Patch 2.0.1 was, according to a large chunk of players, quite possibly one of the best patches to come out of vanilla WoW. It had nothing to do with the introduction of the new talent trees in preparation for The Burning Crusade's looming launch. It had nothing to do with the new, bulky, and rarely used first iteration of the looking for group tool. There were no launch events with this patch, just a heck of a lot of data that needed to be implemented in preparation for the launch of the first expansion.
But what had players either cheering fervently or cursing forever had nothing to do with the imminent approach of The Burning Crusade. It had everything to do with PVP and the removal of the honor system as we knew it in vanilla. What's so special about that, you ask? Let's take a journey back in time and look at the good and bad of the old honor system. If you think today's Arena grinds are difficult, well ... you're in for one heck of an eye-opener.
The changing face of PVP
In the beginning, PVP existed, but it was nothing like what we're used to today. There were no rewards, no special accolades, just a kill-and-be-killed atmosphere that players either embraced or detested. Despite the lack of rewards, PVP was easy to find, and people were quite content to murder each other all day long simply for the satisfaction of doing it. Whether it was epic battles between Tarren Mill and Southshore, or fights at the Crossroads in The Barrens, PVP was simply one of those things that happened, regardless of what server you were on -- and leveling players had to face the possibility that the town they were trying to quest in would be destroyed as they were trying to pick up and turn in quests.
But then came the Battlegrounds, and all of that changed in a dramatic fashion, largely due to the implementation of the original honor system. Instead of simply killing for fun, players were now awarded honorable kills for each player of the opposing faction that was killed. Each HK came with a certain amount of "honor contribution points" -- killing a higher-ranked player yielded more contribution points than killing a player with no rank at all. Each week, the contribution points would be tallied and used to calculate your rating in the honor system. As you moved up in ranks, you could purchase and wield armor and weapons.
In addition, as you ranked up, you got faction-specific titles to display. As with the armor and weapons, each title required a certain rating number to display. The Alliance and Horde titles for each rank are as follows:
- Private / Scout
- Corporal / Grunt
- Sergeant / Sergeant
- Master Sergeant / Senior Sergeant
- Sergeant Major / First Sergeant
- Knight / Stone Guard
- Knight-Lieutenant / Blood Guard
- Knight-Captain / Legionnaire
- Knight-Champion / Centurion
- Lieutenant Commander / Champion
- Commander / Lieutenant General
- Marshal / General
- Field Marshal / Warlord
- Grand Marshal / High Warlord
The honor grind
See, there was no set amount of contribution points for each level. You couldn't just kill 10k players and get a shiny new title. The way the original system worked was that you were competing against every other player on your server for ranking. If someone happened to get more honorable kills than you that week, they would outrank you. What this meant was that you didn't simply have to get 60k kills a week -- you had to get that minimum 60k, and on top of that, you had to kill more people than the other people who were grinding for titles and honor. If you got more kills than anyone else on the server, you ranked #1.
But there was a catch. The system had a decay in effect, because it was tallied on a weekly basis. So if you ranked high one week and then took a week off, everyone who was still PVPing while you were taking your break moved up in rank ahead of you, and you'd move down. And there was another catch -- killing enemy NPCs would give you dishonorable kills, which would also drag down your ranking. If you were grouped with a player who killed an NPC, you got the DK right along with them, even if you didn't touch the NPC at all.
Take into consideration the number of players on any given server at a time and the sheer popularity of the Battlegrounds when they opened, and you have a recipe for disaster. It wasn't the server crash kind of disaster, but rather the personal life kind of disaster. Players who wanted to achieve Grand Marshal or High Warlord had to run as many Battlegrounds as they could per week. If someone was running more than they were, then they had to beat that person. This escalated to a point that hardcore PVP players trying to reach the top ranks were literally playing from morning to night -- and in some cases, sharing their account information with friends so that they could log off and sleep while their friend made sure their character was still racking up the honor.
Grouping in raids and world PVP was something viewed warily by the PVP population. Players would grief hardcore PVPers by inviting them to a group and then killing an NPC or five before the PVPer knew what was going on. It would cost them ranking, so they'd have to PVP even more, grinding their way back up from the drop, and then grinding even more to try and get back on top.
Imagine if you will that ranking in Arenas required you to play 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Now imagine that if you took a day off, that fancy title you got would simply disappear, and it would take you another two to three weeks of grinding just to catch back up. That's the kind of horror these people that were doing this honor grind faced every week. There are plenty of stories out there about hardcore raiding guilds that devote every second they are logged on to raiding, either preparing for it or actually doing it. In vanilla WoW, that was the PVP system. It was so monstrously popular that players would literally play nonstop in an effort to get their title.
Patch 2.0.1 and the death of the grind
Patch 2.0.1 was significant for many reasons, but the largest by far was the fact that that old honor grind went away. Players could now display their highest ranked title, regardless of whether or not they still participated in PVP. In addition, players didn't have to keep playing to keep their honor points intact; the points just accumulated like currency. The titles themselves were no longer a factor in PVP play. Blizzard released an FAQ explaining the honor system changes and what changed, because the adjustments that were made to the system were so drastically different.
Players who had fought their way to Rank 14 in the old system rejoiced -- the titles that they fought so hard for could once more be worn with pride. But there was another group of players utterly devastated by the change: those who nearly had it, those who were almost there. The players who had spent months playing nonstop, bleary-eyed and exhausted, so close to getting that Rank 14 title, only to have it suddenly taken away. And after it was taken away, all those players could do was look back on the hours upon hours that were wasted on something they could never achieve again.
What is the new player-versus-player (PvP) honor system? Like the current PvP honor system, the new honor system provides a way for players to participate in PvP combat and obtain rewards by defeating their opponents. The key difference in the new honor system is how the rewards are obtained. With the new honor system, you will obtain honor points that can be accumulated and spent like currency on rewards such as items, weapons, and armor.
Do I need to keep playing to keep my honor points intact? No, the honor points will accumulate like currency, similar to the gold and silver you can obtain through killing monsters or completing quests, and will not degrade or be lost over time. This allows you to participate in PvP at your own pace, working toward the honor rewards, which you can purchase as soon as you have enough honor points to do so. There is no longer any ranking associated with the honor system, so you no longer have to worry about maintaining a rank or standing under the honor system. Players still interested in measuring their PvP ability against fellow players will be able to participate in the Arena System, which is a separate, new form of competitive PvP in The Burning Crusade.
Is there a limit to how many honor points I can accumulate? Yes, there is a limit to how many honor points a character can accumulate, but it is currently set to be approximately twice as much as the most expensive reward. If you max out your honor points, you'll need to spend some before you can earn additional honor points.
The limit of course, is subject to change depending on what works best for long-term game balance.
Are honor points the only thing needed to purchase the rewards? The battleground marks of honor currently awarded for participating in Warsong Gulch, Arathi Basin, Alterac Valley, and Eye of the Storm will also factor in to the cost for many of the rewards. The amount of honor points and marks of honor required will vary for each reward. However, for most items the honor cost is the most significant part of the item's cost. As of patch 3.3m marks are no longer given out nor needed to make purchases. Existing marks may be converted into Honor Points.
Will the honor and battleground reputation rewards available in the current system still be available? All of the same rewards are available in the new honor system, costing both honor points and marks of honor from the appropriate battleground.
What will happen to my current battleground reputations, honor, and rank? A new title system will display your highest rank achieved under the old honor system, but ranks will no longer play a part in the new honor system. The battleground reputations will carry over to the new system, and still be visible and increase through participation in the various battlegrounds, but the current rewards are now only available through the new honor system. However, you will be able to obtain a special title if you obtain exalted reputation with each battleground faction. This title may be displayed through the new title display system.
What is the Honor System? The Honor System allows players to gain Honor Points based on PvP kills and battles that can be used to spend on special rewards. Players earn Honor Points mainly through Battlegrounds and World Outdoor PvP. For more competitive battles, participate in the Arena System.
Once I gain Honor Points, do I keep it indefinitely, or do I have to keep earning it? You keep them until you spend them. There is a limit to how many honor points a character can accumulate, but it is currently set to be approximately twice as much as the most expensive reward. If you max out your honor points, you'll need to spend some before you can earn additional honor points.
Personally, I remember the old honor system with a faint tinge of horror. I myself never sought to complete the grind; I simply helped fellow guildies who were attempting to grasp that golden ring by healing them in the Battlegrounds whenever I was on. My old main, now relegated to alt status, still carries the title Centurion as a reminder of those days long gone. As for the four players that I helped get to High Warlord, I recall quite fondly each one obtaining their title in turn, and the day after, each got their cherished High Warlord weapons. All four had the same ritual -- after getting their weapons, they immediately logged off and slept for a good 24 hours or so. Then they logged back on and proceeded to kill as many enemy NPCs as they could, forever ruining their ranking with dishonorable kills and vowing never to do the grind again.
Patch 2.0.1 was a hallmark for World of Warcraft. It signaled the approach of the first expansion for the game, and that was cause enough for excitement. But it also signaled the death of one of the worst, most grueling time sinks the game had to offer. Whether PVPers hailed the new system as an utter relief as compared to the old or grieved over hours they could never live again, 2.0.1 changed the face of PVP for good.
The WoW Archivist examines the WoW of old. Follow along while we discuss beta patch 0.8, beta patch 0.9, and hidden locations such as the crypts of Karazhan.