PotBS needs Battlegrounds

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Rarely do I ever say that a game needs battlegrounds. I’m usually on the front lines protesting that instancing content is bad and all that stuff. But I’m in the interesting position of finding myself looking at PotBS from a different perspective. The game, by design, automatically creates instances for each individual pvp encounter. From this perspective, creating battlegrounds for PotBS could actually solve many problems and add to the overall fun of the game.

Why add Battlegrounds?

As I’ve said, pvp is already instanced. This raises many problems that I seem to have beaten to death over the past week. Without going in to much depth on those I just want to briefly bring up the downside to instancing pvp encounters within the ‘open world’ and add a few ideas of how BG’s could solve them.

  • Allowing entire groups to be whisked away by a single fast ship allows for griefing. It’s been called “tactics” when used to hinder one nation from adding contention to a port. I see it as exploiting a broken gameplay mechanic but however you look at it there are fewer people who like it than there are those who despise it.
  • People who do not want to fight will simply run away. Valid use of running away, however it’s frustrating for both the attacker and victim to be placed into an instance for 2 minutes when neither will reap any benefit. Only time is lost here.
  • Battlegrounds would create a location for consensual PvP. There are players out there who want to engage in ship battles simply because it’s the best part of the game. I’m one of them.
  • Battlegrounds are a great way to justify the claimed over-use of instancing in the game. FLS says that instances allow them to do more. Instancing has always been justified by devs saying that they can do more for the player’s experience in the instance. This time I agree.

What type of Battlegrounds?

Here is the best part! There are so many options available. In a sense players already experience a “battleground” form of play when a port conquest battle occurs. That’s already one type of battleground that could essentially be used. What other types of battlegrounds could there be? Here are a few ideas I had:

  • Attacking a port / Defending a port
  • Team Death Match, in other words all nations have a presence and battle to the death.
  • Swashbuckling – Have an entire battleground be a fortress that has to be sieged by players. Pistols firing, swords clanging, a grand time it would be!
  • Protect the convoy!
  • Zone Control – think Arathi Basin
  • CTF – Overdone but it could have merit.

Risk vs. Reward

Obviously these battlegrounds must force the same risk upon the player as he/she would find in the open sea. Losing your ship, fittings, expending ammo, and all other downsides to participating in combat would be there. Battlegrounds would create a focal point of fun for those who enjoy the PvP side of the game. Right now on many servers the PvP scene is looking dismal. There are few if any contended ports and players are becoming bored. Offering these exciting battlegrounds could make PvP thrive.

As for the rewards, well, here’s the tough part. Right now on the open sea the reward for killing someone is a mark of victory and whatever lootable goods they have on them. I think the same rewards should be available in the battleground because this plays hand in hand with the risk. It would be up to FLS whether or not they want to add additional rewards for participating in these battlegrounds. Perhaps instead of Marks of Victory the players dropped some other form of Mark. These marks would be “lesser” forms of Marks of Victory; “Signets of Battle” perhaps. Maybe it takes 5 of these battleground marks to make a mark of victory. Bottom line: we want people to be encouraged to participate in the risk but not overly reap the rewards. Over rewarding BG play could hurt the open sea gameplay. We don’t want that.

The Details
The location of the battlegrounds wouldn’t have to matter. The element of instancing and teleporting players from one location to another without explanation already exists. Play upon that and you have justification for simply adding an office or NPC in Tortuga, Pitre, Port Royal, and San Juan that would act as a “sign up” of sorts. You tell the NPC you want to participate in the battle and you enter. The limits of each battleground is based on FLS’ servers but we already know that 48 players can be in one instance at a time. No one likes queues but if they are needed perhaps we could use them to an advantage. Going back to what I was saying with rewards, we want players to still participate in the open sea. How do we encourage Open Sea play when introducing BG’s? Personal Contention Points. These already exist! They determine who gets to participate in the Port Conquest battles; why not have them also determine who has priority in the BG’s? It could work!

I do not see how battlegrounds could possibly hurt Pirates of the Burning Sea. Right now I only see the many good things they would bring. From stimulating the economy by introducing a greater attrition of expendable goods to satisfying the large player base that simply wants something to do, Battlegrounds could be a wonderful addition to the game. I have plenty more that I could add to the ‘details’ but for now I’m interested in what everyone thinks. Those of you playing PotBS – would you like to see Battlegrounds?

  • With battlegrounds, why does it necessarily have to be set in the Caribbean? Once you start along the road of separating the game from its setting, you end up like Dark Age of Camelot, which in the end had zero to do with any of the lore they created — it was just battleground battles. They could have dropped a legion of space marines in there without changing anything.

  • You could also apply everything you’ve said about PotBS to EvE Online. Would that game be improved by having everyone port to a battleground system and have frigates struggle to bring a bright red asteroid to their space station?

    Naturally, everyone could still lose the millions and billions of ISK they invested in their ships at any moment.

  • The idea of battlegrounds isn’t to minimize the risk or increase the reward. The risk is actually increased by a voluntary submition of ones self to such a situation.

    The idea of battlegrounds isn’t to separate the game from its setting. The idea is to create a place for fun gameplay with other players who want to be there. It’s basically the same gameplay players find in port conquest battles and pvp encounters (where people want to fight) except it’s more readily available. There is still the need for some tweaking.

  • I’ve see the “WoW Battlegrounds” threads on the EVE forums. People want an area to fly and fight their ships, to get experience, without putting all that ISK on the line, but the purists, the forum hounds, are dead set against it. Those are some ugly debates.

    But I cannot see bothering to have a distinct battleground in the game yet leaving the risk/reward the same. As Tipa said, why bother going some place else to do what you might as well be doing right there.

    It might be better, perhaps, to just flag some areas far off shore as “open PvP” and let those who want go at it on the high seas.

  • That’s some good feedback Wilhelm. It is possible to achieve a similar effect by roping open an area of the open sea as always PvP.

    Details I left out:

    – EXP would NOT be gained.

    – Risk would remain in the game to create an equality between those participating and not participating in battlegrounds.

    Reasons a permanent pvp area on open sea might not work:

    – People camping the edges of the red circles waiting for anyone to enter.

    – Lack of battle diversity that many people want. There’s only so much you can do on the open sea. In fact, it’s limited to simple team death matches. Battlegrounds could utilize instancing on a greater scale to introduce all the mentioned gameplay types.

    – Griefing is still possible. A single ship that wants nothing more than to waste someone’s time can engage them and keep them stuck in there for a period of time.

    Just a note: I’m really not familiar with EVE at all so I can’t comment on any of that. I was never able to get in to EVE past the initial week. If you use EVE as an example please simplify and break it down for me so that I can easily understand the relations – should they be brought up.

  • Not to oversimplify it, but Eve pvp is basically like PotBS but not instances or limited in the number of participants. That and tackling actually works.
    The sad think is, PotBS tried to make easy access Eve pvp, and we now see what the result of such a design decision is.
    Too bad you never got into Eve Keen, it basically has the pvp you are looking for, most Corps even replace pvp losses, unlike in PotBS.

  • I don’t see why anyone would participate in the battle ground if the risk is the same (large monetary loss) and there is no reward (no experience and no marks of victory). Plus, no one would bring valuable loot to the battle ground so there’s no chance of a monetary reward. Plus you’re not competing for anything, like the capture of a port.

    The only way this idea would work is to make the risk virtually nothing. No one will compete in a BG where there’s no reward, you’re working towards nothing, the risk is just as big (if not bigger, no one is unprepared in a BG) and when you die you have to take some time to re outfit yourself.

  • @Keen. What do you find are the _benefits_ of Pirates’ instancing for open world PVP? Is there some game mechanic that requires it during battles in red zones?

  • @ Michael: The benefit for instancing open world pvp encounters is simply scaling. They’ve taken the entire caribbean and scaled it back through the use of almost a map feel. Instancing allows them to scale back the size of the game world yet still allow each battle feel as though it were grand. Rusty posted the reasoning for it once. I’ll try to find it later.

    @ UFTimmy: There would be rewards. As I said there could be different sorts of marks to turn in for rewards. Let’s think about what reducing the risk to zero would mean. It would mean that anyone interested in PvP would ONLY participate in the BG’s and the open world pvp would diminish. Leaving them the same in risk and basically the same in reward will allow for an even spread between open world and BG’s. The only difference is BG’s will offer different forms of gameplay while open world offers cause and effect.

  • Good points Keen. The balance and the diversity of battles need to be considered. It might be nice to have both options available, some sort of battleground concept and a neutral open seas free-fire zone.

    Sorry about the EVE references. I just tend to assume everybody in our tight little blogosphere has some experience with the game, good or bad. To clarify a bit, EVE does have some similarity with PotBS, but in EVE you have to equip you ship with even basic weaponry and, when you lose your ship in EVE, it is gone for good. This is, of course, the reason some people would like a no-consequences way to learn to fight, as learning how to use your battleship live can turn into an expensive proposition.

    I wonder if Flying Labs might consider a battlegrounds concept with staged events? Way, way back in the days of Air Warrior on GEnie, they used to stage special re-enactments, like Midway or intercepting Admiral Yamamoto that were a ton of fun. There was no benefit from these events, aside from fun, but also no cost to your character either. To keep you honest, if you lost your plane you were out, or at least held back to form a second wave if the scenario allowed. It made for some interesting battles.

  • @Keen: There’s very little reward for PvP now, as you’ve mentioned. By making a BG “mark” worth 1/5th as a regular mark with no chance of good loot, there’s absolutely no reward to it. Why would someone do BGs instead of open sea PvP?

    @Trinity: It is, but I believe I have not heard of any “match making” component to it, which prevents it from being a real battleground. My understanding is you could setup scenarios and have people play it, but I haven’t heard if you can make it “open” and have anyone join it.

  • @UFTimmy: The only real incentive to participate in the BG’s instead of open world pvp would be the diverse forms of gameplay and lack of negatives as listed. It was a tough balancing act when creating this idea to acknowledge that the risk needs to remain and the reward can’t be too great. I’d love nothing more than to do away with the risks (as you can tell from reading my blog) or up the reward to match. Balancing is a dirty business. Great points.

    @Trinity: The skirmish system is basically a “we want to fight YOU at THIS date”. Compared to the idea of a battleground it’s a baby step in the right direction. Pretty much the half way point between what I’m suggesting and what we have now. Definitely good to bring up the skirmish system though – it means FLS knows that arranging fights or having a more organized form of PvP is wanted.

  • The chief problem I see with battlegrounds in PotBS is that FLS has gone to great lengths to get away from ‘pointless’ PvP. Contrast the most popular game that currently uses a ‘battleground’ system – WoW – with PotBS and you’ll see what I mean.

    Of course, fun is never pointless, but in terms of the game, every PvP kill you make in PotBS interacts with the other two aspects of the game besides combat; those are port control/RvR and the economy. Every PvP kill you make in WoW advances your standing personally in the quest for phat loots, but it doesn’t affect the world around you in any way, and WoW has no significant economy, as everything worth having must be looted by the intended user.

    When I do a comparison/contrast like this, it seems certain to me that not including battlegrounds where players could fight and lose ships, without the danger to trade routes and ports, was a very conscious design decision on FLS’s part.

  • There are many ways to implement rewards for BG’s that would have incentive.

    Marks of Victory
    ‘Special’ Outfittings or Ammunition
    Loot items
    Unrest Turn in Items

    Generally I am PRO Battlegrounds however I usually like lower level brackets. It’s something about experiencing pvp without having to face the uberdudes who destroy everything with their precision teamwork and tactics.

    I was just thinking if they had a ‘Patrolling/Blockade type mission where you fought players not NPCs.

  • In Eve there’s a tendency for people to only fight when they have overwhelming chances of winning. I’ve always thought that it would be nice to have a challenge system where you could face people on generally even terms and fight to the death. I think people in PotBS (and Eve) would flock to the staged fights if you could guarantee them an evenly matched fight. Make it a true test of skill rather than a contest of who has the most friends and the best ships.

  • @ asdrubal: You’ve made possibly the greatest point yet. In a sense the battlegrounds would server only one purpose – Fun. It’s true that every kill on the open sea counts for something. In a battleground it might possibly not count for something… unless…

    If battlegrounds were somehow tied in to overall contention war then perhaps it could work. Bee Ready’s idea of unrest turn in items could work. Or simply make the battlegrounds offer contention towards a specific port or something.