The PvP panel saw both Jeff Kaplan and Tom Chilton provide insight into the history of PvP design in World of Warcraft, as well as some things we can expect to see in the future - both on new and old battlegrounds.
It started off with Tom Chilton giving a brief overview of battlegrounds and their place in the World of Warcraft.
- Should be the destination for rewarding, objective-based team PvP.
- Should always reinforce the Horde vs Alliance theme.
- BG's must compliment the existing gameworld.
- BG's are natural extensions of the game.
From there he handed it off to Jeff Kaplan so he could go more in-depth with the design behind each battleground and what they've learned over the course of developing and seeing it played.
Alterac Valley - AV for short - was originally going to be a non-instanced, persistent zone with quests and NPC's there for content to suppliment off-peak PvP hours. While the idea was great, Blizzard quickly realized that at the time the demand was far too high to support this style of AV and turned it into an instanced battleground.
Lessons Blizzard has learned from AV:
- Map differences in terrain and base design can be very cool, but at the same time can be a nightmare for balancing.
- Players will go AFK to farm honor. This is something Blizzard is adamant about fixing.
- Honor liberally awarded for simply being there doesn't always work out. Blizzard wants to shift the focus on winning AV, as right now even losing can be more rewarding honor than winning another battleground.
- NPC's intermixed into PvP can be interesting, but also quirky. There are flaws obvious to Blizzard that they want to fix so that AV can be an enjoyable experience for everyone.
WSG for short, Warsong was the second battleground developed by Blizzard. WSG spent a lot more time in the prototype stages than Alterac Valley did, which allowed Blizzard to really hammer out the gameplay and make it as solid as possible, even when they were playing on a completely flat surface due to the terrain not being finished yet.
The Capture The Flag(CTF) format was chosen early on in the prototyping and using previous game design experience - the designer who created the bases for WSG made sure they were symmetrical and had a very FPS CTF feel to them.
The Birth of Arenas: Gurubashi Catacombs
Not often talked about, this was going to be a 5v5, single elimination deathmatch battleground. Sounds familiar, right? Exactly - it's what Arenas are today; this battleground was actually the third worked on by Blizzard, but during its prototype development, they realized the Arena deathmatch idea and battleground gameplay didn't mix, so they scrapped it.
Lessons learned during the Gurubashi design:
- Objectives are key to the core gameplay of battlegrounds.
- Arena idea was cool, but battlegrounds play differently.
- Arena maps need to be small which Gurubashi was not.
Warcraft III meets Battlefield 1942: Arathi Basin
The inspiration behind Arathi Basin was due in part to the popular games in the office at the time: Warcraft III and Battlefield 1942 - played rabidly by many of the WoW developers. So the idea was simple, design a battleground for their game that meshed some things from both titles. A few of the key things AB brings to the table is that it's still very accessible, even though it's designed for a large number of players. Its simple design allows for players to understand what needs to be done at a glimpse.
The design was also intended to spread people out - taking control of multiple points would be challenging for players, and really gave a great BF1942 feel to capturing points on the map. Points of interest also followed in the footsteps of simple design; everything had simple names - "go to the farm" really meant, go to the farm. There was no need for special names for locations as they all had basic names.
One of the most important learning experiences from AB was that you don't just reward the winners. No one enjoys sitting around in a battleground for 30 minutes for no reward. They continued with this concept in the next battleground they designed, and will no doubt continue it into the future.
Making of Eye of the Storm
Originally Eye of the Storm was going to be a battleground set in Hellfire Peninsula, but while designing the prototype for it, Blizzard was also creating Netherstorm and felt that its concepts fit in a lot more there. The goal of EotS was to put a spin on tried and true battleground gameplay, by merging several core aspects of previous battlegrounds and shaking them up ever so slightly.
An early design of the objectives in the battleground saw a floating island that moved around the map the entire fight; this island is what contained the flag, and while Blizzard liked the idea of it, it didn't play well once they actually started testing the zone. Eventually they settled on the flag being on a strip of land in the middle of the map with a chokepoint on each side.
What the Future Holds
Alterac Valley will be seeing some major changes to its gameplay:
- Players will only respawn in their safe tunnels if there are no other respawn points in the zone. Otherwise players will respawn at the graveyard nearest to their death.
- Anti-afk measures are being put in.
- Players will be able to report someone that is AFK by right clicking on their name on the map.
- If enough players report someone, the reported player receives a countdown debuff.
- If the player doesn't enter combat before the countdown debuff fades, another debuff is applied.
- While the second debuff is active, honor gain for that player is halted completely. The only way to remove this debuff is by entering combat.
- Honor distribution and balance improvements will be made. A bulk of the honor is going to be shifted to the later portions of the battleground to encourage players to win the battleground.
- Queueing as a group is going to return to AV.
General battleground improvements:
- The queue system is going to be improved upon to help hopefully alleviate any possible delays in queue times.
- Guild battleground queueing is coming. This will allow guilds to queue for a battleground as their guild. A rating system will be used similar to the Arena rating system, and there will be unique rewards offered to those who participate.
- Chilton wants to change the way the queue system matches you with a battleground because right now Blizzard is limited in the number of battlegrounds that can be added, as it will spread players too thin.
- You'll queue up for a battleground size - say 15 players, or 10 players - and then be placed into a random battleground of that size with other players in the queue.
- Siege weapons and destroyable buildings are being added with the expansion. Chilton would also like to explore the possibility of adding them to existing battlegrounds, like Alterac Valley.