Tobold's Blog
Monday, February 04, 2008
Running away in PotBS

Keen from Keen and Graev feels he is being griefed in Pirates of the Burning Sea. But there is an interesting twist to the story: Keen is the pirate wanting to attack other player's ships, and their method of griefing is to run away.

The whole problem here is that ship-to-ship combat in Pirates of the Burning Sea is instanced. Ships engage in combat on the open sea, but then are transported to an instance to fight it out, while on the open sea only two circling ship models indicate that there is a battle there. While you are in the instance, you can't see what is going on around you in the open sea. And you can only leave the instance after a certain time without combat action.

As a freetrader mostly avoiding PvP zones, my main problem are NPC pirates, who can attack you anywhere. They often are much higher in level than me, and come with multiple combat ships, against my transport ship which has lots of cargo space but very little combat abilities. So I run away. All my ships are equipped with speed outfittings, a freetrader gets additional speed abilities, and so I'm simply faster than the NPC combat ships. NPC pirates basically cost me 2 to 3 minutes of boring running away.

Of course if for some reason I was entering a PvP zone and was attacked by player pirates in slow ships, I would try to run away as well. There is no way I could win such a combat, so running away would be my only chance to survive. Knowing that I wouldn't enter a PvP zone with a slow ship, but choose one of the fastest ships around in the game, the Mastercraft Bermuda Sloop, outfitted to the max with speed outfittings. With such a ship you could reasonable hope to "run blockades", that is get in and out of a contested port without losing your ship and cargo.

It is obvious that a pirate wouldn't like me being able to run away that way. But if it was the pirate who attacked, there is no way you could call the freetrader running away "griefing". It isn't quite clear from Keen's post, but I think the griefing he is referring to is some sort of an escort tactic: As I said, if you are in a ship-to-ship combat instance, you are trapped inside for at least 2 minutes. Now imagine a contested port with a pirate ship cruising up and down before it, trying to catch everyone trying to get in or out. Now take two players trying to get a huge load of goods into that port. Huge cargo ships are slow, and would be captured by the pirate. But if one of the players takes a very fast ship and *attacks the pirate*, the pirate is out of the game for a while, and the other player can sail past with his slow, huge cargo ship. Meanwhile his partner in the ship-to-ship combat instance can keep the pirate trapped in the instance by firing at him from maximum range, running away, approaching again and firing, and so on for a long time. If the pirate has a big, slow combat ship, there isn't much he can do against that tactics, he is trapped in the instance. Whether that is clever strategy or griefing depends on the circumstances, like whether the fast player is helping a friend to run a blockade, or whether he just does it to annoy the pirate. See the recent quote on griefing: "you win if the other guy gets so annoyed that he quits the game".

In the closed beta I was also playing a freetrader, but there was an infamous pirate around. He did *not* use big combat ships, he had the fastest ship with the fastest outfittings around. Nobody could run away from him. He won fights by outmaneuvering the enemy, shooting their sails until they couldn't move any more, then keeping behind them and firing at them from an angle where they couldn't fire back. That pirate had my respect, because he wasn't afraid to attack much bigger ships than his, and frequently still won. He even attacked me once when I was escorted by a naval officer, but I had understood his tactics, shot at *his* sails as well, and then he couldn't evade my escort's superior firepower. His bad luck that at the time I was in one of my combat ships, not a cargo ship.

I think if as a pirate in PotBS you want to keep people from running away from you, you need to have the fastest ship around. Or you need to team up with a mixed group, a fast ship disabling the enemies fast ship's sails, and slower ships coming after them with better firepower. As a player pirate, you can't rely on a slow, powerful ship for your pirating activity. You'd only catch even slower cargo ships with that, never blockade runners or players with speed-based counter strategies.
Nice analysis, particularly the end part.

Of course, on reflection this mirrors the real world. In the sea-faring ages you wouldn't really be worried about a slow pirate, would you - since there's not much chance of sneaking up on someone on when you can see them miles away on the horizon. :-)
Making 1vs1 PvP instanced and non-consensual is the main culprit here. If that fast ship couldn't whisk the big bad pirate to an alternate dimension to duke it out, the pirate ship could just go about his (pirate) business.

This model of instanced PvP probably originates from Sid Meier's Pirates, where all ship-to-ship combat was done in an (instanced) open patch of sea for reasons of simplicity. It worked in Pirates, since you always got an "encounter reaction" screen and the rest of the world froze while you made the choice of engaging or not. The developers apparently skipped this vital part of the game mechanic, since you can't freeze the game world for user input in an MMO.
Oh, and I don't think that running away is used as an escort tactic here, although it's an interesting idea.

This is more like corpsecamping: Denying the other player the ability to play except on the griefer's terms. If you're stuck in a PvP instance, you cannot go about your business until you defeat the griefer or he gets bored.
That is well possible, Shalkis. But I must admit that I don't really understand griefers. For example in this case the griefer also would be stuck for exactly the same time as the person he is griefing. So where is the interest? Suffering personally in the hope that another player is suffering even more? I just can't see why someone would do that.

The escort plan I could understand, that is just clever use of bad game features.
Interesting... It's a sort of "Bizarro World" version of griefing. The "little guys" know that the pirates are out there looking to cause trouble, so they're wasting the pirates' time by initiating combat and running away.

I think I could see the mindset - one wouldn't mind wasting one's 2 minutes if it meant that you were being "the good guy" by helping out your faction by preventing a pirate from attacking a cargo ship. Being a kind of "anti-griefer" by griefing the griefers - even though non-consensual PvP is intended.

But this is all pretty normal - people are just exploiting a flaw in the game.
Tobold, my experience of griefers is that as long as they are spoiling your game, they are happy.
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LOL The fact that it aggravates him that much is proof of why unrestricted pvp will never be a huge thing in an mmo.

MMO"s are based on improving your stuff. As you get further and further along there become less and less reason for anyone below you to even try. Then PVP sucks for everyone but Griefers

Can't seem to get this right today :-)
The so called grief going on is just a simplification of what would happen anyway. Even if the pirate managed to get the hauler into the instance, the escort would simply get behind the pirate and blow his stern apart (sinking the pirate). The pirate can choose to deal with the real threat (not the hauler), in which case the hauler would get away. In the case of this griefing, the choice is simply being made for the pirate. Letting him live by dealing with the real threat, and the hauler gets away.

Complaining about the instancing and using it to get haulers past a blockade, is just a lack of understanding about the bigger picture.
Keen is complaining (rightfully so) about the ability of another player to waste his time for 15 minutes whether he wants to engage or not.

If you're in a contested area you can be engaged by a fast ship regardless of whether you're just passing through or actively trying to defend, and then you're stuck for as long as the fast ship wants to keep you there.

If it's being used on someone actively defending a port, then I suppose it's a clever abuse of bad game mechanics. If it's being used on someone who just happened to clip a pvp zone or is trying to run missions or cargo, then it's griefing. And of course, there's no way to differentiate the two.
Graktar understood it perfectly. Thanks Graktar. :)
It seemed to me that Keen was more upset that a Pirate could engage him in combat, lock him into a PvP "Instance", fire a shot or two then turn and run, and basically keep Keen tied up that way preventing him from playing "his" game. After several minutes of non-combat PvP (an oxymoron if ever I heard one) when both ships would emerge back in the real world, the Pirate Griefer would promptly engage Keen's ship again, once more locking him into a PvP Instance for several more minutes where nothing would happen. Keen's point seemed to be that if someone was willing to lock you into ship-to-ship combat and fire their cannons at you, then they should not be allowed to flee from the battle, but it seems to me that would still just be playing into the Pirate Griefers' hands.

Griefers enjoy wasting other people's time, that's why the PotBS Griefers engage people in PvP without actually PvPing. Apparently the Pirates made no attempt to use their superior speed to outmaneuver Keen's ship and shoot it to pieces (as in Tobold's example), all they seemed to want to do was keep Keen locked into the PvP Instance as long as possible.

Don't think people are this bored? Keen states that one Pirate in particular 'wasted' 15+ minutes of his time this way, and that he spent over 90 minutes locked into PvP Instances where he never actually did any PvP. That's 1 1/2 hours in just one day where Keen was forced into PvP Instances by other players and where nothing was accomplished. For the casual player, 1 1/2 hours might represent all the time they have right now to sit down and play the game, and instead of running cargo back & forth between a couple of ports and making themselves some virtual gold, they spend 90 minutes locked in non-consensual PvP where they do nothing except wonder why they're even playing.

Tobold, didn't you just talk about EVE and Griefing: “The way that you win in EVE is you basically make life so miserable for someone else that they actually quit the game and don’t come back.” Change out EVE for PotBS and you've got the exact same situation.
"If it's being used on someone actively defending a port, then I suppose it's a clever abuse of bad game mechanics. If it's being used on someone who just happened to clip a pvp zone or is trying to run missions or cargo, then it's griefing. And of course, there's no way to differentiate the two." -graktar

Perhaps I don't understand MMOs that well, however I would have thought the latter case (just 'clipping' the zone) wouldn't be griefing. I would have this is inept, but distinct from "I'm just going to go and irritate the hell out of this guy over here...."
/sarcasm on

Design flaw = emergent gameplay

/sarcasm off

As Graktar and Keen mentioned, this is probably more of a "clever" abuse of a [flawed] game mechanic". Contention around ports decays over time (though that's been the subject of much handwringing and tweaking of late).

Taking an attacker out of action for 2+ minutes means thats 2+ minutes he can't add to that ports contention.

The only other scenario I can see this happening is when a player is flagged pvp and not in a pvp contention zone around a port. Players will flag PvP for an open sea speed buff and it shuts off NPC aggro. If you choose your route wisely and stay vigilant, you can avoid getting caught by another player.

If they did catch you and "ran away" then it would have to be complete asshattery...
That's precisely what I was saying capn john. These people are engaging in combat not to fight but to grief. I can understand that griefing comes par for the course with PvP but when the griefing is being done by taking advantage of a flawed game mechanic then it's worth making some noise.

A level 50 Naval Officer has no business being in a Bermuda MC Sloop, engaging me, and keeping me in combat for however long he wants. If he wanted to fight I would obliterate him. Instead he wants to pop 1 shot off on me every 1 minute and keep me in combat. Zip in, snap off a shot, run away.

And I am STUCK in the instance until he gets bored or I spend 10-15 minutes getting to the scape point. If I sit there and do nothing he'll sink me. If I try and pull the plug I stay in the encounter and get sunk. My only option is to play the griefers little game and attempt to fight or run away myself.

As I said in my blog post the only way to beat them is to join them. Eventually everyone in the game will be using level 18 ships tricked out in the best stuff. The economy will become stale because making anything but small ship deeds and small outfittings be profitable anymore. People will get bored of pvp with everyone in the same ship using the same tactics.

That is, until FLS fixes the problem. It's not going to go away by itself.
I totally understand how keeping Keen trapped in an instance can be griefing. But nevertheless there is a certain irony to that. Keen is a pirate, and he hangs out in PvP zones so that he can attack cargo ships, sink them, and steal their cargo. That isn't griefing, it is part of the game. But I think we can all agree that the person whose ship Keen just sank will be pretty annoyed. Look at this post, where Keen complains about FREETRADERS running away from him. Not Naval officers attacking him and keeping him in combat, but freetraders that Keen attacked and who had the insolence of running away from him. I find it hard to feel sorry for somebody who thinks that freetraders shouldn't even have the right to run away from pirates.
Tobold, you're not seeing the point.

Firstly, that post was an inside joke aimed @ people I play with regularly who read my blog. Using it to make a point is flawed.

Second, I don't hang out in PvP zones to attack cargo ships. You've inferred, in error, that my purpose as a pirate is to sink players and take their cargo. I've said on more than one occasion that playing the game with that goal is pointless because players who are smart won't enter "red circles" with decent cargo. I get more cargo from NPCs.

I hang out in PvP zones because I like PvP. I like attacking other players in fair fights. Anyone who knows me on Rackham Server knows that I can often be found engaging in full group combat vs the best socieities in the entire game. ATF, LBT, BWC, and several French societies whose names I can't recall will all know me and Emerald Blade (the society I'm in) as honorable and worthy opponents.

I'm not looking for you to feel sorry for me. I'm not looking for anyone to feel sorry for me. I'm looking for an obviously broken gameplay mechanic to be fixed.

You're forming your own conclusions here Tobold based on information you have in error. What your saying is just simply wrong.
I don't think you can use your blog any more to send personal jokes to friends. If I posted an insider joke on my blog with a big header "WoW sucks", next thing I'd see is it being reported as news on WoWInsider. If you post an insider joke on your bloke saying "freetraders should stop running away", and then later post a rant about the running away mechanism in which it isn't totally clear that you ONLY talk about people attacking you, of course people reading it will think you are against freetraders being able to run away. You get hundreds of hits a day on your blog, how many of those are people who understand your insider joke? Sorry for misunderstanding you, but look at your own side imagining you were a stranger, and you'll see how easy one can get the impression that I got.

And in my opinion you are barking up the wrong tree. Running away isn't flawed, being able to initiate non-consentual PvP is. The fact that you need to point out that you like fair fights shows that this isn't typical for PvP in PotBS.
A proper tackling class, like EVE frigates, sounds like it would fix this issue.

The main problem is PotBS restricts the number of ships in combat, making fielding a 'tackler' a liability rather than a bonus. Either you field too few and people run, or too many and they stay and kill you, but that is the downside of limiting numbers.
There is no crying in the red circle!

If an enemy is faster than you and has longer range, you have lost the battle. Even if the enemy just wants to waste your time, you've done nothing on your part to prevent it. You have supposed that just because your ships level requirement is higher, that you should win. You've not grouped with a friend that has strengths to make up for your weaknesses (a tackler). You've not equipped range fittings if you know you are slow. You have not equipped speed fittings if you know you have no range. If you refuse to group (you also have to stick together on the open sea), and you refuse to sail a good solo PvP ship, you can't be helped.

And to Tobold: The PvP becomes consentual when you sail into the red zone.
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