The biggest buzz in the community for the past couple of weeks has surrounded the arena system coming up in patch 2.4, which is currently being tested on the PTS. Most of the comments I've seen about it from PvPers are tentatively excited, but personally I actually kind of dread its realease. As usual, I could be completely wrong in my predictions and I'll be happy if I end up being pleasantly surprised, but for now I'm feeling pretty gloomy about the subject.
Basically, I tried arenas on several different occasions back in WoW and came to the conclusion that I just don't like them. I'm not going to claim that I never had an ounce of fun or anything: the adrenaline rush of a close win felt great sometimes, and I generally played with people I liked, so the company was good too.
However, on the whole I have to say that deathmatch gameplay just isn't engaging to me. I'm not sure why exactly that is. I'm guessing that at least part of it has to do with my general preference for playing healers and just not being that interested in killing other players. (I tend to quickly get bored of duelling too.) However, there's also the issue of flow. When I enter an objective-based warzone, it tends to have ups and downs in terms of activity: you run in for that first engagement, there's mad fighting when the opposing teams first meet up, then you get drawn off into a side battle, then it might be a bit quiet for a while as you guard a node. This feels good to me. By contrast, arenas tend to be frantic button mashing from beginning to end, with the only "break" happening after death when you sit in the queue for the next match.
The smaller number of players is also likely to make things too hardcore for my liking. I'd like to think that I'm a decent PvPer, but I'm not great. On top of that I'm the opposite of a flavour-of-the-month player and seem to have the habit of falling in love with class/spec combinations that are absolutely atrocious in PvP. (In WoW I spent several months doing rated battlegrounds as a holy priest, if that means anything to you... and in SWTOR my main has been a Combat Medic since launch. Go figure.) In a larger, objective-based game this isn't as big of a deal. The bigger the number of players, the harder it is to achieve perfect coordination even for a premade team, so there is a bit of room for sub-optimal performance in some areas and specs that aren't necessarily ideal for the job. In a small arena setting on the other hand, victory will often come down to whoever brought the best mix of classes as well as to who managed to do everything just right at the right time, i.e. who hit their stun half a second faster, and that's something that I personally find too frustrating as I'm just not that hardcore.
Okay, so I don't like arenas. "What's the problem?" you might ask. "Just don't do them." Well, the problem is that unless Bioware makes some big changes before letting the patch go live, PvPers won't get a choice: do arenas or don't do PvP at all. There will be a queue for rated arena play only, but the unranked queue will be for both warzones and arenas at the same time, with no option to opt out of either.
I know why the devs chose to do it that way: PvP queues can be long as it is, so the last thing you want to do is divide players among too many different queues and make wait times go through the roof. Nonetheless I think that it's a mistake in this case, because warzones and arenas are just too different. You think it's bad now how people sometimes drop out of a warzone as soon as they see that it's their least favourite? I can only see that issue getting magnified tenfold when wannabe warzone players keep getting put into arena matches that they don't actually want to be in. Maybe there'll be arena players who will always quit regular warzones too - though at least they will have the option of queuing for arenas exclusively by using the rated queue. Oh, and did I mention that you'll only be able to queue alone or with a group of four in the future? No more doing warzones with just your best friend or significant other.
On top of that, I'm really worried about class balance shenanigans resulting from these changes. Arenas haven't even left the PTS yet, and already people are clamouring that this or that class is totally useless in arenas, oh noes! Apparently the winning teams on the PTS are all dominated by smashers and healing Operatives. As someone who's mostly interested in larger cooperative experiences, I don't really care... but at this rate a lot of dev resources will be drawn away towards attempting to square the circle and achieving perfect class balance just for arenas. Even Blizzard went on record years ago as saying that the introduction of arenas to WoW was a mistake due to the havoc it played with class balancing. Seeing Bioware wanting to follow them down that road seriously worries me.