Massively Overthinking: Three-way RvR and ‘fair’ PvP in modern MMOs

MOP reader Sally Bowls is on a roll with the good questions lately! She lobbed us one this past weekend that seems a good follow-up to a comment thread discussion about the problems inherent in unregulated three-way factional PvP/RvR (and how a game like Camelot Unchained will regulate it). By way of example, she noted that a certain MMO griefer famously argued in favor of strategy that basically made the opponent not want to log in, using tactics like creating timesinks and hassles in a sandbox. “Should the dominant faction on a RvRvR server ‘camp’ the smallest to try to drive them off?” she wondered.

“If it’s about fair PvP, then that is anathema. But if you see the game as being about your faction being at war with other factions, then not doing your utmost to win that war is incompetence. Neither is bad design per se, just a conflict in understanding of the goals. And will Camelot Unchained really be RvR, doing everything legal for your realm to win? Or will it be about PvP battles, with the RvR rhetoric being more marketing fluff than von Clausewitz and Machiavelli? If camping a mine hurts your kill/death ratio but makes the opponent weaker due to hassles or crafting, is that winning or losing? Is an RvR game really about realms vs. realms or is it just another BG?”

I’ve pitched Sally’s comments to the team for consideration in this week’s Massively Overthinking. Is RvR just a more carebear-friendly way to market FFA PvP? Do you play RvR or factional PvP to win or to have fun, and how does that differ from a more open FFA sandbox? How would you design three-way factional PvP to keep people from quitting and stop griefing before it starts?

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): RvR and factions aren’t nearly the same as FFA PvP. I’d argue they’re probably closer to a BG feel, in that you automatically come with a defined side and people who (should) support you. It takes out the need to make social connections, but it also helps minimize the damage done by random PvPers ganking lowbies.

That doesn’t mean it’s intentionally more “carebear- friendly.” I’d argue it makes the game more friendly to people who are anti-social and/or aren’t as devoted to building a community, especially if factions can’t be changed post creation. I say this as someone who’s organized guilds, factions, and even alliances from World of Warcraft to Darkfall. I was reminded just last night that while playing Overwatch’s FFA battles that, well, I’m really not a killer.

I do PvP because it gives me objectives and a chance to employ digital diplomacy. Darkfall actually had a rather nice community, and I’m sure EVE is the same, but they don’t make headlines the way griefers do. When you have to build your own “faction” in FFA PvP, I think you’re a bit more invested. In BGs when I’m playing for fun (and not grinding for gear), I find it easier to leave after a good win streak ends. If I’m losing, I play longer because, well, I want the win. In the long run, we see this in MMOs in the way that one side may drive off the others, get bored of winning, and change games, while the losers who stick it out may win the remains of the game simply because the population’s been decimated by then.

For example, while Asheron’s Call 2 had a faction system that may have bugged some of the hardcore FFA PvPers, players could shift their faction (with a bit of a penalty). My friends and guildies worked to hone our faction. When other people joined it to be on the winning side, a few of us left. We had people in that faction who really didn’t support us though, which was frustrating. As the “winners,” we nearly quit, but switching factions gave us a new mission: to motivate our new faction. Our old faction retained power, but rolled more alts and… well, jumped ship to “conquer” World of Warcraft as soon as it came out.

That sort of mentality followed us despite our options being even more limited: two factions instead of three, no opportunities for cross-faction communication, and no faction switching. People who just wanted to be winners could join the bigger faction and zerg it. While FFA PvP also has that, you have more control over your community. The Darkfall guild I was in was part of a larger alliance, and we had allies who were “obnoxious” to say the least. Yes, some would team attack us, but as they were fringe within their own clans, they’d often be removed or harshly punished (like being robbed and ganked by senior officers griefing them to guild quit). When things got bad, our clan leader once allowed the city defenses to attack the troublemakers and banned them from the city. Since we’d made strong political connections, the alliance leaders not only allowed it, but let us choose how the offenders would be disciplined in a way to bring them back into the fold (as the only RP group, we decided to force them to run laps and do some RP-type stuff, which ended up being fun for everyone, even them). Pre-set factions don’t allow for this sort of community moderation, especially as MMOs aim for larger crowds, faster travel, and instanced based content.

That being said, I’m actually in favor of factions these days, but they need to be fluid. As much as I love building my own community, I don’t have the time I used to, nor the social connections/support to build and maintain e-communities with tons of strangers on the internet. While AC2’s faction system had the same issue as many other faction based games, I felt the ability to change factions helped minimize stagnation compared to, say, Pokemon Go’s team/faction based system that’s continuing the same MMO issue into real life. It’s what I’ve found attractive about Crowfall’s seasons. By having a defined season and a “reset” period, people on the losing side can potentially the winners. People on the winning side who are getting bored can join the losing side. If a developer is worried about Blue team constantly dominating the seasons, they can have rotating teams (maybe Blue, Black, and Red for season 1, Purple, Yellow, and Green for season 2, etc). I love faction pride, but feel like, as a mechanic, it only threatens the genre, especially now that people have so many other games they can move on to.

Sort of?

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): Maybe it’s my roleplayer upbringing, but metagaming in roleplay is a no-no, and I consider that true in PvP games as well, no matter the format. When Camelot Unchained (for example) forbids in-game communication between factions, it’s a way of signalling that what happens in game, stays in game – that using “meta” resources to discourage the real people behind the characters from logging in to contest you is not in the spirit of any MMO. It would be stupid for most game studios to allow or incentivize that behavior since it costs them players. It would likewise be stupid for gamers to do this to the playerbases around them. But hey, some gamers are just that dumb, and they don’t really care if they end up the only one left in an empty sandbox as long as they get the bragging rights from “winning.” Zero long-term foresight about the health of their own hobby.

Consequently, I think that RvR MMOs should be cracking down ultra-hard on the kinds of alliances (first and second place beating up on third place) that destroy whole games. It’s in their own interests as well as ours as players. There are lots of ways to combat it; eliminating in-game cross chatter is just one. I’m thinking NPC bots, penalties for not attacking enemies, adding bonuses for being in the losing group, seasonal resets, and so on.

To answer the other question, I’d say standard RvR (DAOC, CU) isn’t pure FFA because you don’t have to worry about teamkills or corpse looting, but it’s also not much like battleground PvP because the whole game is centered on the RvR effort – not at all true in a game like WoW, where the PvP is literally outside the game. It’s more like mini FFA, since you’ll see the same sort of ganking and zerging and singular focus on PvP, maybe even more of it since there are generally more enunciated incentives for doing so. The RvR in ESO, on the other hand, is more like a battleground as it’s not all-consuming and indeed has basically no impact on the gameworld or people who opt out entirely.

Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): There’s an interesting assumption baked into the core of this question that I can’t help but pick at first and foremost, because it kind of cuts into part of a problem. The question presumes – not altogether incorrectly – that free-for-all PvP is a blacklist system rather than a whitelist system. That is, the rules are that anything not explicitly forbidden is allowed, rather than the rules stating that anything not specifically allowed is forbidden.

Sports, generally, operate on a whitelist system. It’s true that there’s no rule in basketball saying that a dog can’t play the game, but there doesn’t need to be one; there would need to be a rule specifically saying that a dog can play the game. If it’s not allowed, it’s not permitted. Games with consensual PvP like World of Warcraft also have a whitelist system, where the game specifically outlines what’s allowed and what isn’t.

Sometimes that changes, too. To continue the WoW example, for a long time you could bait players into flagging themselves accidentally by flagging yourself, then standing in an AoE; the game would read that as a hostile action and flag the other player. You could also do various things to blue-shield yourself in open PvP, deploying beneficial effects that would help other flagged players without actually flagging you and making yourself eligible for targeting. Patches have worked to change these as much as possible.

In open PvP, on the other hand, the system found in games like EVE Online is essentially “anything not expressly forbidden is allowed.” Obviously, that means PvP shouldn’t include going to someone’s house and smashing up your opponent’s computer, since that’s a crime (the law tends to look down upon “but we’re fighting in a video game” as a defense). But preventing people from logging on? Suicide raids? Lies, deception, and backstabbing? All totally valid.

The reason I bring all of this up is that it ties into the whole question of “fair” PvP. “Fair fights” is something that I skewered a while back, because the reality is that you can’t argue a version of “fair” that doesn’t even out to “unfair in my favor.” If you’re making a game built around open RvR like Camelot Unchained, your goal isn’t to make the game be fair but to fill it with self-balancing forces, ensuring that the unfair strategies have drawbacks and/or costs over time that make them unviable.

So, let’s say you have your team of players camping an enemy mineshaft 24/7. Is that fair? Totally! You’re denying access to a resource. But eventually you’re going to be running low on supplies yourself, you’re vulnerable to being overwhelmed by a larger force, and you have to maintain a constant state of vigilance and rotating logins to continue the denial effort. In the long run, you might wind up making your faction more vulnerable by denying them access to troops.

In other words, the idea is that it’s different from open PvP in that you can’t just deny access to everything forever with no consequences. If half of your faction is defending, you might get overwhelmed by the 75% of another faction that’s attacking. The forces become self-balancing over time, and rather than preventing others from playing the game, you’re inspired to focus more around gaining long-term advantages that can’t just be taken back.

Which means that in some respects, it is just like a large, extended battleground. But that’s what battlegrounds in World of Warcraft were originally meant to emulate in the first place.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): “Rules” and “PvP” might seem two opposing perspectives, but I think that they’re necessary bedfellows. Sure, some might pine for a dream of unfettered, anything-goes conflict, but that often isn’t as exciting, fair, and engaging as fighters hope. Creating some boundaries and designing a system that gives all sides a chance at victory is crucial to keeping participation high and sustaining long-term interest.

And three-faction PvP is a proven way to do that with its inherent checks-and-balances that aren’t present in a two-faction system. Sure, it’s not perfect, but it does provide a way for an underdog to team up with the second-most powerful group to trounce the faction on top, deflating dangerously large egos and changing up the PvP meta. Resetting the game board (a la Crowfall’s campaigns) is important to shaking up stagnation and trench warfare as well.

I think it’s also important for game designers to include a “blue shell” technique or item that is only available to the underdog faction to give them a boost back into the game. This video from Extra Credits is illuminating on why Mario Kart’s often-hated weapon is actually a brilliant design for competitive play, and it got me thinking about how such an item might be wisely employed in factional conflict:

Matt Daniel (@Matt_DanielMVOP): Huh, that’s a great question, and one that I don’t think I’ve ever really considered before – at least not directly. In my mind, the one game that really epitomizes a PvP attitude of winning by any means necessary – fair or foul – is EVE Online, with all its Machiavellian schemes and sordid, soap-opera-esque betrayals, and in a broad sense, I’m a fan of games providing players with the tools and the freedom to pull off those kinds of dramatic stunts. Not that I have the wits or the wherewithal (nor the time and energy, for that matter) to devise and execute such schemes, mind you, but I love reading and hearing about them as much as everyone else.

So in that sense, yeah, I’m a fan of games where PvP is about more than just which faction kills the other(s) the most and which give players tactical options beyond outright military aggression. That being said, any game that allows and/or promotes tactics that are designed to cripple and demoralize other factions to the extent that players don’t even want to log in – whether by design or otherwise – doesn’t strike me as a particularly good time. Admittedly, my experience with RvR-centric games is fairly limited; I played Dark Age of Camelot only relatively briefly (and that was before I was experienced with the MMO genre, so I didn’t have a solid grasp of what the hell I was actually doing), and I’ve made sporadic forays into other games with RvR mechanics like PlanetSide/PlanetSide 2, Elder Scrolls Online, and Warhammer Online (RIP), but that’s about it. That is to say that I’m by no means an expert in the field.

That said, it’s generally been my understanding that one of the major philosophies behind RvR systems (which I’m not defining – not erroneously, I hope – as PvP systems that emphasize faction-based combat between three or more independent factions) is that the existence of more than two factions is supposed to prevent situations where one faction has absolute dominance over another, as Sally described in her comments. As someone who has never considered himself particularly adept in PvP (and who seems to have an uncanny knack for gravitating to the losing side in any two-faction game), that’s a pretty big draw for me.

Moreover, though, I think that RvR systems should (regardless of whether they actually do) ideally promote PvP playstyles outside of the usual ganksquads and steamroll-zergs. Sally gives this as an example: “If camping a mine hurts your kill/death ratio but makes the opponent weaker due to hassles or crafting, is that winning or losing?” In my opinion, in a well-designed RvR system, that should be unequivocally categorized as winning; it provides less-proficient PvPers (e.g., me) with a way to meaningfully contribute to the battle while also broadening the range of strategic options beyond just trying to kill more dudes than the other dudes.

I’m realizing at this point that I’ve yet to actually answer any of the questions originally posed, but since I don’t have the patience to go back and edit what I’ve written to smoothly integrate the questions into my rambling, here’s a non sequitur instead: “Is RvR just a more carebear-friendly way to market FFA PvP?” I mean, I’m sure it can be, but I think that’s an overly broad generalization to make. I don’t see anything inherently carebear-ish about RvR in comparison to two-faction PvP; the fact remains that, when you boil it down, there’s your faction, and then there’s everyone else trying to kill your faction. Whether a PvP system – RvR or otherwise – is “carebear-friendly,” in my opinion, is determined by the implementation of much more granular and specific mechanics: death penalties, PvP looting, the inclusion/exclusion of non-PvP areas, and those sorts of things.

Next up: “Do you play RvR or factional PvP to win or to have fun, and how does that differ from a more open FFA sandbox?” In RvR- or factional-PvP-centric games, as in everything else I play, the answer is “both.” I’m a pretty competitive person, and I do whatever I can to try to win – read theorycrafting analyses, fine-tune my character’s build, all that good stuff – but I try not to get too super-duper-srs about it; after all, my leisure time is limited and precious to me, so if I’m spending it playing a game where I’m not having fun, then that’s just a waste of perfectly good time and energy. As for how it differs from an FFA sandbox, that’s a tough question to answer objectively. But the way it should differ from an FFA sandbox is, somewhat obviously, in the implementation of the factions themselves and of mechanics that encourage intra-faction communication, coordination, and cooperation.

Sure, RvR games can end up being nothing more than glorified battlegrounds where the only difference is that it’s not Red vs. Blue – it’s Red vs. Blue vs. Yellow, or whatever. But on the other side of that coin, I feel like a well-made RvR game – one that is designed around the cooperation within/competition between factions and that leverages those aspects of the game with mechanics that promote strategizing with your faction rather than incentivizing the simple wholesale slaughter of everyone you see – can (and should) create a more complex style of gameplay that standard two-faction- or FFA-PvP games can’t replicate.

Older engines, you know.

MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): I do not enjoy PvP solo, so faction PvP or RvR can have a leg up in terms of my interest because there is already some social construct built into it. It also tends to give a story or purpose behind the fighting, which is a big deal; fighting for no other reason than to just to bash other people’s heads in holds no appeal to me. The addition of objectives that allow players to contribute to their realm without having to actually fight is also key. Crafting, holding strategic points that aren’t on the front line, and even running a mobile hospital and/or morale unit (wouldn’t that be totally cool?!) should all be viable ways to further the war effort. Plus, those bring in more folks to the world, especially those who maybe don’t revel in the head-bashing as much as some others but still love a good contest. Faction pride and all that.

As for the question of winning at all costs or having fun, you might have guessed that I do it for fun.

Your turn!

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54 Comments on "Massively Overthinking: Three-way RvR and ‘fair’ PvP in modern MMOs"

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Sally Bowls

Unlike RvR, WoW (like most instanced PvP) tries to balance numerical disadvantages. There was a time when unequal sides were allowed in the Wintergrasp Battleground and the smaller side got a buff.

A blogger, who may still read MOP, could win almost every match. As the match was getting ready, he would log an alt on the OPPOSING faction and spam things like “Wintergrasp is starting. You don’t need gear, come have fun.” This increased turnout, presumably from the less serious PvPers which increased the buff for his side and lowered the average skill of the enemy.
Should this be allowed?

One one hand, he was greatly influencing the BG with Out-of-BG chat, which does not feel sporting to many.

OTOH, would you have Bliz sanction someone for saying “You don’t need gear, come have fun.” In a world of bots and aim hacks, that is not egregious, seems perfectly legal and at first glance would appear helpful if you did not think it through.

Edge cases are what make programming and law hard.

Andrew Ross
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Andrew Ross

Oh man, I really liked Bree bringing up meta-gaming for RPers, Eliot’s “white listing” argument, and Justin’s point about a “blue shell” mechanic. Meta-gaming is a game-breaker (beyond ruining the best part of MMOs- communities) that can bypass in-game mechanics, which is why I figure having factions as impermanent would help cut this down: you can’t spend a year+ infiltrating a community just to ruin it.

The blueshell solution is not only “needed,” but I’d argue that it’s fun. I remember WoW having a buff in Winter’s Grasp for awhile after launch that essentially could turn each member of the underdog’s side into a small boss mob. I’d have people of the enemy faction jump on after the battle and tell me how fun it was for them and their friends to figure out how to break my Death Knight’s player-tanking. I know “professional” gamers hate random mechanics or “underdog” assists, but the popularity of Nintendo games that include these sell not just tons of copies of their games, but Nintendo’s consoles.

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Schmidt.Capela

This kind of mechanic is actually included in far more PvP games than you could shake a stick at, though rarely as flashy as the Blue Shell. In any PvP game mode where players accrue power during the match, without this kind of mechanic to offset early advantages whoever gets a stronger start will win the PvP match 90%+ of the time, which makes the first few seconds or minutes of the PvP match really interesting and the rest of it a boring drag.

(BTW, the blue shell isn’t the only catch up mechanic in Mario Kart. Its main helping hand is how the further behind a player is, the better the items he will get. Imagine if in LoL taking down a tower made the enemy players stronger; that is, more or less, what Mario Kart does with how it distributes items.)

Andrew Ross
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Andrew Ross

Oh, I know there are catch-up mechanics, but I meant it in the same way as the Blue Shell- something visceral that players know is there to assist with catching up, but not a kind of “auto-win” kind of feel. For example, Blizzard switched things in open PvP battles after abandoning the “boss mob” buff so that, strategically, the side that lost last time has an advantage. That’s overkill in that the former underdog feels like the next match will be easy and the former victors think they’ll automatically lose. It’s also more drawn out, so it lacks the same kind of punch that (using Mario Kart terms) getting better items provides.

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Arktouros

As a long time MMO PvPer I’m going to say what the developers intend out of a system and what us players intend out of a system are generally two different things. Three way RvR systems are probably the best example of that where they intend the two weaker factions to attack the stronger faction but as always the stronger factions end up beating on the weaker faction. However the main difference for how things play out generally comes to the two dominant types of players.

First you have the “Gud Fite” crowd who don’t really care about the map or winning the over all battle. They just want to find a fight and not worry about the rest. They don’t care about the dominant faction or the weaker faction, they just want people to murder and taking something like an objective is just to draw people in to kill.

Second you got the “Meta” crowd who are trying to play the map. They’re going to beat up on the weaker team because it’s the strategically smart thing to do since they will have a harder time fighting back. It might be boring to take an empty Mine but it might give or take away some advantage.

These two groups of people will fight and mock each other all the time. In GW2 for example you have the groups who crow about “Bags!” (the loot players drop when they die) and anytime you talk about objectives on the map they’ll throw out mocking insults about “PPT” (points per tick, or winning the score). There are of course other player types as well but the dominant crowd on a faction will generally tell you what kind of experience you’re going to have.

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Rick Mills

I distill PvP into two separate categories (leaving out RPG, that is).
. It’s fun to win a competitive event
. It’s fun to Bully

Balanced PvP is the first type and includes any Rules that make you feel you’ve won fairly (and I’m using fairly in The Best Possible Way®)
Open Pvp is the second type.

Pve FTW!

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Melissa McDonald

“can’t we all just get along?”

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odin valhalla

MMO’s make money from PVE content and casual gamers with disposable income. The e sport offerings attract competitive people. So the game ends up trying to serve two completely different population types. In nearly every MMO I have come across the care bear casuals always win out because thats where the whales reside.

An MMO company is always going to serve the person will pay 30 bucks for an elk mount over the person who, as part of their pay in fee (59.99 perhaps?) expect dev time to fix and enhance an existing zone or feature. How companies lure the PVP people is by the well played out lie of some marketing meme “your sub will cover all the content and we’ll improve the game every 6 weeks”

Most savvy mmo gamers know thats a bold face lie but you sign on because until the MMO captures the care bear whales they will in fact do it to keep you paying.

Cynical? Yes it is.

The answer of course is keep them separated. GW2 has done a decent job of this. Im not sure how CU is going to keep things a float with a PVP centric theme. Im a founder of that game nearly exclusively because of Marc Jacobs. If anyone is going to pull it off its going to be him.

Polyanna
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Polyanna

My experience is that an RvR game can be more than a glorified murder simulator, but the specific mechanics dictate by how much it will rise above. RvR does offer at least the potential for more playstyles than just “ganker,” but the tactical and strategic mechanics will determine whether those alternatives are widely played.

There are a few games out there with active RvR scenes, and I’ve played several of them for a few hundred to a few thousand hours each. The ones I know personally are GW2 and Planetside 2 (PS2 is an MMOFPS, but I think it fairly counts for this discussion). I think you also can look at EvE here, since it has a player faction system which doesn’t involve “realms” but does result in large alliances with as many or more players as most RvR games have on each side.

My experience is that the one thing all RvR or factional warfare games do manage to pull off is making a setting where fights most of the time involve an order of magnitude more people in one place at one time than any arena or battle royale game.

The up side is that players who are less skilled can participate, and maybe even contribute to these very large battles. Depending on the mechanics, support roles and tactical leadership can have a large impact on the outcome.

The down side is that 99% of the time the side that brings more players to a fight will win, no matter what. This is true of every game like this that I have played, and there isn’t any good way around it that I have ever seen.

A corollary of this is that in any factional game with more than one faction, the two more popular factions (i.e., the ones with the coolest looking guns and uniforms) figure out pretty quick that it is easier to gang up on the third and smallest faction and steamroll them than it is to spend their time fighting each other in constant stalemates. This means that in practice RvRvR often winds up being RRvR, which kinda sucks.

As far as how you play, people play these games in all sorts of ways. Some (me) are mindless zerglings that just find a big group to follow around and get kills and victories totally by accident, by weight of sheer numbers (and eventually get rekt when the zerg they are with is found by a superior force).

Others are high-skill solo roamers who make their living farming zerglings from the edges of the battlefield, or catching them on the way to an from, and who do almost entirely 1v1 or 1vX small fights at the periphery, not caring much one way or the other who wins, and basically just pimping their KDR all day.

A few are full-time tactical or strategic commanders who head up large formations, have a deep understanding of mechanics and tactics, on a micro and macro level, and spend all their time leading large, tactically or strategically focused battles. Some of these players are quite good at what they do and consistently can lead large groups of pretty mediocre players to victory if everyone listens to them and pulls for the team.

The problems people complain about in arena games all are about individual balance; that certain weapons or setups allow a player to always win in a 1v1 setup. The problems people complain about in RvR games all are about tactical and strategic balance, where mechanics make it either “too easy” to take objectives, or “too hard.”

If objectives are easy to take but hard to defend and there is little or no benefit to holding onto them, then campaigns quickly devolve into two massive zergs circling the map on opposite edges, taking empty objectives to farm victory points, and rarely or never fighting more than a handful of the enemy who make the futile effort to defend any point.

If objectives are hard to take but easy to defend and lucrative to hold, then campaigns devolve into an early fight after each reset to secure one critical anchor point in the strategic lattice, which, if held by large numbers, can be impossible to take or bypass, and then a static endless kill farm centered around that objective until the next reset.

It’s hard to get this balance just right to the point where every campaign is a moderately paced exciting large scale war with a slow moving identifiable front and brilliant strategic plays and counter-plays determining the flow of battle. But it does happen, sometimes. At least for a little while. And then it can be the stuff of legends, and a whole lot of fun.

The only game where I have seen meta (or meta-meta-) gaming come strongly into play is EvE, where the most powerful strategy doesn’t involve fighting at all and strategic espionage is an actual thing. Entire huge alliances have been taken down there by one person who got into a position of trust and then just took all the stuff in a skinny minute, while nobody was looking. It’s also the only game I’ve seen where making the game boring and frustrating for the other side was regularly practiced as a legit campaign strategy (it’s a thing in EvE because it works well, if you can pull it off). The mechanics of other games don’t facilitate those political approaches to war as much, so they’re not as often in play.

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Veldan

Thumbs up for bothering to write this much :)

I think you raise some valid concerns (RRvR being the most important one), but I’m not going to worry about them. I’m curious about how it will all work out in CU, but time will tell.

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draugris

It´s an interesting question, but imo first of all we need to get rid of these overstressed buzz words “carebear” and “hardcore” because they are basically meaningless. If you ask 5 people what is carebear and what is hardcore you get 10 opinions about each. So that does not help anybody.

So what is “fair PvP” and can it be done. Imo to an extent yes and it should be, but in RvR or FFA games it can´t. There will always be imbalances in population that are out of the hand of the devs. Of course they can implement mechanics to cover it a bit, but in the end the weakest faction will stay the weakest faction.

The dream of all 3 faction RvR games is of course that population imbalances will naturally even itself out in a way that that the weakest and the second weakest faction team up against the strongest. That does simply not work and assuming that is in my opinion the first design fail. I have never seen that to happen in younger history and the time of DAOC or let´s say the mindset of the players of these old RvR style games is over. What i have seen a lot is that the second weakest (or second strongest) faction teams up with the strongest to annihilate the weakest faction. Why ? Because they want to secure second place, and the easiest and safest way to do it is by destroying the weakest. To team up against the strongest is a risky thing because it might weaken them and make them vulnerable against the weakest faction. The last time i saw this to fail was in the better times of GW2 and i don´t believe it will work in CU either.

Population wise fair PvP can only be achieved in instanced PvP, Battlegrounds etc. because there the developer has direct control on when a game starts and how much people are needed on each side.

But that does not mean you can´t make open world PvP fairer. The biggest imbalances in PvP these days comes from gear, so the first thing PvP oriented games should do is stopping the stupid vertical progression via gear treadmill. Winning in PvP should come from skill not from gear. The question should always be, how good am i, and not, how long do i play the game and how many rats arses have i grinded to get my shiny legendary.

The second biggest problem come from skills. So that does not so much affect PvP only games but it affects games that offer PvE and PvP a lot. Devs always have to decide, do we balance for PvE or for PvP and in the end one game mode always suffers. To make it fairer for everybody they could introduce a skill split between PvE and PvP so that each skill can be adjusted seperately.

I play PvP in MMO´s usually a lot and RvR games are a lot of fun for me regardless of large or small scale combat. If i play with friends a perfect evening for me is when we have good fights, i don´t care to much about winning . My best memories are from Warhammer when we managed to wipe zergs with a small group. That felt awesome, even if we lost as a faction.

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drgreenhoe

Realm based RvR in DAOC was the most fun I ever had in pvp. Your fate was often determined by the third faction and this made all the fights alot more interesting.

Fair is not a term that I would normally associate with combat. Nothing in life is fair and combatants will use every and all advantages they can to win. Regardless of fairness.

I play for funness and don’t much care about the fairness.

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Dread Quixadhal

The question really boils down to the audience you’re trying to attract. If you want the casual crowd, you’re going to have to ensure that nobody can permanently stay dominant. Casuals don’t have 12 hours a day to defend points, or grind their way to tops of leaderboards. Casuals are not going to enjoy logging in for their 1 hour of game time, only to see that once again, their faction is losing and has no chance of turning it around.

There are zillions of way to offset things like this. Anything from the cost of holding map nodes or resources increasing the longer they’re held, to people who die too often getting boosts until they finally win something.

Of course, while those make the casual gamer more competitive, they will anger the “hardcore” people, who *DO* spend 12 hours a day doing this, and feel they should be on top, and be able to kick anyone who tries to climb up to them, in the teeth.

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Veldan

It’s wrong to define casual / hardcore by time investment… they aren’t linked. I’ve played with casual people who had the most hours played of anyone (think 10k+ hours 5 years) and hardcores who played 30 mins a day. It’s about mindset, playstyle and preference.

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Sleepy

That’s what stopped me playing Eve tbh. Warfare outside the game to stop you logging in in the first place, and taking advantage of bugs and weak mechanics within the game to win at any cost.

There’s a fascinating psychology study in there somewhere, around boundaries and perspective. Although when I think about it, any study like that would probably get trolled and weaponised as either a recruitment tool or another way of driving people away.

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Schmidt.Capela

Having three factions instead of two doesn’t guarantee balance; at best, if the game manages to somehow force the weaker factions to focus on the stronger, it delays the point at which imbalance will become a problem, but as soon as one faction becomes stronger than the other ones added together the imbalance problem becomes very hard to tackle.

Similarly with handicap systems, like the famous Blue Shell. They work when the difference in power is still manageable. But if the difference is too large then handicap mechanisms won’t work anymore; for example, if I were to play Mario Kart against an average 8 years old child, no amount of luck on the part of the child could ever give him or her a fighting chance against me, despite all the automatic handicap systems built into the game and its mechanics.

What solves the issue of balance is making sure enough players want to fight for the underdog. The better the game does this, the less issues with imbalance it will have, regardless of the number of factions.

Now, why would an average player intentionally join the underdog faction? That, my friend, is the million dollar question. But if the game doesn’t even bother asking it, it surely won’t be able to answer it, and if it doesn’t answer it then it will likely have faction balance issues sooner or later.

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A Dad Supreme

Fair in “Predator Vs Prey”? HAHAHAHA!

Fair is a place where they judge pigs. It has no place in MMOs the way games are made and the way people play them.

If you find yourself playing in the middle of a “fair” PvP MMO battle and it’s balanced, realize that you’re still asleep in the middle of a great dream, and you’ve got to get up for work in about 4 hours.

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Utakata

Fair is not a term in vocabulary of the cynical either apparently. /sigh

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Sally Bowls

IMO, you may be missing what I think is the interesting bit – the bit that causes the conflict. “Everyone” agrees people who use aimbots are getting an unfair advantage through cheating. For me, the interesting bit is when the “unfair” players think they are doing the right thing and others think they aren’t.

Everybody does things that are not “fair.” Attacking healers first, rogue stealth and attacking from behind, sending extra players to out number a defender at a resource node are all things that almost everyone accepts. Some eyebrows get raised when the opponents always have the optimal comp with FOTM specs and BiS gear. Even more eyebrows get raised when they use OOG methods to change the odds.

IMO, there is a continuum from things that 100% (rogue stealth) to 0% (hacks) of players think is “fair.” IMO, what is underappreciated is that everyone has a different threshold and things you consider unfair, some/many/most might consider acceptable.

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Utakata

…coming from that PoV I can see how “fair” can be construed as subjective. But removing the anecdotal, the meta understanding of fair is often set by the rules of the game. And if players go outside of those rules to gain the advantage, then that’s most certainly unfair. Where everything else is fair game (no pun intended). If players have an issue with that, they can always advocate for something that is fairer.

But at the end of the day, games striving for a fair playing field should always be a goal even if that gaol could never be fully achieved. Anything else would just make it unplayable, IMO.

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Sally Bowls

1) The RvR games are certainly not prioritizing fair; if fairness were the utmost goal, there would be instanced battlegrounds with exactly the same number of players.

2) Going outside the rules is cheating and per se wrong / bannable. The issue is “unfair” things within the rules. Say OOG Goonswarm coordinates on their websites, forums, and videos to have a huge number of people create Vikings on servers 1, 5 and 17 in CU. Perfectly legal; within the rules. So they have a numerical advantage; better organization and infrastructure, website, voice comms, etc. So they may have a significant advantage, created OOG, and within the rules. I am not sure everyone would vote the same if asked fair or unfair.

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Utakata

And I’ll repeat…

“If players have an issue with that, they can always advocate for something that is fairer.”

…and I’ll will add, developers better listen.

Beyond that, we will have to agree to disagree. As I don’t want this to become an exercise of splitting hairs and playing that True Scotsman bagpipe. (To which I tend to play in an off-key.) :(

Eliot Lefebvre
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Eliot Lefebvre

There’s not always space to address it, but while I’ll be the first to say “fair doesn’t exist in these sorts of competition,” I’ll also be the first to say “unfairness definitely does, and how we police that is important.”

Just because the universe doesn’t care about fairness doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t.

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Sleepy

Exactly. If the Olympics, for example, was approached with the Eve mindset, most of the athletes would be intimidated, bullied, locked in toilets or find their kit mysteriously misdirected to Antarctica. While any one who did make it to the race might find one contestant able to mysteriously teleport to 50m from the finish line by somehow glitching the track.

And yet some people (unfortunately often including CCP) find it completely acceptable to do the online equivalent, on the basis that “it’s war, all’s fair.”

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Sally Bowls

Sometimes they do get caught though.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boris_Onishchenko

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Sleepy

That was excellent!

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Schmidt.Capela

The most interesting part is how he was actually a great fencer and would have won if he hadn’t cheated.

Reminds me of Richard “Dick” Milhous Dastardly, the cheating racer with the rocket car in Wacky Racers. He typically gets to first place multiple times during each race, and only loses because he wastes time trying to cheat instead of, well, just racing

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Sally Bowls

:-)

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squidgod2000

God damn am I sick of PvP MMOs.

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Veldan

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Utakata

I think Mr. Schlag is the one holding the swear jar around here. So you might want to flag his nose down on this. <3

K38FishTacos
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K38FishTacos

How it plays out in ESO is like this: Realms 1 and 2 gang up on 3 (the weakest). After 3 leaves the field, then 1 stomps 2. Rinse – repeat.

And 3 stays weak because people leave and re-roll in 1.

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peor togs

In a real war you do what you can to make it stop because killing people is bad.

In a virtual game, where the point is to enjoy competition, make your opponent leave is a bad thing.

What a stupid point someone is trying to make, and horrible reasoning.

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Sally Bowls

IMO, a lot of people think like you the goal is to “enjoy competition” but a lot of people it’s not really a competition or a game if you are not trying to do your best within the rules to win; ie. the point of a game is to win. The disconnect and whinging is when both types are playing the same game and think the other is wrong.

In the inevitable sports analogy, you can hit tennis balls or shoot hoops for fun. But as soon as you choose to start keeping score, while hopefully it is still enjoyable, but it has become a competition; if you did not want it to be a competition, you would not keep score.

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peor togs

Sorry, this is the most ridiculous line of argument I have heard in a long time.

The argument that you are supporting is that people can do anything, in or out of game to cause your opponent to stop playing because that ultimately means you won the competition as long as it doesn’t directly conflict with rules of the game.

Just because something isn’t in the stated rules doesn’t mean it isn’t inherent to the game. I wouldn’t bring a megaphone to a Tennis match and yell my opponent into mistakes because even though not addressed in rules, it isn’t in the competitions parameters. And yet this is exactly the sort of thing people like yourself seem to think is OK.

People like you seem to forget that in almost all of our MMOs, there is something called a EULA and rules of conduct. It is explicitly for people like yourself that find loopholes or gray areas in game, or methods outside of the game to screw their opponent over so that companies can eject players like yourself so the game isn’t ruined for the 95% of the player base who are reasonable.

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Sally Bowls

Perhaps it is because I have played EVE but not DAOC, but mostly it is because I am too literal. I see the description as Realm vs Realm vs Realm; it is not 3-faction PvP but realm vs realm. So I see that as describing one “organization” battling two other organizations, not a WoW BG where the teams are wearing three instead of two colors of jerseys. But I suspect the Fairness Police disagree.

I think Elliott got to the heart with the distinction of “is this a sport” or “is this a war in a virtual world?” I don’t think either is a better or worse choice, just different. What I think is clearly bad is when the dev is not clear which it is.

I am also troubled at how fairness becomes “unfair in my favor.” Why is it good sportsmanship for a rogue to attack from behind out of stealth? Is it sporting to send 4 people to attack a capture point defended by 2? Or does eBushido demand a 2v2 duel? And if trying to engineer a 4v2 at a resource node is proper, then why is trying to engineer a numerical advantage on your realm in a realm vs realm battle in poor taste? If fairness was much of a concern, the system would be assigning the players to the instance/realm instead of relying on people not choosing to play on a realm that benefits them. I see the dev going with the lots of realms paradigm from last decade as signaling that numerical equality is not valued.

I am unclear about time zones. I am not wise enough to see how MJ is going to get lots of smaller realms to work in off hours six months after launch. In EVE, alliances try to have 24×7 coverage with people from multiple time zones. Should/Will that be a thing in CU? Is putting together some late-night people and some off-continent people to dominate a time zone expected? In poor taste? Or actively resisted by the devs? I don’t have a problem with the former or the latter, as long as it is explained prior to launch and not as in some non-MJ games where the devs are surprised that players are – depending upon your point of view – optimizing or gaming the system and start [over]reacting.

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Schlag Sweetleaf

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wratts

Brilliant as always, Schlag!

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Schlag Sweetleaf

3 stooges gifs are always my pleasure:)

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Utakata

Lol! :)

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Robert Mann

RvRvR tends to run into problems with meta gaming, that is forming alliances between two factions to farm one other faction, continually, with only skirmishes or win-trading between them. In general, if it can be exploited in some fashion it will be, and PvP it will usually be done in such a way that somebody else directly suffers for it. For example, the entire emperor debacles in ESO where factions literally just set up and got a whole bunch of people emperor or ex-emperor for the advantage it provided early on, knowingly abusing coms and alts while playing all three factions at times… of course they never lost that, but it got nerfed into oblivion likely as a result.

So I hope very much that CU takes effort to tackle those issues. Because it is a game, not a war. Treating it like a war is begging for the same to be done in turn to you, and the only reason these people dare to advocate such tactics is they know that nobody is quite literally going to cave their nose in over it. They might become a target in game, maybe, but that’s not hard to ditch.

The entire idea that anything goes, given that it most certainly does not in reality, is just odd to me. If you are willing to sink to the lowest tactics in reality, every other nation is going to obliterate you. Because you are now a rabid threat, with no limits to how low you will sink to harm others. IF such games had mechanics with enough factions for that to happen, or with NPC groups that would produce such a result, the whining and salt from these people would be insane… because in my experience they can’t take what they so eagerly want to dish out.

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Utakata

“How would you design three-way factional PvP to keep people from quitting and stop griefing before it starts?”

But if all 3 sides did this wouldn’t this create a perpetual stalemate where none of the sides could do anything? An unstoppable force meets an immovable object type of thing…only this time coming in from 3 sides…

…I think I’ll defer this to the expertise of Mr. Jacobs as he’s designing this thing. And I don’t want to get my pigtails in too much of knot over this. :(

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

reminds of the old saying when i played l2 – you won by making your opponents log off forever. adn technically you won the biggest by logging off forever.

the truth is that in daoc and other 3 faction games the fabled times the two weaker factions teamed up for a weekend to totally DESTROY the dominant faction were an extreme rarity to being a few times in several years exception. this goes for daoc especially.

it’s rather evident in teh stories that promote this ideal in themselves let alone if you look deeper into it (which i did years ago when daoc syndrome as i call it was at full tilt in teh various mmo’s i was playing from beta through launch on a regular basis).

i do have this worry about CU but i am thinking perhaps we’ve had enough downtime and self realization even amongst teh more hardcore cupcake try hard set that it might actually be better to have opponents to fight against then to have total domination for all time within the first three months of the game after launch before our hardcore total domination alliance falls apart and most of it quits the game to move on to the next thing (as had been the case for many years throughout many an mmo).

then again maybe we have not and it will play out exactly as predictable as history dictates.

and certainly with discord as the integrated embedded chat system there’s not going to be any such enforcing not communicating between factions even remotely. as discord just doesn’t remotely work that way.

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Eliandal

I’m not sure what server you played on, but it certainly wasn’t Guin ;P The “top” realm was regularly spanked by the other two over the course of the years I was on the server, conversely, it was very rare for the top two to go after the ‘underdog’ In fact, except for a couple of ‘wars’ that were actually started by trash talk on the VN boards, it was pretty much non existent. The way realm ranks worked, if they didn’t come out, you got nothing. There was far more benefit to go after the top dog.

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rafterman

I’m with you. I played DAoC for about two years at release and I can’t say I can remember the two strongest factions ganging up on the weakest. It might have happened but it would have to have been extremely rare. The two weaker realms attacking the dominate side happened regularly, though. In my experience that’s what made three way pvp in DAoC superior to traditional two faction fighting in most games.

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Schmidt.Capela

I don’t think its usually an organized cooperation. It’s just that people often go for the weakest target, and so if the weakest realm provides the weakest targets, well, being ganked by the more powerful ones is the natural consequence.

7BitBrian
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7BitBrian

An entire article specifically about 3 way RvR and GW2 is not mentioned even once even though it has an entire game type built around the subject of the article.

Seems a fairly large oversight but I could also almost understand it. I love GW2 and some people still swear by GW2 WvW and play it a lot, but imo it could still use some work and I don’t find myself spending a lot of time there. though for me that’s due to a lack of interest in competitive pvp gametypes in general.

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Veldan

I’ll admit that I’ve not played GW2 in years, but I played it rather intenstively in the months after launch and based on that I’ll say:

Though I was a huge fan of GW, and PvP in general, GW2 just didn’t do it for me. WvW seemed like a very poor implementation of a 3 way system to me. Basically, it was all about the zergs, nothing else mattered. You could spend hours upon hours gathering supply, protecting dolyaks and carefully managing resources to upgrade a keep, and a zerg would come and wreck the keep in 2 minutes. At some point, “rotating zergs” was even a thing. People would go to Eternal Battlegrounds and actively avoid PvP. There’d be a zerg of 2 or even all 3 sides, and they’d be in different sections of the map, going for example counter clockwise, so all the zergs could keep capping keeps from each other, because it was somehow beneficial to do that (for WvW levels? I can’t remember).

All in all, I felt like it was a bad and unfun system, that encouraged nothing but rolling over the map with zerg that only ever kept growing until people started to go to bed. Calling it RvR is doing the term a disservice.

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