Greedy Goblin

Friday, September 9, 2011

Cool knights vs lame orcs

I wrote a plan about a potentially successful PvP game. But now I'm not sure about that scheme.  So here I am with a new basic gameplay plan. At first let's review why PvP games are small niches: You can't nerf the opposing players, so the bad players will lose and losing is "not fun". If they leave, the next bunch will be the "losers", until we have nothing left but the hard core, players who accept that they lose to superior players and try to be better instead of whining.

Please note that the solution of WoW (rewards for losing) can't be used in a PvP focus game. While you can give gear to the suckers, they still be suckers. In WoW, the high ilvl PvP gear (please note that PvP gear is higher ilvl than equal tier PvE), is usually used to boost ilvl to get in PvE groups. The rewards in a PvP game are useless, as the player still can't have fun with them, since he still sucks.

Also, in a PvP encounter, a bad team member is huge problem, so the players would be very unwelcoming to bad players. I proved in Wintergrasp that the most productive action to do is yelling on bad players, forcing them to stop having "fun" and do something productive, or bully them away. Neither is good for keeping large playerbase. That's why Blizzard killed WGClean instantly and that's why they put so long cooldown on random dungeon kick.

So here is the idea of the successful faction-based PvP game: "cool knights vs lame orcs". The basic activity of the game is PvP. It can be TB-like orchestrated territorial control PvP, "engage at will" PvP where you gain resources by killing opposing faction players or even series of instanced battlegrounds. As I said, I outline the basic design and you can build several, significantly different games on it.

The factions access to the same classes/skills, gear, consumables and the maps are also unbiased. The trick is that the "cool knights" also access various cosmetic and "fun" items. Gear visual changes (basic gear is simple or outright ugly), various mounts (that are just as good as the basic mount, but there are so many to collect), minipets, tabards, player hoursing and tradeskills that create all that crap. The "lame orcs" have no such things. They cannot use any cosmetic stuff and their NPC city is also spartan.

Another difference is the reward distribution: the orcs get high reward for winning but no or even negative reward for losing. The knights get moderate reward for winning, but a small positive reward for losing. The official charts rank orcs for victories and objective captures, while rank knights for individual damage, healing or killing blows.

You see where it is going. Despite the formally equal chances, the orcs will practically always win against the knights. The "play to win" players would leave the knights pretty fast and join the orcs while the "play for fun" players will join the knights. Despite the losing streak, the knights would still not quit, as they would clearly see their character to progress. From their lost games they would get rewards to get more cosmetic crap, and also they can see themselves higher and higher on the damage charts. So all the knights would have a solid belief that they are great players, just held back by all the noobs. Sociality and friendliness would also be on that side, "no raging" could be GM enforced. At the end, the "knights" would feel superior to the "orcs" who win over them, as they see them as "loser no-lifer nerds", while themselves as "fun ppl".

The "orcs" would obviously be happy winning.


Andru said...

You're contradicting yourself.

While you say that there would be no formal difference between the teams, then you track back and say that the Orcs could vote out failers, while the Knights would not get this option.

That's a pretty big formal difference, it looks to me, and one that would competely throw out any sense of competitiveness on the Knight side.

If you want the 'socials are bad players' idea to stand, you have to stop propping it up with artificial putdown schemes.

Anonymous said...

Your idea would work well for players that want to win all the time and for players that just "want cool stuff".

But what about players that genuinely want a challenge?

There is most satisfaction to be had from beating a skilled opposition than there is from roflstomping a team of idiots.

Gevlon said...

@Andru: true, fixed

@Anonymous: very few players want true challenge. However it can be implemented by bonuses, like "the closer you push the enemy to the main base, the higher bonus they have", so after a point, even a team of idiots can be hard to defeat due to having 300% DPS bonus.

Mick said...

There is a big playerbase that this game ignores, and one that would ultimately lead to its failure I believe which is that it does not offer a challenge for anyone. Stomping all over idiots is most of the time just as tedious as constantly losing. I will admit that the group that wants a challenge (i.e. be pitted against opponents of the same skill) are probably smaller than the two groups you are catering for, but they are still a quite large group.

Anonymous said...

i don`t think this system would work, because of several factors.

- the cool knights would have to be oblivious to the fact that they are on the "worse" team. however, as you wrote yourself, in time the better players would migrate to the lame orcs team, creating an imbalance in the win / lose ratio

- soon, the knights would become unsatisfied, even though they do get the "better" rewards. simply because of the one sided win-ratio. no matter how much fluff items you give them, they would still yearn for that "You Win!" screen at the end of a match. Maybe they would even stop participating in PvP completely, focusing on tradeskills and housing?

- In time, there would be an imbalance in players participating in PvP or simply in the total playerbase, for example there would be 500.000 knights versus 1.000.000 orcs on one server, causing frustration for the orcs through long queue times for matches or simply not enough knights in open PvP areas for them to kill.

after all, i think the biggest problem would be to keep the fact from the knights, that they are the "worse" team in they eyes of the developers. as soon as they realize that, the whole system would fall apart.

so long,

Unheilvoll said...

Wouldn't this distribuition of player base so unequal cause that the "hardcore" orcs leave the game because of no fun in winning on such "lame" (M&S) massive cool knights?

You should think in another incentive to hardcore cool knights to stay in that faction, because of the noticed unbalance.

Or maybe you could introduce a pvp bg or TL world section where orcs could battle each other (because they 're "savage" beasts). Here, rewards would be very little, but the "sense" of winning on another hardcore gamers would provide enough incentive to stay in the game (but it would probably make the knights/orcs ratio incredibly disproportional, so maybe not)

Grim said...

Actually I think that the only thing required to keep players in a PvP game is someone to blame for losing.

Look at DotA and its clones - its merciless PvP all the way. A few mistakes at start can often lead to an hour (that being the whole match) of drawn out losing.
And yet millions of players keep playing.

Thing is - they believe that they are not at fault. There are 5 players in the team and it is always possible to find someone to blame for things that are even formally true ("y u no ward?" "y u no gank?" "X lost mid, GG"), even though often not the (only) cause.

If you add a ladder system to such a game, everyone believes that he is low, just because he gets crap teammates (HoN forums are full of whining about "getting shit team all the time, can't win QQ") and expect that it is only a matter of time until he rises. And thus keep playing.
And sometimes they will get boosted and believe that its their accomplishment.

TL DR: Organize players into teams that change half-randomly all the time and they will keep playing and hoping to get better team.

lancore said...

Those orcs won't play for long if all they can do is facerolling over noobs and get winning strikes without any meaning.

Anonymous said...

I have to second that: The Orcs would not want to play this game, because they are not out to win, they are out to win against a meaningful challenge. Sure, from time to time, pubstomping is funny, but I prefer a hard fight by far. The competitive community (see EVO tournaments and Starcraft) is not interested in easy wins, they are interested in competing.

jx said...

You are, more or less, describing the early ages of Wow, I mean before 1.12 patch when the dirty hordes fight the beatiful alliance, and the best pvp players were on horde side.

Anonymous said...

Its funny you mention PvP games are a niche yet thousands of people play SC2, CoD:MW2, Tetrinet, MUDs, and so on.

The success of SC2 is a ladder system. You first play some test matches against other players to determine your league. Once that is determined you play against players with equal skill.

Sure, you can cheat this. Yet, nobody wants to win the whole time against bad players. It provides no challenge, it does not feel like winning. The brain would provide no dopamine for that even though the screen says YOU WON. Thats why players zerg through low level and easy content. Thats why checkpoints were made in single player shooters. Players don't want to do repetitive content to surely win to get to the hard content they were stuck, the challenge.

Creating a challenging match by creating a (more) fair playing field happens all the time by different means: players get X amount of booster packs and a starter deck in M:TG and have to build a deck of that. Players get to play with other players with equal ping in a FPS game. The same hardware is used (or at least much more limited choice to differentiate), without the possibility of hacks, on consoles.

I understand the point you made that is by creating an unfair play field deliberately for 2 different customer groups and that you're able to give losers rewards and they'll still be happy but that'd work only for so long. The above mentioned fair playing fields will work for longer, and can (and are) reused in other games such as sequels and competitors.

Anonymous said...


'very few players want true challenge'

I'm not saying this isn't true but I'm interested in knowing why you believe this. Most players I know, including me, do want a genuine challenge. A game in which I'm virtually guaranteed a win because my opponents aren't skilled holds very little interest to me. Much more appealing is a game against similar skilled opponents where a win means something.

I've no idea whether very few players think this way or not but I expect a lot depends on environment and the game in question. I believe a lot of WoW players are pretty casual so they probably don't want a challenge. Unless you're in a good raiding/PvP guild, in which case I believe they probably would. In any case if you're talking about very few players out of all games players then yeah, I can see it might be possible - it would explain the popularity of farmville type games for a start. But, if you're talking about very few PvP oriented players, then I think those not wanting a challenge are in the minority.

Anyway, what I'm really wondering is why would players who don't want a challenge bother with a PvP game such as the one you suggest? Would they not be better off playing some other multiplayer game, that is cooperative rather than PvP focused, so they can have an easy time and be a winner?

Also, I'd be interested in knowing whether you want a true challenge or not? Judging from some of your previous projects such as Undergeared and Inglourious Gankers I'd say you do. But when I hear you say very few players want a true challenge, it leads me to think that the players you play with don't and that's why you would believe such a thing. Which leads me to wonder why you would play with such players unless you also aren't interested in the challenge?

Trelocke said...

If it is a true "theme park" style MMO you are talking about, then yes, this is a very niche game. However, as others have mentioned, there are very successful PvP games currently on the market. League of Legends I believe have the best model I've seen so far. It has highly competitive PvP play using an Elo ranking system to match players of similar skills, but it also has tutorial and training modes where players can practice against bots. Subscriber base is huge (15 million+) with a million playing per day. Free-to-play supported by micro transactions and they are growing quickly.

I think if you want to develop a true MMO style you base it off their model. You create servers based on ratings, automatically transfer characters as their ratings change. As long as you can keep similarly ranked players together, you don't have to worry about skill disparity. We know instant server transfers are possible from Rift (and perhaps others I am not familiar with) and WoW has proven with RealID and cross-server parties that you can keep in keep in touch with your friends (another big draw of true MMOs) even if you don't play on the same server. The key to the success is to keep similarly skilled players playing each other while still allowing players who are learning and improving to advance upward. This allows you to use the same rewards for everybody (my legendary staff is equal to Method's despite my much lower skill).

stubborn said...

Actually, I think this is a neat thought experiment, and kudos to you for coming up with it. Here's a few more questions:

Is it completely impossible for a "play to win" player to want cosmetic items?

or change a word and make it " cosmetic items?" That's a different question entirely.

Would the final game actually use such obviously propagandistic terms, or would a finalized game cloak the actual game setup for winners v. funners (ugh terrible word)?

I also agree very strongly with your point about the vote to kick option (mine's on a permanent 2 hour cooldown it seems). However, for the help of your newer readers, you might include more explanation about old addons that are now gone. I've never heard of WGClean. What was it? What did it do? A short explanatory phrase would help nail the point home.

Interesting post.

spinksville said...

I think the main problem you would get would be PvP kiddies who pick the Orc side because they like to win but would complain and complain because of not getting the shiny cosmetic rewards. So eventually the game company would give in and the Orcs would get just as good rewards but would also have mechanical advantages, so their faction would get totally outnumbered.

You forget that PvP play-to-win people can be aggressive about whining.

Anonymous said...

Public gaming is always the same see Counter-Strike, CoD etc only organized Clans-Communities etc can enforce a competitive game-play, clan matches and Ranking Play in WoW, Stacraft schematics that involve the hardcore "play to win" that you want.

Public is "play for fun", I have nothing against that and you can't change it. I don't see why people must get any kind of reward for loosing. This will just draw more people - more noobs.

Anonymous said...

Of course you can buff/nerf opposing players in pvp. WoW did it with Tenacity in WG. That didn't work pefectly because of CC and the importance of player location, but the basic idea of making the disadvantaged team/players stronger is valid. It could easily be done with a working MM system.

Anonymous said...

It's an interesting take on different types of people playing for different reasons and responding to different reward structures.

I'm curious what the "rewards" would be though -- the ones that the orcs get a lot of for winning and knights get less of for losing. You say that "from their lost games [knights] would get rewards to get more cosmetic crap". What do orcs spend their honor on once they're in the best plain-looking gear they can buy? Why does it make a difference to an orc that he gets a lot of honor from winning a bg?

Since the knight leaderboards and rankings show killing/healing, they have no real motive for ending a bg when they could get one more kill instead. Once they acknowledge that they're going to lose, they should farm kills as long as possible. Orcs, on the other hand, have every motive for a fast game, which probably means drawing the knights away from objectives and letting them pwn in a neutral area. Given the different player feedback and basis for rankings, each group should rationally play in a complementary way. This doesn't sound competitive.

Anonymous said...

"I've never heard of WGClean. What was it? What did it do? A short explanatory phrase would help nail the point home. "

Or you do what a non-moron would do. You do your own research by using search engine and read. First 3 hits on Google WGClean are on this blog and answer your question.

Xaxziminrax II said...

I am surprised that most people don't realize that people who want a challenge are niche.considering that every person with a computer is potential gamer, there are many more casuals and cosmetic lovers than play-to-win/improve'rs.

Also, after reading the post, I am left with the distinct impression you just described the core of League of Legends, which is doing pretty well by most standards.

Anonymous said...

If you have experience with boardgames, the real requirement is that skill should not overly weight the outcome.

Eg., for games like Dominion, assuming minimum competence, the simplest possible 'reasonable' strategy will beat most optimal strategies ~30% of the time.

Otherwise, you end up with the untimed chess problem, where, at some point, there's no point in playing because the winner of a given match is already known.

League of Legends and the other DOTA variant are merciless PVP, with the following 'bonuses'. (a) the chooser matches against people with similar win percentages and (b) Mistakes are exponentially penalized for the whole team

This ensures that, about half the time, anyone has a 'good' game where they 'own' and keeps people playing.

Dobablo said...

StarTrek Online launched as exactly this. The Federation got PvP, PvE and fluff. The space orc Klingons got PvP only. Rather than generating a sustainable PvP situation you got reviewers and "coolkids" moaning about a clear faction imbalance and demand that the Klingons be fluffed out.
The "cool" people will always ruin it by trying to play the lame faction. Then they'll moan about how the lame faction isn't as cool and either ruin the game with bad publicity or by forcing bad changes.