Saturday, February 15, 2014

Diaries of a Ganker, Part IV - Cross Realm Exploitation

I've decided to make Halfhill my main base of operations. Drawing upon my own experiences I realized that the gankers that stood out for me in the past were those people who were associated with specific times and areas, and who integrated themselves as part of the world by their constant presence. I have fond memories of the shaman Ashishishe who terrorised Nagrand during the Burning Crusade on my server, and while I started out hating him, his eventual departure from the game was genuinely regretted. I could count on him to be present anytime there was a battle for the village of Halaa, and what started out as a bitter rivalry evolved to respect once I met the man behind the avatar on the forums. It must also be noted that on PvE servers people have to flag voluntarily in order to fight which means that all battles are predicated on consent in a much purer and fresher sense than they would be on pure PvP servers. Players on pure PvP servers gave their consent a long time ago when they first signed up – people who fight on PvE servers give their consent on a case by case basis, but it is freely given and much more immediate. This is why PvPers on PvE servers give the other faction more respect, at least in my mind – there would be no fights at all if the Horde didn't come out to play. Of course I am assuming that people will react to me in the same way I eventually did to Ashishishe. They might just consider me to be an annoying pest, which is also completely fine with me.

Illidan on Winter's Veil - not so deserted after all.


Halfhill

I chose Halfhill for a few reasons. It is a major resting hub for players due to its proximity to the farms which means there are always targets of opportunity. It is completely dominated by the Horde on Illidan – I have never seen an Alliance player in Halfhill in my two months on this server, and it tickles my fancy to mess with the Horde in their own heartland. The area around Halfhill also features some unique characteristics which makes it conducive to ganking. Firstly, the existence of the farm itself constitutes a safe zone to escape to if things go really bad. Once you reach the borders of your farm you are phased safely to your own instance, effectively shaking off any would-be pursuers. Secondly, the presence of NPC guards at the market allows for some creative ganks by proxy. The NPC guards will aggro if you use any type of offensive ability at another player, but as long as you don't fight back you can run to the guards and aggro them onto your attacker. While most people are already aware of this, one way to exploit this is to get into a fight away from the guards, move close to them, and get out of combat (i.e. Vanish). Once you come out of combat all the offensive abilities you used on the other player are cleared and you are considered a “civilian” again – if your opponent is not careful they will hit you again once they see you, and all you have to do then is to run to the guards, who will then aggro onto your opponent while ignoring you completely. This tactic is very useful once you have killed the Horde a few times and have them all riled up and angry for vengeance – it is very satisfying to drag a posse of would-be avengers into the market area, and watch as the NPC guards wipe them out while you stand innocently next to Gina Mudclaw and Farmer Fung.

If you're trying this it is very important to make sure that you get out of combat BEFORE you drag your enemies to the guards. If you don't, regardless of where you started fighting (this can be miles away), running to the guards after hitting an opponent will make them aggro onto you. What you want to do is start a fight, somehow get out of combat (Vanish or Shadowmeld works wonders), reappear before an enraged Horde, provoke them into hitting you, then run to the guards and aggro all the guards onto them. Also keep in mind that even after aggroing the guards some players will go down trying to kill you while ignoring the guards beating on them, so it is still to handy to use a defensive CD or two to make sure you survive their last gasp attempts. Just don't hit back!

One of most satisfying ganks I've done was with a shadow priest at Halfhill. I killed him while he was AFK in the inn, which obviously made him mad because he started flying around the inn in a demented search for retribution. I then jumped him down the hill near the river while he was isolated, and he showed his true colours by almost killing me and driving me away. Filled with new-found respect I filed him away under “dangerous opponent” and started ganking other people around him, making sure to CC him whenever possible, or smoke bombing while killing other targets so that he couldn't intervene. I then ran to the market to drink and replenish my health. You can do this in full view of the Horde, because no one wants to aggro the guards. Usually. The shadow priest, perhaps enraged at my cowardice and refusal to engage him in 1v1 combat, decided otherwise and attacked me. His assault forced me to Vanish, but it also aggroed the guards. In order to avoid spawning more NPC guards the shadow priest fled from the market and out into the wild while I watched the combat from the shadows. My respect for this guy increased as I watched him tank, and slowly begin to kill, four NPC guards. I started emoting /cheers and /applause as he killed the guards one by one. Emotes can still be read by players from opposing factions, and he would have known that I was out there close by even if he couldn't see me. The last guard dropped to the ground with the shadow priest at half health and all his major CDs spent. At this point I jumped him, unleashed all my CDs, and killed him.

That priest probably thought that he could have killed me on equal terms, and he would have been right. The fact that he couldn't do it because I wouldn't fight fair or just kept dodging him probably drove him/her nuts, and made me, a grown ass man in his 30's, giggle like a demented school girl. The funny thing is that I have the utmost respect for the WoW PvP ladder – if you have achieved higher ratings than me I consider you a better player than me, no excuses, and no questions asked. The numbers don't lie, especially over time and number of matches played. In world PvP though, I am willing to exploit every dirty, low-down and despicable trick in the book to stay alive and keep ganking. The best response against gankers is to show that you don't care, either by flying off, just continuing about your business, or taking a quick time out. If you stop to retaliate, or swap to an Alliance toon and rant to me in whispers, it just means you have dropped to my level and are playing my game.


Cross Realm Exploits

The advent of cross realm technology has had a number of implications for WoW open world PvP. People who scream bloody murder about being ganked while doing PvE content can now escape to other, more peaceful realms if they are fortunate enough to have a friend on real ID. People can farm across realms – a few weeks ago my friends and I farmed Warbringers across three different servers simply by virtue of switching leads and phasing into the current leader's server. One of the biggest objections to faction imbalance lies in the fact that the minority faction doesn't have access to a similarly sized pool of players to call to for assistance. This is no longer true with cross realm technology – theoretically you now have a region wide pool of players to call upon. The best defence to ganks is having friends, and this is why ganking is a good thing in a virtual world because it encourages socialization and grouping. Speaking from the side of the ganker, people questing in pairs is enough to deter me from attempting a gank, and seems a small price to pay in a place nominally called a massive MULTIPLAYER online world.

Of course cross realm tech is a double-edged sword, and what can work for gankees can work for gankers too. Because world PvP is so meaningless in WoW, gankers who are anti-social by nature are typically loners, operating by themselves. There is no real incentive to create groups, which is why these type of wolf packs are rare. However, if you are an anti-social social like myself, there exists fertile ground to exploit cross realm tech to bring ruin to the unsuspecting inhabitants of Illidan. It involves me making a group with someone in my present guild in Illidan and then inviting a corresponding number of people from my main server (Thorium Brotherhood) to join the group. Cross server technology anchors the party leader in their current realm as long as the number of people from the current realm is equal or more than the number of people pulled from other servers. In simpler terms, if I have myself and another Illidan player in my group I can invite two more people from a different server and keep the group anchored in Illidan. If I wanted to invite three people from a different server I would need to have at least three Illidan players in the raid to keep the raid in Illidan, and so on and so forth. Furthermore, as long as the number of players on Illidan is equal or more than the number of any single group of players from another server you will be able to keep the party/raid in Illidan. For example, if I had three players from Illidan, three from Thorium Brotherhood, two from Tichondrius and one from Darkspear, the raid would remain in Illidan despite having a net aggregate of six non-Illidan players. This is due to the fact that the number of players on Illidan is equal to or more than the any other single group of non-Illidan players within the raid.

Beating a hasty retreat to the bottom of Halfhill. There's a pack of angry Horde at the top of the hill sweeping the area for Mutley and I.


I'm hoping to exploit cross realm tech to bring friends across to Illidan and create stealth groups that can gank two or more targets in a single fight. As a lone ganker I can be a nuisance, but my effectiveness is severely curtailed by the simple expedient of pairing or grouping by the enemy. I'm always under a time crunch at Halfhill because of the number of Horde present in the area. It's pretty easy to dispatch AFKers and unskilled 90s in about 10-15 seconds (less if not in full Grievous), but against experienced players who use their defensive CDs correctly this can go on for much longer. Healers and tanks take exponentially much longer to kill, if at all, depending on gear and skill level, and those classes pretty much get a pass if I chance upon them in Halfhill. If I can bring a friend or two or three along however, the potential for carnage is magnified dramatically and our range of targets increases to encompass everyone.


Preliminary Skirmishes

I tried this out by inviting a boomkin friend of mine over to Illidan, and we ended up having a ball. It seems that while a single rogue is considered an annoyance a pair of Alliance working together are rebel scum that must be exterminated. After a few kills a massive posse of Horde arrived to sweep the area, and massive AOEs rained down in the area around Halfhill. Rain of fire, blizzards, flares, death and decays, typhoons, you name it – the wrath of the old Testament was unleashed around that inn. It's a wonder that it didn't burn to the ground. At one point a lock was systematically sweeping the river that flowed beside Halfhill, exterminating the local fish stock as he called down a rain of fire that eventually traversed a significant section of the waterway. Still, as gankers we kept a close eye on those that strayed a little too far out, and hit them when they were isolated. We were made to pay on a number of occasions, but by in large we were able to keep out of trouble and leave a proportionally large number of skeletal remains around Halfhill. Once again, the biggest threats to us were Heroically PvE geared players. One on one a Heroically geared player can kill another player wearing full Grievous in about 4-5 seconds. The only defense against those guys was to either avoid them or CC them out while we killed their more vulnerable comrades then getting the hell out of there before retribution could be brought to bear. Not the most honourable way of fighting, but it was the only option we had, and besides, we're gankers – we have no honour. If there had been a clear opportunity to get a good 2v1 against one of these guys we would have taken it, but we never could find the time and space to have a go – there were always too many Horde about during the session we played.

This lock is Heroically PvE geared and is a major threat in world PvP. Heroically geared players can kill players in full Grievous in 4-5 seconds. Season 15 is coming in a fortnight, however, and soon the wheel will turn once again in favour of the PvPers.


In the future I'm hoping to bring at least a posse of three stealth gankers back to Halfhill and record the ensuing battles for blogging posterity. In the past my guild used to pick fights on Thorium Brotherhood by taking a 10 man raid to Orgrimmar, camping in the entrance tunnel, and timing how long it took before the Horde finally dug us out and wiped us. We were able to get the City Attacker achievement by continually attacking the Horde capital this way, but once we had the achievement our guild lost interest in coming back. I don't know why I'm even bothering attacking Halfhill, because we don't even have the veneer of hunting achievements to justify the organizational cost. Unfortunately in the absence of strategic objectives, factional relevance or jeopardy this is as good as it gets. I think I give WoW too much of a hard time about not having meaningful world PvP - WoW is just not the game I want it to be, and it's not its fault. I don't think it has ever advertised itself as a world PvP game the way Dark Age of Camelot, EVE and Darkfall have done, so really all my whinging and whining is akin to me staring at a cat wishing it was a dog and bitching because it isn't. WoW is a game of many parts, but it is primarily PvE, with a robust, competitive but disconnected ladder PvP competition on the side. Open world PvP is meaningless, unbalanced and just an afterthought. My rogue's dilemma and search for purpose has almost become an existential one, and she wanders a world devoid of meaning, filling her time with brief encounters with strangers that end in grief for one or both of them.

"Why in God's name are you a cat instead of a DOG?!?"


Bloody hell, that's a little too close to home for my liking.

1 comment:

  1. PvE player here, one who really dislikes PvP - however I do quite enjoy reading your exploits while being outnumbered on that server. Looking forward to your next post. :P

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