One of the most controversial topics in World of Warcraft has to be the player-versus-player. We are going to take a look at the evolution of PvP over the past twelve years. From the good ole times in Vanilla getting ganked in Stranglethorn Vale and farming for Grand Marshal to the current arena and RBGs, I have experienced it all. In Vanilla I was only able to farm up to Knight, which was rank six out of fourteen, and I was also one of the Rogues who would gank you while running into Blackrock Mountain. After Vanilla, I didn’t take PvP too serious until the end of Cataclysm and beginning of Mists of Pandaria where I was able to hit 2k rating in 2s and 3s on two different healers and ran RBGs until achieving General, which is rank twelve out of fourteen.
Whoever played back during Vanilla WoW will remember the times of world PvP. Some of my most memorable moments in this game came from either getting ganked while leveling, having to call your guild for help forcing the other side to call for back up and turning this small gank turn into a massive battle, or being the one to start the wars by being the ganker. You could go on for hours talking about the massive amount of world PvP people went through with everyone having their own stories to tell. One big thing that made world PvP work so well was having not one faction severely outweigh the other unlike today’s servers.
The Honor system was something else for sure. It was a ranking system that went from rank one (Private / Scout) to rank fourteen (Grand Marshal / High Warlord). As you participated in PvP, you would accumulate Honorable Kills (HK). Once a week, when the servers went down for maintenance, your gathered Honor Contribution Points (CP) would be used to recalculate your rating. It would compare the average of your previous rating and your standing relative to the other players on your server. Depending how well you did, and how much you farmed over other players in your faction for that week, you would rank up or not. Having to get more CP than others caused players who wanted that rank fourteen title, and the extremely strong gear that came with it, to play every second of every day as best they could.
The Burning Crusade
Out came the first expansion or as some would like to say, “The expansion that killed world PvP.” Many people loved The Burning Crusade, but once flying mounts came into action there was no longer a chance to get into any real fights unless you started camping lowbies who were trying to level. If you tried to pick a fight, players would run, mount up, and fly away. Since flying came into play the most world PvP you can get into is just ganking lower level players that can’t fly yet and hope that it will bring a battle, but sadly most of the time one maybe two players will come and if they can’t win the fights they will just fly off.
With the new expansion also came the first big evolution of PvP: Arenas. Blizzard went away with the old PvP system and out came a new ranking system just for Arena. Arena was the place to go for players who wanted to test their skills against the best. It had separate ranking systems for 2v2, 3v3, and 5v5. Different from today, you would have to find an NPC and make a team for each bracket and invite the players you were going to queue with onto the team. Instead of it being a personal rating, the team that you made held the rating. Players who were on the team had to play in at least thirty percent of the matches for the week to earn any points. Those points, which you would get at the end of the week, could be used to purchase PvP gear but some pieces required you to have a high rating. At some point the season would end and players on the team would receive a title based on their team’s relative position on the ladder, however, only the top 0.5% would receive the Gladiator title and mount for that season.
I don’t want to dwell too much on this topic, but I thought I would mention it. Even though there was PvP gear, high-end raiders would have a massive advantage over others that didn’t raid. Anyone who played Season 3 will remember queuing up and hoping you didn’t run into a Rogue with the legendary Warglaives of Azzinoth. If you didn’t raid or didn’t have the top PvP gear, you would most likely lose to a team in full PvE raid gear.
Wrath of the Lich King
Wrath didn’t change how the honor system worked or the arena rankings, but it did come with two new battlegrounds, two new arenas, a brand new Outdoor PvP zone, and Resilience gear. Let’s talk about the first new battleground. Strand of the Ancients is a 15v15 battleground with the new vehicle combat system. One team would be on attack while the other would be on defense. The attacking team is given ten minutes to break through three sets of gates using the siege vehicles and destroy the walls to breach the Relic Chamber. The defensive team is able to kill the siege vehicles with their class abilities or the two turrets at each wall to try and stall the attacking team. When time runs out, or the attacking team reaches the Relic Chamber, the round is over and the roles are reversed. If either team didn’t make it to the chamber in time but the other does then that team would win the game, if neither teams were able to make it to the chamber then the battleground ends in a tie. An end note is about the new PvP Resilience gear. It was mainly brought in to help reduce the effectiveness of PvE gear in a PvP setting, which did work until the Legendary Shadowmourne was introduced and ended up being the thing to fear when entering an arena.
In a later patch, another new battleground was introduced: the Isle of Conquest or as others might call it “Free win for the Alliance.” This battleground was massive teams of 40 vs 40 fighting over different locations that would offer different ways of attacking the enemy team. The objective is to break down the walls to the enemy’s Keep and storm through what defense they had left to kill their general. Each location would give different attack options. The hangar gave an airship filled with cannons allowing players to shoot the Keep walls from above or parachute into the Keep and try to blow the walls up with bombs from the inside. Another location was the siege workshop that allowed players to build different siege vehicles. The last major location is the docks, which gave players glaives and catapults. The catapults would slingshot players to a location of their choosing, but the glaives are the real reason you went for the docks. Those glaives were, and still are, the strongest siege vehicles in that battleground. All these years Alliance has the highest win rate in that battleground for the sole reason that they rush to the docks and protect the glaives, while for some reason the Horde just never attempt to try and take it.
Two new arenas were introduced with this expansion including the Dalaran Sewers and The Ring of Valor. Dalaran Sewers was a straight forward arena with a lower and upper stage area with two box pillars at each corner. Every so often a waterfall would flow down in the middle of the stage, which turned into a pillar that players could use to line of site for a short amount of time.
The Ring of Valor, on the other hand, was not so straight forward. This arena had a more oval shaped stage with 4 moving pillars and 2 lines of fire that would damage you if hit. You would start out on a square platform that would raise up as time got closer to the match to start. As the gates dropped you were just feet away from the opposing team, which was new for an arena. Being so close to your opponents at the start of the match caused most games to not last for more than a few minutes depending on your rating. At a higher rating, the games would last long enough for you to actually see the stage in action.
First, the outside pillars would raise up allowing players to kite around them to line of sight the enemy. If timed right you were even able to get on top of the pillar as it raised, which was a huge advantage for casters against melee. After another short period of time the outer pillars would lower making the two inner pillars rise up. The inner pillars weren’t as tall or wide as the outer ones but could still be used for kiting around or line of sighting the opposing team. When the two inner pillars would rise fire would spout from the ground blocking off the path to the outer stage; you were able to go through the fire walls but would take a considerable amount of damage. However, with this arena being so buggy, it was later removed only to be added again in the next expansion with some tweaks and bug fixes. It was then removed again and turned into the Brawler’s Guild.
Now comes one of my favorite memories in Wrath: Wintergrasp. This was truly an evolution of PvP. With so many things to say about this amazing zone, I’ll have to start from the beginning. It was Blizzard’s take at bringing world PvP back into the game and I have to say that they did an amazing job. Wintergrasp was its own no-fly zone with an attacking and defending team. As long as your server wasn’t overly unbalanced, every few hours the zone would turn into an all-out war with two teams of 120 players. On my server, it would get filled so quick that you would have to wait in queue and hope someone would leave. I would even set alarms for every battle to make sure I would be one of the first to enter.
The main focus was for the attacking team to take the Keep. To take the Keep the attacking team had to use siege engines that they got from taking control of the Goblin workshops. They had to break through two walls of the Keep, which had multiple entrances and then finally push through the defensive team to break down the doors of the Relic room. For the defense team to win they had to hold the Keep for thirty minutes. If they took control of the Goblin workshops they too could use the siege engines to take down three towers. If the towers were destroyed the timer would be reduced by ten minutes. It might be the rose tented glasses that everyone mentions when talking about the past, but Wrath of the Lich King was the most fun I had in PvP since Vanilla.
Cataclysm was really hit or miss when it came to PvP for many players and it came with a few new additions. I personally didn’t care much for the PvP until Season 11, which was the last season of the expansion. With how well Wintergrasp did in the previous expansion, it seemed smart for Blizzard to add something similar right? Blizzard decided to add Tol Barad. It looked somewhat similar to Wintergrasp, but it was just outright horrible, in my opinion. Unlike Wintergrasp, Tol Barad wasn’t just a zone to queue into for PvP. It was also a major daily quest hub. Initially, there was a plethora of world PvP because it was a quest hub, but eventually people started grouping up to avoid getting ganked. When the battle would start you had 30 minutes to capture all three buildings at the same time, with three destructible towers in the middle adding five minutes for every one destroyed. Whichever side ended up winning gained access to even more dailies with better rewards. Despite the similarities, Wintergrasp was simply a much more enjoyable experience.
Two new battlegrounds were also added: the Battle for Gilneas and Twin Peaks. The Battle for Gilneas is a 10 vs 10 battleground that plays much like Arathi Basin but with only 3 bases to capture and hold. Twin Peaks is also a 10 vs 10 battleground, similar to Warsong Gulch with differing terrain. Both battlegrounds are still in use today and loved by many. Personally, I am not a fan of the Battle for Gilneas but Twin Peaks has turned into one of my favorites.
Now we will talk about Cataclysm’s contribution to the evolution of PvP with Rated battlegrounds (RBGs for short). Rated battlegrounds are exactly what they sound like and allowed for players to queue up as a group of 10. Slightly different from arenas, instead of the whole team sharing the same rating every player had their own personal rank. However, your group would get its own rating when you would queur just so the system could evenly match you against another group. With these new RBG ranks, players could get all sorts of new and fancy things including: titles, ground mounts, and of course achievement points. Remember back when I talked about Vanilla and the fourteen ranks you could receive? After Vanilla Blizzard took the ability to earn those titles out of the game until they introduced Rated battlegrounds. That’s right, after earning a certain rating doing RBGs, players would earn those old Vanilla titles from Private or Scout to Grand Marshal or High Warlord. Of course, this upset many old-school players who did not stop grinding back in the day. Perhaps it would have been smarter to create an alternate set of titles with similar ranks.
This concludes the first part of the evolution of PvP in World of Warcraft. Next week, we will continue with part two starting with Mists of Pandaria. We’ll discuss what else has been added or taken away in the latest expansions and if PvP has become better or worse because of it.
Have some fond memories of WoW PvP from the “old days”? Let us know in the comments below!Related: Blizzard Entertainment, Column, MMORPG, World of Warcraft, WoW Wednesday