Tuesday, May 20, 2008

How to Fix Arena

Okay. I always preface my discussions on PvP by saying that I’m not Gladiator Billy, and I’m not. But with all the recent confusion and crying over the proposed arena rating changes and point distribution changes, there seems to me to be a pretty easy fix: just base win and loss point rewards solely on gear.

There are exactly two things a player brings to the table in Arena: Skill and Gear. Skill takes place outside of the computer (it’s the person driving), and therefore can’t be reliably used in the equation. That leaves Gear, and it's really the only thing Blizzard can nail to the wall and point at once the last person is left standing at the end of a match.

Before we go too far, let’s take a look at the core problems of arena point distribution, and some Blue Posts regarding them.

First of all, we have the very concept of arena point distribution. Points are awarded during Tuesday maintenance for your arena rankings. This used to be based on your arena score alone, and you had people joining 2200 teams without ever having played a game in order to amass arena points for the week. This had the inherent limitation that you had to actually take place in the fights; however, even if you sucked horribly, you could be rotated into one winning team’s roster for three games of suckage in a week, and still get the team points on Tuesday.

Along came rating requirements in order to purchase arena gear. You needed 1800 team rating to buy shoulders or whatever. The same principle applied; a loser could be carried to better gear than he could achieve on his own. Then personal ratings came along. If one guy only gets rotated in for losing matches… that is, he drags the team down every match he partakes in, but the team still excels when he’s not playing, then his personal rating goes to crap while the team rating still stays high.

Win Trading came along (well, came to the forefront, it was always there), as a way for losing players to still get gear they didn’t deserve. They had buddies make scrub alt teams, queue up at 4am, and throw games over and over to get Scrubby Joe’s rating up to acceptable levels to buy gear.

Now Blizzard has “solved” the problem of win trading by implementing limits to disparities between team and personal ratings. Again, just for clarification: if I joined a 2200 ranked arena team today, I’d still have a personal rating of 1500. I didn’t help that team achieve their ranking, so I won’t be able to bask in the rewards entitled to a 2200 team (the ability to purchase S3 shoulders).

Blizzard CM Bornakk chimes in with the following:

There has been some confusion regarding the changes to Arena Team and Personal rating calculations in patch 2.4.2 for those players with 100% participation on their team so we’d like to clarify how the system works now.

The adjustment to a team’s personal rating can vary based on the average personal rating of the other team while team ratings will always adjust based directly on the team rating of the other team. If the average personal rating of the players queuing for a game is more than 150 points below the team’s rating, the team will be queued against an opponent matching or similar to the average personal rating. Adjustments to your personal rating are based on the ratings by which the opposing team was queued.

  • If the opposing team was queued based on their team rating, your personal rating will be adjusted based on their team rating.
  • If the opposing team was queued based on their average personal rating, your personal rating will be adjusted based on their average personal rating.


  • Team A has a rating of 1550. Team B has a rating of 1750.
  • Team A has an average personal rating of 1520 for the members participating in the match. Team B has an average personal rating of 1490 for the members participating in the match.
  • Team A wins. Team A’s team rating is adjusted based off of a win over Team B’s team rating of 1750.
  • All members of Team A have their personal ratings adjusted based off of a win over Team B’s average personal rating of 1490 but it will be a smaller gain when compared to the rating their team got.

This change promotes having teams compete against players who’s ratings statistically match up best against them. In turn this will help provide the most competitive environment possible in the Arena.

The inherent flaw here is that personal ratings are able to be reset at will, by leaving and rejoining the same team. A 3v3 team can grind up to 1700, facing similarly geared opponents along the way (lol, that never actually happens, but we’re theorycrafting!), then have two players quit the team and be re-invited instantly. The team’s personal rating readjusts to a lower level. This is “Team B” in the example illustrated above by the Blizzard Representative himself: a 1700 team with a (self inflicted) personal rating of 1500 or so.

Even if Team A, and honest to god 1550 rated team somehow pulls off a victory against the 1700 team, they only receive a fraction of the PERSONAL rating they would have received. Even if they continue to grind against opponents in this same situation, by the time their TEAM rating is high enough to purchase weapons (1850+), their PERSONAL rating is still too low to buy the items, because they’ve faced re-joiners along the way.

There’s the flipside, of course… why would the members from Team A rejoin in the first place? Because of the one team member that stayed behind. His personal rating remains unaffected, and he has the added bonus of being a 1700 rating player, now going up against 1550 rated teams. Those are easy victories with the help of his two teammates. He will not gain points as quickly for each victory, but the chances of losing are all but eliminated by playing the lower bracketed opponents. He’s essentially being carried to points.

Think about it, he needs forty more points. Do you think he really cares if he gets them as 4x10 instead of 8x5, assuming the ten matches awarding 4 points each are shoe-ins?

My solution to this is to base rating awards on gear. People would try to be sneaky about it, so in order to avoid "queueing up in LOLgreens, then switching to S8 gear", make it based on all gear in you bags and on your body at the time of the win. Obviously, it would require a trip to the bank before you run arena for the night, but professional athletes don't do the superbowl wearing sweats and tennis shoes. They get ready for it beforehand. Besides, a trip to the bank to eliminate trying to hit 1600 "for real", and getting rolled by teams in full S3? Worth it.

The game already uses iLevels for in game items. Kara gear is typically 115 to 125 iLevel, with Heroic loots being in the 110 to 115 range. Black Temple gear gets up to around 14x I think, and the Arena gears are tailored to match that. Season 3 is pretty much on par, iLevel-wise, with TK / SSC / Hyjal gear.

Add up the gear levels for everyone on the team, divide it by two for 2v2, three for 3v3, and five for 5v5, and award team rating based on how much of a clear advantage they had over the other team. Do you really think people would begin to run arenas in green “… of stamina” gear? Let them! A good Mortal Strike would tear through that gear like a knife through hot butter.

If you need an influx of points, and think you’re good enough, try beating a season three team wearing dungeon blues. Scrub teams that have one ridiculously geared healer trying to keep up a noob in greens is going to have a hard time no matter how fast they can heal. Likewise, a Tier72 warrior with a druid in greens isn’t going to win against two “decently geared” toons ripping his buddy to shreds before coming for the 2v1 on him.

As I said in one of the first paragraphs, there are exactly two things you bring to the table in PvP: Skill and Gear. The skill cannot be quantified. Win trading defeats this, and will always exist in one form or another. People will find their way around it no matter what. Gear is the only other way to judge a handicap. Yes, people could buy gold and craft the most uber duber set of gear, but that’s out of control. Everyone has that option, so at least there’s equal footing. Anyone can be dragged along to Illidan kills and get a set of Glaives, but the points they would earn for destroying scrubs in battleground honor gear would be trivial.

The only other real option would be to eliminate gear completely, and just have uniform sets distributed to arena players (which is exactly what they did on the tournament realm, surprise surprise). Until that becomes the norm, I believe this would be the “fairest” way to go about it. People could handicap themselves if they were looking for a challenge (by downgrading their gear), or a “Hi Lo” team would be matched against a “2 Medium” team for even competition.

As an added benefit, this would also tie in nicely to another topic I feel is pretty silly, the complete polarization of PvE and PvP. I think if you can put on a set of tier 6 gear, you should be able to walk up to the arena vendor and buy S4 shoulders. Your Personal iLevel Rating would be high enough to prove you are that “caliber of gear” worthy. People in full s4 should likewise be able to walk up to the badge vendor and grab a set of Tier 6 gear in case they want to go run a raid. Tying the two halves of the game together just gives more people ready incentive to try “the other half” of the game without wanting to slam their face in a car door for even entertaining that notion.

Then again, maybe I’m just crazy.

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