The Numbers Game

Tobold and Abalieno have both gone off recently about WoW’s PvP revamp or more specifically, the lack thereof. To quote Tobold:

The first curious thing is that you don’t get your honor points immediately. Instead you get an “estimate”, which tends to be far too low, and then get your real honor points the next day. Imagine experience points worked that way! “We estimate you have gained experience for two more levels today, but come back tomorrow for the exact value and the actual reward.” I wondered, if honor points are given out on an absolute scale now, why would it take one day to calculate the honor points?

The answer of course, is that they’re not actually given out on a standard experience-point-style scale, as everyone assumed when they read the details on the WoW 2.0 PvP revamp, but still indexed based on total player participation. So, the reward for your PvP evening is still wholly dependent on how Englebert Frostshock, the prototypical 12 year old kid who spends his entire waking life pwning Warsong Gulch, spent his day. Amazingly, many players don’t want their personal success based on Englebert’s.

While it’s good to see the World of Warcraft designers experiment with things (since they, you know, can, being probably the only development team on the PLANET that doesn’t have someone asking to make their game more like World of Warcraft) the reward structure for PvP effort isn’t really a good place to start. I’m going to pull out a cliche here and say “As I clearly said in my blog months ago, this isn’t a good idea.” For bonus points, notice where I made the same mistake as everyone else and assumed they were moving to a flat reward system! Here, I’ll just repeat myself:

Relative reward systems are a horrible, horrible idea in MMOs. Not only is it horrible because it frustrates players for what to them are irrational reasons, it\’e2\’80\’99s horrible because it pits players against one another in a fundamental environmental way over something as core as character advancement. In most WoW servers, the highest level PvPers trade off so that each can have 1 week at the top so they can unlock their UberPants. But imagine the drama that would result if someone didn\’e2\’80\’99t.

So now you have the same problem – only even worse, because you don’t have the immediate feedback of “I am Rank 13, so I can ease off now.” You have the worst feature of a relative reward system – the penalty for greater player participation – combined with a broken feedback system. So you just don’t know if you did well or not. Until the great database gods behind Oz Da Gweat and Tewwible grind out their code and you find out that yes, you did actually earn enough points last night to purchase your UberPants.

It would be far easier to just award points based on total historical participation. Not that any game has ever done that which you could derive concrete examples from or anything. And clearly it would be far easier on WoW’s overstressed databases than trying to run historical analysis on every PvP player. Like most things that make little sense, this is pretty clearly based on someone’s religious convictions.

Again, there are things that it’s cool that WoW innovates on. But historically, PvP has not been one of them. And this latest revamp that’s not a revamp continues this storied tradition.