Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Quest for Meaningful World PvP, Part II - Asymmetry and Fairness in Persistent Worlds

Note: This post was originally a reply to a discussion on Hypercriticism. I have tried to clean it up and reorganize it so it makes better sense, but the argument is essentially the same. I have changed my views slightly thanks to engaging other bloggers like Doone and Milady, but this is ultimately a good thing.


My first post in this series made a crude typology outlining the differences between simple, ladder and world PvP. I would like to further develop this argument by discussing the issue of asymmetry and fairness in persistent worlds. For the sake of clarity, a few definitions are in order. I will be discussing PvP in the context of persistent virtual worlds as can be found in MMOs such as WoW, EVE Online, Planetside 2, Darkfall and DAOC. I am not discussing PvP found in balanced, controlled and instanced environments which reset once a match is concluded (i.e. league matches in League of Legends, Starcraft 2, and WoW Arena/Rated BGs). A key feature of world PvP is the persistence of the world, which has a number of implications for balance. I define asymmetry as the imbalance of power which exists between players in MMO worlds based on variables such as character level, player skill, gear, time invested, social-in game affiliations and so on.

Fairness is much more difficult to define, and varies in degrees from person to person. Perusing a dictionary gives me evenhandedness, free from bias; just; impartial. A cursory comparison of asymmetry and fairness immediately tells us these two terms appear incompatible. My question then becomes why rational, self-interested players would be willing to put up with glaring inequalities which characterize world PvP. I accept that there are many reasons to play world PvP, ranging from puerile ones like the desire to "pwn" "nooblets" to the desire to test oneself against constantly adapting human opposition. But the fact is, there is a sizeable number of intelligent, seemingly rational players who choose to make these seemingly toxic virtual worlds their home, and I would like to address why this is the case.

I am going to approach the problem of asymmetry and fairness by adopting the following approach. Firstly, I would like to argue that asymmetry is a systemic aspect of open world PvP, and in fact constitutes much of its appeal to its existing player base because it allows gameplay elements which cannot exist in balanced games. Secondly, I would argue that players are willing to tolerate asymmetrical encounters as long as they believe that equal opportunity exists in the world. Going back to the dictionary I saw a definition which resonated to me as a fan of open world PvP. Under informal was written "a fair go", which is an Australian colloquialism for equal opportunity. Could it be that fairness for people who play open world PvP doesn't lie in the uneven fights in the world, but rather in the equality of access to power?




I. ASYMMETRY IS A SYSTEMIC ASPECT OF WORLD PVP

The most common objection raised by non-PvPers is that world PvP isn't fair. Well, yeah. It isn't. Certainly not in the way traditional PvP games are. Consider the following examples:

a) A level 90 ganks a level 20 in WoW;

b) A player in PvP gear demolishes an equivalently skilled player wearing PvE gear;

c) A player in ilvl 541 PvE gear crushes a player wearing ilvl 493 PvP gear;

d) Four guys jump one player in Planetside 2;

e) An alliance in null sec EVE with 500 members moves into a system controlled by a small alliance of 50 members. The small alliance has no chance, and is forced to leave the system permanently;

f) A team of WoW Gladiators (top 0.5% of Arena players) meet an equivalent number of players in the open world and wipes the floor with them;

g) A player with a powerful army in Evony is driven out of the region because a player with a smaller army continually attacks his holdings whenever he is offline and unable to defend himself. The first player can only play 2-3 hours 2-3 times a week while the other has much more time at his disposal and can attack at this his/her discretion;

h) A player chances on another mining unawares in the world. The first players swigs a flask, eats some buff food, and attacks the enemy, getting the opener and killing them.

We could conceivably go on and on and cite more examples, but in each case the point is that power asymmetry exists everywhere in world PvP. Going back to the examples above these asymmetries are based on the following factors:

a) Level;

b) Gear differential based on specialised sets of gear;

c) Gear differential based on gear power levels;

d) and e) Number of players;

f) Skill;

g) Time available to play;

h) Readiness;

Almost all encounters in world PvP are unbalanced, and only a very small subset of encounters, in which the participants are equally matched in gear, skill and readiness, would be considered balanced. Asymmetry is a systemic feature of open world PvP. Keep in mind I am talking about persistent world PvP, not PvP that is fenced off in instanced settings like Arenas and Rated BGs. I can throw some factors off the top of my head which would also affect the fairness of most open world PvP games - duration of subscription, size of alliance/clan/corporation/guild, experience, faction/population balance, God-given talent, latency, hardware specs and time available for play. All these will impact the relative balance of any given world PvP game without even factoring in the mechanics or class balance.
 
Custer on being overwhelmed at Little Big Horn - "this is so unfair dude, I'm not playing this game no more."
 
 
I can visualize world PvP games in which every encounter has to be balanced, and once any encounter crosses a certain "fairness" threshold the game has to step in and impose restrictions. But if interactions were regulated in such a way in games it would completely alter the nature of the world PvP, and to a way that would not be to my taste. I wouldn't recognize that type of game as a world PvP game. Games like EVE, Darkfall, DAOC and Planetside 2 wouldn't exist, and if they did, they would be castrated, diluted versions of themselves. I would wager that the existing player base would desert the game in droves - the most common complaint players and prominent bloggers have in EVE Online is that the game is becoming too "easy". Poetic Stanzel, a prominent EVE blogger, recently quit EVE, and the reasons he cites is that CCP is "making it much safer, spending development resources to protect idiots. I want a game where players have to protect themselves. A game that forces players to play smart. A game where players cannot rely on the developer to protect them from their own laziness and ignorance." If you peruse blogs about EVE in the majority of cases any changes advocated by these writers are for less regulation, not more.

I would argue that it is important to regulate some aspects of gameplay - protecting new players is important, otherwise you basically kill your own game - but overregulation kills the very thing which makes world PvP interesting for many players. Let's consider some hypothetical solutions to the balance problem in open world games. Should an avatar be expected to walk up to you like Inigo Montoya in "The Princess Bride", help you up the cliff, then wait for you to catch your breath before engaging you in battle left-handed in order to give you a fighting chance? Is this what people truly expect in open world PvP? Should CFC, the dominant alliance in EVE, have left their capital ships at home during the Fountain War because TEST didn't have any and relied on their allies to provide them with cap support? Let's assume that the level differential in WoW didn't exist - everyone is 90 - and everyone was wearing the same type of gear. Would this finally be considered fair? What about if you get jumped by three or four people? Should they cap world PvP to one versus one duels and make people in excess in this number wait in line? What about 2k+ rated players (roughly top 5% of active PvPers and probably less than 1% of the overall WoW population)? Should they be banned from the general population because they represent overpowered threats to the population at large? Perhaps given handicaps when they walk around Azeroth? What about time zones? EVE, Darkfall and Evony campaigns are heavily influenced by time zones. Should players in these persistent worlds be immune to attack when they are offline? You could basically turtle up if you were faced with odds against your favor - just log off and you'd be safe.

As you can see, attempts to equalize encounters in world PvP leads to very artificial and unnatural scenarios, and destroys the essence of world PvP. Ultimately the fairness argument is just a smokescreen. The real issue is that simply put, people want to retain total control over their gameplay sessions, and I completely get that. They want safety. control and convenience. The argument that I don't do world PvP because I want to do my own thing in my own free time is the strongest and most irrefutable argument one can put forward against non-consensual PvP. But people who argue that they don't do world PvP because it's not balanced completely miss the point - they are looking for aspects of traditional balanced competition in an environment which is fundamentally asymmetrical in nature.


II. ASYMMETRY AND EQUAL OPPORTUNITY

Why do rational, self-interested people tolerate seemingly imbalanced encounters which are the norm in world PvP? Clearly it's not to everyone's tastes - there are people who despise world PvP for exactly this reason, and I can't fault them for this. Regardless, people do it all the time - the empirical data is there in the form of subscribers who continually log in and play games like Darkfall, EVE Online, and Planetside 2. Fundamentally I believe people are willing to put up with asymmetry as long as they believe the world they inhabit is one of equal opportunity. Some people will endure asymmetry in their interactions because they think the advantages gained by those in power are attainable by them in the future. The American dream writ small. That's one of the reasons why we put up with inequities, injustices, and asymmetry in real life isn't it? Lassez-faire capitalism argues for minimum government and for letting the market sort itself out on its own. Similar principles are at work in world PvP I think. Yes, some people are richer and poorer than others. Some people have more power than others. But as long as players believe that the game offers equal opportunity, they will tolerate it. They accept the imbalances because they think they are smart enough, good enough or cunning enough to overcome these disadvantages and eventually become one of the elite. It becomes a point of pride with them. CCP Soundwave, the former lead designer of EVE Online (and who now works for Riot Games on League of Legends), summarized the enduring attraction of the game with this quote at EVE Fanfest 2013: "Players are not entitled to success, the pinnacle is coveted by many players, but many more will fail on the way."
 
Success or not, people would not play world PvP games if they believed that they didn't have an equal shot at making it to the pinnacle. Let's say that Blizzard came up with a misconceived scheme to reward long time subscribers in which players who joined the game in Vanilla can level up to 100, BC players can level to 95, Wrath to 90, Cata to 85, and new subscribers to 80. This is plainly ridiculous, and the net result would be that only Vanilla players would be left and everyone else would leave. Give everyone the same shot at making 100, though, and people will endure getting ganked and dogpiled because they believe that one day they will make it to the top.
 

Laurence J. Peter, author of The Peter Principle, also argued that "equal opportunity means everyone will have a fair chance at being incompetent." It's actually a real argument, based on the fact that in fair environments people will keep getting promoted until they reach a position above their abilities and stop there, thus leaving people in jobs they are no longer competent at doing. I included this quote because at first glance I thought it reflected the type of elitism that world PvP players sometimes display. The amount of scorn and derision poured on "idiots" (as per Poetic Stanziel) and "morons and slackers" (as per Gevlon) reflects a mindset commonly shared by players of open world games like EVE and Darkfall - namely the game offers equal opportunities at power, and it is only the incompetence of the bad players that is holding them back. 

 
A necessary corollary of equal opportunity is access. It's not enough that players have the capacity to hit maximum level. They must also have the means, or access, to do it. I don't believe ganking is "unfair" because it is "unbalanced." Ganking CAN be "unfair" if it blocks access to power and robs the other player of agency. To illustrate my point, consider the following. If you are a level 20 Alliance character you could conceivably level in Ashenvale, Duskwood, Hillsbrad  or the Wetlands (all 20-25 zones). If you wanted to level in 15-20 or 25-30 zones you could triple the number of zones available to you for leveling. That constitutes a significant amount of choice and real estate, and considerably reduces the odds of being ganked. Imagine then a variant of WoW in which only Ashenvale existed, and you could only level in this zone. Every ganker in Azeroth would flock to this location, and your chances of getting pummeled repeatedly increases dramatically. If high level players were allowed  to bottleneck lower level players this way it would be "unfair" - not because they were higher - but because they were denying players equal access. It would be bad game design. Equal opportunity would exist in name only (everyone can be 100) but it would remain substantively unfair (people can't get there). 
 
We have to be careful here though, because asymmetry doesn't necessarily mean the total removal of agency. It can. The fact that WoW has so many leveling zones, however, disperses the risk to lowbies, while keeping the potential for skirmishes intact. This is also the reason why EVE has highsec and lowsec zones - firstly, as a means of protecting new players, and secondly, as an avenue of retreat for alliances which have been driven out of null sec. Going back to the issue of agency, however, I never felt like a hapless victim in WoW, even when I was getting repeatedly stomped into the turf. I always felt like I had choices - I could level in a different spot; I could wait until the coast was clear; I could call on my mates; I could ask for help in general; I could sniff out the area before venturing forward; I could quest with other people. The crux of the matter remains that people want control over their time. It's not that the ganker has bound you, gagged you and stripped you of all your choices - rather, he/she has taken one choice away from you, namely your initial choice to come to this very spot, and do what you wanted to do, whether it was to quest, farm or whatever. Some people don't want to make other choices, and that is a fair call and they don't play world PvP as a result. As I said, the argument that I don't do non-consensual PvP because I want to control my gameplay in my own time is the best, most unassailable objection you can make. But it's not true that power asymmetry robs you of all agency. You still have choices, and the quality of the game will determine the breadth of these choices. Good games will give you alternative paths to power. Bad games will not. WoW, for me, gave me enough choices that I never felt like I was being stonewalled. I still think WoW world PvP is bad, but not because it never gave me enough options to avoid/mitigate ganking and attain maximum level.
 

FINAL THOUGHTS
 
Thomas Hobbes in a nutshell - all men are bastards and will fight to dominate each other if not kept in check by a government to keep them in line. In the same way, gankers and griefers will always exist in world PvP games unless kept in check by the developers of the game. In simulating a war, however, where "force and fraud are the two cardinal virtues" (Hobbes again) is it really a good thing to set artificial limits on what would otherwise be accurate depictions of human nature in a political vacuum?
 
 
I try never to forget that we are discussing games, but discussing this topic has opened my eyes and made me think about the reasons why we tolerate asymmetry in the real world. In thinking about this topic I couldn't help compare equality and access in games to real life parallels in the civil rights movement and women's suffrage. It made me read up about asymmetrical warfare, which is the military term for conflicts between belligerents of unequal size, and the type of tactics employed by guerillas and insurgents against overwhelmingly powerful enemies. I've also started re-reading political tracts which I merely endured when I was an undergraduate because of my interest in this topic. In the real world I would never condone asymmetries which I think are fine in virtual ones. That is the purpose of legitimate law and government - to mitigate between the powerful and the powerless and to preserve fundamental rights. Virtual worlds are a different story, however, and for me I like my virtual worlds on the harsh and unforgiving side. I'm not alone - there are thousands of players who like these type of games, and they constitute the existing player base of games like EVE Online, Darkfall, DAOC and Planetside 2. In my opinion, all is fair in love and war in persistent worlds AS LONG AS everyone has the same shot at making it to the top. It might seem harsh, but I will always defend a player's right in a world PvP game to attack you anytime, anywhere, especially when you aren't ready. The onus remains with the game designers to make sure that all players have an equal shot at making it to the top DESPITE the best efforts of gankers and griefers by providing multiple routes to power. Asymmetry is fine in persistent worlds of equal opportunity.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

WoW PvP Changes in Patch 5.4

With patch 5.4 just around the corner this might be an opportune time to review some of the upcoming changes to WoW PvP, as well as to briefly summarize the changes that have been implemented in PvP from 5.2 to the present. The information in this post should be correct at the time of writing, but please keep in mind that 5.4 is still in PTR and is liable to change at any time. I have also refrained from commenting on class balance changes, instead focusing on the overall changes that will impact all players in the next patch.


PvP Changes in 5.2 and 5.3

Here is a list of the changes that have occurred in patches 5.2 and 5.3:

5.2


  • Battleground normalization at lower brackets;
  • Conquest gear purchasable with Honor after 27k aggregate reached;
  • Conquest Points awarded for losing Rated BGs;
  • Removal of 2.2k T2 weapons.

5.3


  • Flag Running Damage Debuffs for DPS (20%) and Tank (50%) specs;
  • Bloody Dancing Steel/Spirit of Conquest PvP Enchants;
  • iLevel Caps in Arenas and Rated BGs;
  • Map Alterations (Dalaran Arena and EOTS starting zone);
  • New Arena (Shado-Pan Arena);
  • New Battleground (Deepwind Gorge);
  • PvP Power on gems reduced by 50%;
  • PvP Power Nerf - 265 increased to 400 for 1% extra damage;
  • Resilience Removed From PvP Items and made baseline.



Theodorius explodes in a ball of light after unleashing his Mega Super Duper Heal spell in a Rated BG. Actually, it was just my Guardian going out with a bang.




PvP Changes in 5.4


Abolition of Arena Teams

I like this change, although it makes me sad to bid a fond farewell to some of my long running Arena teams and their increasingly ridiculous names. Upsides include a true region wide competition - no more artificial distinctions between Battlegroups, and the associated elitism that goes on with it. Arena titles will become a much more prized achievement, because in effect you will be playing against everyone now. Gladiator no longer means the top 0.5% of the Battlegroup - it means the top 0.5% of the region. Whatever title players win at the end of this season reflects their standing against the whole of the region - US/Oceanic (these are combined), Europe, South America or China. Regardless of whatever title one gets - Gladiator (0.5%), Duelist (0.5-3%), Rival (3-10%) and Challenger (10-35%) - it is nice to know that this bell curve incorporates everyone in region and is a true reflection of where you are compared to everyone else.
 
On a related note, Blizzard's proposal for rating inflation in 5.2 was never implemented, probably because Blizzard was already tinkering with removing Arena teams altogether at this point and this change would have been redundant down the line. The issue that proposal was trying to address, however, has not gone away - namely, rating camping at high levels of the ladder, in which high rated players blitz rating in the early weeks and stay there for the remainder of the season. This leads me to think that either the blitzing has gone away since T2 weapons were removed, or that they might implement some kind of rating inflation in the future for personal ratings. Perhaps it has become a non-issue, and that a region wide competition will discourage high rating camping due to the increased competition for top spots.
 
 
Arena Time Limits

OK I admit that I have been an asshat in 2s games on a number of occasions. There have been times when I've lost my partner and rather than bowing out gracefully I have looked at the enemy DPS and said to myself, "This guy can't kill me." I would then proceed to run around and be a total tosser and play for a draw until the 45 (now 25) minute timer expired. Both teams would lose points, and I would have wasted both teams' time. But I did deny the opposition any points for winning. Ha!

Karma is a bitch however, and once I was on the receiving end of this type of treatment while grinding games I took a long hard look at myself and said, "This is immature behaviour unworthy of a grown adult." Actually, it was more like, "Dang! This sucks and it's wasting my time. Just quit dude, you're going to lose points regardless - you're just being spiteful! I would never do anything like that...oh, wait a minute..."

Suitably enlightened I learned to lose with a modicum of grace, and after Season 11 or thereabouts once my partner died I would bow out quickly. Usually. If the DPS was bad I might hang around for a couple of minutes just to prove a point (what can I say, I'm exceedingly shallow). I would tank the DPS's burst, then walk out into the open, wave farewell and quit as if to say, "Now look lads - you didn't beat me, OK? I am leaving on my own accord. I know, I know, it is a magnanimous gesture and you should /salute me or something for it. Come on now, just give me a wave or something... Come on... Look, I'm not leaving until you give me some kind of emote..."

Not sure why I bothered really, because if the enemy could talk they would say, "Good for you. mate, you have proven that you can keep your healer alive against a single DPS, which is how Blizzard has actually designed the current game. Now if you could keep your DPS partner alive you might actually get higher ratings...?" More likely thought they would just say, "Just f***ing quit you f***ing baddie, stop wasting our f***ing time you f***ing f***head."


This one screenshot tells you how this particular Arena game is going to end. The priest has gambled and lost by running out into the open to fear Theo. It was a bad gamble - his feral partner is not putting any pressure on Ratsac who is at full health, and Theo still has his trinket which he uses to break the CC. Ratsac is red and angry and bursting, and feral is below 50% health. Priest is out in the open, and Psychic Fear is now on CD. Theo's Repentance is off CD and ready. Priest now has 1.5 s (the time it takes to cast a Repentance) to cast something to top up his partner, because after that he will eat a Repentance, followed up by a Blinding Light. GG if the priest has no trinket, because this means a 14 s lockout. Even if he trinkets, Theo will stand on top of him and interrupt any cast over time spells. The only thing that can save his partner now is if he still has major defensive CDs like Barkskin, instant Healing Touch, Might of Ursoc or Survival Instincts off CD.

Anyway... not everyone has reached this exalted state of maturity I currently display, and so Blizzard has wisely enforced a 15 minute time limit on Arena matches. After 15 minutes a buff will be awarded to the team which i) has the most number of players remaining; or ii) has had the best kill attempt on an enemy player (i.e. reduced an opposition player's health the lowest). At first glance I thought this would be a moderately strong buff that would give a decent but not insurmountable advantage to the team which had fulfilled either of these two conditions, but when I went poking around the Internet to gauge the strength of the buff I found that it was not so much a buff as opposed to, in the words of Blizzard's lead PvP designer Holinka, a match ender. The Crowd Chose You buff gives you 1000% extra damage, decreases all damage taken by 100%, and allows you to see stealthed units. I don't know for certain if this version of the buff is the one that will become live, but as it stands the presence of this buff creates a hard (not soft) time limit of 15 minutes for Arena matches as once your team receives the buff you can no longer die and it's just a formality wiping up the opposition. I would have much preferred a moderately strong buff to ensure a result but also allow people the chance to claw a win back even if they failed to get the buff.
 
There are a number of implications for this. Firstly, healer/tank teams might become competitive if the healers involved can maintain high health pools until the 15 minute limit has been reached. This is not as easy as it sounds in PvP, where health is spiking crazily all the time, but it is possible. A healer or tank with 1000% damage buff will dispatch enemies with ease. On the flip side, healer teams shouldn't be able to put out that much burst in return, so in the end I believe this will be a non-issue.
 
The second implication is that I think this change favors super burst classes, especially mage and shadow priest teams which use the Deep Freeze/Devouring Plague combo. Mages especially line up their burst with their team mates when their Deep Freeze comes out, and fights with this class revolve around syncing your defensive CDs every 30 s or so when they try to Deep you down with their team mates. Syncing burst is what every Arena team worth their salt should be doing too, anyway, so perhaps this too, is a non-issue. It's just that some classes burst a little bit better than others, so they might be able to get better shots at getting the buff. This is not an issue where health pools are big enough to allow healers to recover, but if the game becomes all about who gets the health pools down the lowest, then naturally the better bursters receive the advantage.  
 
A third implication is that it could force healers to play less conservatively to keep health pools up as high as possible and to use major CDs earlier than they would have in earlier incarnations of the game. When all is said and done however, all this change means is that Arena games are 15 minutes long in 5.4 as opposed to 25 minutes (which is infinitely better than 45 minutes which was the time limit in Season 10). The strategy is just to land a kill and win within this time frame. It opens up a new strategy which in effect involves holding out for 15 minutes and winning the buff by keeping your health higher than the other team, but this is far riskier and takes much more work than the classic Arena strategy of well, erm, kill one of the other dudes. The classic strategy of syncing burst and CC to maintain pressure and force trinkets and CDs in order to eventually land kills will remain the mainstay of Arena gameplay in 5.4.
 
I'm still going to try holy paladin, resto druid and disc priest combo however. As I said, I'm exceedingly shallow.
 

Cross Realm Arenas and Connected Realms

This is huge. This is awesome. I have lost so many good Arena team mates when they left my realm for greener pastures. Luckily the tides of WoW development have brought cross realm Arenas to the barren wasteland that is the Thorium Brotherhood, and thanks to the Connected Realms there hopefully will be more players to pick fights with in world PvP. This is an amazing quality of life change for PvPers, and I applaud Blizzard for it. 


Increased CP Rewards for Random BGs

Anything which makes the acquisition of PvP gear easier is also another good quality of life change. I'm almost at the point where I would be happy if they gave PvP gear out for free to everyone, just completely even out the playing field, and let pure gameplay decide. People who still rely on gear differential to win matches are just sad, or simply not enlightened yet. On the lighter side, I couldn't help but laugh at some OQueue advertisements I saw recently (this is a social add-on which allows people to advertise and organise Rated BG teams cross-server) which stated, "No Skill No Vent No Skype No Minimum Rating needed - just play till we get the cap". As comical as this is, acquiring the cap is a necessary evil, and the real game doesn't actually start until people start playing for rating. Increasing the cap makes it fractionally easier to grind the necessary points each week, and so again, this is a good change.

 
Strand of the Ancient Changes

No more ramming, and only one Demolisher per spawn point, but bombs hit significantly harder. This is an effort to make this BG more about the players and less about the demos. The optimal strategy for this BG has always been grouping demos and attacking gates simultaneously. The biggest criticism of SOTA has been that your character becomes irrelevant - all the time you spent learning your class becomes secondary to using these vehicles correctly. To be fair, using your character to slow and focus down demos were crucial in defense , but this change pulls the gameplay back towards the characters and away from a Warcraft style Tonka truck demolition derby. Regardless, this doesn't affect Rated play as this BG is not part of the  rotation at this point, but perhaps Blizzard is looking to include it in a future date depending on how these changes pan out.


Final Thoughts

I think MoP has been a great expansion for WoW PvP to date. I have criticized WoW open world PvP as lacking luster and meaning in other posts, but the ladder competition remains robust, competitive and fairly well balanced. 5.4 will in all likelihood be the final patch for the MoP version of WoW PvP, and looking back it can be said that this expansion will be remembered for a host of quality of life changes for all PvPers. In MoP the competition became fairer (no more T2 weapons), broader (abolition of Arena teams and Battlegroups/cross realm Arena) and more accessible (resilience now baseline/easier HP and CP grinds).
 
For me personally warlocks will be my enduring memory of MoP. OP bastards. In all fairness warlock love was overdue, and locks should be thankful that they had such fervent and articulate advocates in Cynwise and Xelnath who were able to influence Blizzard design so dramatically. My best team mates have been warlocks, even before they were the dominant class of the expansion. In Season 10 I played hundreds of 45 minute games with my team mate Coronaxtra, and we used to win by gradually wearing down the opposition mana pool over the course of the game. I'm just sad that he quit before Season 11 started, because he would have had a ball with the new tools warlocks received in MoP. Locks in Season 11 have excellent burst, excellent CC and defensive CDs to rival tanking specs. I've tried to refrain from commenting on class balance, but I definitely think that locks were the PvP class of the expansion. Just my 2 cents.
 
Digression over - here's to a great and glorious Season 14 to end Mists of Pandaria!