Tobold's Blog
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Nationalism in MMORPGs

A while ago I made a negative remark about Pirates of the Burning Sea, saying that I didn't see why my freetrader should finance the PvP combat of another player I don't know. Grimwell replied to that, talking about team spirit and pride. Today I read an entry about Warhammer Online on Keen and Graev's blog:
There’s nothing new but in the interview one of Josh’s answers explains perfectly why the RvR in WAR sounds so appealing.

Josh on RvR: “You’re fighting on massive battlefields, laying siege to enormous keeps and castles. You’re literally struggling to move the battlefront forward in the persistent game world. And your success or failure will decide whether your beloved capital will be gutted, and its citizens slaughtered and then finally burned to the ground, or whether that fate will befall your enemies instead.”
There must be a gene missing in my MMORPG DNA, because I don't get it. "Beloved capital"? I don't feel no love whatsover towards my capital. "Citizens slaughtered"? Only NPCs and the players that chose to defend the capital. "Finally burned to the ground"? Only to be miraculously rebuilt three days later, looking exactly as before. Basically from what I heard, I consider losing the PvP war in WAR as a minor annoyance, a few days of not being able to access whatever facilities you need in the capital. Nothing more. I'm not a nationalist or however you want to call it (factionist?) for whatever side I happen to play on in a MMORPG.

I blame the Dunbar number. The number of players in my faction is greater than the number of people my brain is wired to feel "trust" for, my maximum social network. You *could* get me excited about WAR PvP by telling me how it is all about guild vs. guild combat to capture keeps. But I can imagine some keep being taken by a guild of my faction, and me hoping for some guild of the enemy faction to conquer it, so my guild gets a chance to grab the keep.

Conquering enemy lands in WAR, PotBS, or any other MMORPG can't be permanent. At some point one side is declared the winner, and the map resets. Designers even have to include obstacles against the same side winning again and again in quick succession, because that would just make the players of the losing side quit. It is very hard to feel nationalist if your nation is one you chose on the character creation screen. Other side is always winning? Delete this character and make a new one on the winning side, problem solved. You do not have family or land in a MMORPG that would bind you to a particular faction. With my love of playing alts, and WARs system of having different classes for every faction, I'll probably end up playing all the possible factions in WAR anyway. Why worry about the fate of my virtual nation?
It is difficult I imagine to make players really care about their capital. You can have a good story leading up to it that makes you enjoy your realm, but overall, yes it will be difficult. no matter how much I love my side, if I'm out front getting slaughtered asking for help I guarantee there will be plenty of people just running around doing quests or trying to search for something that could care less about the capital being destroyed.

I am intereted in how they change along the way. WoW has made an absolute ton of changes/patches to get where they are now and they still have all sorts of problems. WAR will have problems too and need to make patches that change teh game as well. That is a fact of an MMOG.
I really liked how they did PVP keeps in Ragnarok Online.

War of the Emperium was great ^^ despite the horrible graphics and gameplay i have never been as excited about pvp as i was during WOE.

It was neat owning a castle for a few days being able to build up its defenses and economy then having to defend it with your guild mates every 3 days.

If you kept it that would be great if you lost it then you would have to try to take it again during the next WOE.
The Fantasy of doing battle for a cause is strong enough to motivate marketting through it. The target audience is most likely Warhammer fans, even if these are also often WoW players its the Warhammer IP that carries the value. Warhammer fans will be in love with Altdorf, the city where the adventures of old started out, where the emperor resides.

They will love Middenheim where they uncovered the plot in the Shadow behind the Throne story and so on.

I do however think that a mmorpg on the Warhammer IP should be developed in a more agile manner, less "block buster" mentality and more iterative development to actually refine the mechanics to where it becomes Warhammer. The WAR game will become an mmorpg, and not likely have the mechanical flavour of Warhammer as old fans know it.
I think one of the reasons I can't bring myself to play Horde in WoW is because of the love I have for Stormwind. I hate seeing SW come under attack, but that is fueled by several years of running around the city, leveling up 2 humans to 60+ and the in depth story lines that surround the place. If I was told that SW could be burnt I might take a bigger role in the PvP portion of WoW just to prevent it.
Here I am again trying to make myself understandable with my poor English (c:

I believe this is a question of RP. Roleplaying loyalty to a faction is perfectly possible. (For the Horde !)

Of course a very big percentage of the players do not care about RP.

But the same effect can be acquired by game mechanics.

In WoW, one could say : “I want to kill Illidan, because he is a real danger to Azeroth”.

Of course OOC, this makes no sense. We all know for sure that Illidan will never invade Azeroth, he will just stay in his keep. Look at Nefarian, did he do anyone any harm since we stopped farming him?

Apart from RP, when a person tells you "I want to kill Illidan" that means :

*** I want shiny epics
*** I want the thrill / group play / whatever
*** I want to "win"

And once Illidan has bitten the dust, you just have to wait for the next week to start all over.

I do not think this will be different in WAR.

Pillaging the enemy’s capital will give you :

*** Shiny epics
*** Thrill
*** Feeling of “winning”

Somehow I event think that the engagement will be stronger in WAR.

While levelling, you will be confronted to PvP all the time. This will give you strong feeling against the other faction.

If they pillage my capital THEY will get the shiny epics, and I will loose. So they will kill me more easily and often.

This is why I do not want them to win.

MMO’s are strongly reward driven, and WAR will be no exception.

This is why I believe that WAR players will be very active in PvP and that “the fate of their own virtual nation” will be extremely important to them.

This is why WAR will be a game with very dedicated players.

This is also why I believe that WAR will soon after launch become a niche game (be it a very successful one) since this disqualifies casuals and people like you and me Tobold, who are Explorers above all and dislike PvP.

We will try the game and quit it very soon, since it will not be what we are looking for.

Just a guess.

Don't worry Tobold, your not an evolutionary mutation ;) (...or I'm missing that same gene)

PvE gameplay might be more of a HOBBY experience: a virtual world to identify and emotionally connect with.
But PvP is just so much more 'gamey' in nature.

Apart from the Warhammer lore affectionados, most people will play this thing as a GAME. Game mechanics are important, not the wrapping.

People will participate in battles for the fun of it and for personal gains.

What Josh is expressing in the quote is nothing but the wet dream of a game developer.
And once again we enter the 'instant gratification' area, where only thing that really matters is what I can gain for myself.

If you think of the fantasy genre in literature, you will find the fanatical devotion to the faction. Currently you cannot do anything to bond with the faction (at least in WoW) and the only faction that could be worth bonding with is your Guild. Which, by game mechanics, is worth Jack, really.

As far as I see it, here lies the real problem with the RPG's played in the net: there is no devotion to anything but your personal benefit and gain.

Scrap the RPG part from the games, there is no such thing anymore. Take the MMO out of the nominator of WoW, and replace it with End Game Grind.

The games are designed differently than they are played, it seems, and sadly that is the reason they will fail in the future. Unless the developers start to do games which are meant for playing instead of experiencing...

No, wait: WoW has been turned into that! Fast to the top and mindless grind commences for those who dedicate their time collecting endless streams of bits which are better than the ones owned earlier!



It's not about genes, it's about the time. You people have turned into cynics and objectivistic hedonists like majority of the consumers globally.

Me, me, me.

It's like Kennedy's speech: "Don't ask what the country can do for you, ask instead what you can do the country."

If you cannot sense that in a MMORPG towards the faction you are playing, are you really playing the right MMORPG?

Are you really having fun?

Are you just plain self-centered cynic?


PS. Damn right this is provocation. Coming from an old time PnP roleplayer and GM.
If you developed the game mechanics properly i am sure you could make it would be in the best interest of the players to defend their capital city.
They're hoping they can capture the same sense of realm cohesion and pride that DAoC had. It isn't going to happen.
Copra, if I'm a self-centered cynic... then you're a treehugging RPG-hippie :)

Taken from wikipedia:

"A role-playing game rarely has winners or losers. That makes role-playing games fundamentally different from board games, card games, sports and most other types of games. Role-playing games are typically more collaborative and social than competitive."

Does this sound like RvR/PvP?
Not to me...

Yes, if you've invested something of value in your your faction, you're motivated to defend it. Other than that it's just a game, and you're there for the entertainment.

"Don't ask what the country can do for you, ask instead what you can do the country."

I'd claim most people value a virtual world and their country quite differently.

By nature gaming is hedonistic. We do it for no other reason than fun. But it doesn't make us self-centered cynics.

That's all the provocation you'll get from me :)
Eve Online is different in that. There are no resets, no guarantees to make sure one side isn't winning all the time, no switching sides as easily.

Originally the 0.0 security space was really nothing but empty space, with nothing in it. But then players were given the chance to build their own structures, so that they'd have somewhere to feel safer, somewhere where to dock and store their items, somewhere where to sell and buy things. However, these structures, these outposts need so many resourses and so much logistics that it's a project that requires a 50+ people working together, usually whole alliances of even 2000+ members. After all the effort and work of so many people working to make it happen, when somebody comes to take it away from you, you do care and you work to defend what you have helped build yourself. There are alliances in the game who have lived in the same place for 3+ years and have built with their own work, not given by the game company, the place into a real home.

I agree that if some pvp-reward that you win or lose will reset anyway, no matter what you do or dont do, in 3 days, then I wouldnt care either.
I remember early in WOW when it was considered the fun thing to do to defend your area. I still love to do it occasionally. But unfortunately with the implementation of honorable and dishonarable kills they killed that part of the game completely.

But I still have great memories of defensing auberdine,ashenvale and darnasus. We wasted hours doing nothing but having fun. And it was 10X more entertaining that any PVP they've come up with since then.

I miss that .
I think I look at this from the angle of MMO's have no end, and as such, you cannot "feel" for anything in the game beyond your own need to get to max, raid or get that nice shiny! Who cares about that person in the guild, you may never see again if you leave the game...those NPC's mean nothing more to you than pixels ...

I understand how WAR is approaching the PvP (RvR?)...which seems like a good plan..but lets use my wife as an example of an MMO player in today's market...she dies in the game, she laughs and says...that was fun, lets try again...with no concern of armor degradation, loss of xp, etc..
And as Tobold states, he does not care...because it never ENDS...death is not real in the game..your city being destroyed is NOT real...who cares..I will come back and try again...I feel nothing for that city, or my guild or these warriors on the field..
Imagine if there was an actual loss..say like Lineage 2 where in PvP, you die, you may lose a precious about sweating it out when you get into a fight...
If only there was some way in an MMO system to make some thing permanent? But, not be so damaging as to ruin the fun (because that same analogy for L2 made me quit that game as well)
How about getting rid of repair of armor...yea...people hate the thought of paying the gold to fix it...but maybe have it degrade at each loss until you must REPLACE the armor, not fix it...I mean, how many times can you fix a broken piece of equipment in the real world before replacement..maybe put those limits on in game equipment?
Same as the RvR based PvP
Have it so the side who wins that castle, also has to fix it, gains ownership of it (need destructible environments)..makes it so they gain some type of reward for gaining the castle besides the standard "faction" style rewards...
Like in PoTBS, you maybe gain a special trade location?

I am grasping at straws...but, all I know is I still remember playing Final Fantasy (yea, each their own...but hear me out...)
And actually being upset when someone you cared about those characters...
But, then it requires an MMO have a REAL story...and I have yet to see that happen...
Ah...sorry for the ramble..
Ok, from a Total Random Nobody Off The Scummy Streets Of The Internet: Tobold, could you indulge me in answering a question? If the nations in WAR *could* 'die forever', and wouldn't be magically rebuilt three days later, and if you'd chosen a race and worked a char up to say, three-quarters of the level cap and kitted him out in good but not excessively good gear, then would you care more about the fate of your virtual nation? What, you say? That would be a staggeringly stupid design choice on the part of the designers, you say? Oh, indeed it would.

But I'm asking the question anyways, just out of a perverse sense of curiosity. Mostly because, like essi mentioned, in EVE, you have people being much more devoted to their guilds/corporations/factions, mostly because you have a kind of investment in your faction that you don't have in WOW. Ok, granted, they're people, not NPCs, and as such matter a lot more, but it's sort of what keeps people running out and getting pasted against the walls.

And I think that it's a matter of investment. In WOW, you don't invest into your faction - in EVE, you do (though your faction is made of other players, which tends to help with the emotional investment thing). These are two pretty far extremes. I think WAR's going for something in the middle.

So, basically, I'm putting you with a mildly vested interest in the fate of your faction. It probably won't be too hard to get back up there, but then again, it's not like you couldn't just reroll on the other side anyways.

Hope that made sense, forgive any lapses of logic, I just got up. What, you say? Why are you reading and typing on a MMO blog right after you got up? Should you not be preparing for classes or somesuch?

Bah, humbug, I say.
I think Tobold gets it right. There can be no "nationalism" when there is nothing to lose.

Nation states and nations were built on the premises of shared wealth and rights that could be lost or gained from others.

However, designers could in theory make it so that if a faction loses something, they need to do something to get it back.

An example would be to tax assets of "conquered nations" and give the proceeds to the "occupying nations". The tax could be set so that nations under occupation would be nagged enough to fight back but not enough to quit playing if they fail to emancipate immediately.

Another interesting idea would be to get create small modifications to the ruleset of the game that would come into effect for everyone under the rule of a specific nation.

For instance (Tobold's gonna love this) in WoW it could go like: if Horde conquers Stormwind, all alliance players are set pvp on every 6 hours of play time for 30 minutes and orc conquerors can gain honor from killing them. That's the sort of thing that happens to occupied nations, but it wouldn't be so "realistic" to make anyone (I hope) quit playing over it.
why make it that complicated.

If the alliance captured stormwind then all vendors and any alliance NPCs become horde for the duration. Now you've got a reason to retake it. Your flight paths and everything else are blocked.
It's a game. When playing any game, fantasy mmorpg or otherwise, there exists the need to bridge the gap between of believability.

Why care that the princess was kidnapped?

Why care about rescuing hostages?

Why kill a dragon that never leaves their lair thus having no impact on the rest of teh game?

Because it's a game and that is what you do. Josh explained RvR in a way that made it sound really fun.

You can't read too much in to things. Disecting them too far leaves you with a bunch of 1's and 0's.
Treehugging RPG-hippiw comment again:

Have you ever thought how much more depth for example WoW gains when you really start to play your character in the game?

It ceases to be the endless grind for the next, better shinie. Instead, it becomes an exploration and adventure for the toon, creating a story around that toon.

And at the same time it becomes a pretty interesting 'selection' of content for the player.

Not playing to win but playing to enjoy the story.

Yea, I most definately put emphasis on the defination of RPG Coprolit put up. Too bad the content gets ruined when the devs listen to the loudest creaky wheel and forget what they did in the first place. Created a polished content driven RGPMMO.

Improvement ideas:
Make the player decisions mean something concrete. In EQ2 there is the betrayal system, in which you should pretty soon figure out the real meaning of the quest chain. Why not extend that: your every choice when interacting with an NPC affects the NPC's connected to this one. Like a net, spreading some 6 connections from this point.

Tangible rewards and penalties for fighting for the cause. Shouldn't be too hard to code, just think beyond faction grinds.

Rewards for dedicating the toon to the cause.

The list could go on and the steps are very easy to implement. In this commentary thread there have been some excellent ways to make the WoW system work better.

Oh yea, I just activated my account on EQ2 and joined a RP-server for the first time ever. Within the short while I've been playing WoW (about a year) I have put my guild and my guildies to the top priority, even though they are mostly veterans and have their toons at the cap. That's just my way of enjoying the game, not the PvP or PvE grind. I'm driven by the content and social bonding, not by the need to excel someone someway. I'm not looking for bragging rights in the game.

I'm well enough endowed in real life.

If the nations in WAR *could* 'die forever', and wouldn't be magically rebuilt three days later, and if you'd chosen a race and worked a char up to say, three-quarters of the level cap and kitted him out in good but not excessively good gear, then would you care more about the fate of your virtual nation? What, you say? That would be a staggeringly stupid design choice on the part of the designers, you say? Oh, indeed it would.

But I'm asking the question anyways, just out of a perverse sense of curiosity. Mostly because, like essi mentioned, in EVE, you have people being much more devoted to their guilds/corporations/factions, mostly because you have a kind of investment in your faction that you don't have in WOW. Ok, granted, they're people, not NPCs, and as such matter a lot more, but it's sort of what keeps people running out and getting pasted against the walls.

You can't compare the nations/factions of WAR/WoW with the corporations of EVE. Your nation/faction is an accident, you need to chose one to create a character. A corporation or guild is something you voluntarily chose to be part of, which gives you a much stronger feeling of loyalty. And yes, a corporation can be wiped out, driven to disband. The Horde in WoW or the Greenskins in WAR can't be wiped out.
@ Copra

"Have you ever thought how much more depth for example WoW gains when you really start to play your character in the game?"

Let me first of all clear out, that I'm not against roleplaying in any way. I've done tons of light roleplaying in WoW. I've enjoyed PnP RPG sessions where heavy roleplaying completely 'exiled' combat.

I'm just saying that PvP/RvR is a war game - it's more about fighting and pursuing victory (for the sake of victory), than experiencing/living the world and playing in character.

I'm not saying you can't do both at the same time, but the competitive nature of the gameplay, doesn't lend much time for fooling around.

So roleplaying should blossom in PvE at least?

In my understanding, there are two elements of 'roleplaying':
1) playing a tactical combat role,
2) and playing a character in a story.

Now, the tactical combat roleplaying is deeply constrained by rules. That lends ifself perfectly to computer gameplay, where the UI is the interactive interface to the rulebook.

The other element of roleplaying - playing in character, exploration and adventure for the toon, creating a story around the toon - to work well this really demands a dynamic, adapting environment. And (so far) that's not really feasible with a shared, persistent MMO world and a relatively constraining computer interface.

You simply do not get the rich experience of sitting face-to-face with real people from a computer game.

I might have too high standards, but IMO what the computer does best is emulating gameplay - not the complexities of telling a emotional story.
Coprolit, I agree with you completely. Especially after reading two magnificient blog entries about this subject, namely Cameron's blog in Random Battle (which Tobold has linked already) and Scott's Pumping Irony ( ).

Sorry I've forgotten my last bit of html to properly link that one.

So the basis is the fact that the game mechanics have been thought out to be battle simulation instead of roleplaying simulation. That's what it basically was with pen and paper playing in the beginning, and it's still mostly that. Depending on the GM (Game dev) and the setting (world), naturally.

I'm not saying that the combat should be taken away, I'm just saying that in a normal movie or novel the combat (risky) is used to pace the story. It has been stated in this commentary quite clearly that as you don't have anything to lose, you don't feel compelled to protect it or fight for it.

You can best train dogs by rewarding them accordinly to their behaviour. Obviously the Skinner box is enough of a reward for the current norm player of the MMOs, but why couldn't they , us, be trained to act differently?

Social interaction, making the decisions count and matter and put emphasis on the 'support' side of the combat (I'm not meaning grinding for mats and gold for repairs, but a working meaningfull crafting) so that everyone would be involved in the meaningfull whole of the game.

How about RvR so that one server represents only one faction?

I think that there is too much choise on both races and classes to really get attached to the toons and factions. In WoW that is.

I have to say that I have to play WoW and/or EQ2 because there is no better alternative.

IMHO PvP can also be part of the RP scene, as long as it is supported by the story or genre. I see no contradiction in RP and combat, but I see a huge contradiction in claiming the current MMO's as RPG's.

Addition: Why should the world be persistent, still and rigid as it currently is?

Granted, the world should be coherrent, but it should have changes as whole to make it dynamic and interesting. Each expansion brings more of the same, so why couldn't these expansions change the world in earnest?

Last great changes in WoW were the Duskwallow March revamp and added content. As this was done in a patch, it should be possible to make more changes and create a kind of rotation for the quests, like the Seasonal events are.

It's not a solution, but it would be a start.

And don't start preaching about how much it costs. Bli$$ard is doing well enough to come up with a solution...

We are agreed on the "persistent" way of MMO's
Nothing is forever, and this is what bothers me about these games in general...
Remember when MxO killed off Morpheus...this is a huge step in the right direction...
Cities should fall, new ones should be built...certain bad guys just need to disappear, new ones need to take their place..
It also would relieve an issue with Tobolds new post about having all the locations laid out for you on the net or an there would not be so much persistence, then it would also force exploration...
Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

  Powered by Blogger   Free Page Rank Tool