Tol Barad Balance
Now that Cataclysm is out in the wild, more players are getting geared up and checking out Tol Barad, the new outdoor PvP zone. Today, we wanted to address some of the concerns players have expressed about the zone, including how challenging it can be to win as the attacking team, and provide some insight into our design approach. We also wanted to share some of the lessons we learned from Wintergrasp, discuss the difference between the two zones, and touch upon the recent hotfixes made to Honor Point gains and how we plan to improve Tol Barad going forward. We're confident this zone will provide meaningful and fun PvP for some time to come, but we also recognize additional tuning is required to ensure Tol Barad is everything we intend it to be.
As we mentioned earlier, the attacking faction is having a pretty tough time winning control of Tol Barad -- and we're OK with that, at least in theory. Here's why: When we set out to create Wintergrasp, one of the issues we dealt with was that we were never able to ensure the sides were even -- in fact, they rarely were. Because the smaller team would almost always be assured defeat, we attempted to address team-size imbalance by favoring the attacker. Control of Wintergrasp went back and forth, and the result was that battles lost their impact. On most realms the defenders became complacent, knowing they were likely to lose control of the zone, returning to re-take it when it was their turn to attack. The sides swapped back and forth every few hours, and Wintergrasp wasn’t so much about an epic struggle for a meaningful piece of land as it was a complicated game of leapfrog.
Since then we’ve devised mechanics that help ensure equal team sizes, and we took Wintergrasp's lessons to heart when we designed Tol Barad. Tol Barad is intentionally balanced so that it’s a challenge for the attackers, because we want to make sure that control of Tol Barad matters. For the defenders, there’s a sense of urgency that Wintergrasp didn't have -- if you lose it, you’re going to have a hell of a time taking it back. For the attackers, there are a number of rewards at stake -- such as access to the Baradin Hold raid and additional daily quests -- that we hope players feel are worth fighting for. That sort of tension is what we wanted from Wintergrasp, and what we believe Tol Barad can ultimately offer.
With that being said, we want winning Tol Barad to be a challenge for the attacking faction... but we don't want it to be impossible. Taking Tol Barad should be tough -- but right now it’s a little bit too tough, and it’s something we’re actively working to balance. Earlier, we attempted to temporarily address the issue by offering a far better reward to the winning attackers: Honor Points awarded for successfully attacking were increased tenfold, but that was such a great incentive that it ultimately undermined the spirit of competition. Since then, the reward for winning as an attacker has been brought back down to a more reasonable amount.
While we've already made minor adjustments to improve the gameplay and address select exploits, our job in Tol Barad is far from over. We ultimately want to make sure that any changes we make are all steps in the right direction, and we intend to make several updates in the next minor patch to address design and balance issues affecting attackers that we can't address with hotfixes. For example, we plan to alter the battle slightly so that a team with two bases captured can more quickly and easily capture the third, as opposed to a team with one or zero bases. This way, if the defenders turtle up, it'll be a little easier for the attackers to take their last base before the defense can take one of the attackers' other bases.
We've been reading your feedback, watching trends across our global realms, and fighting plenty of battles in Tol Barad ourselves to get a feel for what's working and what isn't, and we're committed to making Tol Barad a fun and engaging zone. We want owning the zone to be meaningful throughout the lifespan of the expansion -- and while the attackers may always face somewhat of an uphill battle, the defenders should feel much more pressure not to lose than they do currently. Just the same, the attacking faction should feel motivated to take Tol Barad back, but they shouldn't feel that the odds are insurmountable. So keep fighting the good fight, and we'll continue watching the battlefield and listening to your feedback.
Cory "Mumper" Stockton is the lead content designer on World of Warcraft and enjoys a good set of LEGOs.