This week ended up a lot better for Steptoe and I than our first week in Season 5 (where we ran 1-9), with a 10-6 win ratio out of 16 games. In general we felt a lot more comfortable with the new context and made up some of the ranking losses. The fact that both of us also got ourselves a Titansteel Destroyer crafted (upgrading from the De-Raged Waraxes we had from Amphitheater of Anguish) certainly helped.
We’re still working on finding our correct skill / gear niche, and the teams we have been facing have been of very various qualities: some quite skilled people without necessarily imba gear, but also some teams which were outgearing us quite massively but showing little to justify it.
The fact that PvP gear can be easily obtained through PvE nowadays (and is much more difficult, in particular for semi-casual players, to obtain through PvP only) got me thinking back to the good old debates we had a year ago.
In practice, with the PvP gear acquisition made very easy through PvE, we suddenly find ourselves in a situation not unlike the WoW classic battleground scene, when T2 / T3 clad players would completely destroy everything in their path by the sheer superiority of their kit, skills be damned. In practice, the ease of obtaining PvP gear through PvE nullifies to quite an extent what the introduction of resilience was meant to achieve: to separate PvE and PvP gear, enclosing the latter in a relatively dedicated manner and rendering crossovers more difficult.
There’s little point in rehashing today the old disputes about the fact that S2 – S4 gear could be used a lot easier for PvE than the reverse. That was the 2007 debate. In 2009, though, the current situation (as well as Ghostcrawler’s repeatedly stated intention to make PvP more about skills, usually applied to BG) led me to rethink the arena.
Currently, until one reaches the point where he wears the entire current season PvP gear, arena matches (of course especially in the noob brackets yours truly operates) don’t just pitch opponents together to measure their respective skill. Gear remains a factor which can compensate for quite some other shortcomings, it is for instance quite a bit more challenging to burn down a DK with 28k HP than one with 20k health (the level you’d typically be at if you start out with crafted saronite sets).
So in any matches below the top and fully geared brackets, the contest isn’t currently just about skills, but the skills / gear combination (just as it was before). The PvE gearing route just adds to the issue however.
If you really wanted to make Arena just about measuring player skills, though, how would you go about that?
Perhaps it is time to rethink the whole PvP gear aspect from scratch, by actually getting rid of it entirely. A notion I used to oppose in 2007 on the reasoning that arena was a valid gear progression path. Well, there’s a saying in French, “il n’y a que les imbeciles qui ne changent jamais d’avis”: only imbeciles never change their minds.
With two more years of arena, what I’d advocate today is the following:
While we talk about rating brackets, this is quite informal. This could actually be formalized into, say, three leagues: novices, pro and champion’s league for instance. A new team starts out in the novice league and (perhaps reusing the current rating system) eventually work their way upwards to the higher leagues.
Upon entering the arena, the gear gets replaced by a standardized gladiator set with different qualities depending on the league. In order to leave some choice in building up your character’s equipment, players can select a set of tokens for each equipment slot (reusing the Gem name prefixes for instance, or the current gear names): each token gives a gear pieces with a baseline of resilience and stamina, and a variable mix of other stats, eg picking an Ornate leg token will add a bit of intel and spellpower to the baseline stats, a Savage leg token adds strength and crit and so on.
You then get the according gear set to match your token selection whenever you enter an arena match, with more powerful versions of the gear depending on the league you’re playing in. The key point is, though, that everyone playing in the same league as you will have the same level of gear.
If you want to tweak your setup, just pick a different set of tokens to emphasize eg haste or more even more defense, all within boundaries set by your league.
As the seasons turn, Blizzard can then adjust the values to adjust the gameplay. For instance Season 5 is pretty much a burst / burn season, but with tweaking baseline resilience, Season 6 (just as it is now) could become more of an outlast season, to provide gameplay variance and strategy evolution.
And how does that work for BGs? Exactly the same way. Using the same token, everyone gets handed out their customized gearsets at the beginning of a game, which could for instance match the middle arena league.
At that stage, all players being on an equal footing gear-wise, the focus will be centered on knowing your class and your adversaries, and exploiting your skills to the maximum.
As for rewards? Just grant a handful of PvE tokens every week, 0 to 1 emblems of heroism for the bottom of the novice league, a handful for emblems of valor for the top of the champion’s league. Enough to incentivize it for the good players, not so much that people would suddenly consider it better to dance in arenas instead of running their heroics.
Leaves world PvP, Wintergrasp in particular, which aren’t bound to instance doors and therefore probably more difficult to provide gear swapping upon entry. Well, if you wanted also to minimize gear impact, one of the possible ways to achieve that would be to expand and tweak the tenacity buff.
Am I completely off my rockers? You tell me.