WOO II An Exploration in Design - July 2012 - By Stoneghost: Dalaran

 

WOO II - battlegrounds

Arguably, Battlegrounds are the part of the current game that need the most improvement. They carry a large load in terms of game play, but they offer little in the way of variety, their rewards (along with arenas and other PvP venues) are not on a par with dungeon raiding, and they have no progression to retain experienced players.

The WOOII design attempts to accomplish three goals with regard to PvP overall:

Goal 1 is handled by the Theme Parks, which offer attractive awards, leveling points and constant, unstructured combat; goal 2 is handled by the Arenas which offer small team encounters with no rezzing. Goal 3 is the focus of the Battlegrounds.

Segregation

Some aspects of Battleground design are intended to attract players who are interested in coordinated, strategic warfare. Other aspects are intended to be unattractive to players who have no such interest. This is not an attempt to divide players into three groups ... any player who wants to play in all three venues can, by simply creating three characters. Rather, it is an acceptance of the preference shown by current players who very clearly want these three different kinds of combat situation.

Leveling

There is no doubt that some players want to use PvP as a vehicle for leveling their characters. While the hope is that there will be less need for dedicated, focused leveling in WOO II, there will still be some, and this group will still exist. Theme Parks offer the highest degree of leveling in the shortest time and should be very attractive in this regard. Arenas and Battlegrounds offer significantly less leveling.

Only the two lower tier battlegrounds offer leveling achievements. Higher tiers offer other rewards.

Rank, which is a criteria for entry into higher tiered venues, is an account attribute. This means that once a player has advanced a character to a rank, all other characters on the account acquire that rank. This permits the game to pass experienced players on to higher tiered battlegrounds with newly created characters.

Weapons and Gear

A key problem in PvP combat is the imbalance that occurs between players because of gear. The ideal solution would be to conduct PvP without armor or weapons. This is impractical, however, because some skills and talents depend on gear for basic combat capabilities. The solution adopted by WOOII is to permit combat with personal weapons in Theme Parks and Arenas, but send players into Battleground through a filter that equips them with a set of basic, standard "soldier" gear. This will put all Battleground characters on an even footing and emphasize the players' combat skills.

Entrance to any Battleground replaces the following current armor with the standard armor set: head, shoulders, chest, back, wrists, hands, legs,and feet. Weapons, trinkets, and jewelry are not replaced ... though they are releveled.

The standard gear set applies normal stats for the player's combat skills and talents. For example, a caster might get intellect and stamina, a melee fighter agility and stamina, and an all round fighter a boost to all stats. Exit from PvP reinstalls the character's previous armor set. This approach eliminates the need for specialized buffs such as resilience, and it lets all Battleground characters participate on par level with regard to armor.

For most players, weapons reflect a careful choice of options that support their preferences. Variations in weapons should not cause major imbalances and also should provide for interesting comparisons and discussions. Trinkets and jewelry provide a wide range of abilities which do not have a major impact on combat balance, and these, too, reflect preferences.

Note: while this might seem like a lot of work for the computer, it is not. Releveling requires that a "template" or "state" be stored for each character at each level. "Basic" gear is just an additional template, stored under the heading of "Battleground." There are a number of ways to accomplish this ... and probably even more arguments as to how it should be accomplished ... but the simplest way is to provide a set of BG templates and let each player choose for his or her characters.

Permanent and Random Group Fights

Some players prefer to form permanent groups. These teams will often play at pre-scheduled times using voice coordination, and minimum requirements for skill level will often be in effect. To promote balance, permanent groups will have a set of arenas and battlegrounds reserved for them.

Many players prefer to join ad hoc groups just prior to a fight. Since random groups are less able to coordinate themselves, and since they tend to contain players with a wide range of skills, these groups fight in instances that are not open to permanent groups.

Partial groups will be placed in battlegrounds with other partial groups. This may require longer periods of waiting between matches, but this is only fair, as "premade" groups of any size tend to have an advantage in PvP combat.

PvP Progression and Battleground Tiers

One goal of the design is to direct each of the three main kinds of fighters to their own venue:

Sorting players into these venues is done in part with rewards, which are tailored for their audiences; and in part by gearing: Theme Parks and Arenas allow full gear, while battlegrounds use basic soldier gear. And partly it is done by progression. Progression in PvP combat is expressed by a character's rank. Rank is an account attribute, which allows experience players to move freely about even when they are creating new characters.

Theme Parks are the training grounds for fighters. No rank is required to enter, and militia rank is awarded for kills and the accomplishment of various achievements. A minimum militia rank is required for entry into Arenas and Battlegrounds. Arenas already have a well established rating system, which probably should continue. Since rank attaches to a player's account, a new team's rating will be a function of its members' ranks. Teams are matched against teams of similar rating, and as their ratings rise, so do their match-ups, making for good balance within the venue.

To promote both balance and progression, Battlegrounds are arranged in tiers. The first tier can be entered by any player with a minimal Militia or Gladiator rating. From that point on the player acquires a Soldier rating. There are four tiers and each awards Soldier points differently:

  1. Two points for a win, one point for a loss - this is the entry tier, slow progress and lots of practice.
  2. Three points for a win, no points for a loss - this is the intermediate tier, fast progress but emphasis on success.
  3. Three points for a win, minus one points for a loss - this is the expert tier, losing is bad ... some players may prefer to stay at the previous level.
  4. Two point for a win, minus one point for a loss. This is the "Campaign" level which, on a par with Raider dungeons, offers longer, more involved battles.

Tier 1 offers training for new Soldiers - little strategy, and the chance to learn melee skills, fortress assault, and team cooperation. Most of the battlegrounds introduced in Tier 1 will be repeated in higher tiers, though often at a higher difficulty level to make them more interesting for experienced players.

Tier 2 offers more complex battles with some strategy required, and a focus on communication. Some of these battles will be repeated in Tier 3.

Tier 3 requires careful focus on the game, with a good communication and cooperation. This is the most difficult "normal" tier, and many experienced players will stick with these battles.

Tier 4, designed for advanced players who want a unique challenge, offers hour or longer Campaign encounters whose major strategic elements demand a high degree of cooperation and communication.

Each of the tiers has a random solo level, which aggregates groups of individuals, and a "premade" level, which aggregates groups of players. In other words, if you are in a group, you will find yourself in a battleground whose team is made up of other groups, with possibly a few solo players mixed in. However, you will seldom, if ever, find a "premade" group appearing in a battleground with mostly solo players. The purpose of this is to limit the "farming" of solo players by well-coordinated "premade" groups.

Soldier ratings match the progression. Note that unlike Arena ratings, Battleground ratings attach to individual players. This is necessary because for the most part, teams will be randomly constructed. To the extent possible, given the pool of players at the time, fighters will be placed into a matches with other fighters of similar rating.

This table summarizes the battleground progression. The "Points @ 50%" column shows the ranking points a player would receive after 10 matches if he or she won 5 of them.

Tier Audience Focus Soldier Points Points @ 50% Leveling? Other Rewards
1
beginner basic battleground knowledge
win 2, loss 1
15

yes

currency, rank, gear, enhancements
2
intermediate cooperation and communication
win 2, loss 0
10

yes

rank, enhancements
3
experienced strategy. knowledge, communication
win 2, loss -1
5
no
currency, rank, titles
Campaign
advanced long encounter strategy
win 2, loss -2
0
no
rank, titles

The notion is that players who are happy with the experiences and rewards in Theme Parks would not be induced to join battleground just for the rewards. Progression through the beginner tiers is fairly fast so that players who want to fight can quickly ascend to more difficult battlegrounds. Tier 3 and the Campaigns are intended for expert players who are more interested in the experience than in the rewards - their ratings don't need to progress ... there being no higher battlegrounds ... though a continually losing record can threaten to drop them out of the top rating.

Battlefield Progression in detail

Completing the Theme Park achievements for Battleground entry admits the player to Capture the Flag and Marathon. Completing certain achievements in each of those battlegrounds admits the player to Fortress Assault. The Random battleground finder will not place a player into a battleground until admission has been achieved. The same pattern applies to Tiers 2 and 3. Tier 4, the Campaign, has no interior progression, just a number of different campaign offerings.

Tier 1

The starting point for players who are new to battlegrounds. These battles emphasize player skills and do not require much in the way of strategy. Early Tier 1 battles are accessible to all Fighters who have gained a fairly low Militia rating. Later Tier 1 games are available to higher ranked Soldiers. The matching system will try to put higher level Fighters together. Tier 1 rewards include leveling achievements, soldier points, rank points, and value points.

Click on the titles to see more details.

Capture the Flag

This traditional game is modified slightly to improve scoring. (Players: 10 Time: 20 minutes)

Marathon

A broad plain stretches from horizon to horizon. On one side the plain is bounded by high mountains; on the other side by the sea. A small, meandering stream bisects the plain, separating two armies. There is no way to stop the combat ... the team that kills the most enemy soldiers wins. (Players: 40 Time: 20 minutes )

Fortress Assault

Roads lead through the forest from four bases to the enemy fort. (Players: 30 Time: two 15 minute periods)

Occupation

The invading army needs resources, the defenders are determined to keep these for themselves. World of Warcraft's Arathi Basin is a good template for this kind of battleground. (Players: 15 Time: 20 minutes, approx.) The winner is the team that occupies the positions for the longest time. Reward points are awarded for the relative difference in occupation time and for winning the game. Rank points are awarded as per the schedule. Leveling achievements are available.

Tier 2

The intermediate tier for more experienced players provides experience in strategy and communication. Tier 2 rewards include rank points and value points. Leveling achievements are available.

Capture the Flag, Fortress Assault, Occupation

These are offered in Tier 2 as segregated venues accessible only to higher ranked players. Certain aspects of the battlegrounds are changed. For example, flags and enemy positions may not be shown on the battleground map, making scouting and communication more important.

Eye Redux

This is Eye of the Storm from the current World of Warcraft game. This battleground offers a nice balance between "towers" and "flags" strategies and a wide range of tactical situations.

Strand Redux

This is Strand of the Ancients from the current World of Warcraft game. This battleground has a low amount of personal combat and a very high need for cooperation and communication.

Prison Break

In this fast-paced battle the offense rushes to escape the defense. Players must exit the system of tunnels via transporters before they can be killed and before the clock runs out. Offense and defense then switch roles. The team that makes the most escapes wins. Communication is extremely important, and it helps to have a good strategic grasp of the battlefield.

Insurrection

Insurrection has arisen in a town occupied by one faction's forces. The faction's leader and the rebel leader are both in town, and each will stop at nothing to regain full control. Each team must find and eliminate the opposition leader while hiding and protecting their own.

Tier 3

The upper level tier for the most experienced players. These battlegrounds provide less information and require more attention to battlefield status. Tier 3 rewards include positive and negative rank points, and value points. No leveling points are given.

In Tier 3, the map does not show flags or other enemy positions. Nor does it show the locations of friendly players who are more than a certain distance away. At the start of the match, the battlefield is occluded by the "fog of war." As a team's players move out, the space begins to show on friendly maps. This makes scouting a key activity.

In Tier 3, the terrain of each battlefield is randomly generated for each instance, so that each battle occurs on a slightly different map.

Capture the Flag, Eye Redux

These are offered in Tier 3 as segregated venues accessible only to higher ranked players.

Occupation, Strand Redux, Fortress Assault

These are offered in Tier 3 as segregated venues accessible only to higher ranked players. In these battles, Battleground communications are limited - players within each group of five can communicate freely, but they cannot talk to any players in other groups. Group leaders can talk to their groups, and they are also on a separate chat channel with other group leaders. This applies to both offensive and defensive teams. Thus, leaders must coordinate and communication, and group members must follow orders and work as a team.

TIER 4: Campaigns

The final tier introduces a different kind of battle … the strategic campaign. These battles last an hour or longer and involve significant strategic planning and tactical operations. Tier 4 rewards include positive and negative rank points and value points. No leveling achievements are offered.

Tier 4 campaigns are intended to provide to PvP players the same level of challenging serious play that PvE players find in the highest level dungeons. To that end:

Deserter

Players who leave a Battleground before it finishes lose a number of ranking points equal to some number times the Tier level of the Battleground. The multiplier will be based on the eventual scale that is developed for awarding ranks.

An alternative might be to give no penalty for the first departure and a geometrically increasing penalty for subsequent departures, with the process on a 24-hour reset.

The notion is that an occasional departure will result in a minor loss of progress towards a higher rank, but frequent departures will be debilitating.