Monday, June 1, 2015

The Wait for PvP content: A Chronology of Battlegrounds and Warzones (Updated)

One of the constant PVP requests for SWTOR has been for new Warzone maps. I decided to see just how long it has been been between the release of new maps, not just for SWTOR, but for World of Warcraft and Rift as well. I wanted to see where SWTOR’s wait time between maps fit in among other successful MMOs.



WoW AV ride.png
Leading the pack in 40 Alterac Valley.


First off, let’s look at the battlegrounds in World of Warcraft. Fair or not, WoW is the MMO most commonly used in comparison for MMO content. Warcraft’s Arenas and Area PvP aren’t on this list because they aren’t a part of the random battleground queue. If you were to include those two pvp areas, then Warcraft’s PVP content gets that much larger.


Event
Patch
Date
Min Level
Wait Time
Notes
World of Warcraft
1.10
2004-11-07


Initial Release
Warsong Gulch / Alterac Valley
1.50
2005-06-07
10 / 20
212 days
Introduction of the classic battlegrounds
Arathi Basin
1.70
2005-09-22
15
107 days
Burning Crusade
2.05
2007-01-15


Expansion content went live
Eye of the Storm
2.03
2007-01-09
15
474 days
Pre-release content patch
Wrath of the Lich King
3.03
2008-11-13


Expansion went live
Strand of the Ancients
3.02
2008-10-14
50
644 days
Pre-release content patch
Isle of Conquest
3.20
2009-08-04
55
294 days
Added BG experience for leveling
Cataclysm
4.03a
2010-12-07


Expansion went live
Twin Peaks / Battle for Gilneas
4.03a
2010-12-07
30 / 25
490 days
Pre-release content patch
Mists of Pandaria
5.04
2012-09-25


Expansion went live
Temple of Kotmogu / Silvershard Mines
5.04
2012-08-28
40 / 35
630 days
Both required for legendary PVE cloak quest
Deepwind Gorge
5.30
2013-05-21
45
266 days
Item levels capped / Roles enforced in BGs
Warlords of Draenor
6.03
2014-11-13


Expansion went live


No new battlegrounds as of posting date (2015-05-30): 739 days.


Rift pvp resized.jpg
Rift Promotional PvP Image from the Trion Worlds official Rift website.


Rift is considered one of the best examples of a free-to play-game. Rift’s instanced PVP combat is called Warfronts. I haven’t played Rift enough to be familiar with Warfronts so this information is from various online sources. If I’ve made any mistakes feel free to point me to the definitive source via comments or email.


Event
Patch
Date
Min Level
Wait Time
Notes
Rift: Planes of Telara
1.0
2011-03-01


Initial Release
Black Garden / Library of the Runemasters / The Codex / Whitefall Steppes / Port Scion
1.0
2011-03-01
10 / 10 / 20 / 30 / 50


Storm Legion
2.0
2012-11-13


Expansion
Release
Karthan Ridge
2.0
2012-11-13
50
623 Days

Nightmare Tide
3.0
2014-10-22


Expansion Release
Ghar Station Eyn
3.0
2014-10-22
60?
708 Days



No new warfronts as of posting date (2015-05-30): 220 days.

swtor pvp.png
Defending Mid in Alderaan Civil War.



Now we have Star Wars: The Old Republic. The two most controversial parts of SWTOR’s Warzone strategy was the removal of ranked eight man Warzones and the addition of arenas as part of the regular Warzone map rotation. Ranked eight man Warzones were popular among a subset of players, but that subset wasn’t large enough for Bioware to want to commit the resources to its continued development. (See note below about participation.) Instead Bioware went with 4v4 arenas. The controversial part about arenas is that Bioware included arenas as a part of the Warzone map rotation. While the size of arenas fit well with SWTOR’s multiples-of-four instancing it was viewed as a stopgap measure that didn’t address the requests for cross-server queueing, a tournament server, or a megaserver (similar to what Elder Scrolls Online uses).



Event
Patch
Date
Min Level
Wait Time
Notes
Star Wars: The Old Republic
1.0.0
2011-12-13


Early Access
Alderaan / Voidstar / Huttball
1.0.0
2011-12-13
10 / 10 / 10

Early Access
Novare Coast
1.2.0
2012-04-12
10
121 days

The Ancient Hypergate
1.6.0
2012-12-11
10
243 days

Rise of the Hutt Cartel
2.0.0
2013-04-09


Early Access
Arenas
2.4.0
2013-10-01
10
294 days
Part of the random Warzone queue
Quesh Huttball
2.7.0
2014-04-08
10
189 days (483 days if you ignore Arenas)

Shadow of Revan
3.0.0
2014-12-02


Early Access


No new warzones or arenas as of posting date (2015-05-30): 417 days.


"Wait Time" is the number of days it has taken the listed PVP content to appear since the previous entry. I have included expansion release dates for context.


























While making these charts I ran into the classic “apple vs orange” situation, trying to make the comparisons on the charts equal. I eventually decided the easiest thing to do was just point out the differences. Below I outlined some of the non-battleground/Warzone PvP content available in WoW and SWTOR, as well as pointing out some of the problems with Arenas.

Wintergrasp, Tol Barad, and Ashran are all Area PvP attempts to recreate the open-world PVP of Southshore vs Tarren Mill from Vanilla World of Warcraft. (The 10th anniversary of WoW had a limited time recreation of Southshore vs Tarren Mill as a 40 player Team Deathmatch map.) Unfortunately none of these are true open-world pvp because Blizzard applies equality of forces for "balance" reasons.


SWTOR's version of open world PVP was ... Ilum. I think we can all agree it is better off left for dead, only remembered as how not to do open-world PVP.


Outlaw's Den on Tatooine is a free-for-all area allowing you to deathmatch against your own faction. WoW has four equivalent areas (Gurubashi Arena, Outland Nagrand Arena Floor, Circle of Blood in Blade's Edge, and the Darkmoon Deathmatch [week long event once a month]). While these areas are great for player run PVP tournaments, these areas simply don't pull in other types of organized or unorganized PVP.


A possible issue with SWTOR’s eight man ranked is that it only existed during the first (hideously long) preseason. This preseason lasted from patch 1.2 to patch 2.4.3 (2012-04-12 to 2013-11-12, 579 days). We’ll never know if having actual seasons with rewards would have increased participation enough to have made it worth the development time to support eight man ranked.


Arenas are problematic because each game handles them differently. WoW has a separate queue for arenas. SWTOR, on the other hand, places arenas in the regular Warzone queue in an effort to quicken queue pops. Another issue in comparing Arenas is that WoW has 2v2, 3v3, and 5v5 arenas and SWTOR has the single size of 4v4, but you can queue solo or as a team. It gets even worse with ranked queues as WoW has the player population and technology to have cross-server ranked battlegrounds and arenas. SWTOR as of this writing doesn't have the technology in place to overcome the issues of the player base isolated across various servers.

After looking at these MMOs, I think it shows that new maps on a regular basis are important to sustaining PVP at all levels of play. While balancing classes for PVP may be more important (possibly even more important than PVE balance as nerfed Ops bosses don’t complain on the forums), it is the content we see, the playgrounds we interact in, that keep us going. The “hey, a new Warzone map” does more to sustain the idea that PVP is a major focus of the developers than any other single PVP change.

While SWTOR had a reasonable amount of Warzones for the age of the game when Shadow of Revan launched, a new Warzone is something we’ve come to expect with any expansion of every MMO. The new map doesn’t have to be there when the expansion launches, but it is something that needs to be a top priority during the time the expansion is current content. I’m hoping that at least one map is part of the Fallen Empire reveal on June 15, or is a part of a potential second half of 2015 roadmap.