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Dissecting the Dev Watercooler on PvP

Dissecting the Dev Watercooler on PvP
Olivia Grace
Olivia Grace|@@oliviadgrace|November 7, 2012 1:00 PM
Dissecting the Dev Watercooler on PvP
A few days ago, Blizzard Lead Systems Designer Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street released a very lengthy Dev Watercooler on Mists of Pandaria PvP. Now that the dust has had a chance to settle, we're going to take a look at the blog and its implications for PvP right now. Next time we might look at some of their zany ideas for future PvP!


MMR, or Match-Making Rating is how teams are matched in rated PvP. MMR is separate from rating, but both are altered when you win or lose against other rated teams. Explaining the difference between the two is a little tricky, but essentially, MMR is how your matches are found. MMR is linked to players and teams, so a player forming a new team will carry some of their MMR with them from previous PvP escapades, in order for them not to face far lower-rated players. Rating is also linked to both players and teams, but doesn't dictate who you face.

Rating is won and lost via winning and losing against teams with better and worse MMRs. Say you're at 1500 MMR and 1500 rating, and you face a team at 1600 MMR and 1600 rating, and you lose. You will only lose a small amount of rating, let's say 5, and they will only gain a small amount, again let's say 5. Both your MMRs will adjust similarly. Now say you beat them. They will lose a big chunk of rating, but likely not such a big chunk of MMR. You, equally, will gain a big chunk of rating, and depending on how many matches you've played, likely gain a reasonable amount of MMR. The MMR is saying "hey these guys beat a 1600 team. They're better than a 1500 MMR".

MMR, as you've probably just seen, is hard to explain, particularly in tandem with rating. I hope I've made a reasonable stab at it, but rather than going into further detail, I want to discuss why it's important, and why both come up in Ghostcrawler's post.

MMR is often reset at the start of seasons, and indeed Blizzard announced that it would be reset at the start of the new expansion. It makes perfect sense that it would be reset, given how it is tied in with rating, and how one of the big problems that has lasted for years now is how rating is camped by players who reach high ratings in the early part of the season.

Dissecting the Dev Watercooler on PvP
Camping rating, unlike the screenshot, has little to do with tents. It is permitted, if not encouraged, by the current MMR and rating system. If my earlier explanation made any sense to you at all, what players do is rush to a high rating early in the season, often by playing "flavor of the month" comps, such as beast mastery hunters in the early part of this expansion. These players would attain a high rating, and a high MMR, then stop playing.

Why would that be beneficial? If one of these teams hit a high rating and MMR, rank one even, then carried on playing, they risk losing to a lower MMR team, and thereby losing rating, and their high position in the ranks. If they stop playing, particularly if they are rank one, teams with lower ratings and MMRs than them have an ever-diminishing pool of players to face, and may never actually find a sufficiently high-rated team to beat and overtake the camping team. If you look at the very top-rated teams at the moment, several have played very few games for their rating, showing this off rather nicely. If MMR is reset, then these teams have to work their way up through the ranks again to gain that high spot. If it isn't, then they have less of an arduous task to regain their campsite!

Ghostcrawler mentions this in his post, in two contexts. Firstly, he comments on the absence of an MMR reset, saying that:

...we don't think it makes a lot of sense to reset MMR at the end of a season or expansion. It's unlikely your skill atrophied significantly more than that of your competition between seasons, so there isn't a lot of benefit in measuring it again. If we did reset MMR then what you'd likely see is a handful of mismatched games, where experienced players rock weaker players until MMR is calibrated again.

He does note that the reason why many players call for MMR resets is as I've discussed, yet confirms that, despite that, MMR wasn't reset, and won't be. This raises a big concern. Will MMR ever be reset again? Yes, it's hard on newer PvPers while the MMR system sorts everyone out, but is that such a big price to pay for a couple of weeks in return for reintroducing competition into the upper echelons of rated PvP?

Ghostcrawler, encouragingly, does talk about a system Blizzard plans to have in place in patch 5.1 to attempt to rectify this problem. He describes this as the opposite to rating decay, which players have been asking for for a long time. Rating decay would essentially mean that, if teams didn't play, they would slowly lose rating. Ghostcrawler's systems means that, instead of feeling they have to play because of rating decay, players are encouraged to play with rating inflation. If players keep playing, he says, they will gain ever more rating, allowing them to overtake idle teams.

There are, as ever, positive and negative sides to this. A big positive is that Blizzard's team are considering alterations to the rating system at all. I hope I might have convinced you that, for high rated players at least, it needs a change. But the problem with the new system itself is the spread it creates. It will have to be coupled with some changes to MMR matches, as it's possible that we might see teams with extremely elevated ratings, and teams among the top end getting ever more spread out. This won't result in shorter queues, not with the current system at least, and certainly won't help players who are starting late season to build up to top ratings, as the mountain they have to climb will grow ever taller.

Balance, Healing and Crowd Control

Ghostcrawler would certainly have ruffled some feathers when asserting that crowd control is currently OK. Despite having said that, certain items such as Glyph of Gag Order are being removed, so some small changes are taking place. In recent hotfixes, rogues seem to have had much of their earlier control returned to them, with reductions on the cooldowns of Blind and similar. Is crowd control OK? That's debatable, and probably depends on your position. Crowd control is increadibly frustrating to counter sometimes, and no player likes to be chain CC'd for what seems like an eternity. Ghostcrawler does add that they're keeping an eye on it. I'm not sure where I stand on crowd control. I probably agree with Ghostcrawler in that it's OK. Not perfect, just OK. There are matches and BGs where it's no problem and others where I want to sacrifice my monitor in order to punch WoW in the face.

Several class balance concerns also crop up, none of which are hugely surprising, perhaps with the exception of rogues. A good response to a class whose players feel it's suffering in the damage department is not "you're fine, every single other class is too strong". If I played a rogue, I would be extremely dissatisfied with this response. It was a surprise not to see desctruction warlocks feature more prominently on the list of high burst classes. Perhaps the devs feel that the requirement to build up burning embers, plus the long cast time of Chaos Bolt is compensation enough for the fact that it can relieve an opponent of a huge chunk of their health. I'm not entirely sure I agree, but that's just my opinion.

Dissecting the Dev Watercooler on PvP
When it comes to healing, I'm also not sure my opinion is the same as the devs in all respects. I do agree that off-spec heals are too strong, and support the suggested change to PvP Power according to spec, but perhaps if a 30% nerf is introduced to healing overall that will make off-spec heals too weak altogether. Those off-spec healing spells should still be useful, though I agree that they are currently too strong. The removal of PvP Power influence, coupled with an overall 30% nerf to healing would likely make them too weak.

As far as main spec healing goes, I can't comment on holy paladins, though they're top of my list of specs to try, but as someone who mains a restoration shaman, they feel very strong. As I was commenting to a friend, if PvP-focused restoration shaman had a list of things they'd like added in Mists, pretty much every wish was fulfilled. However, they seem equally as strong as other healers, perhaps excluding dscipline priests. Holy has never been the priest PvP spec, and I'm not sure if that will ever change. Druids have gone from being very weak to being very strong again, as is ever the way with our tree-friends, and Mistweaver monks are tricky. They are very, very strong in PvE, but are very new to PvP. Players don't have such in-depth knowledge on their abilities yet as they do for other classes, so mistweavers could be harder to counter. I'm leveling a monk purely to understand them better. They do, however, seem very squishy to me!

Lastly, I think the devs have it spot on when they say they want to fix burst damage before touching healing. Dealing with burst damage is immensely frustrating, as I've said in the past, and a nerf to healing will certainly not help with that. More dissection may well ensue next week, so let me know your thoughts on these issues, and the rest of Ghostcrawler's blog!

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Dissecting the Dev Watercooler on PvP