One of the most popular stories you’ll hear from the earliest World of Warcraft players is how Alterac Valley battleground matches could last many hours, with players leaving for meals or classes and then returning to find the same match going. While the development team eventually changed the battleground to not last as long — and made sure WoW Classic was also in this state — there has always been a wistful nostalgia for this style of progression-based gameplay in WoW, where the goal is to build and conquer, not just find the fastest path to victory.
The most recent attempt was in Battle for Azeroth with Warfronts. The goal with the Warfronts was to gather resources, upgrade buildings, capture nodes, and eventually build up your forces strong enough to defeat the boss of the instance. Unfortunately, despite Blizzard’s best intentions, the Warfronts quickly devolved into attempts to find the fastest path to victory. Part of the reason for this is that the meaningful reward from the Warfronts came upon completion, but also because there’s an underlying reality to the modern WoW experience that the original Alterac Valley didn’t have to worry about — namely, plenty of other stuff to do in game (not to mention that there’s also an offline life that players like to explore).
To offset all the distractions, any progression gameplay mode should have their rewards given at intervals based on how much time/activity a player spends in the mode; while “winning” would give the best rewards, a player who spends two hours playing in the mode should feel like they got as many rewards from doing so as they would’ve gotten playing two hours in any other content. Guild Wars 2 does this with their rewards tracks in-World vs World (similar to WoW‘s epic battlegrounds but on a larger map) and PVP, so even if you don’t accomplish a major victory you’ll still come out of the experience not feeling like you’ve wasted your time.
The closest the game has come to that style of “reward as you go” in recent years is with Ashran in Warlords of Draenor; the mistake that was made in the beginning was to envision it as a server-based activity between large, balanced factions — but such a criterium wasn’t a reality on any server. While turning it into an instance and later adding mercenary mode helped, it never reached its full potential. Making a larger Ashran-style map that populates teams regardless of faction — and limits players joining together to parties to ensure a 40-person raid doesn’t overwhelm the other side — that also had a regular rewards track is something that would likely attract players interested in this sort of gameplay.
What do you think? Should we have gotten more Warfronts, and how could they have been improved? Do you think an Ashran-style system would work for PVE or would it have to be PVP? And how would you feel about getting interval rewards instead of relying on a victory condition? Let us know in the comments!
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