Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
Keen and Graev compare WoW and WAR

Keen and Graev have a detailed post comparing World of Warcraft and Warhammer Online. Good stuff, with links to many WAR dev videos. I'm detecting a certain WAR bias, but I don't mind. I'm not subscribing to the theory that fans of one game should fight fans of the other game anyway. The more good MMORPGs we have to choose from, the better. I might well end up playing WAR, but the key difference then probably is that WoW is old and WAR will be new. The discussion of who copied what from whom isn't really all that important.

The point I am most skeptical about regarding WAR is where Keen is most optimistic: The relevance of PvP. Keen says:
"In Warhammer Online you do have something to lose in PvP. Some people think that WAR is pointless PvP. How does losing your main city to the enemy sound? How about losing actual territory such as Keeps (castles) that were held by your guild? (See latter differences for more explanation). And quite possibly the greatest incentive to do well in the RvR is that you need do better than your opponents or they will get stronger. If your enemy is constantly killing you then they are going to have Victory Points, more land, better skills, cooler looking characters, and you’re going to feel like a dirty little squig for sucking. In World of Warcraft no one cares how well your faction does. If you all suck in the battlegrounds it has no impact on the world around you."
Exactly the same can be said about PotBS, you can replace "WAR" with "PotBS" in the quote above and get a statement that is as true. But from all I personally experienced in PotBS, people don't care about PvP there, they only care about their own advantage. If the first thing I see happening in the PotBS economy is British players manipulating the British AH to screw over other British players for their own advantage, when with a little bit more work they could have screwed the other nations instead, I don't feel as if the welfare of the virtual nation is of any relevance to the players of that nation. We'll have to see how that works out in PvP after the 22nd, but in the closed beta I only saw players engaging in PvP for their own advantage, with next to no coordination or consideration for the greater good of the side they played on. In WoW you have the AFK leechers causing their faction to lose battles in Alterac Valley.

I am pretty sure that if WAR has any way to screw your own side to your own advantage, players will take it. Why should one guild care if another guild loses a keep? If they could they'd probably even conspire with the enemy to take that keep, because the only way for one keep to go from one guild to another from the same faction is if the enemy takes it between the two. Why should players worry if they lose their main city, if control resets a few days later and RvR war restarts from zero? If the enemy is stronger and is becoming even stronger with constant victories, the average player will simply reroll on the winning side and not heroically fight a losing battle.

MMORPG PvP has one major disadvantage: it tends to bring out the worst in people. PvP combat is inherently unfair, because the attacker only initiates combat if he is reasonably sure that he can win. Most PvP players avoid a fair fight if they can, which is why we have things like battlegrounds or arenas where only equally sized groups of similar level can fight each other. I would be really, really surprised if Warhammer Online could reverse a decade of MMORPG PvP trends and turn players into heroes willing to sacrifice their own advantage for the greater good of their faction.
Your last paragraph is perhaps the main reason I'm waiting for WAR actually.

Talking about MMORPG, I think you should made an article about DAOC PvP, which was for a large part of the "Veterants" the best pvp system available.
I would be really, really surprised if Warhammer Online could reverse a decade of MMORPG PvP trends and turn players into heroes willing to sacrifice their own advantage for the greater good of their faction.

but if they pull it off it will be a great game. I'm keeping my fingers crossed even though I suspect that won't happen.
"In World of Warcraft no one cares how well your faction does. If you all suck in the battlegrounds it has no impact on the world around you."

This is incorrect.

If a toon is eyeing a piece of their PvP set, you can bet that they care very much which BG the marks are from!
Because if your faction sticks as WSG, and you need 30 WSG marks, you have to pay more of the most valuable MMO currency of all:
"If the enemy is stronger and is becoming even stronger with constant victories, the average player will simply reroll on the winning side and not heroically fight a losing battle."

Lately I've been musing on world PvP game concepts, specifically this rich-gets-richer effect and thinking it would be more interesting if two extra effects came into play.

Firstly, if one faction/city/whatever is getting seriously beat down then the leaders (ie. NPCs) should go into desperation mode and pull out all the stops - offer greater rewards, extra quests for resources, etc.

Secondly, the current king of the hill group should, over time, grow fat and lazy, offering less rewards. Large successful cities become self sufficient after all, and shouldn't need to rely on itinerant adventurers any more.

Make these counter balancing forces only kick in at certain trigger thresholds so as to avoid a stable equilibrium.
Ugh, this doesn't sound good. What it sounds like will happen is that you'll end up having toons on both realms, and be spending the majority of your time playing the realm that has more people.

Question to you DAoC veterans - how did they keep population sizes on the different sides even? It's the largest problem in WoW world PvP, IME with the Alliance population being so much larger than the Horde on most servers.
I don't know if I would say "because the attacker only initiates combat if he is reasonably sure that he can win."

I mean come on, you say a couple posts back that you don't like PvP at all, and now you're trying to tell us about it?

An imho would do you good once in a while sirz.

Most PvPers fight any way that they can. The level restrictions aren't for the PvPers imo, if they're for anyone I'd say they're for PvEers. I can imagine a group of 5 mid level PvPers going around and ganking higher level players.

It's horribly obvious to me that you get most of your knowledge from games, excuse me, a game; and that game is WoW.

You can't base all of your judgements towards PvP on one friggin game. If anything base your opinions on Ultima Online or Counter Strike. Those are the games where the majority of the respectable PvPers got their taste for blood.

I love ya Tobolds but sometimes I really want to call you a carebear. Oh shnap.
An imho would do you good once in a while sirz.

Read my terms and services. The "IMHO" is implied before every single sentence I write. I don't claim to speak in absolute truths, I write my opinions on how I see things.

It's horribly obvious to me that you get most of your knowledge from games, excuse me, a game; and that game is WoW.

Where do you get that from? I'm playing MMORPGs since Ultima Online, and a lot of the games I played had PvP. And tell you what: At any given moment there are more people in WoW in battlegrounds than in the whole game of EVE plus the Felucca side of UO together. So who created the more successful version of PvP?

The "the attacker only initiates combat when he is sure that he can win" is a direct experience from UO, DAoC, EVE, and PotBS, among others. In WoW that actually only happens on PvP servers. On PvE servers the PvP is mostly limited to batttlegrounds and arena, which are by design more balanced.
Something that worries me about the winners keeping getting more powerful is that why would anyone play the underdogs when you will have close to no chance of getting out from under it? It's sort of like going up against full T6 players in your quest greens, no chance in hell.

I love the tabletop Warhammer by the way, and there it really does matter more about how you choose your army and skill than any things else, so it will be interesting to see if this makes the mmo more or less fun.
"the attacker only initiates combat when he is sure that he can win"
There's even MMO jargon for that: Ganking

And, ironically, the post that brought me to this blog long ago was a strategic analysis of the WoW AV battleground.
"the attacker only initiates combat when he is sure that he can win"

This isn't an MMORPG trend, it's human nature. No one will ever attack unless there is an advantage for them. A sure win, or something worth fighting for, are the only reasons people will ever engage in any activity where they might lose something.

You can't "fix" this. All you can do is design a game where engaging even when at a disadvantage will be your best option...and then you've created a game that people will simply not play.
Terms of Service: too long, didn't read. But, I'll apologize anyways.

"Where do you get that from?"
Well I get it from the part that says: "turn players into heroes willing to sacrifice their own advantage for the greater good of their faction."

First of all, I am that hero, that is what I strive to be in every game I PvP in, so that one hit home kind of hard.

Plus, this has only been a problem in 2 games that I can think of that I've played. DAoC (after clustering, after WoW released) and WoW (from it's release to date).

DAoC didn't have the problem until WoW came out imo. I think people got hooked by wow for a while and then tired. But with their newfound love for MMOs they find another one. DAoC had to cluster to live, the first wave of WoW quitters flood all the old games including DAoC. Now, what do you know, DAoC has communities that encourage having max levels on all 3 sides of the same cluster.

Basically what I'm trying to say, is that I consider a lot of things WoW's fault.

Ultima Online didn't really have sides, order/chaos, more like every man for himself.

IMO it's not that you haven't played games with PvP, it's that you don't like it.

Also, how does WoW having 20 gazillion friggin people automatically equate to the best version of PvP out there? Most of the PvPers I run into are busy moping about how they miss the good ol days in UO. I think it a safe bet that a lot of the people PvPing in WoW's battlegrounds wouldn't step foot into a UO, Counter-Strike, hardcore balls to the wall PvP type experience for very long; because WoW is more user friendly in every aspect. When was the last time you were startled by being attacked by someone and you couldn't for the life of you hit the right gdamn keys?

I understand where you're coming from with the "attacker only initiates combat when he is sure that he can win" part. I agree with it, but I guess I just want you to know that not everybody does. I attack every Horde I run into whether they're ?? or not (excluding most people lower than myself), it's called confidence, and it's essential for PvP.

I don't really know what I'm getting at, I guess I just wish you'd be more into PvP before you talk about it with broad generalizations. I'm in love with it, and you break my heart baby.

I hate WoW, but I am playing it currently, so my agenda is mainly just for the honor and glory of PvP.
The best gear in the entire game comes from the PvP at the very end: City Sieges. In order to get there your realm must have worked together to control all the prior tiers. That’s incentive to me at least, to work together. You will never see your team (or you) win without the realm functioning as a whole. This is a concept that I've never experienced fully in any MMORPG since DAOC.

Also, if your realm controls the region it will give you the PvE areas. It’s been said in the podcasts that the fastest way to level is a combination of PvE/PvP (Although you can level exclusively in both). While this becomes null and void at the top level it's still important to remember that people will strive for individual achievement (as said above) because it is human nature. Give them an incentive to work with their team in order to obtain the personal incentives and it's a win/win.

And one more also. DAOC had relics which offered incredible benefits to the entire realm that captured them from the enemy. No individual is capable of obtaining them. If WAR takes another page from DAOC we can expect larger realm wide incentives that are far greater than any disincentive players might feel comes from working together together.

Remarkably all the negatives you stated above such as guilds working against each other, individuals pursuing personal gain,and PvP overall bringing out the worst in pvp is again, something that was nearly nonexistent in DAOC. We never saw any of that crap because people were truly working together to make the game great.

It's redundant to keep bringing up DAOC but since Warhammer Online is borrowing so much from the game it's logical to assume that the good parts of DAOC will rub off on WAR. In this case, the good outweigh the bad.
"the attacker only initiates combat if he is reasonably sure that he can win"

For myself, I'd like to change that a bit. The attacker only initiates combat if he is _absolutely_ sure that he _will_ win.
In 2 years on a WoW PvP-Server I've had my share of free PvP, but I have _never_ been attacked by someone with a lower level or equip standard. And even if two years passed, I still remember the only two fair fights I had. Each was with an enemy who was equal in level and equipment, a fair one versus one where the attacker articulated his will to fight with honor and waited 'till the opponent was ready to go. And the thing to do when you stood over the dead body of your enemy (or he over yours (; ) was noch /lol /spit like nowadays, but a respectful /salute. The one of those players that I didn't beat waited at my corpse. Not to corpsecamp me, but to wait until I'm alive again, hold of mobs from me until I was at full health and then say goodbye and leave.
I still hold the memory of those two in honor, but the majority of idiots on pvp-servers made me reroll on a rp-server a year later.

The little "the attacker only initiates combat if he is reasonably sure that he can win" was the reason to boycott all forms of pvp for three month for me. Today I do bgs and arena again, but I'm perfectly sure that I will never ever set foot on a pvp-server in WoW again and I can't imagine playing a game with main focus on pvp at the moment.

So the next big game better makes sure that the mechanics to punish unfair pvp are close to perfect, because I won't play it until then. I don't pay for getting slaughtered without a chance and slaughtering other people is not my style.
Tobold, the only real issue is the reward structure. The reason that the players in PotBS screw over their own faction is because it provides quick rewards for minimal work. If the rewards for screwing over the other nations were significantly superior to screwing your own nation, you'd have much fewer self-screwers.

From what I've read about WAR, the Mythic guys have it right. Owning territory confers bigger benefits to one faction (PvE territory, more vendors, etc.), but the other faction steadily gains advantages to retaking it (weaker guards, morale bonuses in combat, etc.).

It's designed to be similar to a game of FPS Domination. You get the most points for owning all of the control nodes, but also have the most difficult time holding them all.

Normally, I'd be a little skeptical about it, since that's the sort of thing that's difficult to get right. However, it *is* Mythic, and the one thing they've proven they can do right is realm vs realm combat. If they made WAR as accessible as WoW, with DAoC's pvp system, it'd be money in the bank.

"Question to you DAoC veterans - how did they keep population sizes on the different sides even? It's the largest problem in WoW world PvP, IME with the Alliance population being so much larger than the Horde on most servers."

Most of the time only one realm was overpopulated and that was Albion. On my server(Guinevere) The mids and hibs would team to kill the albs. That's why the 3 side system works better then a 2 side system.
Basically what I'm trying to say, is that I consider a lot of things WoW's fault.

I don't think it is WoW in particular, but "mass market MMORPG" in general. Smaller games are more personal, people know each other, and bad behavior doesn't pass so easily. In a game with several million players, and the possibility to change server or change your character name whenever you want, reputation doesn't matter any more, and people feel free to behave badly.

It would be great if WAR found a way around that. But if it really gets 1+ million players, the curse of the mass market game could still strike it.
Dark Age of Camelot disproves the entire second half of this article after the quote from Keen.

No doubt, there are people out there like Tobold explains in his second half, but hardly any of those people played DAOC. There was plenty of personal AND realm pride to go around and people PvP'd because it was in fact, the end game content for the MMORPG. Therefore, it attracted the kinds of people drawn to PvPing for the sake of PvP...
I see where you're coming from with the mass market MMORPG thing. However, excluding I believe Lineage and Lineage 2 (both of which I'm mostly unfamiliar with), WoW is the only Mass Market MMO in recent years. Maybe UO and EQ1 had a million at one time, but I didn't play either when they did.

Anyways, my point is that every game that becomes a Mass Market MMO will not be exactly like WoW. I think that part of the immaturity seen in WoW, the blatant stupidity and lack of a PvPers honor code is not to be blamed on the sole fact that it is a Mass Market MMO.

Blizzard was huge before WoW, they had a very loyal fan base. I played Diablo 2 online around the time of WoW's release and remember seeing WoW banner ads above the main chat.

Maybe, this is just a maybe, but maybe some of the problems come from Starcraft, Diablo, and Warcraft players from Blizzard's previous games. Where they were confined with their instances of a game and large chat rooms for asshattery.

But hey, what do I know, I'm just a ramblin man.
I'm just going to assume that Warhammer is money in the bank. While PvE raiding can be fun I think World of Warcraft has introduced a taste for well balanced PvP to the average player. Its true that WoW tends to have huge loop holes in every PvP system it made: smurfing, terrain exploits, and afk farming.

However, I think Mythic might be able to use its better experience to prevent the same type of exploits that have marred World of Warcraft.
Asymmetry can be a real problem for PvP, whether it is 1v1 or RvR. No one wants to feel like they dont have a chance. There are a lot of interesting ideas to explore in how to make asymmetry fun instead of a burden. I think this is where some novel oppourtunities arise for enterprising designers.

Take for example a mixed PvE and RvR game world. You could design a system that incentivizes both the wining and losing sides in different ways, and encourages them both to participate.

Lets say Realm 1 dominates in RvR. As a reward, the characters are made more powerful in PvE encounters.

As realm 1 becomes more dominate in RvR, the opposing realm 2 gets a commensurate boost in RvR power to offset. The more Realm 1 succeeds, the more individually powerful the resistance becomes.

As realm 2 is becoming more individually powerful, some of realm 1 bleeds off to take advantage of the PvE rewards. The pendulum starts to swing back in the other direction.

The system becomes self balancing.

This has the potential as well of making asymmetry a dramatic and powerful game and story element.

Think for instance of the opportinity for heroic endevours, such as individually powerful "loosers" holding out against seemingly insurmoutable odds. Powerful heroes, villians, and mythology can grow out of these kinds of asymmetry.

Smart developers will use asymmetry to create new experiences, rather than bemoan the choices of the PCs having "created" the asymmetry. (In reality the asymmetry was likely brought on by design decisions).

Dont like mixed PvE and RvR? How can you make asymmetry work for your favorite game type?
I've been following the WAR dev for a while now... can't say I was overly sold on it but that article brings me closer to having a look.

I have a deep 20 year loathing of Warhammer... based on the fact that the parent company, Games Workshop, purchased a quality RP magazine called 'White Dwarf' and turned it into a porn mag for miniture figure painters. It did cover great RP games such as Paranoia and Call of Cuthulu and the obvious DnD (and ADnD).

About 20 years later, this British table top game gets the ultimate revamp.

I'm still not sure.

Will it sell PvP to me?

I hate PvP in WoW for many reasons. There is no objective! Well other than better gear. Better gear aimed at better PvP. Yawn. Was this why I leveled 1-70 in a PvE world?

And I think T is right.

Why would I enter combat knowing I was going to get my ass spanked, especially as a warrior who begrudges spending money on re-specs from say Prot to Fury back to Prot on a daily basis.

As a biologist myself, I point anyone interested in the direction of 'Evolutionarily Stable Strategies' or 'ESS'.

In short an ESS is a system that can't be broken, normaly. It has evolved to provide the most effecieint and safest outcome for the least amount of input. All biological systems work on the principle of maximising gains based on the least amount of input from cell divsion to choosing a potential mate.

In short why bother attacking a player that you can see is clearly better equipped than yourself or in the company of a healer? It's nonsense to do so... it isn't just human behaviour it is a biological/ethological (behavioural) imperitive.

Take the Stag for example. In rutting season, you wont see a stag rush a harem blindly for control of it. What you will see is the invading stag and the dominant stag pair off... observe each other, bark at each other, pace side by side... until usually one wins vocally or on sight alone. This physical battle may last a long time. Only when no winner can be decided will they get physical.

The point being... the stags observe first and make an informed choice on the next set of actions.

I'm not suggesting that to WoW players should start barking at each other... however I am suggesting that physical look and level will be enough to deter/promote a player from/into PvP.

Now I haven't been into a PvP BG in nearly 2 years, but how do you fix this?

- A generic uniform set for the BGs. Do you attack another warrior who looks just like you? Is he/she better geared?
- Opponent level, to extent class and name hidden from an aggressor. i.e. You see a cloth wearer... is he/she a DPS Lock or a weak Holy Priest? Is the Plate wearer a DPS Warrior or a Holy Pali?
- Then there is the prize! Why bother... when it is only another few points of rep for another useless piece of armour. Make the cost more important. After all... you don't attack because you think you'll lose, your opponent is clearly superior so what's the point?

What if a loss/losses in BG's had more effect on you or your world?
--- Repairs become 300% more expensive as theoretical supply lines have been cut.
--- A certain world area is dominated by NPC gaurds, and area that contains essential crafting mats.
--- Access to cooler instances.

In essence to attract players to play PvP in BG's effectivly you have to interupt their PvE game progress in some areas till they regain the upper hand.

The Stag doesn't get to fulfil his biological imperative until he comits to the cause.

It looks like Warhammer is addressing this.
Eldric: Games Workshop didn't buy White Dwarf. WD was their magazine from the start, and it changed around the time they started to be more a games manufacturer than a games store...

I have the same kind of loathing on their approach to the miniatures and I have never liked the John Blanche influenced graphics they have had. Thus WAR is a bit abhorrent to me at the moment.

What really strikes me in these articles is the fact that people are talking about MMORPG's like they are playing to win the games. MMORPG's don't have 'You Win/You Lose' screen, and IMHO shouldn't have. Thus I have never seen any real sense in PvP for the sake of PvP, and as long as the effect on the world is minimal, there is no reason at all.

If -and I have to emphasise that if- the PvP was integral part of the world, changed it and enforced the co-operative effort of the players to counter the opposition while still creating interesting storyline, then I could see the point.

Somehow I'm way too much the old PnP gamer to see too little enjoyment in PvP instead of storyline/quest driven PvE that I don't just see the point to melt faces just for the heck of it. Maybe I don't need that kind of ego boost.

I'm well endoved in rl.

Are you sure? I seem to remember a big song and dance when I was 'x' age about the new publication they purchased. Gonna try and research this one, not saying your wrong... but that would annoy me more if they owened White Dwarf from the outset.
Oh my... you are right. I hate them more now!
Some big, big truths here. Me being a carebear and feeling damn well good about it, I try to do PvP from time to time. All the time, the players behaviour clearly revolts me. Most people feel so strongly superior once they have one of the following conditions:

a) Superiority in equipment
b) Superiority in numbers
c) Superiority in class combination

You can break it down into these three categories. I don't count in the element of surprise because that is something that inherently belongs into PvP. I rarely enjoy the WOW BGs when the terms are almost equal. Arena battles seem to be the best available PvP experience here. The system tries to match players by their ELO calculated ranks, the equipment is almost equal, you know about the class combination strengths & weaknesses.

I would NEVER EVER play a game like WAR where you don't have conditions like this.

Let's face it, PvP equals war but with less discipline. You try to outsmart, out-equip and outnumber your opponent, squeeze him into a corner and then crush him into oblivion. Who wants to be on the receiving end of this? No one. Why would I play a game where I want to have fun if - by choosing the wrong faction - I am constantly crushed.

Many good comments above, one I liked best was in the line of the following:

What will happen is that people will create chars on each faction and then simply log in on the winning side.

The only question I always ask myself is: Do people actually believe that WAR designers do 'a better job'?

Oh, one other comment:

WoW is the only Mass Market MMO in recent years.

I hold any bet that even WAR designers would sell their mom in order to achieve what WoW achieved. They will tweak & twist WAR so much into a common ground experience that all the players who expect DAOC 3 will rub their eyes in disbelief. EVERYONE wants to sell big, no matter what the cost. And no 'pure PvP game' will sell as big again as WoW, therefore designers will be forced by the producers to make WAR as mass market compatible as possible.
RvR PvP can be a lot of fun so long as the players become involved in the storyline/lore of the game. I'm a pretty hardcore PvE'er but I don't mind participating in large-scale battles. In the old SWG there were some great rebel vs empire PvP where there were little rewards for the victor but tons of people participated because they just got drawn into the unfolding storyline/drama.

In other words, people will participate in PvP for very little rewards so long as there is fun to be had.

Its true that people will only initiate a PvP battle if they think they can win, but in RvR combat one battle can trigger a whole series of strike/counterstrike battles where people just get really into the 'war aspect' and care little about what their survival odds are.
BTW. What I forgot: Whereas I cannot stand the graphics and concepts of Games Workshops 'Warhammer'-series of games, the games in themselves are brilliant and in tabletop-gaming the stories, plots and adventures are still at the top of any of my favourite lists!

But the Warhammer RPG world is so difficult to transmute into a meaningfull MMO world with the secret societies trying to create a coup to plunge the civilized empires into the world of the Old Gods and Orcs trying to survive the onslaught of the Elves worshiping the same Chaos Gods...

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