Max Level PVP:
Is the Barrier to Entry too High?
Recently ranked PvP has seen a marked drop in participation. While some of it can be attributed to an unpopular meta, the matching system and the attitudes that are sometimes attributed to the arena a lot of the drop in participation can also be attributed to a lack of players coming into the system. This article will explore some of the reasons why the influx of new PvPers has slowed to a trickle and some suggestions to reverse the trend.
What are some Barriers to Entry?
Ranked PvP is the most competitive experience available in wizard 101 outside of Central Tournaments. Participants expecting to simply jump into PvP after PvE are in for a culture shock. Not only are the dynamics of PvP drastically different from PvE but players will be facing stats they are not at all used to. Attack damage of over 100%, resists of 50% or more and pierce that rivals Darkmoor bosses are some of the things a player can come to expect from any and every opponent they will face. As such to be competitive a new player must attempt to match these stats from the beginning and therein lies many of the barriers to entry
Barrier 1: Level/Questing
This is the most obvious barrier to entry for most players. To compete at max lvl PvP one must be the maximum level. This requires questing that can take many months to a year depending on time constraints. On top of this players must also quest far enough to gain shadow pips and an additional shadow pip slot. Despite all of this many players looking to start max lvl PvP are already max lvl. As such this is the easiest barrier of entry for many to overcome.
Barrier 2: Drops
This barrier to entry is one of the most difficult for many to overcome. PvP is in a constant state of an ongoing arms race. While having the best gear is a luxury not a requirement for PvE, it is definitely a necessity for PvP. The hyper competitive nature of PvP ensures that going into the dueling circle with sub-par gear puts you at a distinct disadvantage. The current best gear in the game is a combination of Darkmoor gear and Morganthe amulets. Both of these gear sets have their own unique challenges that can prove to be a significant barrier for most players.
Darkmoor: Castle Darkmoor offers the best school specific gear in the game hands down. The main challenge with acquiring DM gear isn’t the drop rate itself (DM drop rates have been consistently recorded at 30%-40% some of the best drop rates in the game). The difficulty with acquiring DM gear lies with the challenge the dungeon poses. DM is the single hardest PvE instance to date. Almost impossible to realistically solo, Castle DM requires a team of well functioning wizards to complete in a realistic time frame. This can be an impediment to players who may not have the friends or time to recruit excellent teammates. Castle DM can also be quite exhausting-taxing the mental reserves of many of the wizards participating. Couple this with a relatively long dungeon(average times are about an hour and a half with a good team) and this gear can be incredibly challenging for many wizards to acquire.
Morganthe: Morganthe gear is difficult to acquire for the exact opposite reasons as DM Gear. The Morganthe fight itself is a relatively easy quad boss fight that occurs as it’s own area rather than a dungeon. The difficulty with acquiring Morganthe gear lies not with the level of challenge but with the abysmally low drop rates. Experience has suggested that Morganthe’s drop rate is between 1%-5%(generous estimate) which requires dozens of hours of farming for a chance to acquire the ever elusive amulets. The low drop rate is further compounded by the fact that almost everything else Morganthe drops is useless. This is incredibly demotivating to players who may run this dungeon many times with only junk gear to show for it.
Barrier 3: Pets
To be effective in this meta, one must have a meta effective pet. The current gold standard for pets is a triple damage/double resist pet. The journey to acquiring this pet can be a long one and is a huge barrier for a new player to overcome. To gain a meta-effective pet a player must have: An ample amount of gold, A garden with a constant source of mega snacks or constant mirror lake runs. On top of this a player must have a friend or acquaintance with the required talents who is willing to hatch. Finally the player and their hatching partner must have the patience to go through multiple generations of pets which requires gold, snacks and time. The pet barrier is another huge factor that is preventing players from entering the arena.
Barrier 4: Jewels
The newest addition to the game, jewels provide one of most significant barriers of entry to max lvl PvP implemented. Jewels are stat modifiers that can be added to sockets found in certain items. Jewels are one time use: meaning once they are socketed into an item they cannot be used for any other items. To clear a jewel from an already socketted item one must “shatter”(completely destroy) said jewel. Jewels offer a significant barrier of entry for several reasons:
- Low drop rate: In my experience jewels have around a 1/7 drop rate from typical mob fights. Couple this with the fact that there are several different types of jewels possible from a mob, along with several schools, along with a variable level range and you have some of the lowest drop rates per specific jewel in the game.
- One time use: The fact that jewels are one time use is a huge turn-off for most players. This means that if a jewel was placed in a piece of gear that is not ideal then the player has to farm once again for an entirely new jewel. This also means that anytime a new socketable gear piece comes out one will have to farm for jewels all over again.
- Future grind: The scariest part of the jewel update is that it guarantees future grind for players. As level caps increase so will jewels. This means that each level cap players will need to re-farm for jewels over and over again. The nature of jewels also ensure a heavy level of farming whenever there is a meta or gear shift.
What this translates to is a humongous level of grind every level cap or meta/gear shift, a major turn-off for players looking to enter into the max level PvP system.
Breaking Barriers to Entry
With all these barriers to entry, max level PvP would seem doomed to die a slow death of attrition. However, this does not need to be the case! Several possible systems could be implemented to break down the barriers to entry for many new players.
Breaking Barrier 1: Level/Questing
There is no real way to break barrier one from the development end. To participate in Max Lvl PvP one must be max lvl it’s that simple. That being said there are some interrelated mechanics that can be implemented to assist with this barrier. An engaging questline would motivate more people to lvl to max while better arena rewards would encourage more people to engage in PvP.
Breaking Barrier 2: Drops
Breaking barrier 2 might be a complicated endeavor as it runs counterintuitive to KI’s unstated but obvious goal of slowing people down between updates. However there exists several methods to remove or reduce the drop barrier without improving drop rates. One such method is the popular suggestion of a system of acquiring items via tokens. A token system can be implemented at bosses in which each boss battle drops a token. After acquiring a certain amount of tokens one can trade said tokens in for a specific drop from a boss’s loot table. This would mean that a heavy amount of farming would still be required(you need to beat the boss to acquire tokens), while still allowing players a guaranteed method to acquire what they desire with enough dedication. Having a clear goal to work towards would encourage more people to farm while also enabling many to overcome the gear acquisition barrier.
Breaking Barrier 3: Pets
This barrier is another major one for players looking to enter the arena. Pets provide game defining and game changing advantages to people who raise them. At max level the advantage a pet can provide is extreme, roughly equivalent to another piece of gear. In order to gain a meta-appropiate pet in a realistic amount of time a player must have several key factors lined up: A hatching partner, a constant source of gold, a constant source of mega snacks and time. Becoming this established often requires months or even years of preparation and as such is one of the harder factors for a new player to overcome. At the same time, the level of dedication required to raise a pet makes easy solutions (such as handing each player a pet) a complicated endeavor. Many would claim that it is unfair for a new player to acquire a perfect pet quickly and easily when other players had to work hard for their pet. As such I would propose an implementation of a pet renting system. The system as I envision it would work like this:
- Players would rent a fully trained pet with several variations of prime statistics/talents
- The rent a pets would be available for gold(around 20,000 per day pass, 100,000 per week)
In this way players would be able to overcome the pet training barrier while also never owning the pet-retaining the value of laboriously collected pets while simultaneously offering a viable option to less established players.
Breaking Barrier 4: Jewels
The new jewel system offers one of the most strenuous barriers to max lvl PvP to date. Jewels have a low drop rate, dropping at an about 1/7(generous estimate) rate. This low drop rate is then further magnified by the sheer amount of different types jewels (health, mana, pierce etc) available as drops from each creature. This is then further magnified by the 8 schools that jewels may be. This is then further magnified by the random level of jewel recieved from farming or crafting. Taken together, this makes farming for jewels an incredibly tedious and time consuming task. The tedium is then further magnified by 2 crucial aspects of jewels: the one time use and the continuously raising levels of jewels. Taken together this means that players will constantly have to farm for jewels every meta shift, gear shift and level shift. This is the barrier that keeps on giving and will continue to raise its head every level cap.
To overcome this barrier I propose a system of jewel transmutation: have the existing jewel vendors sell transmutation recipes for each type of jewel. The recipes can be separated into 3 types:
1. Level Transmutations
These recipes would allow one to convert a lower lvl jewel into a higher level jewel(the gem type received would remain the same: if you transmute a piercing jewel you would receive a piercing jewel in return).
Recipe Example: Transmute Polished Amethyst: Requires 3 Clear Amethyst Jewels and 10 Sunstones and 10 Polymorph Ninja Pig TC.
2. School Transmutations
These recipes would allow one to convert a gems class from one type into another. The level of gem received and type would remain the same as the jewels used
Recipe Example: Transmute Storm Amethyst: Requires 3 Myth Peridot and 10 Golden Pearls and 1 Storm Owl TC.
3. Shape Transmutations
These recipes allow you to change the shape of the jewel to another. However this recipe would change shape but the effect of the shape would be random.
Recipe example: Transmute Square: Requires 1 Tear, 1 Circle and 1 Triangle jewel.
What suggestions do you have to help new players get started and enjoy Max Level PvP?