The concept behind player versus player combat in World of Warcraft fascinates me.
From the first time that I played the game, I knew PvP was out there, but I didn’t know much about it. Questing on a PvE server didn’t really give me much immersion in fighting for my life against cunning and vicious opponents… you know, those other players.
When I did start delving into it, I felt daunted by the complexity, the learning curve you have to climb.
When I first started talking to friends about how to get into PvP, what I’d need to know to really dig in, the discussion wasn’t about knowing maps, or flag capture strategy, or AV turtles and why they suck. It wasn’t about Resilience levels, there was no such thing as Resilience back then.
What I was instructed to learn was the specific attack and crowd-control moves of every class, and what every counter is for them.
The moves and counters.
I was assured that, in order to be a good PvP player, you needed to know every single thing that you could do with your class to lock down, neutralize and destroy the enemy, and what every other class could do in an attempt to get out of or survive your attacks, those bastards.
You also had to know everything the other classes could do to you to return the favor, and what you could do, specifically, to avoid being controlled or made dead.
Okay, that seems extremely reasonable. Every trade requires specialized knowledge and the development of skill, even digging ditches requires mad shovel skillz and an understanding of body leverage to move the dirt out of the way properly without killing your back after eight hours.
PvP is no different.
If you’re going to do something, why do it half-assed?
If I was going to PvP, I wanted to do it right. Better get studying!
Errr, you know, that PvP stuff sounds really cool, but I’m kinda busy at the moment. I’ll just tuck it away in the back of my mind, and do that research some other time. There’s always tomorrow to start that, right?
Oh look, shiny.
Yeah, so I’m a fail PvP bear. I own that.
The whole concept of PvP being a game of move and counter-move stuck with me as being a kick ass idea, though.
In PvE, really it’s all about bringing someone that could survive the attacks and hold the aggro of the stupid old monsters, while someone else heals and the rest of the crew just buckles down and does damage, tosses some CC as needed or bulls on through. The monsters never, ever take that moment in mid-fight to realize, “Hey, I bet if I ignored this fur-covered haunch of Bear meat that keeps snarling all up in my grill (no matter how hungry I am) and focused on killing the healer first, this would go a lot better.”
Flashback to the late 70′s. When I was a younger Bear, one of the things I loved was South Florida television.
We only had like 6 channels, but one of them would put on “kid programming”, starting up right after the schools let out.
This kid programming consisted of tons of black and white episodes of The Three Stooges, followed by the Kung Fu Power Hour.
The Three Stooges were awesome enough, but Kung Fu? And I’m talking old school wire-fu kung fu movies, badly dubbed, incomprehensible plots, just awesome martial arts.
As I recall one of the core concepts of the old Kung Fu movies was this whole ‘move/counter-move’ thing.
In the completely fictional world of Kung Fu movies, every distinctive style of Kung Fu was specifically designed to counter someone else’s style, while having their own special ‘unstoppable’ moves.
The plots would follow some group bullying innocents who could not defend themselves, then someone knowing Kung Fu would beat them off, then the bad guys would bring in higher-level support that knew a countering style of Kung Fu, then the wandering stranger that didn’t want to get involved would step in, and he know some esoteric or legendary Kung Fu that was unstoppable because nobody knew any counters for it.
Hilarity, as they say, ensued.
Ah, how well I remember those grade school discussions of Tiger style vs Crane style or Cobra style, and just… wow, what a concept for fertile young imaginations that knew nothing of the real cultures that inspired such things.
*Five minutes of lips moving without sound* “My Kung Fu is stronger than your Kung Fu!” *lips keep moving for a minute.*
*Lips move for thirty seconds* “You want to fight?” *lips keep moving* “Fight ME!” *incomprehensible screams as they charge at each other, flying through the air*
Good wins out over evil, altruism beats selfishness, bully gets trounced, innocents defended, Batman in a silk bathrobe wins again.
What was the underlying lesson, though?
Knowledge is power.
The Kung Fu of the stranger was unstoppable, not because it was better, but because it was unknown by the practitioners of other styles. Nobody had yet had a chance to see it in action in order to develop counters for it, and then train in using those counters.
Flip to a different comparison.
Professional team sports like baseball and football, how often do you hear commentators talk about how the new rookie pitcher or quarterback is wreaking havok on opposing teams because he’s an unknown quantity and nobody has a grasp on what his style is in order to plan their own defensive strategy accordingly?
How many seasons over the years have we seen teams with new quarterbacks break out strong with a string of wins, raising enthusiasm, only to have the team get stomped into the ground in the second half of the season as everyone finally has a chance to study game films, analyze weaknesses, and adjusts their counters to compensate?
Your Kung Fu is stronger… this time. But your enemies are scrambling to find a counter.
Knowledge is power.
In World of Warcraft, there is no ‘unknown, unstoppable’ style of Kung Fu. Everything is laid out there for you to study and master depending on your dedication and commitment. And, okay, twitch-based reflexes.
If you practise your PvP-Fu, know your own moves and study the counter-moves of your opponents, then presumably you have a chance, and will be ready to learn from your losses and build on your wins.
If you don’t study, if you just toss on some Resilience gear and jump in the deep end, what do you think is going to happen?
You’re volunteering to be a professional victim. Someone, somewhere, will happily use you to improve their score. You might as well wear a hat with a big sign saying “Honor farming here, form a line to my rear, please use lube. Kthxbai.”
After a few hours of that, you’ll stagger away so sorry and sore that they should mail you flowers and a nice card afterwards.
I wonder how many people actually make the attempt to learn the moves and counters ahead of time, how to recognize the spell effects that whisper of your sweet impending destruction… and how many others just leap in feet first, craft some Bloodthirsty Pyrium stuff with resilience and say, “Let’s do this thang.”
I bring this whole thing up really just to talk about an attitude I have, an attitude that I really didn’t know was there until doing Baradin Hold the other day.
How I play World of Warcraft, even the raiding aspect of it, I consider to be the average difficulty of the game. It isn’t quite easy mode, that would be questing solo without ever participating in the group aspect. But it’s not exactly hard.
The PvP… in the back of my head a little voice whispers that PvP is the hard mode of WoW. To demonstrate true skill and mastery of the game, you have to excel at PvP. If you cannot truly dominate in PvP, then you are not a master player of the game, no matter what bosses you’ve killed in which raid or dungeon.
It’s not something I’ve ever articulated to myself before, it’s not a belief I’ve looked at too closely. But when it comes down to it, I truly do believe that PvP excellence requires a knowledge of the game and all of the classes within in that surpasses normal PvE requirements, and also requires the active use of that knowledge against the most vicious enemies known to humanity – the other players.
While people can be carried in raids to get achievements or loot, it’s pretty damn hard to be carried in PvP Arenas past a certain rating. You can only go so far if you suck before the other rated teams you’re up against simply crush you because you’ve got the weakest link dragging you down.
It’s not something that bothers me, as I said, other shinies have always distracted me from buckling down on the PvP side of things. I’d probably suck at it too, some of those players hop about like ferrets on meth with a triple espresso shoved up their ass.
I just wanted to talk about the PvP a little though, the way I really respect the design that Blizzard has implemented for it that goes beyond just shoot and heal, the struggle they sometimes face to balance PvP and still have PvE operate pretty damn well. It all works incredibly well for the size of the game.
And also, I wanted to say how much I really do respect those that are very accomplished at PvP. I sometimes see a lot of snide remarks denigrating “little PvP kids”, sneering at PvP as though only the losers who can’t handle raids take part in it, and I wanted to give props where I feel they’re due.
If you participate in PvP, and you are really damn good at it, then my hat is off to you. You are playing the game at what I consider to be the most complicated and difficult level possible, and I respect that.
Just don’t gank me, bro!