Friday, February 20, 2009

The PvP QQ problem

Scott Jennings has a post up in which he whips the dead horse that is the imminent Darkfall release. He says that a PvP MMO can't work, people will realize they hate it, and will then scurry back to whence they came (PvE).

He is wrong.

What WILL not do too well in today's market is a 'hardcore' PvP MMO, where people can grief the pants off each other (literally). Such games are

a) Not indicative of the success in general of MMO's that focus on PvP
b) Almost always riddled with various other problems, as Scott mentions but somehow brushes aside (bugs, crashes, lag, or horrible combat systems never designed with PvP in mind)

So, could we all please stop QQ'ing about how nobody wants to play an MMO that concentrates on PvP. It's just like the people that QQ that no MMOFPS can be successful because Tabula Rasa and Hellgate failed (hint: both awful games for other reasons completely).

I know that the Scott's and Tobold's of the world want every game to be exactly like WoW, but in that case they should probably just go back there. That is all.


Rich said...

I'll check it out, but from what I've seen, it just looks bad.

I hear what you're saying on the front that Darkfall's success or failure is not a good representation of whether or not people want this *TYPE* of game... but it's not helping that scene progress at all when flops get released that cling to that one feature as their defining 'hook'.

it needs more polish, plain and simple, in order to be taken seriously among its peers in the MMO industry. Saying "yeah it's ugly and clunky and lame, BUT IT HAS FFA PVP" isn't enough anymore.

Thallian said...

Excellent use of raw logic my good man/woman I too get tired of fallacious reasoning done that just because something has failed it failed because of such and such attributes. There is no conclusive evidence that any game failed or succeeded base don certain attributes. Of course we as gamers who have tested it think its obvious why it failed (buggy, lack of polish, wont run on a toaster, etc...) But strictly speaking, we still can't say that's why, we can only suspect it was a combination of those things. Anyways I think I also agree that the red herring of FFA PVP has been proven wrong with EVE and will continue to be proven wrong in the future as long as some people figure out how to make it quality fun instead of a drag.

Yeebo said...

If DF succeeds despite a clunky UI and fugly graphics, I think we can safely conclude that there is a core crowd of users that are absolutely dying for FFA PvP in a fantasy setting. But I have to agree, the game flopping won't tell us much.

Nimgimli said...

As it stands, I agree with Jennings but I'd have to hear more about what you mean when you talk about PVP without the griefing. Can you offer some examples?

Because here's the thing with griefing. If you're part of a PK clan ganking other players in 10 or 20 to 1 fights, it can be fun for a while. But soon enough you drive out all those non-PK players who just get sick and tired of being killed every 5 minutes or every time they have to go AFK for 2 minutes to hit the bathroom.

With that fodder gone, all you have to fight are the anti-PK bands roving around. But they put up a fight, and since you prefer fighting with the odds incredibly stacked in your favor, suddenly it isn't fun anymore.

So now that you can't bully people *you* leave. And then the only ones left on the server are the anti-PK squads and they no longer have a purpose.

*If* you could design an open PvP game that somehow prevented those 20 to 1 fights (or 50 to 5 fights, or whatever) then you might have a sustainable player ecosystem. But I'm not sure how you can do that.

Anonymous said...

Lum is known PvP hater, that is he admits PvP exists and some people (often labeled griefers or sociopaths) but stops at nothing to forecast its doom and gloom.

Take anything he says about PvP with a big grain of salt.

Tobold said...

So please tell us, WHAT game IS indicative of the success in general of MMO's that focus on PvP? WAR isn't exactly doing all that well either, shutting down servers and firing people. The comparison is not a simple "WoW vs. Darkfall", but a far wider comparison of how many US/European players subscribe to PvP MMOs and how many to PvE MMOs. Only in Asia are PvP games successful by any meaningful measure.

Anton said...

I've heard EVE online is very successful and fun, and it uses a system of corporations and company alliances. It does include some PvE, though.

Does Darkfall really ONLY have PvP?

There are other ways to make a game fun besides battling each other, too. Such as building up a civilization...A simulation-game element would help a PvP game.

But most importantly is execution. If there's one thing I've learned from playing and developing games, the most important part of making a great game is having great talent involved and pulling off the particulars of the gameplay mechanics. The general idea of a game is never indicative of its worth.

Melf_Himself said...

Pete: What you're talking about is the open-world, no-holds-barred, FFA, often full looting, aka 'hardcore', PvP. I agree that this sort of PvP is lame.

Modifications on THAT level of PvP that can make it work, just off the top of my head:

- The Warhammer approach. RvR only happens in certain areas. You go into those areas if you're looking for a fight, otherwise, you don't. Yes, some haters claim that Warhammer is a failure, and in many ways it is - however this aspect of it is smart and made sense.
- Prevent higher levels fighting in lower level areas (again, Warhammer's approach).
- Minimize the (personal) penalty for dying in PvP. Fast respawn, no loss of items or money or XP. It's not as big of an issue to get ganked if you can jump straight back into the game with no losses, and there's not as much motivation to gank in the first place if you're not causing grief.
- Remove the time > skill item-driven combat system (so that the 'hardcore' players can't accrue more power than the casuals).
- A game design idea I had that would solve this and I think many other problems in MMO's:

Tobold: Most MMO's are complete essence of fail and/or are WoW/EQ clones, as you well know. One that I have played that shows how awesome PvP can be in an MMO (in fact, the only one I've ever played with well-designed PvP, and so probably the only argument that CAN be used) is Guild Wars.

Yes, you can argue that it's not a subscription model, but it has been extremely profitable for NCSoft nonetheless. You can argue that it's not an 'open-world' MMO (being almost exclusively instanced), yet many of the design philosophies required for successful mass online PvP are evident regardless (and there will indeed be many persistent world aspects in Guild Wars 2).

Note that Guild Wars was designed from the ground up with PvP in mind, yet the result was actually a great PvE system as well. The same is not true of most MMO's, which are clearly designed with PvE foremost in mind, with PvP added later (if at all).

Nimgimli said...

Melf -- In the case of a game similar to Warhammer (PvP in many, but not all, areas), then clearly it can work. Even if someone wants to describe Warhammer as a failure (let's see, 300,000 subs at 15/month = $4,500,000/month revenue...that doesn't smell like fail to me) there's no case to be made for DAoC being a failure, and it used the same model. For that matter, EVE fits this model too.

Preventing high levels from ganking low levels is a good step, but (going back to the UO/Darkfall model where there are no levels) what about numbers? UO got frustrating not because you'd get killed by a single more powerful character, but because there were roving mobs of 10-20 PKers running around swarming smaller groups. You had to get a bunch of people together if you wanted to leave town in any kind of safety.

Minimizing the penalties also works to a certain extent, though it depends a lot on the structure of the rest of the game. In some games the penalty of respawning and having to run back to where you were is enough.

Sorry to be so long winded. I actually think "PvP" is a kind of meaningless term without some definitions; To me, PvP implies anyone being able to attack anyone else anywhere anytime. I don't think of Warhammer as a PvP game, for instance. Under some definitions, a game of chess can be considered PvP. :)

I don't think there's much of a market for PvP according to my definition, but I agree that some of the ideas you've described would work.

@Anton - My understanding is that Darkfall is full-on PVP everywhere except in towns.

Melf_Himself said...

"To me, PvP implies anyone being able to attack anyone else anywhere anytime"

Ahh well I can see why you'd say what you've been saying then. To me, PvP is simply player vs player. Yes, that includes games like chess. PvP in most MMO's is barely deserving of the title, as it's usually IvI (items vs items).

Then there's HARDCORE PvP, which is what you define as PvP in general. That's where anyone can be attacked anywhere at any time. I don't really care for that sort of PvP, and for sure I don't think that a game built like that will be anything other than niche.

In terms of a LESS hardcore PvP game (eg Warhammer), of course there's still that problem of being outnumbered much of the time. I think to help balance that out requires either scheduled battles, or only first-come to the battle get to participate, or instanced PvP. The other solution would be to scale the smaller team in power to match the larger team, which would be kind of funny when one guy takes on a hundred, but also fairly lame.

My idea that I linked to above works on a kind of schedules basis... NPC's in the world would be moving towards a battle, which would be broadcast in advance to all the 'higher beings', who would be able to participate in that battle knowing ahead of time what the odds are likely to be like. You'd obviously need a lot of such battles happening all over the world to have enough room for everyone to participate... but my idea there was that if it's a 10 vs 10 fight, each player simply replaces an NPC, so can't alter the numbers from 10 vs 10.