Sunday, September 20, 2009

Meaningful PvP

I guess I'll be starting out with an MMO post. Ironic, considering my previous blog was supposed to be about games, and I switched to this because I wanted to write more diverse posts.

Tobold's thought of the day is "Meaningful PvP". His initial thought is that meaningful means it has to hurt someone, otherwise it doesn't matter to people. This led to an interesting discussion in the comments, and I found myself agreeing with a couple people, including Garumoo's blog post. I ended up writing a ridiculously long set of comments in response, but I decided I'd repost them here, since I like the thoughts so much. I'll be expanding on them more in the future.

Skat, Soccer, Badminton, ludo, chess, strategy games,

Sure, they reset, Tobold, but I think the complaints of some people is that they feel like they're in one giant game of chess, and that someone's reseting the game every time a single piece is taken. That might be a better metaphor for that point of view.

I'm with the commenters pointing out that meaningful pvp doesn't have to be "if you lose, it hurts a lot". Obviously you have to have some penalty for failing on a small scale in any game; you even lose some time in WoW if you die. A good example of one of the times when it hurt a lot to fail in WoW was the suppression rooms in BWL in vanilla WoW. Anyone remember that? Having to start over an hour-long aoe grind if you fail on the boss was very painful. Obviously, they don't do that any more.

However, I feel that the MMO community is stuck in this either/or idea: that you either have losing hurt, or your pvp is meaningless. You just have to get more creative - and more convincing - in making pvp have an impact that is different from simply forcing the other player to lose.

Now, I don't know if it's possible to do that on a 1v1 scale, and frankly, I think that'd be a waste of time to try, since this is about massively multiplayer games.

I think Garumoo's blog post is brilliant, and is rather close to what I've been thinking about the past few days. What about making a game world where two factions fight for dominance, and it quite possible for one side to win and take over a zone (and potentially the whole world), but when they take a city or town or mine, the other faction modifies it's tactics and moves it's base to more stealthy locales? For an easy example, imagine Undercity getting conquered by the humans, and the forsaken take to deeper tunnels in the sewers, staging sneak attacks on the now conquered territory.

Furthermore, when a zone changes hands, change the zone! Change the town to follow the other faction's visual theme; change the quest givers and their quests; change the layout of the town. Thanks to phasing, the technology is probably ready. Plus, if you can see the effects of doing quests, even repeatable ones become a bit more exciting. Take the whole set of quests for the buildup to war against AQ in WoW, and make it small enough scale to fit just a town, and you have people actually seeing the effects of their contributions.

And don't forget the "losers", since they're the ones we're most worried about, right? Give them a secret hideout in the woods next to town, perhaps some secret passages into town, or to out of the zone. Perhaps the hideout contains a vendor who sells magical camoflaging cloaks that allow the user to do something like Nelf shadowmeld only in that zone. Instead of the original quests, build quests around the npc's interrupted plans. Have quests to go out and assassinate enemy npcs, or kill a couple enemy players.

On top of that, perhaps have a quest to kill an enemy player and steal the payload they were carrying for a quest in their new town. Enemy player collecting wood for building new guard towers? Kill him, loot just the wood off his body, and turn it in to build your new hideout. And there's another way of making the losers lose in a meaningful way, without making it ridiculously painful. And if you object to assassinating players, remember that those are quests to assassinate players of the winning faction. Set the rewards right, and as soon as a zone falls, the losing faction will have lots of other players pour in to take advantage of the new quests.

This does have the danger of becoming a world of a dozen different Lake Wintergrasps. In other words, a system where both sides simply switch places regularly, because it's the most rewarding. So you'd probably want to try to strike a balance in rewarding the changing of hands. However, if you set things up in such a way that zones take at least a few days to change hands, I think it would be substantially better than wintergrasp.

Ultimately, this is about the players shaping the world. Not in its entirety, but it'd be a great compromise between WoW and Eve, so to speak. Imo, Eve has been good at letting players shape the game such that the game feels real and dynamic. WoW has been phenomenal at creating the illusion that the game is real and dynamic.

I remember questing in the Grizzly Hills in WotLK, and seeing a herd of horses running around, actually acting like a herd, running in a group. But now I think, if I could, for instance, attack that herd, perhaps with a group of teammates, and drive it through an enemy town to cause distraction and damage, that would be a step up.

I read about Cataclysm, and think that the changes are cool, but then I suspect that the change is ultimately going to be a static change, and eventually everyone will get used to it, and that's a problem. I think about the zombie plague that happened for about a week some time prior to the release of WotLK, and thinking it was really cool to see the world in the grip of actual chaos. It was annoying, and difficult to play my normal way, true, but it was also exciting and more immersive. And when I died to a zombie, I didn't feel like I was hurting from that, because then I got to be a zombie for a while, which was fun in its own right, partly because I was now playing a slightly different game.

Apologies for the long comment, and also for the predominantly WoW-related references, but I figured it was the most likely to be recognized by the most people.

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