Differences in the systems
Here's a very brief summary of how the arena and rated battleground systems are different. (If you already know all this stuff, you can just skip to "Team hopping is awesome.")
Team rating (TR) The ranking of your team, this factors in how many points you get per week if your personal rating is close enough to it and your end-of-season rewards.
Personal rating (PR) The ranking of you as an individual, this factors in how many points you get per week. PR was designed to stop cheaters within the arena system.
Matchmaking rating (MMR) The number assigned to your team when the arena system queues you up. Teams with similar MMR will be paired against each other.
Team hopping is awesome
Personal rating (PR) Your rating determines how many points you get per week. That's it.
Matchmaking rating (MMR) The combined PR of everyone on your RBG team. The system is designed to pair teams with similar MMRs.
My favorite part of playing arena in The Burning Crusade
was the ability to just leave the team I was on and go play games with someone else. On some Saturdays, I would play for 10 hours straight with 10 different teams. The only penalty I received was leaving a higher-rated team for a lower-rated team (and that penalty was offset, as I could just rejoin the higher-rated team later on in the week). I quickly made a name for myself in the arena community on my server because I played with all the PvPers. The only reason I was able to do this was because there was no penalty attached with team hopping. You didn't have a personal rating that reset to 0 every time you joined someone else's team; team rating was everything back then.
Well, that doesn't exist anymore. Players are punished very severely for leaving their regular team to play with real-life friends (who might be just getting into PvP) or just playing fun games with a low-rated team.
However, the rated battleground system allows for team hopping. Your rating is tied to you as a player. There are no rated battleground "teams" -- one doesn't sign a charter to play a game of 10v10. No, players instead just join a trade chat PuG and battle it out. Don't like the PuG? Just leave it and join another one later, or form your own. It's a really sweet system. If your server is active enough, you can play with 100 different people in a single day by team hopping around rated battleground teams.
I wish arena got a giant facelift by implementing this system. Having players carry around an individual rating for arenas might seem revolutionary -- because it is. That four-digit number 1,800 would really mean something. It ties your character with how well you're doing in PvP.
If a 2,500 player with a 2,500 team rating and personal rating leaves his 3v3 to go play with real-life friends, he loses everything. His personal rating is reset to 1,000 when he rejoins his 2,500 team. By playing with real-life friends, sure, he might tank his rating down to 2,200 or 2,100. However, wouldn't you rather get back rating from 2,100 rather than get it back from 1,000? I know I would.
If that player plays with other teams around 2,500, chances are he won't be losing that many points at all (unless of course, those teams lose all their games). Even then, he's probably not tanking down to 2,200 in a single sitting, and even if he does, he has gotten a lot more experience with other people and might have met some new friends in the process.
If there is one giant benefit to changing the arena system to a player-based rating, it's team hopping.
Gaming with friends
Arena doesn't facilitate playing with new players. When your team gets high enough, you're forced to play with the same people week after week. Rated battlegrounds? Not the case. You can freely jump from one rated battleground team to another without any problems.
While I alluded to this in the previous paragraph, making friends is worth talking about at length. MMORPGs are based, in large part, on player interaction -- when player interaction dies, the MMO gets a lot less fun. I applauded the dungeon finder when it first came out -- heroics were made so much more accessible! It was awesome! But then I started noticing that player interaction from people on my server got much less interrelated. Getting people I knew together for a string of heroics was a big deal! I really enjoyed showing people how good I was at pumping out DPS, or healing my entire party up when things got heavy.
PvP is the same way. When you PvP with more players, you're excited to meet people who are good at PvP (or just make you laugh really hard) so you can play with them again. Rated battlegrounds have a bit of a monopoly on come-as-you-are PvP. I wish arenas were made more accessible to the masses so I could discover diamonds in the rough.
Just recently, I was PvPing with a priest in Arathi Basin. He kept me up through five people DPSing me down. I was pleasantly surprised at his ability to heal -- after he went OOM, I died, and he was still able to keep himself alive until I got back into the action. We fought five players off by ourselves -- just the two of us!
I invited him to my arena team, and we did a lot of games together. He's pretty awesome. He never really PvPed before, although he really enjoys being a valuable member of the team. I definitely snatched up a diamond in the rough with him. If there were more opportunities for players to connect via arena, this kind of thing would happen much more often. I'd love for that to happen.
, by The Whitest Boy Alive
Want to ascend the arena ladders faster than a fireman playing
Donkey Kong? We'll steer you to victory with the best arena addons and let you in on some rank 1 gladiator PvP secrets. If you're looking for the inside line on battlegrounds and world PvP, read The Art of War(craft).