Tol Barad: Bizarro Wintergrasp

November 16, 2010 at 10:55 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

After the release of Cataclysm, Tol Barad will be the new world pvp zone similar to Wintergrasp in Wrath.  As described on the Blizzard website (emphasis mine):

Reachable by portals in Stormwind and Orgrimmar, Tol Barad will accept up to 100 players per faction to engage in brutal combat across the island’s surface. Unlike Wintergrasp, Tol Barad will not have Tenacity buffs. Instead, the queue system will match each side at a 1-to-1 ratio down to a minimum of 25 players. Battles will take place every two hours and thirty minutes, giving the offensive faction a chance to claim territory.

In terms of making the actual battles competitive and fair, this is a great idea.  At present, Wintergrasp is usually won predominantly by the more populated faction.  I’ve had a chance to play on both sides of unbalanced servers and it’s unfair for the small faction and boring for the large faction.  That said, I suspect this solution will be a case of the pendulum swinging to the other extreme.  Players on the large faction will now find it very difficult to even participate in the Tol Barad battles.  I can’t imagine it being acceptable for only one ICC 25 raid to run at a time, so it’s puzzling that Tol Barad is participant-limited in this way.  It’s sort of a Bizarro Wintergrasp.

Making a world pvp area like Wintergrasp or Tol Barad is a difficult task for the developers, particularly when they must accommodate a huge variety of different team sizes for each side.  I do think, though, that their task is made much more difficult by the near ubiquity of imbalanced servers.  (From the link, notice how there are more servers with a 3:1 imbalance than there are servers with an imbalance of less than 1.2:1)



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  1. If you let 1000 alliance play in WG every time, but only 15 horde, then the alliance people only get better faster. That makes it so even when the numbers are more balanced, the alliance toons are stronger.

    With a number cap to make it 1-to-1, the same amount of people per faction get the same amount of honor for a win or loss.

    This is coming from Terenas-US, where the Alliance rule everything.

    • Signu, I think the point about total honor (or other rewards) earned for each faction is a good one. Judging by what I have seen with stone keeper shards in Wrath, the economic effects can be substantial. I’m not sure I agree that letting everybody in would make one faction stronger than the other in the next random TB battle. In fact, limiting participation may have the opposite effect of making the smaller faction stronger on a per-person basis. I try to explain below.

      (Quick aside: you have my sympathies for playing on the smaller faction of an imbalanced server. Until recently I played on Rivendare-US, where the horde controlled WG nearly fulltime. As a PvP server, the faction imbalance had serious implications for leveling, too. In such a situation, managing to put together a kingslayer run is no small feat.)

      Drawing on the 1000:15 example where everybody is allowed in WG, suppose the sides are evenly matched (ha! this would require fixing tenacity). Suppose everybody that participated also picked up a gear upgrade. In the subsequent battle, the sides will again be evenly matched; it’s still 1000:15, but with better gear. So assuming resilience scales appropriately with tenacity, the fight is still balanced.

      Now suppose we have imbalanced factions and a 25:25 battle that is initially even. Everybody that participates gets a gear upgrade. For the smaller faction, this means 25 people in a small population are now better geared. For the larger faction, there are still only 25 people with better gear; it is a smaller fraction of the overall faction population. When everybody on each faction queues for the next battle, all 25 on the small faction are better geared players. On the larger faction, there are 25 better geared players but only a fraction of them are able to participate because of the 975 others that are queueing. As a result, the average gear level for players in TB will increase faster for the small faction. If all else is equal (eg, skill), this produces an imbalanced situation.

      I think the challenges of balancing battlegrounds like Wintergrasp or Tol Barad are substantial, particularly when factions are imbalanced. Tenacity clearly didn’t work very well as a mechanic, so I understand Blizzard’s reluctance to re-use it, but I don’t think telling people “you don’t get to play the game” is any better as a solution. One possibility would be to have NPCs attack the larger faction, similar to the current elemental invasions, forcing the large faction to split their group into those that fight NPCs and those that fight the other faction. This would help to keep the fights between alliance and horde fairly equal because many from the larger faction would be tied up elsewhere.

      • wtb paragraph breaks!

        • You do make a good point despite the lack of spacing :)

          When a faction wins WG, they get extra honor and shards. The losing team in the hypothetical 1000v15 battle wouldn’t have enough points to buy a gear upgrade at the same time as the winning team.

          That said, I completely agree that the smaller faction may end up overpowered because the same people get to do it every time, whereas the larger faction will have to hope they get in the queue in time.

          I feel like the primary problem with Tenacity is that one person can really only do so much against 25 people. Even if I can one-shot each target, it would still take me a lot longer to take out all 25 than it would take for them to kill me (or just CC me until I’m dead). In addition to(or instead of) a buff for the smaller team, I think a damage debuff for the larger team would make it more balanced.

          Personally, I’m hoping that the 1-to-1 queuing leads to close to 50% ownership of Tol Barad.

        • While increasing damage has helped for the smaller team, I find that this advantage is often negated by the power of multiple CCs. Chaining stuns, fears, silences, disarms and roots often reduces damage to zero, which means that even a huge damage multiplier doesn’t help.

          I like the idea of reducing damage for the larger team. It doesn’t have such a bad interaction with CC, which is one of the major problems facing the smaller faction. It would be important to be careful with how much damage is reduced, though, because otherwise healers could become too powerful for the smaller faction.

  2. Interesting – Gevlon wrote about the same subject today.

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