Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Gevlon says PvP can't be fun
I find Gevlon, and especially his various projects with which he proves World of Warcraft to be a sandbox game by veering of the ordained themepark path, to be interesting, even if I find many of his opinions abhorrent. So on the one side I'm sad he cancelled his ganking project in what looks very much like a hissy fit, but on the other side he has some interesting arguments on PvP, if you arrive to sort them out from the rest of his rant. Gevlon says:
I think I figured out why there are no successful PvP MMOs. I mean I can prove that such game not only have not been made, but theoretically cannot be made. PvP MMOs will always be a small niche.And then explains why it is easier to give adequate feedback for PvE than for PvP, and concludes that because you can't have adequate feedback for PvP, you can't get into the "flow", and can't have fun. That leaves, in Gevlon's opinion, only three "small minorities" of types of players who enjoy PvP: Casuals who just want to batter the wall of Wintergrasp with a catapult from time to time (that would be me), Killers who enjoy ganking others, and a tiny "elite" who play PvP for the challenge they can't get from AI opponents.
Flow is the "proper" way of fun. It is "the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity."
The flow needs, among other factors:
- Direct and immediate feedback (successes and failures in the course of the activity are apparent, so that behavior can be adjusted as needed).
- Balance between ability level and challenge (the activity is neither too easy nor too difficult).
- A sense of personal control over the situation or activity.
As I said, some interesting arguments in there, although I found parts of them being contradictory. For example if the key to mass market success is the fun from "flow", and flow requires "balance between ability level and challenge (the activity is neither too easy nor too difficult)", then why would the number of people seeking challenge in PvP be "a very small group by definition"? Why would only the tiny elite enjoy it? That is like saying the only people having fun playing football (soccer) are the teams currently involved the world cup, while everybody who is kicking a ball around in a local league on the weekend doesn't enjoy the challenge of it.
So I find myself in the unusual position of being *more* positive on PvP than another blogger. Now that must be a first. I think that Gevlon has a point on PvP remaining niche *only* for the case of free-for-all unbalanced hardcore PvP. I do think PvP games could be more successful if they would do a better job of pairing people with similar skills and abilities against each other. Gevlon's "balance between ability level and challenge" can work in PvP, as centuries of football leagues and chess clubs and ladder systems in other games people play against each other clearly show. So while I do agree that games in which lets say one side is allowed to capture a barely defended keep at 3 am in the morning, or a larger number of stronger players is allowed to beat up a smaller number of less strong players, can't create the "flow" Gevlon is talking of, I do think that it isn't "theoretically impossible" to create this flow in a PvP game. You just need to put up some restrictions and advancement systems which encourage players to play against equal numbers of players of similar strength.
Think of that when you watch the world cup, which apparently works quite well. You might argue that lets say North Korea doesn't have much of a chance against Brazil, but as they only lost 2:1 their "PvP" was still close enough to being balanced. Most current MMORPGs more resemble a system in which Manchester United is allowed with 11 players to play against a 5-man local Futsal junior team. It isn't "theoretically impossible" for PvP to have "flow", it only is impossible inside the game design most MMORPGs have now.