Tuesday, January 08, 2008
Keen and Graev compare WoW and WAR
Keen and Graev have a detailed post comparing World of Warcraft and Warhammer Online. Good stuff, with links to many WAR dev videos. I'm detecting a certain WAR bias, but I don't mind. I'm not subscribing to the theory that fans of one game should fight fans of the other game anyway. The more good MMORPGs we have to choose from, the better. I might well end up playing WAR, but the key difference then probably is that WoW is old and WAR will be new. The discussion of who copied what from whom isn't really all that important.
The point I am most skeptical about regarding WAR is where Keen is most optimistic: The relevance of PvP. Keen says:
"In Warhammer Online you do have something to lose in PvP. Some people think that WAR is pointless PvP. How does losing your main city to the enemy sound? How about losing actual territory such as Keeps (castles) that were held by your guild? (See latter differences for more explanation). And quite possibly the greatest incentive to do well in the RvR is that you need do better than your opponents or they will get stronger. If your enemy is constantly killing you then they are going to have Victory Points, more land, better skills, cooler looking characters, and you’re going to feel like a dirty little squig for sucking. In World of Warcraft no one cares how well your faction does. If you all suck in the battlegrounds it has no impact on the world around you."Exactly the same can be said about PotBS, you can replace "WAR" with "PotBS" in the quote above and get a statement that is as true. But from all I personally experienced in PotBS, people don't care about PvP there, they only care about their own advantage. If the first thing I see happening in the PotBS economy is British players manipulating the British AH to screw over other British players for their own advantage, when with a little bit more work they could have screwed the other nations instead, I don't feel as if the welfare of the virtual nation is of any relevance to the players of that nation. We'll have to see how that works out in PvP after the 22nd, but in the closed beta I only saw players engaging in PvP for their own advantage, with next to no coordination or consideration for the greater good of the side they played on. In WoW you have the AFK leechers causing their faction to lose battles in Alterac Valley.
I am pretty sure that if WAR has any way to screw your own side to your own advantage, players will take it. Why should one guild care if another guild loses a keep? If they could they'd probably even conspire with the enemy to take that keep, because the only way for one keep to go from one guild to another from the same faction is if the enemy takes it between the two. Why should players worry if they lose their main city, if control resets a few days later and RvR war restarts from zero? If the enemy is stronger and is becoming even stronger with constant victories, the average player will simply reroll on the winning side and not heroically fight a losing battle.
MMORPG PvP has one major disadvantage: it tends to bring out the worst in people. PvP combat is inherently unfair, because the attacker only initiates combat if he is reasonably sure that he can win. Most PvP players avoid a fair fight if they can, which is why we have things like battlegrounds or arenas where only equally sized groups of similar level can fight each other. I would be really, really surprised if Warhammer Online could reverse a decade of MMORPG PvP trends and turn players into heroes willing to sacrifice their own advantage for the greater good of their faction.