Sunday, June 29, 2014

WoW Analysis: Possible Changes to Alterac Valley

A few weeks ago I reviewed the numerous issues with Alterac Valley that contribute to an imbalanced, uninteresting experience that has created the PvE-style rush metagame that dominates the battleground today. In this article, I will offer solutions to these issues in two sets. The first set of solutions is more in the form of quick, band-aid style fixes that touch up the balance of the battleground that won't change the metagame much but at least give the Horde a slightly better chance of winning. The second set of solutions alters the battleground's victory condition to better emphasize the completion of objectives and participation in PvP, taking advantage of the original design depth of the battleground while opening up the possibility of different metagames.

With that said, let us begin with the small changes that would help make Alterac Valley more balanced.

The Small Balance Changes
  • Starting with the differing tower layouts and archer defenses mentioned in the previous article that lead to an imbalance, placing archers in front of each of the Horde tower openings, allowing the archer to fire in on any enemy player capturing the flag, would mean Alliance and Horde players would have to deal with archer(s) in order to capture the tower.
  • In the same vein, since the Frostwolf Relief Hut cannot currently be defended by tower archers, the capture flag could be moved closer, the towers could be moved closer to the Relief Hut, or the archer's ranges could be increased. The first option is probably the most healthy one design-wise (because while Alliance can technically capture the graveyard sooner, the tower archers can intervene now).
  • To prevent the Alliance players from running straight down into the Frostwolf base and completely ignoring the paths, some barricades could be set up to slightly increase the time Alliance take to penetrate the Horde's defenses. It also allows the Horde to have some options to potentially mount a defensive against the Alliance.
  • While Vanndar and Drek'thar are reasonably balanced, Galvangar needs a defensive cooldown (like a Shield Wall effect that reduces damage taken by 50% for 8 seconds) or Balinda needs her Ice Block spell removed. Giving Galvangar Shield Wall fits better with class archetype mechanics.
While these won't completely fix the balance issues, they will certainly help a little bit. Additional changes could be made as faction win rates in Alterac Valley change.

The Overhaul

As mentioned above, the idea of the overhaul is to clean up the battleground by streamlining the old NPCs, quests, and objectives and making them a major part of winning the game. In addition, the current design allows one metagame or set of tactics to rise above all others in almost complete dominance, preventing others from flourishing unless a redesign encourages other metagames (like more emphasis on defense) while partially discouraging said dominant tactics. To make the transition easier for players, some mechanics and objectives will remain but may be used in a different way (such as reinforcements, towers, and graveyards). With that said, here is how the new Alterac Valley would work.
  • Reinforcements would remain in the game, but would be slightly altered in how it works. It is also worth mentioning draining reinforcements is now the only way to win:
    • Like before, each team has 500 reinforcements and killing a player reduces reinforcements by one.
    • When a tower has been destroyed, 50 reinforcements are deducted instead of 75. However, the tower will be repaired a minute after it is destroyed. This means controlling towers is important.
    • If a captain is defeated, they do not remain slain, but instead call in troops and heal their wounds, causing a 75 reinforcement loss. They will return after a minute. Like above, defending the captains is also important.
    • If the commander is defeated, they are also not slain, but also call troops and heal their wounds, causing a 100 reinforcement loss. They will also return after a minute. The tower captains that originally granted a buff no longer do so, promoting risky rush tactics to try to farm the commander, though the potential reward means the team has to "camp" the commander for five kills in a row (or so).
    • While the elemental boss Ivus or Lokholar is active, the opposing team loses 50 reinforcements per minute until it is slain. Slaying an elemental lord will cause the team who summoned it to lose 50 reinforcements, making defending the elemental boss very important.
    • Mines, when captured, no longer passively grant reinforcements over time as it would slow down the match (though they do grant honor passively). However, they grant a damage buff (around 15%?) to all units on the team controlling the mine , which can effectively allow players to defeat other players, the captain, and commander a lot faster, draining reinforcements quickly.
  • The Field of Strife will be a lot more important. Wing commanders, wolf/ram rider commanders, blacksmiths, and Primalist Thurloga or Arch Druid Renferal will now be around the area close to Iceblood Graveyard (Horde) and Stonehearth Graveyard (Alliance) right from the start of the match. These NPCs cannot be killed. Here's an example of where the Field of Strife hubs can be:
    • This makes most of the repeatable quests a lot easier to turn in (they can and should be automatic turn-ins upon interaction to keep up with the pace of the match).
    • 2 minutes after the match begins, players can warp to these hubs on the Field of Strife so players can more easily turn in quests. This could show up as a extra actionbar button or something. The cast time is very short and there is no cooldown.
    • On that note, enemy corpses will automatically looted to the player landing the killing blow. In addition, players who assisted in a kill of an enemy player or NPC also earn a small amount of items relevant to quest turn-ins. These could potentially be converted to currencies that don't take up inventory space. NPCs will also drop more materials.
    • Since the wolf/ram rider commanders don't have easily obtainable materials, enemy players can now drop materials to satisfy their requirements.
  • Some of the quest turn-ins would be reworked to fit better with the fast pace of the battleground, since there's only 500 reinforcements to burn through.
    • For instance, wing commanders will progressively send out more aerial units to bombard the battleground as the relevant items are turned in, with higher tier items turn-ins (such as to Mulverick and Ichman) yielding a more lethal assault (for instance, the damage dealt and distance the aerial units can fly out to fire on enemies can be larger based on tier). These effects would likely have a timed life or other conditional to ensure the aerial units are temporary, but they can be summoned multiple times in rapid succession if enough items are turned in.
    • Wolf and ram commanders are also about the same, sending up a battalion of mounted units to join the assault that sweep all the way up into the enemy base. Multiple battalions can be sent but they only last for some amount of time like with aerial units.
    • For the elemental boss summons, players no longer have to channel a ritual to summon the boss and the boss can be resummoned after it is defeated. It is also worth noting the elemental bosses will patrol the Field of Strife and may even end up fighting with each other.
    • Armor Scrap turn-ins will now also summon ground troops upon reaching certain amounts of turn-ins (around the same amount it would take to promote the graveyard guards, but it can be repeated infinitely instead of stopping after a certain point). These ground troops are the same as the ones summoned by turning in mine supplies. Mine supply quests have been completely removed because they slow down the pace of the game.
  • To better allow players to respond to objectives, they can now warp between graveyards in a manner similar to Wintergrasp. This will also emphasize graveyard control since having control of graveyards will help with map control. In addition, the map is pretty long, making traversing from one end to another time-consuming, which slows down the gameplay.
    • The trinkets earned from a quest in the battleground no longer warp the player back to base since there is now a teleport to the Field of Strife and graveyard travel. They instead could have another effect, such as increasing the amount of quest items earned from drops or the like. It may be better to have it provide a vanity effect (such as having various NPCs in the battleground salute the player, with higher ranking officials of the faction saluting at higher ranks).
    • Also regarding the trinket quest, it should not involve queuing for Alterac Valley but instead be a rite of passage style quest outside of it (the quest essentially takes people out of the match).
As one can see there are a lot of changes, though they aren't as major as they might seem. The overhaul focuses on trying to create points for objective control to accomplish the objective of draining reinforcements, whether through the current tactics or more varied tactics involving balanced offense and defense and the like, Both teams could also try to start a bloodbath on the Field of Strife (40 vs 40 would be incredibly lag-inducing but satisfying) to try to build their forces, particularly by summoning their respective elemental lord and defending it until the enemy reinforcements are completely drained. Either way, since reinforcements will constantly drain and cannot be replenished, the battles won't drag on incredibly long and can even end in a matter of minutes depending on the tactics used.

Final Statement
    I strongly feel Alterac Valley needs some sort of change in the future. As mentioned in the previous article detailing the problems, the fast pace is nice, but the battleground used to be richly detailed with numerous quests and NPCs that were intricately woven into accomplishing victory until it devolved into a game of rush (and some counter-rush) strategies that only focus on some of the major objectives at best. While there are balance issues, I'm sure those will get addressed and my suggestions may help point in the right direction in that regard. However, what I would love to see is a reworked version of the battleground that implements what is already in place in a clever way that makes the original design meaningful and up to date. While it doesn't necessarily have to be the overhaul suggestion that I envision, it would be great to see something like it.

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