Tobold's Blog
Friday, April 17, 2009
Life on the fast lane

It keeps surprising me how fast some people go from "this is the best game ever" hype phase to the phase where they mostly see a game's flaws and only stick around because their friends play, or they are hoping for a miracle patch. Keen, who leads a particularly fast life in this respect, only needed one month to go through these phases with Darkfall, and now calls it poorly executed. Meanwhile Syncaine recovered from Tourette's and actually posted a thoughtful analysis on why many players are losing interest in Darkfall now. Who would have thought he would ever echo Scott "anti-PvP" Jennings' thought that a lot more players THINK they like PvP than really do?

Kudos to Aventurine for either realizing this truth beforehand, or having been extremely lucky in having had only the financial means to open up one server, because that is all a niche game like Darkfall is ever going to support. Contrary to popular belief I don't "hate" Darkfall. I wish them lots of success and financial stability for many years to come. Some people just take my totally realistic remarks on the size of the hardcore PvP market for negativity or "hate", when in fact PvP mostly evokes a feeling of indifference from me. It is really hard to hate a game you're not even playing, and have no interest to play. I play them a bit, in an effort to remain informed, and then usually quit fast, having found that none ever overcame my principal objections against PvP games in general.

Syncaine calls Darkfall a "sandbox" game, which to some extent all PvP games are: A large portion of the "content" is the interaction with other players, and not developer-produced content. Which wouldn't be so bad if that interaction wasn't so fundamentally negative. I do like PwP (player with player) sandbox interaction games like A Tale in the Desert far more than I like PvP games, in which players constantly work against each other. Not to mention that some people in these games make you think that "sandbox" game is a reference to the kind of tantrum-throwing behavior you'll find from 3-year olds in a sandbox on the playground.

But to come back to the original subject, I do find that PvP games evoke far stronger emotions than PvE games, which by nature a more passive, and about the consumption of developer-produced content. Developers make sure the content they throw at you is at least minimally pleasant: The monster might kill you, but at least it won't teabag you. And I do have the impression that by force of these stronger emotions the hype-to-burnout cycle for PvP games is faster. What do you think about that theory?
I think I have finally given up on Keen. I want to like him so badly, even though I rarely agree with what he says, but he frustrates me so much. He says he wants a game where there are real consequences, then acts surprised when real consequences mean that, as in the real world, people don't make bold moves. It feels like Keen is stuck in perpetual frustration as all his pet concepts are unfortunately much more enjoyable in theory rather than in practice but he doesn't realizes it so he keeps waiting for a dream game, never fully happy.

Poor guy.
Still dying to give Darkfall a shot. Going to keep holding out for a few more patches and when just buying it isn't a hardcore PVP gankfest. The idea of ganking other people and taking their stuff doesn't attract me so much, but by the looks there seems to be room for different kinds of players. Very interested in the crafting aspects and the thought of playing this from a merchant point of view, although Syncaine and Keen seem to disagree very much on the levels of gameplay in this regard.
Everyone loves to win, but some people really hate to lose. The hype about PvP games is not unlike a crush. If the bad qualities of your object of affection are particularly egregious or you can't tolerate imperfection, the affair won't last long.

But strong emotions can work both ways. If one manages to avoid the hype-to-burnout cycle, then one can have very strong customer retention, leading to EvE's growth model.
What makes you think that Darkfall is not as well a PwP game where players WITH players fight against players WITH players ? I do agree to most of what you wrote, but Darkfall is definitely not only a PvP game.
Of course in most PvP games you work WITH some players AGAINST some other players. The PwP games I was talking about are ONLY cooperative, with no killing of other players involved.

He says he wants a game where there are real consequences, then acts surprised when real consequences mean that, as in the real world, people don't make bold moves.

Very good point! That is something I noticed as far back as Everquest, where there was a real risk to lose all your possessions if you died deep down in a dungeon, and as consequence people didn't visit level-appropriate dungeons. Only high-level people farmed there.
Players just cannot kill others and get killed over and over and find that all new and exciting.

And most players just do not WANT to PvP. Just like I claim that raiding is NOT what most people actually want to do. They only THINK they do, PvP has been hyped as "fun, neverending endgame content" for years.

It just never worked out so far. I just think that PvP games kill their own player base, no kidding! :)
Strong PvP focus is the worst possible basis for a MMO, especially for those who want a virtual "world" more than a game.
And most players just do not WANT to PvP. Just like I claim that raiding is NOT what most people actually want to do. They only THINK they do, PvP has been hyped as "fun, neverending endgame content" for years.So.. what do people want if they don't want to PvP, raid or grind?-) Play single-player MMOs?
Re: "The hype to burnout cycle for pvp games is faster".
I can think of two pvp games that have proven longevity: EVE and Guild Wars and I suspect that the reasons for longevity is different in each case.

In EVE's case I suspect the longevity owes as much due to the non pvp aspects of the game as to the pvp. EVE is probably the most complete World Simulation you can get in an MMO. In fact the much vaunted PVP aspect of EVE relies on a vast technical, economic and political infrastructure with many many niches where players can find a home.

In Guild Wars case I suspect it is the low barrier to entry. The lack of monthly fee is part of this but I think the low level cap is even more so. A brand new player can start today and quickly get up to speed to be competitive with established players. It may well be that the players who hyped the game four years ago have long since burned out and abandoned it but the low barriers to entry allow for a constant stream of new players to replace them.
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It's not that people don't want to PvP. It's that people don't want to *lose* at PvP.
I don't mind losing at PvP, if I can win once in while.

Two things really. The round needs to start even people. WoW misses this one by a mile.

And give the PvPers the same gear as the PVErs. Having to PVE for gear really misses out on a large group of susbscriptions. PvP needs equal gear and paths.
"I do find that PvP games evoke far stronger emotions than PvE games"

Possibly true of PvP vs. PvE MMOs, but certainly not true of games in general. Team Fortress 2 is a drama-free nirvana compared to an average WoW raiding guild.
Most people are loss-averse, which is irrational from an economic point of view. Meaning they experience a loss in PvP more strongly than a win. They will leave a game which results in a net negative of pleasure. This explains the exodus of people from WoW arenas for the past 2 seasons, ever since they implemented ratings requirements on most rewards. Prior to that, the gain in achieving better-than-PvE gear was worth 1 hour of week of losing 10 games.
I am one of those arena examples:
I couldn't stand to even lose 30% of the games. I hate losing :)
In the arena there is no achievement possible, because the better you get the better your opponents get.
After my friends told me that it basically kills their day to make arena with me I quit arena *grin* in TBC in Season 2.

I still love PvP, BGs where I alone am responsible and I alone can pick my targets as a stealthy cat and where I can feel that I become better by winning more often.
But to lose 50% of all games no matter how good I am (unless I am absolute world class, which I am not) was extremely demotivating for me.
I don't think PvP burns people out more quickly per se. Darkfall's brand of PvP might, but I haven't played it yet so I can't say.

I played WoW almost exclusively as a PvP game, and I spent over two years PvPing on the same character in the same PvP bracket. Guild Wars, CounterStrike, Team Fortress, WoW - maybe "sport" PvP is lacking some element of open PvP that doesn't seem to burn people out. Maybe people really do want more concrete goals.

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