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An Earthbound Perspective

Practical perspective on MMO play and practice.

Author: Dengar

Bolstering a weak faction on a themepark pvp server

Posted by Dengar Saturday October 29 2011 at 10:57AM
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Red is dead kills servers in themepark games.

Think about the mentality of your average themeparker. At their core, they tend to be casual- they want to log in and immediately do an activity that someone else has created, get a reward, and log out. They're not their so much for server politics but to build a character (which is why theme-park games constantly increase level caps and give increasingly powerful items rather than more interesting ones). Yes, there's the group of people who enjoy ladder matches, but they also tend to enjoy the gating mechanisms as well (that is, you have to "earn" the right to play a max level orc berserker and gear it before you can enter the ring, rather than just pick one up and learn it like in an FPS or RTS).

The main issue, however, is that the theme-park player does this by doing in game content by developers. For example, in Darkfall, if a group of ultra-carebears somehow go through the game avoid all intentional pvp mechanics (like village assaults and that long trade route thing) and max out all their stats without fighting another person, they don't have a lot of options end game. They can build ships, but that's mainly for siege damage. Same with the war haulks. Build a city? You're asking for pvp and all it entails- enemies that actually hunt you, potential name calling, loss of assets. These are the things the themeparkers are trying to avoid. Anything that slows them down tends to drive them away. 

Still, there are pvp servers in these games. People can kill each other to try to slow down other people's progress, or they can even kill the opposition to have an area for their faction alone. And this is the heart of the problem: the factions.

When you create your character, you choose red or blue in most of these games. The developers don't allow you to choose a different side unless you want to reroll or, in some cases, pay. On paper, this sounds like a good idea, since it seems like it encourages faction loyalty. The problem, though, is that other mechanics don't reinforce this. The basic 2 faction model's failure has been previously discussed, so let's assume that the game just won't be moving towards something better.

The game mechanics reward the side for winning, as it should be. The problem comes from a few things:

1. Many MMOs on the market. You don't have to play the same game forever! If your side keeps losing, you can just play a new game!

2. When people leave the game or the faction, it makes the faction weaker in it's ability to zerg, the easiest tactic a random group of players can employ.

3. As one faction gets weaker, it becomes known more to the players base, first people on the server, and then to people on other servers, preventing that faction from growing.

Let's expand on 3 a bit. If you're in the blue team, and your side is weak, you may go to your game forums and say, "Come play on our side, we need more people!" I hate saying it, but this actually scares the majority of players away from your factin (problem 2). A best case scenario is you get a group of organized players looking for e-fame that are willing to work with your side. Sadly, you won't see a lot of this, and instead, new players will read your post and say, "Red team it is!" This also effects your ability to get help from people looking to play on a new server. If someone is on another server (or even the same server!) and blue team's losing, and they may decide to go to the red team. 

Don't forget the social aspects of being the winner! "Dude, why are you still on blue team? Delete/faction change to red team so we can play together and you can win!" 

The more unrelenting punishment the opposition takes, the more likely they are to lose more players. I know a lot of guilds want to attract players by showing server domination, but this further compounds the problem. The WoW server my guild is on is in this very situation- "We're horde, we show no mercy to the alliance!" The problem is, there's fewer and fewer alliance to not show mercy to. Instead, pvp is even further relegated to instanced areas of the game, which is not why we roll on a pvp server.

The "red is dead" policy doesn't work well in the long run on in theme park games with 2 factions. I know, it's carebear, and it sucks. The problem is, for you guild/raid/pvp leaders our there, is you have to lose.

Now, hear me out. This doesn't mean going out and just dying. Remember problem #2? It's also a problem when it's your only strategy. When you go out to pvp in groups, if you want to do "red is dead," do it in groups small than what you know the other team can field (at least at first). Use smaller numbers so your faction has to learn some real tactics, like Line of Sight use, focus fire, how to use CC, listen to the group leader or get kicked, etc. When the other side starts to win, they'll hopefully take things to the forums. Instead of "Come join blue team, we're weak!" You'll see people post, "Blue team spanks red team again!" Let'em think you're weak again. Get more rabbits for the hunt. Once you can see they can field even bigger numbers, start getting back up. Use your new group's better team work again to make yourselves appear like the skilled pvp guild on the server. 

That's not all though. As much as this may suck to hear, call periods of cease fire during population flare-ups, like after a new patch or expansion. Let the other side build up, progress a bit, hopefully become more aggressive. Again, play possum so the other side gets a taste for victory and tries to play better, rather than punishing them until they leave and change factions. You may even need to covertly give the other side information, such as upcoming attacks on their cities or questing areas, so they have time to prepare.

If all else fails (and I have experience with this), and the other side is so defeated that they won't attack you 3v1, you may need to join them. The feasibility of this varies based on the game you're playing. Your whole guild probably won't want to do this, but maybe a few will. If you can join both factions on the same server, this isn't a huge problem, but if you can't, it could lead to a lot of problems in your guild, so be careful. I don't advice to move your main character if that's an option, but rather spend some time leveling up, see what both the leveling and end game experience is like for that faction. Avoid instances! See what happens in the game world, since this is probably what you want to fix. When you get to the point where you are at end game, get good gear, not the best, and start making connections.

Now, so far, most of this assumes you're on the winning side. However, both sides need to make use of this final point: don't purely rely on any one person or guild to help rebuild a lesser faction. Get social. Talk to new server people, try to coordinate with established guilds. See who may already be working on something similar and team up. The idea is that you're changing the attitude of the server as a whole. If you see 10 of your "allies" running from 3 players, call them out instantly, in public (not on forums, but just to the immediate people in the vicinity). Some people will ignore you or try to fight you, but keep your responses public. Shame them into fighting. Those who don't aren't of any use to you (yet) anyway. Applaud people who fight back, and keep a list of them for future assaults. You need to instil a sense of passion in people so you don't always need to be around to hold their hands. 

What really helps is leading large zergs. Find people you can trust and ask them to invite some friends to a city raid or something similar. Try to give them a job: "Can I have people assist off of you for focus fire?" "Would you be the main tank? I need someone with confidence and skill to go first so the healers won't be the first targets but have a single player to focus on in the opening moments of the fight" etc. This will show that you can lead without you actually leading- you'll simply be coordinating, and emphasize that! If something goes well, give the other person that praise! You need to build a set of heroes people look to for pvp when you're not around. 

It's hard work, in case you can't tell. It'll probably take months before you'll see any results, but you will see them if you can find others to cooperate and work with. It sucks that the players need to do this to keep things even. If you don't care about that, no worries (and why are you reading this anyway? ;P ). If this helps you, great! But if you think this is a load of BS, that it's far too much work with little reward, try playing a game with a pvp core instead of a pve raid core. 

MMORPG.com writes:
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