Monday, January 10, 2011

Tol Barad

Blizzard has a very interesting post on Tol Barad today. It turns out that Blizzard deliberately made it easier to defend, because they didn't want it to just flip sides, and to make capturing it a more momentous event.

Of course they made it too hard, and they increased the rewards to 10x for the attacking team. Which promptly led to win-trading to maximize honor gained for both sides. Blizzard recently reduced the honor for winning, and Tol Barad seems more or less back to normal.

On a side-note, its interesting to note that the reverse scenario does not produce win-trading, while still encouraging people to fight hard. If defending is harder than attacking, but defending has 10x rewards, you don't get win-trading. This is because winning as defense keeps you in the defensive position. But it doesn't accomplish the goal of making captures a momentous event. It makes a successful defense a momentous event.

First, I really wonder if fiddling with rewards will ever produce the result they want. Can motivation to win really outweigh the mechanical advantage, especially in an ad hoc group?

A commenter at MMO-Champion described the situation as two extremes: either the defending faction always holds Tol Barad, or Tol Barad switches every battle. Blizzard is aiming for something in-between. But it seems like this genre always ends up hugging one extreme or the other, so I'm not sure if Blizzard can hit the mark.

My solution to Tol Barad, given Blizzard's goals, is to leave the map weighted in favor of defense. Then I would add a stacking buff (a la ICC) to the attacking side, Attacker's Resolve. Each time the attackers fail to capture the island, the buff increases. When they do capture the island, the buff resets and goes to the other faction. The amount of honor the defense gets for winning would scale with the buff.

What this does is ensure that eventually the mechanical advantage goes from defender to attacker. It might take a while, and the exact point where the switchover happens is uncertain. Meanwhile, the defenders are always attracted by the honor gain, especially when the buff starts to get high. That means that more attackers can join the battle, since it's one-for-one.

But the defense still needs to win to gain the honor, they can't throw the game, and the attackers are less likely to throw the game because the defenders would remain in the desired position.

(It's possible that a server would come to an agreement to always switch when the buff reaches a certain point, but it's almost impossible to prevent that without making the reward zero-sum. You could remove the reward increase, but that might encourage defenders to stop showing up after a certain point.)

Basically Tol Barad would boil down to an equation. When does:

Attacker Skill + Attacker's Resolve Buff = Defender Skill + Defender Map Advantage

It might be a different point for each server, or be different for different times of the day. But eventually, the attackers would win, and the island would change hands. There would always be hope that this battle would be the tipping point.


  1. Sounds ideas, however, it would still not be able to resolve the fact that they did not take Server Populations into account when you got hideously lop-sided servers. One side has a ton of people who want to do it, but can't, and the smaller side which does not have the inclination to do so, resulting in a loss for all sides.

  2. The first thing they should do is decouple major PvE rewards from this isle. If you're interested in PvE you'll have to do the daily but you depend on the PvP fight to win it for you. And the rewards are much better then what you get from other comparable PvE sources.

  3. There is another fundamental problem with the "attack is hard" idea: late night. No matter how many times we take Tol Barad and hold it all day, we find it horde controlled at the morning.

    Some team must be playing at some weird timezone on horde.

  4. There are already rewards for holding TB... short term maybe, but the raid and the extra quests are surely incentive enough.

    If not, then I think they have made their honor currency too simple.

    There needs to be another tier of gear, ala Wintergrasp that can be purchased with TB marks of honor.

    I am still very upset at the weeks (yes weeks, not hours) I spent in BGs to earn my PvP gear, only to hear that people were earning enough honor for each piece by running around on a bridge outside TB.

    If crafted gear is good enough for battlegrounds/PvP, then surely Tol'Barad specific gear of an equivalent level would have been as well.

  5. I would disagree with the scaling of the honor with the Attacker's Resolve Buff (and I know this is all just whim). Any sort of increased incentive per battle would create an optimal battles-after-last-loss at which to win, based on overall gain. Yes, that would drive people to try to win in the hopes of getting the incentive now, rather than later, but I don't think there is a shortage of players queuing up for Tol Barad on most servers.

    I would suggest instead that the attackers get a speed boost while not inside of a building and mounted (so that fighting in the roads isn't rewarded) based on how many building they have, like x1.05 for one building, x1.10 for two, which multiplies into their current calculated speed. This would give incentive to the attackers to travel very soon after capturing an objective, which they currently do not (because right now, staying at an objective en masse to finish taking control of it seems reasonable. Even though it is not.)

    I'm not opposed to a difficult Tol Barad, but given a raid of 80+ people (what with two concurrent raids sometimes popping up when there are enough people), "good strategy" is an unreasonable expectation, unless the game clearly rewards good strategy (which naturally occurs during all other raids and dungeons). Take Yogg-Saron, the first phase: you can keep killing those adds for however long you want, but unless you kill 8 of them near Sara, you wont get to phase 2. Good strategy is rewarded by having more mana and health and cooldowns for phase 2, and raiders learn that real quick. What have I learned so far in Tol Barad? Don't run into a fully fortified objective, or you'll die, and... Hell, most people don't even recognize that fighting in the roads or without the control bar visible is wasteful =/

    Tol Barad is a single phase clusterfrack, with defender miscommunication currently being the only thing that the attackers are rewarded for. If the attackers can match the defenders' zerging ability at the 3rd objective because they have proven their skill by taking the first two, that to me feels more like progressive rewards for good PvP skill while still maintaining defender advantage in the beginning.

    If the defense turtles up at any objective, they are bound to lose both of the other ones, making it easier for the attackers to maintain control of two while also storming the third. So dying, for the defense, is no longer just a quick way of getting to another objective, but is instead a significant failure on the part of the defender.

  6. Great ideas! I wish they'd do a new version on the old school Alterac Valley. A lot of people hated those 5 hour long battles, but I have to say that was some of the most fun PvP I'd ever done in WoW. Having NPCs that you could buff via drops like the armor scraps meant that eventually one side or the other would get an overwhelming advantage. Albeit the battles don't need to last as long as they used to, but still...when was the last time you saw the worgen riders!? or how about the druids that look so peaceful and easy to attack, but .25 shot you!?

  7. And you don't work for Blizzard because......???

  8. The problem I usually see in situations like this in mmo's (pvp based) is that attackers will just leave the battle. Let the defenders hang out and get bored. Come back later when its easy. Its unfortunate, but I have seen it more often than not.

  9. @Chris: That won't happen with TB because it is rigidly timed. Unlike a keep defense in say Warhammer, where you could attack a keep at any time. If people get bored defending after 10 minutes of inactivity even though they know that in another 10 minutes the area will be safe for 2 hours, those people are very impatient and near sighted. There will almost always be people to defend TB, except perhaps late at night (but then there probably aren't as many attackers either).

  10. I really don't see the problem. TB changes sides about twice per week at my server. Seems like perfect balaning to me.

  11. two things kill thier perfect plans
    Faction imbalances and the fact that the game is all about rewards.

    Faction imbalances are nearly impossible to gauge because you can have a server that has equal populations but not enough of one faction want to PVP. They attempted to address the faction imbalance by tieing PVE rewards thus dragging in those hyper efficient levelers who just want gear.

    The game is all about rewards and efficiency for most PVE'rs and they generally only PVP for rewards, not for fun. Thus they are always trying to figure out loopholes in the system to get thier reward and get out of the "less fun" activity.