Sunday, 6 December 2015

Ashran tides

A while back I commented on Ashran and the changes made after 6.2 that included the removal of entering as a raid group. I thought that the problems largely came down to PvP population imbalance, and hoped that further changes in 6.2.2, including mercenary mode, would help this.

In the weeks following that patch, I didn't notice any real changes, but as stated at the time I enjoyed it whenever it wasn't being dominated by one side, and hoped it had reached a point where people might start looking past its bad reputation. So I visited the Ashran forums to see if there had been any change in mood, but unfortunately it was persistently flooded with complaints about premades, specifically by a group called Hydra. As far as I've seen, they don't seem to have a presence or be a problem on Oceanic realms. So I didn't get anything useful out of that, and after getting full conquest gear, I stopped doing Ashran regularly. I'm back in it now, so time for another look.

The biggest trend I've noticed is that winning seems to come in waves that turn around every couple of hours. If you get in at the right time, you can win everything for quite a while, which is great, but eventually there will be a moment where the tide will turn, and then you'll start losing everything. On the face of it, as long as both sides have an opportunity to succeed, this is not a bad thing. But it is not enticing gameplay, it is purely rewards driven. Something we need to do, rather than want to do.

Tide goes in, tide goes out. You can't explain that. Image source: wowhead

The invisible buff to the event losing side obviously contributes to this swing, but it's more than that. It is still possible for a team to continue winning even when the other side has a significant buff. This is due to the losing side also having a numbers deficiency, as player numbers constantly bleed and many choose not to participate as a group. When things aren't going so well, you frequently see new joiners ask 'are we winning?' and then leave immediately, unless you lie to them. This is compounded by the delay upon leaving the group - if you run or even hearth out of Ashran, your spot is retained for 30 seconds.

People on the winning side are more likely to hang around while succeeding, and then leave en masse. This is often due to the weekly quest reward system, which requires 4 events and 1 faction leader kill. Usually, with a constant flow of players, different people will finish the weekly and leave at different times. But let's say one side has had 7-8 event wins without a faction leader kill. Everyone in the group will be calling for it, and when the kill happens, a large number of people leave at once, the threshold is passed, and the pendulum swings the other way. I'm not sure what the right reward structure is to prevent this, perhaps one where points are earned individually for completing objectives on a diminishing basis.

When your side is down, and there is high player turnover, the reinforcements come in dribs and drabs. Players entering to outnumbered battles get discouraged and leave, reinforcing the cycle. To help minimise this, players could be entered in waves. This could be as simple as spawning new players as ghosts in the graveyard, so that they are released together with the dead as a larger group, or as a new group spawning mechanism of some sort, that release a wave of reinforcements every couple of minutes. The goal being to resemble the start of battlegrounds.

Another part of the problem is putting in large numbers of players and then encouraging them all to be in the same spot at the same time. Tol Barad at least had 3 control points to capture, and 3 towers to attack/defend. Battlegrounds like Arathi Basin and Eye of the Storm work well because players need to split effectively between different objectives. Both have 30 players, but you'd seldom see them all at the one objective. In Ashran, the only real group decision is to whether to pursue the next event, or pursue the faction leader. Much of the time this results in no contest, the rest of the time a clearly defined loser (no reward).

They can't hold multiple concurrent events with equal rewards, as that too would discourage PvP. Instead, 'events' could be boosts to ongoing objectives. For example, the fires at Brute's Rise could be always active capture points, providing an ongoing reward, but the Brute's Rise special event could reset this and provide a greater reward to the winner. Teams could commit everyone to the active objective, but they would potentially lose the other objectives in the process. The ongoing reward could be somewhat less than the event reward, balanced over time to how often events occur.

Finally, there should be a comeback/catch-up mechanism that doesn't reward losing. Buffing losing sides may inevitably be necessary, but it should be an active objective, rather than just waiting for the other team to win more. This could be in the form of faction specific objectives that increment the invisible buff, but only whilst 'losing' (or are more frequent whilst losing). For example, the faction leader could demand blood (20 PvP kills) or a rarespawn kill, or running an artifact back to base (like the carts in Deepwind - no flying or town portals). This would give players incentive to pursue minor objectives when they don't have the large, coordinated group to contest the main objectives.

  • Spawn players in waves.
  • Instantly remove deserters.
  • Change reward structure to no longer encourage mass desertion.
  • Implement concurrent, secondary objectives to spread the combat.
  • Don't reward losing; provide incentive catchup mechanisms to losing side.

1 comment:

  1. The problem with the minor objectives is that people may run off and do those instead of doing the events/leaders. Especially if those idiots run off with the AA and do their own thing, to the detriment of the group.

    What I would like is the ability to kick from Ashran like you do in a BG. Like a vote to kick thing, especially if people are trolling like that. I feel like I see more trolling with this mercenary thing (ie deliberately losing or sabotaging) than before. But I still enjoy Ashran and this was a great read with some really good points.