Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The End of a Wintergrasp Era.....


Greenwiz walked down the stairs, to come face to face with the enormous Stone Keeper, Archavon. The giant looked down at him sadly.

"Thirty nine times have you invaded my home," Archavon said. "Thirty nine times have you and whatever rabble you could find to accompany you shattered my body to claim the prizes I collect from your battlefields."

"Though you have never set foot in the arenas, you have claimed a [Hateful Gladiator's Silk Rainment], discarded them when you looted me again for a [Deadly Gladiator's Silk Rainment], and the [Deadly Gladiator's Silk Trousers] you have on right now. From my trove, you have wrested a [Heroes' Frostfire Robe], TWO pairs of [Heroes' Frostfire Gloves]...."

"Hey, I didn't ask for the second one," Greenwiz protested feebly, "I was the only mage in that PUG and the Master Looter gave them to me without a roll!"

"Two pairs of the gloves," the Giant continued, "Both of which you have disenchanted after you looted a pair of [Valorous Frostfire Gloves] from my corpse on yet another occasion. The 40 Emblems of Valor you wrested from me were more than half of the total you paid for your [Valorous Frostfire Shouldpads]."

"I thought I would know peace when my brother, Emalon, opened the door to his vault and destroyed the disorganized pillagers that you invade our halls with. But The Makers have deemed his Tempest Minions too powerful, so now you have even slain him as well."

"And so, I ask you, mage, one question. WHAT do you WANT from me?"

"Pants," replied Greenwiz, confidently. The giant frowned and looked puzzled. "Oh, don't get me wrong, these PVP pants are great. I don't think I could ever have earned the 1810 arena rating needed to get them the old-fashioned way. But really, what I want is some Frostfire Leggings. Heroes' or Valorous, either one would be a great upgrade for PVE. I know you've got some, I've seen you drop them before, but it always seems that some other mage walks off with them when you do."

"Thirty nine times..." the Giant growled, "Nineteen times have you slain me on normal mode, and another 20 on heroic. For literally four months, you have come to slaughter me every single week without fail, without pity, and without remorse because, after all that you've taken from me, you desire even more?"

"Hey," said Greenwiz, "I don't mean to interrupt, but what's that sticking out of your pocket? Oh wow, that's a pair of [Valorous Frostfire Leggings]!"

The mage looks around at his comrades.

"Waitaminute," Greenwiz continued, "There are two other mages in this group, but one DC'ed and the other is AFK. Those pants... could be mine?"

Archavon sighed and bowed his head for a moment. "If you obtain this item, which you have pursued so doggedly week after week, will you finally leave me in peace?"

Greenwiz stopped and thought about this. "You know, that hadn't really occurred to me. I mean, I do kind of need more emblems, but my guild is farming Naxx these days. The Valorous robes would be a tier upgrade, but they're some not-very-manly shade of purple. The set bonus is pretty good, so I'm not sure it would be worth breaking it even if Emalon does drop some tier 8. Look, I'll tell you what. I can't really promise that I won't be by to kill you from time to time, but I won't make a point of doing it all the time anymore...."

Archavon had heard enough, and leapt through the air to land on the mage.


Ending a chase
It's been harder and harder to find a VOA PUG since patch 3.1. The experienced raiders who made these groups quick and plentiful have moved on to Ulduar with their guilds, and Emalon was too difficult for random groups until his adds were nerfed abruptly a week or two back. Even on Monday night, with the Alliance losing control of Wintergrasp in an hour and not having a chance to reclaim it before the weekly maintenance, the group was strongly reluctant to kill Archavon and save themselves to the instance with a group that could not down Emalon. Fortunately for me, the group leader went after Archavon anyway, kill number 40 was the charm, and I finally have the number one item on my loot wish list.


Sadly, I did have to use suboptimal gems to meet the hit cap and blue gem requirement for my metagem, but it's an impressive piece regardless.

Incentives to STOP using content
It's ironic that this particular era in my experiences in Wintergrasp came to an end last night, shortly before a comment from "Lurker" (not sure if Lurker is his/her actual callsign, or if they just wanted to indicate that they are usually a lurker on the blog, but I appreciate the tip in any case) informed me of a paradigm shift in Wintergrasp incentives.

The zone has struggled with overpopulation ever since enough players got to a high enough level to use it - a problem that Wintergrasp has shared side-by-side with Warhammer's keep sieges. Servers simply cannot take that many players converging on a single objective at the same time.

To counteract this, the developers introduced tactical incentives to spread out. Though these changes have not been entirely ineffective - I have done some fighting in the southern half of the map on both offense and defense - the tactical incentives have not been accompanied by the selfish personal incentives needed to actually get players to take them.

So what is Blizzard's latest solution? Reducing the rewards by converting the highly rewarding daily quests into moderately rewarding repeatable quests that can be done once per week, in the hopes of driving players out of the content.

I say it's a paradigm shift, because it is pretty unusual to see a developer make a change to the incentive structure specifically in the hopes of convincing players NOT to use the content. Usually, they have precisely the opposite goal. I suppose that convincing players to voluntarily abandon the siege is still better than physically kicking them out (a solution that Mythic considered for Warhammer, but ultimately abandoned after public outcry).

Will it work?
The daily quests previously awarded 1.2K honor, 13 gold, and 3 stone keeper shards each. There were a total of five dailies, two of which can be done against mobs when there is no battle going, and one of which is specific to defending the keep. MMO-Champion is reporting that the revised weekly quests will now be worth 3.7K honor, 13 gold, and 10 stone keeper shards.

The "good" news, if you're Blizzard and have abruptly decided you want to make using your own content less attractive, is that a player who previously did each daily six times per week would now receive 65 fewer gold, 3.7K less honor, and 8 fewer shards during that time. Multiply that effect by five, presuming that all five quests were changed in the same way, and you might actually be talking about a large enough difference to make repeated visits to the zone less rewarding. Mission accomplished, right?

There are, however, several problems. To name a few:

- With the daily quests resetting for everyone on a single day (Tuesday), one might expect even larger than normal crowds on that day.

- If the quests work the way they appear to, it will now be possible to obtain a whopping 15K honor and 50 shards off of a single match (a defensive victory), or, more likely, an offensive victory and a defensive run at the southern towers. To put this into perspective, a player who repeated this cycle twice over two weeks would earn enough honor to buy a pair of ilvl 213 epic PVP bracers for an hour or two's worth of work. Maybe they have discouraged some players who used to do Wintergrasp every single day, but the insanely high payoffs for doing at least one match per week may actually attract MORE players (or alts of current Wintergrasp veterans) to the zone.

- Unless they're changing the way the victory marks work, players who want the victory rewards (including the hat my mage wears full time) will have to play multiple matches for marks.

Overall, the net effect may be fewer people in the zone, but the path to get there might not be pretty.

Intended and Unintended Consequences
A few misc observations:

- One can only presume that they also saw this occasion as a convenient time to reduce the total weekly honor that a player can milk out of Wintergrasp. Previously it was possible to snag 5-8K honor for playing a single match per day, which was probably higher than it should have been in the context of items that don't cost any more than 60K honor.

- They have also created an overwhelming personal incentive for players on the defending side to destroy the southern towers, presuming that the daily in question gets the enhanced 1/week rewards. I have no idea what this will do to the balance of power in the zone. It could leave the keep less defended, it could basically lock down the southern workshops for the defenders. Time till tell.

- Finally, this does cross one item off of my daily quest rotation. I have made a point of completing at least the two non-seige-related dailies every day, and I try to get as many of the other three done as possible. Now I will definitely push to complete all five once per week. Beyond that, there isn't really anything to replace the extra time that I spend in Wintergrasp with, so this translates into less stuff left to do in WoW.

Overall? I'm glad that I'm almost done with the major accomplishments I wanted to tackle in Wintergrasp (e.g. rapidly closing in on the 1000 shard achievement). The zone continues to be a fascinating case study for incentive design, but, if Blizzard really wants me to spend less time there, they may have found the right price to make that happen.

5 comments:

fedaykin98 said...

Wow, this is the first place I read about that change.

Raiding has slowed down in May, and as I did in BC, I've turned to PvP for my WoW amusement. So I did a lot of WG this weekend. I still think it's not that good and has little in common with what I actually WANT from "world PvP". Additionally, the lag is atrocious. I play a Ret pally, meaning 100% of the spells I cast while fighting are instants, and the lag makes even that unplayable.

What WoW needs, imho, are some PvP lakes ala WAR that people will go into on a regular basis, not just for some completely contrived, scheduled battle. A place that is governed by the same rules as the rest of the world, with the addition that it flags you for PvP. The no-fly nature of Wintergrasp means that I'm never going to know whether there might be truly spontaneous "world PvP" going on in there - but I will show up for the non-instanced battleground that WG really is, at least, as long as the incentives are there.

But the incentives are getting weaker, especially as I bought myself a Black War Ram with marks from AB, AV, and the original WG - I could be doing those for honor and more free mounts instead, on my own schedule, and without the lag.

Anjin said...

Excellent intro, GA. And congrats on Archavon dropping your pants.

The incentive change for Wintergrasp is very interesting. Since I don't play daily anymore, I'll actually increase my rewards if I do it one a week now.

Ngita said...

The daily rewards where just a bit too good;) 20-30 mins of pvp and you get 30-60 gold as well as a absurd amount of honor?

But some of are not quite so lucky, for my 20'ish archevon kills and 3 emalon, one single pair of t8 gloves, which I can get from pve anyway. Note I am after his pvp drops not his pve and I have never seen a paladin pvp drop from him.

fedaykin98 said...

I managed to snag Furious legs off of Emalon last night! :) Perfect timing, as I'm starting Arena this week.

Anonymous said...

You mention the 1000 shard achievement...

... which the shards from the WG dailies no longer count toward.