WoW: Classic, BC, WotLK - Looking back on almost 6 years of PvP in World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft: PvP in Classic

When World of Warcraft was released in Europe in February 2005, it was still a long way to the complete package we have known and enjoyed for years. Especially PvP fans were not offered any incentives at all, there was neither a PvP system nor any battleground. After all, the honor system wasn't introduced until patch 1.4 in mid-April 2005, and the first two battlegrounds, Alterac Valley and Warsong Gulch, followed in early June 2005.

Impact of Classic on PvP Today
As great as the in-server PvP community was, merging the servers was the only right choice in a server system with differently populated realms. Meanwhile, you can even join other realms for battlegrounds with friends.
Until then, open-world skirmishes were the only way to compete with other players. This was commonplace on PvP servers, of course, but it was also an often-used distraction from monotonous questing on PvE servers. Highlights were the almost epic battles at the crossroads and between Süderstade and Tarren's Mill, in which hundreds of players often hit each other. All the stress at that time brought in nothing at all and was tactically a pure tug-of-war between the graveyards. Nevertheless, the participants had fun, the battles were very entertaining, and often dragged on for many hours.

From time to time, however, the factions allowed themselves to attack opposing towns and villages. Town raids, however, often struggled with serverlags and crashes. In addition, the honor system introduced "dishonorable kills" for killing NPCs, which were immediately credited to the entire raid. This in turn had a negative impact on each character's weekly honor count. Thus, the motivation to attack cities and smaller towns quickly decreased. WoW: Classic, BC, WotLK - A look back at almost 6 years of PvP in World of Warcraft (1) Source: buffed

PvP in Classic WoW: A question of honor

The honor system was introduced in patch 1.4 and brought system to player vs. player combat for the first time. There were 14 ranks that you could achieve. Each of these ranks was sweetened with a certain reward. For example, rank eleven gave you a very fast mount, and rank 14 players could reward themselves with very good epic weapons.

Each week, a player's achieved honor was compared server-internally with the collected honor of the other heroes of their own faction. Depending on how well and actively you played the week, you rose or fell in the ranking, were demoted or promoted after a certain time. The rewards you achieved could still be used, of course. For example, if you wanted to move up from rank 13 to rank 14, you had to earn the most honor points in your faction's pool over the course of a week. So the competition was within your own faction. Before the introduction of the honor system, the players of both factions fought each other in the open world. Source: buffed

PvP in Classic WoW: The Battlegrounds

Another reward possibility was the reputation that you collected from the battleground factions. For many heroes, the first epic item in the game was available at the reputation level of Honorable. Warsong Gulch and Arathi Basin (introduced in patch 1.7) remain some of the most popular battlegrounds to this day. During this time, you could trade battleground tokens for experience points, so even as you were leveling up, there were many players who kept finding their way to these two battlegrounds.

Karsten's Opinion on Classic PvP
Whether you liked PvP in classic WoW depended a lot on the circumstances. Thanks to the right choice of faction (Horde) on the perfect server (ally surplus, so no waiting times) and with a core group behind me, Classic was the best PvP time for me personally. Even if it was perverse how my rogue with raid gear shredded through the enemies. But I also understand everyone who couldn't do anything with the honor system. Lone warriors without a group were at a loss, the overnumbered faction sometimes had to wait for hours and only those who invested a lot of time could reach ranks 12 to 14. On the other hand, there was a small but nice PvP community on every server, where everyone knew each other - rivalries, friendships and love affairs included.Alterac Valley, on the other hand, got off to a slow start on many servers, as there were often too few players in the server-internal queues to start a game. Often a faction had to advertise for a certain date for several days, so that both factions could go into battle with enough fighters.

The effort was worth it. Battles in Alterac Valley always lasted for several hours, sometimes even longer than a day, until at some point the flow of players from the outnumbered faction broke off and the enemy gradually gained the upper hand. The battle was also made epic by the many tasks, details, and tactical tricks. Korrak, a boss mob and part of a quest, was right at home in the middle of Alterac Valley and provided the first frontline between Horde and Alliance. The Elemental Spirits, the Shredder... the old Alterac Valley doesn't have too much in common with the current one, unfortunately.

PvP in Classic WoW: The Reckoning

Wednesday was the day for predator feeding: looking at the updated server rankings on the official WoW site was on the agenda. Where do I stand? Who collected how much honor last week? Who leads the list? The server-wide comparison gave the honor system a dynamic of its own that was never equaled by subsequent systems - and of which people only really became aware when the honor system was abolished.

During this time, a real PvP community emerged on every server: regular groups, battleground friendships and rivalries, real enmities, and a lot of tangible competition. The tactical demand against other organized PvP groups was very high. Existing tactics were often refined, discarded, new ones tried; all just to gain small advantages against the opposing group. It all added a lot of spice to the PvP game. You knew your own people and very often the noses on the other side.
With this flag strategy we tried to confuse our opponents in Warsong Gulch. Source: buffed Especially between the PvP tribe groups there was always enough fuel for the fire, friction, but also respect for good games and for great performances. Twinks on the opposing faction side were completely normal on PvE servers to chat a bit with the dear opponents. Even in the TS, people would meet up after matches, developing intense acquaintances and a sense of play that has never been matched in PvP since patch 1.12.

So was everything good in PvP in Classic WoW?

Of course it wasn't. A major drawback of the honor system was that you found competition in your own faction. If you wanted to reach rank 14, no one on the server was allowed to shoot across. If there was a lot of competition, internal agreements were necessary: Who makes the top rank first, whose turn it is after that, and so on. If someone didn't stick to these agreements, this could block individual players for weeks. If the competition was very active and no agreement could be reached, the best in PVP at that time was foregone: Exciting games against other tribe groups. These always lasted very long... too long. In the same time you could easily handle three to four random groups. So the motto was: Sit down and let them win. Then you could quickly sign up again, because the big goal at the end of the week was to bag as much honor as possible.

From this the next disadvantage of the system crystallized directly: For the ranks 13 and 14 one needed a lot of time. Without a vacation of several weeks it was not feasible for many to get these ranks. But it didn't matter which class you played with. All skills and classes could be integrated into the tactics within the regular groups in a meaningful way. The biggest disadvantage from that time was another one: Many servers had a population ratio of 70 to 30. The outnumbered faction sometimes had to wait several hours until a battleground opened. The opposite side, on the other hand, rejoiced in "instant invites." Rogues with raid gear cut through their opponents like a hot knife through butter in Classic WoW. Source: buffed

PvP in Classic WoW: The Queue

This imbalance affected victory and defeat. The outnumbered faction was able to get into Warsong Gulch and Arathi Basin much faster due to the instant invite, because you were in a group with the same people more often. So you racked up win after win, and the positive winning feeling was carried right into the next game. Once the opponent had internalized the feeling that he loses 99% of the time and expects this at the beginning of the battle, it is very difficult to get out of this vicious circle; as a random among randoms it is actually impossible. On the other hand, the outnumbered faction in Alterac Valley could take revenge for the many defeats, because for a long time only the supply of human resources counted here. A change in the PvP system was therefore only a logical consequence. The Realmpools were supposed to be the big solution, and they were introduced with patch 1.12.

The Realmpools - New is not always good

The introduction of the Realmpools was highly anticipated: Finally, you could compete against players from other servers. In addition, the factions hoped for more humane waiting times and thus more fun. Patch 1.12 achieved both with its changes, but many PvP players were still disillusioned. There were also server-internal groups at that time, but winning or losing against unknown players was only moderately satisfying after months of intensive experience.

On top of that, many heroes gave up fighting in the first place when they encountered a group from the same server, though these were often a poor reflection of the once-feared regular groups. In exchange, there was an Alterac renaissance. All of a sudden, multiple battles were open in Alterac in parallel throughout the day. That didn't exist to the same extent before the Realmpools. It was also good that many players could now enjoy more humane waiting times.
WoW: Classic, BC, WotLK - A look back at almost 6 years of PvP in World of Warcraft (10) Source: buffed

PvP in TBC: The Burning Crusade makes its way into Battlegrounds

When we look at Battlegrounds PvP in Burning Crusade, we get a little sick to our stomach. Battlegrounds during this time was really all about farming honor and tokens for gear. Even PvE twinks took these "Free Epics" in stride, because nowhere was it easier to score good gear so easily. For the first steps in raid content (Karazhan), the PvP gear was absolutely sufficient for many skill sets. As a result, the battlegrounds were flooded with fresh-from-70 twinks and honor farm bots.

BC's Impact on Today's PvP
In BC, the developers had to realize for the first time that it leads to problems when it rains purple items in PvP without much effort, while entry into PvE is significantly harder due to a high difficulty level (vice versa, of course). Legion makes it similarly easy to get started in both areas, and no one is forced to try out a part of the game they may not like in order to gain an advantage in their favorite discipline. Add to that the lack of flavor since the introduction of the realm pool - see above - the lack of battleground-only stimuli, and the longer wait times for PvP groups, which are almost non-existent anyway, and it's no wonder that battleground PvP in TBC has become soulless, fun-free, and low-motivation for many players. Every once in a while you could sign up for a battle, do your thing, test out a new skill, maybe experience an exciting game if you were lucky ...

But for many PvP fans, the air was quickly out after a few games. Eventually, battlegrounds became an unimportant part of PvP next to the Arena, with too little attention paid to it by the developers during Burning Crusade. The only major new addition to battleground PvP was the introduction of Eye of the Storm, which is arguably one of the least popular battlegrounds; a cross between Arathi Basin and Warsong Gulch. Overall, too little from the perspective of many players.

PvP in TBC: The Introduction of the Arena

The arena, on the other hand, was something everyone was looking forward to: finally, man-to-man combat in small groups. The whole thing in a fixed system and without distractions by goals such as getting flags, taking points and killing NPCs. A pure deathmatch mode, this is what PvP disciples have been waiting for.

Karsten's opinion on TBC PvP
In no other expansion was there more PvP than in Burning Crusade, and there were reasons for that. On the one hand, every player wanted to try out the new arenas, and on the other hand, there were Epixxes in the battlegrounds for very little effort, so even pure PvE enthusiasts found their way into Alterac Valley from time to time. Real PvP players suffered in the battlegrounds because of the countless twinks, farm bots, and afk players who wanted a piece of the glory pie. I also found it problematic that the Arena was suddenly the new supreme discipline in the PvP area, because there were massive balancing and exploit problems here and some classes and playstyles were repeatedly severely disadvantaged, while other players let themselves be pulled to high ratings for money or gold.The rush was correspondingly large at the beginning, almost every player at least took a look and many even had an active team for each of the "brackets" (2v2, 3v3, 5v5). Another exciting new feature was the equipment rewards that could be earned through the arena. For the first time, the PvP-only attribute "Toughness" was available on gear. This was so that you could noticeably improve your defense in PvP battles. As the seasons progressed, however, many players realized that some classes relied more on this attribute than others. And that a few classes even had more advantages in the arena if they had access to good PvE equipment.

PvP in TBC: The Problems of the Arena

Behind the arena itself, since its introduction, was the good idea of being rewarded with items, ranks, and mounts according to your performance. However, from the first season until today, this idea has only been sufficiently implemented in practice. Since the introduction of the Arena, there have been various loopholes in the system that have allowed players to earn ratings without doing anything in return. Holes were plugged, new holes were created.

In addition, there have been phases where so-called "pushers" have pulled other characters to certain ratings for gold or out of friendship. Again, the idea behind the arena system was circumvented and at the same time a lot of fun was taken away from the teams in the midfield with a rating of 1,500 or higher. Because they had to play far too often against players who were supposed to be playing at much higher ratings. Since the developers allowed infinite team changes within the season, you couldn't even blame the players for that. Even if it did break the system for many players in the past.

Another problem with the arena was: the three different brackets differed greatly in terms of effort. For the five-person team, you have to find four teammates, play in against combos with five characters, find dates for five people ... in the 2-person bracket, it's all much easier to do. That said, in each bracket there was an opportunity to achieve personal score x for an item, and that personal score was set the same for all brackets. Ergo, there were 5-man teams at the time that had to do more than a comparable 2-man combo due to the higher effort - but in the end, both parties got the same reward. The arena area was the supreme discipline in WoW's PvP for many years. Source: buffed

PvP in TBC: The unloved supreme discipline

The whole thing was crowned because the bracket with the least effort (2s) was (and still is) the unbalanced one and since the first season some skills had a strong advantage. The effort required to achieve the desired score with an exotic setup was disproportionately higher than it was with a so-called "Flavour of the Month" combo. Certainly there were some classes that had disadvantages in the 2s, but were strong in the 5s ... but the effort there was also higher than in the 2s (see above). So the arena never really lived up to its own claim. Some changes were made to the reward system, matchmarking, and balancing over time, but many of the problems mentioned above are still present today.

Despite all of these issues, the Arena was the pinnacle of World of Warcraft PvP until the introduction of Weighted Battlegrounds in Cataclysm (buy now €14.99 ). For the performance in the arena, there were long the best equipment, every season a new PvP set, the great mounts and the gladiator titles. And even in eSports, Arena PvP is represented with regular tournaments, even if the interaction of eSports and Arena is ridiculed by many players due to balancing problems.

Open-World PvP in Burning Crusade

In Burning Crusade, the developers at Blizzard tried to revive open-world PvP - with small motivational tidbits for Alliance and Horde in the form of buffs, traders and special items. Overall, though, these variants offered too few and too weak rewards in the long run to really keep players excited in the long run. It was a nice change of pace, but nothing more. Away from the PvP areas, the proliferation of flying mounts in particular has led to the death of open-world PvP as it was known in Classic WoW.
WoW: Classic, BC, WotLK - A look back at almost 6 years of PvP in World of Warcraft (16) Source: buffed

Wrath of the Lich King - Sieges and Raid Bosses Reach PvP

The biggest new addition to PvP play in Wrath of the Lich King was definitely Thousand Winters. A large, non-instantiated open-world PvP area where sieges would finally be possible. Plus a raid boss that could only be tackled by the occupants of the stronghold, and enough rewards and quests to keep players motivated for the long haul. A buff was supposed to even out the imbalance of factions on the server, and in practice the approach worked better than expected: the fortress regularly changed occupants. And also in the battles themselves there was a lot going on during the whole expansion, partly too much, so that lags clouded the game fun again and again. Lags that sometimes even affected the raid groups in nearby Naxxramas.

Karsten's opinion on WotLK PvP
While the arenas and battlegrounds of BC were still bustling, PvP players in the icy Northrend felt more like lonely cowboys in a ghost town, passing thorn bushes included. The masses of players were now mainly visiting the very light PvE area, because that's where the epixxes were available for little effort in WotLK. The new Isle of Conquest and Strand of the Ancients battlegrounds weren't too popular, and Arena PvP continued to have its familiar balancing problems. On the other hand, Thousand Winter hit like a bomb: There were so many players there in the early days that the PvEers raiding in nearby Naxxramas were occasionally disturbed by massive lags. And even outside of the battle times, the open PvP zone provided exciting battles between players, as the best farming opportunities were found there - and climbing onto the flight mount was not allowed there.The bosses in Archavon's Chamber played a large part in this motivation. Especially because of their easy difficulty and their relatively too strong loot, they were a compulsory task for many players every week. The integration of the siege weapons also worked well from the beginning, only some teething troubles and lags cloud the positive overall impression of Thousand Winters a bit. It's almost a side note that Thousand Winter itself was a very popular farming location thanks to the elementals and the many gas clouds and ore deposits, and since you couldn't fly in this area, there was always a lot of PvP in this area outside of raid times.

PvP in WotLK: Little new for the supreme discipline

With WotLK, two new combat areas were added to the game, the arenas of Dalaran and Orgrimmar, although the latter was deactivated for a longer period of time due to various exploit possibilities. Other than a few changes to the matchmaking system, a complete reset of the interim arena points, and the new starting rating of zero (previously arena teams started the season with 1,500 points), there were no major adjustments to the arena system. The best gear and weapons were still only available if you had earned a high personal rating with your team, but even less powerful PvP gear now required a certain personal rating in the arena. For the first time, a blue set that crafters could craft was available to help you get started.

PvP in WotLK: The Beach of the Ancients

The Beach of the Ancients was the big news for any Battlegrounds fan in January 2009. Like in Thousand Winters, this was the first time you used siege weapons as an attacker to reach the Battlegrounds objective. For their part, the defenders tried to destroy the vehicles early on. Unfortunately, Beach of the Ancients suffered from a design flaw at the beginning that heavily favored the Alliance as the first attacker.
The Beach of the Ancients is still one of the most unpopular battlegrounds in WoW. Source: buffed In August 2009, the developers implemented the second 40 vs. 40 player battleground in addition to the Alterac Valley with the Isle of Conquest, and some old battlegrounds were also significantly streamlined. In Arathi Basin and Eye of the Storm, the resources required for victory have been reduced from 2,000 to 1,600 points, and a maximum playtime of 20 minutes has been introduced for Warsong Gulch.

PvP in WotLK: Icy Lows

Effects of WotLK on PvP Today
Thousand Winters both showed that it was possible to merge PvP and PvE players (the common goal just has to bring the chance of mutually useful loot) and proved that the server structure in WoW was not designed for large masses of players. At the same time, the developers realized that a PvP system that relies on the arena as the only king discipline will only captivate a few players.
Interestingly, player interest in PvP at the launch of Wrath of the Lich King was numb. Hardly anyone visited the arenas week after week, and there were significantly fewer queues for the battlegrounds than there were in TBC. The new cheap epics were no longer available in PvP, but in the heroic 5-player dungeons, in the easy raid instance Naxxramas, through the many reputation rewards and of course through the crafts. Archavon's Chamber topped it all off, as the difficulty was in no way proportional to the loot. And when a match finally did pick up, one side was usually fighting outnumbered on the battlefield.

Arena PvP, on the other hand, continues to suffer from familiar problems in the second expansion (balancing, unbalanced brackets, exploit vulnerability), and many PvP players complained, not for the first time, that it was precisely there that they were supposed to earn the best rewards. Aside from Thousand Winters, the only thing we really remember positively about PvP in WotLK is the new achievement system. At least for a while, it provided new motivation and also revived the town raids. All other areas of WotLK PvP were perceived by many players as a large construction site.

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