Can RvR Ever Work?

Been reading a few of the “Woe is WAR” posts floating around like Keen’s and on The Greenskin.  I’m reminded of similar discussions around Pirates of the Burning Sea (technical issues aside) as the struggle for the soul of the game evolved.

I’m left with the question in my brain of whether a primarily Realm versus Realm MMO can really have any chance of succeeding, or whether the MMO genre is really just too poorly suited to this kind of gameplay.

A persistent world with persistent characters comes with a price that may have some inherent limitations or conflicts when brought into contact with most MMO character progression models.  I didn’t play DAOC in its heyday, so forgive the lack of insight there.

I wonder what discussions roiled around the conference room tables when the Mythics and Flying Labs of the world discussed designing a faction oriented pvp game.  Without being exhaustive, I’d think they have to have pretty good answers to questions like these, and more importantly, the answers to any of them can’t conflict with answers to others.  No small task indeed.

What happens if:

  • one side is more popular than another?
  • one class is more popular than others?
  • there are not enough people to overcome PvE objectives?
  • there are not enough pople to overcome RvR objectives?
  • the population is spread across a number of regions?
  • the population is spread across a range of experience?
  • one faction dominates RvR objectives?
  • no one engages in RvR?
  • if RvR objectives are only undertaken when there are no likely defenders?
  • if there are players that don’t want to engage in RvR?
  • if a faction is “victorious”?
  • if a faction is “defeated”?
  • players only have a 2-hour block of time to play?
  • if players are unable to coordinate with each other?

and on and on.  I’m beginning to think that as soon as you replace factional progression with individual advancement, you’ve lost the RvR game.  Likewise, the opposite seems true too– as soon as you replace individual advancement with RvR progression, you lose the MMO game.

A game about “us” seems incompatible with a game about “me” and vice versa.  I’m hoping someone proves me wrong.

Just to avoid any confusion, PvP /= RvR and doesn’t suffer the same conflicts.  “Warfare” in a PvP game like Eve, for example, is an extrapolation of a one v. one conflict to a many v. many conflict.  Though complicated conflicts require specialization and coordination (just like PvE games), Eve remains an individual experience, whether or not you are part of a big corporation, whether or not you are Gallente, Caldari, Minmatar or Amarr.

Ultimately the rewards of the corporate warrior or the doughty miner inure to the individual, and any collective effort via corps and alliances, etc. are at their core still motivated by that individual advancement mechanic.  In Eve, thats mostly pecuniary.  ISK is King, and all good things come from ISK.  In PvE games, that’s levels and loot.

Self selective collaborative group effort is still built on an individual achievement model, just like PvE MMOs.  We run the instance to get the loot for ourselves and for our group mates’ “selves” but not for any conceptualized “us”.

My individual interests may have been aligned with those of Varian Wrynn from time to time, but if the King of Stormwind said “Go slay 1,000 scourge”, the first thing that comes to mind is “What’s in it for me?”  PvP and PvE allow us to keep individual score.  An RvR game has yet to crack that nut.

So can it be done or are we all doomed to me first MMOs?

13 thoughts on “Can RvR Ever Work?”

  1. You’re right I think, there is a big difference between PvP and RvR.

    I’m not sure if it can be done well or not. I think a big feature would be accessibility. It’s clear from WAR that when the core gameplay requires finding large groups of people to fight both with and against, you have to bend over backwards as a designer to ensure that happens. It’s not hard to do in an instanced game, but in a persistent world it becomes more difficult.

    I think that the war effort should be focused at all times, from all factions, to limited areas of the game. For example the NPC general of faction X says to you “Hey, we really need to go and cut off this supply train”. The opposing faction should be saying to its players “Hey, we really need to protect this important supply train”.

    That’s not to say players can’t go and do whatever they want to do, but rewards would be greater for going to the directed areas. They key is definitely to direct both sides into conflict with each other. To help avoid overcrowding, you can make the number of rewarded goals at a given time proportional to the player population on the server.

    Also, you should have a bunch of conceptually different tasks leading up to the player’s goal. For example in WAR you can just run up to a keep and lay waste to it. In a more realistic world, you’d need to cut off supply lines, burn surrounding villages, maybe sneak in and assassinate some key personnel to lower morale, defend your siege weaponry from being raided, etc. In WAR it’s…. siege this keep and this keep and this keep and then unlock the zone to progress to the next area and siege some more keeps. The gameplay this way just feels too bland, keep sieging loses its special feeling.

  2. I love the directed campaign approach. I wasn’t going to mention any more specific gameplay suggestions, but you hit on one that could/should have been more significant in PotBS and would have been cool in WAR– all of the ancillary actions you mention.

    Taking the directed hot zone/objective idea further, include alternate goals that might also play to different play styles– interrupt supply lines, blow up bridges to slow down the influx of reinforcements, burn crops, sabotage/covert activities, etc. all that would aid the directed war effort.

    If Karl Franz called for an offensive in Zone X and strategic objective quests were given out by a one of his generals in that zone…

    Boy, that’s starting to sound pretty cool…

  3. Rewards are necessary to induce cooperation and they are partly what wars are fought over but you can’t ignore the role of the leaders in the starting of these wars. They will fight them for personal reasons, they will regale their troops with stories of the spoils but that is rarely the whole story.

    The people playing the higher level meta games in Eve don’t derive their fun from counting their ISK.

    The problem with War is the limited amount in which guilds can gain recognition, there is no meta game to play for the natural born leaders (except petty intra guild drama and politics). Keeps just get flipped and flipped, and the rewards for claiming one are not enough for the guild leaders to convince their troops to prevent that from happening. There are not even ladder competitions to prove you are top dog.

    If a pure RvR means that there are no big goals for individual guilds, then yes … RvR can’t work. Personally I don’t think it’s necessary though, giving large rewards over time for keep ownership and setting up a ladder competition for guild vs guild scenario battles won’t break the game.

  4. You bring up a point that bears thinking about too. What roles should guilds serve in an RvR game (in addition to how to reward them)?

    By default, it seems that in WAR and in PotBS, all of the coordination and cooperation were largely submerged in guilds or alliances and often opaque to unguilded or small guilded players.

    This was made worse by the fact that PotBS like WAR also suffered from communication barriers and dubious choices regarding the placement of zone boundaries.

    Without some global default chat, there was no one guaranteed way to reach players on a server in different zones (even limited to the same Tier would be a vast improvement). On Averheim I know some folks set up a custom chat channel called /Order that guilds like the CoWs tried to get people to use. But unless you knew about it… and unlike Eve or EQ2, you had to join it each time you logged, etc.

    I always viewed the guilds in WAR as more like a regiment or militia unit in service of the King. If they took that concept and combined it with Eve’s default corporation approach (i.e. you’re in an NPC organization from the start), then you have a coordination infrastructure from Day One that the devs could use to direct activity. All guilds might have access to a world defense channel, etc.

    In WAR there are living guild rewards, though it was always unclear what exactly contributed to their advancement, and as far as I know, nothing like a specific achievement or reward for capturing a keep or 10 keeps, etc.

    Even a guild trophy case or some other epeen achievements would provide some recognition.

  5. Loved reading this post, p@tsh@t. A lot of good ideas bounced around as always. After seeing how RvR played out (or failed to play out) in the infancy of WAR, I think a directed campaign approach, coupled with a “we” vs. “me” style of progression, are the only way I can see RvR working in an MMO.

    Inherent in that directed campaign approach (in my humble opinion) would HAVE to be a much more persistent world than ANY MMORPG has given us to date, where repercussions are felt and victory and defeat matter.

  6. Not having played DAoC is huge, because that game basically showed why WAR will eventually (if it’s not already) work. PvP is far harder to balance than PvE, so it’s going to take Mythic a bit to get it good enough in WAR to really get the majority out into RvR (and I don’t mean power balance, I mean risk/reward balance)

    It worked in DAoC, it worked in AC-DT, it works in EVE. As Pinky pointed out, once you get out of high-sec, 0.0 is not all about ISK as directly as you make it seem. EVE goes from a ‘what about me’ to ‘what about my corp/alliance’ once you make that leap. Most don’t, hence the popularity of high sec.

  7. I like the sound of a more directed approach to the RVR. For my tastes, I’m perfectly fine with the open implementation in place now. I think two critical things are lacking. 1. Bodies on the ground – flat out not enough players across all tiers and all zones to support much RVR. 2. Non-persisting rewards – I can get renoun and nice gear drops but beyond that what does RVR provide that I can’t get elsewhere in the game, in my own time and under my own steam? Nada.

    It takes work do to RVR in WAR because of #1 without real tangible benefits. Winning and controlling a keep is more of a financial drain than a benefit. I’m not sure how they let that slip by them. I don’t need uber gear rewards to do RVR but I need something that makes is worth the effort. If there’s something happening in a zone that’s near me, I’ll participate. If not, I often don’t bother taking the trip out there to find who knows what going on – lost cause, game about over, etc. That’s time I could have been doing something tangible.

    They have the cute trinket idea. How about expanding it so we get medals or something for every keep we capture. Perhaps the size, color and ornateness change based on the size or effort of the battle. Let me wear them as badges of honor that show how many successful sieges I’ve participated in or how many keeps my guild owns or something to show, “That’s right, I am RVR awesomeness.”

    Right now the RVR doesn’t lead to anything that can’t be accomplished by the player in other ways. Either the personal glory, guild glory or persistent nature of the win has to be amplified I think to make this work better.

  8. Regarding Eve and ISK-centricity: On one level, all of you are right that in 0.0 its not all about the ISK, but all the activity– corp v. corp, player v. player is derivative and dependent on isk. No isk, no ships, POSs, etc. If that game or meta game is about accumulation of power, isk is the fuel that drives the bus and “we” is the means to survival of the “me”.

    A means to an end, but a fungible one (versus a series of zone unlocks for example).

    And again, corp-based pvp in Eve is fundamentally not RvR– its self selected and self interested collaborative effort. A corp or guild is only a private “realm” and is by definition, exclusionary regardless of the faction of its members. That’s just PvP writ large, not RvR.

    And it works well in PvE and PvP games because player organized groups have the ability to create rewards and incentives for their members that the game wouldn’t otherwise provide. Guild halls, travel advantages, shared banking, tools for resource reallocation and specialization, and not trivially, the ability to collaborate to more reliably access content or achievements that would otherwise be unavailable to them (which again, may yield loot or other personal achievements).

    So if DAOC got it right, why’d they change the formula? What made it work?

  9. I think it’s hard to nail down why it worked so well in DAOC to be honest. I think the biggest factor was that there was a general buy-in from everyone who played DAOC. Everything you did in that game was to lead you to the endgame of skirmish/keep/relic RvR.

    The ultimate goal was to take enough keeps so you could weaken the relic keep’s defenses enough to capture your enemies’ relics. Once you had their relics, you would receive a number of global bonuses for your realm.

    Trickling down from that, whoever owned the most keeps had access to the Darkness Falls dungeon, which was insanely popular before it became obsolete due to the mudflation introduced by their Trials of Atlantis uber-PvE expansion. Before that expansion, this dungeon was the cat’s ass for earning gold and giving access to very high level raid-like PvE.

    To be honest, they have designed the WAR RvR game very similarly to DAOC (not exactly, but there are a number of paralells and similar concepts). The biggest differences I can think of is that there is a much greater emphasis put on scenarios (for so long this was the ultimate way to progress in WAR and now people are stuck in that habit), oRvR plays a much bigger role throughout ranks 1-40, and they have swapped capital city sieges for relic raids as the ultimate goal.

    Even the PvE in WAR is much better than it was in DAOC.

    Overall, I think WAR is the better game but people need to buy into it as much as they bought into DAOC. I’m quite sure WAR has many more subs than DAOC ever had, however, I don’t feel as though there’s even remotely the same ratio of buy-in from their player base.

  10. The other thing that happened to the DAoC formula, WoW. The 4 million or so WoW players outside of Asia are not the same type of people who played UO/EQ/DAoC.

    Those MMO players still exist, but when compared to the mass of ultra-casuals, they get drowned out in games that reach for the mass market of WoW. The reverse happens in a game like EVE, anything that makes EVE more WoW-like is instantly rejected by the fan base.

    The scary/interesting thing to watch will be what Mythic does now. Do they dumb down WAR to WoW levels, allowing cookies to rain from the skies, or do they follow the EVE model and stick to the original plan and build slowly from your core. We know the core works, DAoC proves that, but is EA willing to support Mythic while it develops that core. I hope they do, but time will tell.

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