Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Does betrayal scale?

People who behave make for boring stories. The most famous World of Warcraft player is Leeroy Jenkins because he was clearly misbehaving. But as WoW has relatively strict behavior rules, it doesn't really produce all that many stories worth reading. Not like EVE Online, which is a great source for stories of scams, betrayal, and assassination. The people who make Crowfall would like to imitate said and announced their rules: "A key component of politics is the concept of betrayal. We envision many relationships being formed and broken in the game. Whether it be a subservient guild who who overthrows their master, an infiltrator who loots the entire guild cache and delivers it to their sworn enemy, or an alliance that breaks falls apart at a key turning point of a campaign… We consider these to be “fair game” tactics." As there is no lack of people who would like to misbehave, we can be sure of getting stories of betrayal from Crowfall.

But how does such betrayal scale as a form of entertainment? Clearly the idea is to allow all sorts of dirty politics in Crowfall for the fun of the players. And I always had the impression that this works better in theory than in practice: Betrayal is not an activity that you can do very often, and it usually doesn't involve a large number of people in the know. If everybody is aware that betrayal is allowed by the rules of the game, people will be paranoid and not easily trust each other. And that includes that if you plan a betrayal, you can't tell many people about it, because they might reveal your plans to your enemy.

Scree lists some stories of EVE Online, like the Titans4U scam which netted the scammer 850 billion ISK, worth $45,000. Great story for readers, but consider for a moment the inherent fun of that for the players. The scammer presumably acted alone, so he was the only one actually having direct fun from the betrayal. And while that netted him a lot of real world money, I guess in the game he was finished, because nobody will ever trust him again. With lots of people on the losing side it seems to me that fun-wise the betrayal story is a negative sum game. How many people are going to stay in your game because it allows them to regularly betray somebody, and how many players do you lose who quit in disgust?

While I don't know how many people actually play EVE (CCP only lists accounts, and most players have several accounts), I have trouble believing that many of these players play EVE only because they want to betray others. It isn't as if there were a lot of non-betrayal space trading MMORPGs out there, and I'd assume that more player are interested in the more repeatable direct PvP than in slowly building up the trust of others in order to betray them once. So I'm not sure that betrayal scales well as a activity of entertainment in a MMORPG.

but consider for a moment the inherent fun of that for the players.

Yes, and consider also how often it happens.... can you really keeep a lot of players engaged with epic events occurring once/year?

Well, there are games like Mush in which a secret group of malcontents aims to destroy the mission. But of course that by intention leads to a high degree of paranoia, in which humans are regularly killed for acting suspiciously!
1) Philosophically, the best side, be it through strength, organisation or tactics should always win.
2) Unchangeable and predictable outcomes get boring so you need an agent of chaos to spice up the results.
3) Mechanical random gets a bad rep.
Add those three points together and it leads to the conclusion that you should let players be the random driver of events. I am yet to be convinced that logic train runs with any great efficiency.

I also think there is an element of developers being unwilling to police the player-base so they give up and declare betrayal griefing to be a legitimate form of gameplay.
I hope they are successful, because the more people who enjoy that sort of activity that go play Crowfall reduces the chance I'll run into those people trying the same sort of things in the games I play.
"How many people are going to stay in your game because it allows them to regularly betray somebody, and how many players do you lose who quit in disgust?"

To be fair, I think nearly all of the second type of player would not play something like Crowfall in the first place. I have a hard time predicting what would make these players stay or quit because I don't understand their motivations in the first place. I am not a fan of raiding, but I can at least understand why a player would be, even if I regard them as a minority. But I don't see how you can enjoy a hardcore open-PvP game without serious psychological issues.
It's very rare that a game dev makes such a blatant appeal. 'Come and join a community of untrustworthy people who will betray you!'

Looks like this is going to be one of those games where wanting to play it is a character flaw. o.O
Why is Game of Thrones fun?

MMOs are for some people as a place to be powerful.

They get a sandbox to let their id hang loose. I don't think that's a bad thing, necessarily. Crowfall is for a niche of players, but it's a niche that I can understand.

It's the explorers and the crafters that I don't get. You can go outside and explore much more interesting and intricate environments for free. You can craft real items with the money you spend on MMOS. Those people I don't get. People who want to fuck with people can't do that in the real world because it's both morally wrong and illegal. They need a video game environment. The Care Bear players don't. That's what I don't get.

"People who want to fuck with people can't do that in the real world because it's both morally wrong and illegal. They need a video game environment."

These would be the serious psychological issues I was referring to. Why do you want to "fuck with people?" I get that video games are a safe environment to do that, but why would someone want to do it at all? That person needs therapy, and possibly medication, not a video game.

Also, I can't tell if you are trolling about exploring and crafting being "more interesting and intricate" in real life "for free." Both are VERY far from free, unless you are "exploring" and "crafting" the junk in your back yard. Certainly, neither hobby can compete with the price or convenience of any MMORPG. And I like nature and all, but if you don't think virtual worlds can be more interesting and intricate, I'm not sure video games are for you.
Well Samus, because you spend all following the rules, obeying your parents and teachers or getting shit on at work and scrapping with people in a video game lets you blow off steam? Poker is a game where you do your best to read your opponent and lie to him to take his money. Same thing really.

No MMO player is really in a position to say that those guys have problems. We all have spent a vast amount of time doing... something. For some reason. Not because of the great state of our mental health, that's for sure.

They got their games. If you don't like that kind of play, and I don't blame you for an instant if you don't, then don't play it. I hate country music, so I don't go to Branson, you know what I mean?
Everything scales, if it's supported by game mechanics. Board games with hidden roles (Resistnace, Battlestar Galactica) are designed to reliably provide "betrayal" experience each game. The key to reliability though is that the process is not freeform, but strictly formalized. Players are guaranteed to:
- get conflicting goals (or else you won't have initiative to betray)
- means to secretly harm others
- means to deduce who tries to secretly harm them (so the game isn't only fun for betrayers).
I understand explorers (MMO worlds are often quite beautiful and interesting), but not crafters. Not very interesting and too much like work!

As for what Random-Phobosis said about scasling, I think this may be an issue. some games with built-in betrayal and secret factions etc. exist, but I'm not sure how the mechanics would operate if they are large-scale. there's not as much motivation to root out spies and criminals as there is in real life. So you might have a world of bandits and good folk, but pure 'betrayal' as such is hard to achieve.
This is my favorite part:

"Griefing, however, is not allowed by our Code of Conduct."

Apparently, these guys don't know the difference between "Griefing" and "Harassment."

The problem with "Open PvP" games is that they revolve around griefing (Or it's close cousin, ganking.), not competition. "Competition" is when you and your opponent sit at the chess board and play the game, "Open PvP" is when you ambush the guy in the hallway and beat him up so he has to forfeit your upcoming game.

You could argue that I'm confusing "griefing" with "ganking". but the two terms are so intertwined that you really can't separate them.

So yeah, I'll pass on Crowfall.
I think asking how a game can get along with events like this is like asking how a game can get along with expansions which add new pre-written story.

Who remembers the repeatable PVP match - do you remember one from even a week ago?
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