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Why do we still have separate PvP and PvE gear?

While seeking out questions to a Queue I wrote, I was asked by a Twitter follower why we had separate PvE and PvP gear in the first place. A question I love, and that I wouldn't be able to respond to briefly enough for The Queue. I'm not going to go into a complete, exhaustive history of PvP gear. For starters, I didn't play in Classic, so I can't really comment on the gear then, but I gather that there was a lot more overlap between the two.

Then, with Burning Crusade, back in 2006, the combat rating system and Resilience were both introduced, along with arenas. PvP gear was born. It's been through many different iterations since then -- too easy to get, too hard to get, too bad for PvE, too good for PvE, different effects, stat budgets, you name it. But history, while it merits repetition, shouldn't have too much bearing on this question in today's game.


As it stands

Let's look at the situation right now. We've got base resilience on every character, regardless of what they're wearing. The thing that delineates PvP gear is, instead, PvP Power, currently a multiplier that increases damage and healing in PvP situations only. It's being redesigned for Warlords, changed into a separate stat that will increase your primary stat in PvP situations only.

The motivation for this stat is to try to ensure that PvP gear is the strongest gear in PvP. It needs to put out more damage than PvE gear, since the previously defining defense system of resilience was removed. Despite all this, the devs have failed in world PvP, as they know, and are looking to repair.

But let's leave that to one side for now. Regardless of the outcome, the aim is to make PvP gear better for PvP, and PvE gear better for PvE. Why is this important? Well, because players who want to do PvP shouldn't have to PvE to get the best gear for their chosen discipline, and vice versa.
Same gear, acquired through different means

OK, that's fine, but why can't we have the same gear for both, just acquired through different means? So you get the same gear from, say, doing Flex as you do for spending Honor, or for doing Heroics as you do for spending Conquest? Before I answer this, let's address the inevitable responses to those comparisons. For such a system to work, we'd have to make it so that you can get the same gear from the top level of each discipline, so Conquest and Heroics. And Flex is a reasonable comparison to Honor gear -- only in that it isn't the true entry-level, which I'd consider to be dungeons and crafted PvP gear.

Nonetheless, the quality of the comparisons highlights a key issue. Anyone who PvEs who read that and immediately took to the comments will probably be saying "but fewer people raid heroics than do arenas" or "Flex is harder to get into than Honor is to earn" or something along those lines. And they're right. The problem with making PvP gear the same as PvE gear is that it's not necessarily always easier to obtain, depending on your PvP ability and dedication, and the Honor farming tricks of the moment, but it's always more predictable. I know that I'll get a Conquest weapon in week five if I cap every week, sooner over the cap inflation rating. I know I'll have my 4-set by week eight. PvE? I might never get my 4-set. I might be unlucky on weapon drops every single week.

The result of this predictability would mean, if we had the levels as stated above, that PvE-ers wanting to get an edge would need to PvP, simply to get predictable gear upgrades. Remember how we didn't want that to be the case?
Predictability in PvE

But then, what about Valor? That currency, which has currently been relegated to purely an upgrade currency for gear that the RNG gods have awarded you, is a good answer to the predictability problems. But there is an issue there, too. The devs haven't, historically, wanted to award the best PvE gear for Valor.

The reason for this is that PvE content isn't so enduring when you're fully geared. PvP is more variable, whereas PvE is the same, roughly, week in week out. The reward in PvP, while certainly partly gear-based, is winning. In PvE, it's the opposite -- the reward, while certainly partly winning-based the first few times you down a boss, is gear. And yes there will no doubt be exceptions to this, as there are to any generalization, but I think it's not an unreasonable statement.

As a result, Valor isn't generally used to buy the 4-sets with the bonuses. It isn't used for the best trinkets, or for weapons, as a rule. And for the reasons stated above, I think that's a good thing. Valor is usually, although not currently, a gap-filler. It's for when the RNG gods are unkind.


RNG in PvP

What if we go the other way? What if, instead of modifying PvE to make gear gains as predictable as in PvP, we add RNG to PvP gearing? If we make it so that pieces might drop when you win, and Conquest is used to fill in the gaps? The imbalance it would create is problematic. Anyone who's joined in with PvP, be it arena, random battlegrounds or rated battlegrounds, knows what can happen if your opponents have superior gear. It isn't good. Then imagine if that was all the time, if weapons didn't predictably arrive for everyone in the same week, and instead might drop for you when you win? PvP gearing is necessarily predictable -- the game is gear-based in PvP enough as it is, it shouldn't be made worse.

We've established, then, that the two methods of obtaining gear need to be kept roughly as they are. We could have more predictability introduced to PvE gear, such as the reintroduction of Valor weapons, or more RNG introduced to PvP gear, such as the augmentation of the chance at drops from things like the Celestials, perhaps to include PvP, too, so that there's no PvE element. But the systems are as they are for pretty good reasons.

The two methods can't be normalized, and the inherent predictability of PvP gear acquisition means that PvE-equivalent gear can't be obtained via that method. We also can't have lesser gear obtained in PvP than is obtained in PvE, as then PvE-centric players would also have the advantage in PvP. We can't have equal gear, for reasons already discussed, and we can't have better gear in PvP than in PvE for those same reasons.

I wanted, here, to discuss how the nature of item level escalation in PvE is problematic. How things which are used to make content more enduring for PvE-ers such as Warforged armor and valor upgrades serve to worsen the problem. How they will mean, if they remain in Warlords, that PvP gear and stats need to be altered to match, and how maintaining base resilience at 0 will likely not work, but I have accidentally hit upon what I feel is the key reason why we still have separate gear. The acquisition process was meant to be an aside leading to a larger point, but as often happens when you think through a problem, my conclusion has changed. What do you think? Is my argument convincing? Should we still have separate PvP and PvE gear?
Do you want to capture flags, invade cities, attack towers, and dominate the enemy for your faction? Do you dream of riding your War Bear with pride? We'll steer you to victory with secrets of Battlegrounds and Arena, prepping you with proven addons and keybindings that win! Send questions or comments to olivia@wowinsider.com.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, PvP, Blood Sport (Arena PvP)

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