How are random World vs World matchups affecting Guild Wars 2?

Guild Wars 2’s innovative, massive PvP setting, the “World vs World vs World” games, have had a pretty major shakeup recently.

Arena.net have changed the world matching from being heavily based on world ranking, aiming to match up worlds evenly, to a considerably more random system that can match worlds up seemingly randomly – regardless of their PvP ability or status.

As you might expect, this hasn’t entirely been met with cries of joy.

But interestingly, it also hasn’t been met with hatred and fuming. Jeromai gives us a really detailed and interesting report on just how things are shaking down, from massively unbalanced matches to reactions from various schools of player:

“Strangely though, there is another subset of players that seem to have an impact on whether queues pop up across WvW maps or not. These players tend not to post on forums, and turn up based on the scoreboard. They have been derisively called fairweathers or pugs, weekend warriors, or if one is feeling very very kind, “militia,” by those who fancy themselves a lot more dedicated to WvW. They do tend to be less well versed in the game format, and have builds not optimized for it as well.

You will rarely find them in WvW when your server is doing less well. Yet once a server pushes over 300 or so, there seems to be some kind of critical mass effect that attracts them into jumping in and riding the gravy train and pushing the server even higher and higher scores.

Hardcore WvW players tend to be very scornful of this playstyle. Me, I don’t know. It occurs to me that sometimes, majority votes can’t be wrong. Maybe it’s not so much what players say, but what they actually do.

Tarnished Coast has been massively queued across a good number of maps in this blowout week. (You could map hop freely last week against Sanctum of Rall during most times that weren’t NA primetime, and I think it got even worse past Tuesday – I wouldn’t know, I wasn’t there either.)

A number of these guys contributing to the queue are definitely beginner WvWers and primarily PvE players and probably not a few map completionists either. There are doubtless opportunists who leap at the chance to kill people when the odds are in their favor. Add on the regular WvW guilds trying to get on during their usual times for pushes, and things are definitely crowded.

I’m thinking – they wouldn’t stay in there, if they weren’t having “fun” with matchups the way they are.”

Read the rest of “WvW – Variety Or Balance?” »

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Is EVE Online Brutal Enough Already?

EVE Online’s universe is split largely by degree of safety. There’s the wilds of Nullsec, where the only safety is belonging to a large player corporation. There’s lowsec, which has some NPC support, but not much. And then there’s Highsec, which is – in theory at least – patrolled by NPC peacekeepers.

But is Highsec too safe? Should it be made riskier to make EVE more fun? That’s what a lot of commentators on EVE Online have been claiming – but veteran EVE blogger Jester doesn’t agree, and he explains why in a fascinating discussion of how high-sec PvP has evolved. It’s a little EVE-jargon heavy, but if you’re at all familiar with the world of EVE, you’ll be able to follow it:

“Is high-sec “too safe”? In my opinion, no. People who do dumb things with their expensive or even not-so-expensive toys are getting themselves killed with no war-dec in evidence and CONCORD reduced to a foot-note in the affair. If you leave an expensive Antonov AN-12 cargo plane unguarded in the plains of New Eden, you’ll soon find it reduced to metal scraps. And this is particularly true if you choose to go AFK with your ship in space or use auto-pilot. The system, in short, is working as designed… again, in my opinion.

While I understand the desire to make high-sec less safe, the problem with doing so is that the advantage right now is still in the hands of the gankers. And even if all other factors were eliminated, the reason for this is that they get to choose the terms of the engagement.”

Read “How Safe Is Too Safe” here

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Controversy Watch: WvWvW, SWTOR F2P, Brawler’s Guild, More

A few weeks ago I was saying that the MMORPG blogosphere was quiet.

Ah, I remember those days.

Right now, there are tons of interesting debates to get your teeth into – from the WoW Brawler’s Guild (Cash For Features SCANDAL!) to Guild Wars 2’s wobbling WvWvW populations (PvPers in server desertion SHOCKER!). So, who’s saying what, and do you think they’re right or wrong?

SWTOR Free To Play

  • Joe at Corellian Run Radio posts a thorough analysis of the heavy Free To Play restrictions coming in SWTOR, saying that they’re going to force-choke the game” I make this prediction – the number of players will jump through the roof next week. The activity will be VERY high for three months. The revenue will roll in. And, just like launch, after those three months revenue will tank as the active player count falls.”

Guild Wars 2 WvWvW Numbers

This one’s a new controversy – with easy server moves and top PvP guilds jumping from one Guild Wars server to another, will the game’s uber-PvP mode cope?

  • Jeromai looks into the implications for his own server of some of the most major PvP guilds leaving for distant shores“Is it unhealthy, in the sense that these multi-game-spanning guilds are more focused on their own communities and less about fostering -server- communities?”
  • And Healing The Masses sounds an optimistic note for WvWvW from their own experience“I think the system in place will do well over the coming months especially after the server populations settle down and guesting is enacted so people can’t bunny hop around to the better servers in WvW. “

Guild Wars 2 One-Time Events

The furore over GW2’s one-time events has mostly subsided, but there are still interesting things to discuss about it…

  • Bernard Parsnip responds to the one-time events’ fiercest critic, Azuriel, saying that publicity reasons justify Arena.net’s decision to run one-time gameplay“Guild Wars 2 is a new game that is not based on a well-known IP. It NEEDS this press coverage. Furthermore, the business model relies on front-loading revenues from players, so continually growing the player base is crucial until the RMT shop can pay for the overheads of the game.”

WoW Dailies And Grinding

  • Big Bear Butt complained about dailies and gearing up – but then practical experience has shown him that it’s actually comparatively easy to get raid-geared in MoP“If you’re a new raider, it does not take that long to get to where you need to be to get started. I just proved it. And once you’re getting drops from the raids that are now being released, you WILL get items of such higher iLevel that the LFR stuff will be massive downgrades.”
  • And The Godmother is looking at alts, and how she and other players will level them and prioritise them with all the grinding“The shift has been subtle, but it has been noticeable. Alts are likely to be left by the wayside by many except those with a huge amount of time and patience. Its not just about the achievements either, there are a lot of choices bound up with the way the current system is being weighted.”

WoW: Brawler’s Guild

  • Typhoon Andrew defends the design choices Blizzard are making with the Brawler’s Guild, including their invitation policy“New gameplay is asked for constantly, so anything which adds options without placing a highly prohibitive barrier is good.”
  • And Rohan looks specifically at the Guild’s content gating – high AH prices – arguing that it’s never been tried, and is worth experimenting with“To my mind, selling the Invitations on the BMAH might not be the best possible idea, but it might be the one with the least side-effects, and thus, the least-worst idea.”

Bullying and Unpleasant Players

So, let us know – what do you think?

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Fighting, Boredom And Frustration – How To Solve Human/MMO clashes?

Game design is HARD. But if you’re designing an MMO, it’s even harder – because you don’t just have to deal with computers and a single player, but people, plural – and all the things they do.

Today, we’ve got three posts looking at various very human issues in MMOs – from the ex-Blizzard designer looking at increasingly bored players, to the eternal guildmaster attempting to figure out how not to end up running his raids…

  • Doone looks at MMOs where people work together, MMOs where people fight like starving rats, and what makes an MMO one or the other“Games that want players to work together and to be interdependent must design virtual worlds that not only make it possible, but make it pleasant. Even the losers should still have fun and the rush of competition can’t be the ends. As games like WoW show us, this kind of competition just creates antagonism amongst players. “
  • Alexander Brazie looks at the issue of boredom for the longtime MMO – is it inevitable that players will get bored with your game, and what can you do about it?“The problem isn’t with the game – it’s with you. Hold on now, don’t throw that keyboard at me, hear me out. The longer you’ve been playing this game, the more you’ve lived through numerous reputation grinds and thousands of random battlegrounds. “
  • And Stubborn looks at the problem of being a consumate organiser in games that frequently aren’t organised – and wonders how to stop himself from jumping in to solve problems with other players“When good, intelligent, responsible people see an organization tilting dangerously to one side, we feel that if no one else is going to right the ship, someone has to, so we must. And without fail, it begins to sap the life and enjoyment out of the things we do.”

Whilst I found Alexander’s post interesting, I do think that there’s a danger of ascribing all player burnout, frustration, and dislike of new game elements to ennui. It’s important to remember that game designs change, too – the recent rash of interest in Vanilla WoW and similarly-styled games shows that some people do actually prefer the older, less convenient, harder-edged style of game. It’s also worth remembering that it’s not impossible to design a game which many people will play their entire lives – look at Poker or Chess, for example.

What do you think? Do players just leave because it got too familiar? How do you avoid taking on too much responsibility? And can you design a “nice” or “nasty” MMO?

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Did Guild Wars 2 live up to its promises?

One month in, Guild Wars 2 is certainly different – but different good, or different bad?

We’ve been adventuring in Tyria for more than a month now, and it’s continuing to divide MMO gamers. Some of us are loving it, some of us… aren’t. But what’s dividing everyone? And where will the opinion eventually fall – a genuine competitor to WoW, or another “Three-Monther”?

Several bloggers have been looking into GW2 one month in today, with some really deep, interesting posts:

  • Dusty Monk looks at the various promises GW2 made – from cooperative game design to strong personal story to, y’know, being fun“in that sense, it actually plays much more like a sandbox game than an amusement park game, wherein it relies on the player to go and find their own fun.”
  • Healing The Masses takes a PvP-focused look at how WvWvW’s fairing, how the combat system is working out, and the issues the game is facing right now – *”Not be able to see the enemies true numbers or even the enemy at all is a serious issue. It is even being abused in certain ways with groups staying really close then fanning out so their rendering takes longer.”
  • And Azuriel, who hasn’t been getting on with Guild Wars 2, takes another stab at it, giving both his impressions and considered reasons for them as he plays“The mobility does feel fun. There is a sort of sponginess to the button-presses –> attack result, but even that is not the precise issue. And while my next instinct was to say it feels shallow, it is pretty clear that there is a lot that can go on simultaneously (especially in PvP).”

So, how do you think GW2 is doing? Is it achieving what it promised?

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Are You Struggling To Raid in MoP?

Are you struggling with the demands on raiders in the new WoW expansion? If so, you’re not alone.

Whilst MoP’s leveling content has been rapturously received, as we began to see yesterday, raiding does not look like such smooth sailing – or rather, preparing for raiding does not.

Today we’re featuring four bloggers exploring the problems and solutions facing raiders in the early expansion – from the frankly terrifying amount of work needed to prepare for raiding, to the “should PvP items be usable in raids?” debate:

  • Anafiele gives us an insight into how much work hardcore progression raiders are doing right now – and it’s massive, apparently considerably more than previous expansions“I’m wondering if Blizzard realized precisely how expensive they’ve made it either in time or in gold to stock up on food for progression. They know raiders count boss difficulty in wipes. I think I’ll be counting mine in food consumed.”
  • The Grumpy Elf has been gearing up for raiding, and has found the very RNG dependent early gear grind extremely frustrating“I’ve said it before and I will say it again. The game needs something for people like me. This is why I always loved valor and justice gear. It is like mercy for the unlucky.”
  • Chris at Game By Night looks at the recent flap over raiders gearing up via PvP items, and asks why people are so upset at some raiders taking a different path“Aren’t we a little beyond getting bent out of shape because of someone else’s reward? Is it so terrible that there could be more raiders and more PvPers to fill out your teams?”

The consumables issue for MoP raiding looks particularly scary – I wonder if Blizzard will back down on it, or if raiders are just going to have to get used to an additional few hours’ grinding food a week?

How are you getting on with preparing to raid?

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The Problem of Morale In PvP

How do you cope with PvP gaming in the losing streaks?

That’s the kick-off for a really great post from Jeromai of Why I Game, looking at his experience with World vs World vs World in Guild Wars 2. He’s a hardcore PvE player under normal circumstances – highly competitive and used to beating anything he puts his mind to. And as a result, moving from PvE to PvP has given him a lot of challenges – not skill challenges, but attitude challenges.

How do you cope with an environment where, at best, you’ll only “succeed” 50% of the time, and often less?

“When looked at objectively in this fashion, it becomes clear that if we want to continue playing around with PvP and competitive formats, we need to get used to “losing” and get out of the mindset of playing to win being all important.

This is not a new concept. It’s as old as competition and sports.

Just idly flipping through stuff people have written, I’ve found such disparate things as a discussion thread about losing Starcraft 2 matches and how different players deal with the blow to one’s morale, an advice article on a wiki about Starcraft 2 anxiety playing ladder games that run the risk of doing horrible things to one’s ranking with a loss (or so I gather, I don’t own SC2 yet,) a Warhammer article about the impact of losing on player morale and how it impacts one’s judgement and decision-making while tabletop gaming, and even a general sports article on emotional mastery and how various athletes may react in a competition.

I’m especially amused by the last one, because it gives one of those cheesy classifications that group people into different styles. He differentiates between the seether, the rager, the brooder and the Zen Master.

Watch any sports competition and there’s a pretty hefty grain of truth in the simplistic classification. Everyone can tell the explosive ragers, who wear their frustration on their sleeves, have little self-control and will no doubt be voted ‘most likely to break their wrists punching a wall.’ The seethers also steadily become obvious if the match doesn’t go their way, and you can see them gradually lose it and their play deteriorating.

I identify most strongly with a brooder, alas. My impulse is to think bad thoughts, look upon a situation helplessly and then become avoidant and sneak off without a word or quit silently, because it’s just as pointless to scream and yell at idiots or the just plain ignorant.

The Zen Master, naturally, is the ideal goal to strive toward. Being unaffected by emotions, being focused and playing consistently, win or lose.”

This is important, interesting stuff to anyone looking to achieve on a high level. I’ve never PvPed seriously, but I recognise a lot of what he’s discussing from competitive athletics, martial arts, and entrepreneurship. I’ve also seen serious poker players struggle with the same issues.

If you’re extremely competent – particularly if you’re extremely competent – entering these arenas where success depends to a great extent on luck, and you’re not outgunning the opposition anything like as much as you’re used to can be very hard. And it’s smart to consider how to deal with that problem – rather than just engaging in the wide variety of unhealthy defensive patterns Jeromai discusses.

This is a great article, covering the problem from multiple angles. He talks about mindset, but also subsequently considers morale, in a battlefield sense, in a separately very interesting section.

Read and enjoy – and perhaps, get some useful ideas.

Have you had trouble with morale in MMORPGs? What did you do about it?

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GW2 transgression and WoW Bugs. Plus, WINNING.

From WoW bugs (and Blizzard’s reaction to them) to a well-deserved celebration of Guild Wars 2’s attitude to minority sexuality and religion, here are more great MMORPG posts for the end of the week.

  • Zubon gives praise to Guild Wars 2’s willingness to feature gay and atheist characters in major roles” ArenaNet is not flaunting iconoclasm, and my expectations about levels of outrage are distorted by the current American election year, but GW2 is quietly doing some things about which folks have flipped out in other contexts. “
  • Rades gets his Charlie Sheen on – but not in a bad way – in a stirring story of victory against all odds“Sometimes it’s amazing DPS that wins battlegrounds, sometimes it’s awesome teamwork, sometimes incredible healers. But sometimes it’s simple strategy and basic knowledge about how the battleground works. Knowing when a battle is lost, and more importantly, when it’s not. “
  • Milady looks at the history of WoW bugs and emergent gameplay“Why such rapacious reaction against creative bug-employing (not exploiting, there is no benefit made from it)? I believe it goes hand in hand with Blizzard’s authoritarian policies of hyper-balancing. The game is supposed to be played/farmed *this way and none other.”*
  • And Breadfan looks at the state of competition in WoW in light of Paragon’s move away from the 25-man bracket in raiding“I absolutely think that Challenge Modes are poised to be the most competitive content ever introduced into the game. It actually has a ladder. Every player in the game can see where they sit relative to the best players.”

I can’t express strongly enough how much I agree with Zubon about Guild Wars 2’s attitude to gay characters, in particular. Superb stuff.

Enjoyed today’s posts? Please do share them with other people!

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Outfits and Pyramid Schemes

Pandas! Guilds and the Warring Therof! But wait – there’s more!

Yes, from a WoW fashion spread to the question of whether PvP – yes, all PvP – is a pyramid scheme, here we go…

  • The WoW Debutante shares a lovely almost Vogue-style fashion spread of Mage transmogrification outfits from her guildmate Epijunkie. Love this format.
  • Bernard Parsnip argues that DUST 514 won’t falter because of its gruelling, newbie-unfriendly PvP – he says it’s just another facet of the great PvP pyramid scheme“everyone knows that one day you will have invested enough time to go on to destroy newbies – either by your superior knowledge of level design, your improved hand/eye coordination in dodging rockets, your time spent with the best players enabling you to emulate their strategies or just from having sufficient honor points farmed to buy new gear and move up a level in the pyramid.”
  • And Tobold looks at the recent discussion around The Secret World’s subscriber numbers, and asks what it means for innovative MMOs in future“The sad thing is that modern MMORPGs are so bloody expensive to make that making an innovative niche game isn’t really an option. “

Found today’s posts interesting? Please consider sharing them!

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Is PvP A Prison Experiment?

Sometimes it can really seem like random PvP groups are a cruel social experiment. But is that just the nature of the beast?

After one too many random battlegrounds with, shall we say, less than 100% committed teammates, against premade, organised forces, Erinys of Harpy’s Nest was close to cracking.

And in an essay which I think most WoW players who have poked their head inside a battleground will related to, she spends some time exploring what goes wrong, why, and what could be done to improve the entire mess

“At the moment, random battlegrounds are the Azerothian equivalent of the Stanford Prison Experiment staring the geared as the Prison guards, the bullies and the aggressors and those without as the Prisoners. Even with the patience of a saint, it’s hard to keep your tongue when for the fifth or sixth time in a row you end up with people who haven’t gemmed, enchanted or bought any PvP gear at all. Who flop over dead the second someone glares at them and then blames you for not keeping them alive even though according to the combat log that Mage did 120k damage to them in 2 spell rotates. In that AB I referenced earlier, just like Prisoners in that experiment, they turned on each other in an attempt to prove to the “guards” that they, unlike the others had value. Under pressure, the community devolves at a frightening rate earning us a horrible hateful reputation. In many cases, they don’t even have to be losing to attack others, even a slight setback can cause an outburst. The current battleground system with it’s random teams, premades and gear differences is set up to turn people against each other. ”

I’ve not read many discussions of the internal pressures which can cause larger MMORPG groups to turn on each other, and Erinys has an interesting and compassionate take on the problem. She’s not blaming the players here (botters aside) so much as the design of the system which causes a pressure cooker of frustration to build up.

I’ll be interested to read the follow-on discussion from this one!

What do you think? How can we take the lid off the pressure cooker of random PvP? Is there even a problem?

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