PvP and the Mutually Exclusive Dilemma

Inspired by Keen’s RIFT post on the subject of PvP:

Having balanced-yet-differentiated PvP design is nigh-impossible

PvP. PvP never changes.

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10 thoughts on “PvP and the Mutually Exclusive Dilemma

  1. Pithy.

    It’s an interesting dilemma. I think the way WoW has gone which is essentially homogenisation is detrimental to the game in the long term. I actually preferred it that only Arms Warriors inflicted a healing debuff even though I didn’t play one.

    It may be that dikus come with the cycle pre-loaded: lots of different classes at launch, massive forum whining about Why Can’t I Do That?, homogenisation, players drifting away bored.

    When did it become standard that players are in charge of design direction anyway? Sid Meier never let us design Civ. Now developers are falling over themselves to listen to their fans. I don’t want to be listened to. I want to be entertained.

  2. Here is something I posted in “The Secret World” forum a few days back concerning PVP/PVE balance. You are right Unsub, it is nigh impossible to balance PVP for a game that allows the players to “build/lvl” their own characters abilities. If it were “Hey, here is your character and this is it.” it would be easy. But just as soon as you start adding in buffs/gear that mods/talents/classes ect, ect you run into the infinite possibilities nightmare. Why designers continue to be under the illusion they can balance human ingenuity blows my mind….

    “The major thing that I have noticed in the 15+ years playing MMORPGs is that it is much easier to balance a game to PVE than it is to PVP. PVE could almost care less whether classes (and this one boasts “classless”) are balanced for the most part, as long as all classes are playable and are fun too play. PVE is where devs run into issues because the players are playing against each other, not just the mobs. So the classes have to some how be “equal”. In real life things are not equal, nor should they be. “Priest should get there a$$e$ kicked by the warriors, but the priests heal faster and can strike back sooner as an example. And since this is an MMO the warrior and priest should work together and me being a tactical guy will try and kill the priest first and the warrior better defend his butt. Again, this is much easier to balance in PVE, PVP makes it hard.

    I have never been a strong PVPer and don’t like playing it because the mentality of most PVP is “There’s somone! Get’m!!” and then I am ganked. I don’t play games to PVP, but liked the battlegrounds for WOW and the Duos for DCUO. There were a side note to the game, were optional, and I didn’t get my stuff stolen if I diedd. I think most PVEer are the same way.

    That said, as long as the PVP is optional or on separate servers I am cool. I have NEVER as a PVEer complained about “balance”.

  3. PvE is a lot easier to deal with than PvP. Can every class combination defeat a certain number of mobs? Yes? Work done. There will always be ‘better’ and ‘worse’, but provided even the weakest combo is somewhat effective it doesn’t matter. CoH/V was great for that – even the weakest of combos could solo and be effective on a PvE team.

    PvP is a different matter, because the mindset and percentages are different. You play PvP to win, but even in a perfectly balanced system you end up with a 50/50 chance of winning and losing, all things being equal. So even a minor imbalance can throw things out significantly (or at least make them feel significant).

    RIFT was always doomed in that regard – too many soul combos to really balance. That’s the other thing – the more flexibility you give players, the more imbalance you introduce to the system.

    PvP is a lot of problems for developers that attracts a vocal minority, but it is now a standard expected feature. And there isn’t really a complete solution for all the issues it creates.

    • “PvP is a lot of problems for developers that attracts a vocal minority, but it is now a standard expected feature. And there isn’t really a complete solution for all the issues it creates.”

      Exactly! I would like to see a game co. create a MMORPG with NO PVP, only PVE and when asked they replied “We wanted to make a really great balanced game. We thought the best way to do that was PVE since there is really NO way to balance PVP and would cost too many man hours to try. We could never recoup the time and resources (ie money) off of PVP anyway. That is also why the game is only 39.99 for PC and console and only has a $10 sub fee. Oh and we also didn’t let a comic artist give us advise either.”

      I know I went a bit out there, but given that SOE spent $50 mill and 5 yrs, I wouldn’t be suprised if a lot of the delays and work were to accommodate PVP and we could have had a much better product if they has dropped PVP.

  4. I think part of the problem is what people define “balance” as.

    The majority used to define balance in a rock,paper, scissors fashion. Warrior beats rogue, rogue beats mage, mage beats warrior, etc.

    Now the majority believes balance means everyone is on even footing no matter the classes involved.

    • The rock-scissors-paper form of balance can work, but players still want a chance of winning every contest and everyone needs to be equally unbalanced. If paper still has a 25% chance of beating rock while scissors only have a 10% chance of beating paper, players will notice and get upset.

  5. I used to believe in the common wisdom that every game feature had to be balanced against every other game feature in order to make a fun game.

    But then I had the experience of playing in a game (a LARP actually) that deliberately unbalanced the skillsets. The designer of the game had made a decision to do so as a means to shape the demographics of the world.

    We don’t have the same number of programmers as candlestick makers after all.

    For example, It was a lot easier to master both magics and cast spells than it was to master all the weapon skills. On the order of it would take roughly 2 years of continuous play to achieve the former, but almost 4 for the latter.

    On the other hand, if you were willing to almost entirely forego weapon skills, you could become a superb craftsman and make lots of money in game within 6 months to a year, but then you’d better hire strong players to defend you, because you were a soft target.

    You could divest your soul from your body and implant it in a golem. You lost access to healing magic, but were typically healable through some element. This might net you a bottomless supply of healing, but upon your death you crumbled, permanently weaking your spirit and risking permanent death more frequently. If your corpse is restored to life in time, you lose nothing but your pride. You also lost access to some of the higher end rogue skills, making this a slightly more likely event, but the huge raft of immunities would let you wade through weaker foes with ease. Like most things, it comes as a trade off, against a good mage it could be a very expensive waste of time.

    Therefore there were a lot of mages, some crafters, and relatively few all-weapon-based characters, some characters would come out to fight weaker creatures during the day in big bulky golem bodies, but would cower behind a magic circle with the crafters when the big nasty things came out at night.

    You could mix and match, but there was an end goal for each skill tree. And while, for instance it was ridiculously hard to get the end skill tree for mixing spirit magic and rogue skills, but the resulting power set made you incredibly difficult to kill, whereas another path sorcery magic and warrior skills, gave you a great deal of offensive power.

    This led to a far less homogeneous mass of players. Sure, there was a large pool of players that went down the obvious most bang-for-the-buck path, but you needed the essential variety that the alternate builds brought to the table in order to survive the day.

    However, I don’t know how well this would this work in an online PVP setting.

    When Champions Online came out I had great hope for a point buy system, being a great fan of the tabletop RPG, but it turned into another cookie-cutter hero factory, which borrowed the Champions universe, but none of the mechanics. And since the Champions rules are so tightly balanced, it would have devolved into relative homogeneous gameplay across archetypes. I can also understand the developer’s desire to make it hard to accidentally screw up your character by making something unplayable.

    I’m not saying it makes sense to go to the original Star Wars extreme and make one class with the rarity of the old Jedi, but I am saying that I’m not entirely sure that every class has to be balanced against every other one. It merely has to have some situation in which it can shine brighter than the rest.

    The difficulty of course is in the fact that this requires a wide array of interesting core gameplay loops.

    • If you can create a game where you have those interesting gameplay loops, you could open up PvP to be more than either sticking swords into each other’s character or economic PvP. Crafting PvP – “mine is better than yours” – or perhaps spell-creation PvP could be an option.

      There is always the option of saying, “Screw balance!” but a lot of PvP players want a ‘fair’ fight. That is also exciting, meaningful and rewarding. And where they always have a chance of winning.

      Sometimes I’m sure that PvP designers envy the dead. Or their brother who became an accountant. But more likely the dead. :-)

  6. Pingback: Path Finding and Kick Starting | Vicarious Existence

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