26/08/2013

Meh, Arenas

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.

10 comments:

  1. I think that Blizz probably sees arenas as one of the primary reasons people stay with WoW.

    The impact of arenas on regular BGs can't be overstated, because a toon in full Honor gear has just enough to not get him/her get killed outright, but Conquest gear doesn't give enough of an oomph to make it worth your while to focus on. Unless you do arenas and then you get the Glorious Conquest gear, which is how you see Locks with 570k health running around.

    But those people who do arenas do them religiously and will throw money at the computer screen if it will give them better gear. Bioware knows this, and is hoping that they'll get a piece of that action too.

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    1. I don't think that they are planning on selling PvP gear. I think they are just introducing arenas because it's something that hardcore PvPers have been asking for pretty much since launch.

      You do have to wonder though, how many people you lose in turn due to overdoing it with the class balancing to maintain some sort of parity in arena play. I remember in Blizzard's case it was at least enough of a deal for them to put down "my class is changing too much" as one of the main options on the "why I cancelled my sub" exit survey.

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    2. Well, I'd argue that the consistent overhauls of all of the classes from expac to expac contributes more to that "my class is changing too much" these days than anything else. I probably couldn't play a Pally right now if I wanted to, because it's changed so much since Q's heyday in Wrath. It'd take me about a week to get into anything resembling consistency, for sure.

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    3. I wouldn't be surprised if Bio doesn't capitalize on the arenas by selling gear or something along those lines. After all the cash shop has been good to them and I have yet to see them implement something that wasn't tied to it in someway. As for arenas I have been wishing for them since launch and can't wait for 2.4. Although I would prefer a 2 man to be included, maybe this will happen in the future.

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  2. It can be a headache for the casual PvE crowd, too, as classes get adjusted for PvP, which sometimes leaves them in trouble in PvE. I've often wondered why games don't just have different rule sets for PvE and PvP (not that that would fix the fact that different kinds of PvP work differently as well). It would at least save on some of the balance issues.

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  3. Totally agree. Arenas really aren't my thing ether. I wish you could queue for normal warzones and arenas separately.

    The thing that worries me the most is class balance. It is that much off that people predict there are only going to be scoundrel/operative healers around in rated. All the ranked sorcs I know are rolling operatives. But I like my sage/sorc! It's ridiculous that only one healing class will be viable in arenas. *bangs head against wall*

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  4. I will be partaking in arena based PvP, but I do agree that not having separate queues is gonna suck, I do also question the balance of certain specs when arenas are launched we already know that ranked PvP favours operatives and burst damage classes, with the introduction of the arena system I can only see this getting worse, I'm in the unfortunate position of playing a flavour of the month class (sentinel), but do not play smash spec, however I can see huge changes to my class coming in the immediate future due to rated arenas, for a player who mainly plays PvE content I can see myself getting hit with the nerf bat to the point where she's just not fun to play anymore, meaning I either un sub or re roll, neither option appeals to me but I can see that being the future for me sadly.

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  5. Depizan has really hit the nail on the head there. PvP adjustments almost always affect some aspects of PvE as well. That is the primary reason why I dislike how PvP is handled in what are essentially PvE MMOs. Like he said, it shouldn’t be a problem to make abilities work differently in different environments – just look at Guard. This would simply require more effort from the developers.

    I might have missed it, but are Arenas only for max-level PvP or will they also be part of the Warzone queue below the level cap? If it’s the latter, it would most certainly result in me giving up on Warzones completely.

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    1. Dev post says non-ranked queues will work the same at all levels (as I understand it).

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  6. While I like SWTOR's unranked warzones. I hate small-scale PvP like arenas & duels and I REALLY hate having PvP driving PvE class changes. Use different rulesets or build the game as a PvP-centered game from the get-go.

    If I have to queue for arenas in order to have a chance at a warzone, I will not PvP at all.

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