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General: Jennings: How PvP Can Break Your Game

StraddenStradden Managing EditorHalifax, NSPosts: 6,696Member

MMORPG.com columnist Scott Jennings writes this look at two ways that including PvP in your MMO can end in complete disaster.

Scott Jennings

Nothing starts more arguments on MMORPG-focused message boards and blog postings than the topic of Player vs. Player. Call it PvP, RvR, PK, whatever you like, it is the subject that will rouse more passions than any other, bar none. For some reason, some people really like killing other people. And other people really don't like being killed. Go figure!

I've written several blog postings about it myself, as has anyone who's written about MMORPGs for more than fifteen seconds. Invoking PvP is the Godwin's Law of gaming discussions - in any discussion of game design, the longer the thread, the probability that someone will introduce PvP as either the reason for its subject's success or failure approaches 100%.

Read Jennings: How PvP Can Break Your Game.

Cheers,
Jon Wood
Managing Editor
MMORPG.com

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Comments

  • RedempRedemp Hot Springs, ARPosts: 1,042Member

    Jennings and John ,

     Absolutely the best writers, in my mind, on this site. Always a good read, as a long-time player in Daoc ( and on Midguard) I felt both of those nerfs keenly. You also might recall when they nerfed Archers overall dps -- Which hurt Hunters far more than any other realm due to our lack of diversity at the time. I remember sitting at near-to-cap level for almost a year.. because there just wasn't any reason to finish on the Hunter.

  • LynxJSALynxJSA Sarasota, FLPosts: 2,601Member

     

    It seemed like you cited that Shadowbane failed because of their hardcore PvP approach and then went on to state that it failed for every other reason but that. I'm not saying the reasons you gave for for failure were wrong, rather where the connect is between the core gameplay (play to crush, territory control) and the failure.

    EVE Online: 'Dominion' Trailer Now on YouTube
    "...if there is a fair fight happening in new eden, both fcs did something wrong." - batolemaeus

  • ZerackusZerackus Virginia Beach, VAPosts: 47Member Uncommon

    . Shadowbane was the primary proof of this concept - a group of developers who cut their teeth on a hardcore PK mud, and spent years bringing that vision to life, in short bursts between postings on message boards about "not playing games to bake bread, but playing them to CRUSH!" (a direct quote from the game's art director, later memorialized in the game's marketing). When Shadowbane finally launched, it was an innovative sandbox-PvP design that was crippled by game-killing bugs, tedious leveling, and exploit-ridden combat. (In a footnote that cannot be touched for irony, most of the founding developers of Shadowbane later moved on to KingsIsle, and the successful tween-friendly and not at all dark and hardcore MMO Wizard 101.)

     

    I would love to address these comments. Shadow Bane as a PVP game was a complete success. Yes, it was a horrible launch with bugs, lag and really just a beta, but as a PvP game it did "Crush". there has been nothing like it, build an empire, defend it, make alliances, use politics or watch your Keeps fall.

    Leveling was simple, easy, and fast, I have no clue where "tedious" leveling came from, being a vet of the game, it was days to reach max level. The character combos and templates and flavors of the month chars, were awesome. Something new always answered the "it" build.

     

    If Shadow Bane was launched right, polished, and run and supported correctly, we would still be playing the game this very day. It truely was the only PvP game since UO for us PvPers!

     

     

    Zerackus

    Undead Lords

     

    Zerackus the Bane
    Son of Myrkul
    Undead Lords
    www.undeadlords.net

  • inBOILinBOIL turkuPosts: 669Member

    PvP in MMORPG just needs rules

    Nowadays you can start calling Counter Strike to full loot open PvP(which is hot now)Roleplaying Game,yes.

    Choose Teroside for example,rules are simple ,kill counter-terrorist or save hostages,plant bomb etc,pretty simple but extremely challenging ,depends of the gamers and map ,now friendly fire is ofcourse ON,so you can shoot your fellows too,then XxxHellTurbo666xxX logs into the game and starts shooting people from his own side he RPs "wtfpwn" "yousuck" normal lines what you can see in every MMORPG nowadays,now what happens ,people will vote him out.simple as that.

    MMORPGs needs something similar to voteban ,yes.

     

     

     

     

    Generation P

  • Einstein-DFEinstein-DF New York, NYPosts: 752Member
    Originally posted by Zerackus


     
     
    If Shadow Bane was launched right, polished, and run and supported correctly, we would still be playing the game this very day. It truely was the only PvP game since UO for us PvPers!
     
     
    Zerackus
    Undead Lords
     

     

    You just sunk water with that ridiculous statement. 

     

    Darkfall is what Shadowbane should of been without the game crippling bugs.

  • LynxJSALynxJSA Sarasota, FLPosts: 2,601Member
    Originally posted by Einstein-DF

    Originally posted by Zerackus


     
    If Shadow Bane was launched right, polished, and run and supported correctly, we would still be playing the game this very day. It truely was the only PvP game since UO for us PvPers!
     
    Zerackus
    Undead Lords
     

     

    You just sunk water with that ridiculous statement. 

     

    Darkfall is what Shadowbane should of been without the game crippling bugs.

     

    How is it ridiculous? Darkfall didn't exist when SB came out, thus his statement that it was (past tense) "the only PvP game since UO for us PvPers" is a reasonable one. If anything I would have clarified the type of PvPer being referred to, which is the group interested in having relatively high material risk (territory, city, items, gear).

    EVE Online: 'Dominion' Trailer Now on YouTube
    "...if there is a fair fight happening in new eden, both fcs did something wrong." - batolemaeus

  • gothagotha weymouth, MAPosts: 1,040Member

    Not sure you can lump darkfall as a failed game.  Its handling fairly well,  almost exactly as expected by developers.

     

    That aside nice writeup.  You should link you blog entry about how to make PvP in a game work.

     

    As for shadowbane and darkfall.  DF took a lot of lessons from shadowbane.

     

    Stationary cities

    No flying classes

    no point and click combat

    time it took to build up a city vs destroying it so that players would not get frustrated and leave

    Don't release buggy

    Keep full control over your own game.  (not working with publishers and others who demand deadlines and features)

    and many many more.

     

     

     

  • VestasVestas Mesa, AZPosts: 55Member

    Or sometimes you have a class that is dependent on a core concept that is, um, a bug. Sticking with Dark Age of Camelot, let’s look at the Berserker class. It’s a class that swings two axes at people. This is a simple concept. Swing axes, do damage, fall down because you can’t take that much in return. Pretty much every game has some class like this - the melee glass cannon. Well, one fine day the game server programmer noticed that there was a fairly obvious bug in the way combat was calculated that made “Left Axe”, the Berserker off-hand weapon skill, do entirely too much damage. So… he fixed it. We fix bugs, right? Well, for all the Berserker players who logged in one day and did substantially less damage (in a class focused on... doing damage) it was not right, it was fairly wrong. And no amount of adjustments later fixed it. People got fed up, and left.

     

    Um, just to correct Mr. Jennings, it was not a server programmer that discovered that bug. It was a player of DAOC, a class lead in particular, who argued strongly for weeks with math proofs that there was a bug/problem with "Left Axe".  He was told repeatedly by both Mythic and fans he was wrong.  Until one day after his incessant urging, it was discovered he was right.  He was forever branded with the nick name "Left Axe" after that.  Mythic didn't just randomly discover this bug, one of the forum warriors you're disparaging here did.

     

    Other than that, good article!

  • ChinaCatChinaCat Mars Hotel, CAPosts: 670Member

    "Darkfall had similar trajectories - developers affected a boisterous swagger, egged on by manic fans, in postings and interviews which quickly ebbed once the game was released."

    1)  I have no clue what the blog writer means by the above.  DFO PvP is open with full loot and does not feel compromised from any vision on any level.   Just a wierd statement above that makes no sense.

    2)  I never speak in this manner, but the entire blog sounds like one long QQ to me. 

    It's really very simple.    It is "Vision" that creates great PvP.   It is compromise that destroys it.   UO had awesome PvP and declined with Trammel due to OSI listening to the complaining on the boards.   Asherons Call Darktide server owned for PvP.   From what I understand, 1 or 2 of the Zek servers also rocked in EQ1.    Shadowbane's issues were in code, not in PvP mechanics.

    I got nothing from the article.

    -CC

    "Lately it occurs to me,
    what a long, strange trip it's been". -Hunter

  • Einstein-DFEinstein-DF New York, NYPosts: 752Member

     Well it trully is hard to get something from an article made by a veritable carebear who gives opinions for games he should never even write about.

     

    Leave the PVP bloggs and articles to someone such as Paragus Rants  who actually PLAYED all of them and knows what the heck he's talking about.

  • TheHatterTheHatter None, ARPosts: 2,547Member
    Originally posted by ChinaCat

    I got nothing from the article.


     

    Basically, the whole article is about how the balancing act of PVP in MMOs is what brings them down.... as if he's from some different universe where PVE isn't plagued with the same balancing act.

     

    At least that's what I got from it, the article didn't really have a clear direction and felt very forced.

     

    Edit:

    I also like the fact that he basically said what I said above, but he forgot to mention that the Arena system in WoW  accounts for 5% of population but for a LONG LONG time the entire skill system was balanced solely around arenas. And everyone know's that WoW is the definition of a failed MMORPG. Oh wait...

    Last time I played WoW was 3.2 and I have no clue what he's talking about "skills can only be used there", but I do remember a huge outcry for it on the forums. Deathgrip virtually destroyed the mini-game they call PVP.

  • GyrusGyrus Lost City of ZPosts: 2,335Member

    Yeah... I was disappointed in that too.

    "...Player vs. Player. Call it PvP, RvR, PK, whatever you like..."

    Um... PvP is not the same as RvR and PK is different again.

    And having mentioned PvP and RvR how about PvP games that have trouble because they could not balance the RvR?

    You know, the ones where everyone wants to play the 'baddies' and the goodies get tired of getting pwned at 2:1 odds and leave?

    That would be population balance?  Not class balance?

    Nothing says irony like spelling ideot wrong.

  • TJKazmarkTJKazmark Columbia, TNPosts: 117Member Uncommon

    Regardless of personal experience with PvP in MMOs, the article was a nice read, and got me thinking.

    As someone who rarely dabbles in the PvP area myself, I must admit that I've had a constant interest in it. Why I haven't gotten fully into the arena, however, is because I've not felt viable. In my opinion, (a crude one, since I'm still learning about the intricacies of PvP mechanics) a good sense of PvP is when you can take a fresh character and get onto a battlefield and not be crushed by a max-level character who is fully-geared and targeting characters so far below them they just have to twitch to kill them. I've had a bit of this experience games, WoW, AoC, and DaoC being just a few.

    Now, again, I'm pretty new to the PvP world, but is this sector of games reserved for the "elite"? If so, should it? I enjoy competition, and I'm not someone who pitches a fit when he loses, but I also don't desire to spend countless hours gearing up and researching builds just to have a chance of winning a fight. Maybe I'm making too much of an exaggeration.

    My point is this: Is there a game, or can one be made, where PvP doesn't feel like a separate enitity in a game; one so entiwined with aspects such as PvE that it moves seamlessly between the two? I think if a solution like this can, or has been, found it would make the experience of a game better. But again, this is just my opinion. I'm very open to hearing what avid PvPers have to say on the topic, their experience and how they adapted to the game playstyle.

    "You think the place is trapped?"
    "I don't know...send the rogue in first."

  • YamotaYamota LondonPosts: 6,620Member

    When all is said and done a scripted AI mobile cannot reach anywhere near the playing skills of an averagely intelligent player. The game has to have a very defined play field, such as chess, for an AI to compete with a human and MMORPGs are not so strictly defined.

    So since MMORPGs are by definition for massively amount of people, why would you then spend your time competing with an AI? Isnt a single player game the natural choice for that?

  • battleaxebattleaxe Baton Rouge, LAPosts: 158Member

    Unfortunately, open PVP in a PVE based game brings out the griefers, and griefers ruin it for everyone else.  "Look at me, I'm level 809 and you're level 2...I can keep you dead indefinitely.  Hahaha!  I Roxor'd u, N00b!  Fear my l33ts!  Have a nice cry as you quit the game never to return.  Gee, where'd everyone go?"

    Leveling in Shadowbane was a joke.  Go to the right spot, setup one of your high level guildies to auto-kill everything that spawns, come back in a few hours to find your toon at max level.  If that's going to be the norm, why do it in the first place - just spawn players at max level.  I miss my Confessor, tho.

    PVP balance IS hard.  Having any form of incapacitation makes the game just plain frustrating, since "you can't do that while stunned".  If I can't even use my abilities to defend myself before I'm dead, why am I playing?  I can understand getting one-shotted - that's actually expected, as long as I'm not killed from blanket invisibility (rogue "stealth" in MMORPGs is almost always implemented stupidly, but that's a whole other topic).  I can't understand standing there letting a guy whittle my health down while I can't do anything.

    Balancing range versus melee is probably the toughest challenge.  Range attackers are almost always squishy, which means they have to kill a melee attacker before that attacker gets near or it's game over.  Melee have to be able to get close or they won't get a chance to kill the squishy.  In the real world, the ranged attacker wins simply by getting a decent hit - accuracy guarantees the win.  How do you model this into a game fairly without making the win simply based on random number generation or stupid gimmicks like jittery crosshairs or cone of fire blooms?

  • LumTheMadLumTheMad Round Rock, TXPosts: 29Member
    Originally posted by Zerackus


    I would love to address these comments. Shadow Bane as a PVP game was a complete success. Yes, it was a horrible launch with bugs, lag and really just a beta, but as a PvP game it did "Crush". there has been nothing like it, build an empire, defend it, make alliances, use politics or watch your Keeps fall.
    Leveling was simple, easy, and fast, I have no clue where "tedious" leveling came from, being a vet of the game, it was days to reach max level. The character combos and templates and flavors of the month chars, were awesome. Something new always answered the "it" build.
     
    If Shadow Bane was launched right, polished, and run and supported correctly, we would still be playing the game this very day. It truely was the only PvP game since UO for us PvPers!

     

    I think we're in basic agreement. Shadowbane was a fun game for the people that grokked it and wanted free-form PvP - as I said, the basic design was sound. Where it fell down was in execution - players simply weren't willing to put up with the level of bugs and lack of polish. The game never was able to recover from its launch. And by "tedious levelling" - the game was very much not built around PvE, yet required PvE levelling. Monsters in the game were generic, boring bags of semi-mobile XP with little rhyme  or reason. Hardcore players didn't care because they got in guild groups and AFK-botted their way to max level. Players not as hardcore got bored and frustrated and left. Thus you had a game with few players, little profitability, and eventual closure.

  • LumTheMadLumTheMad Round Rock, TXPosts: 29Member


    Originally posted by gotha

    You should link you blog entry about how to make PvP in a game work.


    I tried! Unfortunately my word processor choked on the links at the last moment and I missed that one.

    http://www.brokentoys.org/2007/12/10/how-to-make-a-game-with-pvp-done-right/

  • YamotaYamota LondonPosts: 6,620Member
    Originally posted by Zerackus


    . Shadowbane was the primary proof of this concept - a group of developers who cut their teeth on a hardcore PK mud, and spent years bringing that vision to life, in short bursts between postings on message boards about "not playing games to bake bread, but playing them to CRUSH!" (a direct quote from the game's art director, later memorialized in the game's marketing). When Shadowbane finally launched, it was an innovative sandbox-PvP design that was crippled by game-killing bugs, tedious leveling, and exploit-ridden combat. (In a footnote that cannot be touched for irony, most of the founding developers of Shadowbane later moved on to KingsIsle, and the successful tween-friendly and not at all dark and hardcore MMO Wizard 101.)
     
    I would love to address these comments. Shadow Bane as a PVP game was a complete success. Yes, it was a horrible launch with bugs, lag and really just a beta, but as a PvP game it did "Crush". there has been nothing like it, build an empire, defend it, make alliances, use politics or watch your Keeps fall.
    Leveling was simple, easy, and fast, I have no clue where "tedious" leveling came from, being a vet of the game, it was days to reach max level. The character combos and templates and flavors of the month chars, were awesome. Something new always answered the "it" build.
     
    If Shadow Bane was launched right, polished, and run and supported correctly, we would still be playing the game this very day. It truely was the only PvP game since UO for us PvPers!
     
     
    Zerackus
    Undead Lords
     

    I disagree. You could spend literally months to build a castle, just to have it destroyed in a day. That is not a good PvP concept for me.

    If it takes only a day to destroy it then it should only take marginally more to build it. Otherwise it is not a game but rather a chore.

  • LumTheMadLumTheMad Round Rock, TXPosts: 29Member
    Originally posted by Vestas


    Um, just to correct Mr. Jennings, it was not a server programmer that discovered that bug. It was a player of DAOC, a class lead in particular, who argued strongly for weeks with math proofs that there was a bug/problem with "Left Axe". 

    I am fairly certain the server programmer in question discovered the bug independently. 

    I have also never been shy about admitting that theorycrafting players generally know more about game mechanics then the people who wrote the actual code, and when on DAOC would often rely on those players (including the one you refer to, if he's who I'm thinking of) to sanity check conclusions drawn from examining code.

  • LumTheMadLumTheMad Round Rock, TXPosts: 29Member

     



    Originally posted by Einstein-DF

     

     Well it trully is hard to get something from an article made by a veritable carebear who gives opinions for games he should never even write about.



     

    Oh, look, this is where I get to list all the PvP-focused games I've played and enjoyed through the years, from Ultima Online to Modern Warfare (not to mention the ones I've, you know, worked on), only to be told that because I haven't spent years in the poster's favorite game/guild/8v8 group that I'm some easily dismissed scrub!

  • TJKazmarkTJKazmark Columbia, TNPosts: 117Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Yamota


    When all is said and done a scripted AI mobile cannot reach anywhere near the playing skills of an averagely intelligent player. The game has to have a very defined play field, such as chess, for an AI to compete with a human and MMORPGs are not so strictly defined.
    So since MMORPGs are by definition for massively amount of people, why would you then spend your time competing with an AI? Isnt a single player game the natural choice for that?

     

    If that is the case, why not build scripts for the AI specific to the mob and its environment (or to use your term, a defined play field.) Since you generally find mobs in a certain area of the game, they could be tailored to fight in different ways, depending on their location and direct surroundings. Would this be possible, or is it an insurmountable endeavor?

    If it is possible, then the player would not only have a "capable" and "versatile" mob to fight, but once the player learns the patterns, they will be able to recognize players who do not follow said patterns. Both mob and player would be able to fight intelligently at different levels, but at least the gap of difference between them would be lessened, I think.

    I think fighting other players should be a challenge, but one that doesn't completely take you out of the surrounding game experience. Knowing I'm fighting a player vs. a mob is a departure in and of itself aside from the drastic differences in builds/gear that I've seen come with them in today's games.

    "You think the place is trapped?"
    "I don't know...send the rogue in first."

  • AramathAramath Mims, FLPosts: 161Member

    Hardcore players tend to be attracted to player vs. player as a game style, because it's one of the "endgame" play styles in MMORPGs and attractive to players who are bored with AI opponents.

     

     

    This imo is what is wrong with "Hardcore PVP" games.  They are not end game goal pvp oriented.  Far too often, while the endgame is entirely pvp oriented, new players have to deal with older players coming into the new player areas and pking them with little or no chance of retaliation.  New players become frustrated and leave causing the player base to stagnate and eventually dissolve as the older players become board with fighting the same people over and over.  Level restrictions or pve areas become very necessary as the game matures to keep the influx of new players coming in.  DAoC did this very well, and even went the extra step to provide balanced pvp areas for lower level players so they did not have to take their level 14 toon up against a maxed out level 50 toon to enjoy a brake in the monotony of grinding.  More games built on their model would make a successful gaming company, again imo.

  • inBOILinBOIL turkuPosts: 669Member



     

    Originally posted by gotha
     
    You should link you blog entry about how to make PvP in a game work.

     

     

    Cant be sooo hard to think these ,lets take wow for example becos pretty much everyone knows something about it.

    now theres character classes like priest ,hunter,serialkiller,mage,paladin

    skills of the serialkiller,you can kill everybody in the game,no matter what ,you dont need any reason to do so ,why,well,becose you are serialkiller??woo imagine that!you cant speak ,you cant write to any chat,even serialkillers dont talk with each other,you cant visit any cities,no NPC talks to you etc..

    Darkfall example ,you kill people who are not hostile to you,first you will lose your race chat,then global chat ,and after all what you have done you will lose all your chats and ability to use any vendors and you cant speak to NPCs anymore,and theres no way to come back,only way is reroll,or something like that.

    just something what came into my mind.

     

    Generation P

  • kompletistkompletist Buffalo, NYPosts: 51Member

    Found the article to be interesting and very ironic.

    I have been a casual darkfall player since NA launch. As you may know a major expansion was released last week. Having a rare day off today I decided to check the official forums this morning for the first time maybe ever just to see what the expansion reactions were like.

    Sure enough it was full of raving lunatic's threatening to quit because polearms were "nerfed" last week. I really have no opinion on the matter but the way you directly addressed this type of thing in your article was so funny to me. You also pointed something else out perfectly. All the hardcore players in Darkfall have been using polearms since launch. Sure enough though if you look at the official forums these said lunatic's will scream bloody murder if you bring that up.

    Thx again for the article. Relieved my headache from reading those forums lol. I'm thinking one of forum warriors is going to track me down in this thread and post some kind of polearm diatribe!

     

    Cheers.

  • TJKazmarkTJKazmark Columbia, TNPosts: 117Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by battleaxe


    Unfortunately, open PVP in a PVE based game brings out the griefers, and griefers ruin it for everyone else.  "Look at me, I'm level 809 and you're level 2...I can keep you dead indefinitely.  Hahaha!  I Roxor'd u, N00b!  Fear my l33ts!  Have a nice cry as you quit the game never to return.  Gee, where'd everyone go?"
    Leveling in Shadowbane was a joke.  Go to the right spot, setup one of your high level guildies to auto-kill everything that spawns, come back in a few hours to find your toon at max level.  If that's going to be the norm, why do it in the first place - just spawn players at max level.  I miss my Confessor, tho.
    PVP balance IS hard.  Having any form of incapacitation makes the game just plain frustrating, since "you can't do that while stunned".  If I can't even use my abilities to defend myself before I'm dead, why am I playing?  I can understand getting one-shotted - that's actually expected, as long as I'm not killed from blanket invisibility (rogue "stealth" in MMORPGs is almost always implemented stupidly, but that's a whole other topic).  I can't understand standing there letting a guy whittle my health down while I can't do anything.
    Balancing range versus melee is probably the toughest challenge.  Range attackers are almost always squishy, which means they have to kill a melee attacker before that attacker gets near or it's game over.  Melee have to be able to get close or they won't get a chance to kill the squishy.  In the real world, the ranged attacker wins simply by getting a decent hit - accuracy guarantees the win.  How do you model this into a game fairly without making the win simply based on random number generation or stupid gimmicks like jittery crosshairs or cone of fire blooms?

    I agree with you about the stuns. It frustrates me to no end that I can't even use the character I love to compete against a class who can keep me unconscious until I succumb to my wounds.

    In regards to ranged attacks, I also agree with you. My problem with ranged classes is that ranged attacks in and of themselves are an advantage. I would like to see a game where everyone can make use of said advantage, but have it situational. I sigh every time a hunter pops out of nowhere and kills me before I can get up to him with my melee class. That isn't very fun if I can't  use some form of ranged counter-attack, or at least take some cover!

    I think an answer can be found in the departure from class-based systems. Sure, keep the idea of archetypes in the game to give a vision of what skills do what and how to get them, but allow people to create a balance between melee and ranged. To give a console title as an example (game mechanics aside), Demon's Souls allowed players to use both ranged and melee attacks according to their stats and equipment choice. The game has character archetypes, but not ones that completely defined your character's play style for you. Please correct me if I'm wrong, as that may have been a poor example.

    "You think the place is trapped?"
    "I don't know...send the rogue in first."

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