The Miracle of Tol Barad

If you have been following any WoW blogs at all, you have probably realised that Tol Barad, the new open worldish PvP zone, and inheritor of the Wintergrasp mantle has been a complete clusterfuck.

Problem 1: How to find your PvP zone

Tol Barad is actually a zone in two sections. One which has a bunch of annoying daily quests, designed to encourage PvP by setting both horde and alliance after the same NPCs. It also features fast spawning mobs with massive aggro ranges, and – naturally – lots of nice reputation rewards such as weapons to encourage people to keep plodding through dailies there anyway.

The second part of the zone is the area where the 2 hourly PvP battles happen. I spent at least a month wondering why I never saw any of the PvP when I was doing my dailies and it was announced that the battle was on. The reason is that there’s actually no signposting at all to the PvP section of the zone.


The bridge that I’ve marked in red is actually the route to the PvP section. It isn’t marked and there aren’t any breadcrumb quests to take you there.  (You can also get ported there via the PvP tab, of course.)

So you can do your daily quests in Tol Barad without ever either engaging in PvP or encountering the battles for the zone. Some people would see this as a good thing. I think it’s just bizarre.

Problem 2: Unbalanced PvP

The actual battleground section has a central keep, three surrounding buildings and three surrounding towers. When the battle is on, the attacking force has to take and hold the three surrounding buildings at the same time. The defending force has to stop them. Each faction is nominally there with similar amounts of players.

What could possibly go wrong with this scheme? Apart from the fact that the attackers need to split their forces into at least three parts and the defenders just have to stop them holding one building for 10 mins to win.

Problem 3: This isn’t a fix so much as a bribe

The better fix would be having NPCs take the central keep or something and just get both attackers and defenders to have to hold as many buildings as possible.

But actually what Blizzard did was increase the rewards for when the attackers win. 1800 honor points (which is what you get for an attacking victory) will buy you at least one piece of PvP gear. Do this a few more times and you’ll have a full set.

The miracle of match fixing

You might think that it wouldn’t really matter how large the bribes were if it was still so much harder for attackers to win. And you’d be right if just about every server in both US and EU hadn’t started to arrange match fixing. I checked through several realm forums on the official site and every single one had a thread about Tol Barad, suggesting exactly this.

All that needs to happen is for the defending side to not try very hard so that the attackers always win. That way both faction get lots of freebie honor points for winning as attackers, the zone changes hands every 2 hours and everyone gets a chance to do the extra dailies that are awarded to the winner.

I know a lot of people view this as cheating but I am so impressed that pretty much all the playerbase, with minimal interaction, got its head together to cooperate on this. This is what I call the miracle of Tol Barad, and I hope other game designers are paying attention.

It’s normally so hard to get people to cooperate even minimally and Blizzard just pretty much threw some free loot at people with an obvious optimal strategy (let the zone switch hands every fight) and they’ve all been able to communicate, organise, cooperate, and profit.

Shame it had to ruin the one way I had found to make money as a blacksmith though, in selling starter PvP gear …

9 thoughts on “The Miracle of Tol Barad

  1. To be honest this is happening on our server without any match fixing. People get into the PvP battle, see if they’re defending and if they are they just do very little and lose willingly. Have seen it from both Horde and Alliance players and without any pre-knowledge. It’s a dumb system, totally unlike the fun of Wintergrasp.

    I’ve done it a few times, but I doubt I’ll queue for it much more. I love Battle for Gilneas so much more ;p

  2. The thing is incredibly fixed on my server and both sides are doing win trading in order to get the honor. It’s a rather silly amount too as you only need to win about 5 or 6 times to be able to get a full set of PvP gear. Personally I think the whole thing makes a mockery of the concept of PvP. All I’ve seen so far are huge queues and people complaining when they don’t get chosen to enter and can’t get their “free” honor.

    I hope Blizzard can fix it soon.

  3. I think the reason Blizzard decided on these victory conditions in the first place is the most interesting bit.
    I’m assuming their designers are experienced and know what they’re doing, so why would they make it so difficult for the attackers in the first place? If anything, I would expect them to make it more difficult for the defenders, so that it changes hands more often and helps prevent one faction dominating.
    The only reason I can think of is that, like Cataclysm on the whole with all the bugs and such, it was rushed, both in development and testing, and even worse, never thought through properly in the first place.

    Anyway, it’ll also be interesting to see what their next ‘fix’ will be. I’m pretty sure they hate the idea of free honour being dished out and the idea of no one playing their lovely new BG properly won’t be going down too well. Lets just hope the next fix is a little better thought through.

  4. Yeah…we aren’t win/trading often on our server right now. During Wrath, the alliance kept Wintergrasp near 100% of the time (7+ Alliance per 1 Horde). It became a running joke on the Horde side if we actually won WG for a change. If we did actually win, everyone on the server tried to get in a VoA group.

    But now? We are keeping Tol Barad. Call it petty, call it revenge for never letting us have WG, but we aren’t giving up TB easy. Sure, we might throw a match or two for some free honor, but not often. We just sit in one building for a while.

    And we laugh when the alliance log on to our side and complain about not winning.

  5. Win trading has been occuring on my server for days now. Frankly, with as completely screwed as this battleground is I haven’t minded it so much because at least this way both sides will get access to the dailies and the raid boss. I don’t think the zone changed hands more than 2-3 times the first two weeks and maybe slighly more the third week.

    One of the things we’re starting to really see is that a vast majority of people now queueing to get the 1800 honor, however, aren’t getting in. Word has gotten out about the alternative method for earning the honor if you don’t get called into the battle and each match is now witness to huge clumps of people at the end of the bridge.

    If Blizzard were inclined to actually listen to me, and I could profer just one bit of advice for their redesign effort, It would be to completely scrap this design and put in something completely different. You can’t have defenders spawning at a central node with equal, quick access to every other node in the zone. And you can’t expect an attacking force to hold three nodes simultaneously to win when a defending force only needs to hold one. Further another aspect that needs to change is how you gain a node to begin with. Right now the only factor in gaining or losing a node is numerical. If you have more attackers than defenders, you win irregardless of whether you actually defeat anyone or not. That’s a take away from Eye of the Storm where it works. But in a zone like this, and especially in that you have to take all three nodes to win, it doesn’t.

    I’d like Blizzard to make the towers a little more meaningful. Make destroying them grant zone wide buffs to the attackers along with the extra time. That should make them worthwhile to defend, which should spilit the defenders. Right now the defenders can completely ignore the towers and not even worry about it.

    As far as winning criteria goes I’m conflicted. I like the idea of zone captures being cumulative but also see the issues with it. Instead of having to capture three nodes simulateously I think you should be able to capture them one, or two at a time which would also split the defense. And it would give the defenders a real reason to stay and fight whereas now they simply move to the next node. That just leaves into question about how you actually capture a node. Change to clicking on the flag perhaps so that defenders can recapture.

    and lastly I’d like to see the population capped raised to at least 120 as it was in Wintergrasp. 40 vs 40 is too low for a zone like this. Especially now where the honor gain is so high.

  6. I thought this kind of win trading happened with the RvR battles in Warhammer Online, before they tweaked things to discourage it.

  7. My opinion is pretty clear on this: call it abusing the system, but the real issue lies on Blizzard’s side. Tol Barad’s design is an utter fail at the moment and I don’t blame players for trying to optimize their honor gains this way which only seems logic. it should never be that losing on purpose is a rewarding tactic – I’m frankly surprised they didnt anticipate it..
    I hope they will look into the issues asap instead of blaming the community. it’s a sad state of affairs.

    I’ve elaborated on this in an own blog-post of today, and took the liberty to include your post there, Spinks –

    I too am somehow positively surprised that so many servers were capable to strike a deal of this kind, wrong or not. it shows that there are real people behind their computers. 😉

    • I agree. And I don’t think this is abusing the system, not in the same way that leeching off AV used to be or that exploiting bugs in PvE is. I think that it just shows the community solving problems together.

      • Punishing players for acting logically is hugely unfair.

        Unfortunately, it’s sadly consistent with other incidents where Blizzard adopts a policy and does not budge from it, fair or not. There are no exceptions in how they define it. This isn’t the first PvP incident I can think of that is behavior encouraged by the battleground rules, but a bannable exploit. (c.f. fighting from the gun platforms in Wintergrasp).

        The problems of Tol Barad were noted during the Beta, but not addressed. The majority of testing, from what I’ve read, was spent with one faction camping the GY of the other until the testers went elsewhere. Blizzard attempted to fix that problem, but didn’t address any of the issues with design.

        The flagship PvP area of Cataclysm has made a mockery of PvP. It’s really quite disheartening.

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