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5

How to Spot a PvP MMO Stinker

I’m going to share some of my divination secrets with you guys. Want to know how to spot a stinker in the MMO PVP genre? Look for these ‘selling points’:

  • Early Access
  • Enforced player caps on battles
  • No persistence with regular resets or win conditions

And if you want a cherry on top then look for a popular theme they’ve tried to attach themselves to like “base building” (or building anything for that matter), Survival Game mechanics, or MOBA.

Some people will take one of these as a sure sign of failure, but that’s not necessarily the case. As much as I despise early access, there have been plenty of awesome ea games. There are some great building games, survival games, and moba games too. However, I have yet to find a single non-stinker that fits the mold.

Can you think of any upcoming games that check these boxes?

8

I Only Like Certain Types of PvP

I go back and forth on PvP. Some of the best games (mostly MMOs) I’ve played were all about player-versus-player interaction.

I like there being PvP when it makes sense (to me). I like fighting for my realm. I like fighting for territory and seizing objectives. I don’t like ganking. I don’t like PvP when it’s just about fighting and beating the other player; I want it to be about beating the other side.

PVP I don’t like:

  • Anything promoting malicious activity designed to ruin another player’s fun
  • Ganking and open-world PvP with no safe areas
  • PvP where you can take everything a player owns
  • PvP without a purpose other than to kill another player and/or gain personal points
  • Instanced, small-scale or individual battles

PvP I like:

  • Team/Realm/Faction PvP (or RvR)
  • PvP that takes place in a designated area
    • Areas must be large and feel like a big open world
  • PvP for objectives like realm relics, castles, territory
  • Large-scale battles with dozens to hundreds of players

Games with ganking draw a type of player that I do not enjoy being around. I don’t want to generalize too far, but for the most part — based on my personal experience — the type of people who thrive on the ganking type of PvP are also the type of people with obnoxious personalities hellbent on ruining my fun.

Going back to my preference for social gameplay, I like playing with a team. I like having an army of players all attacking a castle together. Maybe it’s because a group of players means each player isn’t as accountable. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not an awesome PvPer. I’m not sure that I ever was. But when I play with others I feel like I do a decent job contributing. Maybe that’s an important part: I like filling a role in PvP rather than just being there to kill players 1v1 or in a tiny group.

In fact, let’s take this all a step further. I would rather there be no PvP at all over the open-world gank anyone you want style of play.

What type of gamer am I? I’m a bit of a carebear.

What Type of Gamer Am I?

I Like Making Things
January 30, 2017
I’m Not Competitive
January 25, 2017
I Need Social Gameplay
January 24, 2017
What Type of Gamer am I?
January 23, 2017
7

Entering The Division’s Dark Zone

Graev and I played lots of The Division over the weekend. We decided it was time to venture into the Dark Zone for the first time last night to see if the dangerous PvP area was worth spending any amount of time. I have to say… it was pretty awesome.

The Dark Zone is a nice big section in the center of Manhattan. In the Dark Zone you can be attack or be attacked by other players at any time. Attacking someone who has not already attacked another player turns you ‘rogue’ and makes you red and visible on the minimap to other players. When you go rogue, other players can attack you and obtain a bounty for killing you. Going rogue is not without its benefits, though.

The best gear in the game is found within the Dark Zone. In order to take items out of the Dark Zone they must be evacuated via helicopter in special containers. Evacuating can only be done at special locations in the Dark Zone, and requires an event be initiated. Once initiated, after a minute an thirty seconds you can drop clip your bag onto the rope dropped by the helicopter and your gear is safely transported to your base.

Here’s where it gets good. These events announce to everyone that you are trying to evacuate gear you found. As you can imagine, rouge players want nothing more than to relieve you of your goodies.

We spent 2 hours last night hunting NPCs in the Dark Zone to gain Dark Zone rank, Dark Zone currency, and find good items. We did pretty well! Throughout the evening we chased rogue players down and ultimately walked away with a few full containers of goodies. I should mention that the Dark Zone has its own level system and currency outside the scope of the regular single-player/co-op game, so the playing field is much more fair and balanced. You can gain rank and buy lots of nice items.

One incredibly memorable moment last night was when there were maybe 12-15 guys all trying to evacuate gear at once. Everyone was on edge and no one was holding still — you could feel how uncomfortable people were around each other. I had this gut feeling that the guy hanging back was going to go rogue so I kept my shotgun trained on him. Sure enough, he started sniping at people and went red. I put my shotgun to his back and unloaded! I ended up snagging a full bag of goodies and ran in at the last minute to click them onto the evac.

I wish the entire game was like Dark Zone. That feeling of working with other players to stay alive is awesome, and when you see a red player your heart starts to pound and you sometimes have to just go and hide to catch your breath. Evacuating gear is incredibly unnerving and by the end of the night we were both exhausted from the experience of being on high alert. Definitely something to be said for the human interaction that is blatantly missing from the rest of the game.

9

Balancing Roles Matters Just As Much As Balancing Classes

Though I haven’t been commenting and publicly hanging on every announcement made by the team at CSE, I have been following Camelot Unchained rather closely over the past year. My inbox is constantly blowing up with an evening update, an alpha test announcement (which by the way are always so last minute or during horrible times for me… come on Mark!), or a newsletter from the team. I think they’re making what looks to be fine progress on the upcoming PvP-centric MMORPG.

The latest newsletter (#19) discusses one item in particular that I think will hit home for a lot of us MMO vets: Balance. CSE is aiming to balance around rock-vs-paper mechanic rather than an apples to apples one. In other words, one class type can bet another class type — or taking it a step further, one class specialized in a certain mechanic can beat another class specialized into a certain mechanic like magic vs plate being strong and physical vs plate being weak.

This rock-vs-paper idea isn’t original — it’s been around forever. Even Dark Age of Camelot utilized the system. What’s also not unique is how difficult the idea of balance can truly be, and no matter how hard anyone has ever tried to create the perfect scenario, it never works that way. Paper doesn’t always beat rock in MMORPGs… and perhaps it shouldn’t be a hard counter. The idea of a perfect counter doesn’t exist, and that’s honestly part of the fun. I have no doubt CSE is well aware.

Taking things a little bit further out of the nitty-gritty mechanics side of this conversation, I like the concept of filling a role. When I say filling a role, in this context we can consider a role as a counter or a necessity — or both.  I’ll dumb it down. I used to really, really like the idea of being the guy who killed archers on the walls of a keep. Those archers were countering melee who would run up to the doors, and to counter them I had to sneak into the keep and take them out.

I like to imagine a PvP world where players will say willing specialize to fill roles. If people are going to carry a battering ram, who is going to hold the shield above them to protect them from arrows? Who is going to repair that door? Who is going to protect the people repairing the door? There are so many complexities when you take a PvP game’s balance outside of “my class heals and your class shoots stuff.”

Balancing ROLES to me is just as important as balancing the mechanics of blunt damage vs. plate armor. Without a balance of roles we are left with a very sterile system where we just worry about what class we’re up against or what weapon they are using rather than how they are playing. Balancing classes around roles becomes even more complicated than simply balancing roles against roles.

The “HOW is my enemy going to defeat me this time” is something I want to see balanced around. It may seem obvious, but that’s where most of these PvP games fail even harder than class balance.

21

PvP Should Never Be a Roadblock

Our community had some great discussion on the topic of PvP tonight and I feel a little inspired to write on our conclusions. We really really, really do not like PvP designed to eff (other words were used) up other people’s experience in the game. Let me elaborate. In Albion Online the guilds that own the black zones own the best zones. Contrast that to UO where the “best” guilds (read: largest) could own areas of the map, but people can still go somewhere else and truly not be locked out entirely from something they need or want to do.

No PvP system should ever allow players to completely lock other players out of content essential to their basic gameplay or enjoyment. No PvP system should ever promote players being trolls. If people are PvPing to be trolls, and they’re being successful at it, then the game lacks the basic design elements which would negate players having control of their ability to be trolled. In UO, if I was being killed in a cave then I could go find another cave. Someone could be a troll all they want and I had the control to go somewhere else. If I kept going back then it’s my fault. But take away the options and give me only one cave and suddenly the PvP exists only to be a troll and I have no control over being trolled other than logging out. Logging out is not an acceptable gameplay feature.

PvP should exist as a wing or an extension, and never a roadblock. PvP should not cut people out of PvE or Crafting if they do not participate in PvP or belong to the big guilds who dominate PvP. I have always been a proponent of the philosophy that the best PvP games have the best PvE, and they can and should be completely separate from each other. For example, Dark Age of Camelot. When done right — and not ruined by imbalance — they can even influence each other, but rarely intersect.

One of my continuing complaints about Albion Online is that I can never be the best crafter — ever — if I am not in the biggest guilds. By not being in the biggest guild, I will be destroyed by the PvP roadblock. I will never have the best resources. I will hit a wall. That wall is unacceptable.

7

Balancing Zergs & GVG Mechanics

albion-online

One of the biggest issues with Albion Online, and most PvP-based MMOs for that matter, is that larger guilds have a solid, inherent advantage.

  • Larger guilds control more territory for a longer period of time.
  • Larger guilds have access to more resources, more often.
  • Larger guilds will have the best crafters because those crafters can source all of their materials from others.
  • Larger guilds ultimately get to experience the game to its fullest.

I do not believe in answering this problem by simply saying, “Then join the big guilds.” I’m also not advocating that big guilds not exist. I do believe people should be free to join whatever guild they wish. What I want to see, however, is a bit more equity in the game’s design.

I want to look at a few solutions and their pros/cons.

Limit Participation

This is implemented, or at least was last time I checked, in Albion Online. Let’s say you have a battle going on for a guild castle or something. Your guild can have 100 people in it, but the battle for that objective may only allow a 5v5 or a 10v10 or whatever.

On one hand, this equalizes the ability for large guilds to zerg out the little guilds during a territory struggle. On the other hand, it ruins immersion and can cause reverse frustration for people in large guilds never being able to participate. Is that bad? Perhaps not, since it may cause guilds to be smaller in general to avoid sitting out or benching people.

Remove objectives which cause or promote a zerg-centric play-style

Having a very small or limited number of holdings on a relatively small map or concentrated area leads to large groups of people fighting over territory. Promoting, which can really be called ‘rewarding’, groups of people for sticking together in large groups will — obviously — lead to people moving around in large groups. Downside here is that you lose that ‘epic’ sense of battles if you create a world dominated by small encounters.

Decrease Black Zones -> Increase Yellow Zones (Albion Online specific)

The overall point here is that more of the game can take place spread out in an area that isn’t dominated by the 1% rolling around in large numbers. This increases the relatively safer areas where players can still get resources, but not be afraid of losing them when ganked by 100 guys.

Item ‘insurance’ when outnumbered

I think EVE does something like this, right? I may be mixing them up with something else. But what if players couldn’t lose items if zerged? 20 people killing one person? They get nothing. This forces people to want to fight fair fights, otherwise they get nothing. I think there’s merit here, but easily exploited.

Eliminate Guild Vs. Guild altogether and have Realm vs. Realm

This allows for multiple guilds to more easily combine together to fight the other side vs. guilds — run by players — dominating. And that’s really the problem here. People will say, “oh just get 3-4 guilds together to take out that bigger guild!” Yeah, sure, okay. Have you actually tried that? When individual interests are at stake, people stop working together. United interests drive cohesiveness.

Remove resources from these areas and simply turn them into e-peen conflicts

This may be my favorite option of all. I only care about this because the resources I want are stuck in the areas where the large guilds are zerging their territories. Take out the resources and let them have a Call of Duty fight. Let them earn combat points from battling it out. Implement a few anti-zerging options, but let the crafters still work hard at gathering materials without having to worry about gathering them amidst the 500 people zerging each other. Otherwise, it’s simply too broken and unbalanced in favor of the zerg.

24

Evaluating Crowfall’s Recent Siege Concepts

Crowfall has given me plenty of reason to pause and question. Everything from temporary battleground experience to arcade matches, and then the idea of fragmenting communities (the foundation of group pvp) by creating FFA campaigns, guild vs. guild campaigns, etc.

I’m finding a few more issues with Crowfall’s proposed PvP mechanics that were recently shown in a video. Take a look.

Vulnerability Windows – “For the next two hours the city can be attacked.” That’s a mistake.

Scripted Events – (Bloodstone telling players to go here, go there) This essentially states that players should zerg. The bloodstone says to go to X,Y? Okay, everyone go to X,Y.  That’s a mistake.

Expecting true Emergent Gameplay within a ‘Battleground’ – You can’t expect emergent gameplay when you create victory scenarios centered around timed capture the flag mechanics and vulnerability windows. You’ll only create an arcade experience. Basing your entire PvP campaign system around it… That’s a mistake.

There needs to be a long-term drive or a purpose, which I have yet to see explained. There must be a ‘reason’ to keep fighting. PvP for the sake of PvP will not last in 2015+. Games like that are a dime a dozen. This is why when people start to lose, I expect they’ll simply stop playing.

Now I’ll be constructive and offer advice.

Let’s assume they did stick with this. There are a few key points they’ll have to consider. First, to make this scenario work (which I realize is just one example of many “emergent” gameplay opportunities) the map has to be huge. Any map where players can realistically turn back to defend after committing to going after a Bloodstone will fail. Second, the reward for this Bloodstone thing has to be incredible. Third, the Bloodstone reward has to be diametrically opposed to the Keep reward so that players are actually having to choose which reward they want rather than simply choosing to double down. Fourth, they have to remove those vulnerability windows. That keep should be vulnerable 24/7; if it’s worth defending and not designed to fall in 30 seconds to a zerg then it will be defended.

It’s not impossible to make such a system like this fun, but it will be incredibly difficult to make it fun for long.

21

ESO PvP (AvA) First Impressions

I finally made it into Cyradiil!  After playing in the beta since November and having the best intentions every time to participate in PvP I can finally share my thoughts on what is being lauded as the closest thing to DAoC PvP we’ve seen in over a decade.

Cyradiil-ESO

The Map

The very first thing I realized was that Cyradiil is really big.  DAoC’s frontiers are still ginormous by comparison, but Cyradiil is already feels 4x the size of GW2’s WvW zone. Cyradiil can hold 2,000 people and from what I am told is optimized for 200 people on the screen at a time.  I’ll vouch for what I experienced so far, which is probably only ~75 people, but it was 100% smooth.

Cyradiil is full of cities (mostly abandoned) with NPCs (both good and bad) and daily quests to complete.  Graev and I spent what felt like 5 minutes running from one town to the next and didn’t come even remotely close to seeing another player or even a keep or objective to claim.

Teleporting around is a feature.  You can portal between major objectives if you control a path connecting them.  This introduces strategy associated with breaking the enemy’s ability to reinforce quickly.  From only a few hours of play I can already tell you this is going to play a major role like it did in DAoC.  Continue reading

37

My Mixed ESO Emotions

I must confess I am having mixed feelings about The Elder Scrolls Online.  I recently wrote my opinion on the 1-20 experience during beta.  I was pretty bored with most of it — lots of boring quests, being guided by the nose, etc. — but I never tried the PvP.  A while back I wrote how the PvP looked awful on paper.  One big server, campaigns, etc.

I don’t know how I feel now.  I’ve watched the PvP streams and the combat looks fun.  Siege weapons look great — those trebs and catapults are pretty cool.  I admit to wishing I was playing in the PvP right now.  Unfortunately, I am stuck without a gaming computer while our leaking roof dries.

My PvP concerns:

  • Zerg PvP is both boring and frustrating.  I see quite a bit of it going on.
  • Door Wars.  Bashing on doors all day.
  • AoE and Ranged being the only way to truly participate.

Anyone care to share a personal experience that will alleviate any of my concerns?

I like the recent announcement that the starter islands will be optional.  Then there’s this whole idea floating around out there that the PvE game opens up and becomes less themepark questing and more traditional Elder Scrolls.  Is there any truth to that?  If so, I can push past 20 levels of crap for 30 levels of fun.   My spidey-sense tells me something is amiss and that I should be cautious.

That’s where I’m at.  I’m trying to work through all of these contradicting feelings and opinions.  I’m currently hovering around the middle ground between ‘stay the heck away’ and ‘give it a shot’ … but slightly toward staying away.   Your thoughts are most definitely welcome.

29

[Exclusive] Camelot Unchained Q/A

Camelot Unchained

I can’t believe we’re coming up on nine months since Camelot Unchained was funded via Kickstarter.  The CSE team has been hard at work pushing out lots of background information in the form of lore and stories to really set the premise for what’s going on in the world.  So it’s only natural that I would bug Mark Jacobs to subject himself to our barrage of question.

We decided it was time to really start getting to the nitty-gritty details of Camelot Unchained, and we wanted you (our readers) to begin the discussion.  We asked you to come up with the questions you want answered most, and then we just threw them at CSE in a nice big unorganized pile. I think you’ll enjoy what they sent back.

K&G: What is the combat system like? Twitch based, Action-rpg or traditional mmo hotkey based?

CSE: To date, we have said that we are going for an old-school approach to certain aspects of our game, and this would certainly be one of them. What I’m willing to say for now is that we don’t want a lot of bunny-hopping players dodging incoming attacks. There are enough games that already do this, some quite well, and we don’t need to add another to that list. Also, that style of gameplay doesn’t fit what our Founders have told us they are looking for in Camelot Unchained. Continue reading

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