Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
 
The PvP-free PvP of Pirates of the Burning Sea

Yesterday Pirates of the Burning Sea was officially released, and port contention PvP was enabled. Which lead to a lot of ... PvE. Because curiously port contention PvP contains very little actual PvP, but instead has hours of PvE grind. To put a port into contention you need to attack NPC merchants of the defending nation close to the port you want to take over. So if for example the Spanish want to take the British port of Belize (which is probably happening right now on every single server in PotBS), they have to sink British NPC merchants in front of Belize. Now you would think that to defend Belize, the British would need to sink the attacking Spanish players. But no! To defend Belize the British would need to sink Spanish NPC merchants in front of Belize, of which there aren't many, because the current nationality of a port determines what NPC merchants are around. The British could also run special defensive PvE missions, or hand in crafted goods to defend the harbor. But gaining contention points for the attacker is fast, and there is nothing to gain from defending, so nobody bothers. Especially not with Belize, which is far from the British starting area.

Why do the Spanish attack Belize? Because it has a strategically important resource, fir, and is conveniently close to the Spanish starting area. So is this economic warfare, the Spanish depriving the British of fir? No, Pirates of the Burning Sea doesn't work like that. When Belize becomes Spanish, the British fir log camps there pay a higher tax on production, and so the British players might be tempted to leave. But in all likelyhood Spanish players will build fir logging camps at their place. And for the players just wanting to buy fir, nothing changes. A freetrader can buy fir in the auction house of any nation, and there is no penalty or higher cost involved in buying from the enemy. The Spanish don't sell fir for more than the British did, so for the buyer nothing changes.

As a freetrader I actually prefer Belize switching to Spanish and staying there, in contrast to the British trying to take it back. Because only if the port is in contention do I risk to be attacked by player pirates and privateers when transporting goods to and from that port. If the port is firmly in enemy hands, it is totally safe for me to go there and buy my fir.

24 hours after the Spanish reach a certain contention level in Belize, there will be a port battle of 24 Spanish against 24 British players. In theory the British could defend Belize at that point. In praxis Belize is still far away from the British starting area, there is still nothing to gain from defending the port, and there won't be enough British turning up to defend the port. The Spanish will continue to attack British ports on the left side of the map, the British will attack Spanish and French ports on the right side of the map, and rarely do the nations ever meet. Now my judgement might be clouded by me not liking PvP in general. But I'd say that the PvP system in Pirates of the Burning Sea is particularly stupid.
Comments:
I find the lack of responses on your posts concerning PotBS appealing.

Boter
 
Quite a number of things I do not agree with in your post today :)

To begin with, you said that port contention starts with hours of PvE grind. Well, yesterday evening after only a few minutes of NPC hunting, the spanish were able to turn Belize into a PvP zone. Now, considering that the highest level characters where only level 21, we can imagine how easier and faster port contention might be for an organized group of 50s.

About the fact that the defenders should also kill NPC ships to defend their port, well... that's true, but enemy ships in the same contended area will naturally fight each other.
Think about it. Also Alterac Valley in WOW is won trought a PvE objective (killing the leader), but this doesn't mean there is no PvP in the battleground :)
I suppose you didn't joined the action yesterday, or you would know it was not just PvE :D

We should not forget that since the game has started only a couple of weeks ago, all players are still based near their starting zones, and of course also all the economic structures are there now.
But when for excample the spanish players will start moving also to Antilles or New Mexico or wherever, freetraders will need to provide their products in different ports, and they will most probably start moving their factories.
At that point you will see how economically strategic will be the choice of which port to attack!
Also, with populations all scattered around, enemies will be all near each other.
Personally, I see the Antilles as the most PvP intense area in the future.

And... we are also forgetting about another reason to PvP, which is "winning the map". I have no idea what the final reward is, but since I am playing with the spanish on Roberts I will let you know soon :P
 
To begin with, you said that port contention starts with hours of PvE grind. Well, yesterday evening after only a few minutes of NPC hunting, the spanish were able to turn Belize into a PvP zone.

Well I wasn't online at that point, but I'm pretty sure that that was done through turning in goods to a NPC in the town and creating contention that way. If you've got a lot of goods you can flip a port very quickly.
 
It sounds like Port Contention is more of a Castle Siege than a PvP battle.

My experience of all castle sieges is that the players quickly realise the least-costly and most efficient means of winning them is to co-operate with their erstwhile enemies and to take turns, rather than engage in costly and futile defences of NPCs.

This isn't necessarily a criticism: all forms of emergent player co-operation are good in my opinion, even those that go against the developers designs; and lord knows there's nothing worse than open PvP (ie, sanctioned griefing). Still, it does sound like the PotBS developers will need to do some rebalancing of their PvP - making the price of losing a port higher might be necessary, even though it penalises all players from one side, not just those participating in the PvP.
 
@Seanan

You say that they could rebalance penalizing loosing a port.
Yes, but I think the same rebalance could be done the opposite way. Enhancing the side that wins a port. Doing so, even if similar (you create a gap between victory and loosing). But at same time who loose won't feel like having something less. As their status would be "normal"
 
I'm sorry your PvP experience wasn't as enjoyable as mine was on Blackbeard. A Pirate society spent the entire 2 weeks making Small Arms and dumped them on the Rebel Agent in Irish Point. After the 50mi Pirate PvP zone opened up, there was raping and pillaging of Players going on that I hadn't seen on such a large scale since Pre-Trammel UO. I think the PvP system in PotBS is rather ingenious, seeing as how it allows crafters and trader types to initiate a war.

One could say that it would be possible for one trading guild to PvP with another by sending a port into contention. Or maybe draw attention away from their shipping lanes by starting a fight somewhere else and directing more PvPers that way.

If you think that PvE in order to attain PvP goals is arbitrarily stupid, then maybe certain WoW battlegrounds need to be redesigned.
 
I have to agree that PotBS PvP doesn't seem particularly well thought out. Actual participation in PvP is negative-sum, in that if you sink you lose a lot, but if you sink someone else you don't gain very much (if anything).

Razor's example actually emphasizes the problems with PotBS pvp. An organized group of pirates forced pvp on an area and proceeded to grief all the people playing there (this is what his description sounds like anyway). French players interested in pvp have no incentive to attack an organized pirate group since pvp is negative sum. It makes more sense for them to go pick on a poorly defended port, drive it into contention, and gank the players of another nation.

In short, the pvp of pirates exacerbates the tendency of pvpers to only engage in pvp when they know they can win. There's no reason for a level 22 player to engage a level 22 player in combat - the risks are too high and the rewards are too low. But two level 30 players will eagerly pounce on a solo level 22.
 
um....isn't it a game about pirates?

Do you think pirates in real life were/are concerned about fairness? or victory and plunder?

Food for thought.
 
In short, the pvp of pirates exacerbates the tendency of pvpers to only engage in pvp when they know they can win. There's no reason for a level 22 player to engage a level 22 player in combat - the risks are too high and the rewards are too low. But two level 30 players will eagerly pounce on a solo level 22.

The devs have openly stated that this is the way they want it.

Do you think pirates in real life were/are concerned about fairness? or victory and plunder?

... and this is stated as one of the reasons why they want it that way.

My only concern is, if a game (and Potbs is a GAME right?) is balanced to mimic real life in terms of fairness then what's the fun in it? I mean, it's supposed to be fun right?

Oh and btw, it's not just about pirates. ;)
 
um....isn't it a game about pirates? Do you think pirates in real life were/are concerned about fairness? or victory and plunder?

Point well taken. But for me these virtual worlds are games, and have to comply with rules of game design to maximize fun for the largest number of players possible. I don't see PotBS as a historically accurate pirate simulator (from which it is far, far away anyway).

As Graktar remarked, the people commenting that they liked the PotBS system were still a) putting ports into contention by PvE means and b) getting their fun out of ganking other players, not symmetrical fair PvP fights. Ganking is fun for the few, but frustrating for the many, and usually leads to a fast decline of games that allow it. If the devs *want* a ganking PvP design, it just shows that they haven't got a clue about how to get a large number of players paying monthly fees for a long time.
 
Tobold, I'm going to disagree with you here. In this PvP situation, where a few high level pirates are grouped together to hunt lower level merchants, the best way to combat them is to form fleets of merchants, with a few pirate-hunters thrown into the mix. In other words, by buying bodyguards. This could eventually lead to quite exciting PvP, once it develops fully. Just give it time.
 
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