Tobold's Blog
Thursday, February 19, 2009
 
Does WAR end at level 40?

Squin from Dark Crag Dispatch is musing that while many people claim that World of Warcraft *begins* at the level cap, Warhammer Online rather seems to end at level 40. In WoW, the bosses you fight in the endgame are computer controlled, so each boss can be given a completely different behavior. Naxxramas has 15 fights, no two of which are the same. In WAR you fight players in the endgame, and the locations in which you fight them are strategically identical, even if there are minor optical variations. Thus every keep attack tends to play out very similar to the last one.

Well, I have no personal experience of the WAR endgame, but I must say that in WoW PvP the attacks on Wintergrasp tend to resemble each other. There are variations due to how many people turn up (mostly depending on time of day), and minor variations of composition of the two armies. Sometimes you get an organized PvP guild, which will be far more efficient. But on average you have two mid-sized PuG raids in PvP, which tend to behave in very predictable ways. And in MMO PvP there is no such thing as being able to outflank the enemy army and using the enemies predictability in your favor. So you end up with an infinite series of battles which are all very similar. Hey, I can even predict the outcome of your next Wintergrasp battle: The attacking side wins!

It is an interesting phenomenon that while individuals behave in very unpredictable ways, crowds tend to be far more predictable. Unfortunately that makes games with a PvP endgame difficult, because sooner or later players get bored to fight the same battle over and over. And while Blizzard can patch in a new raid dungeon when WoW players get bored, Mythic patching in another keep to fight over won't add any variety to WAR.
Comments:
Actually, battle tactics like outflanking, cutting off support lines, predicting or even steering the move of your opponents, setting up ambushes, etc., tell apart the PuGs from the good guilds in WAR ;)
 
"Well, I have no personal experience of the WAR endgame"

That is apparent. There are end game dungeons and encounters in WAR. As for PvP, players are also not scripted the way raid bosses are. So while fights may play out in similar ways, they are rarely ever the same.

I don't think there is much variety in WoW's end game. Scripted boss encounters to get loot for the next level. Repeat.

That being said, WAR's city siege end game needs some work. So it isn't perfect, but the game doesn't end at 40. As for WoW, the new wotlk end game seems much more enjoyable than previous efforts.
 
Even though you might be in a large pug v pug fight, there's nothing to keep you from formin small guild groups and exercising different tactics to achieve a goal. I think the endgame fights in WAR are all pretty variable since there is different geometry (bridges, chokepoints, open fields, hills, etc.) and different levels of small group tactics being performed.

However, in WoW, sure there are 15+ end game bosses. However, that is only 15+ scripts to learn. That should be infinitely less variable than large fights v. humans.

Sure, if you zoom out your focus far enough, all you see in WAR is two blobs of people crashing into each other. However, tighten your focus and you see lots of small battles being fought in the larger fight.

Finally, WAR does have like 30 or so non-instanced bosses that reside in lairs. That's more boss fights than WOTLK. Many of them are straightforward tank and spank, but that's not much simpler than scripted boss fights.

mm
 
I also wonder what the return on investment is when looking at how much development work is needed v. how much of a new experience players get when:

1. Building a new raid instance with scripted bosses. -- v. --
2. Adding a new location with new strategically important geographic features with a gimmick or two and letting players fight over it.

I would think that given the same amount of time, developers could get more bang for the buck from option #2.

mm
 
Please keep in mind that Tobold is comparing a PVP end game battle versus a PVP end game battle. The battle of Wintergrasp happens about every 3 hours. So all the boss battle comments are slightly off topic for this discussion.

And I wonder how Tobold's battles are so small... Alliance on Silver Hand usually runs 2+ raids prime time and our poor, out numbered Horde usually have a Tenacity of 10+ and we have seen them as high as 20. (250,000 HP Tauren warriors eek.)

Considering how many times the devs have had to go back to AV and some of the terrain exploits in WSG, I would think that good design of their terrain (for PVP) or boss encounters are both very time consuming. I would actually think that terrain is much harder to balance right--as there are far more degrees of freedom in a PVP field making the job of anticipating /all/ player actions much harder.
 
The linked post is interesting, as the first half is written from the view of a pug or zerg member, while the second half makes some good points (that Mythic is already addressing, and certainly needs to)

If you pug RvR, it is indeed boring. You follow the zerg around, roll or get rolled, and slowly earn renown. But lets be fair, if you pug PvE, what happens? You only bring over-geared members, AoE everything down (zerg), and slowly collect loot. Both are equally mind-numbing, just with PvE dropping more epix to distract you.

If you have a guild/alliance warband, you do employ tactics in RvR. You do flank, you do cut the enemy off from keeps, you defend the postern, etc. Taking the final floor of a defended keep/fort is more than just a zerg rush, and actually defending a keep successfully is not only personally rewarding, its by far the superior way to earn renown. Just like in a raiding guild you DO push the PvE content using strategy and skill rather than simply overpowering everything.

The other point to make, and the post glosses over this, is that WoW feels so different once you hit the cap because the whole game changes. You stop questing/exploring and you start grinding rep/gear. In WAR, what's available at rank 40 is, in smaller doses, available at rank 1. You still have scenarios, you still have oRvR, it's just all simpler at 1 compared to 40. The simplicity is actually nice sometimes, which is why some people enjoy alts so much. WAR does not instantly change it's focus once you ding 40, while the same can't be said for WoW at 80.
 
MMO PvP needs highly organised teams to be unpredictable and fun. Since Warhammer didn't care about the more serious players, most of them are gone. The rest doesn't have the will to organise anything and so the only 'tactic' in every PvP battle is the same.
PvE raids are not better because the enemy is so unpreditable, but because you are highly organised. If the enemy were unpreditable it would be even more fun.
 
And in MMO PvP there is no such thing as being able to outflank the enemy army and using the enemies predictability in your favor.

Not true at all. When I left WAR, tactics (such as flanking and feinting) were being used all the time effectively. While I'll admit that "zerging" is the more popular strategy, the top guild on my old server was an outnumbered Order guild who won by using superior players and tactics.

The problem with the WAR end-game isn't a reflection of the PvP so much as it is about the lasting effect of your efforts. What's the point in taking a keep when as soon as you leave it -- it gets taken back by the other side. Massive lag problems aside, this was the fundamental problem that I had with the WAR endgame.

You are really left with two possible outcomes: Either a) the factions are well balanced and therefore end up in a constant stale mate which is unable to progress the WAR effort to city sieges, or b) the sides are unbalanced and you either get trounced all the time or have trouble finding players to kill (or keeps to take) depending on your faction.

Imagine for a moment how difficult it would be to do Vault of Archavon if Wintergrasp didn't lock out for two hours. Now imagine if it wasn't a quick little instance, but something more meaningful to the end-game like Naxx.
 
Tobold, as someone who DID play WAR's end game you are 100% right. The problem is that if you do Scenario's and ORvR the entire time you level there is nothing new by the time you hit R40. So I completely understand that the game ends at 40.

I remember one night on Azazel that Order out numbered us again, and I started spouting off commands in Vent based on some MOUT tactics I learned before deploying to Iraq. We ended up winning. The reason I quit though is that you log on and maybe twice a week you get a good fight. The chance of a good oRvR fight is random, but once it happens the outcome is predictable... but fun.

My time was better spent enjoying WoW every night.
 
@yuripup:
Tobold is comparing WoW's endgame PVE v. WAR's endgame PVP. He says,
"And while Blizzard can patch in a new raid dungeon when WoW players get bored, Mythic patching in another keep to fight over won't add any variety to WAR".

That's a direct comparison of PVE v. PVP, so the comments on raid bosses if relevant. Especially since the comparison is WoW's endage (which is primarily PVE) v. WAR's endgame (which is primarily PVP).

mm
 
I guess.

Most fun I ever had in WoW was late night BG groups waaay back before they went to the points system. Doing bosses is great for the first 5 times, but how often do you end up running them?

To each his own.
 
"There are end game dungeons and encounters in WAR. As for PvP, players are also not scripted the way raid bosses are. So while fights may play out in similar ways, they are rarely ever the same."

Please note that Tolbolds point was a bit different than the point I was making on my blog (although I think Tolbold raises another interesting point that I hadn't considered).

My points were a bit more prosaic. In my view the problem with the repetition in WARs endgame is that:

1. The RvR lakes are all too similar which causes the battles to play out similarly
2. The rewards system is a PVE-centric system of killing bosses rather than a PVP-centric system based on killing players. As a result, people do the "smart" thing and avoid the players to kill the bosses.

Tolbold makes a separate point that NPC can be programmed to approach a combat any way the designers want. In contrast, as a whole players will always approach a conflict with an eye toward optimizing their success which is likely to lead to "one best way" of doing things and more repetition.

While I think Tolbold is basically correct, my point is that Mythic should use player psychology to their advantage through clever zone design. They could make it so that they "best approach" to taking a given zone was radically different from zone to zone. This would create more variety in the end game battles.

In that way zone design could be like raid design. Mythic could first imagine a new way for the players to battle and then design a zone with rewards that “forced” the players to battle in that way.
 
I don't see why adding zones wouldn't add to WAR's PVP. I certainly go back to some FPS games when a new map pack comes out. Add some more siege equipment, or change the chokepoints and other tactics you have to use to assault/defend a position, and you've got some new things to think about.
 
@Squin, I agree totally.

I think that one issue WAR had in designing keeps and ORvR terrain is that they tried to hard to keep everything balanced and each zone desirable to fight in because many players tend to take the path of least resistance. If things were varied in each zone, people would cry foul for one reason or another, and I really think that is too bad because I think it scared them from working on keeps differently or really varying the terrain. It led to everything feeling a bit more plain than it could have been. I still like it, but would love for the keeps and the lakes to have more variety.

I also agree with Syncaine, in that leveling alts is a lot of fun in WAR.

Oddly, the reason I left WoW was because things were too repetitive. Boss fights did sometimes require varying tactics to some degree, but running the same boss multiple times got old and mob pulls were very boring.
 
These are all valid points, but really I think they all boil down to people saying "I like pve better" and "I like pvp better." None of these statements are going to be universal.

So I'll add one more completely subjective argument to the list:

As a game designer, I know too well that pve enemies are only there as macguffins, each with a predetermined Achilles' heel and a method to kill them. We WANT and NEED the players to figure out how to beat our content, and if they can't we have to redesign it so it's more clear.

The thing that I've always liked more about pvp than pve is that it included challenges which are in no way designed to be overcome. PvP is comprised of unpredictable entities that will do ANYTHING to stop you from winning, and skew the odds in their own favor as unfairly as they possibly can.

Winning a pve fight is satisfying because I've learned to speak in the designer's language and tied their clues together into the strategy that they planned for me to use. Winning a pvp fight is satisfying because I've actually managed to outthink the 2 jerks that jumped me at my most vulnerable moment, and still win. This makes me feel much more skillful.

My friend who hates pvp and loves pve says exactly the opposite: He can't know he has skill when he fights another player because there's no standardization to the challenge. He'd much rather prefer to compete for a rockband high score, where the challenge is the same for everyone and he can objectively say "I'm better than these other people." That feels much more skillful to him.

All in all these just boil down to personal preferences, which I think is a good thing, but makes it impossible to objectively discuss the differences or superiority of either type of gameplay.

Mike Darga
mikedarga.blogspot.com
 
I think WAR ends before level 40 really. You can experience all the fun parts of endgame way before that. Since it's fun, that isn't a bad thing. It's just that the game is more varied when you have levelling content as well as the endgame-style PvP.

I actually really liked the tier 4 zones to fight in and around. Although ... yeah, once you have learned the standard routes around, one set of keep battles is similar to another. That's not a problem in itself, but keep-taking unless the keep is defended isn't particularly fun.

I think that the new zone control mechanics will actually help here. They will give bigger incentives for defending a keep and make it more likely that you'll meet some opposition, hopefully.
 
These are all valid points, but really I think they all boil down to people saying "I like pve better" and "I like pvp better."

Then your missing the point. I enjoy PvP and quit WAR at 40. It's not that the PvP is bad, it's that the PvP setting is pretty much identical to what existed at Level 12. You "expect" something different or more meaningful at level 40 and that's not the case.

Part of the irony is that because of the way certain scenarios (BGs) are only available at certain levels, WAR actually takes content away from you. So rather than play the best scenarios (across all levels), you only play the ones in T4.

The other major disappointment is the faction balance problem. There are three possible outcomes and both suck. Either you are outnumbered and unable to progress the WAR effort, evenly balanced and unable to progress the WAR effort, or you outnumber the other side and can't find anyone to fight. Addressing realm balance really doesn't matter if it just forces a stalemate.

These aren't PvP vs. PvE issues -- these are game breaking failures.
 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
"Part of the irony is that because of the way certain scenarios (BGs) are only available at certain levels, WAR actually takes content away from you. So rather than play the best scenarios (across all levels), you only play the ones in T4."

I like the new content but hate losing the old content. My solution has been to play alts.

"The other major disappointment is the faction balance problem. There are three possible outcomes and both suck. Either you are outnumbered and unable to progress the WAR effort, evenly balanced and unable to progress the WAR effort, or you outnumber the other side and can't find anyone to fight. Addressing realm balance really doesn't matter if it just forces a stalemate."

I expected to find this to be a major problem. It was a big problem on my WoW server for example. But on Dark Crag it does not seem like either side dominates and there is always some to fight. During prime time the server is usually at capacity.
 
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