PvP rewards without a cost for failure

Let’s start the new year off with a discussion about PvP.  I was thinking about why PvP — more specifically RvR/WvW — hasn’t succeeded or ultimately been a lot of fun for me in the past few years.  We had a brainstorming session on our Ventrilo server, and I think we nailed it.

PvP has too many rewards in all the wrong ways, and there is never any consequence or punishment for failure.

Take Guild Wars 2 where taking a keep grants a huge sum of points.  What happens when that keep is lost?  Nothing that matches the bonus for taking it.  What happens when you retake that keep?  You get another huge sum of points.  Why defend?  Why would anyone when there is more to gain from losing it and taking it again. Players will always seek the path of least resistance where they gain the most reward.  Then there’s the fact that death means nothing.  Die and you can be back at the keep in 4 minutes tops.  You probably miss out on next to nothing.

Here’s why taking and holding keeps in DAoC mattered: Losing them sucked!  The frontiers were a great place to exp.  When the enemy owned the keep near my favorite spot, guards would patrol and often kill me.  More players were also likely to be in the area.  Losing that keep also meant losing a bonus to experience; Leveling in DAoC wasn’t easy.  Losing a keep also meant losing relics with bonuses we wanted.  All of that might have been enough, but there’s another reason losing the keep sucked: Darkness Falls.  Whoever owns the most keeps has access to a dungeon with the best loot exp’ing locations.

Here’s a way to start fixing WvW/RvR and that type of PvP:

  • Remove immediate rewards for taking keeps.  No point gains, no experience.
  • Implement more indirect rewards like a dungeon for having the most keeps and meaningful/sought after rewards for being on the winning side.
  • Create ways to indirectly punish players for losing them. For example: Guard spawns I mentioned or not having access to an extremely desirable location.  Losing ground also means you probably won’t be killing as many players, so you probably won’t be on the winning side gaining points for killing other players.
  • Make keeps/holdings more difficult to siege.

The lack of risk and indirect loss for failing in PvP is game breaking for me.  If you’re not happy with the PvP in a game you’re playing, see if the rewards outweigh the penalties.  Chances are you’re not actually PvPing at all — you’re just gaming the system.

  • I’m starting to feel that the whole idea of RvR is too forced. Why not let the players make their own factions and allegiances? Balance it so that the larger your faction the harder it is to maintain so that you don’t just end up with on gigantic group dominating. As an idea, to have a large faction you may need a resource a few resource rich areas under your control. A couple of smaller factions can break up the larger on by hitting these resources instead of head on, etc.

    Is it more interesting to have key areas/resources controlled by different factions so the ebb and flow isn’t artificial or is it better to have 2 or 3 sides with predetermined areas of initial control?

    One of the reason everyone here grow weary of MMOs quickly isn’t just the mechanics, its the familiarity.

  • A steady defense pays pretty well in terms of events completed. You get a stream of points, but you need to do something the game counts as a suitable increment of contribution. I’ve seen folks farm karma at defensible choke points.

  • @Fergor: I agree completely that there are better ways to do PvP than just what we’ve already seen from RvR/WvW/PvP in general.

    I’ve talked about it before that in one of my games I’ve imagined the world would be sandbox without fixed factions. It would be like the original EQ where PvE is FFA in the sense that you can move around within the factions of the game and your actions aligned you. Part of the world would be conquerable, and resources would change around like in SWG so that players and factions were always seeking to acquire new lands.

    For the current state of things, and for even the games you and I envision, the rewards still have to be kept in check by consequences.

    @Zubon: Right, so pretty much gaming the system. Farming points isn’t meaningful to me. Holding choke points to prevent Keep reinforcements because you don’t want to lose the keep vs. farming the choke point to earn more points.

  • While I agree with the general sentiment that you expressed, I couldn’t disagree more about Darkness Falls. I just can’t get past the idea of rewarding PVP by giving access to better PVE content. I can’t see how siphoning players off of PVP so that they can reap the reward by PVEing is a good idea. It also fails to reward people who don’t actually want to PVE.

    I think a more elegant solution would be to directly provide ample rewards for success. To use GW2 as an example, I think you had it right when you suggested that they switch the outmanned and orb buffs. Basically, a side should have access to a stacking buff to exp, gold find, magic find, and karma based on their current point income while outnumbered sides get bonuses to combat stats. In addition to this, taking towers, keeps and castles could provide a reward chest to those who participate based on how long that objective had been in enemy hands. A recently flipped keep would give a small chest whereas a castle that had been held by the enemy for a long time would be very lucrative to take. A similar reward system could be used for defense as well.

    Of course, the reward chests and player loot tables would have to include desirable items. Such a system would give good rewards for successful teams AND encourage people to keep PVPing in order to reap those rewards.

  • @Swarmofseals: DAoC was, in part, a PvE game though and bettering your realm (beyond just those who RvR’d) was the goal. It doesn’t have to be a PvE dungeon for every game. I meant it as more of an example: Something the players strongly desire — something extremely valuable to them that they hate being without.

    There’s a problem with your chest system. If the chest improves the longer enemies hold the keep then all people will do is game the system and not PvP. You need to give people a reason to defend AND go out and fight.

    I do agree with the orbs in GW2 being changed and the out-manned buff being fixed (Swap the two and improve them or something).

  • “I can’t see how siphoning players off of PVP so that they can reap the reward by PVEing is a good idea.”

    It’s a great idea, as the winning side is weakened because they go off to PvE, while those without access to said PvE continue to PvP and actually have a chance of winning without game-driven buffs/debuffs.

    @Keen: I’m not sure if you just did not want to include this in the post, or if you guys missed it, but the entire key to DAoC ‘working’ was the leveling curve and the RR/item grind. You always had something to work towards, and RvR just happened to be a good way to get there (while also being a ton of fun).

    Compare that to GW2, where you hit 80 in under a month, and buy BiS everything on the AH for pennies. Put that setup in DAoC, and it would have failed at retaining people just as hard as GW2 has.

  • I like the idea of not rewarding players with points for taking keeps – that makes sense. I also like the last point of making it much harder – if it is very difficult to get it back then that discourages losing it in the first place.

    The two middle points for the rewards (indirect external reward and indirect punishment) can work depending on how rewarding/harsh it is. In the end, it is actually pretty easy – it doesn’t matter what you implement – if the reward is very good – people will do just about anything. The problem usually is that(even in DAOC sometimes) the rewards are insufficient (or the reward for doing stupid things like keep trading is better that the actual fighting for keeps).

    If you have to – you can steer anything in MMOs by implementing more rewards. If you approach it as “what is the least I can give them so that people would still be happy to do X” you sometimes get a feeling of “meh”…if you blow their socks off – they will do it. No matter what it is. A dungeon like Darkness Falls may be “meh” IF it only has ok-good loot…if you can level in it 50% faster…people will give their kidney to get in. Common sense says…well…you dont want to go overboard…but actually…you do.

  • @SynCaine: That’s true, but try to convince the mass-market that a game needs to take effort. They don’t want to hear of it. (That’s why I say screw mass market. Bring me a small dev, please.) Even if GW2 took 3 months to reach max level for the fastest leveler, and had progression mechanics for end-game, I doubt it would change how their WvW works. It would only delay the result. Combining the two definitely yields the best result, though, especially if we’re talking about retention. And that’s GW2’s huge problem right now: How do you retain people when they can finish your game in 3 weeks and there is no meaning or reward behind the WvW?

    @Argorius: Very interesting point. I think you’re absolutely right about the reward needing to be meaningful enough, or even overboard enough, to drive interest. That’s why DF was so enticing, and why people would have gone to the ends of the earth to secure it for their realm. I would say going overboard is fine as long as the rewards are indirect, and do not benefit players if they keep swap.

  • @Keen I think in my example there is plenty of reason to go out and fight. The more keeps/towers you hold, the more magic and gold find you get. That both gives you incentive to take more keeps and towers AND gives you incentive to fight (so as to cash in on the bonuses). The reason why it’s important to have a variable reward is to discourage keep flipping. If you give the same reward no matter how long the keep has been held, you just encourage sides to flip keeps to keep cashing in as quickly as possible. The increasing reward chest system is just a way of giving a more substantial reward for completing an objective without allowing players to easily game the system by encouraging flipping.

  • @Swarmofseals: I think your general idea has merit, but in GW2 I was never once enticed by increased gold and magic find. Maybe tie the magic and gold find to the orbs among a slue of other buffs. Then lock the losers out of something really cool. That tends to light a fire under most people.

  • Say that I am a player with 2 hours to WvW. It is 8pm, and I join a big siege on the Keep. After a grueling, 2-hour battle, we finally win. I am out of time, so no Darkness Falls for me. Log off. While I’m sleeping/before I log in tomorrow, another realm has re-captured the keep. Under your “no direct reward” system, why would I participate in WvW at all?

    Obviously, we’re talking about MMORPGs, so the thrill of battle isn’t enough.

    I agree that there is a design pitfall when it comes to encouraging a team to lose on purpose due to it being more profitable to counter-attack. The solution is not, however, to remove rewards for winning – especially in games like GW2, which is set up to only encourage players to log in once every 1-2 months for the one-time events.

    If winning gives PvP currency, I think defending should probably grant a bonus to PvP currency acquisition. That way, the defenders might look at a potentially more lucrative amount of PvP currency from farming enemies at the gates than they would retaking the keep.

  • DAOC got several things right on the reward scale that helped drive RVR:

    1. Realm points for solo killing an opposing player were very generous. You could get over 1000 RP for a kill. It felt very significant within the RA system and it really made a difference.

    2. The Realm Ability System was also very rewarding. There were some strong/fun abilities and they did improve your character (together with the long term nature of getting RR9+ and the fact that getting RR4-5 gave you already a lot of rewards and was reasonbly attainable.

    Both of these were generous rewards – significant and worthwhile. I haven’t seen any rewards as generous as those in any later games. (I guess you can add DF to it too – even though for me it wasnt for the great PvE that I liked DF but for the 1. Cleaning out the Hibs and Mids for good RPs and 2. Parking my Infiltrator in it so that once we lose it we can go hunt Mids/Hibs – some of the most fun I had in DAOC – how long can we hunt and survive in there!)

    Relic raids – rewards were unimpressive but this was driven by realm pride and by epic experiences.

    Notoriety – another indirect reward factor. You could actually obtain some notoriety amongst your realm mates and your enemies (also by implementing the Herald…)

    Another driving force – once you actually knew the names of most of your realm mates and of your enemies – it just became so much more fun – incredible effect. (Thank you kill spam!)

    Death penalty – it mattered – it could take a long time to get back into the fight…

  • I don’t see how forcing pve players into pvp is a good idea..it is good for pvp players because there will be more people fighting battles and lower ques. Imagine the opposite though…you cannot participate in pvp battle unless you kill the last boss of the top raid available. Now we are even.

    Also I agree with Azuriel 100%. The system you suggest would throw out of pvp all players that don’t have 24/7 to play the game due to RL obligations.

  • @Argorius , I came to post similar sentiments. Yours pretty much mirror mine. You’ve summed it up nicer than I could have. Hell, almost makes me want to go back to daoc.

  • @Azuriel – Your guild goes into DF, gears up, and gets stronger. We are talking about playing an MMO here right, not an sRPG?

    @Keen – GW2 is overall a bad example anyway. Combat system is trash for PvP, WvW is tiny and pointless, and progression in every way but fluff is shorter than a play-through of FTL. All of that said, if the curve was 3 months, at least more people would be playing it for those 3 months, right? Beats 3 weeks.

    As for selling that to the mass market, did DAoC really have to sell it? Does EVE sell it? Remember how everyone thought the 4th pillar in SW:TOR was awesome pre-release? Point being, it does not matter what the masses think they want. More often than not, they are wrong. What matters is good design that can sustain itself long-term (if we are talking an MMO); get that, and people will show up, and more importantly, stay.

  • You see the same thing happening in planetside 2.
    No one wants to defend, because it does not reward people.
    Yet they do reward people for capturing and even bigger rewards for just “grinding” other players with medics reviving all the time and no one wants to play the objective.

    So I agree with you keen. There should be an incentive to capture and hold territory, instead of rewarding individual actions. And by that I mean something better then xp. Like for instance new vehicles/airplanes/walkers, when you control certain points.
    Make those cool enough and everyone wants to defend and capture those points.

    Its a design issue really.

  • @Keen — you might not be motivated by gold find and magic find but there are plenty of players who are! That said, I think one could implement your idea of “locking the losers out of something really cool” without peeling people away from pvp. If using a chest and drops system, you could alter the loot tables such players on the winning realm have a chance of getting special tokens as drops which can be cached in for exclusive items/skins that are not available in any other way. This can be implemented in multiple ways:

    1. The side that is currently winning gets the bonus.
    2. The bonuses rely on whomever won the last match.
    3. Additional bonuses might exist for the top overall server/faction in a system that works like GW2s.

    For example, instead of badges of honor you might have bronze tokens, silver tokens, gold tokens and platinum tokens. The third place realm (either based on current standings or the previous week’s results) has a chance of looting bronze tokens, the second place silver tokens, and the first place gets gold tokens. The number first place realm on the top server tier gets platinum. These tokens can then be turned in for gear that is commensurate with their status. Bronze tokens can be exchanged for exotic level gear that is very plain looking (thus the losers don’t fall behind on stats) and some convenience items that are only relevant to pvp. Silver tokens can be exchanged for a variety of better looking exotic level gear and a wider range of convenience items that might be useful in pve as well. Gold tokens can be exchanged for sweet looking exotic skins and a full range of convenience items. Platinum tokens can be exchanged for any of the gold token items plus some additional special things (perhaps some exclusive skins, special siege weapon skins, etc.)

    Of course you still get the tokens by actually PVPing. This gives everyone an incentive to get out on the field and play while simultaneously giving the winning sides something special.

  • If you think defence doesn’t matter in WvW you should try playing on Yak’s Bend. Defending is what we do.

    The whole DAOC nostalgia thing doesn’t play for me. I was there from launch and my abiding memories are of one of the longest, dullest PvE grinds ever combined with PvP that veered from hours spent running around trying to find someone, anyone to fight to endless hammering on a giant wooden door while a stop-motion slideshow flickered around me.Darkness Falls was a horrible innovation in that it introduced the concept of buying gear for points, something I consider one of the very worst things ever to happen to MMOs.

    There are supposed to be very big changes coming to WvW in February. I really hope they don’t go anywhere in the direction of DF and more PvE content but I fear that,s exactly where we’re headed.

  • The rewards for holding structures need to by far outweight the rewards of individual capture (none in early DAoC), otherwise you get the circle jerk pve raiding of WAR.

    One of the many things DAoC got right was not giving gear for pvp. The gear system in DAoC was way better than the BIS soulbound bullshit of pretty much all other MMos, anyway. But that is from someone who dislikes PvE. Dear game designers when your content can be beaten by a trivial if-else program, it is fucking boring.

    Other lessons to be learned from DAoC:

    Three DISTINCT realms.

    I guess everyone got the problems of having just two realms now. Making them more than copy paste versions surely is a hard task, but it is worth the effort.

    No fucking GCD.

    The only purpose of a GCD is hiding how boring and repetitive your gameplay (PvE) is by giving the player a shitload of buttons which all do the same. If I want to play the piano. I just play the piano. Simplicity in gameplay is a good thing. Chess only has 6 different pieces and you still can spend a lifetime mastering it. Go only has one, ffs. Giving your DPS classes 30 buttons which all do the same basic thing does not make your game better.

    A decent combat system.

    This goes a long way so let me give just one example. Defensive Tanks could actually block for other people in their group and were more than lumbering high hp low dmg hulks you ignore and kill last.

    There’s more but this is long enough I guess.

  • @kamuka: Wow, you are right – it would be nice to play a game again without a GCD – they have become the industry standard and it is easy to forget that you can have combat without it! I loved the idea of being guided by cast speed and being able to lower cast speed etc. GCDs do make combat boring and annoying…

    @bhagpuss: You are correct that sometimes RVR was boring because you went around looking for opponents and couldn’t find any or if you did find one you quickly got run over after having searched for an hour or so. For me it was a more balanced experience but there were definitely slow days. However, and you wont like this…in order to have great RVR experiences there has to be a chance of slow or boring days…I do accept this trade off gladly because I hate the alternative or what Devs have been doing to avoid this: formation of battleground instances for instant action, smaller RVR zones to get people engaged quickly, funneling RVR in these small zones, adding silly PVP objectives…I find the guaranteed constant action a bit boring…which may make no sense to you…however, I find it to be equivalent to death penalties…it is a mechanism that keeps gameplay exciting and interesting even though they actual mechanism is a horrible experience (losing your stuff, or taking forever to get back in the battle)…with both death penalties and even quick continuous RVR action you are walking a very fine line between fast food MMO and gourmet gaming experience.

  • I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again;

    Gear should not be a REWARD for PvP. It never should. It just creates problems.

    I’ve also said this before, but hard caps on stats are a must for a decent MMO. You want gear to matter, but you don’t want everything to inflate, you don’t want “BiS” to even exist. You want options. You want give and take, choices. There needs to be a maximum benefit cap to any stat, and a maximum amount of benefit you can shove onto any one piece of gear.

    Oh yea, and didn’t I mention? That makes crafting meaningful too.

    Wow, I just fixed most MMOs and everyone will still shoot it down. I guess you can’t help people that love sitting on the loot treadmill.

  • @bhagpuss @argorius I think this is a personal preference thing, the constant action and what was done to get to it makes every particular moment meaningless to me. In DAOC when you looked for people to kill you had to be smart about how you do it or you were the one taking the porters, to me best experience in that game was driving the group and taking bite chunks out of the zerg or driving the zerg and backdoring another zerg.

    For spam action I really prefer to play FPS games they just work much better for that