Misunderstanding PvP.

I think ‘PvP’ is the new ‘nerf’. Remember back in the day anytime anything bad happened, it was called a nerf? And nerf was this dirty word you used to blame the developers for everything going wrong in your MMO? That’s the reaction to PvP now. As soon as it pops up, out comes the mob to burn it at the stake and save humanity from the horrors. Ah the fickle MMO crowd, how we love you.

In my post below I talked a bit about ‘impact PvP’ and my hopes for it in Warhammer. It looks like I should have defined ‘impact PvP’ first, as there seems to be some confusion about what exactly that means, and what it does NOT mean.

Impact PvP does not mean UO98, where I can go around and gank you at will, 24/7, and completely ruin your gaming experience while collecting your head to put on my vendor for the world to see. We all accept that what ‘worked’ in 98 will not work now. It does not mean AC Darktide either, another free-for-all PvP setup. No one is asking for a mass murder simulator when we ask for PvP.

I also don’t mean WoW PvP, which sadly consists of one meh form, and one trash form. The meh are the battlegrounds, where skill and common sense are thrown out in favor of a point grind for shiny epics that are eventually handed out to everyone who logs in. While not downright terrible, battlegrounds are a poorly tacked on feature in WoW that are terribly imbalanced due to WoW’s PvE focus. Fun little distractions, they are a poor representation of actual PvP.

The trash is the STV ganking, pointless for both the ganker and the victim, and the pinnacle of what PvP should NOT be. Sadly WoW PvP is the ONLY PvP experienced by a large portion of today’s MMO population, so it’s no wonder so many people hate it. Hell if WoW PvP was my only experience with it, I would jump right on the carebear* train as well.

What I do mean when I say impact PvP is what happens in a game like EVE, a game entirely driven by its PvP, a game where everyone is affected from its impact. The reason the miners and mission runners are able to profit is due to PvP, the reason the market works is due to PvP, and the reason players stick around for years, not months, is due to PvP. Even if you have never fired a single shot at another player, and never been shot yourself, PvP has impacted you.

And the groundwork for such a system has to be set early. Why else can CCP (the developer of EVE) manage to balance so many ships and fittings, keeping so many of them viable options, and Blizzard can’t seem to balance Paladins vs Shamans? Lets not kid ourselves here, the reason both sides have access to both classes now is because after many attempts, Blizzard caved in and gave up; the easiest way to balance anything is to make it identical. Warhammer has that chance now, with its multitude of classes. They don’t need (and should not) be equal, just balanced enough to make it work. Sounds simple, but its hard to nail down, yet not impossible.

So while I completely understand people’s apprehension about PvP, especially from the WoW-only crowd, I also think too many people are selling it short. Remember that an MMO is a virtual world, one that SHOULD be player driven, shaped not by the latest patch or update, but by the community that logs in each day. Don’t sell PvP short in the assumption that it’s only form is a 10 on 1 gank performed by a group of 13 year old kids, but rather the very basic nature of me vs you. Also don’t assume the only form of PvP is actual ‘physical’ combat, the ‘who has better gear or faster fingers’ stuff. PvP is just as effective in an economic sense, or something as simple as spreading rumors and distrust among your enemy. Illidan will never care that you undersell him in the market, or that you spread a false rumor about him, or that you just snuck in and took all his resources, but players will. They will care and react, and you will react back. It’s endless content without the need for a new instance every three months.

*Oh, and while I throw around the word carebear, it’s purely because I am entertained by the word and its UO-inspired context. Don’t get too caught up in it, I ‘carebear’ just as much as anyone else when I log in, even in EVE.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in Combat Systems, EVE Online, MMO design, PvP, Ultima Online, Warhammer Online, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Misunderstanding PvP.

  1. alcaras says:

    I note you completely left out any mention of the best PvP in WoW, Arenas.

  2. Tipa says:

    I agree, EvE is probably among the top “real” PvP MMOs out there — maybe even the top one. I would expect a fantasy PvP MMO in the same vein to be almost entirely devoid of any developer-created content, quests and the like, and instead just provide the underpinnings for players to create their own worlds — and I would definitely be interested in playing a game like that. Like, each faction would get a starting city, but after that — all the cities are player made.

    Shadowbane was like that. Dark & Light was supposed to be like that, but I never played. Star Wars Galaxies had some elements of that, but I don’t think you could destroy player cities.

    I have not heard, though, that Warhammer will have that level of player-created content. In fact, I have not heard that they will have any player-created content; instead, the factions will continually war over developer-created objectives. This is significantly different from EvE’s wide open, player-created universe.

    PvP is a tough problem to be sure.

  3. syncaine says:

    Oh yea, WoW Arenas, where a few classes with the exact same talent skills and gear sets dominate over everything else. Arenas are basically small group BGs with the same end goal, gear. Not very inspiring stuff, and horribly imbalanced.

    As for Warhammer, I don’t think you NEED player build cities and the like to make it dynamic. AC Darktide did not have player build cities, yet area control still worked, players just found a way. As for quests and such, remember EVE does have missions, and while basically all the same, no one really minds, because they server a greater purpose. Even EVE areas are little more than empty space, but they again work for simple things like good asteroid belts or location. If anything it just shows that given a solid working base, PvP-based games can make something great out of nothing, while a PvE base constantly requires better and better content just to satisfy, which I think ultimately is an unsustainable course. At some point the ‘Power Ranger’ outfits everyone wears while wielding nuclear swords of insta-death just get a little ridiculous, and you can’t go back to chainmail+1 at that point.

  4. Lucifrank says:

    It’s a shame that the PvE and PvP camps tend to be so at odds. I strongly believe that PvP “done right”–in a world that players can truly impact and change–could create one of the richest, most dynamic and exciting RPG experiences out there.

    I think you’re right in theorizing that many people opposed to PvP are simply opposed to how PvP exists now (the WoW model). Also, I think a good handful of anti-PvPers equate PvP with the immature morons who do it to “pwn n00bs” and wag around the e-peens to make up for the powerlessness they feel in RL.

  5. Swift Voyager says:

    When I first learned what PvP was like in WoW I thought to myself “what’s the point in PvP if there’s no reward/concequence?” I suppose the answer to that lies in what you really want to get out of the game.

    Many people prefer games where you can fail an unlimited number of times without losing anything, and then gain something or move forward each time you succeede. It’s just a relaxing experience I guess. It’s like playing a game of Civ with difficulty turned way down, which I’ve been known to do from time to time.

    For a great number of other people, life revolves around kill boards. I played an online RTS game where I made it into the top 5 on the ladder for a while, and I have to admit that I was feeling slightly godlike at the time. So I sympathize and understand that point of view as well.

    For my part, I think the harsh environs of Eve attract me because it’s an experience I’ve never had anywhere else in my gaming life. The serious nature of the PvP can get people emotionally involved in a way that just doesn’t happen in a more casual situation. There’s a situation going on in my Eve life right now that would NEVER have happened in WoW. The most excited I’ve heard people get about things inside WoW is when they talk about people “rolling for loot drops”.

    I’ll still go play Civ on easy difficulty from time to time, so I haven’t forgotten how much fun it is to just WIN sometimes. However, now that I’ve had a taste of what it feels like when winning means something, I’ll always have a craving to play something like Eve.

  6. Vin says:

    syncaine – in short…. I hate you. Not in a bad way. But in a way where I read what you post and I think to myself… DAMNIT he is right. I have played WoW and Everquest II off and on since beta release of both games. I do enjoy them, they have their place and desire.

    But when compared to Eve, its like holding a match to light up a baseball statium. I played Eve for about 3 months. Nightly I logged in and grinded out missions, gaining ISK and working toward that next ship. That was almost 8 months ago now, but I do recall having several million ISK and a Hurricane Battlecrusier desked out in the best Tech I gear money can buy. The ONE thing that I wanted and couldn’t find was a guild, or corporation as it were. I wanted to find a mercenary group, with Ventrilo that hunted bounties. I finally gave into lesser games.

    I have played MMO’s since the orginial Kunark expansion in EQ, 1999. Yet when I really think about the games I have played, the ONLY one that has done it all right, is Eve. The game is totally open, changed and run by the players, not the developers. The stories of people that have done crazy things are about REAL players, not a conjured story. Everything we did in that game had some sort of impact. I miss it, And I am going to give it another shot soon. Trinity is out, and I would like to see my pretty Hurricane again.


  7. syncaine says:

    And what you describe Swift is the PvP bug. Once you feel that rush of success in PvP, its tough to go back to PvE and get the same high, they really just don’t compare.

    Yet at the same time, everyone at times likes to just do something easy and mindless to relax. My main issue is that WoW and other PvE-focused games are mindless 95% of the time, never giving you the opportunity for that PvP high I’ve had with UO/AC/DAoC. I still enjoy them greatly for what they are, but am very much looking forward to having another (in addition to EVE) outlet for that PvP-inspired rush.

  8. syncaine says:

    Put in the time and find a solid Corp, they are all over the place and in every variety, just need to do the research to find one that is active and suits your playstyle. They absolutely change EVE in a huge way, opening you up to all the stuff you so far have only read about. The biggest mistake anyone can make in EVE is NOT joining a good Corp, as thats more important in EVE than any other MMO out.
    Good luck, and let me know when/if you do, I always enjoy hearing about people’s experience in EVE, as they are all different and interesting.

  9. Swift Voyager says:

    Off-topic or on a tangent here, but finding a corp in Eve is a lot easier since Trinity introduced the new in-game advertising system. It’s a searchable database of paid advertisements from corps that may be hiring.

    I know I was wishing there was something like that last spring, when I was looking for a new corp.

  10. Frank says:

    I think you are spot on with this post. WoW has so many great features, but the actual player-driven side of the game is severely lacking. I also have high hopes for WAR, but I fear that it will try to take too much from WoW and fall short. I’ve actually never tried EVE, but it sounds like I need to.

  11. sid67 says:

    I would make a better distinction between player driven content and PvP. An auction war while competitive and interactive with other players is not PvP. I whole heartedly agree that content that is reactive to what players do is far preferable to content that is solely developer driven. But to my mind, true PvP is much faster paced and real-time. Arguably, you could say two people racing against a computer is PvP in that you are both competing for the best time. In truth, you are both simply playing against the computer and then only comparing the results. That being said, I agree with the main point of your blog entry that PvP is more than just someone getting ganked or dueling in Arena. Objective based PvP that involves strategic elements is some of the best PvP and there is room for lots of roles (combat and non-combat). Personally, I would simply love to see a game with impact world objectives that have a persistent effect.

    However, as I said in your previous post, the fundamental flaw in MMORPG PvP is that “getting gear” and “improving your character” is detrimental to equal play. Those that play more gain not only skill, but better characters in which to participate in the PvP as part of the reward. The effect is that the barrier of entry is too high for newcomers who quickly become disenfranchised with the PvP experience. Lowering the barrier is too often done by introducing PvE like gimmicks as objectives which dilutes the entirety of the PvP experience. I don’t have a fix for this problem, which is why I am not optimistic that any game will deliver quality MMORPG PvP. However, I do think that more player driven content and world objectives with persistent effects is a step in the right direction.

  12. alcaras says:

    You seem quite dismissive of arenas. What’s your highest rated arena team? If you’ve been over 2200 in 5s or 2300 in 3s I think you’ll agree that there is quite a lot of competition and room for player skill. 2v2 is a bit of a rock, paper, scissors fest, true, but 3s and 5s are quite well balanced with many tactical options. Also, Arena has a comparatively quick gear plateau (compared to raiding), so highest level fights come down to skill, not gear.

    On the other hand, if you’ve never broken 2k rating on an arena team, I think you should try it before you knock it.

  13. alcaras says:

    Note that I’m not against impact PvP, nor do I think Arenas exemplify it. However, I do think Arenas are the best small-scale PvP in any MMO today; I also have high hopes for Lake Wintergrasp, the new outdoor PvP zone in Wrath of the Lich King.

    There are a few issues with impact PvP.

    First: In a game that never ends, rewarding the winning side only serves to make them stronger.
    Second: If you introduce resets, well, it’s not really persistent anymore, is it? Are you really changing the world if everything just reverts in a few weeks?
    Third: How do you deal with population imbalance? One side has 250 people. The other has 75. Uh-oh.
    Fourth: Really large battles have lag, which reduces many users’ experience to nothing. I cite to you 500 person relic raids in DAOC that crashed servers. There’s a reason many relic raids took place at 5 am, but that isn’t very fun for those who can’t play at that hour.

  14. sid67 says:

    Quote “Third: How do you deal with population imbalance? One side has 250 people. The other has 75. Uh-oh.”

    Agreed. This is another tough nut to crack. Persistent impact pvp objectives that rarely change because one side is simply more dominant is big problem. The most likely culprit is population and I imagine a few rerolls will further offbalance the problem once people look to get on the “winning side” of the battle.

    It’d be interesting to see a group of neutral players (mercenaries?) that could be swayed from one side to another in some fashion. Perhaps they progress by constantly being on the offensive or something. Once objectives are taken, it benefits them to switch sides and retake them. Conversely, other groups could be townsfolk types whose allegiance is to a particular region rather than a faction. When an objective is taken, their allegiance essentially switches and they become one of the defenders of the area. If this mechanic were free flowing enough, people could literally switch allegiances in game through a series of quests or what not and find themselves on another faction or in one of the neutral factions.

    I remember when I used to play Tribes competitively and I (and a few others) in a 16v16 map would be considerably better than others and would often find ourselves switching sides to make the game more balanced. Now imagine whole guilds effectively doing the same thing and 40-50 people swapping to another side the entertainment value of whooping their old comrades.

  15. alcaras says:

    Agreed, sid67, that switching sides would help offset population balance.

    The issue is that in current games (e.g. WoW), it’s way too hard to switch sides to make that viable. I’d love some sort of questline around Theramore, for example, that lets you switch factions. The lore is even there, considering Jaina and Thrall.

  16. alcaras says:

    I’ve posted an extended version of my thoughts over at my blog at Subcreation. Consider this a trackback:

  17. ShadowCoder says:

    I wonder why all these players keep pushing up WoW Arenas? I can go play Unreal Tournament for Deathmatch and it will be 100% better with 100% less grind and 100% more player skill I promise you that

    MMORPGs, I naively thought once upon a time, are supposed to be virtual worlds where we can engage in massive wars. Thank you Blizzard for crushng my dreams and ruining mmorpgs for the next 50 yrs. Now every game developer got major $$$ in their eyes- blinded by Blizzard’s success

    We can only hope for more inpdendants like CCP/EVE to step up and bring us more “impact pvp” because the mainstream devs are lost in a swirl of $$$ signs and copycating each other like no tomorrow. WoW, instant gratification- long term bad for mmorpg industry.

  18. vajuras says:

    Going to put down some quick responses to alcaras:

    “rewarding the winning side only makes them stronger”

    Exactly, PvP is about WINNING. The losers will ‘surrender’ often joining your guild or forced to make treaties with you. Other smaller guilds might combine to make a formible force and become strong. Such things happen in EVE Online quite often.

    There really is no “losers” per se. Sure, you might lose at PVP. But hey, EVE Online has PVE missions you can run where you always win. So if PVP is not for you, you can go PVE and always be a hero amongst NPCs…..

    “how are you going to deal with population imbalance”

    That is mainly a problem for race vs race titles where players are stuck with the faction they choose at character creation. FFA PVP games- due to the nature of the beast, dont suffer from this problem. In EVE Online there are 3 races are free to work together, etc. So this problem is totally non-existant to prominent PVP games.

    So then, PVP occurs at a Guild vs Guild level or Alliance vs Alliance. This isn’t perfect, but by FAR better then Race vs Race because guess what:

    – Guilds can surrender to other guilds. make deals and pay for protection or tithes like we see in eVE Online (pure mining guilds pay pvp guilds, etC)
    – Guilds can hire ‘mercenary’ guilds like we see in EVE Online
    – Guilds can merge and form ‘Alliances’

    “really large battles have lag…”

    so devs should avoid world pvp all because it produces lag? Well hell let’s disallow world PVE too. Let’s instance off the towns. Let’s cap the population for every zone

    Lag, live with it. That is why most mmorpgs make sure most of your actions are fairly high latency. In eve online you can hide practically every ship and only display a blimp on your radar and still execute commands

  19. Talyn says:

    What syncaine calls “impact PvP” is what I’ve always called “meaningful PvP” and I’m wondering what he will think of this:

    WarCry: You mention a focus on meaningful PvP in Earthrise, can you expand on this?

    Atanas Atanasov: If you take a close look at most MMORPGs available on the market today, what they offer as PvP is often about friendly and in many ways regulated competition between players for fame, glory and rewards provided by the designers of the game. While such rewards are important incentive for many participants, for a sizable audience that we strive to attract, it has nothing of the cutthroat competition and the sense of risk associated originally with the PvP experience. The PvP in Earthrise is going to be not just about winning valuable resources that you as a player, your guild and even your faction need to survive in the highly competitive world of Enterra; it is about protecting these same resources from everyone else, because all that can be won can be lost and the success of PvP is going to be determined by striking the perfect balance between aggressive offense and thoughtful, often paranoid defence. This sense of danger and risk will run on many levels – from the personal rivalry between players to faction wars and the grand territory conquest that will shape the ever-changing military, political and even economic balance between Continoma and their Noir rivals.

    From a WarCry interview on the just-announced sci-fi MMORPG Earthrise.

    It sounds more like something I’d be interested in, where more to gain equals more to lose, and acquiring and defending posts will have meaning to everyone not just the PvP-ers themselves.

  20. syncaine says:

    As people have pointed out, population balance is only an issue when you force players to certain sides by artificial means (horde/alliance). Look at UO/AC/EVE and you realize population was never an issue in those games.

    Same deal with rewarding the winning side, the winner does get stronger, but it often evens out. Look at BoB in EVE, they looking invincible for so long, and are now having some serious issues. Players leave, switch sides, etc.

  21. sandboxGod says:

    Talyn thanks for the link

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