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Monday, July 07, 2008

2000 means nothing in Season 4

For once, that statement doesn't hold quite as much weight anymore. In Season 4, where new personal ratings requirements are in place, a 2000 rating doesn't amount to anything but bragging rights. Sometimes not even that. After two weeks of the new season, more than a few players are running around with their helm graphic on, proudly displaying the fact that they've hit the first benchmark of 1700 personal and team rating. An even more select few are standing around the major cities brandishing Brutal Gladiator armaments. This is where the new distinction lies.

With 2000 personal rating qualifying a player for nothing in Season 4, the more accurate statement for any sort of Arena self-validation is now " with S4 weapon looking for Arena team." Because the requirements are so strict -- necessitating both team and player ratings to be at the minimum upon purchase -- Arena gear has never been more indicative of skill. I know many of you will protest at this generalization, and you'd have a point. But now more than ever, the system has proven effective at weeding out the chaff from the grain.

What is nice about the new system is that it provides another tier of validation -- 1700. Players who achieve 1700 can actually take a small measure of pride and add it to the list of qualifications when, for example, they apply to an Arena team similar to how some players would apply to a guild. A 1700 personal rating is nothing to scoff at, specially not during the first week or two of the new Season. It's a pleasant change because players who manage to attain high enough ratings can actually display it. It's no longer just the shoulders, however "visually impacting" they may be. Of course, there's also the new goal of 1950 for Season 3 shoulders, which is still a respectable achievement.

With Season 4 shoulder pieces out of reach for most of the general WoW population, the most significant visual barometer for this season are the weapons. It is an even more important indicator because of the higher Arena point cost. If a player achieves 2050 and finds herself without the Arena points to purchase the weapon, she will need to maintain that rating for a few more weeks in order to accumulate enough currency (or stop playing that team for a while). Obtaining the Season 4 weapon takes a bit of planning so that players will have the points for it when they finally hit the 2050 benchmark.

Many players who saved up the maximum 5000 points over the course of the past weeks and months of Season 3 went hog wild at the vendors and purchased whatever they qualified for during the first week. It's like going shopping after payday. Don't blow all your cash (or Arena points, as it were) all at once, though. If you manage to climb high enough on your first few weeks, you might find yourself at the store with no money in your wallet. Planning out Brutal Gladiator purchases through the season requires a bit of confidence in yourself and your team's ability to climb the ladder.

While it's easy enough to climb to 1700 on the first week -- we already see quite a few players running around with Brutal Gladiator helms -- it will take some time for most players to reach the new benchmark of 2050. It will take an even longer time for the few players who will reach 2200 to get there, as games that actually grant points will be few and far between. Because teams will need to fight other teams within their ratings range in order to actually get significant gains, there is an artificial bottleneck for Arena PvP progression. In a way it's good because it allows an ordered distribution of gear, but at the same time it's bad because truly successful teams can't make any headway because they have to wait for other teams in their Battlegroup to catch up.

At the same time, the first few weeks of the season mean that many seasoned (and consequently, geared) players will be starting on the ground floor just like everyone else. This can be an unpleasant experience for teams just starting out or testing the Arena waters. It all evens out in the end, of course, but these first weeks of Season 4 has shown how the new system affects PvP progression. In the first week alone, a large number of players played just enough games to hit personal ratings in order to spend their Arena and Honor points. As the season moves forward, teams will eventually settle into their ratings ranges. And this time around, hitting the once 2000 isn't quite as significant as it used to be.


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