Thursday, October 17, 2013

Diaries of a Ganker, Part I - The Horde Triumphant

Imagine, if you will, the following scenario.

Garrosh Hellscream is triumphant. King Varian Wrynn is dead, along with his son Anduin, both fallen in the siege of Ogrimmar. Jaina Proudmoore, dead. The Alliance expedition force, thrown into disorder by the death of their leaders, is unable to mount an organised defence against the horrors unleashed by Garrosh. The Horde which rose up against Hellscream are cowed into submission, and bend the knee. Vol'jin is executed as a traitor for his part in the Darkspear rebellion. Baine Bloodhoof, too honourable to kneel, is dead. Sylvanas, the ruthless pragmatist that she is, has no compunctions about turning on her allies and swearing allegiance to Garrosh once again. Lor'themar, horrified but unwilling to face the unstoppable Hellscream and Sylvanas both, also bends the knee. The most horrific fate is reserved for Thrall, whose shattered body adorns the topmost spike of Orgrimmar as a incontrovertible proof of Garrosh's ultimate victory.

With the fall of their leaders the Alliance flees back to Azeroth, but their respite is brief. Stormwind is reduced to ashes, decimated by the same weapon used to destroy Theramore. Ironforge holds out longer because of its impregnable walls, but is betrayed from within by the Dark Iron dwarves. The last bastions of freedom lie in the islands of the north, in Teldrassil and the Azuremyst Isle. Their days are also numbered, for the new Warchief will brook no dissent to his rule. Though the tattered remnants of the Alliance will fight bravely in the final battles, in the end they too, will fall to the Horde in time. Malfurion, Tyrande, Velen, Greymane and the Naaru O'ros all perish in the apocalyptic battles that follow, but not before they exact a bloody toll on the rampaging Horde. The Exodar, defended by O'ros against Garrosh's weapons of mass destruction, is taken in a bloody siege which lasts months. Teldrassil is also besieged, but as Garrosh orders mana bomb after mana bomb detonated against the Great Tree's branches and boughs it finally catches alight and burns, along with the final remnants of Alliance resistance.




A world where the Horde are triumphant. Where the only players you see are orcs, goblins, tauren, blood elves, trolls and the Forsaken. A world where Alliance players are non-existent, or where they hide, quivering, in the remaining safe zones of the world.

Can't imagine it? Look no further than the PvP server of Illidan then, where according to WoWProgress, 18,760 Horde outnumber a paltry four Alliance. FOUR. That's a ratio of 4,690 to 1. I heartily recommend reading Theck's post regarding population dynamics and unstable equilibrium on Sacred Duty. It's excellent. I also found another site called US Realm Population courtesy of GryphonHeart, which gives somewhat different numbers. According to this site, there are 204,032 Horde characters versus 13,853 Alliance on Illidan (giving a different ratio of almost 15 to 1). Pick whatever stat you like - WoWProgress only measures level 90s who have killed at least one boss in T15 content (or are in a guild which has killed at least one boss in T15 content), while US Realm Pop counts all characters. Whatever way you choose to cut it, this is a massive, massive imbalance.

I was completely shocked at the population disparities which existed between the two factions. I must have been quite naive, because I simply trusted Blizzard to balance the server population. I've been a big defender of gankers because my personal experience of levelling on Frostmourne told me that gankers were a manageable threat, and they added further layers to the virtual world. That was before I found out that Alliance outnumber the Horde two to one on Frostmourne (using WoWProgress stats). No wonder why there was always Alliance around to call for help. I have argued that asymmetry is part of persistent worlds, and that players will tolerate asymmetries as long as they believe they have equal opportunities at making it to the top. There is a limit to this tolerance however, and, seriously, this type of asymmetry is just plainly ridiculous. Why aren't people up in arms about this? Clearly the blogging community is pissed, but there's no sign of a kind of mass discontent which normally prompts companies to make hasty revisions.

My opinion is that people tolerate it because world PvP means nothing in WoW. People are fighting for nothing. They are just fighting for the sake of fighting. There is nothing at stake, and the death penalty is very light, especially compared to EVE (where you lose your ship) and Darkfall (where you drop all your stuff when you die). You don't get any rewards for fighting in world PvP - all you get are a few paltry points of Honor, and no Conquest at all. There are no incentives (except perhaps factional loyalty, which is a tenuous one at best) - as far as I can tell, open world PvP in WoW is just another type of player driven world hazard, one which players can voluntarily forego if they choose a PvE server. If the Horde and Alliance were actually fighting for something meaningful this kind of server imbalance would never be tolerated. At the moment the optimal way of earning PvP currency is by playing random BGs, Arenas and Rated BGs. If you could only earn Honor or Conquest points in open world PvP then you can bet your ass that all the PvPers who attacked Theck about his post on Reddit would also be screaming about the imbalance, because the losing side would not be able to grind as many points as the winners. In this scenario there is something at stake now, which means people suddenly become interested in equal access and opportunity.

Because world PvP in WoW means nothing, then people who like it will indulge in it, while others not so inclined will tolerate it to a point because the penalties are comparatively light (spirit rez and a short corpse run). Once they reach their limit, however, they will leave or transfer. Blizzard has done nothing to date, because it is a source of revenue for them - at $25 per transfer the revenue they generate must be in the millions over the years (40,000 transfers yields a million dollars at no extra cost to the company). Blizzard can rationalise their inaction by saying nothing is at stake here - PvP is voluntary (via server choice), and people can level safely in instanced dungeons, or grind their PvP currency in the balanced environments of Arenas and BGs. I've always thought that world PvP in WoW was bad because it means nothing. Looking at how Blizzard has decided to deal with this issue (i.e. do nothing) I've come to the conclusion that they know it too, but since they make money from it they choose not to do anything about it. Instead they have devoted their energies into creating a ladder PvP game which is separate from world proper as a sort of concession. Sorry guys, we know world PvP is meaningless and server population will become more and more unbalanced as people start transferring, but if you are interested in PvP you can play Arenas and Rated BGs in a ladder competition instead. We'll set aside instanced zones where you can fight, and we'll do our best to balance the game as best as we can in these instanced environments. You can measure yourself against the player pool, push rating, and we will award you accolades and titles commensurate with your achievements. If you are good enough we will also fly you to Shanghai and let you play for a significant amount of real world money. If this was their intent then I believe they have succeeded. I personally enjoy WoW ladder PvP, and that's the main reason why I still subscribe to WoW. There is no point mourning or wishing for better open world PvP, however. Blizzard has already written it off, so it is better to look elsewhere.

Open world PvP in WoW lost its lustre for me a long time ago, so much so that I packed up my toons on the PvP servers of Frostmourne and Garithos and consolidated them all on Thorium Brotherhood, which is of all things, a RP server. I didn't need to be on a PvP server to play Arenas and Rated BGs, and my family and friends were here, so it made sense to move. Given my renewed interest in "meaningful world PvP" I quit WoW for a few months and tried to subscribe to EVE and Darkfall. In both cases I was stymied by RL obstacles. As a resident of Japan I am required to subscribe to Nexon, a third party payment company based in Korea in order to play EVE. EVE has very kindly supplied a translation guide on how to go about completing the Nexon application (which is in Japanese). but this is something I am not willing to do, especially when the terms and conditions are in a foreign language. Darkfall won't allow me to play on their US server because they are releasing a localised version of their game in Japan and Korea "in the near future." If you are familiar at all with the Darkfall developmental cycle you would realise that "in the near future" could mean anything between three months and a year. I tried a few work-arounds - I tried to mask my IP address with a VPN and make it look like I was subscribing from North America. No luck. I asked my friends at home to subscribe in my name from Australia. Nope.

So, stonewalled on both fronts, I reactivated my WoW account and am slowly getting back into the ladder circuit with a vague goal of finally breaking the 2k barrier on either format. I'm really just waiting for TESO, Camelot UnchainedStar Citizen and WH40K: Eternal Crusade. These titles sound very promising, but given that TESO won't be released until next year, and the other three are not being released until 2015, I have need of something to occupy my time. Reading Theck's post, however, and imagining a world where the Alliance was gone and where the Horde roamed unchecked has rekindled my interest in roaming the wilds of Azeroth. I said earlier that people fight for nothing in WoW OWPvP. Perhaps a better way to articulate it is that in the absence of external incentives, people who fight bring their own reasons with them. Ego, validation, competitiveness, malice, loyalty to friends/factions/guilds, a sense of justice, a quixotic desire to rid the world of "evil" - who knows, only the individual can say. I can only speak for myself, but the idea of being one of the last few surviving members of the Alliance has set my mind ablaze. When computer games were a generation away and all our role playing was done with pen and paper, imagination was sufficient to tide us over. Ladder PvP is e-sports, with all that entails. World PvP should be about the world, and role-playing is inhabiting that world. And there is something wrong with a server which is overwhelmingly dominated by the Horde. Where the Alliance cowers in secret. This does not sit well with me as a person who has only ever played Alliance. A world so tamed and domesticated by the Horde that it is, for all intents and purposes, a PvE server.

Night Elf Remake by Astoroth on DeviantArt.

Azeroth was once home to dwarves, gnomes, humans, and night elves. It has given succour to the draenei, and given the bestial worgen a place where they were accepted and belong. To have these voices stilled forever is a crime beyond reckoning. The great cities of Stormwind and Ironforge are silent, smoking ruins. Everywhere the goblins, the blood elves, the trolls, the tauren, the Forsaken and the orcs. Drinking in our taverns. Living in our homes. Sleeping in our beds. Killing the ragged remnants of our people with impunity. 

have seen with my own eyes the silent pits underneath the eaves of Elwynn Forest. The twisted and broken bodies stacked like cordwood within. I have seen the smoke rising from the embers of Teldrassil, and wept tears of rage and sorrow as the fire consumed our homes. I have seen our ships burn on the water, and heard the cries of the damned as the icy seas claimed them for their own. I have held the shattered bodies of my friends and comrades in my arms, and watched their spirits depart, leaving empty husks in their wake. All that I hold dear in this world, gone.

Dear Goddess, grant me the strength to avenge the fallen. Guide my blade and let the enemies of our people taste bloody vengeance. And when I pass from this mortal realm. forgive my many trespasses and enfold me in your loving embrace so that I might join my brethren in the stars above. Grant my soul rest, my mind peace, and my heart succour, for I struggle, milady. I struggle, great Elune, to see the meaning behind this. How can this be allowed to pass? Why did not you not heed us? Where were you when we needed you most? Answer me, I pray.

No. Answer me now. I demand it. I would know the mind of the Goddess, who willingly stepped aside and watched her people die. For what reason did we worship you all these millennia, only to have you betray us now? Where is your divinity now? Your grace? Your godhead?


Mute to the last. I can tell you where your divinity lies. It lies at the bottom of the pit where Stormwind once stood. It lies rotting with the carcasses of the countless dead. It lies in the ashes of the great Tree. It lies in the abyss beneath the waves, along with my daughter, and any reason I have left to remain in this world.


Before I depart I make this promise. I will kill every Horde I see. I will set upon them in the shadows. I will make a mockery of their great numbers. I will give them cause to remember the kaldorei, even as our memory passes from this world. This I vow, as the last of my kind. By the Goddess - no. By the great Tree - by the Sentinels - by the memory of my daughter - the Horde shall pay.

I transferred my 85 night elf rogue to Illidan last Monday.

2 comments:

  1. I've got good news and bad news. The good news is you'll have plenty of horde scum to kill. The bad news is you'll have plenty of horde scum to kill.

    Actually, another plus is the horde there will know you BY NAME (so few of you) instead of "that elf". I'll be interested to hear more of your exploits at Illidan you courageous and crazy elf. :P

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    1. Hahaha I'll try to gank some people for you. Go the Alliance!

      Thanks for the comment!

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