Tobold's Blog
Sunday, September 02, 2007
 
The future of PvP

Compared to its excellent PvE part, the PvP in World of Warcraft is by many considered to be weaker. Which is the reason why many of the games under development that are hoping to become the successor to WoW are stressing better PvP as a selling point. But lets have a look what kind of PvP can actually attract large amount of players, and what kind of PvP is forever condemned to niche games that nobody plays.

The theory behind the attraction of PvP in a MMORPG is that computer-controlled opponents are stupid and act in repetitive ways. Fighting a human opponent is more fun, because the other player is more intelligent and unpredictable. Thus the situations in a PvP fight will always be different, which is the closest to what a MMORPG gets in player-created content. The big flaw in that theory is that humans are actually *too* intelligent for PvP. Given a choice, a player will initiate a PvP combat only if he is sure to win. Thus the attacking side in free-for-all PvP is nearly always either several attackers ganking one victim, or a higher level player ganking a lower level one, or a player abusing some other situation, like stabbing his victim in the back while the other guy is fighting a mob.

Ganking is the curse of PvP. It is extremely frustrating for the losing player, up to a point that players who get ganked repeatedly are quitting games. When UO was changed from free-for-all PvP to having a choice between PvP and non-PvP sides, this change was done to save the game, which had been bleeding subscribers due to ganking. And seen from this angle, World of Warcraft PvP is actually rather good, if (funnily enough) you play on a PvE server. In duels, arenas, and battlegrounds the numbers and levels on both sides are more or less evened out. Perfect balance is probably impossible, but WoW PvP is as balanced as it gets. The future of PvP is PvP that is restricted to fair fights.

We don't know enough yet about the upcoming PvP games, AoC, PotBS, WAR, to say how far PvP in them will be restricted to fair fights. There are some indications that WAR is trying to balance PvP out, it certainly isn't pure PvP. And for both WAR and PotBS it is known that there are PvP-free areas in the game, although we still need to see how viable it will be to play these games while avoiding the PvP zones. But one thing is clear: None of the announced games has really free-for-all PvP. So there is hope that in spite of the PvP-centric marketing these games will actually be playable for the large majority of players who don't like being ganked.
Comments:
What I've stated before (if not here, then at least in other gaming discussions) is that developers need to wise up and implement an actual ecosystem instead of a checklist of random features. Where MMOs consistently suck is that they create something (drops/spawns/whatever) from nothing, and the bigger the imbalance the less fun the grinds get.

Why does that have to do with PvP? Well, as you note, there is an imbalance in the isolated gank. The solution to that is, you guessed it, implement a system of checks and balances that discourages the bad behavior. For example, a game could allow players to take out a contract or pool money into a bounty that other players could earn by going after the jerks. A reputation system with a prominently displayed score would also go a long way to avoiding the jerks.
 
One problem with sequels is that they separate the user base. The Everquest franchise already suffers from the fact that two different games exist and anyone playing one cannot play the other one at the same time.

SOE has developed two features to counter this: Station Access allows you to at least subscribe to both at the same time and LoN which for the first time ever (!) integrates gameplay between those two player bases.

I wish EQ3 would integrate both EQ2 and EQ1 into one world. Imagine: Develop EQ3 lore and zones maybe another 1000 years into the future but allow one client to use sime kind of "time portals" to visit and adventure in EQ1 or EQ2 zones.

Thinking about it: Maybe LoN is the EQ3 you are speculating about. Its bases upon EQ Lore, has new graphics, is massively multiplayer online, has a different business model - you can even slay some gnolls if you follow the scenarios ;)
 
I think the problem devs have with PVP is in a new just starting game free for all PVP is great. But as the people who can play more begin to create the gear gap it and eat up all the content they get bored and then the gankings begin. It's a shame you don't see some sort of faction penalty for ganking people who are much lower level than you. I'd love to see something like a ganker debuff that reduced your armour and attack power by 80 percent for 30 minutes. Bet that would solve the problem. Then if someone wanted to gank after the lowbie ressed he'd actually have a chance to get even.
 
I think the main problem that PvP-centric games have had up until now is that they lacked content compared to their PvE competitors. There seems to be this assumption out there in the game developing world that with PvP you don't need content since the players are fighting each other and creating their own content (ie, revenge killing, ganking, anti-ganking ... etc).

I think if a game came out that had the volume of questing and lore that you seen in games like WoW or EQ2 (but the quests involved PvP somehow) then you would have a hit.
 
I think if a game came out that had the volume of questing and lore that you seen in games like WoW or EQ2 (but the quests involved PvP somehow) then you would have a hit.

That is what EA Mythic thinks too. :) But you still need to restrict PvP so people aren't prevented from doing the questing and exploration of the lore by some immature gankers.
 
I'm not a PVP lover, I do visit WoW BG's occasionally, but there is not a real interest in doing PVP for me. I'm on the games more for the content, but as zigabob said, some of the content might be more PvP centered, making it more interesting.

The real problem for me in the PvP servers is the gank factor: it's possible for the attacking player to see the level difference and thus make the decision to attack or not. This results what Tobold noted already: attacker will attack only when certain of winning.

If the level or the 'skill' difference wasn't possible to determine, this would make it more risky to attack even the one 'disguised' in inferior gear, now wouldn't it? Thus a game without levels has some sort of an answer in here.

Also the fact which was mentioned earlier: a strict set of (local) laws on killing a player toon and appropriate fines/bounties for breaking these laws. THe bounties should be strict enough to attract the bounty hunters and rewarding enough to group against a gank-raider.

There should be more interest and reward to PvP to make it 'for all', IMHO. Who knows, I might start to like it if the rewards were more than just the face melting of another players toon...

Copra
 
To balance pvp there must be a few things.

~everyone must be able to win a fight vs someone else. Rock/paper/scissors scenario works great in this regard.

~Time/effort/numbers(zerg) should not affect the outcome for it to be fair. This is where instancing, prebuilt chars, arranged matchs solves this problem.

Some classes can have some very obvious advantages, however to counteract these advantages they should have an equal disadvantage. Take for example a class that can run faster and has a ranged move, this class has a kiting advantage however should be paperthin and die in 1 hit to make it fair.

The above rules of fairness really cant be implemented very easily on a permanant and open ended pvp game unless there is regular server resets putting people back to square 1 often. I think what people are sick of is the learning curve on some games pvp basically not involve any intellect/strategy/organization but instead credit card numbers and jobless sit aroud and play 24/7 lifestyles.
 
One thing I've noticed that has a very determining effect on the frequence and outcome of disorganized PvP-combat (thus usually unfair, because I myself wouldn't agree to any unfair terms) is a system that allows obfuscation of information, thus not allowing people with perfect information at a glance.

For example: If an attacker can see exactly what the other player can do by their level, class and gear (assuming these are all visible, even if class is directly deduced from gear) then he will have an easy time determining the outcome of a brawl.

However, an interesting obfuscation is the subclass. Lineage 2 introduced this not too long ago, and it allows players to level a class uncommon to their race. This makes it harder for attackers to determine what the other player can and can not do, as the racial attributes also change with the class-change.

An even better system was put together in Guild Wars, where players can only select a set of 8 skills to take along, and can (completely invisible at a glance) change their class attributes around to specialize in different fields of their class. This makes it impossible for an attacker to determine the strengths/weaknesses and abilities of a possible gank-victim. The only downside here is that Guild Wars also lacks an essential portion of the ganking environment: A Free-Roaming World.

I myself am not a particular far of PvP. I play MMO's a lot, but I always play Solo classes and I never fight other players. Why, then, do I even play? To lvl? Not really... I'm more of a socializing player. Though I don't roleplay, I enjoy congregating with players and generally use the game itself as "something you do whilst you talk to people".

Even though I don't like getting ganked, I do believe it's a very strong portion of the social aspect of MMO's. There's an interesting article about the importance of Jerks in MMO's for socially binding people together. It's a fascinating read and I definitly suggest it for people that think a "gank-less" (or, perhaps more comprensible: "restricted") PvP World would work. Obviously, in such a world you'd lose a lot of players. And players are customers. The idea is to balance the ganking and bonding so that the effects don't cause the ganked to leave, or the gankers to get bored (after everybody leaves).

Here's the link: http://blogs.parc.com/playon/archives/2006/11/the_social_util.html#more
 
I don't understand how people have a problem with gankers. I play on a PvP server in WoW, and I have to say that every class has abilities to get away, and if you combine those abilities with potions, it's not hard to escape. I mean, do you sit there and not move when you get ganked? I usually carry Swiftness + Invis potions and I never have trouble escaping.

The occasional 70 might one shot me, but you can bet your bottom dollar he won't kill me again after I res and chug some escape centric potions, or use an ability.

I'm tired of fair fights being based off numbers. I want more skill based PvP with less of gear & numbers being the deciding factor.

Back when I played Ultima Online I could take out a group of 3 badly skilled players by myself - in WoW those 3 players could beat me in full epics while drooling at the keyboard. I'm not saying I was the greatest in UO, as there were players that could eliminate a whole opposing force of 5 or more people. Bring back skill-based PvP!

I think the problem with ganking is the system in every game supports the gankers. There should be a penalty system that encourages people to kill the said ganker. What if an epic dropped off a player after he ganked 10 or more people? Do you think a group would gather to squash that person?

I just hope devs take an interesting approach to the future of PvP instead of throwing a set number of people on a small map. If I wanted that I would play an FPS - I play MMOs for the immersion of a world, not a small map.
 
One of the better anti-gank pvp systems I've encountered was in Lineage 2. They use the term 'Karma', and it builds up whenever you kill a player that has not attacked you back (Meaning their name was White. Attacking a player makes you Purple, killing a White makes you Red)

Of course, you are exempt from this rule if you are at war with that person's clan or w/e, but in general, killing a player that does not fight back in a non-pvp zone (which is either the arena or a castle siege) will get you karma. Your name turns red and the chance to drop items upon death increases by 90%. Also, you will be shot on sight by city-guards. However, at maximum lvl players can kill those guards of the mid-range or lower lvl cities. These cities then obviously become interesting places to attract attention.

Of course, gankers have found ways to prevent losing their items. They will usually have 2 gank-characters. They first log in with character 1, kill some people. As soon as people show up to kill them and loot their items, they log in with character 2 (at a different location) and kill people over there until (usually the same) people go there. They keep switching like this, and as long as nobody knows it's them every time they usually get away with it.
 
One of the better anti-gank pvp systems I've encountered was in Lineage 2. They use the term 'Karma', and it builds up whenever you kill a player that has not attacked you back (Meaning their name was White. Attacking a player makes you Purple, killing a White makes you Red)

Of course, you are exempt from this rule if you are at war with that person's clan or w/e, but in general, killing a player that does not fight back in a non-pvp zone (which is either the arena or a castle siege) will get you karma. Your name turns red and the chance to drop items upon death increases by 90%. Also, you will be shot on sight by city-guards. However, at maximum lvl players can kill those guards of the mid-range or lower lvl cities. These cities then obviously become interesting places to attract attention.

Of course, gankers have found ways to prevent losing their items. They will usually have 2 gank-characters. They first log in with character 1, kill some people. As soon as people show up to kill them and loot their items, they log in with character 2 (at a different location) and kill people over there until (usually the same) people go there. They keep switching like this, and as long as nobody knows it's them every time they usually get away with it.
 
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