Wednesday, 3 January 2007

On Queue

Looks like it's 2007, then. Happy New Year everyone!

I'm back to work again, so ending days of lie-ins, lazing around, and spending all day in battlegrounds.

With more limited time in the evenings, battlegrounds are getting a bit irksome again, mostly due to queues. The basic problem is queue lengths, a minimum of 20 minutes for the Alliance in our battlegroup. If you have all day, this isn't so bad. In fact, it can be a benefit, giving a chance to get a snack, blog, tidy the place up a bit, and generally not spend nine straight hours glued to a screen. With only a spare hour or two, it's very annoying.

It wouldn't be so bad if you knew you'd get a decent game at the end of the queue, but you don't; firstly, you might get crushed in short order by a well equipped and organised opponent. Fine; that's life as a pickup, if Blizzard can get some sort of "matching" system working, to ensure more balance between the gear of the two sides, all well and good, but it's an occupational hazard when you go into a battleground. What I really can't stand, what rankles more than anything, is spending 20 minutes in a queue, getting the message that you're eligible for a battleground, being all pumped up to wage a one-man(/Elf/Dwarf/Gnome) campaign of havoc and destruction upon the unsuspecting Horde, and joining Arathi Basin with the Horde at 1950 resource points and holding four nodes. Or joining Warsong Gulch 2-0 down as the Alliance flag is borne away amidst a ravening pack of purple-geared fiends. Brilliant, 20 minutes in a queue for ten seconds in the battleground, no honour points, and a token to chuck in the pile. I'm not entirely sure how this could be fixed; merely limiting a battleground to the first ten or fifteen players who joined would be pretty galling if you had a great game going, and a couple of your team lost connection for some reason putting you at a disadvantage. Maybe some relatively simple criteria, like once Arathi reaches a point that one side can't win even if they took and held four resource nodes for the rest of the game, or in Warsong if one side is 2-0 down within a few minutes, then don't send any more players from the queue to that side.

Part of the problem is the multi-queue system, where you can queue for all three battlegrounds at the same time. In some ways, this is an excellent idea; I doubt many people would bother with an hour and a half queue for Alterac Valley if they couldn't run some other battlegrounds while waiting (in turn lengthening the Alterac Valley queue further...) The drawback is that it makes it more likely you'll join a lost cause. I'm as guilty of causing the problem as anyone; say the queue for Warsong and Arathi is 20 minutes, and 1 hour 30 for Alterac. I'll join the Warsong and Alterac queues, and after 10 minutes, the Arathi queue. After another 10 minutes, I should be in Warsong Gulch, hopefully at the start of a round. I've then got ten minutes to see how it goes before I'm eligible for Arathi; if we're losing Warsong badly, I'll switch to Arathi instead, leaving a space in Warsong, which some other poor Alliance sucker will get sent into, causing them to post an irate comment in their blog about getting sent into lost cause battlegrounds... Once Warsong/Arathi finishes, back in the queues to repeat the process, except at some point Alterac Valley will pop up, and I'll almost certainly head there, even if we're winning Arathi/Warsong, as Alterac is generally worth so much more honour.

The final problem with the multi-queue system, with a two minute window of opportunity to enter a battleground once you reach the head of the queue, is it tends to put the more populous side at an instant disadvantage. A new instance of Warsong Gulch opens; the top ten people on the less populous side, with short queues, jump in and are ready. The top ten people on the more populous side have been in their queues for 20 minutes; maybe five see the alert, and leap in, ready to do battle! Of the other five, one has dozed off in a puddle of drool while waiting, another one alt-tabbed off to read Tobold's blog for five minutes and is so engrossed they forgot the queue completely and will miss the alert, another had queued up Warsong just in case but the Arathi instance they're in is going pretty well so they're not going to switch (but they just hide the alert rather than leaving the queue), another wandered into the kitchen to get a cup of coffee at just the wrong moment, and the last one received an e-mail saying they'd WON TEN MILLION DOLLARS! in the Nonexistent Lottery of a Fictional Country they hadn't even bought a ticket for (subject to some minor fees, of course), and has gone down the pub to celebrate. The two minutes pass, the battleground starts, one side is instantly outnumbered 2-1, and meanwhile the next five people in the queue get their alerts (of whom a couple have dozed off, etc.) Obviously that's a bit of an extreme example, and in the grand scheme of things it doesn't make much of a difference to the vast majority of results, but it's one more little annoyance just to stack up with the others.

Anyway, with all the above, I doubt I'll do too many battlegrounds now, except during bonus honour weekends. Last night was a particularly bad case, quick defeat by a premade in Warsong, then joined Arathi to *instantly* receive the "Horde Wins!" message, and then finally into Warsong again just in time for the third flag capture by the enemy. I had more fun playing Bookworm Adventures while sitting in the queues, so in the end I just shut WoW down and carried on with that instead...


Doeg said...

You've pretty much summed up why I don't PvP much anymore.

Given the risks of being dumped into a lost cause that's almost over (or a burned-out AV), or being in a PUG against a pre-made that is more than likely a group of well-geared raiders marking time to the BC, as a PUG-er it's not really worth the time spent as compared to other ways to spend my WoW time. I feel that way even though on Horde-side in Battlegroup 6 the level-60 queues are typically less than a minute.

I started after epic items with my 60 warrior (a Blood Guard under the 'old system'), only to be a victim of the honor nerf and realize that the "easy epics" would take at least several weeks of rather heavy battleground action -- for items that are not really necessary for the run from 61-70, and will probably be outdated by around level 65. I half-heartedly started to try for the blue shoulders, but I haven't been motivated enough to complete that yet. Instead, I've banked some gold toward epic mount training that will be of lasting usefulness.

That said, I did PvP with my 45 Druid to upgrade my Sergeant cloak.
The cloak took more than 2 weeks of PvP to earn initially.
The upgrade took a few hours of one night to "earn" (Horde-side queues in my battlegroup are less than 10 minutes even in 40-49 AB). I "bought" it the next morning.
It's no wonder that the battlegrounds are crowded.

The changes to the PvP environment have been far-reaching (and have caught Blizz so *totally* by surprise that it's not even funny).
A too-enticing reward item cost reduction / revamped 'honor' system flooding the battlegrounds
Initial server crashes
Pulling in casuals and bored (but well-geared and well-organized) raiders
Geared raider pre-mades smashing casual PUGs
A knee-jerk flat 30% honor nerf after just two weeks
Untested and probably broken class balance in PvP (classes were obviously tested and balanced for PvE, not the poor step-child PvP)

One big thing that *didn't* change:
PUG-ers getting dumped into lost causes

Zoso said...

Yeah, imagine that pain, only with a 20 minute queue beforehand!

All in all, I think the PvP changes are at least a step forward from the previous situation, though there's still plenty of issues to work out. I got suckered in by the talk of "LOLZ EEZY EPIX" too, which of course turned out to be the usual forum distortion of reality, but at least I got a couple of bits of upgraded gear for the expansion.

Hopefully they'll build on their experience of the mass influx to PvP, and battlegrounds will be a viable option at level 70 for a solo/small group player who doesn't have time for raiding.