Tobold's Blog
Sunday, May 11, 2008
 
Will Order or Chaos prevail in WAR?

I'm reading about Warhammer Online, and stumbled upon one interesting fact: even when doing PvE quests, you contribute to the points for the RvR conflict. Which means that even players who don't want to participate in PvP have an influence on the outcome. That made me think of World of Warcraft, where Alliance outnumbers Horde on most servers by 3:2 or even 2:1. Even if the more numerous faction has lots of casual players who chose their side just because the characters were prettier, in a system like WAR these players would still add a lot of RvR points to their side. So the less numerous side had it even harder to overcome the numerical disadvantage.

Of course this will all depend on how casual player friendly WAR will be. The hardcore players will probably distribute pretty evenly over the 6 races and 2 factions of WAR. But the "I want to play a pretty elf" type of players are probably going to play Order more often than Chaos. And up to now the guys from EA Mythic are mumbling in their beards about being aware of the possible problem, but haven't come up with a good solution yet. Combat boni for the less numerous side? Seperate login waiting queues and population caps? All these have both advantages and disadvantages. Players neither want to be forced to play one side, nor do they want their side to constantly lose because of being outnumbered.

So what do you think? Will Order dominate WAR in a similar numerical imbalance as Alliance outnumbers Horde? Or will the forces of Chaos prevail, or at least draw even, in Warhammer Online?
Comments:
Normally I'd be sure that Order would be the most popular, but this is Warhammer, and Warhammer has da boyz. I like to think that maybe, if the numbers are really unbalanced, they'll split the Orcs (not Orks, of course) off into a third faction.
 
WAR has dark elves... so I bet on Chaos.

- Ben
 
The various polls on the Warhammer Alliance forums seem to indicate that the majority of the hardcore types will be heading to Destruction (assuming that those hanging around on the Warhammer Alliance forums months before release are likely to be a good indication of the hardcore types).

However, Mythic keep saying that the balance in closed beta tends to be pretty close to 50/50.

The usual draw towards the best looking side doesn't really apply here, because both Chaos and Dark Elves have attractive options, and although some people may be attracted to playing on the 'good' side, there are probably a similar number that want to be the bad guys.

It should also be noted that many of the classes aren't available in the beta at the moment, and we know very little about how uniquely cool they will be. New information concerning these might sway a few people one way or the other.

Regardless of all this, I'm read recently that the losing side will be given subtle advantages to help even things out over time. More NPC guards at keeps, and that sort of thing. I'm not sure if that will be enough to counter a dominant side that is gearing up through repeated capital sackings, although Mythic have stated that gear will only play so much part in a character's overall effectiveness.

Ideally, the mechanisms in place need to be such that even a heavily outnumbered and outgeared side can turn the tide every now and then. Time will tell.
 
Jeff Hickman addresses potential population issues at 8:05 of this video:

http://trailer.onlinewelten.com/videos,id3482,warhammer_online_realm_vs_realm.html

* From past experience (DAOC), they recognize that population balance can be an issue but that they generally work themselves out as long as the developers are encouraging them to do so...

* There will be server population caps and realm population caps (e.g., if there are a certain number of Greenskins on a server, you won't be able to make a Greenskin on the server - but you can make characters of a different race)

* If the server is at cap, you will enter a queue just like WoW and get on as soon as there is room

* It will be impossible for a single large guild or huge zerg of people to log on in an afternoon (or at 3am) and completely dominate the game because the overall RvR campaign is designed to happen over weeks rather than hours or days

* They will probably give bonuses to the weaker realms and offer incentives to come over and join the weaker realms from another server

* If you do lose your city (the culmination of an RvR campaign), they will not allow the winners to keep on dominating so they will eventually buffs the players and guards to the point where recapture is an inevitability (12-18 hours after the city is captured)

* They will also reward the defenders for recapture

---------------

I think there are potentials for imbalance, as there are in any MMORPG, but I trust that EA Mythic is doing everything they can to ensure it doesn't happen. I think I heard a number tossed around that they won't allow one side to outnumber the other by more than a 3:2 ratio.

Imbalance was an issue in WoW because Blizzard did absolutely NOTHING to mitigate it. And for a game that is primarily about PvE, with scant thought given to PvP in their original development, it probably wasn't as big of a deal.
 
Barring significant class/race imbalances that would cause players to flock to the most 'powerful' characters on one of the sides, I think Destruction will be the more popular faction.

WAR is being marketed as primarily a PvP game. Players who especially enjoy PvP (and who would thus be drawn to WAR) tend to fall into the Killer and Achiever archetypes when adminitered a Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology. According to research by Nick Yee (of Deadalus Project), these kinds of players tend to prefer 'dark' characters over normal-looking or cute ones. Thus I think most WAR players will gravitate towards the darker side of the Warhammer universe.

You can already observe the above tendencies in WoW: while PvE servers tend to have more Alliance players (reflecting WoW's broader appeal), on PvP servers the numbers shift significantly in favor of the Horde.
 
Isn't it obvious. Internal mechanisms will be implemented (no matter how cheesy) that keep one side from totally dominating the other - otherwise subscribers will quit in frustration.
 
I won't venture a guess as to which side will win the population war, but how EA/Mythic deals with the resulting imbalance will make or break Warhammer. Players on the losing side are not going to want to log on to find that they don't have auction houses in their own cities and that they can't set foot in contested territory without being swarmed under, but players on the winning side are going to be ticked if the solution is to lock them out of their server during peak hours (as snafzg says they're considering).
 
My 5 bucks is on Chaos dominating as many of the "pretty" playing people will still be playing WOW :P

WGD
 

I won't venture a guess as to which side will win the population war, but how EA/Mythic deals with the resulting imbalance will make or break Warhammer. Players on the losing side are not going to want to log on to find that they don't have auction houses in their own cities and that they can't set foot in contested territory without being swarmed under, but players on the winning side are going to be ticked if the solution is to lock them out of their server during peak hours (as snafzg says they're considering).


You nailed it.
 
Order and Destruction. Not that it really matters.

I think the major reasoning toward the current imbalance on most polls is due to poor marketing by Paul himself. For many a podcast he only highlighted the Greenskins and other Realms of the Destruction. And the ohter reasons have been pointed out, ie polls are of small groups.

I don't think once release hits there will be as much of an imbalance. It does not seem, as was it like for WoW, that there is a clear reason for PvP (or RvR) to choose one side over the other.
 
Mythic has laid plans to use NPCs if there is a lack if players in the various scenarios (battlegrounds). However, the more NPCs, the less that a scenario counts towards the overall goal of the campaign system.

While a minor note overall, it goes to show that Mythic is thinking about population balances.

Dark Elves and Chaos of WAR, unlike Trolls, Orcs, and Taurens of WoW, are attractive races. Plus, there is by far no "good side" in WAR. While the nomenclature and art may hint towards Order being the good guys, the actions of the realm are unlikely to reflect that.

Also, it will be interesting how European servers play out. Tobold can probably shed some light on this, but wouldn't Europeans be interested in playing as Empire (Order) since they are almost completely based off European history?

The bottom line is that Mythic is on the ball and has laid plans since the game began.

Queues happen for a reason. Networking hardware and the Internet has it's limits. Their main focus is not to help limit a "side", but to limit a "server" and promote players to go elsewhere. Hopefully Mythic has a good plan to point undecided players to the servers that need them. But then, we have the potential of cross-server instanced content :P
 
Im not sure that the population of order vs chaos is really an issue.

They would simply have to apply a factor based on population and realm points accrued to determine the true RvR value.

Even though population caps dont really address the situation as far as im concerned. It would be far better to track actual gameplay time for each faction as opposed to just population.
 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
"Also, it will be interesting how European servers play out. Tobold can probably shed some light on this, but wouldn't Europeans be interested in playing as Empire (Order) since they are almost completely based off European history?"

Now that is really a strange thought: That history is as much history of Europeans as of a large number of US citizens, and for both groups of people the distance to it is the same time-wise. Also, although this should be obvious, most Europeans do not identify with Europe's history for the past 1000+ years but only for the past 100, maybe 200, which is most likely similar for US citizens.
So why should Europeans of today have any different preferences for certain factions in WAR than US citizens based on some similarities to their common but distant past?

While there certainly are differences between Europe and the US, those are mostly related to current issues.

Sometimes I wonder whether some Americans think that we still live in some kind of middle-age setting here in Europe...


On the topic, I believe that working with increased NPC numbers or certain buffs for the weaker faction would be much better solutions than arbitrary restrictions like queues or limited numbers of possible characters per race. The only effective system somewhat similar to those might be one like the WorldPass concept of FFXI. I don't know whether it's still in use, but originally you could not select a specific server in FFXI when creating your first character unless you had some code called WorldPass. That code could only be gained by a player already playing on a server through purchasing it from an NPC. Then he could give it to his friends (I think one code could be used up to ten times) who would then be able to choose the server of the character who bought it when creating new characters.
Such a system would allow EA to distribute those players not bound to specific servers/guilds evenly among the servers as well as take into account distribution across realms.

Still, any kind of arbitrary solution has one major flaw: If one side turns out more attractive than another side across all servers they'll only produce dissatisfied customers without addressing the underlying problem, so EA should not settle for any of those.
 
From reading Snafzg's comment I was just struck by how pointless the pvp seems to be in WAR, if that is the way they are going to be handling it. Apparently it'll take weeks to capture a castle, but then in 12-18 hours you'll lose it no matter what. So then start all over again with the weeks long campaign... Eh?!
 
Mythic is so full of crud on this issue. Population imbalances were terrible in DAoC and they did not work themselves out over time -- except by people quitting the game because of it (like everyone I knew who played DAoC). It SUCKED being on an underpopulated realm and getting stomped all the time. Most servers ended up with a severe imbalance. Nothing they did in DAoC had any effect.

If they're still in denial about it, WAR will have serious troubles here too.
 
The only effective system somewhat similar to those might be one like the WorldPass concept of FFXI. I don't know whether it's still in use, but originally you could not select a specific server in FFXI when creating your first character unless you had some code called WorldPass. That code could only be gained by a player already playing on a server through purchasing it from an NPC. Then he could give it to his friends (I think one code could be used up to ten times) who would then be able to choose the server of the character who bought it when creating new characters.

The FFXI World Pass system only works to balance population evenly over several servers. It doesn't do anything for Order / Chaos balance, because no matter to what server you are randomly assigned, you still have the choice of race yourself.
 
Let us not forget that Order aren't all sweetness and light in Warhammer, and although they might be 'cleaner cut' than Destruction, neither side has a monopoly on either goodness or unpleasantness.

Order seem to have plenty of very cool looking classes, such as the Witch Hunter and Shadow Warrior, that will attract many people. I believe that we may well see a roughly equal distribution because both sides have plenty of cool classes, and crucially, every playing mechanism will be mirrored on the other faction.

There does of course need to be mechanisms in place to ensure that when imbalance does occur, the loosing side still has a fighting chance.
 
While it's true that you can PvE for the entire game, even in the Tier IV zones, I'm almost certain no one is going to only PvE. When your capital city is at risk of falling and all the amenities that have been built up over the last few weeks/months are at risk of being taken away, I'd imagine even the most hard core PvE'er will raise arms against the rampaging hordes.
 
My only experience with this genre is Wow so this may be short sighted. Some of the comments revealed that they will not allow certain races to be available if the populations aren't just so. I think this will be a terrible idea. Imagine you pay for a game and can't even make a certain character you wanted to on the server where your friends are. Bad desgin if that is true. It is already frustrating in Wow to not be able to use a name you want, much less race or class. What if we all had to roll troll/orc females to play?

Maybe it was done in past games, but I can't see that "feature" appealing to the masses.
 
When your capital city is at risk of falling

It depends, back when collecting items meant something in AV, people assigned to do it collected the skins and whatever else, regardless of what was happening, because the raid leader assigned them (back before cross server). So I can see people being more motivated to get out and collect supplies if it will put a buff on the guards and not do any pvp if they don't want. It all depends on how they set it up.
 
no way will it draw even as that would imply perfection, but I'd say which side prevails depends on the devs and the fans, I'm betting on Chaos
 
Yes this is as always a concern. Historically in all games I've played since Daoc the majority have played the perceived "good" guys. Well actually with one exception and that was the SWG euro servers where Empire was stronger. There's a reason for that but I'll not talk about that now.

There should be some sort of carrot to play the underdog faction or it will never work. The problem is balancing it, and of course what it is in the first place.
 
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