The PvP Paradox of Accessible Gearing

| Thursday, January 23, 2014
As I looked at the mage I realized something terrible. First, she had a lot more health than me, at least 120k more. Second, that first frostbolt wasn't exactly tickling me. Third, ice lance on a frozen target, such as me, hurts a hell of a lot more than a frostbolt. I ran over and hit her a few times. I didn't have the damage to burn through her ice barrier, let alone her health, and I didn't have the health to soak very much damage.

I did the logical thing and died.

As more gear is available, significantly unbalanced fights become more common. By that I mean fights where gear is the largest determinant of success, as opposed to tactics, reflexes, or class differences, and furthermore, decides the winner regardless of those other factors.

If we imagine a game in which gear is highly exclusive, then surely we'd expect more unbalanced fights. If only one or five percent of a game can get extremely powerful gear, then we'd expect a lot of unbalanced fights; since any interaction between them and the rest of the community will be unbalanced. Yet that is only one or five percent of the interactions. Even if we expect those highly geared players to be more active and therefore run into less geared players at an unusually high rate, we're still going to be dealing with a minority of fights. A newly-leveled player will be weaker than a more experienced one, but the difference in gear will not be particularly vast if they aren't in the minority of high-end raiders.

On the other hand if gear is more accessible, though not a Push Button for Loot, then we'll see more unbalanced fights. Not everyone will take advantage of this increased accessibility, due to still being locked out or not caring enough to get the gear (maybe they prefer pet battles). Since there is a time and luck component, gear will not be evenly distributed, even under conditions of equal motivation. Some will still be poorly geared, while a large number of players will have far better gear than under the exclusive scenario. In effect, unbalanced fights are made available to more players as more players have an opportunity to gear past their peers.

5 comments:

R said...

Gear isn't everything, especially in PvP. If I'd been that mage I'd have liked your chances. :)

C. T. Murphy said...

More and more, I think my preference is separating the carrot from the progression. Everyone should have the same stats in PvP but you still earn cosmetic gear to show off your skill/success.

NetherLands said...

Indeed.

The problem is that WoW's Devs approach PvP gearing the same way as PvE gearing, while they work differently.

In PvE, Gear is (basically) absolute: Encounter X requires Gear Level 1, meaning the more people have GL1 the more people 'get to see the content'. If one believes content is there to be played, the more people have at least GL1 the better.

In contrast, in PvP Gear is (basically) relative: wether your average participant has GL 1 or 2 has little bearing on the challenge, the more accessible Gear becomes for you the more accessible it will be for your opponents, too. This means that the end result of making more powerful gear more accessible is that:
- everybody needs to grind more to reach at least the average level of gear;
- the barrier for entry becomes higher the more accessible gear becomes.

This is what we see both in low-level PvP (loads of Heirlooms vs a handful of twinks, making PvP a living hell for newcomers) and at the level cap (Conquest gear no longer requiring Rating, gainable by random BG's : plenty of peeps wearing it meaning a more daunting barrier to entry), with the change to make Raid Gear viable (by means of base Resi) resulting in even more people outgearing new entries

The core problem however lies in that PvE gear increases too much in power too often, which necessitates PvP gear to 'keep up' - which results in the distinction in Gear.

Note that Gevlon used to post about this same issue in the past.

Klepsacovic said...

@C.T.Murphy: What if the cosmetic gear isn't shiny enough to justify playing? I might PvP for paladin T6, but not for T1. At least with stats they can always make them bigger. Maybe the stats could be PvE-only, so that PvP and raiding are equal gearing paths and players can switch between them without too much difficulty.

@NetherLands: I agree that PvE gear has inflated quickly, yet on the other hand, the developers have noted some psychological basis for that rate of inflation. If it is too slow, then it isn't rewarding (we don't notice a difference in performance). Though maybe they're looking at that the wrong way: gear shouldn't be especially rewarding; overcoming challenges should.

Syl said...

PvP gear should be equalized within a given competition bracket, period.

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