Tobold's Blog
Thursday, October 04, 2012
 
The limits of mixing games

Green Armadillo is reporting of Blizzard having problems with people doing PvP only to get PvE gear. A large part of the problem is that MMORPGs are not about skill, but about stats from levels and gear. You can't say anything absolute about how hard a raid is, because that very much depends on what kind of level and gear you bring. Molten Core wasn't trivial in vanilla WoW with 40 players, today I can solo it. Furthermore learning video game skills is a process of diminishing returns, while gear progression goes on forever. Thus grinding gear is most often the best option to advance in the heroics / raid circuit.

If your gear determines how far you get in the game, it suddenly becomes extremely important to compare how hard it is to get gear from different sources. If one activity requires a lot less time and effort to get roughly equivalent gear, you have a balance problem. Apparently that just happened in WoW, where higher iLevel PvP gear was easier to get than lower PvE gear, causing players to PvP for gear they intended to use for PvE. Which then prompts huge outcries from those who followed the "regular" PvE gear progression, until Blizzard was forced to back-pedal.

I must say I liked the parts of the Guild Wars 2 PvP where your stats were independent of your PvE progress. I would prefer if WoW worked that way: You enter a PvP zone, and you are level 90 and wear the same gear everybody else in PvP wears. Even if I suspect that they are lying through their teeth, most PvP fans always tell me they prefer PvP over PvE because it is a battle of skills. Okay, so lets remove gear and stats from the equation. So people don't have to pursue one activity to get gear for another activity, and those wanting to do both don't need to collect two sets of gear either. The WoW solution of PvP gear which is "moderately useful" for PvE is far from ideal. The rewards of PvP should be achievements, league ladder rankings, status symbols and stuff like that, not gear which distorts further competition and messes up PvE.

I frequently hear how "pay to win" systems are bad. But I don't like "grind to win" systems any better.

Comments:
Oh I dunno. Challenging PVP is a lot of fun. Most PVP games are more or less on an equal playing field (CoD a high level player has better gear/perk options but is easily killed by a brand new player), so I'm not sure it's a lie. Unbalanced pvp is an artifact of MMOs. Grinding pvp is also an artifact of MMOs. Every other pvp game you log off when you are tired or bored, but in WoW you gotta stick with it to get the new honor gear or get to your arena rating up by Tuesday or whatever. So the desire to get some easy prey can be explained through deficiencies in game design.

Of course rolfcoptering some noobs is fun too, but it gets old after a while. Lacks nutritional value.
 
A large part of the problem is that MMORPGs are not about skill, but about stats from levels and gear. You can't say anything absolute about how hard a raid is, because that very much depends on what kind of level and gear you bring.

Still sticking to the old meme, Tobold? "I don't play it so it doesn't require skill"? If it were true than DPS rankings would converge to being very very flat: look on WoL and see for yourself that it's not the case. The top 200 feral druid DPS on Ultraxion (which is a static fight) range from 50k to 34k, 8 months after that raid is out and everyone is fully geared. That 50% variability does definitely not come from gear.

And for your second part it's very easy: you look at the % of people who have completed it. It's a very good measure of how hard it is.

PvP: you can tell that a PvP game is "serious" when it has zero grinding and no/limited/controlled randomness: chess being a very good example. No MMO comes even remotely close to this picture, and anything which tries is very niche.... I guess that most WoW players do not even know what a tournament realm is...
 
An important question is: are they going for the PvP gear because it is better for performance during raids, or because it allows them to get by restrictions on iLevel needed to get into a raid?

In the old days, the latter was never an issue. (In fact guilds often enforced the opposite - many people objected to raiders using PvP gear even if it was good enough.)

Arbitrary gear requirements are just another consequence of dumbing down raids. In the past, Patchwerk and his mates set the requirements, not the server.
 
I just bought the crafted plate healing set for my paladin, and will use it in both heroic 5 mans and BGs.

The more interesting problem, to my mind, is that you need pretty much full heroic 5 man gear to reach the ilvl requirement for LFR. Maybe they're expecting people to farm some valor point gear or crafted epics to reach the threshold.
 
"Even if I suspect that they are lying through their teeth, most PvP fans always tell me they prefer PvP over PvE because it is a battle of skills."

and they always search the enemy with the lowest HP/gear to kill in the battlefield. 90% of the pvpers will use every method that will give them advantage and easy wins. They will search the lowest gear enemy, they will group with friends to perform premades against randoms, they will form small parties to roam bg and kill solo roamers.

And blizzard know this very well. Thats why Winterspring and Tol barad was never a fair battle. Blizzard wanted the attacker to get the fort for sure and gave them buffs.
 
Unfortunately, yes. I have seen a lot of players who liked PvP because it gave them the opportunity to beat up on lesser-geared players. Not all of them are like that, but a lot of them are.
 
Players in PvE-centric games like WoW will roll around in PvP and pick on lesser geared players. Because it's possible, not because PvP fans are all jerks.

If you flatten out the gear curve, the PvP landscape changes as well.

I think Shadowbane served as a great example of that. The gear didn't have that great of an impact on your performance. It helped, but it was easy to obtain and didn't escalate much. SO, once you hit 50 you were pretty much on an even playing field with everyone else... Unless you sucked at stance-dancing and style-casting, or used poor positioning, etc.. Strategy and player skill took over as the driving factor of victory, not who's gear is better.

I'm a PvP'er, and I prefer PvP because no AI is as dangerous and unpredictable as another human. It's harder to beat another human, and the fights are always different. I call that win-win. =)
 
Giannis, don't have the player, hate the game. You can't blame players from playing to maximize their chances of winning.
 
"Grinding pvp is also an artifact of MMOs."

I disagree with that -- most of the older PvP MMOs were not about gear, from UO to DAoC (pre-Trials of Atlantis which added a grind and caused a lot of PvPers to quit), Shadowbane, AoC, SWG, etc.

WoW really introduced the PvP grind with the addition of Battleground gear (PvP ranks), and then later the Arena gear where people would play 10 games a week for a few weeks to get top tier gear.

Most serious PvPers are fine with an even playing field, but there are certainly plenty of bad PvPers who like a gear grind so they can easily defeat lesser geared players.
 
I meant PVP games like Street Fighter, COD, stuff like that. Doesn't mean that you couldn't have an MMO like the ones you mentioned, its just that it seems like the only games where you can have an awesome advantage over people b/c of gear is in MMOs.
 
Blizzard has faced this exact same issue since TBC (bought Season 2 gear to help Kara progression), but it has been exacerbated by the ilevel requirements for LFD/LFR. And as I understand it, the primary issue was that Justice Points weren't able to actually purchase gear that got you past the ilevel requirement for LFR, but it could be turned into Honor which got you gear that would.

That said, no, the PvP "solution" in GW2 is awful. It is extremely rare that a hotkey MMO's PvP system is fun enough to sustain itself on its own, especially when the rest of the game revolves around getting better gear (which GW2 does 1-79). I have not even stepped foot into GW2's sPvP because... why would I? It is an entirely separate game that has no impact on any other part of the experience. If I am playing a totally separate PvP game, I would rather play Battlefield 3.

Compare that to WvW in the same game, where I can get XP, mats, and appropriate-level gear drops from doing PvP. Do you really think all the people queuing up for WvW do so out of realm pride? Or is the fact that they lose no ground to their PvE-focused friends play a part in it?

I do not think it is contradictory to want both "skill > gear" and also be rewarded with tangible upgrades for time spent playing. What people rail against is bringing their A-game but getting stomped by a worse player simply because they have a gear advantage. There is a design space that allows both skill to trump gear and gear rewards, even if it is hard to hit it.

@Gerry Quinn

Arbitrary gear requirements are just another consequence of dumbing down raids. In the past, Patchwerk and his mates set the requirements, not the server.

There are no ilevel requirements for raid/dungeon groups you make yourself. How is it "dumbing down" to put a "You must be THIS tall to ride" requirement on a tool that groups random people together? How would you imagine a LFD/LFR system to work with the bosses being the gear check instead of the tool? It wouldn't, and no one would queue for something that resulted in failure 50%+ of the time.
 
You're agreeing with me. The gear check is so that bad groups won't fail. That is dumbing down. Maybe you are correct and you can't have random groups without this dumbing down, but if the people are going for the PvP equipment so that they can get into random, dumbed-down raids, my original point stands.
 
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