Tuesday, July 22, 2014

What If: Blizzard Stopped Trying to Balance PvP

Whether you are into player vs player or you never touch it everyone seems to share the same opinion in some way, that the game is always screwing over one aspect for another aspect.  I would be willing to bet that any player that knows their class can give at least 10 cases where their class was screwed over for a change made to help PvP balance and the same goes the other way.  I am sure any player that likes PvP can say that their class has taken a hit because of something that needed to be done for PvE.

It is not a small task to try and balance both of them so they both work at least kinda sorta well in both aspects of the game.  No matter what your main focus of the game is it is fairly certain that you would agree with the statement that balancing for one always ends up screwing over the other.

If blizzard were ever forced to pick a side it would only make sense that PvE is the side they pick to balance.  After all warcraft is a PvE game.  It is not, has not ever been, and will never be a PvP focused game.

I am sure some would argue that fact but I could easily dismiss their argument with a few simple facts that prove warcraft is a PvE focused game.  Quests offer PvE gear not PvP gear, so quests are PvE content.  World drops, random greens, even white and grey items you get off mobs in the world are all PvE focused.  Dungeons, raids, scenarios, basically any type of group content that does not take place in an arena or battleground is PvE focused and if the game was meant for PvP why would they waste the incredible amount of time it takes to create that type of instanced content if it were not the focus of the game.  And then there are those battlegrounds and arenas. 

If anything that is the nail in the coffin to the argument that warcraft is a PvP game.  If it were a PvP game they would not have went out of their way to remove it from the world and place it somewhere that only the people that wanted to do it would be involved with it.  If the game was meant to be PvP focused they would have added major objectives in the world for PvPers to aim for instead of sticking them away from everyone else in their private little world where they will only fight with others that wish to fight.

So if they were ever going to abandon part of the game in terms of balance and decide to balance for one aspect only it makes sense that it would be PvE that the game gets balanced for.

But wait, there is a bit of a double edged sword here.  While warcraft is a PvE game and that can not be argued, PvP has a much wider player base that PvE.  PvE really does not "matter" until the end game whereas you can PvP from the moment you hit 15 and enjoy it just as much as someone enjoys raiding at max level.  In my opinion, that just makes PvP a much better designed part of the game and I would love to get into that more in a post some day about what PvE can learn from PvP.

In what is outdated information, but all I have to latch on to, I will paraphrase the last solid numbers I heard quoted from a developer.  7% of players participate in organized raiding (including LFR) at least once a week and 30% of players participate in battlegrounds at least once a week.

Now those numbers are old and I am sure the 7% PvE number has went up for various reasons such as the need to raid and raid a lot to get the cloak and blizzard removing any way to gear your character outside of raiding.  This had to push a great deal of people into at least the LFR.  But, and this is completely a guess with no facts to back it up, I would believe that more people still PvP at least once a week than raid at least once a week.

But, what if blizzard stopped trying to balance for both and just focused on one, that one being PvE?

If history shows us anything it is that in PvP people are more likely to reroll to a flavor of the month class.  PvE players seem to get attached to their class and associate themselves with it more and are less likely to change.  Now this does not mean there are no PvPers that feel attached to their classes and there are no PvEer that would not switch at a moments notice because they want to play a stronger class.  But just the over all broad strokes show that PvPers are much more likely to switch to the power class.

So with that said, if the game was not balanced for PvP then the PvPers would just choose whatever class happens to translate best and is the most powerful.  At least that is my opinion of what would happen.  Over the years I have met and known many PvPers that are really into it and they switch classes whenever one is more powerful, heck they have even been known to switch factions, which means most of those serious PvPers I know are now horde.

Looking at those numbers I mentioned earlier we see that more people PvP than PvE over all but that is because the PvE numbers are counted for max level only and the PvP ones are for any level.  PvP content is better content as it spans the entire life of the game.  No doubt about that.  It is also easier to design for because you do not need to do anything beside give people a place to fight.  So while older raids become useless once new ones come out older battlegrounds are still as important to a PvPer at 15 as they are at 90.

So, being we see that PvP is popular at any level we already know, as an absolute fact, that PvPers have no real problem that would keep them from playing when it comes to things not being balanced.  Balance is always created around max level and this means classes at lower levels are never balanced.  If you do not believe me, roll a hunter or a disc priest and enter a low level battleground.  If you want to talk about OP you can talk only after you have done so.  Each of those classes have a wide range of levels where they are so over powered that when you see them you might as well just roll over and play dead because you are going to be dead soon.

This shows us, at least to some small extent, that PvPers are willing to accept certain classes or specs being over powered.  Sure they might complain, but they deal with it.  It is not like you ever hear a PvEer complaining that at level 60 he can not pull his weight in molten core and that mages are too over powered for the raid because at low levels people do not legitimately raid but they do legitimately PvP.  And they do legitimately PvP with all that low level imbalance there.

So we have that prior knowledge that PvPers can deal with mismatched balance because they already do it all the time.  My belief is, and it is only an opinion of course, that at max level it would work the same way.  PvPers would just figure out which classes are the most powerful and if they wanted to win they would switch to that class.  It is really that simple.

I think it would be a bad idea for blizzard to not try and balance both but being they refuse to do it the right way, or at least a decent way (there are many ways that I will go over some day but they won't do them) it would be interesting to see what might happen if they just stopped trying.

I decided to ask what would happen if they stopped balancing for PvP because I believe it would not hurt the game as much as if they stopped balancing for PvE.  In the end they will lose some players but they would lose a hell of a lot more than if they stopped balancing for PvE, and after all, this is a PvE game.

Do you think that the game would be hurt really badly and people would quit in large numbers if they stopped balancing (attempting to) for PvP or do you think like I do, that the PvPers would all just roll the flavor of the month and keep moving along.  What are the possible side effects of just designing balance for only PvE that you can think of?


  1. I kinda shudder at your idea, to be honest even though we, the PVP'ers, do have to deal with specs / setups being imbalanced all the time. It is a bit hard to imagine how it would be like if they stopped balancing PVP at all, but if it's at all like, say, DKs were the moment they were being introduced, I can tell you right now that, yes, everyone would reroll, and after that it would be quite boring. Think constantly fighting DK+DK+one of maaaybe two healer specs vs each other - this will get very boring very fast. I am not sure many would continue to do PVP for long, if it were like that. That's the main issue, I guess.

    1. I am not advocating it, just wondering what it would be like.

      I could see it being a major case of everyone running the same teams and it would get boring fast. Even if there are some "ewer" teams now you at least see some differences,

  2. My recipe would be - balance for PvP, then:
    modify bosses to balance PVE
    add abilities that only work on mobs
    put in a damage maximum you can achieve depending on a certain ilvl
    ensure raid success is more about "dancing right" and following encounters than base DPS; punish DPS for not doing things right (instead of hurting them and punish healers)

    Rauxis, chosen of CAT

    1. That might actually be a better idea. Instead of making raid bosses go from 1M to 10M to 100M to 1B they could just keep moving slightly up like our life totals move slightly up.

      I would really love the idea of punish people for not doing it right and putting less emphasis on gear. I miss the skill matters more than gear days.

  3. Battlegrounds are the dungeons of PvP, not the raids. Or take rated ones if we want to compare.

    PvP will never be balanced. There is not a game nor person focused on PvP that will ever say - sure the game is balanced. There will always be something to pick on. Some CC that is OP, some CD that is OP, some class' mobility that is OP, some heal that is OP, some style that is OP, some combination that is OP and so on.

    People do care about PvP at low level too. But people care about PvE too. Only not so much for different reasons.
    In PvE your opponent is represented by different mobs. Can you beat them? Yes? Is it troublesome? Not likely? Then it doesn't really matter.
    In PvP your opponent is a different person. Your face is being smashed in by a different person. You are giving satisfaction to a different person. This is unacceptable. You'd be surprised how many people moan about low level balancing in PvP.

    But to be fair. A lot of PvP people are not really interested in balance. They just want for other not to kill them and for them to kill others. If they can achieve this by being the best overpowered class, they will do it. If they can achieve this by smashing undergeared opponents, they will do it. If they can achieve this by twinking, they will do it. Why do you think the [70-80] bracket was so much 'fun'? I had a hunter in the guild at 150k life at lvl79, with all level Cata 78-79 gear (asked us to help him farm the bow from Blackrock Depths). And then lock it at that level and have 'fun' destroying people with appropriate gear. This is PvP.
    I'm not saying there aren't people who enjoy fair fights, but the representative PvP person farms low level characters at Outland gate. They justify it by saying they want to attract higher level people, but that is still first class griefing.

    A PvE person will only scream about class balance on low levels if they can't do something and other classes can. Like woe is me, Blood DK can do that and I can't with 3 other people. And this stems from player versus player mentality as well.

    And in PvE content, in raids, people don't complain all that much, unless a class becomes completely unviable for raiding. Because if someone has an advantage, it's good for the team. For example, paladin tank was so OP in Throne of Thunder, anyone who didn't have a paladin was seriously gimping themselves. Did people scream that paladins are OP? Yes, of course, we took 8 nerfs but were still OP. But the complaints were mostly coming from two sources: the guilds who did not have paladins and needed to get one and the other tanks who felt left out, and rightly so.

    To be fair, it's not really that we're complaining in PvE about a class being overpowered, but about the design of an encounter favoring another class. For example, Ra-Den is really hard for a DK to do and real easy for a monk. We don't blame the tanks, we blame the encounter.

    PvP is much more personal. It's class versus class. I think a class will always be strong against some classes and week against other classes. So perfect balance - not achievable. For example, I have never had a rogue nor a warrior be able to defeat me in PvP. Does that mean those classes are shit? Or mine is OP? I'm sure they crush other classes in a heartbeat.

    Personal feeling, out of discussing this with several people over the course of years. Blizzard does balance all things with PvP in mind first and foremost and changes current OP classes on purpose

    1. My biggest PvP gripe is CC and being chain CCed. 19 second fears that do not break at all even as someone brings you from 100% to 0. Yeah, PvP is in no way ever going to be balanced as long as crap like that remains in the game.

      Most PvPers would happily reroll to an OP class because, as you said, all that matters is winning, what class you are playing to do so matters less. I have a friend that keeps rerolling hunters in low level. He destorys all the way up and when it starts to balance out he deletes the hunter and starts again just because he loves being over powered in low level PvP. It is not about the battle, it is about winning.

      I agree with you that in PvP there should always be one class that over powers another. Each class should have its weakness. I've said it before and will say it again, I am not a very good PvPer, not even on the low end of good, yet there is no ret paladin in the game that could touch me. It is not because I am good but because when it comes to match ups hunters have more ways to get away from the paladin than the paladin has to catch him. So I win. But there are some melee, most, that have catch ups like warriors, rogues and feral druids, that if I am not on the top of my game I am dead in a blink of an eye. Every class should have its strengths and weaknesses. Too bad most PvPers do not see it like that.

  4. why not go back to an idea I had a long time ago - you pvp? go to your battle ground or a world just for you and you lose all weapons, armor and you get a stick and shield or bow or a 2 handed stick and go to whopping on each other.

    Better yet, when you go to your pvp world, your armor, weapons, pets, etc change to pvp ones. Everyone gets pretty much the same basic stats, so it truely is rock, paper, scissor (no spock!). Now, it just seems to be rock, rock, paper.

    1. there is no pve anything allowed and no pvp anything allowed in the pve world. Yeah, that would be nice.

    2. For instanced content that would actually be the best way to do it. Everyone has the same gear and it is more about skill. I believe that is part of the idea they are trying to get going for the next expansion.

      There are 3 things that would make PvP balanced.

      1) Standardized gear, everyone has the same stats.
      2) No healing. Not even small passive heals, nothing.
      3) No CC, not even slows.

      Do those three things and then and only then will it be possible to balance PvP.

  5. Anon, Grumpy's former Guild Leader:

    The only way to solve the issue is to separate the PvE rule set from the PvP rule set. Being flagged for PvP and engaged with another player character would produce different results than the same player being engaged against a random mob of any sort. Until the influence of one is removed from the other, any sort of real balance will be nigh on impossible. For some reason, the Blizzard developers seem to feel otherwise and so far are insistent that one common set of rules can be developed that will be fine for all. So far, that goal eludes them...

    1. It would be easy for damage dealing but what makes it an issue is healing.

      So my arcane shot hits a player for 20K or a mob for 200K, easy see. But when it comes to healing it is hard. If I am flagged your heal heals me for 20K but if I am not it heals me for 200K? Won't work. What if I am flagged and fighting mobs and you are healing me, you would get the lower healing penalty because I am flagged yet I am not currently participating in PvP.

      Healing is, was, and always will be, the biggest problem with balancing PvP for that exact reason.

  6. Anon, Grumpy's former Guild Leader:

    The way I see that is the person flagged gets healed at the lower rate, if that is what the case is. I don't necessarily see why it would be necessary to have 20 k vs 200 k discrepancy however, even if that is what the current numbers or the end game numbers of WoD turn out to be. That is simply a case of the stat squish not being applied correctly.

    No one should ever be doing 200k damage, period. The numbers need to be squeezed far harder than that. I know that will be an unpopular viewpoint, but for the long term avoidance of another stat squish next expansion (which is the path Blizz seems bound to trod), it needs to be correctly set up to carry forward for the foreseeable future of WoW. The stat squish should be a one time admission by Blizzard that they let things get out of hand in the worst of the Monty Haul style playing and set things right so that part of the game is predetermined here on out.

    With that done, the rule sets for PvE and PvP could be much more easily done. Sorry, smaller numbers are just easier to deal with for balancing things. A one percent change is theoretically the same change whether the number is 100 or 1 million, but the percentage numbers are sure different and provides a totally different feeling in each case.

    I don't know the total numbers they use in weighting the stats on items, but honestly, as you have noted many times, a small increase will make a person just as happy as some larger number could. (Note that percentage wise the larger number may not be even equal to the smaller number as to the total weight).

    So in long, as opposed to short, which I seldom am, in your hypothetical, I honestly would not see how a person who is flagged could give a heal or receive a heal to a person who isn't. Remember they are playing separate games in the same game world. Choosing to be flagged means you do NOT interact with those who are not flagged, and healing would certainly be one of the things that I would expect to not be possible either way.

    1. The problem of the bigger picture is they keep increasing boss life so they have to keep increasing our damage out put. What happens is we are killing bosses now with near 1 trillion life, so we need to do 400K DPS, and doing 400K DPS means we would kill someone quick in PvP so they reduce the damage done to other people so you are only doing 40K, for example, to make the fight last longer.

      However, due also to bosses putting out more damage, healers need to be able to heal for more so they can throw those 400K bombs on people, some even as an instant.

      That is where the problem is. They can lower the damage we do to each other, but they can not fix the healing healers do to us because it is not known if it is PvP damage or PvE damage they are healing. So that same 400K bomb in PvE is also a 400K bomb in PvP.

      The difference is it now takes us 10 seconds to that that 400K damage in PvP but it takes a healer 2 seconds to heal that much. That is why it is healing that makes PvP balance difficult.

      Remove all healing for PvP and you can balance it. As long as healing remains it can never be balanced.

      Or use the design I mentioned a few times. Have people have 2 health bars that work 2 different ways. One is a PvP one and one is a PvE one. When a healer heals they heal whichever is lower at the time. If it lands on the PvP bar that 400K bomb is now 40K and now balanced with the DPS output. If either bar goes to 0, you die.

    2. Anon, Grumpy's former Guild Leader:

      Again, we are talking about totally different rule sets for PvE and PvP. If one is flagged, and the other is not, they should have no ability to interact with each other. Healing for the flagged player would result in "you can not do that..." and healing for the non-flagged player would get "you must be flagged for PvP, do you want to participate in PvP now?" Or some similar set of messages conveying the same information, a message that underscores the separate nature of the styles of play.

      As far as the trillion health boss goes, that would by far be the biggest flaw possible in doing the stat squish that I could imagine. All it does is set up the need to do another squish in the next expansion and the one after, etc.; time without end. If that is the path that Blizzard ultimately chooses, then the stat squish is a failure before it is even launched. I know that is a different subject from the PvE and PvP rule sets but you do see how there is a relationship here.

    3. That is how it will be next expansion. They are changing it so you can set yourself to never flag. If you try to heal a flagged player and you have that set it will not go off. Just like it would not go off if you try to heal a hostile target.

      I think you will still flag, even if you have that set, when you walk into enemy territory however. So no sneaking into the opposing factions city and dancing around says "can't touch this".

      If you look at the stat inflation just from 91 to 100 it looks like we are going to end next expansion exactly where we are now. And with 4 raids each tier 13 item levels apart and their desire to make all upgrades "meaningful" that means HUGE stat increases every raid tier instead of just 13 like it should be. We will need another stat squish next expansion already, I am sure of it. They do not learn from their mistakes sometimes.