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Texan and Proud
Baytown, TX
reply to DarkLogix

Re: Brawler's Guild

Brawler's Guild: There must be another way
by Olivia Grace Nov 5th 2012 at 5:00PM

Regular WoW Insider readers may have caught sight of my earlier piece regarding Brawler's Guild. I hope it came across in that piece just how excited I was about this impending new feature, how much I wanted to keep doing it despite the fact that it awarded nothing but fun and ranking. I mentioned that there were likely to be changes coming to two elements, the rotten fruit thrown by other players at the person fighting, and the queue times.

I postulated that a fix for the queue times, which were very long indeed on the Patch 5.1 PTR and promised to be even longer on live servers, could be something along the lines of instancing, using the new scenario technology, phasing, or simply introducing more rings somehow. I did not anticipate that the proposed solution would be to make this fantastic new feature invitation only, and that those invitations would only be sold on the Black Market Auction House.

I didn't anticipate this for several reasons. Firstly, the Brawler's Guild is far too brilliant an idea for Blizzard to want to gate it. It wouldn't make sense to me that, given that most players can access this, they should be prevented from doing so. It's a really brilliant side feature, a game within the game. At the time of writing, it awards no gear, no useable boost or bonus. It's like pet battles, only now it's invitation only.

My conviction was that the Brawler's Guild would be something like pet battles, that would welcome players with open arms, and offer them a pleasant diversion, something fun to do with friends, or a way to make new ones. It was certainly all of those things on my nights in the PTR. I didn't see this coming.

Everything is gated

But almost all content in the game has some kind of gating. Raiding, like dungeons, is gated by item level, level, and other factors. Arena is gated by level. Pet battles are gated by, what, 20 gold now, and the necessity of owning a pet. Gold sinks are gated by gold. Is this another gold sink? Should it be seen as such? It doesn't seem like it to me. Gold sinks are usually desirable, so that's all fine and dandy, but they're not usually content. Imagine if you had to bid for invitations to get into a scenario, or a dungeon? As our friend Perculia of Wowhead fame has mentioned, the addition of a Realm First! feat of strength only makes the pill more bitter.

The part that I find most objectionable about this proposed change is that those who have the invitations can hold other players ransom for access to the Brawler's Guild. So, not only is access limited by having enough gold, the only way that other players who aren't that wealthy will get to see the content is by befriending a gold-maker, buying an invitation from a wealthier player in trade chat, or obtaining the gold themselves. Some have said this will lead to gold-buying, but contravening the Terms of Service is a step too far. Don't do it.

I've heard stories on twitter, where I've been extremely vocal about this change, that players have heard murmurings on their servers of some people planning to form cartels to control the supply of invitations between the BMAH and players. Bashiok's response to this was to say that the structure of the BMAH would make this impossible, because bids would be pushed up too high, but it seems that a cartel of the server's wealthiest players could pull this off, with commitment. And there have been recent rumors about certain well-known guilds abusing the BMAH for their own ends.

Does it fix the problem?

Even with this new gating, though, are the queue times really repaired? It doesn't seem likely. This seems more like a band-aid, a temporary repair. Certainly initial entry will be slowed by this gating, with only 10 invitations available on the Black Market Auction House per day. Those 10 invitations allow their owners to invite 10 players each. So only a maximum of 100 players will have access on the first day invitations are owned, cross-faction. But of those 100 players, each of them can invite 10 players, meaning 1,000 players can have access. Those 1,000 players can each invite 10 players, meaning... well, you can see where I'm going with this.

Before long, the queues will again be out of control. Given that a 15-20 player queue seemed to take 20-25 minutes on the PTR, a 100-player queue would take about 2 hours. Even knowing first-hand how fantastic the Brawler's Guild is, this is too long to wait.

I try my best to see the positive sides, to understand where Blizzard is going with things, but in this instance I'm struggling. Blizzard's representatives are saying this isn't a big feature, but players are excited regardless. This gating only serves to sour excitement.

Texan and Proud
Baytown, TX
Patch 5.1 PTR: My first night in Brawler's Guild
by Olivia Grace Oct 26th 2012 at 3:00PM

It took me a little while to locate this secretive group's headquarters, tucked away in the bowels of Stormwind. I wasn't quite sure where to look, having logged in to the PTR and created a level 90 shaman template character, and the first rule of Brawler's Guild wasn't exactly helping matters.

I knew it was underground, so I checked in the Stockades, under the Cathedral, around the old Park, over where all the warlocks hang out... it sounded like a warlock-y kind of thing! Stumped, temporarily, and trying to think of other underground areas in Stormwind, it suddenly occurred to me: the Deeprun Tram! I zoned in, expecting to see it right in front of me, and, discouraged, ran over to the platform, then spotted a tunnel on the track level to the left that I was fairly sure wasn't there before.

And the header image was what appeared at the end of it! Over on the Horde side, it was hidden in plain sight, in a building to the extreme north-east of Orgrimmar, in the Ring of Valor. I have to say, I think that, for a change, the Alliance have by far the cooler set-up here, although with the buggy PTR gameplay right now, the Horde arena is far more entertaining!

Ion Hazzikostas' forum avatar and a Murderaffe are going to own the next person to go in there. Shortly after this screenshot was taken, the Murderaffe bugged out, left the arena, and went on a killing spree around the audience. We took him out in the end!

Anyhow, it became clear quite quickly that I needed to queue up for a fight somehow. There were pandaren and worgen on each corner of the Alliance ring, so I went and spoke to one of them, and queued for a fight. There are announcers walking around telling you how to do this, but I didn't notice them until after I'd queued! Once I was in line, the same guys I'd spoken to for queue entry were able to tell me where I was in the queue.

This was where my only complaint about the Brawler's Guild arose: the queues. Currently, only one person is fighting at any one time in the arena, so with the entire server seeming to have access, players were left waiting up to 20 minutes just to access the arena. Yes, you can look over the side and watch your allies taking on the bosses, but that's only interesting for so long when what you really want to be doing is mixing it up with some crocolisks yourself. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your outlook, it's not a case of winner stays in. Win or lose, you only get one bout, then it's someone else's turn.

The queue report is a very nice feature, though, and I'm sure Blizzard will find a way to ensure the waiting times don't get out of hand. It seems it might make sense to instance off the Brawler's Guild from the main server, and let only a certain number of people in at once, allowing parties to enter together if players want to visit with friends. Of course, I have no idea if this is possible with Blizzard's systems!

Stepping in to the ring

Anyhow, before too long, it was my turn to fight. I was teleported into the ring, I knew it was coming thanks to the queue reports I'd been constantly bugging the bouncers for! The ring looks quite large from above, but feels small once you're inside it. This isn't a criticism though, the size feels just right after a few games. My first adversary at rank 1 -- the lowest rank of eight -- was a crocolisk named Bruce.

The eagle-eyed reader will be able to just make out the names of other players scattered behind the railings at the top of the screen. In its current iteration, all players in the zone can watch your fight, and their /say and /yell chat can be seen by all, as can that of the fighter. There's also a General chat channel which is limited to the Brawler's Guild zones, so that you can communicate with those in the area.

Unfortunately, I was rather too busy taking screenshots and underestimated Bruce the crocolisk, and he killed me pretty quickly with his Chomp Chomp Chomp ability! I then found another minor disadvantage of the Brawler's Guild area -- the corpse run. Stormwind isn't renowned for its fabulously convenient graveyards, and getting back to the Deeprun Tram from the graveyard near the Cataclysm portals isn't the easiest route to navigate. I'd like to see a graveyard in or near the instance, or for the bouts to take you down to 1% health rather than killing you, or some other fix. Your corpse appears just outside the arena, so if there are friendly -- and by friendly I mean nice, not just of your own faction -- players nearby, they can res you.

What else is there in the zone?

While you're waiting for your bout to begin, you can check out the other folks hanging around the Brawler's Guild zones. This is likely not an exhaustive list, nor is it guaranteed to remain completely accurate, as this is PTR.

In the Alliance zone, Bizmo's Brawlpub, is Quackenbush, a moonkin who has a druid tree as a pet. He sells all manner of goodies, including healing potions and buff potions which can only be used in the brawl arena. In addition to that, he sells things like what you can see in the screenshot below: basically, cheats!

In order to unlock these cheaty items, which allow you to "play dirty", you need to progress up through the ranks of the Brawler's Guild. It isn't yet clear to me what rank is required to unlock them, the queue times rather stymied my attempts to level up through the ranks as fast as possible!

There was also a bar, with barmaid, and a fellow who felt that there was far too little dancing taking place in the Brawlpub. There are also various other patrons, some of whom you can talk to, but the majority are silently enjoying the brawling.

Stepping back into the ring

While the waiting was fun, for a while at least, it wasn't that long before I was up again. Having observed my fellow brawlers for a while, I'd noticed that the key to many of the fights was kiting. Bruce the crocolisk was no exception, if I'd actually moved away from his chomping rather than taking screenshots, he'd have been a pushover. This is the purpose of the Brawler's Guild ring, allowing patrons to observe other players taking on the bosses that have defeated you. Observe their fights, note where you went wrong, or where they go wrong, and you can apply that knowledge to your own bouts. It's rather like having a constant tactics video played out in front of you while queued for a one-man dungeon, and it's good to watch!

Given that I was in there on the first day the PTR had level 90 templates, it was hardly surprising that the bosses were all rather repetitive, but every now and then a higher ranked player would take to the stage, and a new boss would appear, such as Epicus Maximus below. Blizzard's team have really gone to town on the Brawler's Guild bosses, the names, animations and encounters have been fantastic so far.

Sure, some of the earlier bosses weren't really challenging, but once you move up the ranks they ramp up in difficulty pretty quickly. It seems there is a random assortment of bosses available at each rank, so rank one featured Bruce, Interrogator Vishas, an adorable little bull called, I believe, Goredome, and a few others. Once you progress up a rank, other bosses become available. The early bosses are 91 elites, then 92 elites, and so on. I haven't yet seen anything higher than a 93 elite, but that doesn't mean it's not possible.

Tactically, there's a lot of kiting. Many of these bosses hit quite hard, so as an elemental shaman I was doing my best to keep them away from me. Melee players would be well advised to use stuns, blinds, that sort of thing, to try to keep the bosses occupied with something other than chewing your face off. Taking on the bosses as a tank was certainly viable, but some bosses definitely had enrages if the fight went on too long, so proceed with caution. As a healer, I think you may struggle, but I'm very happy to be corrected.

Other than the kiting, there's a lot of avoidance. You notice all the red circles around Epicus Maximus in the screenshot above? They were all attempts to blow you up. There's also an eye boss, who can be seen in the screenshot in the Horde brawl arena further up, who attempts to kill you with what looks like disco lasers. The adorable little bull will charge into a red-highlighted area, and oneshot anyone in it. So, don't stand in bad. Winning a bout earns you a Brawler's Purse, currently containing a little gold and an amusing gray item.

All in all, this is a really fantastic new feature. I can't emphasize enough how much fun I had in there. As someone who loves PvP, this is a very similar experience -- but you're pitting your wits against something that can be taunted. And the competitive element is great fun, too. The ranks, the folk looking on, some of whom are nice and encourage or offer tips, and some of whom are unpleasant and now on my ignore list! The only fly in the ointment is the wait time, and CM Zarhym confirmed on twitter that this is something Blizzard's team are looking into:

Olivia Grace @oliviadgrace 25 Oct 12 @Elvinelol @Warcraft Yeah, precisely, or just split it so fewer people were inthe same one.

@CM_Zarhym @oliviadgrace @Elvinelol We're talking about it. Brawler's Guild is definitely something that needs iteration before going live.
25 Oct 12 ReplyRetweetFavorite
While the Blizzard development team are iterating, I'm happy to wait. The Brawler's Guild is worth it!