I wrote together my story of reaching Rank 14 in the very first honor system.
In the original system you earned Honorable Kills which gave you Contribution Points based on the rank of the player you killed. I don’t remember exact numbers, but something like 140 for a rank 1 and 300 for a rank 14. All this CP you earned was pooled into a pot together with everyone else’s on the same server and faction. Finally, 2 am before reset, Standings were calculated against other players based on your personal % contributed to the pool and Rating Points were then given based on your standing for the week. These RP gave you the ranks. Originally Blizzard had intended for the ranks to be temporary. This meant that both the titles and the rewards were only usable as long as you kept the rank. They changed their mind on this though - you will see why. Also worth mentioning, killing innocent NPCs gave you dishonorable kills which took away directly from your rating points.
Anyway, I managed to reach rank 9 before battlegrounds came out. It was probably the most fun I’ve had in PvP in this game. No BGs and no arenas, just going out in the world and stirring up the horde ranks. You chose the circumstances for your battles yourself, no fighting for flags or bases. I had some incredibly epic experiences on the way to rank 10 while camping Kargath and other horde hotspots like the Zeppelins. One week Blizzard even held a realm wide competition where the players with the most HKs would be awarded a special, one-time only tabard. I didn't get it though, there was really a lot of competition that week. Here's the rogue on horde side who won their contest, that tabard he's wearing is so rare there's not even a feat of strength for it: http://eu.battle.net/wow/en/characte...er/Teoh/simple
And here's me camping Kargath:
So far this system sounds pretty cool, right?
Well, it could’ve been, if Blizzard hadn’t tuned it so harshly and if battlegrounds weren’t introduced. Unfortunately, rank 10 is also when the system started making itself noticeable. It was no longer possible to go at it alone. You absolutely needed good standings to be able to go higher. Getting a standing worse than 10 while at rank 10+ meant you didn’t make any progress, and might’ve even meant losing a rank. This is how it worked:
Rank 14 required 60000 Rating Points. With Standing 1 you got 13000, and you lost 20% every week. According to that formula, the 12th week you'd have 65136 Rating Points, so from rank 0 to 14 you had to be Standing 1 for 12 weeks in a row. Lower standings gave lower RP, so if you got a too low standing the 20% loss would outweigh the gain you did and put you back. Also of course the higher your rank, the bigger the 20% punishment so standing 1 isn't worth as much % of your bar on high ranks as it was on low ranks. If you're interested in reading closer, here's a link describing it in detail. We didn’t know any of this back then though. We didn’t even have a progress bar to the next level in the PvP panel. In other words you could log in at the same rank 3 weeks in a row and not know if you’re making progress or losing it. Though even after they added the rank progress bar in patch 1.6, it was still heart crushing to log in and find out you had actually LOST rank progress after playing for 18 hours a day for a week. So I’m not sure which way I preferred it. However, I ended up dreading opening the PvP tab when I logged in every Wednesday.
So at this time, if you didn’t already have a WSG team, it was time to go look for one. My team was composed of the highest ranked players on the server. We knew each other since before because of the notoriety associated with doing PvP at the time so it was only natural we teamed up when WSG was released. We found WSG a lot of fun, it was a fresh addition to an already amazing system, so we kept a premade going almost 24/7 since everyone was super motivated to go for Rank 14. I could log off in the evening and then log on in the morning to see my premade still playing.
After running the premade for a few weeks a few of our members stopped gaining ranks. Having the top 10 standings for some reason wasn’t enough. They were all stuck at rank 11 without making any progress at all so we started being super strict on standings every week with everyone finishing in the same order before each reset to make sure everyone gains at least a little. We figured this was the only way you could achieve any progress in this system at high ranks. This is where it really turned into a grind. Knowing which standing you’d get took away a lot of the excitement of the system. It worked however, and they started gaining about 10-20% of their rank per week. Not a lot, but at least they didn’t lose progress and they’d eventually gain more as us top players would stop once we were done.
At the same time, WSG was turning into quite a pain. Not having a deserter system back then, the game let our opponents leave the BG instantly when they saw it was a premade. This resulted in our entire days being spent trying to cap 3 flags before the 5 minutes of 0 enemy players are up. How fun does that sound? I could go entire days without a single HK and still get good progress towards rank 14. Now it’s not even PvP anymore, it’s just rogues with rocket boots and preparation running flags from one room to another. Add to that 45 minute queues and having to travel to Ashenvale to queue. Missing queue was also out of the question if you wanted to keep your rank. To remedy this situation we started hunting horde in Felwood and Azshara between games since they were relatively close. It was the only way we’d get to do some actual PvP.
So there we were running a BG we absolutely hated for way too many hours a day, in a system that was vastly underrewarding. But circumstances being what they were, I was still happy to make progress myself as I was lucky enough to be getting Standing 1. However, we soon discovered the absolute most disheartening thing about this system…
Because of flaws in the system design it was impossible for more than 3 people at a time to compete for rank 12-13-14. There was a complete wall at rank 13 because you couldn’t move forward past it without Standing 1. And at least 4 weeks were needed r13-14. That meant you needed to guard your standing to the teeth every waking second for a month. If you for some reason got Standing 2, the system gave you the finger and put you back at around rank 12 +50%.
This happened to me once during my grind. As I said we implemented a system where everyone had set standings within our premade. I started with the highest rank, so I was chosen to be the first Rank 14. This meant I had to keep Standing 1 for 5 weeks total because I started at rank 12 +50%. The first 3 weeks this was no problem, our premade managed to sort standings fine every week. But week 4 something happened. A bug removed a whole day of my CP the day before reset and there was no way for me to catch up. The result of that was that I got standing 2, though only by a few thousand points despite my 24 hour straight attempt to catch up it didn’t matter because if you get standing 2, you don’t deserve rank 14. This put me from rank 13 +80% to rank 12+50% AGAIN. I lost 4 weeks of playing 18 hours a day, or 504 hours spent doing WSG. I almost burst into tears when customer support couldn’t help us.
After that I seriously lost my spirit. I could not handle another month of WSG. I decided to abandon my team and go at it on my own. They were completely fine with my decision. There was already absolutely no reason for them to play anymore. They hadn’t been making any noteworthy progress for a long time and all of them were stuck at rank 11 because of the artificial limit of 3 people at rank 12+. So they all quit the game, because without the premade there was just no way they'd be able to control standings and even keep rank 11. This was horrible to see. It all really didn’t matter for me though in the end as long as I got the title. So I spent 5 more weeks just doing Alterac Valley solo, camping the horde entrance for 1v1 battles. It worked and I managed to get standing 1 easily since no one in my premade played anymore. There was suddenly no competition for the title, because in this old system your own team was the biggest opponent, not the horde. So with my team gone from the game, it suddenly became fun again. No pressure, just logging in and doing some fun PvP and then getting ranked at the end of the week.
5 weeks later I logged in to find myself at rank 14.
It was finally over. I had never wanted anything so much in a game and seeing Grand Marshal in front of my name almost made me pass out. Note the old rank 12/13 set placeholder. They hadn’t even finished the textures for the stuff back when we were battling this insane system. I think that says a lot. After reaching rank 14 I completely stopped PvPing. I didn’t ever join a battleground again. Still to this day I can’t join WSG without getting anxiety. Maybe this wouldn’t have been the case if Blizzard would have tuned the system properly before people starting reaching those ranks. I think they didn't even realize until they saw us struggling, because when I saw this change in patch 1.8 notes, I think not many people actually understood it:
Patch 1.8.0 (10-Oct-2005): The percentage of players that may reach ranks 6 through 14 has been increased.
With this change you could even have multiple rank 14’s at once. Some servers had 3 on the same faction. It completely altered the system and I do not see the post nerf system as the same grind. Rank 14 after that was hard, sure, but it was a LOT more accessible. It did not punish you back to square one unless you were outside the top 10. Standing 2-5 actually gained you progress at r13+ now and standing <50 was enough for rank 11. Also account sharing started getting huge at this point, with multiple players playing the same char 24/7. That never happened back in my day, the title was too prestigious.
Anyway, I look back at these days now and I get mixed feelings. On one side it was extremely competetive, challenging and honestly FUN, but the backside of being ranked against your own team (especially with this broken algorithm) was just way too overwhelming. One thing is sure, it is the single most hardcore grind one could ever do in WoW.
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