Wednesday, May 14, 2008

PvP organization and Age of Conan

When developers decide to make a good size portion of their game devoted to PvP there are a couple of key decisions that control the direction it takes. The first decision is about the scope of PvP in the game. Some games that mostly want to focus on raiding have almost no PvP except for small areas that allow players who enter to attack one another. Very boring but sometimes that's all you need, like in the case of classic Everquest. Other games like EvE Online go the opposite route and have large portions of their world available for PvP combat. Still others restrict player combat to instances designed to enforce rule sets on players. Both World of Warcraft and City of Heroes favor systems like this which are often considered the most fair if not the most exciting.

But while the scope decides the type of audience a game will attract the major decision that makes or breaks a game is how the PvP is organized. Developers in the past have chosen to ally players by either guilds, factions, or just to have a free for all rule set. All three are viable and can be fun under certain circumstances. The problems come about when they don't mix well with the scope of PvP in the game. Just to give one example imagine a MMO where the only PvP took place in a few open areas with no rules or rewards. It doesn't really make sense to place faction or guild requirements on players in this game and doing so would just hamstring what little PvP existed. There are other match ups between scope and organization that make even worse sense.

Probably one of the worst things a game can do is to drop players into a MMO with massive open world PvP and no means to ally themselves with anyone. Luckily, Funcom isn't stupid and they made it so players can align with guilds or even play on a carebear server. The problem I see is that a lot of people coming from World of Warcraft are going to think they know what it's like to play on a PvP server. However, open world PvP is very different in a faction based game compared to a free for All one. And while technically Age of Conan is going to be organized around guilds I don't this will really come into effect until the later levels.

I think initially we are going to have a lot of players trying out the PvP servers and then discovering how much having factions softened the blow in World of Warcraft. We'll probably start off with something that looks a lot like Ultima Online back when it only had the PvP shard. Eventually as guilds establish themselves I expect the greifing to become less common place and the game to resemble EvE Online in some ways. However, I think Age of Conan is always going to have some problems that are unique to itself. The biggest one is going to be chat spam I bet since the game has avatar based combat and no factions to restriction communication. Even the regular servers are going to have border kingdoms and capture the flag mini games which will be sure to spawn some trash talking.

I've had cases before in World of Warcraft where I had players from the opposing faction make an alt so they could throw insults at me after a battleground. It was annoying but I could easily use a command and ignore them. In Age of Conan I wonder if the ignore list will be large enough. I expect every gank to be accompanied by a tell insulting my skill and questioning my sexual orientation. I'm sure over time these types of people will be ostracized but they are going to do a lot of damage to player morale in the beginning. The non PvP servers should be less affected but are still going to have the same basic problem.

So why play on a PvP server in Age of Conan if it’s going to be that insulting and ganktastic? Well for some people the opportunities to be a griefer are going to draw them to those servers. Others like myself are probably used to the sense of excitement and the way small scale battles randomly pop up on PvP servers. It's not for everyone and that's why Funcom included normal servers so they didn't alienate everyone. I just want to make it clear that the choice of whether to play on a PvP or Normal server is going to have much more of an impact in Age of Conan then other games.


steve said...

I personally took it as a compliment when someone took the time to make an alt and tell us how much we sucked because of the beating they received.

Bill Gorman said...

You mentioned EVE Online. I'm still getitng into the game, but I really like how they've organized PvP. Nowhere is safe, but there are a range of penalties on attackers, from nothing to near instant death, depending on where you get attacked. With my limited experience in the game as the caveat, I like it.

Relmstein said...

EVE Online certainly has a unique world PvP scope where different levels of security decide if there are any "guards" nearby that protect you. I probably would have started playing Eve a long time ago except that ships are permently destroyed and I pretty much refuse to play any game with item loss.

I know I've said this before but I wish they just made ships use a durability system much like items in WoW.

Capn John said...

The thing I don't get is the /spit & /lol after someone kills you in a BG.

You kill someone in a BG, they rez and come after you so you kill them again. They rez, grab a couple of buddies to help them out, then /spit or /lol as you succumb to overwhelming odds.

I've fought several players in BGs and the Arena where I've used every skill available to my Toon, only to prolong my inevitable death. When this happens I will try to throw out a /bow or /salute just before I die. But as skillful as you might be, you won't get a /bow or /salute if you /lol as you beat me down.

And yes, I've also rolled Alts to talk to players I just fought in the BGs, but it's always been to acknowledge their skill or compliment them. I liken it to playing a pick-up game of basketball or football, then afterwards your team goes out drinking with the other team.

Maybe that's the Australian side of me though. Do Americans do that as well? Or when the game is over do you all just go your separate ways?

Anonymous said...

Making ships take a durability loss would mean having to redesign many key aspects of the game, going back on years worth of design/balancing and stated goals of the game.

Plus it would completely gut the economy inflation would skyrocket. For all its faults EVE has one of the best economic models in any mmo out there currently.

Rhey said...

In all fairness Relmstein and Steve received those tells after a group of 5 supertwink rogues used the Halloween bat costumes to graveyard camp lvl 19 WSG which I will admit was hilarious to see.

Steve said...

Look, if they didn't want to be graveyard camped in a lvl 19 WSG then they shouldn't have been so squishy. That only drew attention to the fact that they desired the camping.