The original article, formerly located at http://www.worldofwarcraft.com/pvp/battlegrounds.html, did not survive the overhaul of the World of Warcraft Official Website.
Article Part 1
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One of the core tenets of the Warcraft universe is the raging conflict between the Horde and the Alliance. Old hatreds die hard, as they say, and the hate shared between these two ancient foes is deep and primal. That's why the player-versus-player gameplay has always been a staple of the design for World of Warcraft; the war between the Horde and the Alliance simply isn't over. It might not look this way now, because our full player-versus-player system isn't in the game yet, but the introduction of Battlegrounds, and the full PvP reward system, will change that perception. We've been testing Battlegrounds and our reward system for weeks internally now, and we're ready to bring you a full-blown, multi-part preview of what we have in store for you in the months ahead.
Last week, we engaged in a massive internal test of the new Battleground system, as dozens of internal testers amassed for war in the snows of Alterac Valley. Arrayed in the southern valley was the Frostwolf tribe, a proud group of orcs fiercely loyal to Warchief Thrall's standard, while at the north valley stood the doughty dwarves of the Stormpike clan, hearty soldiers dedicated to the preservation of the Alliance. In a session that lasted hours, we were able to test the latest iteration of our PvP system: High-level groups marshaled at their respective bases and then sallied forth to clash in the center of the map, trying to break into the other side's forward camp, fighting alongside elite NPC defenders. Lower-level players who wanted to contribute in other ways to the battle could also do so by undertaking PvP-related quests, such as capturing wolves or rams to provide mounts for cavalry charges, claiming a nearby mine and ferrying resources back to the main base to upgrade allied troops, or capturing enemy graveyards to lengthen the run back to the frontlines for revived adversaries.
Just when the pitched battle seemed to be stalemated, Alliance gryphons appeared over the battlefield and began to lay waste to Horde players below, bringing another set of challenges to the battlefront. To match firepower with even greater firepower, thanks to the efforts of questing Horde players, a fearsome shaman could be heard in the distance calling forth a mighty elemental to begin a rampage of the Stormpike camp. As the battle reached its climactic conclusion, we steeled ourselves for the inevitable destruction that would come as gryphon fury was overrun by elemental rage.
We tried very hard to create a battle experience that felt like Warcraft; we want you to feel like you are part of a larger conflict, with the potential for lots of strategy and tactics beyond a simple mob of players crashing into each other. Our hope is that we've succeeded, and once we further fine-tune our Battlegrounds, you players will be able to experience the first of many battlefields where the Alliance and Horde will test their resolve against one another.
In the meantime, to whet your appetite while you wait, and to show you some of what we have in store for Battlegrounds, we'd like to share a little more details on Alterac Valley itself. And in the weeks ahead, we'll provide a glimpse at the very latest iteration of our PvP honor system.
The Alterac Valley Zone
Alterac Valley itself is nestled high within the Alterac Mountains in Lordaeron. To get there, players will need to run through a tunnel in the mountains. Each side will have its own tunnel entrance into the valley. The entrance into the zone is a swirling red portal, so you'll know you're about to enter a Battleground when you see this striking sight.
Great cliffs surround the exterior of Alterac Valley, and hills and spotty trees dot the snow-covered landscape. In the south lies the Frostwolf base, while in the north is the Stormpike base. Each base is a functioning town, with vendors, smiths, guards, and quest givers. And like any other zone, there are hostile monsters wandering the wilderness. The difference, though, is that everything here is geared towards player-versus-player combat.
The middle of the map is basically a hotbed of conflict. Off to one side is a freezing cave where ruthless ice trolls reside. Within this lair, we're placing some elite loot: gear that players will be dying to acquire. However, with such incredible loot comes commensurate danger, not only from the residents within, but also from opposing players who might also come searching for treasure. One of several key graveyards is also situated near the middle (more on graveyards later). On opposing sides of this middle are the forward base camps for the two sides, with the Stormpike camp in the north and the Frostwolf camp in the south. Each is led by a powerful captain: the first line of defense when trying to break through to the other side's base.
Beyond this forward base camp are patrols of NPC guards, with some of them, such as the captain and several important lieutenants, also being elite opponents. Nestled into the mountains in each side's territory is also a mine. These mines are fiercely held ground owned by troggs and kobolds. However, inside are crates of supplies that either side would do well to acquire, for they can be used to upgrade NPC soldiers with better armor and weapons, thereby making them harder to kill and more lethal in battle.
At the opposite edges of the zone, deep in the heart of each side's territory, is a village, and just beyond that, its main fortress. You'll not only find each side's graveyard here, but also various support NPCs, including vendors, smiths, quest givers, and the ultimate commander of each side.
Death and Graveyards
When the Battlegrounds debut, you will be able to collect quest loot and trophies off of players you kill. For example, if you are a Horde player and kill an enemy PC, you will be able to take from them their blood. Not only will this be a trophy of your victory, but in the Battlegrounds, amassing the blood of your enemies will have an awesome and powerful effect. If you and the other players on your team bring enough enemy blood, and by that we mean hundreds, to your side's head shaman, he will begin a ritual to summon an immense elemental, which will then march methodically into the enemy camp to destroy it. Likewise, for the Alliance side, bringing enough trophies to your head spellcaster will call an equally powerful being to your side's aid.
In addition to looting blood off of a corpse to complete this grand summoning quest, when you kill a player, you will also loot an insignia off their body. The insignia looks very much like the PvP flag next to your character portrait when you are flagged for PvP. When you grab the insignia, you also destroy the corpse of your fallen foe, which means they can't resurrect where they died.
The slain player will then get a dialog box asking them whether they want to return to a nearby graveyard to be resurrected and avenge the defilement of their corpse. Once you release and go to a nearby graveyard, you will find that there is a living friendly NPC at the graveyard, not a spirit healer. Coming back from the dead is a little different in a Battleground. You cannot resurrect yourself at will. Instead, you have to wait for this special NPC to raise you, which he does with an area resurrection effect that he casts every minute or so (you will see a countdown timer on your screen telling you how long before you can come back). When the area effect resurrection goes off, all friendly dead players within the graveyard are brought back to life, with half health and mana, and no resurrection sickness or durability damage. At this point, you are free to return to battle. But how far you have to run to return to the frontlines depends on which graveyard you were raised at.
Alterac Valley will have several graveyards distributed within it. There will be at least one, if not two, near each side's base and another in the mountains near the center of the map. Graveyards are basically neutral territory that can be captured by either side, which introduces some interesting strategies to the game. Each side obviously will want to control the graveyard closest to the center of the map, so that dead troops can rush back to battle even quicker. However, an even greater advantage is gained by taking the graveyard closest to the enemy's base. That makes it even easier for players on your team to storm the enemy base, as you basically eliminate the long run across the map.
The mechanism for controlling a graveyard is through the banner that lies inside each one. A graveyard already under your side's control will have your faction's banner and several friendly NPC defenders there. The banner tells you who owns the graveyard. To claim a graveyard for your side, you have to tear down the current banner and erect your own, which is basically achieved by interacting with the existing banner. It's easier said than done, though, because a claimed graveyard will have opposing, elite NPC defenders. However, once you succeed, your allied NPC troops will begin to spawn in around the graveyard and take control of it. More importantly, enemy players will no longer be able to revive there.
We hope we've piqued your curiosity with this first look into the upcoming Battlegrounds. In two weeks, we'll introduce you to some of the more exciting elements of player-versus-player combat, including quests that can turn the tide of war in your side's favor, and the means by which you can storm the enemy camp and lay waste to their base. Read Part 2.
Article Part 2
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A few weeks ago, we gave you a hint of what a Battlegrounds experience would be like, and also introduced you to some new concepts for player-versus-player combat, such as a slightly tweaked death system and capture-able graveyards. Now let's explore in greater detail how the battle for Alterac Valley can truly be won.
Alterac Valley is a zone for high-level players, which means those who are at or near the level cap. Rest assured we do not plan to restrict Battlegrounds to the highest-levels of players, so there will be more accessible Battlegrounds for lower levels. However, at least initially, only very high-level players will be able to contest the Battleground in Alterac Valley.
We definitely are aware that the experience can start to degrade if the Battleground is completely packed with several hundreds of players; the sides begin to lose cohesion, individuals feel less able to contribute to the whole cause, and the potential evolves for a lop-sided affair. So we do have a cap on the number of people on each side that can enter a Battleground. Rest assured we want the two sides to be fairly matched. However, if you have to wait for your turn to enter the Battleground, you can still adventure in the rest of the game world before you are summoned to fight. Our goal has always been to create the optimum experience, and so we will continue to tweak the numbers till we feel we've got an epic, yet manageable, conflict that is fair to both Horde and Alliance players.
The ultimate goal of a Battleground is to slay the enemy's general and destroy the enemy's main base. We've set up many different quests and mechanisms to give players several strategies for accomplishing this goal.
Ostensibly, one side could decide to simply swarm the enemy territory. This would involve first attacking the enemy's forward base camp. This will be a difficult endeavor. The forward camp is guarded by numerous NPC defenders in the mid-fifties, as well as the elite camp commander and his elite special guards. Not only are these defenders numerous, and tougher due to the elites, but there will also be a tower or two flanking the way through this forward camp.
Towers are defensive structures garrisoned by several NPC guards. The garrison is armed with extremely long ranged bows or guns, and can snipe at enemy players from far away. These towers will send volleys of fire at onrushing attackers, softening them up before they crash into the wall of defending enemy players and NPCs. The garrison defenders will also continue their withering fire as the attackers battle it out below. The side in control of the tower maintains a significant advantage in the melee ensuing underneath its considerable shadow.
Like graveyards and mines, towers can be captured. The large flag atop a tower denotes its controller, and just as with graveyards, you can claim one for your side by tearing down the existing flag and erecting your own. At that point, your own NPC troops will spawn in and wrest control of the tower from the enemy. When control completely switches to your side, you will gain the supporting firepower of the tower, making it a key strategic point to capture on your way to your overall goal of destroying the enemy base.
If you can manage to kill the camp commander, wipe out the NPCs, and drive away enemy players, your work won't yet be completed. Taking the graveyard and towers near the forward camp and installing your own NPC troops there will ultimately place the area under your control and make it much easier for you to then mount a final push into the enemy's base.
Taking the Main Base
As hard as the forward base camp will be to defeat, the main base will be significantly harder. There will be a high level elite general even stronger than the camp commander, and there will be even more elite guards and more NPC defenders in waiting. And of course, there will be yet more towers defending the area. However, if you can manage to kill this general, then the surrounding enemy base will begin to erupt into flames in sympathetic ruin. As the buildings are consumed by fire, you will finally gain control of the base, and control of the Battleground as well. At this point, your faction will have recorded a victory in the Alterac Valley Battleground, with a huge number of subsequent honor points being added to the honor pool that will then be distributed to all PvP combatants for the day.
Battlegrounds, though, are a dynamic system, and so the conflicts therein will continue to rage back and forth even after a winner is declared. For the next few hours after your side scores a victory, the opposition will have no NPC troops to help them. That will give you greater control over the zone and the ability to fully explore Alterac Valley with confidence.
Enemy players might choose to resurrect in the tunnels leading into Alterac Valley and harass your side's players, but as the entire zone will be firmly in your control, it will be difficult for any opposing players to mount any sort of effective counterattack. Instead, they will have to wait for their base to rebuild itself.
A little while after it gets razed, the destroyed base will begin to slowly rebuild itself. Players can significantly reduce the reconstruction time, though, by capturing the nearby mine and delivering supplies between the mine and the base. Control of the Battleground will revert back to a contested status, and the battle for Alterac Valley will commence once again. However, mines, towers, and graveyards will remain under the victor's control, and will need to be retaken.
Assaulting and demolishing the enemy base will be prohibitively difficult if one side simply decides to storm the enemy. This is where quests come in. The PvP quests in Alterac Valley add strategy and additional avenues to assist in the overall goal of conquering the Battleground.
The initial and repeatable quest you can acquire is to gain improved reputation with the main base fighting for your side. Horde players will be told to kill Alliance players, and vice versa. After you collect the insignias of your fallen foes, you can bring them back to your base to increase your standing with your side; on the Horde side, you would be improving your relationship with the Frostwolf clan, while on the Alliance side, it would be with the Stormpike dwarves. As you improve your reputation, you'll gain a special trinket, which gets replaced by a more powerful version each time your reputation rank jumps up a category, such as from honored to revered. Reputation can also be improved through questing, of course. Improving your reputation will be very important because many of the best abilities for use in Battlegrounds, such as calling cavalry charges and air strikes, can only be done by players with very high reputation.
One of the first quests you can undertake is to take control of the mine near your faction's camp. The Alliance's mine is initially under the control of troggs, while the Horde's mine is held by kobolds. You can capture a mine, but unlike with graveyards and towers, you don't do so by planting a flag. Instead, after you kill the mine's kobold or trogg leader, a lieutenant from your side will spawn in with defenders to take control of it.
Deep within each mine are supplies. The quest here involves gathering a certain number of supplies and bringing them back to your side's quartermaster. When you complete this quest, all your side's NPC troops automatically get an instant upgrade in weapon and armor effectiveness, and an increase in their level. There are several additional quests beyond this initial one to acquire more supplies, and each time you complete these successive quests, your side's NPCs get further upgraded in weapons, armor, and level. However, over time (usually about an hour), these upgrades begin to degrade. If you want to keep your troops in top fighting condition, you'll also need to keep the supplies flowing in as well.
Another quest is related to this, and it involves storming the enemy's mine and stealing their supplies to upgrade your troops. This is an additional quest, and not only do these supplies benefit your troops, but by stealing them away from the enemy, you also deprive the other side of upgrade supplies as well, since the supply crates within each mine are limited and spawn slowly.
Two other quests can also be accomplished by players, and their rewards have enormous influence on the outcome of a hotly-contested Battleground. One quest enables you to summon aerial units to bombard the enemy. To complete it, you must break into the enemy's camp and free the three wing commanders held prisoner deep within the opposition's base. If you can escort them out of the base and into safety, you will get a whistle as a quest reward that thereafter lets you call in air strikes from the wing commanders. On the Alliance, blowing the whistle will call a griffon to your aid, while on the Horde side, blowing the whistle calls a wyvern. As there are only three wing commanders to rescue, your side will only be able to call down a maximum of three air strikes at a time.
The quest with the most powerful reward, though, requires you to gather the blood of fallen enemy players for your side's chief spellcaster. On the Horde side, as revealed a few weeks ago, the ranking shaman asks you to bring back the blood of Alliance players. The quest actually needs to be performed by dozens of players, as the shaman requires hundreds of blood samples to be brought before him. When enough is returned to him, he summons an Ice Lord Elemental, which then begins a rampage of the enemy base. On the Alliance side, the leader of the druidic enclave asks you to acquire the essence of Horde players, which is essentially their spirit made manifest in an item you can loot off their body. In both cases, the blood and essence is something in addition to the insignia that you can loot off a fallen player as a trophy of your kill. Once you return the requisite number of essences, the druid will summon a mighty Ancient of War, who will make his way toward the Horde base, dispensing destruction to all Horde players in his path. Both the Ice Lord and Ancient of War will be enormously powerful creatures, easily the equivalent of a raid boss, and will give their side a decided advantage in the battle to seize Alterac Valley.
There are also some neutral quests in Alterac Valley with significant rewards for whichever side can complete them first. At a Syndicate hideout in the Valley, you can meet a neutral Syndicate NPC, who will give you a quest to recover a Syndicate artifact called the All-Seeing Eye. It's been stolen by the elite trolls in the ice cave, and if you recover it for him, he will let you use it, and pledge his Syndicate bandits to your side. The twist with this quest is that once you get the Eye from the cave, you must bring it back to the Syndicate leader. But while en route, you'll be tagged with a glowing aura. If the enemy faction manages to kill you before you return the Eye, they can loot it off your body and finish the quest for you, thereby stealing the Eye and the Syndicate for their use.
Another neutral NPC, an esteemed goblin engineer, is held prisoner in the ice troll cave. If you acquire the quest to free him and escort him safely out of the cave and back to your base, he will join your side. At that point, he will give another quest, this time to create a special war machine, the Portable Shredder Unit, for your use in helping your faction in the war.
These aren't the only quests available in Alterac Valley. Several others also exist to strengthen your chances for victory. Through them, you can spawn in waves of reinforcements to assault the enemy base, and accomplish other benefits for your side.
A Final Preview
So there you have it: the conditions whereby you can gain victory in Alterac Valley and the means by which you can expedite your mission. In several weeks time, we'll turn our gaze away from Battlegrounds and focus more on the new PvP Honor System, gaining ranks, and the bevy of rewards that awaits for those who engage in the honorable defense of their lifestyle against the encroachment of the enemy faction.