You can’t have everything, sorry.

Keen has a post up about his recent experience in DAoC. The gist of it is that after the ‘newness’ of being back in DAoC wore off, the fact that the PvE in DAoC is not as on-rails as more recent MMOs was a deal breaker for him, and he could not get himself to play through the PvE portion just to get to the PvP part that he wanted.

Along with the post there are some great comments left by several people debating both sides of the issue. After posting one comment myself, I had another going until I realized it was getting lengthy, and when that happens, its blog post time.

I think two huge issues play into Keen’s feeling about his recent trip to DAoC. First off, he has a pre-set image of what he REMEMBERS DAoC being, and more importantly, he remembers DAoC as a max level character focused on RvR. DAoC was NEVER an amazing PvE game, because it was never designed to be. It’s a PvP game, and as with any GOOD PvP-focused game, you have to make sacrifices on the PvE end to get good PvP. I really don’t think that point is debatable either, games either get PvE or PvP right, or they try to do both and everything ends up meh. UO had good PvP, eh PvE. EQ1 had good PvE, trash PvP. AC Darktide was good PvP, no one cared about the PvE. WoW HAD good PvE, trash PvP, and is now stuck in ‘meh’ mode for both as it tries to become an e-sport. EVE has good PvP, eh PvE. The list goes on and on.

So issue one is that Keen has to accept the PvE aspect of DAoC in order to get to the PvP. This is not to say the PvE in DAoC is worthless, its not, but it’s not what sells the game. You can’t expect WoW 1-60 in DAoC, and then still expect the RvR game to be there as well. It’s similar to someone logging into EVE and expecting ‘!’ above the NPCs heads, while still hoping to get into fleet warfare later; it just does not work that way. The key is to know and accept that day 1. You don’t level a character in EQ2 to max so you can get to the sweet PvP at the end, right? So why expect that from DAoC?

The second issue, and I think this is the big one, is that too many people assume that what worked back in early 2000 won’t work today, because somehow WoW was this giant revolution in MMO design and made any idea before it obsolete. People make statements that things like open world PvP, death penalties, open-ended PvE are all dead, generally based on the fact that WoW does not have them, and since 10 million people play WoW, that must be the one and only way to design an MMO. The truth is almost any idea done well works. Open PvP works, just not in WoW. It works great in EVE, and removing it from EVE would basically be one step away from shutting off Tranquility. Same with death penalties, they don’t work in WoW, but done right they do. The death penalty of item loss was a major factor in AC Darktide working as well as it did, and without it the PvP would have suffered greatly. Or take a game like LoTRO, even being as close to a WoW clone as it is, it does open-ended PvE well in the form of deeds, giving you a reason, however small, to just go and grind away on mobs. The key is, if you hate grinding mobs, LoTRO does not force you to do it, as the deeds are somewhat minor. But the option is still there, and for many, it works really well.

As the next wave of big name titles is set for release, it’s very important to remember that those games are not WoW. If you want an on-rails ! chase, WoW has perfected it, so stick with perfection and enjoy it. But if you want something else, either because the ! chase is not your thing, or because you have been doing it for however long and want something else, you have to accept the give and take of design. The next game you play after WoW won’t do its thing PLUS everything WoW did, that’s just not possible. If it’s designed well, it will do its thing well, and hopefully that will be reason enough to play. But going into a game and comparing it constantly to WoW’s highlights, you will be forever disappointed, no matter how well the game hits its goals.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in Age of Conan, Combat Systems, Dark Age of Camelot, EQ2, EVE Online, Lord of the Rings Online, MMO design, PvP, Site update, Ultima Online, Warhammer Online, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to You can’t have everything, sorry.

  1. tipa says:

    Well, my side of that discussion was getting too personal, but in the end I was just shocked, because I know of hardcore PvPers, and care-bears who don’t do PvP. But it turns out there are hardcore PvE-ers and carebear PvE-ers as well.

    Every game should have a server where you can just be max level and have all the best gear from the start — a place for people who don’t want to play anything except the very end of the game can go.

    It would save development time, too, as game companies would save money developing content players would just come to resent.

  2. Keen says:

    (Before I start I just wanted to point out I think the link at the beginning is borked!)

    Syncaine said, “It’s a PvP game, and as with any GOOD PvP-focused game, you have to make sacrifices on the PvE end to get good PvP. ”

    That was the entire point of my post. I was stating that it should not be that way. PvE should not be a hurdle one has to overcome. And yes, it can be done.

    As for the future of gaming, at least in the near future, Conan AND WAR are both the “linear” styles of PvE. Warhammer works on a tier system. You progress from tier 1’s PvE region to Tier 2’s PvE region and so on. You know where to go. You know that when you are done with area 1 you move on to area 2. There’s no guessing game or “lost” feeling. Essentially it’s exactly what I want. I’m less sure on the specifics of Conan, but from a hands on feature I was reading it appears that PvE is linear as well right from the start. As for referencing WoW, please know that I am not using that as an example of how PvE should be done. I think their questing system is horrible and lacking any and all depth. But moving on…

    My views on a more linear PvE are not so much about playing on rails as they are making the PvE process less of a roadblock and more engaging. These are games remember. For me PvE should not feel like work. While it should still require effort, it should be effortless in its approach (does that make sense?)

    Regardless of what I think, there are still people who enjoy what I feel is a more tedious way of playing. You’re not wrong for liking that style; not at all. It’s just not for me.

  3. Jason says:

    Keen, wanting effortless effort makes all the sense in the world. However, it is not something you will ever get. Syncaine said it quite well, but I have this thought to add.

    You want the perfect PvE leveling system, like WoW but better, with a meaningful PvP endgame similar to DAoC. WoW’s leveling system is horrible and meaningless, yet at the same time I find it to be exactly what you want. There’s some effort involved, but not so much that it’s tiring and worklike. Yes, it can get repetitive if you’re going through it on your 10th or 11th alt, but isn’t everything like that? All I can really say is come back to earth, bro. No MMO will ever be perfect, no MMO will ever get everything right. And having said that, I think even if one comes along and really, truly gets everything right, people will still find things to hate about it, yourself included.

    Syncaine, well said. People really need to come to terms with the fact that all other MMOs are not WoW, and not all MMOs can do everything right and well. In a way it sucks, but that’s what it is.

  4. sid67 says:

    That was the entire point of my post. I was stating that it should not be that way. PvE should not be a hurdle one has to overcome. And yes, it can be done.

    I agree with Keen on this one. With a properly implemented design, there is no reason why both elements can’t exist in the same game. All the games you listed are great example of why it didn’t work in the past. Game designers should be looking at those games to see WHY they didn’t work and start thinking about how to make it work.

    It’s ironic. I read your blog and Tobold’s and on many of these PvE vs. PvP issues I tend to agree with both of you. I believe that’s because, like Keen, I don’t think they need be mutually exclusive. It’s a mistake for a game to limit itself to just PvE or just PvP. People get bored and like variety.

    I’ll tell you one thing that would go a looong way to bringing down the barrier between PvE and PvP is to make the way combat is handled a bit more similar. The holy trinity discipline of creating PvE games says that PvE mobs need to be crowd controlled and stand there allowing themselves to get tanked. Whereas, in PvP – nothing stands still and getting crowd control feels both unfair and unfun. Having a PvE game where the mobs showed some tactical initiative and broke away from that holy trinity mentality would open up a lot more possibilities for game design that could easily support both PvE and PvP.

  5. tipa says:

    @sid67 — you can’t give players meaningful combat and expect them to be content with meaningless rewards — like 0.1% xp, which is what EQ2 offered the users in the latest expansion. Having a challenging combat session with a trash mob for such an awful reward would just be a slap in the face. Meaningful combat requires meaningful rewards, but that means you can’t have as much combat. And really, today’s MMOs are entirely built around meaningless combat. You can’t change that without changing everything.

  6. Warzard says:

    I read this article and I really want to agree with you, but I being reminded of a little game called Vanguard. That game wanted to appeal to the hardcore players by reinstating all old MMO elements that WoW did away with like Death penalty and stuff like that. Vanguard unfortunately was a collosal failure, yes mainly because the elements were poorly implemented at launch, but I doubt it would have succeeded regardless.

    On the other hand LotRO was guilty of making their game TOO WoW like, but that game has enjoyed some commercial success at least.

    The comparison I was trying to make is that ignoring the elements of what made WoW successful is simply a bad idea for MMOs.

    The exception to this rule of course is Eve Online, what makes Eve great is that it’s a completely different type of MMO. Like the difference between a Flight game and a Flight simulator. Eve’s greatest asset is it’s close-knit more mature community. Something horrible like getting your ship with rare stuff blown to bits isn’t as bad because there’s seemingly usually someone in your corp looking out for you, and the feeling of realism through space exploration makes something like losing precious cargo to pirates more acceptable.

    The sense of realism is different for Fantasy MMOs like WoW and such. The audience those games appeal to don’t want to roll peasant class and die of potato famine. They want to wield Excalibur and slay dragons, and death penalties, or any other sort of realistic penalties simply deter from the overall fantasy experience.

  7. sid67 says:

    And really, today’s MMOs are entirely built around meaningless combat. You can’t change that without changing everything.

    It’s called innovation. Your accepting that because things are the way they have been that they should always be that way. Good design learns from the mistakes of the past and improves upon it. Sometimes, you need to recognize that the failure is in some of the things that many people hold as basic truths. Why not change everything? There is no MMO bible that says all games need to played the same exact way.

    One of these truths that you hold that I would strongly challenge is this idea that people that meaningful combat requires great rewards. I would agrue that for many (like me) that more dynamic combat is in and of itself a more meaningful reward than the current system of grinding out mobs in meaningless combat. I won’t disagree that human nature typically desires the path of least resistance to earn your reward. However, if the game is designed from the ground up with more dynamic combat as a defining element, then the expectation is taught and set early in the game experience.

    You certainly can’t take a game like WoW and then rewrite the rules. But with a whole new game, you have the unique opportunity to take what has been done in the past and throw it out the window in favor of something better. Keen’s point (and mine) is that there is no reason why I shouldn’t want both PvE and PvP in a game. It certainly is not impossible and the only thing standing in developers way is an unwillingness to strive too far away from proven models. The “success” of games like EQ and WoW work to stifle innovation as new developers simply look to repackage old concepts.

  8. thallian says:

    I appreciate your challenge to players everywhere. I think theres a life’s lesson in here somewhere but anyways I think what you wanted to say can be best summed up as this: don’t get your panties in a twist about something before you try it, expecting it to be something. Just go and try it and then judge it based on what it is, not what it isn’t.
    Anyways my wow friends all take one play of lotro and compare it to wow (not the wow at launch but the wow with 3/4 years behind it) and they stick up their noses right away and walk away after playing it for only a week. Not every game has to be the best one to be worth playing and not every cheese has to be “insert your favorite” to be worth eating. Don’t be a cheese snob. :P

  9. tipa says:

    @sid67 — actually, I’ve been an advocate of meaningful combat for some time. I wouldn’t mind fighting a single encounter for fifteen minutes or so if the reward was proportional to the effort. In my ideal MMO, combat would be just one of a number of things you could do, and all the things would be challenging, take a fair amount of time, and be well-rewarding. I’d rather spend a game session doing five meaningful things than 500 meaningless ones.

    But MMOs are big business now. Big business is the enemy of innovation. Satisfying the vanishingly small percentage of people who play MMOs for a challenge or consider challenges fun is not cost-effective. The clear trend is to make MMOs easier with every iteration in order to lower the barriers as much as possible. It’s hard to think how a game could be made easier than WoW, but I guarantee there are at least ten new MMOs coming out willing to take that task on.

  10. syncaine says:

    Here is the thing a lot of people seem to be missing; WoW has a great PvE game due partly to ignoring PvP at launch. Now that PvP is getting attention, everyone is seeing the PvE game suffer. You just can’t have both

    It’s just not possible to balance rules around the two very different game types, one being all about beating brain dead NPCs (and they need to be brain dead, no one would enjoy mobs that ignore a tank and 2 shot all your clothies all the time), the other being all player controlled with min/maxers running around. UO showed us that, yet all these years later people still don’t get it.

    As for AoC/WAR having linear PvE, who cares? Both games say they will be PvP-based, so how they implement the PvE side show matters little, as long as it does not get in the way of the PvP. If WAR has ‘engaging’ PvE it just means encounters which take more effort than I want to spend beating up NPCs instead of focusing on beating live, thinking opponents. That’s why people don’t want raiding in WAR, its not because of what raiding is in itself; it’s because raiding demands raiding focused gear and skills, and those things don’t mix with PvP.

  11. syncaine says:

    As a random comparison, does anyone playing DoTA complain that the waves of npcs are mindless? Are the items/skills balances around taking down the random creep camps, or around the other heroes? Would DoTA be a BETTER game if all the creeps acted in an intelligent manner?

    There is a reason that game is a near perfect example of team PvP, and a huge part of that reason is that it ignores PvE to an extreme, and uses what little PvE it has as a means to an end for PvP.

  12. Bonedead says:

    I’m so confuzzled Syncaine!

    You can level from 1 to 50 by only PvPing, and it’s not that difficult. I have gotten 2 toons to 50 during 14 day trials (2 trials, 1 50 each). You get uber bonus xp for killing people, uber bonus xp for killing mobs in PvP zones, and if you capture a CK with some realm mates you get a free level! Not to mention every 3-7 days you get a free level if you have leveled yourself recently!

    Maybe I just love DAOC too much.

  13. sid67 says:

    they need to be brain dead, no one would enjoy mobs that ignore a tank and 2 shot all your clothies all the time

    That’s my point. Why do you need a tank and clothies? Let me ask you, in real warfare – does your enemy just run up to one guy and let everyone else beat on them? No. Only dumb animals would behave in that type of manner. In the early days of MMO, developers had very limited AI so this mechanic of “tanking” a mob simplifies the AI required to make the encounter more real.

    Even in the old pen & paper AD&D games there wasn’t a “tank” in the way we see it today. Only damage dealers and healers. Collison detection was presumed and you needed to be concerned about getting flanked, how many PCs and NPCs can fit in that doorway and so forth.

    I’m hopeful that since WAR has it’s roots in a game that featured miniatures and many of the old pen & paper mechanics that they can break out of that mold a bit. Although, I’m also not advocating collision as the ultimate solution per se, just making the point that we don’t have to accept that the traditional game mold that exists today. I would point out that EVE is radically different in many ways and I’m certain that’s why it has as much appeal.

  14. syncaine says:

    Why do you think we call them ‘tanks’? You send in the heavy armor when you know you will be under heavy fire.

    In smart team PvP games (DoTA, EVE) you still have tanking classes, and smart teams send them in first. They also play in such a way to make that tank a favorable target by the other team, giving him a powerful debuff aura for instance.

    The reason you need the type of tank class we see in EQ or WoW is because the NPC mobs are grossly overpowered, as that is the only way to make them a challenge. UO had no ‘tank’ class because until much later all the NPCs were reasonably balanced in terms of power compared to the player.

  15. sid67 says:

    Why do you think we call them ‘tanks’? You send in the heavy armor when you know you will be under heavy fire.
    Actually – no, that’s not the reason you send in tanks. You send in tanks against infantry because they are heavily armed and capable of doing massive damage while safely crossing the enemy lines. Real life tanks are a method to beat down fortifications, not to draw heavy fire to them. In the modern world, they are far less effective than in WWII due to artillery and aircraft. They don’t even engage in ground combat with tanks until enemy artillery and aircraft have been mostly neutralized.

    Back to point—I’m not opposed to the idea of a class that is able to draw a line in the sand and say “in order to cross this line, you must first pass me”. That is a very real part of real combat. However, how is that different than lets say… setting up a wall of pikes that can’t be crossed without a great deal of effort? There is no reason why a “pull” isn’t the equivalent having the enemy charge your line – or in some cases, maybe it’s you storming theirs. Or alternately, maybe some scenarios are more about guerrilla warfare tactics that don’t have a clearly defined line.

    The point here is that thinking outside the box opens up a much bigger world of possibilities than the same old rehashed model that keeps getting thrown up.

  16. tipa says:

    10,000,000 WoW players say mindless combat is the most fun and challenge is poison.

    Who ya gonna deveop for? A few hundred thousand purists looking for something new, or ten million people who just want the same old same old?

  17. syncaine says:

    Yea I was thinking more of the traditional WW2 tank than warfare now. You still use them in part due to their ability to withstand more firepower than infantry or lighter vehicles.

    But back on topic.

    I think there is a place for MMOs with more interesting PvE combat, but that place is not in a PvP based MMO. The two really just don’t mix, and the harder people try to mix them, the worse each group gets.

    And Tipa, it all depends on what my budget is. If I have a blockbuster budget, then yea I’m going after the 10mil mindless zombie crowd. If I’m on a smaller budget, I’ll go after the EVE-type of player who will be a sub for years, not months, if I deliver him/her a quality product.

    And just because you design a WoW-clone does not mean you will get WoW-like numbers, while at the same time gambling with a much larger pool of money. If the market has shown us anything, its that there are plenty of dedicated groups of gamers that will keep niche titles alive, as long as that niche title stays true to its player base and delivers.

    As long as a company has a solid grasp on reality and plans out its budget reasonably, someone working on a 100k sub MMO could easily earn more money than someone working on a 10mil one (silly CEO pay not included). And with good money, you get attract good talent and get a good product.

  18. Bartle says:

    I enjoyed this post and have enjoyed some of your recent ones. Good jorb!


    If it felt like the same old same old, the subscriber base wouldn’t be anywhere in the realm of 10,000,000. I think its a common error to assume that just because we think WoW is a cake walk and full of ‘gimme what I want now’ kids, that they are somehow less enlightned than ourselves and don’t know good gameplay when they see it.

    I fall into this trap too, no doubt, but I just wanted to point that out. The gameplay clearly appeals to an extremely large majority of people that are both your typical gamer and the person who rarely ever plays games. Saying that the game play is boring, stupid and mindless carries the assumption that all 10,000,000 subscribes who love it, are mindless.

    Lets hope thats not true. :D

  19. Van Hemlock says:

    I’m a raging carebear on the whole, but have to agree with Syncaine. Played a fair few titles and I’m not sure any of them have managed to shine on both PvE and PvP in the same game. One set of features will invariably interfere with the other. EVE comes close though, and must admit I’ve never played Dark Age of Camelot.

    Maybe someone will get it right, maybe it’s just not possible. Really does depend what the designers want when they start designing the game. If it is really just about the monies, hell, bang out an even easier version of WoW and let the PvP players hang. If it’s more about the challenge, battle of wills and all that, do the PvP right, don’t worry about the PvE, and don’t worry about zOMG10millionz!1.

    Way I see it, a successful game is one that pays it’s development costs, hosting and staff, and still has players enjoying it a year or more in. Anything else is a bonus. There’s definitely room for both sorts, but the key is deciding what it’s to be early, making that clear to the customers and sticking with it. So much blogospheric woes about WoW’s big PvP push these days.

    And anyway, who says anyone has to only play one game at a time?

  20. sid67 says:

    10,000,000 WoW players say mindless combat is the most fun and challenge is poison.

    They are sheep. Baaah! Give them rails to learn meaningful combat and I would argue they would start finding the whole gaming experience more fulfilling. The most common complaint that I hear from people is boredom. Bored with the grind. Bored with the lack of new content. Hmm. Well, if the content was a little more dynamic, then it wouldn’t get old nearly as quickly. WoW players don’t do things because they are fun or challenging, they do them because they have been taught that meaningless grinds provide them with items and gold. I say give them fun and challenge along with the reward and they would gladly embrace the change.

    I’m an advocate of variety and the most variety can be hand at the price of randomness. Of course, the MOST dynamic content is created by other players. The problem is that it is not always good content. Therefore, it’s important to have both a player influenced element and also a very controlled PvE element that is a fun and consistent user experience. A consistent user experience doesn’t mean it’s the exact same every time, it only means that the experience matches the expectations set from your previous experience.

    someone working on a 100k sub MMO could easily earn more money than someone working on a 10mil one

    That’s a bit of a reach, but I agree with the sentiment. What qualifies as success? That 10M number is inflated by a very large % of Asia customer where the profit per sub is considerably less than in the US and Europe. Yet, we all buy into the Blizzard PR because subscriptions are seen as the primary barometer for a game’s success. However, from a financial perspective, I would define my success as exceeding my expectations for a reasonable return on investment (ROI). It could be very possible for a well designed and implemented MMO with a small sub to have a very profitable ROI. It’s equally plausible that a badly managed MMO could have 10M subscribers and a very poor ROI.

  21. thallian says:

    I think it is possible to focus on pvp, pve casual stuff and pve raiding but it is incredibly expensive and since most companies are looking at maximizing profit instead of maximizing overall player enjoyment, the likelihood is very poor. So I will concede that it hasn’t happened yet and stuff but it may somehow happen in the future, though probably we will just have to play two games to get the best of both worlds, which is what I will do.

  22. Pingback: You CAN have everything… | The Greenskin

  23. Neef says:

    Two things:

    First, I thought Guild Wars Nightfall had some of the best PvE *and* PvP I have played in recent years. The missions were immersive, sometimes VERY difficult, with an excellent plotline. There’s one mission where you’re clearing the docks to make a beachhead for your invasion, then as you’reabout to win a plot twist occurs and your army is shredded…it really is head and shoulders above anything WoW had to offer.

    The PvP was frankly too difficult for me (old man reflexes), but it was engrossing and well-balanced nonetheless.

    Second, the problem with making a niche game is that you’d have to do it on a niche budget but produce polished results. EvE is an anomaly in that regard because they don’t have to worry about all the art assets that a land-based MMO does. They don’t have to have X races animated for Y weapons in Z armor skins, etc. They don’t have to worry about wind sounds, or water, or trees, or sunsets.

    For a land-based niche game, you have a quandary. The hardcore gamer with his quad-core SLI Alienware is going to want some eye candy. If you try to provide an immersive environment, you run up costs, and you need a big audience to recoup it. If you go the Dungeon Runners route (limited art), you risk having your game look like it’s 15 years old and not something a “serious” gamer would look twice at.

  24. I think the most important part to the lifeblood of an online game is community. When DAoC was on top of the world the VN board were jumping but when other games came along people moved to them, still on the VN boards, but DAoC chatter got too quiet.

    Look at wow – sites like wowhead are fully interactive with the game. I’m here tonight specificaly because I CAN NOT FIND EVEN A PLAYER DATA FEED for a long overdue daqoc fansite I wanted to work on.

    I can write plugins, create templates and even run a free hosted personal daoc blog site but unfortunately I can’t access some of the most simple data from the herald. This needs to change ASAP imo.

    Like with most games, from the begining with UO, people want to do more than just play, they want to live and breathe their favorite pastime. A couple of support sites that catered to crafting went down recently… nothing is staying online.

    I’ll create a wowhead like fan site to help guide new players into the game but unless I can make it interactive enough… it’s a futile effort. I NEED access to player data and items, much like you see on the herald, to achieve that.

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