WoW: Capture the Fortress

Let me describe one particular quest in the Outland. It’s a quest that I finished today, but only because I was prevented from completing it yesterday due to the inaction of Alliance players.

In the middle of the Hellfire Peninsula, there are three points arbitrarily designated as places of great strategic importance. Apparently they were one of the developers’ first experiments with putting PVP mechanics into the main map, rather than isolating them in Battleground zones. Like the capture points in Battlegrounds, each of these can belong to either Horde or Alliance, or be neutral. If you stand in one that’s owned by the enemy, and there’s no enemy there to oppose you, it gets slowly converted to your side: a gauge in the quest UI shows your progress towards converting it, and flags draped about the walls show the current winner’s colors.

There is a repeatable quest to participate in capturing all three points (not necessarily all at once). Note that there’s one condition that definitively prevents you from accomplishing this: if one or more of the points is already under your side’s control, you cannot capture it. The premise of the quest is that it’s crucial to control those three points, but simply controlling them isn’t enough to earn your reward. You have to take control of them, even if it means letting the enemy capture them first. (It reminds me of certain Catholic doctrines about sin.) I imagine that when Outland was first opened to visitors, and the zone was flooded with level-60 players, ownership of the capture points must have flipped pretty frequently, making their recapture a convincingly urgent concern. But there aren’t a lot of people in the zone these days, so they can get stuck in one state for a good long while.

And that has interesting and presumably unintended consequences for player behavior. During my first sally at this quest, I found an Alliance member capturing one of the points while two Horde guys hovered overhead on their flying mounts. When I made to land, they asked me not to: they were politely waiting their turn, waiting for the Alliance guy to finish capturing it so they could capture it back. There was no combat here, just polite cooperation that allowed both sides to fulfill their needs. In another game, I might regard this as tantamount to cheating, like using a TF2 “Achievement server” 1Achievement servers are places where people go to collaborate on fulfilling the requirements for TF2 Achievements instead of actually trying to win matches. I think it’s a good thing that they exist, because it keeps that sort of behavior out of the regular servers, but it’s always seemed to me a way to make the game less fun. , but here, it just seemed like a natural and unavoidable consequence of a badly-thought-out mechanic.

In fact, my thoughts on this matter were so firm that I was fairly flabbergasted when I came back the next day and found that someone in the Alliance was actually defending the things. Someone, moreover, powerful enough to kill me in one hit, and therefore probably not getting any Honor points for it. I kept coming back, hoping that he’d get bored of killing me eventually, and eventually it worked. But I was surprised at his persistence. He was probably surprised at mine, too, but at least he presumably understood my motivations, and I don’t understand his. Was he just in a bullying mood, or was he taking the fiction more seriously than I was?

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1. Achievement servers are places where people go to collaborate on fulfilling the requirements for TF2 Achievements instead of actually trying to win matches. I think it’s a good thing that they exist, because it keeps that sort of behavior out of the regular servers, but it’s always seemed to me a way to make the game less fun.

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