WoW has long suffered due to Blizzards futile attempts to balance both PvE and PvP at the same time. Certain classes have been left overpowered or underpowered in PvP due to PvE reasons; the reverse was also true in BC and Wrath. This outright refusal to balance both aspects of the game separately has lead to the brewing of resentment between the PvE and PvP communities. It’s also one of the core reasons—if not the core reason—behind Blizzard’s backward fixes that fail to tackle the real issues. Indeed, Cataclysm’s move away from the PvP spec model has had devastating results in the form of utility nerfs, a path the game cannot afford to go down. Blizzard needs to balance PvE and PvP separately for the betterment of the game.
In BC and, to a slightly lesser extent, Wrath, Blizzard balanced PvP partly via the PvP Spec Model and PvP only talents. Certain classes had one spec that was PvP viable. For example, Frost Mages and Arms Warriors were considered PvP specs by Blizzard and they had little to no concern about increasing their viability in PvE. Furthermore, there were certain talents that were considered PvP only talents and some of them were mandatory in PvP. While Mutilate Rogues and Subtlety were both viable for Rogues, they both required Preparation to be viable. Blizzard could tweak these PvP only specs or talents without adversely affecting PvE.
In Wrath the ‘every class should be viable’ pipe dream started to raise its ugly little head. However, Blizzard still continued with the PvP spec model for the most part. In fact, they came up with clever solutions to give certain PvP specs PvE viability such as Glyph of Eternal Water which made a Water Elemental permanent, but removed Freeze.
The problem with this model is that while it allowed Blizzard to tackle some of the real issues, it didn’t allow them to tackle them all. Furthermore, in Wrath and TBC Blizzard were willing to compromise. Where necessary they would nerf abilities or talents for PvP reasons even if it had a negative PvE impact. This is something they’ve strayed away from in Cataclysm or at least since 4.2. However, these types of changes create resentment between the PvE and PvP communities. One area of the game gets screwed over for the other. It’s not a good system.
In Cataclysm Blizzard moved away from the PvP spec model. Instead they’ve started moving down a very dangerous path that has the potential to shroud the game in mediocrity. Instead of fixing real class issues in PvP, they’ve instead started to wage war on utility. From Intercept, Spell Reflect, Grounding Totem, Wind Shear and others, Blizzard has nerfed utility where healing or damage potential is the real issue. The problem with this is that utility is at the heart of PvP. Without utility PvP would be nothing but a zerg fest without skill.
While the above is true about Cataclysm, there was one change that gave us a glimmer of hope:
Colossus Smash now ignores 50% of a hostile player’s armor (PvP), but continues to ignore 100% of a non-player character’s armor (PvE).
This was the single greatest change in Cataclysm. It appeared Blizzard had finally come to their senses and were going to balance both aspects of the game separately. Unfortunately, this didn’t become a common occurrence and Blizzard went back to their war on utility.
From Crowd Control, Colossus Smash, Taunt, Distract, Deep Freeze and others, there are many examples of abilities behaving in different ways on enemy players. Blizzard is clearly able to distinguish between an ability hitting a monster and one hitting a player. By balancing abilities separately for PvE and PvP, Blizzard would have the ability to fix real class issues and keep both aspects of the game engaging. Rather than roundabout fixes or unrelated nerfs, Blizzard would be able to hit the mark directly. This is the single greatest change they could make in terms of balance and there’s no reason whatsoever for them not to do so.
One of the most common arguments against this balance separation is that it’d be confusing for new players. However, with CC and abilities like Colossus Smash in the game, this argument does very little to convince. Furthermore, the ability “Dragon Punch” doing 5000 damage against monsters and 3500 against players isn’t a difficult concept to understand. Indeed, to understand this concept a player need only be able to distinguish between a monster and a player.
While it’s possible to distinguish between a monster and a player, healers are always healing players. There’s no distinguishing factor Blizzard could use to lessen the effect of say Penance in PvP, while keeping it the same in PvE. It’s certainly much more of a tricky issue then damaging abilities or straight out utility.
One solution to this could be to flag for PvP environment. That is to say, when a player is in what’s considered a PvP environment, their healing abilities would use different coefficients where necessary. PvP environments would include Arena, Battleground, Rated Battlegrounds, outdoor Arenas and even Duels. This certainly would take more work then balancing damage abilities for PvE and PvP. We have, however, seen Blizzard increase certain abilities before based on environment, such as absorbs with the ICC buff. In fact, this flag for PvP method would allow Blizzard to balance other abilities separately as well. For example, if Shield Wall was considered balanced in PvE, but too weak in PvP, Blizzard could have it be stronger in a PvP environment.
Whether that suggestion is ideal or not, Blizzard needs to think of a way to be able to balance healing abilities separately for PvE and PvP. It’s not something that should be ignored or deemed too logistical to solve because it’s a change that needs to be made for the betterment of the game.
Over in part four of my Blizzard’s Total Disregard for PvP post, I wrote what Blizzard’s response should be, and this was part of it:
Unfortunately, separating all abilities for PvE and PvP is impossible for us at this time. However, we do have a solution. We will begin separating the abilities for both PvE and PvP when an issue arises. For example, if we find a particular ability doing too much damage or healing in PvP, but find it balanced in PvE, we will nerf that ability in PvP, but leave it unaffected in PvE.
We believe this will add up over time and allow us to balance the game more freely without worrying about one area of the game adversely affecting the other.
We will most likely separate all abilities in the next expansion. For now, this is the workable solution we will use.
Separating all abilities for PvE and PvP is not necessary. In fact it would be a logistical nightmare for Blizzard. Instead they should continue with what they did for Colossus Smash. If Plague Strike was doing far too much damage in PvP, Blizzard would simply reduce the damage it does against players and leave it unaffected in PvE. This would leave both communities with the confidence that Blizzard would act where an issue arises. They’d have the freedom to act without the fear of adversely affecting one area of the game for another.
This one issue is by far the greatest move Blizzard could make in terms of balance. It would remove any restraint from fixing balance issues in both PvE and PvP. Furthermore, it would stop the danger of this current trend of nerfing utility in favour of fixing real issues. While it might be tricky in terms of healing, Blizzard should still start working under this method in terms of damage until they think up an adequate solution for balancing healing separately. Finally, the idea this would be confusing for new players is easily solved with the knowledge of what a player is and what a monster is. There’s no good reason why this change should not be made. It really is for the betterment of the game.