In which Blizzard continues to flog the dead horse of Tol Barad

After regaling us with a dev blog assuring all and sundry that Tol Barad was working exactly as expected (did anyone believe this? thought not) we’re seeing the next round of tweaks coming through with the next patch.

Mumper explained (in the link above) that the design goal was to make it more difficult for the attackers, as an extra incentive for defenders to hang onto it. In practice, there are three keeps in the zone which can be captured. Attackers need to capture all three of them to win. Defenders just have to stop them doing so.

The best defensive strategy is just to follow the attackers around, so after any point is won and the main attack force has moved to the next point, you send your defenders in to retake it. That way instead of the defenders being forced to defend more than one spot, it’s the attackers who struggle to hold existing captures while trying to take the next one.

Anyhow, here are the changes proposed for the next patch

PvP
Tol Barad

  • Attacking forces will receive a 200% capture speed bonus when they control 2 keeps.
  • Defending forces will receive a 200% capture speed bonus when they control all 3 keeps.
  • Daily quest creatures, herbs, minerals, etc. will only spawn when Tol Barad is in the quest phase between battles. There will be 5-minute and 1-minute warnings before the quest phase ends. The quest phase ends 15 minutes before the battle for Tol Barad begins and queuing is made available. At that time any players in the daily micro dungeons will be ported just outside. This does not apply to Tol Barad Peninsula or the daily quests there.

I have no idea where they are going with this.

The first change will not stop the tactic of following the attackers around, if defenders do this, it’s not going to make it any easier for the attackers to hold two keeps and still have a force on the third.  And what does it even mean that defenders get a capture bonus if they already control all three keeps? (hint: if they control all 3 keeps there’s nothing left to capture.)

But it is amusing that you can’t do dailies while the battle is on :)

Funny thing is, I don’t even hate Tol Barad. I like the general ‘capture three points’ mechanic. I liked it in Warhammer (Nordenwatch) and I like it in Arathi – and both of those battlegrounds play out better than Tol Barad.

Speaking of Warhammer – possibility of F2P

I have heard rumours lately that Mythic is (finally) considering converting WAR to F2P. If they do this, I heartily recommend it to PvP fans as the lower level (tier 1-3) PvP was always very good fun, and I’d certainly be tempted to go back for a while.

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.

tolbaradmap

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 …