Tobold's Blog
Saturday, September 19, 2009
I agree with Syncaine on WAR

Syncaine is an angry young man, whose semi-permanent rage and inbred hatred of World of Warcraft often prevents him from making reasonable blog posts. But in the rare cases when he doesn't blame WoW for everything which is wrong with every other game, I find myself agreeing with him. His post of what is wrong with Warhammer is spot on:
"Everything in the game is designed to prepare or filter you into RvR, ESPECIALLY the end-game city RvR, and despite almost everyone agreeing that it’s the weakest part of the game, it does not make the list of issues with WAR? When people think of WAR, they think RvR. When the RvR is broken, is it any wonder your game is struggling?"
The whole game of Warhammer Online is designed around the idea that people will love doing RvR as endgame, and that simply isn't the case. Now I better stop this post, because otherwise we'll come to the point where I say that for mass market appeal you don't want any form of PvP as endgame, and Syncaine says that people would love an PvP endgame if it was just meaningful enough. Lets agree to disagree on that one.
RvR in WAR is broken, however, not because it is PvP.

It is meaningless. That's indeed the biggest problem.

Other problems are that WAR only has two sides, not three and that WAR followed WoW - without understanding why - in just copying the level-up-then-endgame-approach.

There's however no reason to have some artificial grind to endgame and then suddenly change your game completely to some 'endgame'.

When I say 'remove the leveling' I mean exactly that. If you have some idea of some great game then please code it. But don't rip the game apart in two halves just because WoW does it. The WAR team never really spent much time on the endgame. They wanted to sell the product and concentrated on the leveling. Unfortunately it only takes a week to reach endgame and then .. what?

You can feel while playing that nobody really cared about the RvR stuff while they made the game. I guess they didn't have enough time and the management didn't care to ask critical people. They wanted to hear that the product is ready. This pressure to somehow finish it, is probably responsible.
Causality is in the eye of the beholder...I don't think that the relative failure of WAR proves that pvp/pvp endgame has no appeal. If the implementation has severe faults (no third "police" faction to keep things under control) and the engine is unquestionably broken, any game concept be it pvp or pve or whatever will have a hard time attracting the masses.
Of course you can have a PvP engame in an MMO and have mass market appeal. It just needs to be EVE (the closest thing to a real MMO out there), or Guild Wars (not actually an MMO). I remain convinced that when someone manages to combine the two, noone will ever need to make another MMO again.
I don't agree. I think the problem is that WAR was several different games patched into one. Nothing fit together.

It wasn't just one part not fitting in, it was everything not fitting together.
Oh, and why does everyone ignore the PvE of Warhammer. It could have been great and was pretty darn good anyways IMHO. RvR was never supposed to be 100% PvP and when the RvR zones were created as empty wastelands, its no question why RvR failed.
For tens years, we've been told that the only reason PVP isn't as popular as PVE is that it hasn't been done correctly, and I suspect we'll still be hearing that argument ten years from now, because it makes such a perfect excuse.

= # # =
I do still play WAR, but i also agree with his post. RVR in tier 1-3 is a lot of fun. In tier 4 it is very boring.

I do however think that the tiers are also part of the problem. When i still played DOAC i really felt like i was part of a realm and i was working myself towards a level at which i was able to defend myself against the enemies. When i finally met the enemies in our borderzones i really wanted to kill them because i felt a strong connection with my country and they were invading it.

In WAR most countries are already invaded right from the start. And nothing what we do in the game stops the invasion (or if you play destro you cannot plot a succesfull invasion).

This sense of purpose was supposed to happen in the city siege. But it is to minimal and too badly implemented.

I think this general sense of purpose is what is really missing from the game.
I think the popularity of Blizzard's Arena system would disagree with you Tobold.

I'd argue that the vast majority of WoW players engage in PvP in one form or another from time to time. There is even a subset of people to whom the endgame of wow is simply to fight in the Arena.

Games with no PvP in the end game are just as likely to fail as games with no PvE. They are both important to a game.

Warhammers problem is that they focuses all their initially effort into RvR, missed the mark, and had no worthwhile endgame PvE to speak of. So you've got almost none of one, and the other is broken.
A little off subject but I realized that I keep coming back to WAR because doing the scenarios is the only time in any game I really feel like I am working with other players. In WOW I talk with my friends in voice while soloing in a different zone and if I see another player they are either trying to steal my mobs or kill me (PVP).
I'd pop in and say that people would love a pvp endgame if it was FUN enough.

THe problem with WAR is that at the end of the day you spend most of your time sitting around waiting for things to cap, or doors to fall, or milling around on ramps waiting for the order to charge. A good, evenly matched fight is the rarest thing in RvR.

This is true from start to finish.

IT doesn't have to be that way though. I will explain later.
I left out (in this post) that I believe the reason Mythic spent as much time as they did working on things other than RvR pre-release is in part because of WoW's influence and trying to chase millions of subs rather than 500k. Since WAR's release the major focus HAS been on trying to improve RvR, but always in roundabout ways. They need to fix T4 RvR, period. Do that, and everything else will fall into place.

(oh, and the mass market does not want impact (they say they do, but they don't), I'll concede that. I still think the best virtual worlds have it, but casuals gamers don't care about virtual worlds)

but casuals gamers don't care about virtual worlds

I fear that is not completely wrong. It might explain the shift from immersive worlds to scripted arcade gaming.
As long as you can carve a decent market out in MMO space you are making good money. Mass market appeal is nice but should not be an overriding factor.

I just don't think there is a RvR market at all, it's a fundamentally broken type of PvP. To fight on a side and have lasting fun you have to identify with it. You have to celebrate it's victories and lament it's losses. Realm pride is a defacto non existent concept. Your realm is too large and faceless a side to identify with.

There is a PvP market where you can prove your individual skill and there is a Guild vs Guild. The early RvR games were successful despite not offering official PvP aimed at these markets (the 8v8 crowd still carved out their niche unofficially of course) because they were the only game in town. For fantasy MMOs they still area.

I don't think there will be a good PvP fantasy MMO till CCP shows everyone how it's done.
I think the popularity of Blizzard's Arena system would disagree with you Tobold.

The figure I have seen is that maybe 10% of WoW'w player population is active in arena.
Mythic are obsessed with keep-taking/city-taking as a mechanism for RvR. They have yet to workout any way of offering this without most of the "PvP" actually turning into "PvO" - Player vs Object.

It is not at all exciting or interesting to spend literally hours battering away at a wall or a door. Neither is it exciting to cram 50 or 100 player characters into a space barely big enough for ten and have all of them hammer away on one NPC.

If a game's going to have a PvP end-game, then perhaps it should involve the player-characters fighting each other directly. Open-field skirmishing in WAR is enormously entertaining, but the game's structures actively discourage it.
The "solo" game or player-vs.-computer game is a relatively new in the history of games.

Board games, sports, and so forth have always pitted player vs. player. So saying that people don't want Player vs. Player in an MMO when they clearly enjoy it in other mediums is just silly.

The issue is that no one has been able to implement PvP in a way that has been appealing in an MMO. In my opinion, that's largely related to the fact that character progression largely trumps "skill".

Point being that it's better to say that WAR failed to deliver on the RvR promise than to say that people never wanted it in the first place.
I actually might agree with Syncaine that PvP could be a good game for more people than you think, Tobold. Though I agree with you that the reason so many people don't like it is because it's either zero- or negative-sum, or meaningless.

Imo, the trick is to find a way to implement PvP or RvR in such a way that if one side wins, the other loses, period. If it was set up in a different way, such that one side winning means a change in the overall landscape of the game, but doesn't mean that the other side is all but dead, then maybe people would find it more interesting.

I'm drafting some ideas to that effect in my free time; maybe I'll email you them when I think they're good.
The figure I have seen is that maybe 10% of WoW'w player population is active in arena.


And since 10% of 7 Million is 700,000
I think any other MMO would be more then happy to have that many players. And that is't even including the people who enjoy PvP but not the arena system and spend their time in battlegrounds or open-world PvP.
Games in general are meaningless. They are entertainment meant less to provoke thought than to occupy mental cycles with interesting puzzles and social interaction. In that sense, WAR's RVR isn't any more or less meaningless than any other just offers less interesting challenges in a less compelling way.

The point is to play and enjoy the game, not to find some false shadow of "meaning" by advancing some artificial statistic or occupying some imaginary keep. If at any point during the course of playing (PVE or PVP) your answer to the question "Why am I doing this?" is anything other than "Because this -- the act of playing -- is actually fun" then your game is failing you.
A PvP endgame can work for an MMO as long as it's fun. PlanetSide was based entirely around the concept, and it did well for its time despite empire imbalances and SOE's lack of competence.
I think, from reading many people's comment on WAR from blogs, forums, and ingame, it's that people want to win, and dont want to lose. PvP games will never have the same popularity as PvE games because of this.

The problem for WAR is that T4 is designed inproperly: they do not encourage fighting. That leads to the result of PvE/PvD(Player vs Door), because there is no reason to have an epic battle. In fact, two realms being equal is the worse way for both realms. When one side is overpowering, they can get access to fort fights and city siege, while if two realms are equal in every way, they can not progress further in terms of equipment. Furthermore, there is a disminished RP for killing the same character over and over. It was intended to discourage renown farming, but it also make long, epic fights completely worthless.
The above is the reason every balanced server inevitiblely slant to one realm.

They also have to encourage small group fighting. Zergs are a part of any massive PvP game, one important thing to substainable PvP is for there to be a "food chain" of sorts: solo, small-group and zerg. From what I gathered, DAoC is relatively good in this, while in WAR small groups and soloers has little to do. I propose solo and small groups are important, because they provide variety, and zerg v zerg comes with performance problems. Zerg can eat small groups, while small groups should wipe out soloers. Soloers would be ganking other individuals, or doing something else in the battlefield. They can reliably outrun zergs but not small groups. With such a chain, the battlefield will be varied and enjoyable for different people. That's why Aion's Abyss has PvE content, and why providing PvE in RvR zones during live events of WAR aremore interesting.

Because the basic design of T4 RvR in WAR lack the above two elements, it stuggled during the first year. I still think it is possible to improve WAR to correct these points. The only question is if they are able to approach it before subscription drop to a "pull the plug" level.
Games in general are meaningless. They are entertainment meant less to provoke thought than to occupy mental cycles with interesting puzzles and social interaction. In that sense, WAR's RVR isn't any more or less meaningless than any other just offers less interesting challenges in a less compelling way.

True, but you could say most of the things humans do are meaningless. And at that point it beecomes a philosophical question. My answer to it is that if you have some effect on others and the world around you, your life has meaning. Simplistic, but works for my purposes.

And it also can be extended to my point about meaningless vs meaningful pvp: meaningless pvp is pvp where the outcome has limited or zero effect on the world around you. Perhaps part of the reason why people will sometimes camp other players in pvp in spite of not getting a good reward for it, is because it's an expression of having an actual effect on someone else. If I forced someone to call for help, or log off, then I had an effect on others and the world around me, even if on a tiny scale. If I killed a player and got points for it and moved on, I didn't really have any effect, I just pulled the lever and got the pellet.
To be honest, some nights the RVR is great and others less so, that's the nature of fighting with human beings. Some people can adjust to that, while those that can't leave. There isn't always a fat loot pot at the end of the rainbow.

At this point, the very challenging introduction of a 3rd faction, would be required to raise the profile of this game, back to where it was at launch, who could then experience where the game has moved to this year.

When people talk about broken, I am not sure that broken is the correct terminology. It's not perfect, but it really does come down to what you expect the game to deliver.

Personally,I am into small 2/3/4 man fights, which you can get now on the busy servers, as long as accept you are going rolled over when you are in the wrong place at the wrong time. But it's not guaranteed experience and you will have some appalling evenings. But it's that uncertainty which raises those nights where things go beautifully, that lift any PvR/RvR game. Yes you may get some nice Renown or a decent bit of equipment, but it will be the combat that will be treasured memory.
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