Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Syncaine defines impact PvP

Syncaine from Hardcore Casual has a great article up defining impact PvP: "The greater the distance between winner and loser, the more "impact" your PvP has. When your guild is cornered and facing extinction (hi BoB), that is when you truly see epic displays of resolve, when guild pride really kicks in. Those situations create the type of memories and stories PvP fans rave about, and outsiders read and get encouraged by. Just remember that for every epic victory, someone was on the other end, suffering a crushing defeat, because without that defeat, there would be no victory."

I totally agree with Syncaine over that definition. You can measure the "impact" of PvP by looking what the winner gained and the loser lost from that fight. The "everybody wins" model of World of Warcraft leads to people AFKing in AV, or using a bot to play battlegrounds. I also agree that a crushing defeat can be as memorable, if not more so, than a glorious victory. Where the problem lies is in Syncaine's side-remark in the introduction: "PvP seems to be an idea that most people "think" they love in an MMO, but when you provided them with the details, it turns out they don't want to play along." I'm a typical example of a carebear, and my reaction to EVE is a typical carebear reaction: I played EVE from the start, but two weeks after release I got shot down and "podded", that is somebody went the extra mile to shoot down my escape pod to really, really hurt me, so I not only lost my ship and cargo, but also about a week's worth of skills. And I simply quit the game. The loss *was* memorable, but in a "I never want to experience that again" way.

Maybe one day one excellent PvP game will prove me wrong. But from the anecdotal evidence I have, for example the crowdedness of PvP-free Trammel compared to the emptiness of PvP mirror image Felucca, or the failure of impact PvP games like Lineage or Shadowrun in the western hemisphere, I believe that the average MMORPG player doesn't have the stomach for impact PvP. If WoW introduced even just a 1% chance per PvP death of one of your items being permanently destroyed, battlegrounds just would empty out completely. MMORPG players grow extremely attached to their virtual belongings, and they don't react well to any possibility that they could lose them. If Age of Conan or Warhammer Online turn out to have real impact PvP, with actual losers involved, and no way to stay safe, these games will tank horribly, whatever other qualities they might have. Even in EVE, the most successful impact PvP game in the West, 90% of players remain in safe space all the time and avoid all PvP. The number of people yearning for a MMORPG in which they could really lose is tiny. It's a carebear world.
part of the problem the hard core PVP'rs have is understanding why us non hard core PVP'rs do pvp.

When world PVP was the only pvp I got crushed many times defending the elven lands but I had a blast. It was World of WARCRAFT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was fighting the evil horde I remember battles where 6 or 7 of in the 30's to 40's battled a 60 or two for hours. Even occasionally killing them.

Original AV had some of that feel too. Everything since has been watered down over and over.

A thread on the wow forums had a post that nailed why arenas fail. They are confined group duels on a known map. Not epic. Not even really WAR. Just tightly controlled PVP something along the lines of the Roman Gladitorial games.

Give me epic world PVP and I'll play and die over and over and have fun. Arena's and WSG have no appeal.
Why does impact pvp have to be devastating as far as losing a weeks worth of work on your character or gear being destroyed to be impact?

I would say what many could stomach would be impact pvp aimed at guilds rather than individuals. For example if you had pvp for a keep.

Allowing the guild who owned the keep to develop it using gold or other such things makes the effort a guild effort. If they lose the keep it is devastating; however, you still have your own character achievements to fall back on.

I think that kind of impact can still have an impact, but not totally devastate the player like in EVE.
As to eve, safe vs unsafe region population is about 70/30. You also don't lose skills if you get shot (unless you really, really screw up or didn't bother to do the, much improved, tutorial missions which explain what to do to easily avoid such losses).
"If they lose the keep it is devastating; however, you still have your own character achievements to fall back on."

My guild had a city in Shadowbane that took the better part of a year to build. A constant attack from the servers top guild eventually destroyed it.

The guild canceled en mass the next day.

The joy hardcore PvPers gets are directly proportional to how much time and effort it costs the loser.
I agree with this assessment completely.

Other games seem likely to explore moderate levels of impact. While it's true most WoW players would not feel comfortable losing a year's worth of work (ouch, isanox), there's room for a bit more than just the zero-impact now.

What if PVP death caused real durability loss? You and your mates would joke about how much repair bill the other team had after an epic beat-down. And it'd help the economy.

What if PVP death caused some kind of public shaming? A 24-hour title that sticks if you're under, say, 20% win rate after XX instanced battles. Similarly, maybe grant a special title or aura if you're over 80% after that number.

There's lots of room for impact that won't drive players away, but will give a little more oomph to the winners.
I liked the RvR of DAoC, where you had to capture keeps of the enemy realms to get access to Darkness Falls (which was a lv 15-end-game dungeon), or even enemy relics (which gave bonusses to either physical or magical damage.

One of my best memories was actually a crushing defeat we got, when half of our realm was on a ML raid, and didn't want to come and help defend. Working together for a common goal really made you feel part of a bigger something.

There were penalties when you died (less stats for a couple of minutes,... ), and you had to run back to the action. Seems like a quite big disadvantage, but it wasn't, as everyone wanted to be part of the attack/defense.

Guilds also could claim a keep, so their emblem would be all over the place. Then you upgraded your keep with points you collected in RvR itself, to raise defences. If you lost a keep, it wasn't that bad, you just had to retake it.

Just to clarify two things:

Your skill loss for being podded in EVE was your mistake. You simply failed to update your clone (which, given how hard EVE is to get into, is understandable, but considering also that your skills train offline, a week of skill gain is nothing much in EVE, you did not lose a week worth of time PLAYED)

Second, the figure for players who actively participate in PvP (as in, shoot other ships) is much higher. They simply log out in an empire clone for training purposes. Plus don't forget that the PvP of EVE is what drives most of the PvE-like stuff as well, and is the reason why the economy and the crafting in EVE is what it is (see PoTBS for what happens when you limit the PvP and try for similar PvE)

But again, our main disagreement is on the very basis of design. You believe its a PvE world b.c thats what people want, I believe PvE dominates b.c thats whats been design and marketed well so far. One triple-A PvP game (hopefully WAR) could change that entire perception.
As I said, that was in the very first two weeks of EVE. The clone / insurance system wasn't fully implemented then.

My perception of PvE being more popular than PvP is NOT based on the better marketing of PvE or the 10 million subscribers of WoW. It is based on games like UO, where you can play either PvP or PvE on identical mirror images of the world, and most people go for the PvE half.

WAR will be a game with a strong PvE component, and sell because of that, not because of PvP.
The thrust of Syncaine's article is that the only good working model for good MMO PvP is PvP in which there is consequence -- ala Impact PvP in UO/EVE.

I don't agree that good MMO PvP requires significant personal consequence in order to be fun. While the nature of Impact PvP fixes many PvP issues, I think the Impact PvP model primarily favors players who like to grief (as in Tobold's example of why he quit EVE).

While players who take more enjoyment in competition don't really care about consequences at all. In fact, they would prefer no lasting consequences to keep things more evenly competitively balanced. The FPS and RTS genres are good examples of excellent PvP with very little lasting consequences.

The problem with MMO PvP in general is the effect of persistent or lasting items. RPGs allow us to acquire things that make us more powerful. For a competitive player, this mechanic upsets the balance of PvP. We see this most starkly in WoW Arenas where the barrier to entry is significant for anyone not equipped in at least S2 gear.

Syncaine’s latest blog () is one I strongly agree with because I think it addresses the source of all things wrong with most RPGs – the lasting effect of persistent gear.

Simply having an item goes away after continued use (omg!) would do wonders for both leveling the playing field between hardcore and casual in both the PvP and PvE games.
Well you can't just use UO as the baseline for all PvE/PvP predictions, especially when you consider that back then all you had was UO and EQ1.

The PvP in UO was also ultra harsh, and far beyond what most people are looking for, even PvP fans. Not to mention that back then, most PvP players were of the PK variety, and UO was buggy enough to truly allow for some amazingly bad griefing. UO in a lot of ways was the perfect anti-PvP game, in that it allowed a few bad apples to ruin the game for everyone else. The fact that so many jumped to the no-pvp side says little about the possibility of a PvP game today.

As for what will drive sales of WAR, it all depends on how true the rumors of a nered PvP game in WAR are. If the original vision of DAOC2 is there, PvP will be the reason people play WAR, like it was in DAOC. A strong PvE game will be a nice side dish, like it is in EVE, but it won't be the focus.
The problem with 'impact' PvP in a massively persistent world is that nobody likes to be massively and persistently 'owned' by someone who makes it their life's work to grief other players.

Thus a successful (in the sense that it doesn't bleed subscribers) PvP MMOG will not implement tangible penalties for losing in PvP so as not to encourage the griefers and not to drive the aggrieved away.
W T F, I will have to respond to this in length sometime soon on my own blog. I just can't believe Syncaine sometimes. One second he talks sensible, only to follow it with complete nonsense. I seriously question anyone thinking that "impact PvP" is in any way shape or form a viable game model.
I'll just mention that WoW has, IMO, a surprising number of well-populated PvP servers. Obviously the primary "impact" of WoW world PvP is time loss, and possibly loss of contested resources such as herbs & ore. But a lot of WoW's subscription base is playing the WoW version of "PvP".
A painful breakup is a memorable experience, but I doubt too many folks would be willing to pay for it.
"My guild had a city in Shadowbane that took the better part of a year to build. A constant attack from the servers top guild eventually destroyed it.

The guild canceled en mass the next day."

Very interesting comments. Isanox, can you clarify whether it was your guild or the other guild that cancelled?

Thanks :)
I do think having personal equipment slowly degrade would be a net positive for a game: griefers would be foolish to wear down their best gear ganking lowbies, a market for crafting gear would exist, RP opportunities arise, skill would triumph over time investors, and more.

"My guild had a city in Shadowbane that took the better part of a year to build. A constant attack from the servers top guild eventually destroyed it."

What about a game design where that city was instead NPC owned but your guild (amongst others) contributed to it's growth? Losing the city would be a blow, but some of the personal sting would be removed, plus you could also afford to lend a hand to a sister city.

Having the loss being (a) de-personalised and (b) diffused across many players/guilds would also reduce some of the motivation for griefing.

If Alliance came in and razed Orgrimmar I sure would be ticked off .. but my guild would relocate to Thunder Bluff and plan our revenge.
In EVE every death produces a Killmail listing who shot you with what and how much damage they inflicted. These are used to track withing corps and alliances member particpation and skill. IMHO that is what hurts more then lossing a ship is handing someone a killmail of mine.

Also the part about 90% of people are in High security space so they dont pvp is fairly eralivent. As if you open the in game map and have show ships destroyed in the last 24 hours you will see a gigantic ball of red. That ball is jita(in hi sec) trade hup of EVE and generally lag city on sundays. More then half of the ships destroyed ingame happen in hi security space so these so-called carebears are actually pvping in some form or other.
I personally enjoy MMO's through character improvement, which runs counter to fair and balanced PvP. I treat PvP as just another means to gear up. It's *fun* to crush opponents in blues and greens, while I'm decked out in S3. If I really wanted fair PvP, I'd play CS or some other non-persistent game.

I wonder what kind of guild-based PvP Blizzard is working on, and whether it will make guild loyalty go up or down...
To add to the discussion, one of the major issues in World Of Warcraft, is that many people fail to see the impact in it at all. If they did, they would understand the foolishness of certain comments.

Comments like "1700 Personal Rating is easy!" It is said quite a bit on the forums these days, as people try and accuse those upset about the new personal rating prices lay out their case.

Think about it though.

That is not the same as saying "The Huntsman is easy!" The huntsman is a puzzle. You either eventually out gear him, or you out smart him, but if you try enough, he will eventually be easy. He’s a static target, and the number of times you wipe does not negatively affect your chances to beat him the next time around.

In PvP, for every person who got an "easy" 1700 rating, there are a bunch of people who did not. For someone to win that PR, someone else has to lose. In fact, the simple math says, that if you have to have a greater than 50% win rate (which you do) then more people have to lose than those winning. The curve gets tougher the higher you go. If 1800 requires a 70% win rate, then 70% of the players participating CANNOT get an 1800 rating. That is an over simplification, but you get the idea.

The new Arena Season 4, and BG S4 Rewards, are a step towards a sneaky kind of Impact PVP. Folks might not realize it right away, because they are not having anything taken away from them, and they still accrue points, but the day they go the vendor to cash those points in, and realize that it requires a Personal Rating that they have never been able to achieve in the less competitive environment of the previous season, is the day they will quit. They might quit AFKing, or they might quit trying, but even these players quitting will have an impact on those above them on the ladder. The ladder gets shorter as people give up, and then the guys who were getting a 1700 with ease, are down in the 1500s wondering what the hell happened.

Impact PvP indeed.
Impact PvP is gone, and for very good reason. It's never going to happen again, because people dislike losing and if they cannot win sometimes, they will simply quit and move on.

Explained pretty well here:

Blah, link got chopped. click here
Impact PvP is hardly dead. The point of that Broken Toys article is that since people have more choices, many people will tend to avoid games where they don’t want to be griefed constantly. The problem with UO was that it had no restraints.

If your only argument for Impact PvP being dead is that people don’t like to be griefed, then explain the popularity of WoW’s PvP servers? I don’t think anyone would call it Impact PvP, but griefing certainly happens all the time in the form of ganking.

It is simply a matter of extremes. A cargo ship with no cargo isn’t very useful and it’s usefulness increases as you load it with more and more cargo. Of course, if you load it up way too much – then it’s likely to sink. UO was a sinking ship. Lighten the load and it will float just fine.

Impact PvP is alive and well in EVE and while EVE doesn’t have as large a population as WoW – no one does. That hardly means that every game will be broken if they don’t follow the WoW model. I have no problem with Impact PvP in moderation and I believe a PvP zone like Lake Winterspring is a good indication that Blizzard is trying to slide the scale a bit towards more meaningful PvP. It won’t be anywhere near the extreme of a game like EVE, but then I don’t think that’s really the WoW market.
sadly what i have found is that most people cant sort out the definitions of PvP and griefing . most people that are die hard PvPers only want to grief over and over again. until we can see hard penalties for griefing alot of issues will still exist
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