Today, Blizzard’s Lead Systems Designer, Greg “Ghostcrawler” Street posted a huge and detailed Dev Watercooler solely focused on Mists of Pandaria PvP. This has been a long time coming, with the complaints from the PvP community about class balance and being ignored in favor of PvE, growing ever louder. Ghostcrawler’s full blog post is over 2500 words, so we’re not going to deal with the whole post, just the highlights.
Ghostcrawler separated his blog into three parts. He first discusses MMR, or Matchmaking Rating, the method whereby players are matched according to their skill, which is calculated based on the MMR of teams you win and lose against. MMR is sometimes reset at the start of a new season, and, in fact, Blizzard announced that it would be reset with the first season of Mists of Pandaria. This didn’t happen, and Ghostcrawler attempts to explain why. He says that, as one player’s skill is unlikely to have decayed over the short break any more than another’s, the previous MMR is still relevant. Resetting MMR, he argues, would likely just result in a few mismatched games while the MMR system naturally works its way back to something like how it was before the reset.
He also addresses rating concerns, where players worry that a top-rated team will just camp their rating for the entire arena season. Blizzard agree that that’s a problem, and are implementing a new system to combat it. Ghostcrawler says the new system “will allow Team Ratings to grow faster over time, as long as you keep playing…. This correction will have the added benefit that players who continue playing will be capable of reaching higher Team Ratings… than someone who stops playing and sits on their rating.” This is a much-needed change to reinvigorate top-end PvP.
Ghostcrawler also addresses specific balance concerns as they relate to certain classes, mainly warning of nerfs to Beast Mastery Hunters, Warriors and Mages.
“Beast Mastery Hunters – We agree that stacking too many cooldowns to blow someone up is not interesting, skillful, or fair. (I also want to be clear that with all of these issues, we’re not blaming players for using the tools that we gave them; we’re blaming ourselves.) We’re taking a hard look at the various Hunter cooldowns with the intention of reducing their burst. Hunters are receiving a buff in that they will no longer need to swap between Aspect of the Hawk and Aspect of the Fox. We also hope these changes help result in higher representation of Survival and Marksman Hunters.
Warriors – We don’t think Warrior burst is out of control the way Hunter burst is. It’s possible that the combination of Warrior control and burst are too hard to counter, though. The changes we’re looking at are reducing both burst and control. The Glyph of Gag Order in particular is just too powerful for PvP. We think that if you manage to keep a Warrior from you, you should be allowed to get off a cast (and if you’re a Warrior who just can’t stand the thought of that, you can still spec into Storm Bolt.) Shockwave, Avatar, and Recklessness are also mentioned a lot, and we’re looking at them as well.
Mages – We are going to tone down Mage burst and control. We had hoped moving more of their control to talents would force some exclusivity in crowd control options, but it wasn’t sufficient. We increased the cost of Spellsteal significantly to promote its use strategically instead of stealing everything available. We’ve also been trying out changes to Deep Freeze, Frost Bomb, and Pyroblast to reduce burst and control.”
He also adds that off-spec healing is likely too powerful, and proposes that changes could be made to have PvP Power affect either damage or healing depending on spec, rather than affecting both regardless of spec like it does now.
The Future of PvP
Ghostcrawler also offers some sneak peeks into the ideas Blizzard are working with for future incorporation into PvP. We’ve cherry-picked some of the best here:
“Matchmaking – Our Battleground matchmaking system hasn’t changed much since it debuted and doesn’t yet benefit from many of the advances we developed for Dungeon Finder and Raid Finder. The original Battleground queuing system was designed for speed because it only had a single realm of candidates. By incorporating more of the new tech we’ve since developed, we can help ensure that there are a certain number of healers per team or at least a good class distribution.
“Smoother Battleground Brackets – We have technology now to scale down player items for Challenge Modes, and you might be aware that we scaled up player items during our beta raid testing. We’d like to use the same mechanic to scale up players within the lower level PvP brackets. For example, in the level 15 to 19 bracket, we could make all characters behave as if they were level 19 for purposes of the Battleground. If this idea works well, we could potentially condense lower level brackets and maybe reduce queue times.”
Things Left Unsaid
I’m frustrated not to see a revocation of the changes to the conquest cap. While he does discuss some changes to rated battlegrounds, which may make entry into them easier, this doesn’t right the wrong of changing the conquest cap. As we discussed on Legendary Episode 99, this is a bizarre and unwelcome change for pretty much all PvPers.
What else is missing from Ghostcrawler’s blog? What issues should he have addressed? Who has he ignored? And have Blizzard completely abandoned PvP in the current season?