Technically arenas are a deathmatch format. We have 2, 3 and 5 player teams going into an arena and murdering each other. The problem with extended deathmatch style play to BG's is how do you deal with player death? In most deathmatches, player death is the end of that player's contribution to his or her team. Now, if you've ever experienced an arena fight where one healer stayed up for extremely long periods of time, you can probably already see the problem here. Imagine a 15x15 deathmatch where you die, and then have to sit there dead for ten or twenty minutes while the battle rages on. A pure deathmatch with a straightforward victory condition like "first side to lose all of its players loses" could end up with long jags of nothing for the dead players to do.
So let's assume that instead of a deathmatch with that attitional victory condition, there's some other means to ensure victory - perhaps each player killed on the opposite team awards you points, and the match is won or lost at a certain point total so that players can be resurrected and rejoin the fight. This still ends up with a victory condition that is very basic and thus quickly becomes clear as to who will win. With current BG's this can often happen, but there's always a chance that the other team can perform well with an unexpected strategy and even things up. But in a deathmatch, if one side loses two or three players before the other side does, you'll much more easily hit a critical mass where the side that currently has more players up will focus down more of the opposition while their allies are waiting to return to life. This cascading dominance will quickly establish who the winner will be, and from then on it becomes a wait till the inevitable end.
In fact, that's why battlegrounds have
victory objectives. We don't run flags, capture bases, kill warmasters because we hate leaving flags where they are, have a compelling desire for real estate and just hate Van that much (although we do hate Van and Drek, and enjoy killing them) - we do it because it allows for victory to be determined without simply making it attrition based. We win when we do what is needed to win because that allows for players to keep playing instead of sitting there. And even so, players are often unwilling to stick out a loss. How much worse would it be if they couldn't even play
during that time?
That being said, I still wonder if there's room for a more deathmatch-type of BG, one that perhaps had a few interesting tweaks but which still depended on player vs. player combat over objectives like blowing up gates, clicking relics, conquering flags or what have you. Perhaps a deathmatch where certain locations on the map when clicked on will random raise dead players? Or a 10 by 10 BG that uses a deathmatch phase of some sort, perhaps to determine which group gets to move on to a better position for a second phase (imagine Strand of the Ancients where we fight a deathmatch and loser has to attack, while winner gets an extra minute when their attack phase comes up).
In the end, I'll just say I think deathmatch BG's would require some serious design innovation to overcome the problem with the format, but I'm still interested in seeing one. What do you think?
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