Monday, August 24, 2009

PvP Musings

You know, for the longest time I forgot that Lambda had Ethereal Bacon. I won't make the vain promise of every other blogger in the industry ("OMG! I will totally update for regulars this time!"), but this does give me a place to store some random WoW thoughts. Which is quite therapeutic, even considering that readership for this particular blog are Lambda members and heavy-breathing internet stalkers (Yes, I'm talking about you, Leather suspenders do not belong on anatomically-correct Tauren plushies!).

Ahem. Onto musing subject #1: PvP.

It took me about three years to get into WoW PvP. There are a few benign reasons for this; being in a casual guild and busy all the time in real life, I found that the standard PvE content kept me pretty well satisfied until the next expansion. I just barely got into instances during the WoW classic years, and just barely got into raiding during the BC years. WotLK was really the first time when I got to see all the raid content, inside and out, and time pressures kept me from an endless cycle of alt creation.

Even then, however, I didn't exactly heed the siren call of PvP. Other games had taught me the golden rule of internet gaming: you will always play against 13-year-olds with infinite time and a desperate need for validation. There are corollaries to this central theory; you would often find yourself getting trash talked with about a thousand euphemisms for dick, but when you occasionally won, your opponents would politely point out that you were either gay, a hacker, or the dreaded hybrid class, the Steampunk Cockmancer.

The turnabout for me wasn't Blizzard's endless cycle of class balancing, but rather their matching systems. Every year or so, I'd forget the lessons of the previous cycle and run into some arenas or a battleground, and get prompted steamrolled by coordinated teams from other servers. Thankfully, the trashtalk element was largely removed by faction differences and relative anonymity, but the whole experience felt like a boxing match that pitted T-Rex versus baby. Most babies don't learn a whole heck of a lot about fighting once they're summarily eaten.

Until one year when I played AV and had a blast. Gone were the organized-teams versus pug matchups... battlegrounds suddenly became a place where contests of roughly equal skill could happen. Baseline resilience gear further narrowed that gap, giving my glass cannon a few more seconds to figure out what was going on before collapsing into a pile of gristle. That small space was all the difference between losing in confusion and losing with a plan for next time (and from there to winning with an even better plan waiting in the wings).

It's not that Blizzard's tinkering with class mechanics and balance hasn't helped, either, but by and large the micro-changes that they do now simply aren't "for" me. I read a bunch of RSS feeds, and it seems not a day goes by where someone complains that one class is utterly overpowered and crushing the PvP rankings. Sometimes its even true; once you filter out the standard whine machine, there are still players with articulate concerns on the role of crowd control, healing, and damage output. These inequalities, however, are really only glaring in the rarefied world of top tier play. In the slog of 1500-rated teams (home to the vast majority of players, the comfortable single standard-deviation), you die in an arena because of a failure in judgment. The wrong escape, the wrong target, the wrong set of tactics. Which is how it should be, really.

This is all preamble to the fact that I'm genuinely enjoying 3v3 arena play, and hope to collect some more thoughts on the subject in the near future. There are a few interesting gear choices to be made out of combat as well, primarily concerning the all-consuming stat vortex that is Resilience... how many points of INT and spellpower must be sacrificed to the volcano before we start hitting a little thing called diminishing returns? Pushing 900 right now and I don't think I've hit it yet.