WoW’s War Mode: Gankers Gonna Gank

I like PvP, I really do. I'm literally a product of the Dark Age of Camelot era where PvP was, in my humble opinion, at its best. Yet I'm struggling to come to terms with WoW's up and coming War Mode.

War Mode essentially allows you to toggle PvP on or off, and in doing so shards your character only with players who have made the same choice. Regardless of whether you're on a PvE or PvP server, you'll only be around those who similarly opt in or out.

Cool. That's essentially no different than me choosing to play on a PvE server.

Well, it's a little more complicated than that.


War Mode has a few bonuses for players who choose to flag themselves.

Not only do you get 4 honor talents to use during ALL world content, but you also get +15% increased experience while leveling and an extra 10% reward in World Quests.

That's a huge incentive!

To make things less of a "one-shot" fest, player scaling is now a thing. That means a level 110 could potentially fight and win against a level 120. I'll stop laughing as I think back to all the previous MMOs that tried this and failed miserably, and try to pretend it works for the sake of discussion.

Putting characters on a more even playing field in terms of their on-paper stats doesn't address ganking. For my purposes, ganking is someone initiating PvP against someone who doesn't want to PvP, in a moment where it's more opportune for the attacker. 

If I'm questing, I don't want a rogue stunlocking me, or a group of people steamrolling me while I'm trying to finish this world boss. 

I think the enticements should have been rethought. I think +15% exp and +10% bonus to WQs combined with having access to 4 (well, 3) good talents is too big of a reward.

Then there's the idea that this somehow helps the "faction war" make more sense. No, it doesn't. The faction war stopped making sense when the story stopped making sense. 

When I play a themepark game that literally (for over 12 years) has segmented PvPers into their own little arenas and given the middle fingers to world PvP -- one where I have no chose but to PvE in a quest-grind fashion -- I don't want to mix my PvP and PvE. They don't go together in this game.

I guess you can put me into that camp of whiny people saying, "Let world PvP die already, Blizzard. It's rubbish."

Here's a video that explains a lot of it, though he takes the other side. It should start at the correct time stamp.

My summary:

  • Rewarding players for turning on PvP is an indirect penalty for PvE'rs like me
  • The rewards are too one-sided against carebears like me
  • Scaling won't deter ganking
  • Yes, zones will be a $%(#-fest at launch
  • This doesn't help my immersion in a faction war in any way
  • Not sure I’m following this. I don’t know how WoW handled it in the past but PvP shards in other MMOs have generally had a significant xp boost to offset the inevitable brake put on leveling by other players trying to kill you. As you say, the elective nature of this sorting hat system means PvP players will be lumped together with PvE players able to ignore their antics (not sure about how it affects the age-old WoW issue of killing questgivers and service NPCs but that was a thing back when I played on a pure PvE shard anyway).

    As for the extent of the “advantage”, if this was a new MMO, with everyone starting at Level 1 and fifty levels to go then perhaps it would be an issue but isn’t the leveling game famously dead in WoW? How long are people expecting the 10 new levels to take? A day for some, a week for most? 15% of “who cares” is still “who cares”, isn’t it?

    As for the 10% bonus to quest rewards, is that xp too? Or gold? Reputation? Either way, does it matter? You can’t get 10% more Breastplate or Boots so the item rewards must be identical, surely?

    I’m not saying it sounds like a great system. I’m sure you’re right that the supposed scaling will be useless for creating a level playing field. It sounds more like a ‘meh’ mechanic that most people can safely ignore, though. Of course you’re probably right in that min-max PvErs will feel psychologically compelled to flag up because that’s how min-maxers operate and every Blizzard-basher who likes to complain will have a handy stick to beat the devs with, but for someone who just wants to play solo or with friends and enjoy the content, will it really make any diference?

    • Until now there has literally been zero bonuses to being on a PvP server or having PvP toggled on.

      Also according to blizzard the people with war mode toggled on will be on an entirely different server shard from people who don’t have it on – it can only be toggled on or off in a capital city. But I’m reading that the existing pvp flag function is still in so players can still flag themselves to kill NPCs. I haven’t had that issue on a pve server so far in legion.

    • It won’t make a difference for someone who just wants to play.

      I fall into that category that doesn’t want to miss out. The 15% exp would be nice, but I can live without it. if it takes someone 10 hours to get level 120, then it’ll take me 11.5 hours. Oh well. It’s maybe the 10% WQ bonuses that bother me most. That’s a bonus to AP, Gold, EXP, Resources? I don’t know yet, but that would bug me.

      • But if it takes you 11.5 hours, it will only take the PvP’er 10 hours if he magically manages to avoid EVER being slowed down by gankings and other PvP shenanigans during that 10 hour period. How likely is that?

  • background info: I play on a pvp server cause my friends do, I dislike pvp and never participate in it. In the server, there are literally 3 places where you see pvp: Karazhan, portal to outlands, and very sometimes by bored people at a raid entrance.

    I think this promotion of pvp will die because it does not actually promote pvp, the rewards for killing regular people are incredibly low (1 conquest point), and the only viable reward is to hunt people who killed 10 others without dieing (25 conquest points). You need 1000+ CP to get 1 item, it is just not profitable. My prediction is that people will just be in pvp mode for the rewards and keep ignoring others.

    About the scaling: The reason most scaling fails is because higher levels tend to have more abilities unlocked. Because 120 does not give anything extra that one does not apply. Current beta reports are that scaling is working well, and 110s kill 120 as easily as the other way around.

    Zones are always a shitfest at launch unless you play pve server, that is still possible. The rewards are only for WQ (at the moment) which you don’t get, and the experience is irrelevant unless you are going for world first.

    But the biggest thing to take home is: The +xp and +rewards from WQ are both pretty low. Through the full 110->120 route the xp might save you two hours. The bonus from WQ means you can do 10 for the price of 11. The thing you have to remember is, these are not rewards, these are compensations to equal the return of investment considering time lost by pvp deaths. You don’t have to mix pvp and pve, both will most likely be roughly equally efficient, unless nobody engages in pvp with warmode on, in which case you can turn it on as well without any negatives.

    PS: about the immersion, I find it amusing you want more faction conflict without actual conflict between the players of the faction. Yes, I understand it is not the same thing, you want story but not activities, but it still amuses me.

    • Well I’m glad you’re amused. 😛 Yes, I want to story but not the pitiful attempts at world PvP Blizzard conjures up to go along with it. 😉 They can show me the PvP in the cutscenes!

      The WQ bonuses last beyond just leveling, right? So over time that 10% bonus starts to lead to bigger rewards. If it’s all only while leveling, well then who cares? No big deal. I’ll get over it.

  • i think the better way to look at it is that the bonuses aren’t really bonuses, they’re just stopgaps to prevent players that turn on PVP from falling too far behind due to PVP related deaths… if there were nothing to dampen the blow of PVP deaths at all, nobody would turn on PVP… at least not in this day in age… back in vanilla people did things for fun… today, they need incentives to do anything, so i think it’s wise of blizzard to do this considering their existing audience.

    • Personally, I think 15% exp and 10% WQ bonuses are a bit much to dampen the blow of PvP deaths. I don’t want to be engaged in PvP when I’m questing — questing is bad enough as it is, I don’t need someone messing with me while I’m trying to stomach it.

      World PvP was pretty cool back in the Hillsbrad days. It was fun just because. But if I didn’t want to engage in that PvP, I simply went somewhere else.

  • You left out the bounty system, wherein as you kill more players you have a higher and higher chance of a bounty being placed on your head. When you get a bounty it is announced to the zone and will appear on the map for a reward.

    Personally, as someone who who used to play on PvP servers because I like world PvP at times but switched to PvE because I couldn’t turn it off, the mere existence of the toggle is huge. Beyond that, they are experimenting with incentives for non-gankers turn it on and I don’t think its a big deal.

    For the sake of discussion, do you have the same issue with exp bonuses or penalties for certain classes/races in EQ? Why should I be “penalized” because I don’t want to play a halfling?

    • Thanks for reminding me about the bounty system. I wrote this late last night while half asleep.

      The bounty system does seem cool.

      And yes, I do think exp bonuses/penalties for races are dumb at times. I wasn’t a fan of halflings getting exp bonuses, or shadow knights getting penalties. I never felt like an SK was powerful enough to justify the penalty, nor do I feel like they should be made strong enough to justify that. It’s a balancing act that only lasts while you’re leveling, therefore imho impossible to balance around.

  • Consider this an exercise in your new way of trying to play WoW. Don’t worry about min-maxing or what other people are doing. So you’ll progress 10-15% more slowly than someone with War Mode turned on. Why does it matter, really? What is your goal? If you want to play WoW and be happy you need to be comfortable seeing other people pass you in progression.

    Alternatively, I’d say it’s a very safe bet to turn War Mode on while leveling to 120 at the beginning of the expansion. For the first time ever the Horde and Alliance have completely separate questing continents. The likelihood of encountering members of the opposite faction while leveling will be extremely low, especially at the beginning of the expansion while people are focused on leveling up and getting geared.

    • That’s a good point. If the leveling really is separated for a significant period of time, then this system is yet again another failed attempt to make world pvp matter.

      You’re right. I think I can totally ignore the exp bonus. I’ll grumble about the 10% WQ bonus if it means losing out on resources that add up, but can still probably get over it.

      I might be most dissatisfied with not having the talents, but again can get over it.

      Now something I HADN’T thought of until just now is whether or not I can play with any of my friends. If my friends turn theirs on, but I turn mine off…. can we not quest together?

      • I do agree about the PvP talents being the biggest issue. I’m in the BfA beta and have been messing around with different classes. For some specs, those “PvP” talents are very good for PvE. It can really change your playstyle.

        It’s also a good point about playing with friends. My understanding is that you will NOT be able to play with people whose PvP mode is opposite yours. It’s essentially a new server divide – PvP and PvE mode players won’t even be playing on the same server shard.

      • Ugh… that’s what I feared. I also heard the PvP talents are good for PvE. I don’t have beta to try it out though.

        Grumble… this is going to be annoying if I can’t play with friends.

      • I suppose the silver lining re: friends would be that nothing is actually changing from the present – you are already separated from friends based on PvE or PvP server types. It’s always been that way.

        In fact, you might argue that the system is an improvement in that regard because you can simply toggle the system on or off in Stormwind at any time.

      • I was thinking the same thing Audioshaman. Grumbling about this because it’s separating you from your friends is nonsense – it’s actually removing a roadblock to grouping up with friends who previously only wanted to play on PvP servers.

        And honestly when has PVE ever been hard (recently) one WoW? Complaining about a small skill advantage is useless given there have always been class balance issues with every new expansion and class introduction.

      • Wait, how it it nonsense? Unless I’m misunderstanding something?

        If my PvE server friends flag themselves for War Mode (which they will), and I don’t, then can we group together and play? If not, then that is DEFINITELY a change in how the servers work right now.

        And giving a character abilities that are an advantage in PvE by flagging for PvP isn’t something to shrug off and claim “oh well the game has always had balance issues.” THAT is nonsense.

  • How do you judge that the XP and world quest benefits are “too big of a reward”?

    You seem to be predicting that if you actually try to level and quest with PvP turned on, you’ll get interrupted by gankings. Meanwhile, the person doing the ganking isn’t leveling and questing.

    So I’m struggling to see who is actually getting a big reward here? Rewarding players for turning on PvP isn’t an indirect penalty for PvE’rs if the people who turn on PvP are still leveling slower than you!

    • PvP that would impact me would only happen in a PvE area, and I’d assume it would happen while we meet up in an area where they can get exp and I would be getting exp. Therefore, as it has happened to me for 5+ years when I played on PvP servers, we’d come to a quest area/objective, they’d kill me, then complete their quest.

      This may be a non-issue if the leveling zones are 100% separate… but then that seems to negate any and all purpose of having PvP enabled and adding an exp bonus, but Blizzard has been known to make stupid world PvP decisions before.

  • Not watched the video and read all the contents yet, will do, but until then I’ll just let you know that the reignited faction war is exactly why I got interested in the coming expansion and decided to come back into wow.
    I hate the alliance and have since I started playing the game, I hated that we had to “unite our forces against a common evil” in previous expansions, all alliance must die, always.
    I hate being ganked as much as anyone else, but it’s part of living in a world at war.

    As for the pvp incentives being too much, I don’t know, your progress when pvp enabled will most likely be severely hampered by frequent pvp encounters, so it might just balance out nicely, hard to put a number on how much is right though.

    • I like the faction war too. Always have. I like it from a story point of view, though, not necessarily being ganked while participating in my skinner box. 😉

  • Didn’t DAOC have the same mechanic where you could level faster in the frontier than you could ‘in safety?” The justification used in WOW is that the extra experience is supposed to make up for the loss of leveling speed due to ganking.

    You can opt out and level faster in peace without interruption or you can opt in and level faster because of the buff…in the end…there may not be any “faster” leveling and even if there is…it could end up being faster for either the opt in or opt out crowd and it may only be faster by a few percentage points.

    Keen – you have been writing about risk v. reward for years and advocating for its application in other situations. Why is this suddenly different for you where you think you would be at a disadvantage for not accepting more risk and getting more reward for it? it seems contrary to your usual philosophy.

    • DAOC’s frontiers were an opt-in risk where you physically went somewhere and hoped no one was around. While on paper they check similar boxes, I see them as separate gameplay experiences. DAOC was also a PvP game, but not an open-world pvp game.

      Risk vs. Reward as I always talk about it rarely if ever has a PvP component. Risk vs. Reward in PvE leads to deeper gameplay, whereas the risk vs. reward here is simply hoping someone doesn’t come along and gank you out of your control.

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