A Process of Refinement
The BlizzCON 2007 Battlegrounds, Arenas, and PvP Panel Discussion
The BlizzCon PvP Panel
August 7th, 2007 - Blizzard Co-Lead Designers Jeff Kaplan and Tom Chilton spoke to the past, present, and future of PvP (player vs. player) combat in World of Warcraft in a special panel last Saturday afternoon at BlizzCON 2007. The lead designers of the most successful computer game in history divided their presentation into lessons learned from the game's existing instanced PvP battlegrounds and arenas, planned fixes, and a preview of the non-instanced PvP region Lake Wintergrasp, which is set to go live with the game's second retail expansion, Wrath of the Lich King. As a sidebar, no official release date has been announced for the expansion yet, but the Blizzard team has two content updates planned before the expansion – the 10-man Zul'Aman raid instance and an announced content update – so early 2008 doesn't seem out of the question.
Throughout the "lessons learned" segment of the presentation, Jeff Kaplan made it clear that anti-AFK reforms (which counter the practice of hiding in areas like the Alterac Valley (AV) to go away from keyboard to gain easy honor once basic objectives were attained) were under development and would be launched in the near future. We learned that AV was originally designed as a non-instanced zone- perhaps something similar to what Blizz has planned for Lake Wintergrasp. Such an approach seems to justify why certain "map gimmicks" were built into the zone; if there's no start and end to the battleground and honor is awarded by participation, there's no reason to pitch your tent for some "honor camping."
An Early, Highly "Geometric"
Moving on to Warsong Gulch, Kaplan described the zone as World of Warcraft's first symmetrical battleground – the result of a lesson learned from AV (and while Kaplan insisted that it is possible for the Horde to win at the Alterac Valley, and went on to explain the burden for making the Horde want to win AV still falls to the dev team). Little was said about this capture the flag-style battleground – I was curious about plans to implement a timer to combat the anti-casual gamer practice of flag-camping (capturing and hiding a flag to ramp up the honor points with additional kills - which Blizzard obviously considered a success), but no issues were addressed.
Kaplan explained that, due to Blizzard's unqualified success of the CTF-style Warsong Gulch, the dev team wanted to try another archetypical PvP format: deathmatch. Gurubashi Catacombs represents Blizzard's foray into the shady realm of kill or be killed, which turned out to be a sticking point. The biggest reason that Gurubashi is so poorly trafficked, Kaplan explained, was the lack of objectives. It turns out that all-out slaughter for less than gratifying rewards wasn't the best way to approach a battleground. Gurubashi also paved the way for the arena system by convincing the devs to keep the maps small.
Arathi Basin was next up, a battleground whose concept could be summed up as "Warcraft 3 meets Battlefield 1942", according to Kaplan. Using a very blocky, early concept "Atari map", he explained that the team really wanted to accommodate lots of players and spread people out with AB while still keeping the battleground accessible and easily understandable. Clearly seen points of interest were another goal, as well as rewarding not just the winners, but all the participants. From Blizzard's standpoint, Arathi Basin seems to be another stunning battleground success in the vein of Warsong Gulch.
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