07/02/2013

Ranked PvP on The Red Eclipse: A Community Effort

When I wrote about my first impressions of ranked PvP about a month ago they weren't very good, and I concluded that I couldn't really see myself getting into it for a variety of reasons. This has remained true so far, but there have been efforts in my guild to have more regular ranked evenings for the more dedicated PvPers, and I did help out on my Sage to make up the numbers for that twice. Both of those times our games were less frustrating than they had been during my first night of ranked, and last time we even found a team that played on roughly the same level as us and against whom we could play a couple of challenging and genuinely fun matches.

What I've been finding the most fascinating about sticking my nose into this whole ranked PvP business however is the enormous community effort behind it. If you're routinely involved in that kind of thing it might not seem that special, but as an outsider looking in I've been finding it absolutely fascinating.

Basically, ranked PvP is currently "broken" for three reasons:

1. The same-server limitation results in a very limited number of participants, considering that this is a very hardcore style of play. You can't queue up at random and hope to get a pop.

2. Due to the limited amount of players, the matchmaking system doesn't really work, and if you do eventually end up getting into a game as a new team, you'll just end up playing one of a handful of top guilds. This means that newcomers have little to no hope of actually getting a "fair" match and most end up too discouraged to keep trying before they even have a chance to get better.

3. This is something that I hadn't considered last time since it's something that doesn't really affect people on a more casual level of play, but in ranked, class imbalance is a real issue right now. In random warzones it's annoying to run into a lot of people playing the current flavour of the month, but there will always be enough players who don't care to min-max their characters to that extent that you'll end up with a mix of different classes regardless. In ranked however, putting together the best team you can currently pretty much means taking only two specs (bubble stunners and smashers).

I don't know for sure, but I suspect that it was that last point that got the ball rolling since it is something that affects even the most hardcore of PvPers. Sure, they do have the resources to field a team consisting of only two classes, but is that really fun? At least on The Red Eclipse, the top PvP guilds decided that the answer to this question was no.

As a result...

1. There is a "gentlemen's agreement" to not use stun bubbles in ranked PvP at all, and to limit the number of smash spec knights/warriors as well as that of pyro Powertechs/Assault Specialist Vanguards per team to one or two. People communicate about this via the inofficial server forums and IRC to ensure that both sides involved in any given game adhere to the rules.

2. Partly because of point 1, newer teams are encouraged to get their feet wet in ranked, because at least they don't have to worry about having a one hundred percent optimised group setup. They'll still lose just as badly to the top teams to be honest, but at least it's obvious that it's due to skill and not flavour of the month class stacking.

3. In addition, several of the top PvP guilds have started to field "alt teams" to give newer guilds more of a fighting chance in their ranked games. Specific nights of the week are also dedicated to A- and B-team play respectively, though this seems to be a very malleable agreement as it's still way too easy to come up against an A-team with your own team of ranked newbies.

While it's hard not to think about how this is something that players shouldn't have to do, it's still an impressive effort in my opinion.

1. The game should be able to pool sufficient numbers of players interested in ranked PvP together so that they can play each other whenever they want - but since it doesn't, we'll encourage more people on our own server to take part to up the numbers.

2. The game should have a matchmaking system that allows players with a wide range of skills to participate in games appropriate to their skill level - but since it doesn't, we'll try to even the odds by practising our own matchmaking.

3. The game should be sufficiently balanced that you can take more than two or three classes into competitive PvP and still win - but since it isn't, we'll reject what's so overpowered as to ruin it all and have fun with the rest.

It's by no means a perfect system, and who knows how well it will work in the long run - but I do think that it's a very admirable initiative to fix a broken system. I hope that Bioware is paying attention and taking some notes.

6 comments:

  1. A very heart-warming story! The thought that a player community can (mainly) resist the temptation to 'win at all costs' over having a better shared experience. Have you heard if other serves have such an agreement or is it a lone success story?

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    1. I don't know, "heart-warming" is not the first word that would've come to mind for me considering that this isn't exactly a tale of great altruism (everyone's trying to make it more fun for themselves after all). :P And the better teams still win with non-optimal group compositions while everyone plays with non-optimal group compositions.

      And as far as I know we're the only server with this kind of rule system at the moment.

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  2. Hello, first time poster here.

    Anyways, I don't think there is much that Bioware can do with ranked. Even Blizzard has problems with ranked battlegrounds. There just aren't enough players interested in it. It was one of those things that sounded obvious but didn't work out. "We already got ranked arenas (small group PvP). Let's add ranked battlegrounds!."

    Queue times in WoW ranked battlegrounds with cross-server are still bad. You're lucky to get one match in the entire evening (7pm-12am). Like SWTOR, your team is just as likely to get stomped. Only the really dedicated teams keep queuing up.

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    1. I wouldn't expect the system to ever be completely problem-free, but I do think there is room for some improvement at the moment.

      Also, it's been a while since we last had any class balance changes; I would think that people voluntarily banning certain classes from their games for being too OP is a sign that that needs looking at as well. :P

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    2. I play Rated BGs every weekend, and I've never had the kind of problems with queues you're talking about. Wait times for my team range from 1 to 5 m, with the average being about 3 m or so, and this is usually with a mongrel team composed of people from two to three servers. Just my 2 cents.

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    3. @ Thandar, my question is why doesn't or didn't Bio put in Arenas? Ranked or otherwise? Without cross servers I would think ranked arenas would make more sense? I'm certainly glad Bio is adding content, but I think I would rather have arenas or an in game raid calender rather than more things to grind out like reputations.

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