Thursday, May 21, 2009
The fundamental flaw of RvR
Keen and Green Armadillo are discussing how the new Land of the Dead content of Warhammer Online is increasing the problems with faction balance. I'd say the problem is a fundamental one, which limits the RvR approach.
Fact is that people prefer winning to losing. Another fact is that in any massively multiplayer RvR conflict, numbers play a big role: In any reasonably balanced game, the more numerous side has an obvious advantage. Now what happens is that people randomly distribute over a number of servers, and by simple statistical chance some servers have more players from one side, while on another server the other side is more numerous. On both servers the less numerous side does less well than the more numerous side. So some players switch sides on the same server, while others switch server remaining on the same side, but always leaving the losing team and joining a winning team. Or people on the losing side simply quit, while those on the winning side keep playing. Over time you get more and more servers on which one side dominates the other side.
Sooner or later the winning side on each server has the other side "on farm". In Warhammer that means one side locks out the other side from their capital city frequently. And with the new Land of the Dead content it means that one side has access to the new content all the time, while the other side finds itself frequently locked out of that too. Suddenly even people who don't mind losing all that much find that being on the losing side means not having access to much game content, and either quit or join the winning side.
This is not a sustainable system. Of course Mythic can apply some band aids, like merging servers with different sides dominating. But that just delays the inevitable. A stable situation would require equal numbers of people being satisfied with winning as with losing, and that just isn't going to happen. Unlike players of chess or football, where half of the players always lose but keep playing, video game players are bad losers, because single-player games taught us the false lesson that you can always win. Unless you introduce rather strict limitations, like servers not allowing more players of one side to log on than players of the other side, RvR will never work.