Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
 
We just don't want to lose

If you haven't read Scott Jenning's How to Make a Game with PvP Done Right article I linked to two weeks ago yet, you should do so now. The only problem I have with it is that it talks a lot about how PvP can't work, and a lot less about how PvP can work. There is an up to now not disproven theory that PvP can't work in a MMORPG at all, because it is incompatible with whatever makes a MMORPG a MMORPG, for example levels and gear. But I think *if* PvP can work in a MMORPG, it can only do so by rewarding *both* the winner and the loser.

I came to that conclusion by listening to a conversation in guild chat where one player was complaining how much it sucked that he got only 83 honor points in half an hour of Alter Valley battleground. I restrained myself from typing into guild chat that "this is called losing". Because I understood perfectly well that he wasn't complaining about losing AV, he was complaining that recent changes to AV made losing give less rewards than it used to. You get more honor per hour now from winning, as battles are shorter now, but less from losing. And apparently although you get "some" honor and 1 victory mark for losing, people like it less than the previous situation, where the difference in honor gained for winners and losers wasn't so big.

The other insight I arrived at this year was that people care a lot about individual PvP rewards, but don't care all that much about which side is winning. In the Pirates of the Burning Sea beta we had a situation where a hardcore guild after one wipe switched to a previously underdog nation, leveled up to the cap quickly, and then started to dominate PvP with their higher levels and better organization. That turned out to be a bad idea, because you could read endless rants from them about how the enemy nations had a "conspiracy" going on to "boycott" port battles. What really happened was that players from other nations had quickly realized that they were losing each battle, and thus simply didn't go to them any more. Because if you came to a port battle and lost on the sea part, your ship lost durability and eventually sunk. A big personal loss, not considered worth risking for the small possibility of winning, which only helped the nation, but gave no individual PvP rewards.

In the December video podcast of Warhammer Online the devs again talk a lot about their RvR PvP-system, about keeps, siege weapons, and victory points that make one side or the other win. What they are strangely silent about is personal PvP rewards, and how these are affected by winning and losing. Keeps are probably going to change owner many times between map resets. That is certainly going to be huge fun to do a couple of times. But if you EA Mythic expects people to keep doing it for a long time, they better hand out personal PvP rewards for every time you capture a keep or accomplish other PvP objectives, whether they are instanced or open world RvR objectives. *And* you better also give personal PvP rewards for the losing side. Not for "losing a keep" if you lost it while asleep. But unsuccessfully defending a keep should give nearly as many personal PvP points per hour as successfully taking it.

People simply don't want to lose. And they certainly don't want to pay $10 to $15 a month for the privilege of losing. That means PvP has to be positive sum, so if you win some and lose some you still end up coming out ahead. But as some people lose a lot more than they win, the only way to make sure PvP is positive sum for everybody is to give out PvP rewards for losing. The huge increase in PvP activity from before to after patch 1.13 in World of Warcraft, which turned WoW from a game where PvP rewarded the winners to one where PvP rewarded the losers nearly as well, tells us that this is the way to go. After all, X hours spent in PvE in a MMORPG are certain to earn you a reward. So if PvP wants to compete with that, the same X hours have to earn you a similar reward. Losing doesn't hurt if you still come home with a nice reward for the time spent, and the fact that the winner got a somewhat bigger price even keeps you motivated to try and do better. That system is still full of design pit traps (like afk honor farming in AV), but those problems can be solved with careful design.
Comments:
I disagree, for a number of reasons. But I feel the main flaw in your reasoning is looking to WoW as an example.

There is very little if any PvP in Alterac Vally. At least in the traditional sense. Players rarely fight each other as doing so simply delays the end of game, and thus the "payout" in honor. Instead what we have is actually more along the lines of Competitive PvE. In which each side if fighting largely against NPC's in a race to cap all the towers, and kill the commander faster then the other side can.

This is likely why people are growing frustrated with decrease in honor gained from losing. If both sides cap the same amount of towers, and are both fighting the commander but one side kills him faster does that equate to them having done more work? The answer is no they just did their work faster. The Effort vs Reward ratio is now thrown off since both sides are likely expending the same effort, but only one side will reap the bigger rewards.

Now, its important to note that in most other battlegrounds, the loser gets almost nothing compared to the winner in terms of honor, but its also worth noting that a much higher degree of PvP (that being players actually engaged in combat with other players) occurs in WSG/AB/EotS and the Arena. However the actually "PvP" battlegrounds are in general much less populated due to the fact they simply aren't "honor efficient"

And I feel with that out of the way we can cut to the primary dilemma and that is, when did PvP cease to be about actually fighting other people, and more about getting gear. I think wow's PvP is specifically designed to cater not to traditional lovers of PvP, but instead to people much more accustomed to the golden rule of PvE in which time spent = reward.

Successful MMO's have shown that more people are interested in PvE game play as apposed to PvP.(At least in America and Europe) But i DO NOT believe that wow's "PvEification" of PvP should be used as a bases for contemplating how to design a PvP system in an mmo.

I can't claim any deep insights into the workings of Warhammer online, I can only take what they the developers tell me at face value. Warhammer has specifically stated that they are designing a PvP centric game, they have outright said that they don't intend to get more users then WoW, because they aren't going after the same target demographic as WoW. They are instead focusing on the PvPers. They've also come out and said that if you don't enjoy PvP for PvP's sake, then Warhammer Online is't the game for you.

This is't to say that they won't offer rewards for PvPing, as everyone enjoys being rewarded for doing well, but I suspect the rewards will not be the focus of their PvP system as they've become the focus of WoW's.

I also REFUSE to believe that a game cannot be made in which the only reward for PvP is the enjoyment to be found partaking in PvP itself. Millions of players pay monthly fees to host Counterstrike servers or pay for Xbox Live solely to play Halo3. If you can make your game balanced and enjoyable enough I am certain players would be willing to pay a monthly fee to subscribe to a PvP centric MMO. Its simply that a well polished, well balanced one has yet to be created.

[[People simply don't want to lose. And they certainly don't want to pay $10 to $15 a month for the privilege of losing.]]

People aren't paying for the privilege of losing their paying for the privilege of playing. When you go bowling does your $10 ensure you any type of reward? Or does it merely allow you the privilege of playing?

If your child joins a youth sport does the money you pay in equipment buy him the privilege of winning every game? No it just lets him play. I don't understand when people forgot about what the V in PvP stands for. In all competitive activities there is a winner, and a loser. When everyone is a winner it devalues the sport as a whole.
 
And I feel with that out of the ,way we can cut to the primary dilemma and that is, when did PvP cease to be about actually fighting other people, and more about getting gear. I think wow's PvP is specifically designed to cater not to traditional lovers of PvP, but instead to people much more accustomed to the golden rule of PvE in which time spent = reward.

When blizzard got lazy and tried to make it the time sink for people that wanted a way to get gear that didn't involve 4 and 6 hour blocks of time. (or simply put it was an easy timesink) Crafting would have worked much better but this is the path they chose. I agree PVP should have just been about playing against other players but the rules were changed by the government. anyone whose not playing to get gear missed the memo's.


People aren't paying for the privilege of losing their paying for the privilege of playing. When you go bowling does your $10 ensure you any type of reward? Or does it merely allow you the privilege of playing?

This game has always been about getting gear. Add that to the fact that blizzard has embraced the get to end game or die mentality and it has crystallized the culture. Simply in Wow if you don't play for gear you ar inefficient and will never be good at anything. I think instanced battlegrounds with generic gear and drops that would only give you advantage in that battlegrounds would have been the way to go. Then the PVP scale would have been reset at every game. You'd have PVP drops that were one time use to give people the chance to gear up for that game.

But in the current game that is wow if it is inefficient it is DOA.
 
This game has always been about getting gear. Add that to the fact that blizzard has embraced the get to end game or die mentality and it has crystallized the culture. Simply in Wow if you don't play for gear you ar inefficient and will never be good at anything. I think instanced battlegrounds with generic gear and drops that would only give you advantage in that battlegrounds would have been the way to go. Then the PVP scale would have been reset at every game. You'd have PVP drops that were one time use to give people the chance to gear up for that game.

Blizzard's Verson of PvP is fine for the vast majority of their players, however I feel that come Warhammer online people who care less about loot and more about a competitive environment are going to talk with their wallet and switch. But again as I said the PvPers are a smaller group then the PvEers.

My main complaint with Tobolds post was that he seemed to be saying that a positive sum system should be used for PvP universally across all games. And I feel that saying that shows ignorance of what the people who would subscribe to a predominantly PvP focused game actually want.

Negitive Sum concepts on games seem to be dwindling away as developers realize there are more people who would rather not deal with losing anything.

Thats an obvious statement, its the same reason that the vast majority of people will never be rich and successful. Most people simply don't want to expend the effort and dedication required to become good at something.

Look at guitar hero. We're swiftly entering a society where more people will know how to play a toy instrument then the real one. And its the same with competitive activities, how many pro baseball players are there? A great deal less then hohum ones. Why? Because the vast majority of people don't enjoy expending effort.

So if your a developer, and your goal is to get as many subscribers are humanly possible sure, go ahead and put in the dumbed down everyone wins hand holding version of PvP. But if your goal is to make a PvP centric game that caters specifically to PvP enthusiasts then you may want to rethink the formula.
 
I'm going to disagree as well. IMO these personal rewards sound like a way to affirm your greatness at PvP (or as I like to call it, skill).

I don't believe that gear and levels are required for an MMORPG. Think of a FPS. That is pure PvP. Ultima Online had no Levels, and the gear wasn't game breaking when it came to PvP.

As for your Guildie. I'm a 46 Warlock, I play WSG and AB. In every game I've played, winning or losing, I've made more honor than your guildie did. I'm not trying to say I'm fucking awesome, but I am trying to say that killing people gets you honor.

If you want to win you can't expect to have people roll over and die for you, you have to do it yourself.

That is the problem with PvP and mainstream. Most of the people playing MMORPGs are so used to leveling and used to fighting monsters that do the same thing every time. How many times have you been in a group that wiped in PvE and had a few guys "go to eat/bed/chores"? Well they do it in PvP too.

Now go into an FPS server. I can almost guarantee if you play at a server for 5 days, you will see at least 1 player who is always 4kills-20deaths, 10kills-19deaths, every time they play they lose. Yet they keep playing. Because they know that if they do they will get better.

PvP requires repetition to survive, more-so than PvE.

The problem with having PvP in an MMORPG is that the devs are required to market the game to the masses of PvEers because the people fudning are usually retarded know nothings when it comes to MMORPGs and they just want to fund the next WoW.

So you have the PvPer market frothing at the mouth for this game, ready to fucking destroy anything they can. Then you also have the PvE crowd thinking, oh boy I can't wait to see the story, the world, the dungeons, the bosses.

Then the game comes out, the PvEers run into the bushes to find magic treasure, the PvPers run into the bushes after the PvEers and other PvPers, and all hell breaks loose.

PvE guilds quit and go back to their previous homes, PvPers quit because they can't handle the mixed world which requires them to Level and get Gear, as well as hone their PvP skills against well organized PvP guilds striving for world domination.

I dont know if I have a real point, but if I do this is it:

If you're going to make a PvP game, make a PvP game, don't make a PvE game with PvP tacked on, the two markets don't get along well with each other.

PvP is risky business, business doesn't like risks, PvE is good business, so it's usually used to water down PvP games.
 
Thats an obvious statement, its the same reason that the vast majority of people will never be rich and successful. Most people simply don't want to expend the effort and dedication required to become good at something.

Look at guitar hero. We're swiftly entering a society where more people will know how to play a toy instrument then the real one. And its the same with competitive activities, how many pro baseball players are there? A great deal less then hohum ones. Why? Because the vast majority of people don't enjoy expending effort.


This amuses me. while I don't really disagree with the comment. The fact that we are haveing a discussion basically dissing people who don't want to fight the same kind of situations they do in real life, or want a virtual world where they can succeed easily as they escape that real life is ironic on many levels.

IMHO anyone who comes to the game with this attitude of if you want it you have to work for it is misdirecting a lot of energy they could apply to thier real life.

At the end of the day these are video games we are talking about.
 
So you have the PvPer market frothing at the mouth for this game, ready to fucking destroy anything they can. Then you also have the PvE crowd thinking, oh boy I can't wait to see the story, the world, the dungeons, the bosses.

Then the game comes out, the PvEers run into the bushes to find magic treasure, the PvPers run into the bushes after the PvEers and other PvPers, and all hell breaks loose


This seems to me to hit the nail on the head. Hard Core PVP'rs don't want the slow and weak to get rewards. And in a PVP game that may be ok. But the PVE'rs for the most part just want to get on and have fun. Part of having fun is advancing your character. When your advancement keeps slowing because they are tweaking the game to make the hard core pvp'rs happy you begin to have diminishing returns on your fun.

Thus a situation where no one is happy. A perfect Bureaucratic solution.
 
If EA Mythic is aiming at the PvP community, they don't have to be as positive-sum as you seem to argue. I know you've discussed it before, so I don't want to open a huge can of worms, but EVE PvP is strongly negative-sum for the actual participants, but manages to keep a few tens of thousands people [1] happy between thrill (for skirmish-scale combats) and framing (territorial control, backstory, game factions).

[1] EVE has > 200k active players, but I believe it's in the 25% range that plays PvP.
 
This amuses me. while I don't really disagree with the comment. The fact that we are haveing a discussion basically dissing people who don't want to fight the same kind of situations they do in real life, or want a virtual world where they can succeed easily as they escape that real life is ironic on many levels.

IMHO anyone who comes to the game with this attitude of if you want it you have to work for it is misdirecting a lot of energy they could apply to thier real life.


All sports are "games" yet for some reason people seem to be much more willing to expend effort in a sport then in a computer game. I don't see why the medium a competition is held in should affect the effort put into said competition.
 
All sports are "games" yet for some reason people seem to be much more willing to expend effort in a sport then in a computer game. I don't see why the medium a competition is held in should affect the effort put into said competition

Thats a really flawed analogy because the spectators bring in the money. The only reason that much effort and energy gets put into the sports games is the money the masses pay to watch it.

Come to texas and you'll see High School Football departments that spend more than the entire science department combined. Because they make money.

Your analogy would only work if everyone that liked sports and watched it played also. The people on the teams are the equivilant of your PVP teams. They care. The people watching it are the PVE guys that just want to be entertained. And they foot the bill for the whole experience.

Same thing as WOW pvp. The casual Care bears that are looked on in disgust fund 99 percent of the whole shebang. Thus the never ending arguments over how much reward a loser should get.
 
Come to texas and you'll see High School Football departments that spend more than the entire science department combined.

And the end result of that fantastic system is the President of the United States of America

Your analogy would only work if everyone that liked sports and watched it played also. The people on the teams are the equivilant of your PVP teams. They care. The people watching it are the PVE guys that just want to be entertained. And they foot the bill for the whole experience.

I never said anything about anyone watching sports, and people will participate in sports regardless of getting paid. Look at the Olympics. How many sponsorships where the ancient Greeks getting.

Competition for competitions sake is an age old mechanism and there is no reason it can't be applied to an MMO successfully.

I feel the need to reward players for everything they do to keep them interested exposes the glaring flaw that perhaps the game itself simply isn't fundamentally fun. How many times in an MMO does something feel tedious but you keep at it anyway because there's some loot waiting at the end.

Maybe if they made the actual act of playing the game a bit more exciting, they wouldn't need to bait people with ever so slightly incremented rewards, but thats another subject altogether.
 
I never said anything about anyone watching sports, and people will participate in sports regardless of getting paid. Look at the Olympics. How many sponsorships where the ancient Greeks getting.

People participate in the olympics, Both then and now for the prestige. That's the reward. Just like the old title system in wow. Fact is less reward less participation.

Maybe if they made the actual act of playing the game a bit more exciting, they wouldn't need to bait people with ever so slightly incremented rewards, but thats another subject altogether.

On this we are in total agreement.

But that being said the problem is that they tried to make a game for everyone. so the people in the middle come out ok the hard core fans on the PVP and PVE sides really get jerked around.

I think WOW PVP was perfect before battlegrounds. people just went out and defended the cities and had a blast. I know some hated it but I loved that. To me battlegrounds are like playing a vague shadow of starcraft. I'd much rather play starcraft than battlegrounds anyway. It's balanced and fun. If I win it's because I put out my best effort I don't have to worry about some guy that's been camping battlenet and has upgraded Zerg supertroopers that can kill my standard sucky marines from across the battlefield.

As long as they try to mix up PVE and PVP it will continue to suffer.
 

And the end result of that fantastic system is the President of the United States of America


Cry.....but I'd like to point out he was born in Maine. He's not a real texan. Just a wannabe cowboy.:-(
 
Actually he was born in New Haven Connecticut.
 
LOL....I stand corrected.
 
I'd go with sam here and agree that "working hard" in a video game is misplaced effort. But I agree with xash that "you can't lose PvP" is more for a mass audience than for the small number of hardcore PvP lovers. Who apparently play EVE anyway. :)

That people pass each other in AV is just a result of bad incentives. If tagging PvE objectives on a battleground brings more PvP points than doing actual PvP, no wonder players avoid killing each other. If the win condition was "the side who first kills 100 enemy players wins", with the keeps just giving small bonus points, the battle would look very different.
 
That people pass each other in AV is just a result of bad incentives.

I pass people in AV on my mage because there's a >90% chance I'll get my ass kicked if I'm by myself, especially if there's more than one of them. I'll jump on warriors and rogues. I'm rubbish at pvp in the abstract, but I enjoy the competition.

I also play TF2 from time to time, and occasionally CS. I'm diabolical at both games, but by the end of a couple of hours playing, I'll probably have won as many games as I've lost, and achieved some things; captured points, defused bombs, just plain out killed some dudes.

In WoW, if I sat and PvPed for a couple of hours, I'd probably go mad, as there's no way for me really to improve 'in the field'. The only way to improve is to a) learn better counter moves, which need to be done in a controlled environment or on forums (eg: don't blink until after the intercept), or b) get more gear. With the fpses, raw practice helps (especially in TF2 where I can change class depending on the situation).

In Guild Wars, I'm even worse: I have my nice fixed skill bar which isn't great for pvp, and gear that isn't really runed for pvp due to the ridiculous cost. Same problems, only amplified due to the more limited skill-set and the far harder-core pvpers in GW.

To conclude this essay: hardcore pvpers would hate Tobold's solution. The casual and casualcore (play as much as the hardcores, but to have fun rather than relevel professions to get an extra +2 spell damage over everyone else (enchanting, I'm looking at you)) middle classes would probably like it, and the hardcore raiders would complain about 'welfare epics' (God, thats another rant in and of itself) just as they always have done.

tl;dr version: Since hardcore pvp is really a niche market, going for the casual market pays off at the expense of pissing off the vocal minority.
 
I'd go with sam here and agree that "working hard" in a video game is misplaced effort. But I agree with xash that "you can't lose PvP" is more for a mass audience than for the small number of hardcore PvP lovers. Who apparently play EVE anyway. :)

I simply can't agree with that, it could be argued that everyone "works hard" at their whatever their respective hobby is.

That people pass each other in AV is just a result of bad incentives. If tagging PvE objectives on a battleground brings more PvP points than doing actual PvP, no wonder players avoid killing each other. If the win condition was "the side who first kills 100 enemy players wins", with the keeps just giving small bonus points, the battle would look very different.

But that simply goes to illustrate the point that the vast majority of players in WoW have no interest in actual PvP and are only participating in pvp as an alternative avenue of attaining gear as apposed to raiding and doing 5mans. PvP does provide the "casual epics" in that you don't require a group to get them, and since wow operated on a positive sum system your GOING to get them, eventually.

I think the real flaw of Blizzard's PvP mechanic is shown by the fact that Every AV I enter has between 5-30(depending on time of day) people AFK botting in the cave. They are basically grinding away at gear upgrades while their not even at their computer.

So again, their not PvPing because they enjoy it, or because its fun, their playing because they want gear, which again exposes the fundamental flaw in the WoW PvP system which is its simply not all that fun.
 
If people could bot in raids without the guild knowing they would do it. It isn't the pvp that is flawed it's how the game is. In WoW the game is gear and people will try to cheat the system anyway they can to get it.

Also just because every bg isn't a deathmatch like arena doesn't mean people aren't trying to pvp. Defending nodes and flags is where most of the pvp happens, guarding a chokepoint or carrying a flag.

It would be really boring if all bgs were was an even bigger arena with no objectives and larger strategies than just zerging.
 
So again, their not PvPing because they enjoy it, or because its fun, their playing because they want gear, which again exposes the fundamental flaw in the WoW PvP system which is its simply not all that fun.

And the reason people want gear is because the whole game is based on gear. Make a game where gear matters much less and the activities by themselves becomes the interesting thing. I'm not talking about removing progress altogether but the improvements should be VERY slight. To give you a ballpark figure in WoW terms let the difference between a green geared player and tier-max equipped player be around lets say 200-300 hit points or something. It gives a slight advantage but nothing too spectacular.
 
As I've said before I think PVP was perfect when it was non instanced and world pvp. On PVE servers it was completely optional and everyone that participated had a blast.

I understand the lag issues it created but the lag was a symptom of how much fun it was. Now people PVP as Xash has said just for thier gear.
Most don't do it for fun. This is what kills raiding for so many. It can be fun to raid but after awhile because of the slow pace of upgrades and the random nature of loot a lot of people that otherwise like raiding leave because the pressure to upgrade causes people to become utter jerks at that point raiding ceases to be fun.
PVP is in the same boat. Someone who is just grinding for a piece of gear because that's the only way they have to get something that comparable isn't happy.

If you have kids theres an easy way to duplicate this. Tell your kids they have to watch thier favorite cartoons or play thier favorite game. It'll be fun the first few times but if you keep picking out what they have to do after awhile they'll moan and complain about how horrible it is. Because they feel they have no real choice. This is WOW endgame. There are choices but only two make sense and only one is accessable to everyone.
 
I'll throw in a comment on the AV portion, since I've spent a lot of time in there (Horde-side).

First of all, a few observations about patch 2.3 AV on our server:
-- Alliance routinely skips Galv
-- The win / loss ratio seems to be rather even, about the same

I honestly can't figure out AV bonus honor calculation (I think it's still bugged):
-- On one occasion we gained more bonus honor in a loss with no towers capped than one where we lost with two towers capped in a Vann / Drek burndown race (Bal down in both)
-- Once Horde gained more bonus honor than Alliance even though we lost

Anyway, as is the nature of PUGs, we occasionally have a few defenders (I typically play offense-side bunker and graveyard defense), but if there is no D, I can't complain because I don't drop back. Sometimes I have to take and defend SH bunker all by myself; other times there is some teamwork. Sometimes there is an Alliance attempt to retake bunkers or graveyards, sometimes not. Typically in that (necessary) role I get very few HKs, and therefore when I'm in an AV with someone who is running with the pack on O, over several AVs I will fall hundreds behind in honor. I balance that against the potential lost bonus honor if I don't play my role and we don't hold bunkers and graveyards and we lose bonus honor or perhaps the game.

There is some "real PvP" in AV on our server. The reason is simple: On our Battlegroup Horde loses races (I'd guess because we kill Bal and Alliance saves time by skipping Galv). Additionally, Alliance almost always attempts a defense at SPGY and the bridge and fights for the Dun Baldor towers.

My early impression of the latest AV was that I preferred the previous AV, but I've changed my mind. Old-school 1.0 and 2.0 pre-TBC release AV with strong defense and turn-ins plus summons to break turtles was a bygone memory; it just didn't happen anymore in post-TBC AV. So this change is in the direction of *more* PvP IMO, since no D virtually ensures a loss.
 
I disagree with this completly. First off because that in wow you get dumb asses who afk all thge time and try and get honor and stuff and if they loose then to heck with them stop dickin around and do the rest and help pvp. secondly like I ussually say is that dont expect to randomly pick up 10 people when you q and expect all of them to listen they are gonna do what they want if you want to win somthing and have more organization make a premade group and then go at it. I think players should get a small reward for pvping but nothing to the scale of the winners. I think that people should learn to pay attention and actually have a thought process. I see plenty of people in av think they can take on the whole 40 man raid running at there face and sorry to break it to you but your not a god relax stay back and pick off whats left of the raid. people need to learn to analyze then act not act without thought and if you just act to look cool then well dont pvp then.
 
IMO the final battle to settle the PvP vs. Carebear' score will take place in the new Sci-Fi skill based sandbox entitled 'Crusades Online."
The universe will be infinite, larger than multiple galaxies and beyond. With all of those resources, city building, planetary bombardment, and so on - it will bring great joy to destroy a Carebear civilization only to discover that the PvP'ers are launching a massive retaliation.
 
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