Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Why non-consensual PvP will remain niche

In the open Sunday thread there was a question why some people, and me in specific, don't like PvP. Well, I can give you my reasons, and some general considerations. And while I don't claim to speak for everybody, it has to be remarked that all non-consensual PvP games have done extremely badly in the history of MMORPGs. Ultima Online was in free fall, and was only saved by introducing a PvP-free mirror image Trammel. Shadowbane died. Darkfall stagnates since months at just 20k players. The only remotely successful PvP game is EVE, and even there you can't count all players a PvPers, as 90% of them remain is safe space and only play PvE.

Many people, especially those who like PvP, misrepresent the reasons why others don't like PvP. If you look beyond the narrow area of MMORPGs, you will find that playing against other players is usually the preferred form for many genres, if available as an option. Be it shooters or strategy games, people love to play those against other real humans, not just some stupid AI. But the same person who loves a nice game of Counterstrike might well hate PvP in MMORPGs. Because the fundamentals of PvP are not compatible with the fundamentals of MMORPGs.

PvP is best when it is "fair", which usually means somehow symetrical. Equal number of players on each side, with equal power. From Warcraft 3 to Team Fortress 2, that is the basic formula of success for multiplayer games which pit players against players. MMORPGs on the other hand are built on the basic principle of "character development", that is your character getting stronger all the time as reward for playing. Thus fair PvP is only possible within strong limitations, for example in instanced arenas and battlegrounds. Any open world PvP is almost automatically unfair, because by definition it is the attacker who initiates PvP, and in an open world environment he only does so when he is confident that he will win.

Thus my strong dislike of non-consensual PvP. It nearly always leads to the attacker being superior in numbers or in level beating down some victim who never had a chance to start with. Where is the fun in that? The advantage of a human opponent playing better than an AI only works if that human opponent is bound by strict rules, otherwise he'll use his superior intelligence to gank you when you are defenseless. Non-consensual PvP is like sitting down for a game of chess with a human opponent and finding that your opponent brought a .45 revolver to win the game.
For many people in MMOs, if they can bully they will. Few really want a fair fight.
I don't even see how PvP is fair in battlegrounds if there is a chance one side can be far overgeared when compared with the other. I think it comes back to the point you've made (well), which is that the founding principles of MMO and PvP games are counter to one another.

Nevertheless I believe we'll see (consensual) PvP offered, no matter how imbalanced, in every MMO because developers want to maximise their profits. More profits requires more subscriptions, and a good percentage of potential players ascribe to the "Killer" mentality, to use Bartle Test terms. Put PvP in your game, and those players come along to outgear and "pwn teh noobs".

The non-consensual PvP games therefore fail for the same reason - only "Killers" will play, and based on Bartle's model, such a situation erodes the playerbase, because you need non-Killers for Killers to play against.
I for one am hoping that a PvP MMORPG will become mainstream and have a community at least half the size of WoW.

Perhaps the reason for the "nichness" is because the game is not designed ground up to be casual accessible whilst being PvP focused. Current PvP games are designed to be hardcore. But it's possible that "casual PvP" is an oxymoron.

Also, unlike WoW, these games have not had resources thrown into it to ensure continous content.

Blizzard is currently developing a "next-gen MMORPG". Hope that it will be more PvP focused!
"Non-consentual PvP is like sitting down for a game of solitaire and finding that your opponent brought a .45 revolver to win the game."

The few times I've been PvP'd - it was usually some level 70 waxing his e-peen, by wandering into the crossroads and taking on all lvl 15's

Not sure how he/she thought that was fun.
The point of good PvP is to have a fair fight. The point of a good MMO is to make your character stronger through character development of some sort, like say levels. They just don't work that well together.
When I first started playing WoW I chose a PvP-Server as I was dreaming of battling the alliance. Being new to MMOs and coming from a RTS-Background I expected fair fights - and boy was I wrong. In one and a half years on that server I had exactly two fair fights. I still remember both of them. One of my opponents even stopped fighting each time we added some NPC to the fight and helped me get rid of it before resuming our fight. Other than those two fights I never experienced anything beyond ganking. Today I'm on a RP-PvM-Server and even there we have our fair share of PvP-Players (not sure what those want here..). They do their Arena and BGs and dream about the awesome world/free - PvP as they call it. Whenever I hear this bull I don't know if I'm supposed to laugh or puke. There is no Free PvP. Thats an euphemism for ganking and nothing else. Even the famous battles for TM/Southshore were just glorified Alteracs without the objectives of the BG and with innocent lowlevelers running inbetween.

Off topic: Are you doing this on purpose? A PvP-Topic in no-moderation-week? Thats calling for trouble..
Tobold: "Thus my strong dislike of non-consentual PvP. It nearly always leads to the attacker being superior in numbers or in level beating down some victim who never had a chance to start with. Where is the fun in that?"

There's the fun in the strategic (political) and tactical manoeuvring required to be on the dealing-out end of this happening more often than on the receiving end.

There's the fun of fighting for a purpose, of having goals, and changing the game's landscape (both on the political and economical level). Of winning against the odds due to better strategy and tactics, and having the whole server being able to see it too.

That is what's fun in a PvP game. Not the mindless slaughter, but slaughter for a reason.

That said, I'm quite confident it will remain a niche, and I'm fine with that.
Plenty of reason for not doing pvp. Main reason being, your to old for this crap, to slow compared to 14 year old guys your competing with.
The problem with this point of view is that you confuse "PvP" with "Ganking". They are not the same thing. The kinds of people who get put on a pedestal as an example of why "PvP will remain niche" are a vocal minority, so to speak. They do not represent the player base any more than a forum troll represents a user base.

Time, as you well know, is the most valuable thing to an MMO player. Our time spent needs to be as productive as possible. Very few people ride around looking for lowbies to annoy. It is simply not a productive use of time. You have to purposely make the decision to eschew progression for some kind of juvenile amusement and it is not a rational one.

More to the point, it is a commonly known psychological principle that people remember and are more affected by negatives, however small, than positives, however great. Simply put, often times stories of repeated ganking and camping are more than likely exaggerated and very rarely include context. I am not a ganker, but I am not above killing someone lower than me who happens to be somewhere or is doing something that is inconvenient for me. That they happen to be of a lower level is irrelevant. I would imagine this scenario accounts for a very large amount of ganking frustrations.

As to the point about PvP and progression being at odds, this is only true if the game subscribes to vertical progression. Even then it is a non argument because vertical progression is only as inflated as you design it to be. There is no data to suggest that people ONLY feel more powerful when they see a noticeable increase in damage. There are other ways to make a person feel powerful. Visual upgrades, for example, do this extremely well. More to the point, if you wanted there to be a noticeable increase in damage, you could very easily spread the item level increase over multiple pieces of gear instead of the commonly used method of making everyone rely solely on getting an ever increasingly better weapon. There are plenty of options to explore.

And as to the idea of PvP being "fair", yes it needs to be fair. But what is considered to be fair has every bit to do with the design of the game itself. If another player has the best axe in the game and it does 1000 more damage than your axe, the second best in the game, then most people would describe that as feeling "unfair". But if that axe were instead only 50 points higher? Suddenly you still think you can win and it ceases to be "unfair".

In general you are correct about sides needing to be even. But again, it is only a minority who exploit this to their advantage. The majority of people playing for PvP go out looking for a fair fight because they want to test their skills and feel the elation of being superior. There is also an argument to be made about having the ability to succeed vs a superior force. In fact, for most serious PvPers this is a desired trait in a game. PvP groups tend to be small, not only to encourage deeper levels of teamwork that only come from playing with a consistent group of people, but also because a smaller group means the group can coordinate schedules better and spend more time doing what they came to do: PvP. Defeating a superior force is a showing of game mastery, and it is something we actively seek and don't often receive. It is a direct result of mudflation and intellectually shallow design that superior numbers are more than likely going to be victorious, even when at a class/terrain/coordination disadvantage. Any military strategist, with centuries of data to back him up, will tell you that numbers do not decide a battle. Yet somehow this doesn't get translated into designing meaningful conflict in what is very much a skirmish/warfare simulation.

PvP does not have to remain niche and people consistently complaining about isolated negative experiences and perceived unfairness while showing a complete unwillingness to blame poor design and demand better design are not helping the situation any.
Is there a cultural dimension to this Tobold? I have often heard than many of the most poular Korean / Chinese mmorpgs are pvp based but I cannot confirm or deny this myself.

Aside from that query I cannot argue with any of your points but I would like to add that even within the niche that is PVP games there is a difference between games that are pvp only and games that have a large element of PVE as well. This goes back to Bartles famous Diamonds and Clubs paper. Pure PVP mmorpgs are almost doomed to failure because the killers have no one left to gank. If there is also a thriving PVE element then the killers have a wide array of care-bear targets and the game is more sustainable. You might ask why the carebears would stay around in such a game: Well obviously the PVE content has to be very good and engaging and it also needs to be possible for PVE players to make themselves safe most of the time. In such a game the care-bears may actually enjoy the "whiff of danger" that the presence of killers brings. Killers can be regarded almost like an additional PVE hazard.
I completely understand your point of view Tobold, though I do not have the same. Non-consenual PvP is a no-go for many MMO players for just the reasons you mention.

For me, however, it is not the winning or losing that makes it fun but the thrill of danger at every turn. I enjoy ganking but, unlike some, I also enjoy BEING ganked. It gives me a chance to fight impossible odds and maybe, just maybe, come out ahead.

That's the reason I loved the early days of WoW so much, even though I was on a Horde dominated server (Mal'Ganis, home of the Goon Squad) and I was Alliance. I loved the danger, the wins and the loses.

By the way, you misspelled consensual, might wanna fix that! :)
"The kinds of people who get put on a pedestal as an example of why "PvP will remain niche" are a vocal minority, so to speak."

Not true in my experience, at least in WoW. I know quite a bunch of people who love to PvP. Many of them are very bored at times. Sure, they could use that time productively and farm stuff or something, but on a PvE-Server they still prefer to stand around in Dalaran and afk half a day. The same people on a PvP-Server just walk into some lowlevel area and start slaugthering helpless lowbies. Now I'd love to write that those are the majority of PvPers I know, but its actually even worse: I don't know even one person who claims to prefer PvP over PvM in World of Warcraft who isn't involved in actively seeking and ganking those that can't defend themself. Some of them try to talk themselves out of this by saying "I would love to have even battles, but its nearly impossible to find someone equal" but most just admit that they enjoy letting others feel how powerful they are.

On top of that issue, I don't even understand why you would want to do PvP in an MMO. There is RTS, CS-like Shooters or even classics like Chess where a fair game is pretty much guaranteed. But instead of doing your PvP there you guys walk into MMOs that are not fair _by definition_.
By the way, you misspelled consensual, might wanna fix that! :)

Looked it up, and while "consentual" is listed as "alternative spelling", "consensual" is probably the better way to write it. Fixed.
Kiseran: "On top of that issue, I don't even understand why you would want to do PvP in an MMO. There is RTS, CS-like Shooters or even classics like Chess where a fair game is pretty much guaranteed. But instead of doing your PvP there you guys walk into MMOs that are not fair _by definition_."

It's easy to fight when everything's right,
And you're mad with the thrill and the glory;
It's easy to cheer when victory's near,
And wallow in fields that are gory.
It's a different song when everything's wrong,
When you're feeling infernally mortal;
When it's ten against one, and hope there is none,
Buck up, little soldier, and chortle:
- Robert W. Service, "Carry on!"

Basically, I don't want a fair fight. I once found myself in a war against an enemy outnumbering me by a hundredfold, in addition to (for the most part) outgearing me. And I attacked them, sought direct confrontation as well as to isolate them politically and fighting a propaganda warfare against them. In the end, after almost a year of fighting, I was the last man standing; I was the one who took their castle, and they disbanded shortly thereafter.

That's the kind of PvP I'm looking after.
While I agree that non consentual PVP will always be niche, I have to disagree that non consentual PVP will always be unfun.

One of the reasons I think why these games tend to be unsuccesful in the US and Europe, is because in most of Asia, people gather and play together in Internet Cafes, even those that have unlimited always-on connections. These people not only play together; they go out, eat, study and work together, so the bond is quite strong.

These people then form guilds, sometimes exclusive guilds, sometimes they invite outside players. And the less powerful guilds would then form some sort of alliance to stand up against huge guilds with powerful characters.

Which would lead to one of the examples how this could be major amounts of fun. Player 1 from lesser guild A is fighting some mob. Player 2 from powerful guild B then stalks this player and maybe because player 2 is an asshole he goes and griefs player 1 to the point where player 1 then call his friends to help. You can see where this is going. A attacks 2. 2 brings his powerful friends to destroy A. A and B goes all out war. A then calls their alliance to help kill B players and the ongoing war is often more fun than frustrating. This would be even MORE fun if they were different factions and they each have a main city. A war on a city is always fun :D
There's another little thing i think you should maybe expand on.

It is "Personal PvP" [one vs one, or many vs one] vs. "Mass PvP" .

The most fun i've ever had in a PvP orientated MMO was Warhammer. ALot of that was "non consensual" in the sense that if they enemy is gonna zerg your castle, they will and you are gonna die .

The fun part is the focus on "gear" and "personal stats" dissappear in "Mass PvP" . The fight does not feel "personal", it feels like a "group effort" and you know, if you are attacked, it's not a "personal attack" , but part of the bigger effort.

i.e. in RvR the term "ganking" or "griefing" does not exist....think about it.

So i'm willing to say non-consensual PvP CAN be casual, if it's done a certain way.

Darkfall , while the bigger fights are "Mass PvP" [and i'm sure that is the actual FUN part] , but it's the "small scale" or "personal" PvP that makes or breaks the concept...because then it emphasis your own personal ability/gear/stats instead of a group's ability to "coordinate".
"That's the kind of PvP I'm looking after."

You realise that what you're after is basically exactly the same a PvM-player seeks, do you? You are seeking an enemy that is powerful, but not so powerful that he will end the fight with a single strike. He should be tough enough for a long fight but let you win in the end and when he lies dead at your feet you want to feel like you accomplished something. Thats EXACTLY how a good raidboss is. The only real difference is that in PvP you wade through an incredible pile of ganking and getting ganked for your once-in-a-lifetime stunning victory, while in PvE you have to endure some bosses that are too weak inbetween your regular dose of what you seek.
It's not so much consensual or non-consensual, as the three known models of PvP being war, crime and sport.

It's only crime that suffers from the 'nobody will pay to be mugged' problem: war and sport have different issues. These may have defeated every existing attempt to solve them in a mass-market MMORPG, but there is no reason in principle that couldn't be done someday.
It's not for everyone granted, but UO was not saved by Trammel. All that did was move everyone to the non-pvp side of the server where they could exploit the AI and get phat lewts unmolested.

Unfortunatly, many of my 2000, blog entries and forum posts are gone, but there was a market for and still is for people to be out there, not PvPing, that don't mind the wolves.

Wow, tries to force you into going to that place sometimes without warning, and even though that is considered "bad" by today's standards, it was the norm in 1998 and 2000.

If UO had the rules and the resources to train the people, I am sure they would have. Even today, their is much to be learned by the "new player experience" which no one seems to want to get right.

Anyways, good luck out there.
..and there is absolutely nothing wrong with niche games. As long as the game is making profit for the publisher and they can keep servers online, for a player it doesn't really matter whether the game has 10 million or 100 000 players. Most likely both of those games have a server cap of 5 000 - 15 000 players anyways, so they'll 'play' exactly the same way anyways.
Kiseran: "You realise that what you're after is basically exactly the same a PvM-player seeks, do you? You are seeking an enemy that is powerful, but not so powerful that he will end the fight with a single strike. He should be tough enough for a long fight but let you win in the end and when he lies dead at your feet you want to feel like you accomplished something."

Wrong. I'm not seeking enemies. Quite the opposite, the rule I live by is "Make all the friends you can and all the enemies you have to." I'm just not running away from a fight or a war, no matter the odds. I crush tiny clans who cross my way with the same vigour as I fight against 100-to-one odds. My enemies deserve no less than my best effort, no matter who they are.

My win wasn't guaranteed either, and I wouldn't like it if it was. It was, however, the result of lots of hard work and me simply being better at being a sneaky bastard than the enemy. It also wasn't a total victory - I lost a lot of old friends who quit the game in the meantime, and I had to basically rebuild my clan from almost scratch afterwards. However, feeling that your effort didn't all go to waste, even if it costed you a lot, is a common feeling to PvP and PvE - or indeed, to any human endeavour.

Also, I've yet to hear about a raid boss which takes 9+ month to kill. :)
Socials like PvP so they can brag about it amongst other socials. When one can't succeed in life, he can always succeed in PvP.
DAOC was and still remains the only MMO to have implemented anything near "fair" PvP. And even that was not often the case, although much moreso than in WoW. Instancing PvP/RvR is not a solution - look at how badly WAR failed, and that was one of Mythic's primary deviations from DAOC.

I'd have to agree with Anonymous' wall-of-text, though. Being close-minded about getting developers to adapt and solve the issue of smoothly integrating PvP is definitely nit going to help bring about better game design going forward. (And I'm sure age has a little to do with it, too. ;)
Corpserun hit it dead on the nail for me. I like needing a heightened sense of awareness while leveling. I like camera scrolling 360° when I'm grinding out a leveling quest on my 6th character. And if I have to die occasionally to a griefer, so be it.

It's especially a non-issue when you can mount up post-death at level 40 in Azeroth and run as fast as your max level opponent, or mount up & fly right upon reaching Outland. Both of which I find somewhat disappointing. I don't get to use my stacks invisibility potions as often.
"My win wasn't guaranteed either, and I wouldn't like it if it was."

But if you would have lost it wouldn't be a good story. It would simply read: "I committed suicide by foolishly trying to fight against massive odds". I'm quite sure thats not what you seek, because otherwise you could just strip your character naked, get yourself the biggest mob you could find and charge into his not-caring-NPC-visage time after time. If I try a new Boss I know fully well that I won't beat him for sure. However I know that I will beat him if I play good and keep trying. Like you know that you will beat some other player(s) if you play good and keep trying. Simple statistics ensure that you don't always lose if you are no retard.

"Also, I've yet to hear about a raid boss which takes 9+ month to kill. :)"
Don't quote me on this, I only heard about it myself but there seem to be some raid bosses in FFXIII who are still undefeated after several years.
Nice troll, Gevlon, but - let's discuss this like adults would, shall we - the social aspect of the pvp is not about the success in life or bragging rights. There's very little if any social behavior in bragging now is there? Right.

I see the social aspect in pvp as a one real possibility to have any effect on the game world itself. The current crop of mmo games are really static and certainly the pve does not change the game in any way. The raid boss will be there (in the instance, mind you, not even in the 'real game world') next week and nothing has changed, whereas in pvp you can control and own different areas of the game map and world, you negotiate with guilds on your own side on who is doing what and when, you can make agreements with opponents when to leave them in peace and if so, why (and of course, backstab them or be backstabbed by them - this is a game, after all). All these are social behavior and they have nothing to do with childish and juvenile bragging.
Kiseran: "But if you would have lost it wouldn't be a good story."

Sure it would be. A good story doesn't have to have a good ending. I could still look back and say "Well ... I tried my best, and I kept my promises as well as I could. Too bad. It were still quite some awesome years." And then maybe go drink a beer with my ex-enemies or something like that.

An undefeated raid boss isn't the same as one you try to fight for several months, nearly every day, with the only way to not fight by not playing the game. :)
Akjosch: "An undefeated raid boss isn't the same as one you try to fight for several months, nearly every day, with the only way to not fight by not playing the game. :)"

"A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?"

See? Even during the 80s the wargame computer realized that pvp is a much better game than pve. :)
@Anonymous: the proof in my claims is your answer to my comment. You felt the need to justify your PvPenis size so you won't loook bad amongst other PvPeniers (aka socials).
mbp said "I have often heard than many of the most poular Korean / Chinese mmorpgs are pvp based but I cannot confirm or deny this myself. "

I think this is because so many Asian MMORPG's are free to play, and the vast majority of those games have a PvP focus at the endgame simply because it's cheaper to develop than a PvE endgame.

Isn't your blog all about you bragging about your superior skills at WoW economy? And exactly why are you raiding in blues? And to whom exactly you brag to?
I raid in blues to prove to the social-like that gear isn't an issue. Also, my superior skills deal with real world issues which can be applied to WoW economy so that most people will understand it as the majority doesn't have the same skills to deal with such problems. If you consider showing undeniable correct analysis a sort of bragging is your problem, not mine.
Your analysis is hardly undeniable, particularly when smarter people than you periodically debunk your claims.

Your bragging tendancies on your blog are entirely social.

My issue is that you seem to be getting away from the fact that, in YOUR OWN DEFINITION, social does not equal S&M. In fact, one can be a very social shade and be a top-tier (in both gear and skill) player in this game, both PvP and PvE.

Also, you yourself have equated playing the AH as the ultimate PvP. According to you, Socials like PvP. You do the math from here.

MMORPGs on the other hand are built on the basic principle of "character development", that is your character getting stronger all the time as reward for playing. Thus fair PvP is only possible within strong limitations, for example in instanced arenas and battlegrounds.

I remember back in Vanilla WoW how places like Tarren Mill and Crossroads were -always- populated with lively PvP battles almost any hour of the day. It was fun. I knew before going in that I would likely be ganked by a higher level player because that is how open world PvP worked at the time. A player knows before going in that there is a high chance of death in such a scenario, so making the choice to go there means you have consented..period.

What you dont address, and what I suspect is the main detractor in your dislike of other games with PvP, is the design elements of PvP combat where loss aversion is unavoidable. Being ganked in EVE is much different than being ganked in WoW, and the resulting losses can be severe in the former.

Chess is a PvP game, so let me ask you this: Let's say you and I both show up for a chess match, each with our own hand crafted board and chess pieces that are very valuable and sentimental to us. The winner of this match will receive the other players chess set.

We flip a coin to decide whose set will be used for the match and we play. After 8-10 long hours of play, you realize that I am two moves away from putting you in checkmate. You are about to lose your chess set as a result, but you knew that going you pick up your chess set and try to flee - but in this case I am the one who is weilding the .45, and I prevent you from fleeing at gun point and dutifully take your chess set from you.

Did I win because I was a better chess player than you, or did I win because I was overall better prepared than you?
Socials don't like PvP. Socials like to show their PvP gains and Gladiator titles and PvPeeing is just a way to gain a respect that they don't have for themselves. In the other hand, playing the AH requires a brain and actual thinking and above all it depends on the stupidity of the M&S and socials who are dumb enough to be money feasts to the goblins. So, by understanding socials, aka PvP players, aka people like Brian who see any criticism against their group as against himself, i'm able to sit at the top of the pyramid and be above all that nonsense.
@Gevlon: I'm sorry, but I think I said that "let's discuss this like adults would, shall we". So shut up baby while adults are talking.
The main thing that I've not liked about the non-consensual PvP MMO's that I've tried to play is that they have been very one-dimensional. By definition, 'non-consensual' means that you're not allowed to do anything except PvP which gets boring fairly quickly. My experience has been in PvP games is that as soon as the other players see someone trying to do something other than PvP, they start ganking them. Boring ... like a PvE game that lets you do nothing except grind Timbermaw Rep.
Maybe an MMO could create a profession like a sherrif or constable to police open MMO PVP.

In a formal Duel, where both sides agree to fight to the death, there would be no penalty.

In a ganking situation (I have no idea how to define the rules here) the attacking player would drop a token(evidence)at the place he was murdered. If the ganked player chose to pay a bounty to a constable, the constable could start an investigation at the site of the gank. If the dropped token (evidence) is produced, then the constable can place the attacking player on trial.

An algorithm based off the disparity between the two player's levels would determine if there were guilt. It could be random, with there always being a chance for a not-guilty verdict.

Penalty? The murdering character would be placed in jail (locked away in the log-in screen and unaccessible) for like a day. Or, the guilty party could pay thier bail to the murdered charachter.

In a realm vs. realm situation, these laws could be suspended between the 2 factions in contested zones, as they are at war.

Lowbie zones could be protected under a simliar system, and the trials could be called war crimes.
I am an admitted social. I also gold-capped twice (second one in about 75 hours of in-game time). You wouldn't be able to take advantage of me. I am not substantially geared. I PvP and raid both on low levels but consider myself fairly physically skillful at the game.

Gevlon, I see your over-generalizations absurd specifically because I could be a bit of every single group you've separately defined.
The fact that you need to be part of a group is precisely my point. You feel that need and at the same same you feel that you're above all that groups when everyone can see your ape sub-routines functioning as they always do. Spamming me with gold achievementss or PVP achievements or claiming to be a self-made man demonstrates yours, as a admittedly social, lack of confidence and that weakness is my strength. You not seeing this just proves my point.
This topic reminds me of a chart I created a few weeks to describe PvP in MMOs.

I've also always agreed with Tobold that relative power differences that are NOT based on skill are a unique problem to MMOs.

In a game like WoW, it makes absolutely no sense from a competitive perspective to reward the best skilled players with even better gear. The rich just get richer.

That's a big reason why I'm a proponent of 'gear breakage' and other ways to lose equipment to keep that power curve competitive.

And not just gear loss, but also making gear gain quicker. If you lose/gain gear in a more fluid manner, well -- the relative power difference is significantly mitigated.
@ Gevlon

You know the very act of you having a blog, being in a WoW guild, and participating in all this internet discussion makes YOU a "social".

You care more about what other people think then most "socials" do, whether you want to admit that to yourself or not. If you didn't you wouldn't have a blog to voice your opinions and you wouldn't bother coming to other blogs to discuss the opinions of others.

If you weren't a "social" you wouldn't do a lot of the things you do.

You wouldn't make posts bragging about how smart you are, because you can download auctioneer and read a tooltip telling you what to buy.

You wouldn't brag about being so 1337 because you completed trivial content in ilvl 200 gear the content was designed to be beaten in.

And lastly you wouldn't be so desperate to differentiate yourself from others by labeling them "socials, morons, and slackers".

For someone who likes to call people out for having e-peens you certainly have one of the biggest and it's obvious you go to extreme lengths to protect it.

Someone who truly didn't give a fuck and was confident in themselves wouldn't do all that.
There have been so few MMORPG's that it is ridiculous to think we have enough examples to make bold generalizations. Shadowbane didn't die because of PVP; it died because of SB.exe, rampant hacking, outdated graphics and point and click movement to name just a few problems. Darkfall? that game looked like crap, was released like the dev's didn't even want you to play... myself and I think most gamers wouldn't give it a shot if they paid me to blog about it.

One question begs to be asked: Is progression only viable via levels and better gear? As computers get better and we can have MMORPG's with robust graphics... couldn't cool scars or new cloths or shiny bits become progression? More so then 100 more strength?
Dear Readers!

The "GevIon" posting comments here is a fake, which you can verify by clicking on his name, which shows "The Shitty Goblin" as name of his blog. He is *not* the Greedy Goblin Gevlon (the fake replaced the l in Gevlon's name with an uppercase i).

Which means that all of you who responded angrily to him have been fooled by this troll. I must admit the guy is good, taking real Gevlon's already objectionably views to the next level, where they make perfect trolling material.
I'm not sure if you're trying to be clever with words or just missed my point due to English being your second language... by "group", I meant I can be separately distinguishable by every stereotype you've coined.

One thing that most engineers understand is the concept that nothing is absolute. Your pidgeon-holing tendancies show a lack of intellect. If I'm incorrect, what then is the arbitrary point have you selected on the "social" scale that is low enough to be acceptably called "non-social"? Maintaining contact with parents? Having a girlfriend? Would you concende that you are, at the very least partly "social"?
I just went to his website, and laughed my ass off.
There is no such thing as "non-consensual" PvP in MMO's. If you're playing a game that allows PvP in any form, you have consented to it as soon as you start playing.

The only example of "non-consensual" PvP I can think of would involve someone forcing me to partake in a PvP MMO against my will.

I realize this is just semantics, but I feel like the wording you use is not exactly what you're trying to express in the article
Tobold, I differ with your assessment on non-consensual PvP.

I play MMORPGs to PVP. I circumvent as much of the fancy PVE content as I can simply to reach the level cap to I can PVP. Once there I utilize any and all PVP methods for improving my gear as are made available. I never play shooters. I used to play RTSs but haven’t since UO came out. I quit UO precisely because they introduced candy land (Trammel). I’m not a ganker or PKer. I play PVP for fun and enjoy the challenge. I understand that there are differences in ability and gear in MMORPGs but it’s still fun for me. Just last night I went to the Gurbashi Arena hoping to snag the chest only to find 3 horde there. I tried and failed to take them down, but I’ll go back again because it’s fun for me.

I understand that I am in the minority, but PVE is not fun for me. Its tedious. I don’t enjoy learning scripted encounters. I enjoy random challenging PVP in MMORPGs and will continue to throw my time and money to support it.
The thrill of non consensual PVP with risks such as asset loss is in the risk - getting into nullsec in EVE and then back out to highsec with valuable items is all the sweeter when you lost two ships trying the same thing the previous day.
The only risk in WOW consensual PVP is the risk of getting one token instead of three, and having to grind for half an hour longer.
@Anonymous about the "non-consensual" PvP: I've said that before as well. There's no such thing indeed.
I think what Tobold means, is that he doesn't want to be attacked unexpectedly by a player.
This is what I hate about people who reply to blogs. You guys are arguing his word usage and not the topic.

I don't want to be killed on my 74 Warlock by someone who is level 80. I have no chance of winning and at best I can run away and hide. I'm with the majority of people who feel this way too.

Attacking my character when I'm at 10% health after I got trained isn't fun either. You are essentially ganking me. No on attacks someone when they think they will lose. The vast majority of all PvP games are about exploiting the weakness of others, be it from levels or sheer numbers.

Stop hiding behind the "you choose a PvP server" excuse because you are just deflecting from the real issue.

Alot of Pro PvP people say that non-consensual PvP and ganking are different, and they can be. However as soon as someone asks to limit the ability for you to kill someone to with in 10 levels of you or so people tend to scream outrage. (this happend in WAR)
Some good commentary here.

I think what Tobold doesn’t take into account is the inherent motivations as to why a casual PVP plays.

To best illustrate, Ill recount an experience I had in the very early days of MMO PVP.

After a couple of years playing UO I had amassed my most prestigious set of armor. It nearly all matched and all had stats on it. One day I convinced a band of friends to embark on an adventure through a dungeon for some PVE like fun. Being the leader of the band, I donned my best armor and we headed off. Upon approaching the entrance to the dungeon we were informed that there were some PKs who had setup an ambush inside. Since we were a guild with good intentions we considered countering them, but instead I suggested we sprint past them.

I went first, followed by my trusted friends and easily made it through their gauntlet. Sadly my friends did not and were embroiled in a brawl. I turned back to help defend my friends and was promptly dispatched. As you may be aware, when you die in UO your body can be looted and all that shiny armor I had accumulated over months was lost.

You may reflect on this as an illustration as to why non-consensual PVP is bad, but for me it is actually one of my fondest memories of gaming, for it illustrated that even my well earned gear was not as important as the camaraderie I had with my band.
Tobold: "Thus my strong dislike of non-consentual PvP. It nearly always leads to the attacker being superior in numbers or in level beating down some victim who never had a chance to start with. Where is the fun in that?"

I don't get it. This is how every competitive game or sport in the world works.

In chess, for example, the player only makes a move when he has a superior advantage over his opponent. In football, the quarterback passes the ball to the guy who is clearly taller and more athletic than his defender. In basketball, the player looks for a mismatch on the defense to score points.

Inequality makes games FUN! So this idea that to make PVP fun, all players would need to be on equal footing is the antithesis of what it is all about.

If you are outnumbered, make allies. If you are outgunned, arm yourself. If you are out-leveled, gain more levels. Really, not that hard to figure out...
Epiny said: "The vast majority of all PvP games are about exploiting the weakness of others, be it from levels or sheer numbers."

In a rts or tbs strategy game that would be considered as a valid tactic. You attack the enemy where it's weakest. How come this strategy should be shunned in pvp mmo game?

I should let you rest and bring your health and mana back to full before I attack you? If there are 2 of you and 3 of us, one of us should not attack? This argument always reminds me of an old penny-arcade strip:

(I hope urls are allowed in here...)
Crapicus, that url got stripped away as I thought... The comic is from 2002/4/22, go and find it yourself. :)

Analogies are bad because they steer the conversation away from the main topic. However in a RTS you don't start out with 30 more units than your opponent at the begining of the fight. All of your units in the RTS aren't fully upgraded at the start of the game. That is more akin to what ganking is. Your opponent doesn't have a figthing chance.

That is what makes non-consensual PvP so unpopular is that the VAST majority of attacks are done when the victim has a very small chance of survival.
@Epiny: I'm not trying to argue the choice of words, they're just not clear to me. To me it looks more like you're referring to griefing or unfair PvP instead.
Anyway, I think you and Tobold are right. I tried Eve for a couple of weeks recently and it has this great feature where you can check out a player's custom written bio. From what I've seen it pretty much matches the stereotype of the small group of players that enjoy playing these games (as long as they're not the weaker ones, ofcourse).
An interesting topic, to be sure. One thing, however, for those that argue that folks don't give PvP a chance, or don't have the right attitude about it...

...they feel the same way regarding your attitude toward PvE. If you're not going to change, you shouldn't expect them to. And the PvE'ers far outnumber the PvP'ers.

How many PvP-centric games have a sub base over 100k?

How many PvE-centric games have that or more?

People vote with their wallets in this case, and there isn't a "fond memory story" or anecdote that will change that. Only a PvP game with a different design methodology will do that.

Of course, going by some of the comments, being vastly outnumbered by the opposition (PvE'ers)with everything on the line (available style of gameplay)is just the way PvP'ers like it, so would you really want PvP to go beyond a "niche"?
Epiny said:

"However in a RTS you don't start out with 30 more units than your opponent at the begining of the fight. All of your units in the RTS aren't fully upgraded at the start of the game. That is more akin to what ganking is. Your opponent doesn't have a figthing chance.

Everyone starts out at level 1 in a MMO. Everyone starts out with the same gear. Everyone starts out with the same opportunity to join guilds, and find allies.

Everyone has the same chance to win at PVP in a MMO.

Your analogy fails.
@Anon... first off is everyone really going by Anonymous now? Can't you atleast type in something?

No it doesn't. You are looking at an entire MMO game as being equal to 1 RTS match. I'm looking at 1 RTS match compared to 1 PvP encounter.

I was responding to someone elses analogy by continuing on with it, and here we go arguing the analogy and not the topic.

Non-consensual PvP will remain a niche, the end, you can't really argue that. Look at the popularity of PvE servers and look at the popularity of PvP centric games.

Just because YOU like non-consensual PvP and choose to spin it how you will doesn't make it popular.
I want to add more...

Do you really believe everyone has a equal chance? You can't really becase that is just assine.

If I choose to roll an alt today and get killed by a level 80 how is it that I had equal chance on that character?

If someone just bought WoW and is starting a new character, and the latest stats show there is a sizable portion of them, how is my chance equal to fight someone who has spent hundreds of thousands of gold on a twink.

It isn't. The new player NEVER had a chance. That is why non-consensual PvP (ie ganking) will always be a niche.
If I understand correctly, in arena tournaments, each class is given a set of gear to compete. Therefore each player is on a "fair" playing field where only teamwork, tactics and personal skill decide a winner. This is far from the truth from WoW's current PVP system.

Rather, in wow, BGs, but to a greater extent Arena, PVP is about the exploitation of the imbalance of the playing field. The exploitation of one player's lack of gear vs. anothers abundance of gear. While skill is still important, there is the key factor:

On a balanced playing field, the Y variable (measured, uncontrollable) is player skill while maintaining a constant and equal X variable (gear). On an unbalanced playing field Y is still the uncontrollable variable, but X is no longer equal, making the dependence on quantifiable measurable Y (skill) impossible, or much more difficult to discern.
Yes, it will always remain niche. But playing Darkfall is fun for me despite it's shortcomings (relatively long grind to become viable, not so huge population).

I am achiever, I rarely actively hunt people, although I always join others in defense or in clan raid. But still, the sense of purpose of playing, the joys of winning against odds, even the sadness of losses, they all add the flavor to the game.

It is naive to think that people are searching for fair fights; most just want to win. But for average or under-average player FFA PvP is actually better than the artifical "fair" fights ala battlegrounds. I am far from stellar and my character is not as strong as of some others but I can still contribute since there is no artifical limits, while in 20v20 BG i would be just a hindrance for the others. Not saying that fights are always fair, but if you are in a good clan, when you get ambushed, you only need to call for help and the cavalry is on the way to save you :)

The best though is the social aspect of the game. People depend on each other much more, since they need each other to survive in alien world. This is not a solo-based game with optional instances like WoW clones are, but really a team-based game.

Of course most people can not stand losing, do not want to harm others or they just want to play cool game where they know they have nothing to lose. But I would recommend those who want to try something new to try one of the FFA games for themself; TBH Darkfall is probably more accessible than EvE is.

Do not listen too closely to those who talk how crap these games are, remember that niche is always niche and mainstream tends to frowns on them.
For a time I thought that a good solution against high-level ganking would be awarding negative honor for killing lowbies, but then I pictured a hundred level tens attacking a level 80 who didn't want to hit back... like being nibbled to death by bunnies.
What if a player more than X levels higher were simply not allowed to initiate the combat? Of course you'd still get high level rogues sneaking into the range of a mage's ice nova to start combat, but it might be an improvement.
Epiny said: "Non-consensual PvP will remain a niche, the end, you can't really argue that [...]"

I don't think that anyone is even trying to argue that. As I said earlier, there is absolutely nothing wrong with niche games, and they can look and feel exactly the same as any high profile title because of the server caps anyways (you never see those 10 million players in wow, for example, people on your server can be counted in thousands) (in fact the only well known mmo title without the server cap is a pvp game, go figure).

I think what people are trying to argue in here is that you cannot improve pvp game by making the 'non-consensual' pvp into 'consensual' some way. If you do that, you'll just end up killing the whole pvp game (people playing uo before and after trammel/felucca change should know what I'm talking about).

What most mmo pvp players want in a pvp game is that the combat has plenty of random variables (i.e. think of an arena battle - now think about anything that's not like that), the combat can be massive (4 versus 4 does not a massive make) and the outcome of the combat has some consequences for the gameworld and the character ("hey I just lost but I didn't lose anything, in fact I was rewarded for playing - yay me, I want to lose again, that was fun"). You can have all of those things with 'non-consensual' pvp game. I'm not sure how you could have any of that in a 'consensual' pvp game.

And as a lot of people have said in here already, the whole 'non-consensual' is a misnomer anyways. No one is forcing you to play that game (and let me repeat it once more, there is absolutely nothing wrong with niche games).
Just curious, with all the digressions in the comments, no one mentions Guild Wars' system.

Is it because it's yet another digression, since GW PvP is basically arena style (and therefore consensual under the terms I believe the original post meant), and you do NOT get 'leet gear' from it?

(Seeing as GW isn't about gear anyway...)
I agree in general with your opinions on why non-consensual PVP isn't very popular. Ganking is mostly fun to the ganker and not the gankee.

I have to disagree with your Darkfall comment though. Looking at that link, it seems like its popularity is increasing fairly linearly month-to-month; even if at a small percentage rate. Looks like Syncaine can get another Ferrari!
You could argue that everything in WoW is fair, including PVP. The same rules apply and the same opportunities are open to everyone playing the game. If someone kills you in a BG wearing top arena gear then its because they've put the effort in and got the skill to get it. No one is stopping you from trying to do the same.
As for being ganked on PVP servers by a higher level, I don't see how this is non-consensual when there are so many PVE servers. If you are playing on a PVP server you are consenting to the fact that any one can initiate combat, not just yourself. If you don't want that then you join a normal server, that's the choice.
But having said that, the one's going around ganking lowbies for fun are just the equivalent to bullies in real life and are pretty pathetic in my opinion.
Lots of great opinions here. I love WoW's PVP for a couple of reasons.
1) The thrill of the hunt (or being hunted). Always looking over your shoulder and the need for situational awareness.
2) Measuring the progress of your character against the standard of other players, not just the environment.
3) The thrill of being unpredictable. Trinkets, gadgets, potions, etc are so much more fun in PVP than they are in scripted encounters.
4) It isn't always about damage. When you are under level in a BG, you can still find amazing ways to contribute even when you can't take on anyone one-on-one.

All pvp is attacking from a position of strength against a weaker opponent(s) in a position of weakness whether that be a lower level player, or 2 vs 1 situation.

If you disagree with that then congratulations you are in a very slim minority of players.

Grizzly Bears do not attack other Grizzly Bears for food, they hunt weaker prey; Wolves hunt in packs and pick off single weak animals. PVP is very similar. All the raiding PVE style questing players who play on a PVP server are the herd for the PVP players.

I would venture part of the reason some pvp'ers dislike arena pvp is because you're matched against (ideally) an equally number of player with similar ilevel gear. Players enjoy winning and believe anyone who "beats" them is cheating.
'All pvp is attacking from a position of strength against a weaker opponent(s) in a position of weakness whether that be a lower level player, or 2 vs 1 situation.'

That's quite a generalisation isn't it? You're saying that players never attack anyone of equal level? That would pretty much make arena obsolete wouldn't it.
I agree some players don't like a fair fight (usually the ones who are bad players), but to say all (or even the majority of) PVPers only enjoy fighting against weak opponents is ridiculous. I'm pretty sure that for most players with skill, only ever fighting weak opponents, would soon get very boring. Just the same as a raider would not enjoy raiding against weak bosses of lower level every week (unless of course that was the only way they could ever down a boss).
I'm really surprised we havn't seen a Syncaine QQ post.
Well that they will remain niche that I wholeheartedly agree with. Question is how big this niche is. The way I see there was no single good player driven MMO apparently save for UO (which I didnt play).

Shadowbane sold over 100k copies and that was most horrible and unstable client/server I ever played (and I played a lot of indy/niche MMOs). On top of it's design was sucks from the get go

One can try and outWoW Wow, which is imho futile as Blizzard is king of polish and has resources to back up its dedication.

Imho EvE is good example of how successful niche MMO could be- I mean this is the most boring game ever , with awful launch (I been in beta and first month) . I couldnt ever stomach to play it ,despite my attraction to pvp and space

Would PvP MMO ever top WoW ? Never. Could it be profitable and even lucrative for a small indy company which delivers quality product? -definitely

Though not my emphasis on quality. ALL pvp mmo to day had very newbie designers who have no clue what makes the game fun, the core gameplay is simply flawed to the bone. On top of this every single pvp mmo had horrible technical issues

I mean look at eve. They game at its core is boring garbage , their only redeeming quality is good client and player driven world. Those 2 features alone have 500k subs
Tobold said - "PvP is best when it is 'fair'"

I would just like to note this is your opinion; I actually prefer PvP when there are uneven numbers.

Sure it's fun when you have more people than your enemy, but I actually even enjoy times when we're outnumbered. When my team wins a battle where the odds were against us- well that is just an awesome feeling that you'll never experience if you keep avoiding "un-fair" PvP.

Plus, it helps you get better when fighting the odds.
But the same person who loves a nice game of Counterstrike might well hate PvP in MMORPGs. Because the fundamentals of PvP are not compatible with the fundamentals of MMORPGs.

This is me completely. I can't stand PvP in MMOs since it is almost always uneven. That doesn't make for a fun fight. PvP needs to have rules which make the players start on an even playing field.

Some of my favorite games are PvP. Counter-Strike, TF2, MW2, StarCraft, and Warcraft 3 are all PvP games which I love. I have never found an MMO which is close to reaching the fun of a balanced PvP game.
I don't think that PvP needs to be fair to be fun, at least not for me. But it needs to be balanced, that's for sure. I think that a great PvP mmorpg needs a very short gap between noobs and vets. Actually, if this gap gets reduced in Darkfall I think its subscribers would increase.
I Darkfall improves enough, it could be the game that breaks the "niche" conception. Anyway, rpg is a lot more than character progresion.
Yeah it's niche because you can only opt out of mismatches by logging off.

In a FPS I can always play a few rounds, and leave for a different game if I suck. Or I can set up games with friends. While every competitive game is never really fair due to skill, I can make or choose them to be as fair as I can tolerate by consensual play.

Nonconsensual games though you have no choice to make the actual PvP experience enjoyable by self-balancing. A game like EVE though is successful because it really is consensual pvp 90% of the time by changing security space, and players opt in by doing so.

Combine that with the trend of any competitive play to be dominated by experts and you have a recipe for niche status.
dont seem to know much about TF2

the classes are unbalanced and there is an annoying leveling system

it is far from being counterstrike-like or even the original TF sadly
I would agree with most of what you said there, and to illustrate it (as someone who actually likes open-world PVP) let me give you an example of how far I had to go to get it.

I used to roll new horde characters (particularly hunters, druids or rogues - but mostly hunters) and get them to roughly 16-24th level with no legacy gear, enchants or items they didn't get on their own. Once there, I'd take the zep to Stranglethorn, hike across some pretty rough areas (most mobs along the coast are 32=40th), through Duskwood, and into the Zlliance-heavy (but still contested) 16-25 zone called Redridge.

Once there, I'd head to the predominantly 20+ area along the road between the mines and the Blackrock castle, and look for alliance players. Regardless of their number or level, I'd do my best to find ways to attack them, on their own turf, with no other horde players anywhere in sight, with the added risk that all of the mobs there hated me just as much as they hated the alliance players (and were often higher level than myself to boot).

I loved doing this - not because I got to say 'ha ha I pwned you' but because I could PvP against people slightly higher level than myself in a relatively popular alliance zone. It wasn't completely fair, admittedly (they never expected hordies to be there because the zone was relatively isolated) but it was way more fun than constant battlegrounding, and always kept me on my toes.
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