Thursday, September 3, 2009

PVP - Player Versus Playing

Ah, the Ogre Shadowknight from back in the Everquest days. Good times.

Probably somewhere beyond a half decade ago, back in my EQ days, Sony had released an expansion that was said to be more group friendly. Everquest was a group-based game for the most part (unless you were a Druid or a Necromancer), and one of the more common complaints was that new players couldn't group with their friends who had been playing for quite some time. That level five toon couldn't hang with the level sixty, and it killed the fun for everyone.

Sony's solution? They made instances available that would allow people of varying levels to group together. To do this, everyone in the party would zone into the instance and be transformed into creatures of the same level, say level ten fairies. Those fairies would have to complete a set of objectives that might take fifteen minutes to complete. They would complete the mission, zone out, and receive a bulk of xp that was proportional to their level. For example, a level 65 character could receive an entire AA (Alternate Advancement) point worth of xp, which was the equivalent of the xp needed to ding level 51.

Even with the lockout that was eventually added, this was a very good way to level. High level characters could group with low level friends, embark on a mission, and earn a lump of xp as well as the chance to roll on a chest that dropped at the end of the mission. The chest drop scaled for the character's level once they phased out of the mission. Not bad for maybe fifteen minutes of work.

The problem that quickly arose was that characters were leveling too quickly. People were starting off at a very low level, and in a day or two they'd reach max level. Since they were leveling as fairies and not as warriors (or whatever class they were playing), they were capping out without knowing the first thing about their class.

Even worse, their gear was horrible. No mob drops, no quest rewards, nothing. All they had was what they could buy from other players in the Bazaar. So not only did these people know nothing about their class, they didn't even have adequate gear to make up for their shortcomings. And so, the game floundered for quite some time while Sony nerfed the XP to the point that no one ever ran the missions at all.

Fast forward to the latest patch, where characters can now earn XP in battlegrounds. I ran one with a 60 prot warrior I'd been flummoxing around with for awhile, and the xp was pretty much more or less what I could have accumulated running quests for the same amount of time. That was BG's that lasted 15 to 30 minutes per.

From what I've been hearing, though, the big gains come from the 70 to 80 brackets. Bigger xp gains. A toon could log in at 70, run a few dozen BG's and walk out closer to 80 than they could have if they'd been questing.

Problem? Well, there's no gear gained. You can buy it with honor, but you'd only pick up what, one or two pieces in ten levels? BG's don't ask a player what their DPS is like. On a battle realm like ours, you're thankful if your faction can field the same number as the opposition. You want bodies, not gear checks.

Skill? By level 70 a person should have an idea of what they're doing. But there's going to be those mouth-breathers that will /afk their way through the last ten levels, assuming they started BG leveling at 70 rather than 10.

I've read a couple of stories like this - a person groups with someone to run a heroic, and not only is that person terrible, but their gear eats donkey balls. An Armory check on the toon reveals they'd completed few if any Northrend quests, and zero instance achievements. They leveled by being a body in a BG.

Will this be a game breaker? Will BG Babies be the next round of Fairy Folks?

I doubt it, but it's something to think about. Until that sweet XP gets nerfed, smoke 'em if you got 'em. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a ski vacation planned in beautiful Alterac Valley.