Tobold's Blog
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Somebody is going to be disappointed by WAR

We're just not sure yet who. Syncaine has a Warhammer rant on his site complaining about people who are looking forward to WAR, but aren't big fans of PvP. Which would include me. He says: "I sincerely hope you HATE Warhammer. I mean absolutely HATE it. Because if carebear Joey likes Warhammer for its fun questing, crafting, and easy solo nature, that means everyone looking forward to Warhammer for it's impact PvP will hate it." And while I of course hope that it will be me who likes WAR and him who hates it (just kidding), I totally agree with his analysis that it is nearly impossible that both of us will like it. One of us, and by extension the two groups of people that like similar things than we do, is going to be severely disappointed by WAR.

I have a grudging admiration for the camp that Syncaine represents, because they are so passionate. They love what Syncaine calls "impact PvP", that is players being able by means of PvP to change the virtual world, to control parts of it, to affect what is going on for everybody. You just need to poke one of them and they will wax lyrically about how great Ultima Online was before Trammel "ruined" it for them.

Unfortunately for them, and fortunately for me, history is against "impact PvP". Reality shows that it is impossible to have impact PvP unless you allow a small minority of extremely dedicated players to dominate the less dedicated masses. It also shows that the less dedicated masses react to that by quitting the game in question, because nobody wants to pay $15 a month for being ganked and relegated to the bottom of the pile. UO didn't introduce Trammel to ruin the game for the PvP fans, they introduced it as an emergency measure to keep their game from dying, because they were bleeding subscribers. Over 90% of the UO player base ended up on PvP-free Trammel, while the mirror image Felucca with its free-for-all PvP was pretty much deserted. Other MMORPGs that tried to attract players with impact PvP, like Shadowbane, Archlord, or Fury, ended in dismal failure. There are passionate PvP fans out there, but there aren't very many of them.

It is theoretically possible that Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning is all that what Syncaine desires: impact PvP, hated by "carebear Joey". In that case WAR would be one of the greatest financial flops in MMO history, failing worse than Vanguard. While some players and game developers might prefer PvP purity over financial success, I'm pretty certain that the business managers of EA see the matter differently.

I'm somewhat a cynic regarding statements by game developers. To me the most likely outcome is that WAR will offer fake PvP: something that looks like impact PvP, but is in reality limited to special areas, with carebear Joey being well protected and able to do the "fun questing, crafting, and easy solo" gameplay he wants. The PvP fans would conquer their keeps, proudly lording it over the lands, and hopefully not notice that they aren't actually lording over anyone, because the people they'd love to rule just stay outside their reach. And to me that sounds like a great solution.

In other words: I think WAR will be for PvP fans what WoW is for raid fans. In WoW the hardcore raiders think they are the elite, but their actual impact on the lives of the non-raiders is minimal. I think in WAR there will be PvP elite guilds capturing keeps and thinking they are the elite, but have little actual impact on the lives of the non-PvP players. Once in a while one side will capture the capital city of the other side, but then the map resets a few days after, and the whole system is set up in a way that casual players don't suffer too much for not having access to that city for a few days. And to make up for that little hardship, all players of the winning and of the losing side will receive some rewards, even if they didn't participate in PvP at all. The winners for having won, and the losers for balancing the sides out so that the same side isn't winning all the time. The developers will do their utmost to reach "well balanced" PvP, but well balanced isn't all that much difference from the static situation of a pure PvE game. I'm sure I can live with a balanced "fake impact" PvP like that. I just hope Syncaine will learn to love it too. Because if you want real impact PvP, you're forever condemned to low budget niche games. You can't have both impact PvP and a million subscribers.
It's not too surprising that both WAR and AoC have a lot of PvP fans waiting for those games to get released, typically the PvP crowd tend to be the strongest early adopters.

For UO though, I think the "ruining" of the game from splitting the shards in half was more complex than most people give it credit for. It didn't just remove the fodder for the PK'ers (Impact PvP, heh it's certainly not what it was called at the time), it felt tangibly artificial to many of the RPers too.

I agree overall, the hardcore PvP crowd is small in comparison to the rest of the MMORPG population, but they sure do speak out a lot.

Overall though, PvP has more competition from other games. Cooperative play in PC gaming outside of MMOs is rather rare, but player vs player certainly is not.
dear Tobold Hornblower

What is your opinion on Warhammer Online ? is it a good place for me , a casual who hate raid and only do pvp sparingly (prefer world pvp not Battleground in WOW) ?

Will Warhammer be as good as Lord of the Rings Online ?
His rant was boring by the second paragraph. News flash - there is never going to be another pre trammel - ever. People aren't going to pay 15 bucks a month to always lose.
dear Tobold Hornblower

What is your opinion on Warhammer Online ? is it a good place for me , a casual who hate raid and only do pvp sparingly (prefer world pvp not Battleground in WOW) ?

Will Warhammer be as good as Lord of the Rings Online ?

Only Lord of the Rings fans think I'm called Hornblower. :)

I sincerely *hope* that Warhammer will be at least as good as LotRO, and that it will be the good place for casual players who hate raids and only do PvP sparingly. But hope is all I can offer. As you can read in Syncaine's post, he hopes for exactly the opposite. Out of cold business considerations which have nothing to do with preferred game style I would say that my hope has a somewhat higher chance to be realized than Syncaine's hope. But there is a not to be forgotten chance that WAR will just be plain bad and disappoint all of us. I don't know. I haven't seen the beta, and while I find Paul Barnett explaining on video how great WAR will be extremely entertaining and great marketing, I do not consider that as proof of fact. So for my opinion you'll need to wait until I have played the open beta.
Tobold, one of your best write ups, and you pretty much nailed it.
Well, I'm going to wax theoretical here and try to add to Tobold's excellent analysis.

IMO, one reason so-called "impact PvP" doesn't work as a business model is that in order to simulate the real-world, MMO world PvP would have to be far more organized and restrictive.

Think about it - in real world conflict between 'factions', the general public is liable to be "mercilessly ganked" (in MMO terms) by organized military units. But MMOs, for all their attempts at grouping / guilding, do not manage to simulate the military organization in a wartime situation. And real war is 24-hours-a-day, not just fit around real-life whenever convenient. The enemy is definitely not running around with red WoW-text over their head, they're not prohibitively "30 levels higher", you can't run right through another person, specific weapons and skills aren't arbitrarily 'disabled' because of 'game balance', you can accidentally shoot a friend, etc, etc, etc...

For faction PvP to be 'realistic', a typical player would be drafted, start in a boot camp and be put through a demanding preparatory regimen, strictly submit to orders from superiors, be on-call for battle, and spend boring hours in training and supply and defense roles. Your weapons and armor would be issued to you. The noobs would get the undesirable time assignment: Third shift until you move up in rank. Deserters would become fodder for both sides. Solo quests and instance runs would scarcely fit into this: Why risk valuable toons on a side-show when there is a war to be won? Crafting would be controlled - war requires materials, weapons, and armor to be directed into winning the war, not standing in epics by the Org or Ironforge mailbox.

But in general, people don't want to be told what to do in a recreational game. They want to run around solo in contested areas without risk of 'enemy units' ganking them. They want a solo quest or group raid against predictable mobs, not a compelled group action against well-equipped and tough-to-beat real-life persons. People want recreational PvP to at least have the façade of a 'fair fight', such as a BG where they hope that numbers and skills are roughly equal (with some fudge room for excuses when they lose). They want encounters that fit into their time schedule.

So IMO, there will likely never be an open MMO that really does PvP 'right'.
Unrestricted negative-sum PvP is like kind of like cluelessly wandering around in the back alleys of the bad part of town after dark for 'the fun of it'...
Have a LAN party instead.

For what it's worth...
Syncaine doesn't really define "impact PvP" in his post, and I think your definition is a bit too narrow. As a fan of impact PvP, I don't really care if there are players in the opposing faction who don't participate in PvP that aren't significantly affected by my actions. What I do care about is that my actions have a tangible effect on the state of the world, and that it matters to those who DO participate in PvP. Impact PvP is not equivalent to omnipresent-PvP. I dislike being ganked while PvE questing as much as the next guy.

I played DAoC for years, and they really had this dynamic nailed. There were PvE safe areas that could only be accessed by your own faction, and a separate world PvP area that was essentially disconnected. WAR aims to break down this separation without introducing a free-for-all gankfest.
Eve is pretty much a free for all, once you get into 0.0. Actually, getting through the gates from empire space into 0.0 is probably more of a risk than once you are there.

But the players run the game, the resources, etc. And PvE players can still tootle around in high security without a care in the world...mostly.
I would agree wuth your business perspective that the market for pure PVP is very small, if it wasn't for the fact that WoW itself has greatly expanded the market for PVP players. Admitelly there's a huge number of Wow players in battlegrounds/arenas than there are doing raids right now. I think these players are enjoying it, but if only for the fact that battlegrounds/arenas are always the some maps, they are going to look for better challenges in Warhammer.
So it may turn out that WAR choses the Syncaine approach and ends up winning.
You are forgetting one quite important fact: People are greedy.

Majority of people act in order to gain something for themselves, be it cash from work to provide living or Epic Sword #321 from boss XYZ in far far away. Human nature is pretty solid on this part - although exceptions do exist - everyone mainly acts to his/her own interest.

World of Warcraft provides to this in multitudes - for masses-en-large there are plenty of easy, accessible and (arguably) fun ways of accomplishing goals and gaining power to your character thus improving yourself - be it levels, items, ranks, abilities or player-skill improvement.

When the illusion of archievement fades or is too distant for comfort (yes, WoW has spoiled western civilization on this part quite badly), things begin to look bleak pretty fast and people lose interest. Things seem suddenly like "grinding", unnessesary evil or limiters/gates keeping you from doing what you like. To combat this game usually provides alternative directions for gaining, usually crafting, "addon-pvp" or responsibilities to other users.

Impact PvP'ers are also people, they do require means of satisfying their needs aswell - they do not need to be solely enslaving everyone else. Give them enough to work on. Including balanced enviroment, classes and viable means with tactics combining rewards depending on their actions (success does of course matter but should not be sole measurement) and they won't even notice John Doe enjoying the HappyCamperGrindfest next door.

It's not anything away from the PvP'ers if there happens to be WoW-#2 merged to the side as long as there are incentives to create and sustain combat to keep PvP'ers occupied and maintain the (illusionary or real) impact to the world.

I truly hope there are enough _personal_ goals for the dedicated PvP people to go after in order to create the actual sense of WAR(hammer) and PvP combat. Raiding a castle with 50+ people is occasionally fun but after some point (usually beyond the groupsize) invidual skill/player stops affecting the outcome and only number of people one side can bring out to the field matters turn ing things to zergfest.
People sometimes forget that PvP exists, and maybe does not even need to be in an MMO...

It is called XBox Live...
Yes folks.
Crackdown is a good example of "Impact PvP". Settings are saved for users specific goals, or one world is used for the bad it is only CO-OP...As I do not know of an overall world setting in that game.
Just imagine if that worked? Eventually the world would be destroyed, but never know.

Myself, I played PvP in Guild Wars, and liked that arena aspect, but WoW's world PvP servers and Lineage 2's gankfest proved to be tiring, and totally tee'd you off...that you just quit those worlds....

Personally, I think Fury could have worked...on the Xbox...
From what I've read it seems like WAR will be DAoC pvp taken one step further. There are areas in every zone that are pve only, and a player can progress through the entire game without ever pvping if they so choose.

But pvp has a greater incursion into the pve world in WAR than in DAoC. There are no impassable border forts that keep the other side out, and pve cities can fall to the opposing side. So there is 'impact' pvp in WAR, the greenskins can conquer and loot the dwarf capital city if they do well enough in pvp. It's not a permanent impact though, as eventually npcs will retake the city even if players do not.

WAR is definitely more of a pvp game than WoW (by far), but I think they're trying hard to balance pvp impact with pve enjoyment, and avoid making it a free-for-all pvp gankfest that WILL lose them their subscriber base. The only people that like pvp gankfests are the gankers. The gankees eventually quit.
yep, its pretty funny how the PVPers unite and complain if they can destroy others gaming experience but they don't seem to understand people won't pay for that.

The only way a game will work like he describes is if you have one side that is free to play, can do whatever they want, farm, adventure, build, etc... and the other side are the killers/pvp'ers that can only get experience by killing and they have to pay $20 a month. That I would play.

I would play the free side that goes in dungeons, farms, builds, and has a great free adventure while the other "race" only wants to destroy and are not allowed to build or adventure. They start with sticks and can only get better weapons when they gang up on an actual player. 5 of them can kill one player and they get 1 drop, a basic sword for instance if in midevil days, or a basic pistol if modern times. The others get nothing but xp. Then after so many pks they all have basic weapons while the free players by now have automatic weapons or nice armor. Then this continues. That way the free players have minimal impact on their playing and have a nice loot advantage, and the pkers can go around in gangs of 10 max trying to ruin everyones experience and only having slow but achievable goals. that may work. If some free players get ganked a few times, well the game is free so they are less likely to quit but instead build a possee and hunt down the pvpers who can log off but their bodies can never dissappear. Instead you can track them down to a cave or wherevey they camp like a vampire and stake them in the heart. Of course you need good tracking skills & such. That would be a sweet game.
I don't have much to add to this convo, Tobold. I just wanted to say I think you're spot on, and I couldn't say it better myself.

Now, I'm not sure how much you know of Conan as you already know that it's FPS style gameplay will likely not be for you so I'm not sure if you're doing any research on its other aspects... but I'd be curious to hear what you think of Funcom's proposed city-building and siege warfare as a PvP system.
I think impact pvp will come with quests for pve that are speicific to certain towns / areas that are under contention in pvp enabled areas. The option is there to pve but at your own risks from the pvp's. Should you choose not to enter the pvp arena or take pve quests that take you into pvp contended locations then you will have alternative routes to lvl with out pvping.
However if the devs go with the wow arena / lite pvp model then they are missing the whole point of warhammer liscence. Luckily if gameswork shop have anything to do with it I expect it to be a good mix / balance of pvp and pve
I played a PvP match last year on Games Convention... this killed all my high expectations.

And rumors from beta players are that everyone hates the current state of the game: Buggy, uninspired... and not the next big thing.
I still play UO on a free shard that only contains Felucca. You're probably right; there never will be another "impact PvP' of the likes of Ultima Online, but that doesn't mean I can't log on each night to a game that's 10+ years old and has more player created features than any other MMO.

I really wish more people wouldn't have given up on UO. I was ganked when I first started, and I just increased my own skills and met others to join forces with and ended up killing the players who killed me. I think people give up to easily, no one wants a challenge anymore...

That is the point of UO; the fact that players made the rules, not some artificial rule-set that said when and where you can engage in combat. I actually found players to be much more kind when they were responsible for their actions.

I've met so many idiots in WoW that talk so much smack because there's nothing you can do about it but engage in mindless dialogue with them. In Ultima Online people like that did not act like idiots because they would be outcast on the server and would be ganked anywhere they went.

I'm just looking for an MMO where the players run things. I always see Tobold talking about how great player-run economies are in games, and I think that's what PvP'ers are looking for- player-ran PvP in which their actions make a difference.

Also, Tobold... where did you get your figure of 90% of the player base moved to Trammel? I lived in Felucca long after the introduction of Trammel, and we had a thriving population, at least on the Chesapeake shard...
Playing AC2, I didn't really get involved in much of the PvP that went on, and that was because it was very easy to stay out of it - by choosing to go neutral.

In that game, you had PvP (where everyone turned KoS), KvK (where factions fought one another) and Neutral (where PvP was switched off).

Neutral players simply didn't get involved in Faction wars because they weren't able to attack or heal. The best they could do was to be used as scouts and sent on as spies (so they had at least some interaction with pvpers). At the same time, they were denied access to some of the more powerful equipment and didn't get any faction buffs.

Changing faction would remove xp, to the point where you would lose levels.

That worked really well and stopped players from getting repeatedly ganked like they did in WoW.
As someone who's primarily interested in PvE and RP, I long for a good, big-name PvP focussed game to come along. I find the ceaseless PvP whining and ganking in WOW deeply annoying, so any game that takes that crowd away is fine by me.

The trouble is that game already exists: EVE. Whilst this is successful compared to many MMORGs, it's not WOW-successful. So unless we believe that it's the lack of elves that's holding EVE back, we have to assume that good PvP simply isn't all that popular. I'll be amazed if the PvP in WAR is more "impact" than in EVE.

Eve is pretty much a free for all, once you get into 0.0. Actually, getting through the gates from empire space into 0.0 is probably more of a risk than once you are there.

But the players run the game, the resources, etc. And PvE players can still tootle around in high security without a care in the world...mostly.

And guess what, the majority of people just run missions or min in HiSec even though the developers try everything to get these players to move to 0.0. So even there it turns out, most people dont like to be ganked and/or loose their stuff ;).
You can't have both impact PvP and a million subscribers.

Lineage, 3.2 million subscribers.
Lineage II, 2.1 million subscribers.
Yes, sorry, I should have said You can't have both impact PvP and a million US/Euro subscribers. Lineage has a tiny number of US/Euro subscribers, but the preferences of Asian players are different.
Yes, up until now only other countries like full impact PvP. I myself was vehemently opposed to it from early experiences. That wall of resolve is lessening.

I believe it's possible that impact pvp done right for US/Euro will work. See EVE as others have mentioned.

I do not count games like Fury/Archorlord/Shadowbane because while they had their fans, in general, those games had other issues that would relegate them to fairly small player bases or outright failures - bugs, poor company management, unfinished at release etc.

In my opinion, we do not know what the future lies in for virtual worlds and niche clientèles. Not just impact PvP. The next big MMO whatever that is that innovates on some concept will have tons of people copying their innovation and so on.

Maybe one day one of these large (well done/well run/well marketed) MMOs will just happen to concentrate on impact PvP also and suddenly every MMO pundit will be saying how genius their approach is.
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