Base resilience, while the impact on gear has been bad, has been a good overall change that allows more participation from PvE-geared players. The Crowd Chose You, while problematic in its mechanic, was a good basic idea -- removing the frustration of being turtled to a draw. Throughout the expansion, burst damage, burst healing, and CC have all been issues. There's been a lot to criticize. But now, with Warlords of Draenor, Holinka and his team seem to be doing everything right.
Trial of the Gladiator's removal
How can the removal of this system be a good thing? Well, it was something that was first raised at the PvP summit. Trial of the Gladiator was introduced to a key set of PvPers and press there, and vaunted as a new ladder, replacing the old one, and you know all about the rest of the design. But the concerns raised by the attendees, which were never really responded to, were about the impact on the existing ladder. Would it still have developer attention for balancing, given how Trial of the Gladiator would prevent all PvE gear and basically have its own balance? How would Trial of the Gladiator allow casual players to benefit? Would it just cater to the very best PvPers? Would people be excluded thanks to the time limitations?
And all of these are valid concerns. Setting limitations on time, particularly, is a potential issue given how WoW is played all around the globe, with the US and Oceanic regions spanning a particularly huge group of timezones. And a lot of the benefits were to higher end players, who will benefit from the tournament gear and wargames with spectator invitations as much as they would have done from Trial of the Gladiator.
The only players who will not necessarily benefit from this change are the ones who would have done TotG as they did not have to grind out any gear. While the no-gear-grind option is still available, it requires a bit more hoop-jumping than it would have done with TotG implemented. And honestly, I think that's a good thing. While there are a lot of us who do arena just for the love of it, there are a huge number who do it to cap out conquest and pursue gear, especially newer players. To remove that progression necessity might have been a bad idea. And, if you're really keen, I have a cunning plan that might just help you out.
Of all the changes in the PvP update, this is the one that has me the most excited by far. I posted recently in response to a player email about how PvP needed more queueing options, and Skirmishes provide exactly that. They're a solo-queue option, that can also be entered in groups, they're quick, they're a leg-up to getting started in arena, they're a fantastic addition to the game altogether.
If you don't remember the old Skirmish system, they were an un-rated arena that could be queued as a solo player or as a group. If you wanted to just try out some arenas with friends, without the stress of rating or ranking, Skirmishes were what you did. Even if you were a more experienced player, Skirmishes were a great way to try out new comps, specs or ideas without impacting your rating.
And what's more, the new version will award not only honor points, but also the chance at a bag, containing what could be anything from a little conquest, to a piece of gear, to a bit more honor, to gold. This is a way for PvPers to pay for gems, for enchants, for everything, without having to engage in PvE if they don't want to. Rewarding honor for these is fantastic, it gives gear-orientated players a reason to run them. In my opinion at least, the old system was under-used because of the absence of any reward apart from fun.
One thing I'd love to see, which Senior PvP Designer Brian Holinka has said they're not yet decided on, is Skirmishes appearing at lower levels too as a way to get into arenas and have some fun, even in the same brackets as battlegrounds. What I would absolutely adore is if they could also award XP. If you could level via Skirmishes at a reasonable pace -- unlike battleground levelling -- I'd rarely do anything else.
There's a little confusion around this feature at the moment, largely thanks to an absence of close reading. To clear it up, how this will work is that if, for example, you want to run a few wargames, you can have your party of two who are actually fighting. You can then invite other people who can watch. The implications of this for PvP tournaments is immense, particularly given that Blizzard are also adding in API changes to allow addon creators to build UIs around this for streamers and tournament organizers.
Spectator Invitations and the Group Finder
But why does it matter for everyone else? How can the casual player benefit from this? Well let's think about it in combination with the group finder. Blizzard has talked a great deal about the group finder coming in Warlords, something similar to oQueue as it stands, but built in and perhaps easier to use. What excites me is how this could work for players in conjunction with Spectator Invitations. For example, high-level PvPers who are doing some wargames could use the Group Finder to invite players who might like to watch and learn.
It also means that anyone at all can organise a PvP tournament. Guild groups can PvP together with their friends watching, you can take on another guild, or maybe just use the group finder to put wargames together and have a community watch. The tournament gear means that this is accessible to completely un-geared players, as it's available to wargames regardless of who you are. So you can put together casual arena matches via the Group Finder, and be fully geared. These can be streamed, or just watched by party members. I'm excited for the potential of these two features working in tandem.
Ashran -- the PvP island
I wanted to make mention of Ashran. Since the initial PvP blog that came out around BlizzCon, we've heard little more about it. Until Blizzard CM Lore posted about its reward system in the official forums the other day:
Ashran is crazy awesome, but we're not ready to start talking about it in too much depth just yet. I can tell you though that we completely agree that if the rewards from participating in Ashran PvP aren't enough to keep players coming back, many will lose interest. We want Ashran to be a place where you always feel like you're doing something meaningful, even if it's only for a short time.
It's not much information, I'll grant you. But it at least shows that the devs are on the right track. They need to make Ashran sufficiently rewarding that you want to be there, while not making it mandatory. Open world PvP is tricky as, thanks to its inherent imbalance, it's not something that everyone will enjoy. It's great that they don't expect players to stay all day, with things like the rework of Alterac Valley I was a little worried that Ashran might be focused towards a longer participation time.
Along with this, and Holinka's response
about the Honor change piece WoW Insider posted a while back, I couldn't be more excited for PvP in Warlords of Draenor
! Everything really is awesome!
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