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*

Ahh, bliss.

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!

20 Responses to “Your Kung Fu is Strong!”
  1. Cowsareus says:

    Excellent post, BBB.
    “Everybody wants Kung-Fu fighting…. those guys were fast as lighting…”

  2. Thelandira says:

    IMO everything you said/wrote about PvP is spot on. Like you, I know there is a lot of information to study up on and learn in order to be “productive” in PvP. Do I do it? Ummm….nope. Am I “productive” when I run BGs? If distracting an opponent for 10-15 seconds (usually less) until they kill me to keep them off someone else is being “productive”, then Yes…I am VERY “productive”. I absolutely stink at PvP. Always have, and most likely, always will. But it’s still kind of fun to partake in every now and then. There’s just something about going up against a living, breathing person (who’s behind that toon that’s slaughtering me) that is oddly attracting. It’s a rush stepping into the unknown and seeing what’s going to happen…even if the outcome for me is less than pleasant and I spend more time flirting with the Spirit Healer than in the actual battle. hahaha

    I’m one of the ones on the scoreboard after the battle that has only 1-3 kills and about 9-10 deaths or more.

    • TJGypsy2 says:

      Sometimes, being the distraction that keeps the other team from capping the flag for 15 seconds until help can arrive/rez from the graveyard is crucial to a victory. Or distracting their players while someone sneaks up and caps the node, or slowing down the FC until someone else can get to him. Everyone in a BG can contribute something, regardless of gear or experience.

  3. Tesh says:

    I’ve dabbled in PvP, and I like it in principle… but the gear and level imbalances make it far less than the fun I sense the potential for. I agree that it’s the most skill-intensive way to play the game, and I like that about it. Then again, I’m an old Street Fighter fan. I love balanced PvP where player skill carries the day.

    • bigbearbutt says:

      You start getting into the question of incentives and advantages, don’t you?

      I mean, the current carrot on a stick to get people to do stuff is gear upgrades. Blizz has tried to find other incentives, pet drops, mounts from completing a sequence of achievements, titles, access to vendors and tabards, etc.

      What I’ve seen is, while there are people who will crawl through fire (or whatever Blizz requires to get those items), those players are not in the majority.

      Once dungeons and raids no longer have viable upgrades for people to use in current tier content, people stop running them consistently. Period. They may SAY they love them, but they mean as a novelty, or because there was this one thing they always wanted from there and didn’t get the first go around. As soon as that thing is checked off the column, it’s done and they don’t sign up for raids to go back there.

      For PvP, if the incentive to play more aggressively and work on improving your arena score is gear upgrades, then that means some people will be at the bottom end of the gear score and others near the top, providing imbalance regardless of skill as you suggest.

      Premades seem to show that solid teamwork and communication can overcome a pug of high gear level strangers, but in Arena? Not quite the same.

      I wonder what you could find that would serve as an equally desired replacement for gear upgrades that would drive people to show the same enthusiasm for playing, something that would allow you to truly have every player be 100% balanced, same gear and level as everyone else, and keep it exciting.

      I mean, isn’t that what CounterStrike and other non-MMO PvP games are? You zone into the server, and you can choose your weapon but everyone has the same stats?

      If I had the answer to that question, what carrot to offer that would get people just as excited as powerful new gear drops, I would have something that seems to elude everyone at the moment.

      • Tesh says:

        Speaking to balance, I actually don’t mind imbalances so long as they are fun. It’s great fun to use Dan to defeat a Ryu, for example. There shouldn’t be a big differential, though, or it starts to outweigh player skill again.

        As to incentives to play, I’d hope that at the most basic level, playing itself is the reward. It certainly is in most fighting PvP games or the myriad competitive FPS games, since the biggest (or only) metric of “progress” is how you, as a player, are improving. I think that MMOs are a bit of an aberration, as they tend to bank long-term on progression-based addiction mechanics and getting that next “ding”, whether it’s gear or a level. The actual moment to moment gameplay doesn’t change much, it just changes location and scales a few numbers. Sometimes that’s enough, it’s true, but we’re still talking about a mostly shallow game.

        As a designer, I’d rather lure players in with sweet, deep gameplay, not gear. Maybe have achievements or leaderboards for bragging rights, but the gameplay itself has to carry PvP for it to be something I want to spend much time on.

        …incidentally, player retention is a very different animal in a subscription game compared to a single sale game. If you have all the money from a player you’ll ever get when they buy in to start, you don’t have to worry so much about stringing them along with incremental rewards. DLC and microtransaction cosmetic frippery changes the psychology a bit, but again, I’d rather retain a playerbase because the gameplay rocks, not because players have to spend time (and money on a sub) to grind up the top tier of gear.

        It is indeed very telling that players stop running heroics once they have their desired loot. To me, that underlines the shallowness of the actual gameplay… and that makes me a bit sad. It’s part of why I keep agitating the “game design” mantra when I look at MMOs; I think we can do a lot more to entertain players than offer a series of carrots with bigger numbers.

        • Dorgol says:

          The problem with “just playing” being the best incentive in a PvP encounter is that people don’t like to lose. In a perfectly balanced game, everyone loses 50% of the time. This means that at any given time 1/2 of the players are unhappy.

          But that’s in a perfectly balanced game, and WoW isn’t balanced.
          Assuming max level, you could lose an encounter for the following reasons:

          You fought a better player.
          You fought a better geared player.
          You fought the wrong class (in 1v1).
          Your teammates didn’t do their job (be it hold an objective or interrupting / controlling a healer).
          You made a mistake in the fight.

          The problem, and the reason I gave up on PvP as a whole, is that 4 of those things are completely out of your control.

          There will ALWAYS be someone more skilled than you.
          Ther will ALWAYS be someone more geared than you.
          Blizzard flat out admits they don’t balance for 1v1 (or even 2v2).
          You have ZERO control over what your teammates are doing.

          The only thing you can directly improve is your own skill. But WoW doesn’t even offer tools to assist in that. There is no replay function. There is no report that generates detailing damage / healing in vs. damage / healing out. Hell, there isn’t even a notification when you try to interrupt a spell, but fail (either because you were too slow with your interrupt or because the other player “fake cast”).

          So with so much of WoW’s PvP being out of my own control, I gave up on it.

          Now lets look at another PvP game: StarCraft II.

          Here we have a game that strives hard to be balanced, so I can expect to lose 50% of the time.
          SC2 is primarily a 1v1 game, so I never have to worry about what my teammates are or are not doing.
          AND SC2 provides a really, really good replay function so that, when I do lose, I can sit down and analyse what I did vs what my opponent did and hopefully learn and improve my game.

          There is no gear incentive in SC2, though there are Achievements and ladder rankings (bragging rights).

          The #1 driving difference is that *I* am in control of my winning or my losing.

          • Malphailuron says:

            Eh, WoW PVP is a team sport. At the level of pickup BG’s, you have no control or organization; but proper leadership on arena teams and RBG’s makes a big difference. Just as your team can screw you over in AV, your team can really pull your bacon out of the fire when they know what they’re doing.

            It is impossible to really improve at PVP, past a certain point, unless you are fighting people who are better than you and actively watching what they do. This is true of most competitive activities. Losing might be frustrating, but that’s the price of experience earned. You don’t have control over how good your opponent is, but you can control how quickly YOU improve.

            The gear differentials are, I think, the biggest flaw of PVP, but they are slowly eroding.

            I find that a lot of people get frustrated with PVP because they are entirely too emotionally invested in their success or failure, their honor/hour ratios and their achievement hunting. Certainly, if it’s not fun, don’t do it.

      • Tsudrats says:

        BBB oh … your comment that ‘Once dungeons and raids no longer have viable upgrades for people to use in current tier content, people stop running then consistently. Period.’ gave me a really ugly thought …

        Do we all simply play the game because as humans we are suckered by sparkly baubles and that take these away and the game itself is rather bland and boring? :S

        Not a pleasant thought.

        Think I’ll go log my pvp toon and let some hordie beat me up.

        :S

  4. marcel says:

    i think that transmogrification have the potential to change this gearcraft world that we live in. that and a complete rollback from resilience stat. so you should get some pve-like gear when you are not a hardcore pvper, vanity gear(that you can transmogrify) when you get pro. anyway… just my 2 cents :)

  5. Cayro says:

    uhmmm, BB, Sweet Bob and Miss Peachy says to tell you “no damned ferret will do meth or shove anything up their butts”.

  6. Cayro says:

    psst, they arent looking now, so I can add – great post. I always felt pvp’ers were the top players, too. sorry for the first post, but trust me, Sweet Bob and Miss Peachy are holding my car keys and I need them for work

  7. Blackbear says:

    Wow! Saturday morning kung fu theater! Ah, the memories. And the resulting injuries among me and my friends from attempting to imitate the awesome kung fu moves. Good times, man. Good times. And good band-aids.

    Good post. I would also add that knowing everything your class can bring to Pvp is good, but to be really “leet” one should probably know as much as possible of opposing classes, particularly those that could exploit a weakness in your chosen class or knowing weaknesses in other classes. For example, melee that lack quick mobility have an especially challenging fight against ranged. Or for those classes that can interrupt spells, knowing a priority of the kinds of spells to interrupt can make for a powerful defense.

  8. […] Bear Butt has a nice little tribute today to the challenge that is PvP.  His basic point: excellence at PvP is the pinnacle of WoW performance.  Far more challenging […]

  9. Elynea says:

    “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.”

    Absolute Coke spew! LMAO!!!

    “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.”

    You’ve nailed it here, though I have no knowledge of the meth habits of ferrets (thank you for the enlightenment, Sweet Bob and Miss Peachy…please release Cayro, now). I happen to KNOW for a fact that, in PvP, I am nothing but rogue-bait. Even when I try, I spend more time whirling in a circle trying to target the ferret who is killing me than I do killing them.

    I admire their knowledge and ability. But the Spirit Healer is about to charge me rent, so I am sure there is a dragon around here I can kill, somewhere…

  10. Wally says:

    I suppose my biggest issue with PvP is the imbalance. Back in vanilla it seemed a lot less rock,papper, scissors … skill seemed to matter more. I appreciate that being good at PvP takes skill but dont appreciate the way they balance.

    Seems a touch like playing high school football, but college all Americans come in for plays every once in awhile.

  11. Ripnhyde says:

    Very funny! And very true…. PvP requires a lot of time to get a feel for, however it is a LOT of fun. I’ve always found it to be my favorite part of WoW. I won’t say that I’ve reached the ranks ‘133t’ pvp’er by any means, but with pushing 50k hk’s across my toons I’ve done a bit of it. I would encourage anyone to try pvp if they’ve never done so. PvP has never been more accessible than it is right now. In a weekish of play since he made 85, I’ve brought this guy to ilvl 360’s avg, just with bg’s, no arenas or rated bg’s. I wouldn’t bother with the crafted gear, unless it’s also a gear upgrade too. Just get out and get some. Reading the 1000’s of forums will help, but there’s nothing like exp to make it start making sense. Bring a thick skin and a sense of humor. People always make crass comments about noobs, but if your skin is thicker than their skulls, you’ll be fine!! Take your lumps, buy your gear, start seeing what works, you’ll get there. Low level PvP is broke. If you aren’t wading in heirloom gear, you’ll be one shotted before you hit the ground below the gy. However the rest is just a matter of getting to know your class’s strengths. The most important part is getting a spec that works. Most PvE spec’s don’t have the cc talents that will save your bear hide!

    Ironically, I found your site trying to learn how to be a PvE bear tank that didn’t get booted while trying to pull trash mobs :) We all learn from each other! Thanks for your help and good hunting!

  12. Tsudrats says:

    I know skill still counts in pvp … how … because even when my pvp toon is in the higher lvls of her band and in decent gear … I still suck … Think I’ll go check my spec for cc talents :S

  13. Moonstalker says:

    When I first started playing WOW, I PVP’d quite a bit and took many a dirt nap. BUT I learned. The next season I came roaring in and gained a few titles along the way. What I learned then was to get started early. The earlier you gain gear, the faster you will gain more gear. This just keeps steam rolling until it becomes the haves and have nots. I used precious little of the skills I developed on fights with undergeared teams while working my butt off against the equally/better geared teams. The team ratings equivilency thing helped balance PVP but after a while it became a 10 second arena fight – win or lose.

    Don’t PVP much any more but the experience helps in TB and whenever a 12 year old wants to gank. Bet he didn’t see THAT coming…

  14. Gnomeaggedon says:

    I’m coming for you Bear…

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