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BlizzCon 2008: WoW PvP Panel

Mike Schramm

We're liveblogging the PvP panel from the floor of BlizzCon. Updates start after the break.

10:35am: Cory Stockton, Tom Chilton, Ghostcrawler (Greg Street) are all here. First up, the Orgrimmar Arena -- there are moving pylons to change line of sight, and DoT fire hazards that players can need to avoid.

10:39am: Cory's showing a PvP video of the Arena. There's a platform that carries players to the dungeon at start, and instantly everything is open. They're showing the pillars going up and down -- LOS works only when they're down, so if you hide back there, you can't get healed or hurt until it drops down. You can also stand on the pillar as it rises, but to get to it fast, you might have to take the fire damage.

10:41am: Each pillar has its own top texture, so it can be easily identified while fighting in the arena. Looks great - the blue sky and the fire trails have a great contrast.

10:42am: Now off to the Dalaran sewers -- they wanted to make it fit in Dalaran, and make it nice, small, and tight. The sewers are a seedy area, so "you can imagine it as something like Fight Club." You can even see the arena through Dalaran's floor -- there are scripted NPCs that will fight.

10:43am: More line of sight blocking -- there's a pillar of water that is timed that will block LOS, and even do a knockback if you're hit by it. Not a knockdown, but enough to keep you out of the water. That's part of the gameplay -- since it's a small place, there's not as many places to run. So no hugging the water pillar -- they call it "area denial."

10:44am: No mounts in the sewers at all. Travel forms work, but not mounts. Some people were surprised -- there are strats that use the mounts, but they won't work in the sewers. They also created some starting area pipes that are off the ground, which means that while players are still in the starting area, they can't get hurt. But they can't stay in there for too long -- the water will eventually spit them out.

10:46am: Showing the sewers video. There's a central raised platform, and the only way on is through two stairs on the corners, so if you get knocked off, you have to go around. The water is only on for a few seconds, and he said it's the same time every time, so lots of strategy there. Very dark. There's two sets of barrels/crates on the sides of the raised platform you could hide behind as well.

10:48am: The crates are permanent line of sight blockers, but the strip behind it is very small, so you'll have to be careful. He shows a player getting knocked out of the starting pipe -- it's a strong knockback, the player goes flying across the room.

10:49am: Battlegrounds. Strand of the Ancients. Crowd applauds, and Cory says "that's a good sign!" We wanted to do an attack-defend map -- we wanted to integrate it into WoW in a way that it felt like it fight. And since destructible buildings and siege engines were new, that worked for what you have to attack or defend.

10:50am: It'll be a timed attack defend, so you'll have to attack as fast as possible, and try to defend the other side for longer.

10:51am: Siege vehicles also help players get back in the game. Will be upped to 15 vs. 15 (beta right now is 10 vs. 10), and they're going to increase the amount of vehicles to balance that.

10:53am: There are a series of walls to bust through, and it's like Battlefield 1942 -- they created dynamic moving spawnpoints, so players come off the shore, jump into a siege vehicle, and start blowing things up. For players who don't get into vehicles, there are mines to carry up to the walls and arm. When they get dropped, there's 3-4 seconds for enemies to disarm, so even non-vehicle gameplay can lead to fights.

10:54am: There are multiple angles to take toward the enemy keep, so you can move up the left or right side first, choose a way to go like choosing which nodes to jump on in AB. Walls have their own unique icon and color, so players can identify where to go first.

10:55am: Showing Strand of the Ancients video. Players begin on boats, and then advance towards an awesome looking temple, that's the final objective. Siege engine looks good -- are those physics? Shots leave a fire/smoke trail in the air. There are also placed cannons to fire back. There's no cooldown on those, just global, but they are destructible, so offensive vehicles can stop them. Showing the mine -- takes about 6 seconds, but may take more than one mine to finish off a wall.

10:56am: Finally, Wintergrasp. A non-instanced PvP zone. "Wintergrasp was a huge step for us. Something obviously we've never done before." They wanted a large number of players -- hundreds -- playing and fighting in one zone, using weapons, and having it all make sense in terms of one battle. They're taking notes watching the games on Murmur -- 150 players, siege vehicle explosions everywhere. Gives players something they can't experience anywhere else in the game.

10:58am: Also an attack/defend map -- there are walls around the fortress in the middle, so you've got to break your way in through one of 30 walls. But to get the vehicles, you have to earn ranks by contributing to the fight, and you have to get HKs to do that. Right now it's at 2 kills/rank, but that may change. Workshops around the map let you build vehicles, and you can choose various types of vehicles based on your rank, and different vehicles fit for different scenarios -- artillery, tank, melee, etc.

11:00am: There's a cooldown between each attack/defend mode -- right now it's 2.5 hours. They want players to have a chance to actually reap the benefits of the game. You have 30-40 minutes to capture the base, and then it's "owned" for the cooldown time. "Let's say Horde captures the fortress..." brings "For the Horde!" from the audience. "Owning" the base opens up Daily Quests, a portal in Dalaran to Wintergrasp, and a unique raid instance just for the winning faction -- there's a raid boss that has a wide selection of loot, from PvP to PvE. He'll be on a one-day cooldown, so if your faction owns the zone, you can go in there once per day.

11:01am: The other feature is like Spirit Shards -- all the bosses across the world will drop a new token that you can use to buy items from Wintergrasp when you own it. "Let's say Alliance captures it this time.." brings scattered boos (and another "For the Horde!). Mounts, gear, gems, individual items, a wide selection of things. You'll want to keep coming back to get items, both PvP and PvE gear.

11:03am: Showing video from the beta servers of the zone. The fortress in the middle is huge, and Cory says it's all destructible. It's chaos -- explosions and melee people everywhere, some emplaced cannons "cherry-picking," according to Cory.

11:05am: You'll need players on the ground and vehicles going to have a successful takeover. Showing a vehicle that can shoot plague on the ground, creates an AoE that does a DoT. Inside the courtyard, fighting is even closer. "So how is this going to run?" Cory says they've spent tons of time making sure the servers can handle it, making sure it'll play smooth and "to the level that you guys expect." The raid portal is inside the keep itself.

11:07am: Now Tom will talk about the future of PvP. One thing we're looking at is tweaking the rewards system -- we want to support all the people playing PvP, not just the PvPers. Something we have in the works is finding a way that we can measure the success of players in BGs and Wintergrasp, so we can balance rewards from all the different aspects of the game. We don't want the way to get the best gear to be sitting AFK in the BG -- we have to make sure people are doing well and being successful.

11:12am: Q&A time. Boy that line is long, plenty of people have questions, as you'd expect.

11:09am: Our players say they feel like they spend their lives inside the cities, so we will have people be able to queue from anywhere. Finally, competitive or guild battlegrounds ("TBD," says the slide), but they want to try to give arena-style rankings to performance in the BGs. Mixing it up with other guilds to show who's the top dog in BGs. In the past, players organized leagues, and they'd like to foster that sense of competition.

11:11am: We also want players to be able to level up in the battlegrounds, kind of mix up leveling PvE and PvP. XP in addition to honor, and daily quest support through 10-80.

Q: Being that Hunters are the least represented class, everybody acknoledges that there's two weaknesses for our class -- pets, and ability to shoot in melee range. If we are considered a caster, why can't we shoot someone in melee range, rather than have to switch, while casters can cast anywhere.

Tom: Pets are an advantage in a lot of ways for Hunters -- they have some off-cooldown abilities, there are a lot of pet tricks. While they do have the drawback, there are benefits, and it's a question of tuning that. We're trying to tread the fine line between making sure it's a viable strategy to kill the pet but it'll cost you to try that too. As for melee -- you're in mail, you're armored, you should be able to survive enough to walk away, while casters can't. It's a fine line, and Disengage might make it more interesting.

Q: I like what I'm seeing here -- meshing the fun of PvP and PvE. There's another product with War in the title, and good to see you're taking the good cues when you need to. Any facelift for the older battlegrounds to beef those up?

Tom: There's content burnout in PvP content, we haven't done it as much as PvE. Originally, players were the content, we thought. And WSG you do the whole leveling time. But rather than go back, we want to introduce more BGs than we have in the past.

Q: Pallys in the Arenas -- what chance do we have against mages -- any future changes to help us stay in melee range? Boos from the audience. I knew Paladins would get booed.

A: Abilities to knock you out of melee are core class abilities. But we're beefing up some of your abilities -- Hammer of Justice gets cooldown tweaks, and glyphs will help you catch up there, too.

Q: Wintergrasp -- there were about 10 million Alliance to every Horde. A buff for the faction with less people?

A: Cory: Yes, there's a buff called Tenacity. It scales based on the imbalance of players, and it scales your damage output, and scales the incoming damage down as a percentage. 1/3 vs. 2/3 in the bg, you might get 100% increase to damage and take 30% damage overall. By yourself, you might even get 300% damage, so you will be a huge force even on your own. Applause from the crowd. We're still keying the numbers -- we don't want people with 300% damage all the time -- but that's our goal.

Tom: There's a psychology of defeat that happens when your team is losing. We want to convert some of that into "my team might be down, but man I can get some crazy crits if I go there right now." It's a different gameplay experience when you're behind.

Q: Ranks and how those will reset in Wintergrasp. I can still get my HKs if I AFK, so how will you balance that?

A: Tom: We'll ban you (Laughs). We don't have a forced grouping system in Wintergrasp, so unless you group with someone, you won't get HKs anyway unless you participate.

Q: Fire in Orgrimmar -- is that timed?

A: Cory: it's timed but it starts right away, and you'll see gears running to show you when the fight will start.

Two more questions...

Q: Druid PvP (boos). Resto is powerful and I want it nerfed, but I don't want to hurt Balance or Feral. How can you fix that without killing the other two.

A: Tom: Wrath is a very different beast than the live servers. Lifebloom lost a lot of power, so you can't rely on it. There are changes, along with the new talents, that from the beta test we've seen, Druids aren't the dominant force they can be in smaller brackets today.

GC: We've changed the game quite a bit from BC to WotLK. We've given classes new abilities and changed old abilities, so there'll be new problems to deal with.

Q: Arenas and races. There's almost no representation of Draenei or Night Elves (shouts from the crowd).

A: Tom: We want to make sure we don't change Arena rules too much so it feels different from the game. Consumables have already been changed there, but we want to maintain integreity as much as possible. There's potential for racial balance in WotLK. If it's still a problem after that, we'll reconsider. Small applause for that one.

Q: Wintergrasp. I'm a healing Druid (boos). Before you were able to group in BGs, it was hard to heal, will there be any mechanic in Wintergrasp.

A: Tom: We've avoided groups so far, mostly because of the AFK problem. Our grouping system won't go above 40 players at this point either, so for the moment, it's group on your own.

That's all the time we have. Dungeons and Raids is coming up in a bit, so stay tuned all day today for more live coverage from BlizzCon here on WoW Insider. More pictures coming soon. Thanks for reading!

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