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An Earthbound Perspective

Practical perspective on MMO play and practice.

Author: Dengar

Please Stop Crying: A Mature Defense of PvP Servers

Posted by Dengar Saturday July 30 2011 at 12:14PM
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So there was a recent article about world pvp tactics for griefing in WoW that caused a bit of a stir. I could say I was shocked by what people wrote but, I wasn't. For some reason, there are a lot of people who go to pvp servers who honestly shouldn't be there. No, I'm not trying to sound elitist, or bully people around. Let me be very clear about a few common misconceptions about PvPers and PvP servers.

First of all, if you went to a pvp server, you essentially agreed to the idea of players policing each other. Anything that people can do to mess you up will happen (I will admit that I dislike meta-gaming via spies and thieves since that's more of a real world thing, but I know some games have it, and if I can't take it, I avoid it). Game mechanics can do quite a bit, but you've agreed to give your fellow players the option to kill you at any possible chance. Imagine going into an arcade (do they still exist?) and asking a bunch of people at the latest Street Fighter machine not to fight you because you want to play against the game. To use another analogy, it'd be like if you were playing basketball with a bunch of people and suddenly started kicking the ball claiming you just wanted to play soccer. The tools for that may be available, but the community probably isn't aiming for that activity.

That's really how this works. We're not all jerks. We know what we want from our game, and when you say something like, "I just want to quest" we get confused. Where is a PvPer supposed to play if people on the PvP servers aren't actually there to pvp? There are PvE servers for a reason! It's a similar situation to non-RPers on an RP server. There's a specific game play style we're looking for, and when you ignore your server type and get upset at us doing what the server is set up for, you've made a big mistake. It's your fault if you got ganked on a pvp server and only want to do quests. I'm not being mean when I say this, but trying to save you some grief and the rest of the PvP community some time dealing with someone who doesn't want to play. Please, for everyone's sake, if you can't stand being ganked and don't want to learn to deal with it, play on another server!

Assuming we can both agree on the idea that pvp server's first priority is on PvP, let's emphasize a few other things. We're not "bored losers" with "nothing better to do." Again, a PvP server is for PvPing. Yes, the game has quests, raids, maybe a built in puzzle game. Whatever. We're looking for player versus player action. If you got ganked, it's because we want to play. Even a person going for the easy kills is essentially saying "Get your friends to kill me!" PvP game play is about people, not quests. If we're stopping you from questing, it's only so we can get some pvp going on. Your prize for winning is being able to do whatever grind the game developers tossed you. If you think fighting things programmed to lose and give you purple pixels is more fun than trying to beat another player, you probably shouldn't be on a pvp server. People are supposed to come first.

I've got a bit of a reputation among my guildies as a "nice griefer." I know it sounds odd, but hear me out: I really, really, really want you to bring your friends. I want you to bring your guild. Heck, I want you to bring your whole faction if that's available! I'll kill you a few times, maybe bring some friends so you think you need to bring yours, but if after awhile I can tell you don't have any connections, I'll give up. I honestly kill people so we can get something happening in the game world where people can build a reputation and, hopefully, have some long term effects on the community. World of Warcraft and Rift may not be as hardcore as Darkfall, but I remember a time when you looked at a guild tag and had an idea about if you were going to be attacked or someone on your side was going to run away at the first sign of PvP. If you don't do that on a pvp server, then something's wrong in my opinion, and sadly, more and more often this is becoming the norm.

This brings me to my final point: PvP is community driven. It's not just killing each other, even in a game like WoW where, for some reason, they don't want us talking to each other. Sure, there's trash talkers. Suck it up. Either joke with a trash talker or put them on ignore- all games give you that option. If you hate dying to a trash talker, make some friends and, pardon my French, "push his shit in." Nothing feels as good as punishing a player who doesn't seem like a good person. It's the counter balance to the griefing- people lamers in their place. You don't get that kind of high from PvE. The best RPGs fail to give me that feeling, even if the boss killed my girlfriend, family, and dog. PvP not only allows you to kill people with swords etc, but you can kill them with words. You can convert enemies to friends, friends to enemies if you or they lack social skills, earn the respect of a long time rival, declare a certain part of the game world for your friends/guild, etc. I've sold weapons to enemies so that, in future battles, maybe I can get them to help me for a few moments if need be. FFA pvp is much more conducive to this, but my guild works with some cross faction allies. We can't always talk to each other, but I love seeing them around, even when they gank me 3 to 1 when I'm questing. I'm on a pvp server. I can take my lumps. It's why I joined.

The Two Faction Model: WHY!?

Posted by Dengar Wednesday July 27 2011 at 1:09AM
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So, let's cut to the chase: two factions at war don't work for pvp. They just don't. There's little to no reason to change sides, it costs money to do it or forces you to reroll, and creates huge server issues with long term issues that can eventually kill it. This isn't just my FFA nature screaming in rage (because lord knows those other guys almost always deserved it). WoW and Rift have seen it quite a bit- one side's uneven, the other ends up the bitch, and the only thing that may save the other side is if the stronger side gets bored and leaves the game, even for a bit. That's a best case scenario. Don't player deserve more?

I know the game died, but I still feel Asheron's Call 2's pvp idea was the best for factions. Let's leave out the fact that the most important pvp spots to fight for were FFA zones (I still believe that was a great call since FFA allows players to police themselves). I know Blizzard likes their silhouetting (making character models the basis of identifying another player's side and moveset), but people in Rift could deal with it despite some very similar character models and super flexible skill sets that made figuring out your opponent take a little time. People aren't dumb. As long as combat lasts more than 5 seconds and death means nothing (which is the point of theme park pvp, isn't it?), we can figure stuff out.

The lack of silhouetting as a core feature allowed AC2's players to join one of three factions or remain neutral (which, like Star Wars Galaxies, allowed you to pvp but didn't give you any rewards). If one side got too powerful, the other 2 could join up to take down a common enemy. Once that happened, one of the two sides would eventually try to stab the other in the back, and then the other 2 sides would join up and take that side down.

As well, players would change factions. Yes, some would change to the winning side, but we all know those are usually the bad players. In order to escape certain stigmatisms ("Faction A's full of baddies, all the hardcores are Faction C"), good players change sides. This makes it so that there's several factors that can help alleviate faction imbalance.

With that in mind... really, why are we still doing 2 sides? I know the Star Wars movies usually have 2 sides going at each other, but bounty hunters, smugglers, and spies are abound, yet we once again will have another Star Wars game with 2 sides. TOR had a great opportunity to have a third side in it for the profit, Jedi becoming sith, dark jedis coming back to the light side, etc. Instead, the 2 sides are being thrown at us once again, and without any practical way for us players to change things up to help balance things out. Guess we'll have to wait and see how Arche Age's 2 warring factions + hostile third side works out.

Star Wars: The Cash Cow

Posted by Dengar Thursday July 21 2011 at 4:52PM
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So, for those who've missed it, you can pre-order TOR for a limited time only! Super, great, but the prices...

Let's go back to Rift for a moment to make a comparison. We can ignore Rift's retail collector's addition because that was an obvious cash cow and... well, I know a good amount of people who played Rift, but none but the retail collector's edition.

Now, the regular price of Rift was $50, compared to $60 for TOR. Both games gave you a little bonus for pre-ordering the standard copy, but Rift also gave you access to reduced prices for your monthly fees. TOR... has not mentioned that yet.

Rift's digital collector's edition was $60, as opposed to TOR's $80. I knew a lot of people who grabbed Rift's collector's. Tough, manly men that we are, we were all fairly embaressed about saying it until after launch, as we rode our two-headed turtles. The benefits were hard to beat for an addition $10: a mount you could right as soon as you left the newbie zone and a bigger bag in addition to the little trinket and lower prices? Who played Rift and didn't buy the collector's addtion!? None of my Rift crew had bought collector's editions in the past, but this was actually a pretty good deal. 

TOR's digital collector's addition seems to be $30 for a mount, FRAPS, and some toys. Yes, one may be a combat pet, but I'm mainly looking at stuff that's going to take up pack space it seems. The pet, for all we know, may just be a very low level buff, or, at best, a weak combat pet that helps for the first few levels. Better than nothing, but it doesn't sound like $30 to me.

Finally, ignoring Rift's $80 retail collector's edition, you have TOR's behemothly priced retail collector's edition: $150. You get a bunch of toys only the hardest of hard SW fans might appreciate, plus one of those $6 looking authenticators, but you also get another pet (I rarely bring those out in any game) and: 

Collector's Store

"Unique in-game vendor with a dynamic assortment of items available only to purchasers of the Collector's Edition."

 

I'm... smelling a grab bag. For nearly twice the cost of the regular game, I get toys and this suspicious sounding in game vendor. I don't usually touch collector's editions unless the price tag gives me a good return on my money via in game perks. This ploy appeals to me sense of wanting access to more than the standard players, but the price is so much higher that cheap-skate senses are far beyond the tingling stage. This is a serious threat here folks. I don't have any inside info (atm) on this perk, but I'm thinking, at best, it may offer RP clothes and pets. Maybe even special access to crappy in-game voice chat support. I'd be shocked (and I'm sure there'd be community revolts) if the vendor sells any items of real value, such as high end gear or consumables.

Essentially, the game seems a tad expensive. Sure, a lot of hard work was put into it, and it is Star Wars, but we've been burned before. We've gotten crappy movies and products. The game's also an MMO that seems to emphasize the leveling grind (i.e. different stories based on class/race/options, kinda like a single player game), charging a monthly fee for something I could do in Dragon Age after paying just once. Looking at the price tag on the pre-order options makes me feel a bit like a starving trout looking at a fat worm that seems to have appeared at too good of a time. I've been waiting for this, but I smell a trap.

I could be wrong though. Maybe that mouse droid will have an awesome self-destruct move with no cooldown and scales with levels, which will allow rapid power leveling and won't be fixed for the first 3-9 months after launch. Maybe the in game FRAPs will also allow you to submit videos to Bioware to become e-famous. Hell, maybe that flare-gun will have some sweet use in the world pvp Bioware still needs to discuss. All I know is that, at the moment, I'm not pre-ordering. I will, at some point, but the regular copy's looking like my pal right now. After all, I'm one of the folks looking at this game as an RPG with a lobby as opposed to an MMO. I may not be around long enough to care about a collector's store.

Raiding? Unpopular? Go on.

Posted by Dengar Monday July 18 2011 at 11:16PM
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I was surprised by a recent community highlight article about the unpopularity of raiding. Some people were also surprised by this, but not so much because it's shocking, but because it's such a staple of MMOs these days... one that I think a handful of us are getting tired of.

In the old Asheron's Call days, "raiding" wasn't something constantly forced on you. You didn't have to run raids several times a week and come out empty handed. As a matter of fact, because of the game's loot was randomly generated, most "raid items" were simply an above average item with unique art. Often they could be given away, though sometimes not (unlike in WoW, items dropped on death, though a few didn't). Sometimes an item didn't drop on death, but that only made it kinda crappy. Essentially, more often than not, "raids" led to fluff items (like house items or shortcuts to popular places) or items that gave your character a small advantage (which didn't mean a whole lot since the level cap in that game wasn't something you were expected to hit... at all).

From the sounds of it, you may think that raiding wasn't very popular, and, in a sense, you wouldn't be wrong. Raiding was non-instanced, so you could zerg an encounter. The respawn was fast compared to the week long timers we deal with now. Often, you'd spend a few hours at the raid spot waiting for your turn to get the item, or if on a pvp server, fighting for that right. Some where along the way, developers got the idea that it was more fun to go in week after week to get items than to go once, stand in line, and be done with it.

In AC, raiding was primarliy done for fun, a concept competely foreign to theme park MMOs. Encounters usually included the terrain you fought in or the way you got into a dungeon. For example, one dungeon might have fast spawn times, so you'd be under constant attack as you slowly made your way to the bottom, trying not to get overwhelmed by mobs while looking for a special mob, not much harder than the ones you were fighting, but sheer numbers alone would make it a night to remember. Other raids involved epic journies across the world, collect parts from various dungeons in order to unlock a dungeon so that you and your friends could ALL get a special item. Granted, it may have been near useless, but since the game had housing, you should show it off. It was true prestige, since the journey there often took a decent amount of coordination, not months of running the same bosses over and over again.

Darkfall, a newer sandbox MMO, also has "raids" in the form of gigantic monsters capable of easily slaughtering unwary travelers. They don't sit in dungeons waiting to be killed, but roam the map. Yes, they have certain areas they prefer to hang out in, but it's not uncommon to be found by them as a new player or veteran simply trying to go from town to town. Because they're out in the world killing travelers, there's some incentive to kill them, and the rewards aren't too shabby. Saddly, like in WoW, it may take awhile to be "done farming" them, but the large amount of cash they drop can be divided up (cash having decent value in Darkfall, meaning there is some incentive to participate). Again, unlike WoW, these large monsters aren't primarily used as loot pinatas, but by and large for fun. It's a good change of pace and gives players bragging rights.

Much like "quests," theme park MMOs have turned a sandbox concept that was about fun and prestige into a simple grind. The amount of work raids take in order to essentially be "normal" is neither fun nor worthwhile for many of us. Few video games aside racing and puzzle games put emphasis on repetitive game play and call it a feature. Even then, games like Mario Kart have enough fluff and variety involved that the gameplay is fun. Losing in Mario Kart only wounds your pride. Few people, such as my brother, honestly get upset when they spend a night losing in that game. It's mainly fun, no matter who wins or loses. No one leaves wipe night in a new raid and says, "That was fun!" except for raid/guild leaders who know they have to keep morale up.

MMO Dailies or How They Make You Log In

Posted by Dengar Thursday July 14 2011 at 11:12PM
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Dailies. They're not just in MMOs. Oh, you may have bumped into these in World of Warcraft or Rift, but I remember dealing with similar features back in Pokemon Silver and the original Animal Crossing, once games could hold internal clocks that were supposed to synch up with real world time. Console games usually use it to give you some sort of bonus: better xp, new items, special items, etc. Sometimes, it may be to prevent something from happening (like in Animal Crossing, your house may have roaches or weeds piling up if you don't come on often). Usually, though, it's just that: a bonus. Missing a day isn't horrible, and sometimes the "dailies" will pile up so you can do them at your leisure.

In MMOs, dailies are your chore list. They won't pile up. Missing a day may set you back and prevent you from playing with friends, and even if you do perform them, you have to wait several days or weeks (maybe even months) before you get anything of value from them.

As the GM of our WoW branch said (sarcastically), "Oh no, they're trying to make you play! How terrible!" And he makes a valid point. After all, MMOs biggest drawing point for casual gamers is that it can be a way of stretching their dollar. Replace spending $50-$60 on a regular basis for new gaming in exchange for expansions about every other year and a $15 (or less) fee per month where you get new content maybe 4 times a year. 

The problem is that dailies are rarely fun. Some people are under a lot of pressure to get them done or else they feel like they fall behind (and truth be told, they do, until the currency/items gained no longer matter). So how can this system be changed?

Here's a few suggestions:

1. Stacking dailies. Most of the time, it's collect 10 flowers, kill 10 rats, etc. Why not simply extend the limit to 7 per week so people have more time to do them. Then you can kill 70 rats in a day, or spread it out. Whatever fits your schedule. I'm sure charges could be added for tradeskills that use similar mechanics as well.

2. Use dailies to introduce fluff. Perhaps as gifts that give you consumable food that turns you into things, dyes for armor, cosmetic mounts, etc. 

3. Move "progression" gating away from dailies for individuals, and more towards the greater community. If the SERVER earns 3k of [insert new currency here], everyone gets new dailies/zones/raids/etc. Nothing's massive about getting a quest from an NPC your friend can't see just b/c he took a 2 day vacation to Vegas and spent 4 days recovering. Just because he was an idiot doesn't mean you should punish me by making me lose out on my pocket healer!

4. Tone down the hamster wheel for solo players trying to get "wellfare epics." Dailies aren't the way to do it. Crafting is ;P If you wanna attach daily timers to that, fine, but please see suggestion 1. When I log in to do something only available for a 24 hour period, do you really want me to be moaning "ugh, 4 more days till my Blood Axe of Bleeding," or do you want me to actually have some fun?

5. NO MORE KILL/COLLECT/DELIVER DAILIES. Honestly, that tends to be most regular quests. Use dailies as a way to get away from the hustle and bustle of progression. These tend to be aimed at solo players anyway (9/10, aside from some fluff, most group oriented players can get better gear, and faster, by raiding than from dailies, or gear from dailies simply fills in some holes). If you want to hold onto solo players who play MMOs (still an odd concept to me, but whatever), it might help if you gave them something fun to do. I know I did some old school WoW quests long after I needed to just b/c they were fun.

Blizz hits the PvP community again in 4.2

Posted by Dengar Saturday July 9 2011 at 9:31PM
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As if nerfing arena gains, forcing pvpers to do both arenas and RBGs (as opposed to either or such as at launch and throughout 4.1), and not updating the supposed world pvp zones, Blizzard once sticks it to their pvp community. 1 week after turning the high-end pvp currency into low end currecny (and turning any low-end currency into gold), as well as shifting the previous high end gear into the low end category so it can be bought more easily, Blizzard then releases new armor in the low end category that makes even the recently downgraded high end armor even lower.

While we all knew that the purples we had were essentially going to be more like blues, we did not hear, or even guess, that our armor would be nerfed by 2 new tiers of armor. The lack of communication for even some of my relatively new-to-WoW guildies (that is, those who just started raiding at the end of Lich King) are confused and a bit hurt by this move. It's hard to explain it to them, even as a vet, since this is something Blizz has never done.

As others have said, it feels like Blizzard is mainly aiming at the casual of casuals who simply wanna grind, and the ladder match crews, when it comes to pvp. World pvpers and BG fans are still stuck in an awkward area where we don't have access to the moderately high end stuff without needing a decent amount of coordination. Remember, we essentially need a full raid (no 9 manning it) for RBGs, and have to defeat real people to win our "epics." Yes, we can pvp, but as previously noted, the change to the high-end PvP currency actually gives you less of the currency than you could previously achieve even after Blizz attempted to raise the limit on weekly acquisition. 

I know myself and a few others were already kinda "meh" about 4.2, but this sort of thing is driving up the "MMO vactioners" in my guild.

WoW's 4.2 and World PvP

Posted by Dengar Monday July 4 2011 at 4:21PM
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So, Blizzard's 4.2 has introduced a new daily zone that restricts flight, attempting to help the game's world pvp crowd. Why new additions weren't made to Tol Barad is a mystery, since that's been the world pvp "hot spot" (or was supposed to be). The previous expansion's Wintergrasp zone saw far more activity and was constantly upgraded, and also allowed flight during the non-BG event.

While the new zone sees some decent traffic, the problem is that Blizzard has implemented a safe zone right next to the starting questing area. By "safe," I don't mean the use of guards, but by granting pvp immunity as soon as a person steps over the line. There is no count down, just raw invincibility, so that people can simply camp the line, attempt to kill people, and jump over to safety when things get bad. This wouldn't be an issue if the zone were more open, but there's a pretty decent bottle neck that may prevent a person from escaping.

The result is, like a decent portion of WoW, a heavy restriction on the ability of players to police their own community. Because people can avoid pvp as soon as it's inconvenient for them, retribution can be close to impossible without zerging and heavy CC, and even then, some classes just can't be stopped if played correctly. 

The issue may start to disappear as quests open up deeper into the zone, making it so that line humpers have to wait longer to see their victims, but persistent players will still be able to grief other players in relative safety.