While I was on vacation, I downloaded Warcraft 3 and The Frozen Throne to play some DotA, or Defense of the Ancients if you’re not in the loop. Playing DotA (a game made based almost completely on PvP) got me thinking about how WoW’s battleground system could be improved if Blizzard took a few lessons from DotA creator Icefrog. It might seem far-fetched or even pointless to compare a WC3 custom map with WoW, but think of it like a battleground. Each play-through of DotA takes around 45 minutes to an hour and a half. It’s a fun way to pass the time, and I realized that if battlegrounds could be as fun, varied, and complicated I might play them more often.
Instead, running battlegrounds often feels more like a long, tortuous grind, especially if you’re not playing with your guild or even a group of people you know. So what does DotA have that BGs don’t?
Variety: the spice of online violence
Each DotA game lets you choose between a large number of heroes and, as the game progresses, items. While variety like this can’t be directly translated into WoW (you only get the gear and abilities available to whatever character/class you’re playing), maybe a similar effect could be achieved. Battlegrounds are already moving in this direction, what with the addition of vehicles, seaforium charges, etc. To go further than this, though: what if a new battleground revolved entirely around vehicles, and allowed you to choose one at the beginning of each BG (or on respawn) such as the Flame Leviathan fight?
This would bring vehicles closer to the way heroes are used in DotA while giving BGs a bit more replayability due to the ability to choose different vehicles each time.
Both BGs and DotA have powerups that you can pick up to buff your character in some way for a short period. WoW has movement speed, damage and regeneration. DotA has double damage, haste, invisibility, illusion (creates two controllable copies of your hero) and regeneration. The difference between the two is that these runes (as they’re called in DotA) are central to successful DotA play, while their equivalents in WoW are nothing more than afterthoughts. Speed buffs are usually wasted (except in twinking and WSG) due to the existence of mounts. Making these short buffs strategic rather than near-useless could add new elements of play to battlegrounds.
There could even be powerups for vehicles, such as armor upgrades, speed boosts (more useful for vehicles since they usually move slower than mounts) and extra siege damage.
DotA is a lot like the old Alterac Valley, but back when people actually did the quests and captured rams or wolves and turned in armor scraps. In DotA, there are neutral creeps that you can farm for gold, a neutral boss (Roshan) who drops a special item, and neutral shops scattered around the map. This means that there is more to do than solely capture enemy objectives and kill enemy heroes. For example, it offers the choice between “laning” (staying in one of the three lanes present in DotA and fighting the creeps the opposing side sends) or “jungling” (running around in the forest killing neutral creeps, usually unopposed by enemy heroes).
Some ideas to translate map interactivity into WoW are: the ability to pick up items unique to specific battlegrounds; perform tasks other than capturing objectives and killing the enemy; and maybe even teleporters or items that allow you to teleport around the map (not entirely new to WoW either, see this item).
In DotA, killing an enemy hero gives you gold and experience while simultaneously denying the dead hero time in the lane, experience, and taking a bit of gold out of his coffers. In WoW BGs, killing an enemy doesn’t give you anything, aside from eliminating the competition on the way to capturing map objectives. In Wintergrasp, you gain rank (the only way to get vehicles) but it’s often easier to simply kill the NPCs scattered around the map. This is especially true if, as on my server, tenacity is often fudged up at the beginning of a game, giving one side 20 stacks for a short time.
In 3.2, Blizzard is changing the way honour works in BGs, giving bonus honour for defending objectives and capturing flags or bases. I applaud this change, but also think it should be accompanied by a different one. If there is some in-BG penalty (i.e. something that does not affect your character outside of the current battleground) for dying, it might make you think twice about rushing off headlong into a crowd of enemies, which is a popular style of BG play. In DotA, part of the punishment for death is a long respawn time, which gets longer as you level up your hero. While I don’t think WoW BGs should take on this same method (people, including me, would complain) perhaps dying repeatedly could leave debuffs, akin to resurrection sickness (but with a variety of different negative effects) and killing enemies could leave behind buffs.
This is similar to a mode called “item drop” in DotA, which, as the name suggests, causes your hero to drop an item from his inventory at each death, allowing opposing heroes to pick it up.
A 5-man battleground
People, including me, love small teams of people. I love Warsong Gulch for this reason — it’s really the only battleground that I can play with a full guild group, rather than playing with pugs. If a 5-man BG were introduced, as opposed to a new 40-man, it would make premade BG play a lot easier. It might even allow for a more serious BG, akin to arena, rather than the spray and pray approach taken in most other WoW BGs (which typically rely on large crowds of people running around attacking lone opponents). Playing with strangers generally reduces the amount of teamwork and fun available in a given BG, so a small one might make people take BGs more seriously.
Obviously not all of the features in DotA can translate successfully into WoW since the games are so different, but I certainly think that WoW could do well to craft a BG based on DotA’s successful model.