Over the last months, most of the talk about World of Warcraft has been about the upcoming patch 2.4. There has been lots of information leaked about what was to be included, and then the PTR opened and players got a chance to try it out themselves. Since the PTR opened. As almost everyone knows the biggest items being released with the patch are: The Sunwell Plateau (a new 25 man raid), The Magister’s Terrace (a new 5 man instance), many new daily quests to complete, and tons of new badge rewards. This is in addition to many other changes including class changes, profession changes, and much more.
Rather than discuss the exact content or changes specifically, which is likely to change before release, I would like to talk about some of the key issues around the changes. The two that most interest me are the class changes and how they will affect PvP balance, and how the Sunwell instance and raid is to be opened. They are what I classify as design decisions and affect how the game is played.
As everyone knows PvP is vastly different from PvE content. In PvP some classes dominate some other classes, while yet others are essentially useless. Blizzard is aware of this just as much as everyone else and has been attempting to address it. One change that was to be put into the patch and has since been changed multiple times and potentially even removed, is a change to the Warlocks abilities. It has been shown over time that Warlocks are extremely powerful in small scale PvP combat. Blizzard tested some changes to address this, however had to modify them due to the effect they would have on PvE and Raid players. Several other classes have also had similar issues and it is unsure how it is to be resolved in the end.
Opening New Content
The second big factor with the patch is how soon players will actually be able to play and complete specific quests and finish the new 25 man raid. When the patch was initially discussed, Blizzard let players know that the events that took place on Sunwell Isle would unfold by player involvement, in much the same way the gates of Ahn'Qiraj were unlocked. To appease players this time though, the instances would be open from day one, however the raid would be closed past the first three bosses until such time as several server based quests where completed. This was viewed as a compromise to allow players access to content, but not too much until they took part in the event as a whole.
Even the town on Sunwell Isle would not be wide open from the start. Instead it will star off small with very limited quests available until players complete enough of the daily quests to expand the town. This will continue in several steps until the town is fully built up, and everything is available to all players.
While the town will apparently still grow over time, Blizzard has recently changed their stance on tying the raid content to server participation and instead will open the gates to the 4th through 6th bosses on a timed basis, so that all servers gain access to them at the same time.
Messiah's Take On It
As with several recent editorials on PvP balance, I have been really torn on how to solve the issue. In many cases the classes abilities are completely balanced in a PvE environment, but just become unbalanced when put into the PvP environment. On the flip side, if the abilities were decreased so that they were balanced in PvP they would no longer be useful or worthwhile in PvE. What to do?
Several readers have made suggestions in the forums, but the one I like best comes from a whole separate topic and is as follows. The idea was expressed as allowing every player at least 2 talent builds (and I would suggest three), so that they do not have to respec all the time. Given 3 builds to a player they could have one for PvP, one for PvE (raiding), and one for Grinding. This would allow Blizzard to better address PvE and PvP balance issues by either making abilities function completely differently for PvE and PvP or by balancing them differently for each environment. Since you could have a spec that focused on the abilities that were best for each, and Blizzard could make sure they did not hurt one aspect or the other of the game to ensure proper balance in one side.
On the opening of new content and how it is to work, I have to say that I really liked the opening of AQ and the events that lead up to it. While I really like the way the town will grow as players participate in the daily quests, I am a bit disappointed in the 5 man and 25 man instances being open from the start. I am even more disappointed in the new change to ensure all the raid bosses open across all the servers at the same time. If anything this will slow down the opening of the regular content on Sunwell Isle, as there will be no incentive for the top tier raiding guilds to participate since it will not gain them access to the bosses any quicker.
One of the things I really liked about the opening of AQ was the sense of purpose and the accomplishment when finished. Players of all levels worked together to help achieve objectives to open the gates and unlock the instances. Having played the event on a PvP server it was amazing the cooperation even across factions. If you were in an area farming for something to turn in, players left each other alone, as both sides needed to complete the quests so that they could gain access. If one faction decided to PvP and knock the other faction out, they would be hurting themselves.
While there will be some of that same teamwork and purpose with the new patch, it will be to a lesser degree. Since the 5 man is open right from the start, many players will jump right past the dailies to complete it. I expect a similar thing with the raiders and the new 25 man, they will go in clear the first 3 bosses and farm them until more opens. If the opening was tied to other events then they would go out of their way to assist everyone and open it up, however right now they just need to wait for a timer.
Maybe it's just me, but I see nothing epic about waiting for a timer to get to the next boss. Neither do I see anything special about a new 5 man that you can just walk into. I was really hoping for that sense of community, purpose and accomplishment that was felt when we opened the gates to AQ. Even though the server I was on was 14th to open, it was still a race, and still felt good when we did finally get it done. The whole server gathered at the gates and celebrated that day. Instead of a server celebration, I see the top tier raid guilds lining up at the gates to the boss 10 min before unlock to try for a first kill on the live realms, which will most likely happen the first day after release, again, not very epic if you ask this Messiah.
The Messiah has had his say, what’s yours? Do you think Blizzard has lost its way on PvP balance? Do you want an epic event to open the raid? Where the right design decisions made? I want to hear your comments and explanations.
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