The Art of War(craft): Outdoor PvP, Part I - War in the Old World

Zach Yonzon
Z. Yonzon|12.24.07

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Zach Yonzon
December 24th, 2007
The Art of War(craft): Outdoor PvP, Part I - War in the Old World

So you've tried out all the Battlegrounds; maybe even ground your Honor quota from the Call-to-Arms holiday. You've played your Arena games for the week, and maybe you've sent a message to those filthy campers who messed up your guildie's daily Simon Says. What else is there to do in the world of PvP? Well, there's always World PvP. Technically, any PvP that occurs outside of an instanced zone (i.e. Battlegrounds and Arenas) is considered world or outdoor PvP. In the old days, that meant hours of skirmishes between Tarren Mill and Southshore or endless assaults on the Crossroads. In Patch 1.12, however, Blizzard introduced objective-based outdoor PvP with A Game of Towers in the Eastern Plaguelands and The Silithyst Must Flow in Silithus. The trend continues in Outlands with objectives in Hellfire Peninsula, Zangarmarsh, Terrokar Forest, and Nagrand.

I wrote about how I always wanted my PvP to have some sort of meaning, and objective-based zone PvP is about as meaningful as it gets. More than the Battlegrounds, where PvP is contextualized only through a story, or the Arenas where PvP is purely sport, the objectives in the outdoor PvP zones are designed to give a direct benefit to your faction. If any sort of PvP highlights the conflict between the Alliance and the Horde, it is the battle for control of these PvP zones. Achieving these objectives can make a player feel like he or she's contributed something substantial to his or her faction. Although it gives little to no Honor and no Arena points, it can be fun, spontaneous and even rewarding for the little time you put in it. Whether it's role-playing or for something different to do in between 2-on-2 Arena queues, world PvP offers a different slice of the PvP pie.

War in the old world
Objective-based PvP began with Silithus and Eastern Plaguelands, introducing new mechanics that would later be seen in other PvP zones such as Eye of the Storm. On normal servers, players must flag themselves for PvP in order to participate, which is a clear disadvantage because opponents will always have the opportunity for first strike. But there are a few incentives to achieving the zone objectives, such as quests and reputation gains, as well as token Honor. Personally, I feel that these zone objectives lack a compelling reason to participate in PvP -- lessons that Blizzard learned -- but provided seeds for future designs.

The Silithyst Must Flow aka Sandlol
Patch 1.12 introduced a strange substance called Silithyst, which can be obtained by clicking on glowing geysers on the ground all over Silithus. Clicking on these objects will despawn them and give you a debuff called Silithyst, which will make you glow -- allowing enemies to spot you easier -- and slows down your movement to 75%. If you have movement-enhancing spells such as Ghost Wolf or Aspect of the Cheetah, maximum speed is capped at 100%. The debuff is a rather huge disincentive for picking up Silithyst because slow movement is a hindrance to PvP and is extremely annoying to play through. Dying, entering stealth, mounting up, or acquiring immunity causes the Silithyst to be dropped, and dropped Silithyst can be picked up by another player from a mound on the ground.

The goal is to turn in 200 Silithyst samples at your faction's Silithyst machines. Each turn-in grants 20 Reputation with Cenarion Circle, 19 Honor and Traces of Silithyst, a 30-minute buff that increases melee, ranged and spell damage by 5%. The first faction that turns in 200 Silithyst samples is granted a zone-wide buff called Cenarion Favor, which increases Cenarion Circle reputation gained from killing monsters in Silithus and Ahn'qiraj by 25%. None of these benefits are particularly compelling, although the reputation gain was substantial for guilds running Ahn'qiraj. Dubbed 'sandlol' by most players, Silithus world PvP was largely unsuccessful. Aside from mechanics that didn't encourage combat -- having the Silithyst debuff meant having to avoid enemies -- everything felt as though it were merely, in the words of Blizzard, tacked on.

Sandlol fails for the simple reason that it's deathly boring. Finding the occasional Silithyst Geyser is already a chore in itself, and transporting it on foot at a reduced speed is even more so -- running across the desert at a slowed pace grows old really quickly. Furthermore, it is frustrating to fight with gimped movement speed, making the Silithyst debuff completely PvP-unfriendly. Even without opponents (often the case in the sparsely populated Silithus) the 19 Honor and 20 Reputation takes too long and isn't worthwhile. The +5% damage buff granted by Traces of Silithyst, because it is applied to the player and not the zone, is debatably the only bonus worth obtaining.

A Game of Towers
Towers in the Eastern Plaguelands provide a more dynamic game, introducing the concept of capturing towers through proximity and numerical superiority. This mechanic is later seen in Eye of the Storm, Hellfire Peninsula, and Zangarmarsh. There are four towers in the EPL that can be captured in this way -- the Crown Guard Tower in the South, the Eastwall Tower in the East, the Northpass Tower in the North, and Plaguewood Tower in the West. Control of a tower grants a zone-wide +1% melee and spell damage bonus against Undead, to a maximum of +5% -- a bonus of +1% given for controlling all towers. The buff also works inside Stratholme, but is a fluid buff that can change depending on the control of the towers in EPL.

The fluidity of tower control is the biggest flaw in this zone's PvP objective. Control of the towers can change hands at any time, making any sort of long-term buff difficult to maintain. Without any opponents, conversion of a tower can also be mind-numbingly boring, as it takes over ten minutes to fully convert a tower from one faction's control to the other. The key to making any headway with tower control is to do it through numbers. It would be good to have simultaneous teams going after each tower as it is far too easy to simply convert an opposing faction's tower after its occupants have left.

Each tower has interesting mechanics that come into play when captured. The Crown Guard Tower grants control over a Graveyard immediately North of the tower, which is useful for those who quest in the area. The coolest part of controlling the Crown Guard Tower is the animation of the Spirit Guide floating from the sky down to the Graveyard once it converts. The Plaguewood Tower grants access to a spectral gryphon master that allows players to fly to any of the three towers via a spectral gryphon mount. Upon conversion, the Eastwall Tower spawns NPCs that rush the Northpass Tower. Oddly enough, even though the NPCs -- Lordaeron Soldiers, Commanders, Fighters, and Veterans -- look like ghosts, they are considered Humanoid for purposes of spells and attacks. Lastly, the Northpass Tower spawns an object called the Lordaeron Shrine which grants Lordaeron's Blessing, a 30-minute buff which increases hit points by 5%.

There are quests to capture all four towers, obtainable at Light's Hope Chapel -- Bolstering Our Defenses for the Horde and Establishing New Outposts for the Alliance. The tower must be under the control of the opposing faction in order for the tower conversion to count against the quest objectives, although some players report that it is possible to capture a tower while it is gray or contested. Players must be inside the tower when it converts, otherwise it can happen that the conversion will not count. Capturing a tower also grants 18 Honor points, which is a mere token for the effort.

Experience from old zones prior to the implementation of Battlegrounds indicated that players were hungry for outdoor PvP, and Blizzard's first attempts at objective-based World PvP were experiments that provided key learnings for future zones. Traces of Silithyst and Lordaeron's Blessing are both excellent, if short, buffs that are worth obtaining because they scale. At Level 70, the +5% to damage or hit points provide a bit of oomph while questing or grinding. While visiting the old world, it wouldn't hurt to make a stop at either zone if only to acquire a buff before hearthing back to Shattrath City. Of course, once in Outlands, there are more World PvP objectives to achieve, so the fun never really stops. Next week, we'll take a look at World PvP in the zones of Hellfire Peninsula, Zangarmarsh, Terrokar Forest, and Nagrand. Pack your bags, we're crossing the portal.

Zach Yonzon writes the Art of War(craft) while munching on Spicy Hot Talbuk with a flagon of Star's Tears on the side. He would like to wish everyone a Happy Winter's Vale!
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