World of Warcraft Senior PvP Designer Brian Holinka was also very clear on the BlizzCon Global Invitationals stream, on the virtual ticket videos, at 8:43:28 on the second video of the first day's play, that the existing ladder wasn't changing. The Trial of the Gladiator is going to be a completely new system on top of what currently exists.
Trial of the Gladiator: What is it, and why?
Trial of the Gladiator is, on a very basic level, a system that allows players to gain rating and ladder position at specific times through the week. So, for example, if you want to gain rating and try for a title this season, you'd want to be playing at these times. They might be Saturday at 10am, maybe also Wednesday at 6pm, Monday at 8pm, Tuesday at 4pm, and so on.
Brian has been very clear that, while it's impossible to please everyone, they will do their best to be inclusive with these times. This is an easier task for the EU, where the timezones covered by the region only span around four hours, excluding eastern Russia. However, in the US, the developers have to cater not only for the three-hour east coast west coast difference, but also factor in Australia, New Zealand and the surrounding areas, which have a massive +18-hour time difference from Warcraft's home Pacific time. And, despite the worries of various players on Twitter and on the forums, I'm pretty confident that Blizzard has thought of that. When Brian says that they can't please everyone, there's always going to be somebody who says "oh, I can't make any of these five times you're offering". They're not proposing to exclude entire continents from high-end arena PvP.
Firstly, it makes it far harder for players to win-trade. Win-trading, which is strictly against the terms of service, would often take place specifically at times of day when players knew there were so few people queuing that they would reliably face the same opponents over and over, and could therefore reliably trade wins and losses, increasing both teams' ratings. By only allowing players to gain rating and ladder position in these specific times, they go a long way toward removing this method of win-trading.
Harder, better, faster, stronger
What's more, this means that there is a far better chance of faster queues and more accurate MMR matching in these specific times, for everyone. This content is not only aimed at high-end PvPers. But, when you're playing at a high rating, a problem you'll often face is really long queues, or matches where you're so far away from your opponents in MMR that you really don't gain much for winning. Once you reach the upper echelons of rating, there's really only a few teams playing at any given time, and this will concentrate all the teams at top ratings into smaller windows.
What does this mean for me, the casual PvPer, I hear you ask? Well your MMR matches will be better, too. If your MMR is 1800, you might end up facing teams at 2100 right now, thanks to the smaller player pool. Trial of the Gladiator will have the same effect for you as for the top-rated teams, your matches will be against closer MMR teams, and will therefore improve your chances to gain rating. In addition to that, many high-rated players stream their matches. This concentration of high-end play will mean that you know Friday night is arena night, or that on Saturday mornings you can fire up Twitch and be sure to have something to watch.
No PvP gear required
The Trial of the Gladiator realm also has what are called "Tournament Rules" in place. This means that gearing is a thing of the past for TotG participants. Tournament rules, like you'll find on the Tournament Realm, or Arena Pass, mean that you rock up with your character, and then grab a full set of gear either for free or for a nominal amount of gold. There's not usually (with some exceptions) any PvE gear available, and indeed the designers have mentioned that they don't intend for any to be used in TotG.
So, whether you're a seasoned multi-glad, or a player who just wants to give arena a go but doesn't want to grind out gear, you can head over to TotG and grab a full set, gem and enchant it for a cost so small as to be irrelevant, and dive straight in. You can play on TotG at any time, so if you're not pushing for rating and titles the time limitations won't concern you. It's a really great way to get started in some arenas without the gear grind. And maybe you'll decide that you do want to push rating, that you do want to step into the ladder and see how you go.
No leveling required?
One thing that's not yet clear on this content, that is doubtless being worked on as we speak, is whether it'll be like the Arena Pass or Tournament Realm in its character creation. On that realm you can either copy characters over or create a pre-made: a max-level character that you just need to customize according to your desires.
We don't even know yet whether this content will function as a separate realm, or whether it will simply be an additional game type in the normal interface, but it seems unlikely that character creation will function like the Tournament Realm. To remove the gear grind is one thing, but to remove the leveling requirement is another entirely. The Tournament Realm will still have a place, in that respect, where players who have paid up their $20 will get to build characters from templates and try out whatever they want.
What does this mean for the existing ladder?
This is a tricky question to answer accurately right now, as there are definitely some valid concerns flying around about TotG's impact on the existing ladder. As we mentioned above, the existing arena ladder is going nowhere. But it could passively suffer at the hands of TotG.
For starters, players who would otherwise have taken their first steps into arena PvP on the normal ladder could decide that they don't want to suffer through the gear grind and instead use TotG to get going. However, the gear from TotG only works in that environment, and will be as good as virtual nudity elsewhere. So if world PvP is your thing, TotG gear will be useless. If you want to participate in the normal ladder, you'll still need to gear up in the normal way.
It's going to be an interesting time, for sure, as players may be put off by the perceived prestige of TotG and prefer to stay in the existing ladder. This may certainly be a hurdle for beginners. TotG may turn out to be a top-end-only experience. But it has huge potential for every kind of player, as I've hopefully clarified above. We'll have to wait and see!
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