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r1ft Gaming Blog

A mirror of my gaming blog at The jaded game designer turned corporate lackey. Feedback is always welcome.

Author: Daedren

Conan and Forceful PVE Content

Posted by Daedren Monday April 21 2008 at 11:51AM
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It's hard to get motivated to play yet another MMO sometimes. While some of the industry's most prolific  bloggers are comfortable playing the role of their life not being complete until they play upcoming MMO X, I like to take my usual approach of being skeptic and pessimistic.

One reason is that MMO's are a huge timesink when it comes to committing to a game. Like any business model, one most prevalent in the illicit drug business - MMO's want to hook you early and get you committed to their product. While morally and ethically this might raise a few eyebrows, most of us are too involved in spending the next 4 days of our lives in our underwear trying for a magic pair of gloves in a world that doesn't exist.

Anyway, on to Conan. I've been lucky enough not to give a flying fuck on getting into the beta-test to help QA their product, so I'm just going on what I've read from other bloggers and such, mainly from the recent "Open PVP Weekend" where the NDA was lifted. As stated, this was mainly PVP based, so we're pretty much in the dark about this right now.

What I'd like to put out to my readers is: In a PVP based game, for a PVP focused player, how much PVE content should you have to do to compete in the game?

My concern for AoC, and any game, is the associated timesink that usually goes along with the PVE aspect of the game. As players we usually expect the normal leveling treadmill to at least get to the "Max Level" to be able to enjoy PVP. This might seem like another low blow the age-old "Level System" (and it is) - but most players, even myself sometimes, can at least appreciate and accept playing through the game once to experience it's content.

So, what should we expect? Myself, I'd say the holy grail of PVP / PVE balance would be Dark Age of Camelot, pre-Trials of Atlantis. A PVP-focused player could spend most of his playing time roaming the Frontiers and engaging in PVP combat, and not fall behind too much without committing to the normal grind and treadmill of PVE content - raiding, reputation grinding, etc.

I know for myself and many players like me - the first sign of having to do all of this "work" to stay even on a PVP basis, and it's bye bye Age of Conan. As great as the game might be, many players just can't justify the enormous amount of time that's needed to compete in these games. Let's hope a good balance is found in keeping the true PVP players happy in not forcing them to boring-ol PVE content to keep up with everyone.

So, what's everyone elses thoughts on this? What's your perfect balance? How do you want AoC to be - and what would make you leave?  

This article orginally appeared at the r1ft Gaming Blog and is mirrored here with permission of the author(s).

JB47394 writes:

I would treat PvP and PvE as completely separate game systems, just as I would separate crafting and other systems that are currently mixed together today.  Gaining any accomplishment in one system should have no bearing on the systems in another part of the game.  Players should not be obligated to do one activity before they can have fun with another.

Unless the activities are intimately related.

Knowing where to draw the line is the challenge.  When two systems are naturally related, they should be intertwined.  For example, perhaps NPC politics is naturally related to PvP.  That's a silly example, but the idea is that if 90% of players who seek success in PvP also seek success in NPC politics, then the two systems would be naturally intertwined.

I don't believe that PvE and PvP are naturallly intertwined.  There are enough players who enjoy only PvE or only PvP that one should not be predicated on the other.  For those who enjoy both, they can do both.  They simply make no gains in one by doing the other.

This doesn't require that a character have a PvE level and a separate PvP level.  It could be done that way, or the rewards of each system could be completely unrelated to levels.  Ideally, the rewards would be in some way appealing to the type of person who enjoys the game system.

Mon Apr 21 2008 1:17PM Report
Athelan writes:

Hmm, more or less we have done as JB mentioned and kept them separate. You still require "pve" levels to be effective in PvP but this is lessened by the use of "tiers" where we buff everyone in a battleground to being the same approximate level, and be separating PvP combat stats so that they stack ontop of the normal stats allowing for separate balancing.

The problem is the Holy Grail varies from person to person. Some people want to be able to make fully made characters and just PvP like GuildWars, Others want PvE to be simple and easy like Shadowbane to make a high level character, and others want being high level to be harder to achieve so that they feel more elite by accomplishing it.

Mon Apr 21 2008 1:37PM Report
grimfall writes:

I  still think, and I've never seen it refuted in any fashion, that 'PVP' solely MMO players tend to be griefers.  What is the appeal of playing a MMORPG based upon PVP only?  You're going to get a better 'even playing field' and class balance by far from free FPS games.

Trying to seperate PVE from PVP elements, really makes no sense.  Why do that when you can get a better PVP experience without having to pay $15/month for it?

Mon Apr 21 2008 1:44PM Report
Athelan writes:

Because without sheep, wolves starve. Any designer worth his salt when it comes to designing conflict knows this. Especially in MMO's but its also visible in shooters is the desire for competition and to show you are better than other people. Hence all the achievements/ranks/ladder systems etc you see in new games like Call of Duty 4.

People always make the "free pvp" comment but until FPS's go online with more persistence and thousands of players in one world/area its just not going to be comparable to an MMO.

Mon Apr 21 2008 1:50PM Report
JB47394 writes:

Athelan: "The problem is the Holy Grail varies from person to person."

Can you explain to me why MMO publishers invariably lock themselves into exactly one set of rules for their content?  Surely after having spent the millions needed to produce the content, a publisher would be thrilled to be able to experiment with multiple rule sets to see how players are drawn to each of them.  After all, a modified rule set is much like having new content; the game plays differently.

grimfall: "I  still think, and I've never seen it refuted in any fashion, that 'PVP' solely MMO players tend to be griefers."

Are you suggesting that MMOs need a grind to discourage casual griefers?  There's no other way to accomplish that goal?

Mon Apr 21 2008 2:52PM Report
mystic100 writes:

Man dont write bullshit about AoC. If like and want to play PVP based MMO games then u have to wait. for example Darkfall. And if u ever try RTS games.. it will be full of skill player vs player.. for example soon realesed WorldShift.. is like "Item + Skill + Strategy" Based game.

Mon Apr 21 2008 3:24PM Report
redbug writes:

The system works, people who strive for the best gear in PVE are usually the same people who strive to be the best in PVP. Of course all you will hear is Gear doesnt equal a better PVPer but i disagree. He wouldnt have that gear if he didnt learn his role and do it well and he will not start being a noob when it comes to PVP either. If you want to play a game thats instantly equal in gear try BF2, but you will find the same thing there...those dedicated to being the best will always own you even without the gear.


Mon Apr 21 2008 6:09PM Report
Athelan writes:

Conan does not have one set of rules, that's why it has different types of PvP and different types of servers

Mon Apr 21 2008 6:33PM Report
JB47394 writes:

Athelan: "Conan does not have one set of rules, that's why it has different types of PvP and different types of servers"

Can you point me to a description of the different 'types'?  All I've found so far is PvP, PvE and roleplaying versions of each.  I don't consider those to be different rule sets except in the most academic sense.

Mon Apr 21 2008 8:09PM Report
xenogias writes:

Mystic, get off it. AoC is saying they are a guild based PvP MMO. All the blogger is asking, while understanding that there will be PvE is how much. I think thats a fair question. Although it sounds like WAR may be what he's looking for. While there is still levels you can simply PvP from level 1 if thats all you want to do.

Regardless little troll, get off the flaming people for asking a question and good question about an upcomming game.

Mon Apr 21 2008 9:47PM Report
Anofalye writes:

Not any worser than forcefull PvP content.

Tue Apr 22 2008 12:37AM Report
mystic100 writes:

xeno.. if you ever read his post.. thank you.

Tue Apr 22 2008 1:12AM Report
xenogias writes:

I took a look at his blog again and I still dont see where your getting he is trashing AoC. Unless your talking about where he says he will leave IF and I point out IF there is a huge grind. Thats not trashing AoC if you read the context of the rest of his blog.

Tue Apr 22 2008 7:21AM Report
Crose writes:

If you want PvP combat without the worry of PvE character development, play Guild Wars.  Or better yet, play Call of Duty.  You're asking for two different games set in the same format, instead of one game with different aspects.

Tue Apr 22 2008 8:23AM Report
Azmaria writes:

Guild Wars is great for the PvP due not only to the ability to create a automatic max level character with free access to unlocked weapon mods and runes, but also because of the high level of skill that it takes to actually be good at your role.  However, it should be noted that many of the players play solely for the PvE content, which was done nicely (though got a bit dry after a while, in my opinion).  In everything that has been said about Guild Wars 2, they will be keeping the same arena format, which seems to indicate that the skill requirement will be kept while they plan to make the game into more of the traditional MMO style.

With that being said, I can't honestly say why any other PvP MMO would choose a different style than arena.  You can keep seperate rules, as was mentioned before, because as seen in GW many skills that are great in PvE suck in PvP, and vise versa.  So, accepting that your skill sets aren't going to be the same, you can then play around further with rules to great the PvP experience that is desired.  In my opinion, the MMOs that incorporate free-range PvP tend to have more griefers than arena MMOs, simply because its easier to gank, spawn camp, and generally be a bad person in that format.  Especially once a person has gotten bored with the PvE aspect and still wants to play the game because of friends - arena combat gives them a much better place than being a griefer in the PvE part of the game where a lot of people don't want to bother with PvP combat.

Tue Apr 22 2008 10:48AM Report
markoraos writes:

You know...

Why don't you simply enable players to level up through PvP?


Tue Apr 22 2008 12:04PM Report
markoraos writes:


... this makes much more sense than buffing players up or down to preserve the "balance" in bgs... With separate PvP levels and an ability to effectively stop advancing in levels you'll have such an open-world twinking problem in a few months that you won't believe it...

Tue Apr 22 2008 12:08PM Report
Psilocybine writes:

id like to add who gives a flying fuck... as if someones opinion is gonna change MMO's as we know it.

Game Devs know what sells. and the know what doesnt. so they are going to continue to pump out MMOs that everyone thinks suck for some reason or another.

to someone AoC is the absolute 100% perfect MMO with all the things that thay like and none of the stuff that they dont.

Fact read it and weep

and if u dont like it make ur own game.

im not a mean person but im just wondering why 99.9999% of this website is about how shit a game is according to some person or another.

aside from that a good bit of journalism =)


Tue Apr 22 2008 12:22PM Report
Ozmodan writes:

Actually the best pvp game I ever played was early UO.  Gear was not that overpowering, yet was easily replaced if you lost everything.   Skill at using your character was by far the biggest determining factor in pvp.

I would rather wait and see what they produce rather than criticize a game that is not out yet.  They can't correct mistakes they are not aware of and I am sure their will be many, Beta's only find the big ones.  Give the game a few months before whining about it.

Tue Apr 22 2008 4:42PM Report
JB47394 writes:

The 99.9999% ranting here is done for the very reason that you felt compelled to make your post.  Do you think that your comment is going to lower the percentage of ranting on the site?

Tue Apr 22 2008 4:44PM Report
fagercraft writes:

AoC is a mmorpg, massive multiplayer online roel playing game. RPGs has always involved evolving your character, living and performing its role.

I want one game and the feel of one world where everything comes togheter. I dont want 2 games in one (pvp part and pve part). To thrive in PvP you should have a good PvE backbone, and to thrive in PvE, you shall have to PvP!.

Early WoW was a pretty good example before outdoor bosses where nerfed to hell and never reused, and all new shit was put on instances in there own game. (even the idea of ban warning ppl who wants to stop the enemy raid from gaining the boss is just...)

Today WoW is 2 games in 1.

There should be a balance betweeen the aspects (craft, pve, pvp and so on), never seperation amongs them. That is if you truly wish to create a world ppl can play and live in. This is often why ppl have been trashing instancing, but with todays hardware its a awesome tool still, just dont overuse it.

Still would like to see instancing where PvE and PvP existed in same instance, devs today are hellbent on having pve instancing and PvP instancing seperated. Wich sucks.

Btw, im a PvE player mostly. Not a raider, a pve player.

/end rant

Tue Apr 22 2008 7:58PM Report
Daedren writes:

Thanks for the feedback everyone. Lots to comment on here... let me get started.

@ Psilocybine: I've written both positive and negative articles. I agree that I mostly "take the piss out of" or criticize MMO's - I feel that the genre itself should be under constant scrutiny. People spend an enormous amount of time in these virtual worlds - why not try to improve on them?

@markoraos: I've heard Warhammer will do that. I haven't heard on Age of Conan. I agree, though, that progression should be possible through PVP.

@Crose: I played Guild Wars, and I currently play Call of Duty 4. We're talking apples and oranges here. MMO PVP has always been at a different level due to the different play styles. COD is a Frag Fest - you don't have the "Roleplaying" element that you do in MMO's. Your actions as a person in an MMO allows you to have a reputation and forge social relationships.

Wed Apr 23 2008 3:53AM Report
Daedren writes:

@JB473954: You're absolutely right in a way. Controversy sells. The problem is, I'm not selling anything. I'm really just writing what I feel needs to be written. 

The altruistic side of me says that maybe what I write will be for the greater good of the MMO scene. That, of course, is merely speculation and perhaps a bit pragmatic.

In any case, thanks for reading. I have 2-3 other articles about done, but they are all fitting into this 99.9% category. What's a good 0.1% article?

Wed Apr 23 2008 4:08AM Report
JB47394 writes:

Daedren, I didn't mean to be cynical, and I definitely wasn't taking you to task about anything.  I was replying to Psilocybine's comment, pointing out that he was doing the very thing that he was ranting against.  I didn't attempt to observe that many bloggers write out of a sense of altruism because his post suggests to me that he considers the very notion of altruism rather alien.

Keep right on blogging and presenting those ideas.  They help at least some of us think about game design.

Wed Apr 23 2008 9:23AM Report
Daedren writes:

Thanks for the feedback JB. ;)

Nice to hear some encouragement. You should love my next article. It'll be on tonight. Hah... *suspense*


Wed Apr 23 2008 10:35AM Report
Melf_Himself writes:

As a couple of others said, Guild Wars has a really convenient PvP character system where you don't have to work very hard at all to make a max level character decked out with the best items/skills. The catch is, if you want to LOOK good, you have to do PvE to become rich enough to afford it, which is a good compromise in my opinion.

Often people will try out many different PvP characters and builds and eventually decide on a particular favourite, and then level up a PvE version and get it "decked out" to become PvP ready. Still get all the neat character customization options in terms of armor/weapons etc, but don't have to grind to be competitive. Win-win imo.


What would be even more ideal is an MMO that has an awesome, dynamic AI system that is so good that it is comparable to the best human players (eg supercomputers vs chess champs). The AI would of course have to be scalable to make areas of varying difficulty. The point is, such AI would *feel* a lot like PvP, and as such I don't think that players who are predominantly PvP in regular MMO's would feel like *oh no I have to PvE to get gear*.... they'd be thinking *sweet I'm gonna do some PvE to get gear, and I'll try out builds x y and z while I'm at it, since I'd like to use them in PvP*... etc

Is such an AI system possible? It will depend entirely on the combat system.... and I've never seen an AI system in any RPG that would be able to determine the best possible actions in a team-based conflict. Not sure how AI in, say,  RTS games stacks up against the top players (I get pwnt by the computer in starcraft, because I suck :p)

Wed Apr 23 2008 10:36AM Report
Daedren writes:

Melf: That's a pretty good idea actually. I included something similar in my latest game design project. However, I didn't think of actual progression as far as gear / build to be included in the AI.

The problem with AI coding is it's pretty hard. Take FPS botting AI, for example. Put them on insane difficulty and it's not that the bots are really more skilled, it's that they are utilizing the advantages of being native to the program running them - no lag, no aiming issues, etc etc.

The best AI to date I've ever seen coded is actually in Oblivion. Not the original game - the AI is pretty crap actually. Some community mods, however - FCOM to be exact - implemented a ton of AI changes that made the fights extremely challenging and realistic.

Of course you still ran into stuff like pathing issues and the like, but the AI itself was pretty well done. Enough to amaze you, piss you off, and make you downright laugh at some of the stuff they do.


Wed Apr 23 2008 11:32AM Report writes:
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