Spoilers after the cut.
Okay, time to write another blog about gaming/streaming culture. It’s a sidebar to the massive number of people (mostly men, but yes, also women) being accused of harassment, sexual harassment, sexual assault, and other such life-ruining actions. One thing I’ve noticed through reading these stories – and I have chosen to read so many in order to inform myself of whom to watch out for and what sort of behaviors to be on guard against – is the fact that almost every. single. story. included overindulgence in alcohol at industry events or the accused having used alcohol as a coping mechanism. A few mentioned controlled substances, but I imagine this is going on far more than is reported simply because you can’t actually publicly advertise your convention party having cocaine at it.
I have some hard thinking to do. If you’re not following @JessyQuil’s thread of women courageously speaking their truth about predatory men in the gaming industry (and streamers), you should.
Fair warning, there are spoilers for content up to and including 8.2.5 in this blog.
So, World of Warcraft abolished PVP servers in Battle for Azeroth. It was a smart move in one respect, because the legions of players who felt trapped on PVP servers where all their friends were could now level in peace. In its place, Blizzard created War Mode, a more formalized method to join open-world PVP than simply telling people to flag for it. New PVP skills that can be used in the open world are tied into it, and it can only be enabled from Stormwind or Orgrimmar. Initially, it could only be disabled from those places, but as of Patch 8.1.0, players can disable it from any rest point such as a tavern. The five-minute cooldown for unflagging still applies.
To encourage players to voluntarily enable War Mode, Blizzard has incentivized it beyond adding these new PVP skills. Both factions get a flat 10% increase in XP or Azerite rewards as well as various buffs for successfully killing a certain number of players of the opposite faction. There are also air drops that appear that players can fight over and the winning faction can then loot a piece of gear for a short period of time afterwards.
Here’s where it breaks down a little bit. Horde players have frequently enabled War Mode in far greater numbers than Alliance, causing Blizzard to add special incentives that are currently Alliance-only, although technically they would be available for Horde if the balance was the other way around. First, there is a 120 quest that rewards gear for killing a certain number of opposing players, and secondly and far more interestingly is an additional 20% XP/Azerite bonus for a total of 30% for players of the underpopulated faction in War Mode. We don’t know what the criteria are for activating these additional incentives, but it’s caused consternation on social media.
Now, the thing to understand is the fact that most people know when you flag for PVP, you get what you’re asking for, and there’s a decades-long culture of ganking lowbies. It happens. Blizzard doesn’t really consider that griefing, even if one faction camps the other’s graveyards for hours at a stretch. There are stories of some people being banned for that behavior, citing the ToS about being too disruptive to others’ gameplay, but considering the much larger numbers of individuals and groups that have done these things for years with zero consequences, such stories of bans are the exception and not the rule. It’s also likely the bans happened for reasons other than what the player or their friends claim they were banned for.
So, many folks who would opt into War Mode for the XP gains are likely people who are leveling alts for racial heritage armor, because those quests are not available to boosted characters – a bit rude to players who paid for boosts with real money by the way. There might be some first-timers, but I would guess that most of the folks doing lowbie leveling are veteran players, so they know what PVP culture is and what the expectations are. And sure, it’s not hard to expect that some bored high-level characters would camp lowbies in leveling zones just like the old days with PVP servers. However, things are different now.
For years, there have always been accusations of Blizzard being biased toward either of the factions, with folks in the argument citing every nitpicky detail they could, and I even included a segment about how the Alliance got treated unfairly with regards to their first Allied Races in my review of Legion and look-ahead to BfA. Since War Mode became a thing, these accusations increased in frequency because of Corner Crossing. This is a max-level Horde quest that has players tracking down news of the escaped Varok Saurfang by disguising themselves as a little human girl, their Dark Ranger companion as an adult human female, and questioning the locals in Redridge Mountains between the Inn and the tower at Three Corners. Great story, quite interesting if you’re Horde. In theory, players would go through the quest objectives, complete it and continue on, and Redridge goes back to its usual behavior.
What I have observed over the past few months is that Horde players will hang onto that specific quest, camp the corridor between the inn and tower, and repeatedly gank the level 20ish Alliance characters trying to level. I’ve personally been ganked multiple times as multiple lowbies over the space of a week by the same exact Horde player, so it’s definitely not personal, and it’s not just yet another random Horde player passing through while doing their quest – although there are still lots of those too. A single Horde player can tie up leveling for every Alliance player in the zone for hours if they were that bored like that first guy.
I must be perfectly clear here. I do not object to the basic understanding that turning on War Mode means I’m agreeing to be ganked, nor am I angry because some bored 120 can see me riding away as fast as I can as a level 25 and will hop on their flying mount, race over to me, and kill my character before my slow mount can help me escape. That’s open world PVP in any other zone. And Alliance will gank Horde just the same if the situations were reversed, and have done so in the past. No argument, no discussion. I understand the philosophy of PVPing, but that’s not the point of any of this.
My point is that Blizzard plopped a max-level Horde quest in an Alliance-primary lowbie leveling zone and didn’t create a similar quest for the Alliance in a Horde leveling zone. Simple as that.
Alliance players wouldn’t be complaining and opting out of War Mode quite as much regardless of how large the XP incentive is if Blizzard had given them something equivalent in return. Blizzard has been around the block enough to have known as soon as they came up with the idea for the Horde quest that this would happen (and would happen if it was an Alliance quest as well, let’s be brutally honest here, you’d do it too). They could have easily made it so that Horde couldn’t attack Alliance while they were disguised as Alliance during this quest, because they use this kind of flagging tech in so many other quests in the game. The only real conclusion here is that it’s working as intended and thus it adds ammunition to arguments that Blizzard has Horde bias. Not that there really needed to be any thoughts otherwise, considering their iconic tourist photo-op location on-campus is the orc statue.
So, right now, if you’re Alliance trying to level a lowbie but want to at least mitigate some of the risks of being ganked in Redridge, these are your alternatives:
- Turn War Mode off and deal with the slog to get your heritage armor with regular XP
- Try to level in other zones regardless of whether addons like Azeroth Auto Pilot recommends Redridge
- Try leveling when it’s super early or super late for your region’s players to be around (remember: sharding means it’s not based on your specific server anymore)
- Ignore PVPers who use abusive/bullying speech
Ultimately, opting into PVP right now in WoW is opening yourself to ganking by anyone from the opposite faction regardless of level. A player isn’t weak for simply not wanting to deal with the hassle and level up in peace and save PVP for battlegrounds, capital raids/defense, or for those occasional quests that require PVP (Children’s Week, anyone?). Thankfully, those players who were trapped on the former PVP servers can escape by turning War Mode off. At the end of the day, it’s up to you as the player to decide how you want to level.
In just two weeks from today, the latest expansion of World of Warcraft will be unleashed upon the world… assuming the servers don’t catch on fire or angry gamers don’t DDoS Blizzard. Battle for Azeroth returns the game back to the main story of the Warcraft franchise, the conflict between the Alliance and the Horde.
Legion is by many accounts the most successful WoW expansion, although there is still much strong nostalgia for both vanilla and Wrath of the Lich King. However, when I comb through my social media to see how players rate Legion, on the whole it seems more positive than negative when compared to expansions other than Wrath. Unlike previous expansions, Blizzard spaced out its content and added new facets to the story along the way, so players didn’t have to spend half of its two-year life cycle complaining about content drought as happened with Warlords of Draenor.
This blog serves to both discuss the amazing thing the LotRO community and others did for me recently, and also to serve as a means of accountability. As a sometime game journalist, ethics and transparency and disclosure are all important to me, and I believe it fair and just to report to those who contributed to the kindness especially financially to know exactly how their money was spent.
Before I get into the actual story, I should provide full disclosure of bias here. I’m on the official LotRO stream team and am privileged to be friends with a couple of the devs at Standing Stone Games. That being said…
I’ve been a Lord of the Rings fan since I was in single digits *mumblemumble* years ago. I was ‘forced’ to read The Hobbit when I was in school, and the teacher of course mentioned LotR, saying it was a bit more mature reading (not as happy/playful as The Hobbit). I remember the school library having two versions of the trilogy on hand: a large hardcover edition featuring nifty fold-out maps and the paperbacks featuring the amazing realistic art by the sadly late Darrell K. Sweet. Fun fact: Darrell K. Sweet’s art was also on the cover of the edition of Elfstones of Shannara where I originally derived my nom de plume of Druidsfire. I also went back years later and found used copies of that original paperback edition of LotR but never found reasonably-priced versions of the hardcover edition.
BlizzCon 2017 has to have been perhaps the most legendary and satisfying convention I’ve attended in recent years, if not ever. The highs were stratospheric but the lows were relatively minor.
There is a banner hanging in the Standing Stone Games studio, a gift from the LotRO Stream Team to the developers for the launch of Lord of the Rings Online‘s Mordor expansion. This is a blog detailing its creation for those who might be curious.