Sunday, January 11, 2015

World of Warcraft: Reducing the Ashran Queue Times

Note: There's way bigger problems with Ashran now. This article's been partially obsoleted.

When I initially joined World of Warcraft back during the early Burning Crusade days, the battleground that captured my fascination was Alterac Valley. This is pretty clear from my prior articles on the topic asking for some changes to the battleground to help make it more than a PvE speedrun. My dream sort of came true, however, with the release of Ashran. It had the large-scale bloodbath between the Alliance and Horde that I wanted to have happen in Alterac Valley with numerous side objectives, such as the power to summon elemental lords and additional forces. Players can also opt to go to one of the side areas away from the road, where even more bonus objectives lie.

Overall, Ashran has a lot to offer in the way of both PvP and PvE. I personally think it's superior to the previous PvP zones of Wintergrasp and Tol Barad. However, it suffers from one fatal flaw: its long queue time, which has been complained about since shortly after Ashran became available when for some reason the queue times could go on for hours at a time. There have been many suggestions made to help alleviate the queue times and while the most recent hotfixes address parts of Ashran, very little is being done to reduce queue times. With that said, here some possible ways to reduce the queue time, most of which are the result of lurking on various forums (either from finding suggestions or analyzing common complaints):
Reduce the daily quest requirement for fragments to 50 from 100.
While the Ashran daily quest for Apexis Crystals has improved since its initial introduction, 100 Fragments is still quite a bit to gather, especially if your side can't consistently control objectives or kill rare spawns before the other side (rare spawns drop a ton of Artifact Fragments). By reducing it to 50, players can get their daily done a little quicker and leave, freeing up space for other players to join.
Remove the "Ashran Bonus" from Conquest Points requirements. Players can still farm Conquest Points in Ashran if they want.
This picture was taken on an alt,
As you can see from the picture above, players interested in farming Conquest Points are essentially forced to enter Ashran at least once per week in order to earn an optimal amount of Conquest Points. While it understandable that Blizzard wishes to make Ashran relevant for as long as possible and incentivize PvPers to join, there's already plenty of other reasons to join Ashran. For instance, Ashran is a lucrative source of Honor due to Artifact Fragment turn-ins awarding Honor. Racial PvP tokens such as Worgen Snout can also be earned and turned in for more Honor and a chance at some gear. In addition, with the change proposed above, Ashran can still be a place to farm Conquest Points if a player wants to but it won't be a mandatory activity.
Allow Broken Bones to drop from players and Nemesis quests to progress in matchmade PvP (and outside of Draenor).
At the moment the only way to acquire Broken Bones or progress Nemesis quests is to kill enemy players in Draenor. While the idea was probably to get more players to participate in (Draenor) world PvP and Ashran, the practicality of farming bones outside of Ashran is limited, especially on PvE servers (but even with PvP servers without some significant coordination it's unlikely world PvP makes for practical farming and the Broken Bones drops are more of a nice extra bonus). This means players interested in using the Gladiator's Sanctum will probably have to do Ashran every once in a while.

While the Gladiator's Sanctum is seemingly intended for PvPers, the work orders generate a decent amount of gold, disenchantable gear, Honor Points (which can be used to purchase Seals of Tempered Fate or gear), and Conquest Points (which can be gathered over time to purchase some far stronger gear to help supplement epic pieces you may be missing) even after the nerf back on the 8th of December. This makes the building potentially lucrative to build even for non-PvPers, meaning there will be more players who want to farm Broken Bones in Ashran.

By allowing Broken Bones to drop in matchmade PvP such as Battlegrounds, players can farm some Broken Bones (probably not as much as Ashran, but it would be significant) without having to queue for Ashran. Having the Nemesis quests progress is mostly for consistency but it also means players have more options.
Add in a weaker version of the Wintergrasp buff, Tenacity, into Ashran by allowing imbalanced teams such that the ratio between the factions is never greater than 3:1.
While the ratio of imbalance could probably be adjusted, the idea of this frequently suggested change is to allow players from each side to join the battle even if their side holds a majority of players, which should dramatically reduce queue times in some cases. The ratio should deliberately be small because allowing abnormally large ratios such as 10:1 makes for a poor experience for the team that's getting outnumbered (or the outnumbering team depending on the strength of the buff, especially considering how crowd control's diminishing returns work post-squish).
Increase the Ashran player cap to 200 (per faction) and cause the zone to enable Raid and Battleground settings if it doesn't already.
While the player cap was increased to 150 back during the 19th of November, it's clearly not meeting the needs of many server clusters (since for some reason each instance of Ashran is for a specific set of servers). Alternatively, the cap could fluctuate depending on the server cluster Ashran is on (for instance, higher population server clusters need a larger cap). Either way, by increasing the player cap, more players can be in Ashran at the same time. By slightly increasing the cap, the queue times will be reduced a little bit.

On the latter suggestion, by treating Ashran as a Battleground (if it isn't already), players will probably not suffer a major performance difference if they utilize the Raid and Battleground settings well.
Have Ashran be region-wide (or at least Battlegroup-wide) and draw players into Ashran. When it is somewhat full, open another instance of Ashran that players are then placed into (and so on and so forth within reasonable hardware limits). Opening more instances of Ashran in general is also acceptable (if the previous parts of this suggestion are already implemented).
This change in itself could probably supersede the previous two suggestions in terms of fixing queue times. However, since I'm unaware of the quality and quantity of hardware Blizzard has at their disposal for Ashran in particular, this suggestion is tentative. This change would easily solve the problem if there were enough instance servers or the like to host many Ashran matches on, likely reducing the queue times to minutes or even seconds (and I believe this was how Ashran originally worked, which also contributes to how dubious this suggestion is since Blizzard having to change Ashran's queuing system in such a way implies there were server problems).
Allow players to queue for Ashran remotely.
This wouldn't necessarily improve queue times (if anything it may make them slightly longer), but it allows players to not have to run all the way to Ashran to queue for it, which is a helpful quality of life change. It also might help prevent Ashran from being a little dead later on when it gets rendered obsolete as endgame content, which may help the longevity of the zone later on.

I find Ashran to be a very enjoyable place. As I said before, it reminds me of the old Alterac Valley, but with some major improvements and changes, resulting in me spending quite a bit of time there and rejoining PvP after taking a break from it during Mists of Pandaria. However, the long queue times that have popped up take away from the experience and lock out players who don't have the time to spend hours queuing for Ashran. If Ashran is to be hailed as a true success, aggressively resolving the queue time issues would be the best place to start.

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