Hello everyone and welcome back to another (not so) weekly blogpost!
This week in DIKULT we’ve touched base with the gaming part of the course, and talked about games fitting into different genres, or how genres fail to represent what type of game it is, and we’ve had Peer Game Showcases, or in layman’s term, a presentation from the students about a specific game. There were a lot of great presentations on games I knew to games I’ve never heard about. I was one of those students, and I got to talk about World of Warcraft (WoW).
Going into my presentation I already knew from the start that there was no way i would be able to cover a game that spands over twelve years into a 10-15 minute presentation, but I gave it my best shot. One regret I have is I should’ve told Mia to interrupt me when I was out of time, as I my plan was to talk about what I wanted to cover, and just go as long as I could with the presentation. I’m pleased with how much I got to cover, as I got to talk about the game as a whole on a surface level, which allows me to delve deeper into it here in this blogpost.
I talked about the basic mechanics of the game, and how the game’s content is split into two: PvE (players versus environment) which involves everything from killing the big scary dragons to doing group-content and going into dungeons to kill more baddies. And the part I barely got to talk about is the PvP side (Player Versus Player). The PvP part is what both interests me and what I enjoy the most out of the game. Due to how old this game is, both aspects of the game has undergone some tremendous changes, and the PvP part has changed so much, especially considering there was no plans for PvP to be a big part of the game upon launch. So I will spend the remainder of this post talking about the history of WoW PvP and how it went from being a silly sidepart of the game into the now blooming competitive scene it has today.
During the original version of WoW (Vanilla/Classic WoW) there was no rated PvP as such. You could kill players of the enemy faction you encountered in the world, or in instanced PvP zones called Battlegrounds, which gave you honor. Honor then gave you access to a rank (rank 1-14) and each rank gave you a access to certain types of armor and of course a title which showed off how high up the honor ladder you were. This is a very simplified version of how honor works, as the system was incredibly convoluted and based off player participation and some weird leaderboard system. I will leave you a link to a much better and fleshed out explanation of how this system worked here should you be interested in reading about it.
During the beta version of original wow, honor was not implemented. There were no battlegrounds, and no reward system for participating in any type of PvP. PvP was treated merely as an afterthought. The honor system wasn’t added until patch 1.4 on May 5th 2005. This is roughly six months after the game’s release.
Back to the story, one of the prominent figures in PvP during classic wow was Drakedog, who is a korean player that just really enjoyed killing people in the world. He started doing this already in the beta, and would take screenshots of everyone he killed. Not only was this frowned upon by the community, but it lead to his website where he would upload these screenshots to be hacked and deleted. This lead him to create movies instead that he would upload on Warcraftmovies.com. This video along with other prominent PvP figures in both the European and American regions sparked a lot of interest in the PvP scene. And you can’t talk about classic wow PvP without mentioning Vurtne, who is to this day still praised for being so far ahead of his time in terms of skill. Vurtne played his class at such a high skill level, that first in Wrath of the Lich King could you start seeing the best mages in the world play better than him. These two became such prominent rolemodels within the wow community, and even today a lot of the top PvP players talk about early PvP’ers such as Vurtne and Drakedog as a reason why they started to take interest in PvP.
The honor system in Classic WoW was competitive in it’s own nature, but the introduction of the Arena in The Burning Crusade is where WoW as an eSport laid its roots. Blizzard held their first Arena World Championsships back in 2007, which used the 5v5 arena format as its arena of choice. These tournaments known as Blizzcon were off to a shaky start, as no one really knew what they were doing. An example of this was a rule that was put in place solely for the hunter class, which forced them to use a specific pet. For those who don’t know, hunters have access to a lot of pets in the game that provide unique benefits, and these pets were a big part of the hunter gameplay in PvP. Most hunters would use a scorpion as they could disarm opponents. The rule implemented at Blizzcon 2007 considered any other pet than a bear as cheating. The bear gave absolutely no benefit what so ever (the term “useless” was the general way of describing it back then) which lead to no hunters making it anywhere close to the top that year.
Despite the rough start, WoW eventually got picked up by MLG during Wrath of the Lich King and the scene took on a more serious approach. Professional casters (usually former/current professional wow players) were hired to commentate the games, and the format switched from 5v5 to 3v3, which is still the standard today. The atmosphere became in short a lot more professional and competitive, with prizepools increasing each year. However, looking back at it, it has an amateur feel to it. To illustrate, here’s a picture of the casters from a tournament held in 2010:
Compare it to a photo taken of the casters from one of the latest WoW tournaments:
Not to talk down on the effort these guys put into the game during Wrath. MLG being an official sponsor and provider for players to compete was HUGE for the game. There were a lot of tournaments held each year where players could compete and prove themselves, as well as make a decent income from this hobby. These were truly the golden days of PvP.
Sadly this didn’t last. Somewhere during 2010-2011, MLG dropped WoW as one of their games, resulting in only one tournament (Blizzcon) being held each year. this had a huge impact on the PvP community, as there was no longer any real incentive to really push to become a top-tier player in PvP. The only honest paycheck one would get is if you’d win Blizzcon, which is not easy at all as the competition was (and still is) incredibly fierce. To put this into perspective, the team that won blizzcon during 2014 earned about the average income of a McDonalds employee in the US. And that’s if you won it all. That’s a lot of effort for not a lot of gains. What happened was a lot of players took up streaming as a second job, but there was also an increase in boosting (playing another persons account to gain them high rating in PvP for real life currency) or coaching (playing with other people for money). Both boosting and coaching violated the terms of service for WoW, which can result in a permanent ban from the game and a ban from competing in any upcoming official tournaments held by Blizzard. The professional and competitive scene of WoW eSports stayed like this up until the release of Legion in 2016.
With the launch of Legion, Blizzard put a lot of resources into revitalizing the eSport side of the game. Huge changes were made to the game to emphasize PvP, making it easier to change the game to only affect PvP, and not let damage or other changes made for PvE to affect the PvP scene (an example of this gone horribly wrong is in Mists of Pandaria, with the elemental shaman laying waste to any other class due to changes intended for PvE with horrific consequences for PvP). Professional casters were once again hired at a much hire rate to commentate the tournaments, and a lot of attention was brought to this. Tournaments are now held around once a month or at less frequent rates, which all lead up to Blizzcon. Going into the announced expansion, WoW Pvp is looking even healhier than it did in Wrath. Perhaps we’re going into a new golden age of Wow eSports?
I truly love (and hate) this game due to its unique PvP gameplay that no other game has ever come close to recreating. The game offers complexity like no other, and the more time you put into the game, the better you get. Even the very best players in the game constantly improve their gameplay, showing there is no true skilllcap for this game. I could probably write about 4000 more words on this (I’m well beyond the 1500 word count so far), but to save you all from the headache I’ll stop myself here.
Thank you for reading another one of my posts, although this one could probably classify more as a rant than anything else. If anyone is interested I can provide sources for (most) of the things I just talked about, but I deliberately exploit the concept of a blogpost to the fullest, being lazy where I can be. Tune in next week for more!
Ironically, here are some links to some things I referenced in this post:
Vurtne’s first PvP video (plenty of more to watch, would definitely recommend if this interests you.)
Drakedog’s first PvP video (also a lot more to watch there.)
The Honor system Pre Patch 2.0
This week’s blogpost title comes from The Wire’s episode Sentencing, Season 1 Episode 13