retribution pally (my guild had twins to 18%) and damn if it wasn't the hardest raid instance ever designed. BT and Hyjal don't even come close, and the frustrations in the instance killed Phase Two and the second farthest guild on Perenolde (P2 was farthest). Sunwell requires a step up in raid coordination and skill (if anyone is doing subpar DPS on Brutallus, you cannot kill him - for example). Sunwell has claimed a lot of guilds all over my battlegroup in a way I've never seen before that I am willing to assume holds true for all of WoW, and blizzard just recently said at the WWI they have no intentions of nerfing Kil'Jaeden from his current hard-ass state. Maybe this proves the analogy, since I stopped raiding along with a lot of other players on my server, but it does at least throw a new dimension to the discussion.

    Returning to my first point, I think you've neglected one important finding from the social sciences (2-3 studies spring to mind documenting this): people measure themselves against others like them. Gear and status is all relative (see: British Navigation Act of 1651, where the British willingly hurt their own economy through harsh tariffs on Dutch goods so long as the economy of their only international rival, the Dutch, suffered more relative to the British). Since the vast majority of players won't have S4 shoulders or weapons, the vast majority of players won't care as much because they'll be like almost everyone else around them.

    Also, I am interested to see how rating requirements are implemented in Lich King. Perhaps it is intended for them to be ramped up as the current development cycle advances (anyone remember how easy Karazhan was? maybe S1-2 gear was supposed to be easy like that), though this seems unlikely.

  3. Oh, and just for any ret paladins or resto druids who do feel blocked in improving their arena ratings I just happen to have written an arena guide for each class:

    Ret pally:

    Resto druid:

    Perhaps they too would be worthy of being posted in your blog if you find them helpful :)) (and if you do look at them, bump the pally one! Perhaps, hope against hope, it could be stickied.

  4. Arena is fun to do. I raid and don't care so much about pvp, but I have fun doing arena. Don't forget WoW is a game, don't do the grind if it isn't fun. I have fun raiding and doing arena. I don't have fun doing bg's because people are mean and doing it to grind not for fun. Do what is fun for you in the game.

  5. As a casual WoW player, the changes for S4, combined with the new tokens-run-amok in WoTLK, made it clear it was time to quit the game.

    S4 changes basically blocked me from progressing in PVP, so why bother?.. I can't improve further via gear, and with less folks participating there is no chance in hell that I'd get beyond a 1550 rating or so.

    And the WoTLK badge changes?.. Each dungeon level drops a different kind of badge? I progress slowly enough with badges being the same that there seems to be no hope in collecting enough from any of the instances to make it worthwhile.

    It seem's that Blizz's intent is to tie-together all the parts of the game, so the time investment is even greater.

    As much as I will miss it, now seems to be the time to get off this ride. A casual gamer will not progress in this game. (Casual being someone who may put in a lot of hours, but cannot dedicate the scheduled blocks of time that raiding and PVP requires). Since Blizz appears to be moving more in this direction, I can't sustain that effort.

    I just gave away 27k+ gold and probably about 10k gold in mats. I was going to do LW and BS to go along with engineering on my two main toons, but there was no reason to pick them up. I could only rely on Sunwell drops to make the professions worthwhile, and the drop rate on those is so poor that they are selling for 15k+. So, I could grind all day for gold, and not be able to do anything with it.

    I don't see anything in WoTLK making the game more viable for a casual, so why bother?...

  6. How can you possibly be a casual player with that much gold?

  7. Gold is easy. Use drops or crafted items instead of buying things off the AH unless you have a slot you can't get something to drop. Finish all your quest chains after you hit 70. Practice your professions. Do your dailies once you hit 70. None of that requires having 3 or 4 hours per night 4 or 5 nights per week to dedicate to gaming on a schedule that matches 24 other people. If you define casual the way he did (which is similar to the way most raiders define it - "anyone who isn't raiding the top level or two of 25 mans"), then casual players probably have the most money in the game.

  8. Karl:

    The reason badge gear right now costs so much is because it's a single dump of varying ranges of power. Obviously the Sunwell T6ish gear should cost more then the T4ish Zul'Aman stuff or the original badge gear, simply because it's better and uses the same tokens.

    If each tier of dungeon in Wrath now uses their own token system, then it's obvious that the prices will go down. A T9ish badge gear will probably cost about the same number of badges as the T7ish gear, which would probably cost about the same as the 5-man gear, because they're all different levels of badges and not the same one.

  9. "Gold is easy. Use drops or crafted items instead of buying things off the AH unless you have a slot you can't get something to drop. Finish all your quest chains after you hit 70. Practice your professions. Do your dailies once you hit 70. None of that requires having 3 or 4 hours per night 4 or 5 nights per week to dedicate to gaming on a schedule that matches 24 other people. If you define casual the way he did (which is similar to the way most raiders define it - "anyone who isn't raiding the top level or two of 25 mans"), then casual players probably have the most money in the game."

    Except that this is mostly an arena thread, and a hardcore arena player is no different from a casual gold farmer by that definition.

  10. @rj

    I think you missed my point on badge gear (or perhaps I didn't make it clearly).

    The problem I see in the expansion is that there will be various "levels" of badges and badge gear. So your T7 will have T7 badges, T8 will have T8 badges, and so on, and then other badges from PVP and world events.

    What I see happening is getting a bag in your bank full of 2 of this, 3 of that, 7 of those, and not enough to do anything with. They hinted at possible conversion, but the problem is that they are creating something like they did for BG reward gear. You now have to do arena to get BG gear, and something similar is going to happen for badges.

    What it amounts to is more frustration for someone who's time in game was spent in a "shotgun" approach. 30 min here, 20 min there, etc. With so many requirements, it makes it difficult to do anything beyond grinding faction rep.

    So, I sat with 2 lvl 70s with maxxed gear that could be obtained without raiding or an arena rating, and nothing to do but roll an alt. 37k of gold and mats wouldn't buy me anything.

    (The useful Sunwell patterns are going for 10k+, so those weren't an option now either).

    I miss the game, but, it's really ended for casuals like me.

    My radical idea for the game?.. Make Raiders drop crafting professions slots, so the "casuals" can be the crafters, and raiders are the gatherers. It would create some interesting dynamics in the economy. Too many raid guilds are self-sufficient, and don't need the rest of the economy. Professions need some help one way or another.

  11. YOu're showing a little ignorance with the statment
    If PvP actually required a significant time cost--like raiding does--I would expect participation to diminish sharply. However, because the time cost is so low, I'm not sure what will happen. I do think the rating requirements will diminish enthusiasm for PvP,

    PvP does require a significant time cost.. with an average piece of gear running 15 hours or so....less if you're good but that's the same a PvE.


    But onto the Gladiator's comment. He's speaking from a much different place then a "regular" person. By definition a Gladiator is going to be in the top few % of players. These rating requirements mean nothing to him.

    On the other hand, my team barely reached 1650 last season and didn't stay there very long. These rating requirements forced me to pick which gear I'd spend points on 1st. Hang onto points because I wouldn't want to make the rating requirement and not have points avialable... and fight differently.

    I used to do the 10 games and quit. Last night, on my 2's team we went "1575 or bust"... as the difference between 1500 - 1574 point wise was negligable for us.... but hitting 1575 meant we could qualify for another gear upgrade.

    I'm not sure what's going to happen once we cross 1650. Maybe that will be our cap again, maybe we'll do better (or worse). But at some point we'll hit out limit.

    I think it's fun to play and we have hope we can reach most of the gear. If we didn't though... I think my 2's partner would quit. As no gear = no fun for him.