Saturday, September 24, 2011

Every Endgame is PvP

The title and focus of this post is a reference to something Gevlon wrote recently. I read his blog quite often, but do not comment. Regardless, the full quote is this:

"To understand the problem we have to recognize two basic points. At first, every endgame is PvP. The PvE players want to get higher on the charter. Even the pet collectors try to show off their rare pets, what are rare because others don't have it. You can dampen the PvP aspect, you can help the ones behind, you can add more content to explore, delaying the endgame for the more casuals, but eventually in all games the player will have to encounter the endgame that is PvP by nature and runs below the slogan of "gtfo noob" (or trivial and people leave in boredom)."

I was reminded of a post I had made previously on individualistic communities. The average WoW player does not need to cooperate with anyone else to achieve his goals. The Dungeon Finder, and soon the Raid Finder, will allow him to gem and gear up while only needing to rely on himself. Gevlon even recognizes it in his latest post, saying,

"The problem of Cataclysm from the community viewpoint is that the difficulty comes from the "dance" that can't be helped. I can't give you dance, I can't carry you over the dance, I can't even help you learn the dance. I can only give you meaningless advices as "watch more videos", which is a solitary activity."

Without these elements; without needing other players to progress, you have no reason to socialize. So we have to give people incentives to be in guilds. Though this might seem like a great idea, look at it from another light: WoW has to give people a reason to be in a guild, because being social isn't a good enough reason.

Where is my Massively Multiplayer game? SWTOR devs promise to keep their queues within the server, but also say they will evaluate the impact this has on the game. Sound familiar? How about RIFT? The players of MMORPG's are far too used to the convenience this brings to be willing to give it up. Once again, social interaction is neglected. There is a much larger focus on the game part of MMORPG than the multiplayer part.

But then again, how can a company create reasons to be social? Removing the Dungeon Finder is a popular response to this sort of thing. Or making it server-only. However, the second option there would damn small servers, so it may be simply more merciful to remove it altogether. I don't believe removing it from games is even possible at this point though. People love their conveniences, and removing them would cause a tremendous outcry. Imagine if you had to collect your mail at your town's post office instead of at your mailbox. It is a longer trip to accomplish the same thing, and though you are being more social, you don't realize what a hassle it is until you have a mailbox. Then, suddenly, you never want to live without one.

While we are blaming the players for these design choices, let's pick a quote from Game By night which has been popular in the blogosphere* recently.

"As husbands and wives, careers, kids, bills, and mortgages enter the picture, gaming time tends to slide until it either disappears  or the classification on your gamer card changes entirely. MMOs are becoming more casual because, you guessed it, we’re becoming more casual."

Big thanks to Bio Break for featuring it in a big, bold place where I could find it easily. This quote puts some things into context. Most avid gamers are aware of the statistic that most gamers are over the age of 30. WoW is 7 years old, and the free time that college kids and early 20-something year olds had to play this game is now gone. The same audience they have held has changed in a big way, and WoW evolved their game to try to keep them. It's only natural to create the Dungeon Finder for people who are starved for time to play and see content, right?

Except they are suddenly no longer designing for the crowd that made their game popular in the first place: The 20-something year olds with disposable income and a lot of free time. Sure, 30 and up may have more income and those who choose MMO's as a hobby will appreciate the design choices, but they are also the ones who are less likely to pursue new social connections in comparison to the 20 year olds. 30's and up are likely to already have established family and friend circles that investing in those connections online is no longer worth the time. Yet, they enjoy the game and may also enjoy the fact that there is an established community to talk with when the desire arises. The community is there when you want it, but you never need it.

And so we bring this full circle. How exactly does this make endgame PvP now? We seemed to have ridden the Tangent train all the way to the middle of No-Longer-Relevant, New Mexico. The word of the post is rewards. It is one of the reasons the badges system was developed, and it is the reason why every endgame is PvP. Because despite not needing the community to gain your rewards, everyone else in the community wants your rewards too. Raid drops, dungeon drops, and even the guy who is camping you in Warsong Gulch and preventing you from gaining honor (before they handed it out like aggressive free-sample marketers at a food stand in your local mall. You know the ones.) are all in the way of you getting rewards. You are no longer competing against a game challenge for your items, you are competing against your guild and PuG mates. Badges help alleviate this, yes, but since they do not replace loot they still do not prevent this from happening.

Your teammates want your loot. Your teammates are preventing you from winning Tol Barad/Wintergrasp/Random Battleground. Your teammates keep screwing up on the Sapphiron fight because damnit, how hard is it to stand behind an ice block? And you can't help them in any way. It is you against the World of Warcraft. Or Middle Earth. Or whatever the world name is in Warhammer.

*I refuse to believe that "blogosphere" is a real word.


  1. *Blogoglobe was too lame compared to blogosphere.

    An interesting aspect of this is the term PvP for pet collecting. As opposed to being something you are doing for your own set of goals, it is instead trumped up as going against other players. From when I was playing, the closest thing to PVP in pet collecting was getting the white kitten from Little Timmy.

    In the end though, when you are in a multiplayer game, some aspect of it has to go with or against other players. As you point it out, your teammates can hinder your progression (either by sucking or by taking rewards you wanted), which means that even the PVE aspect of it has some PVP elements in it.

    The question is, if this is a bad thing or not? You went into a tangent about players getting older; perhaps that means WoW is catering to the older audience, which might mean that any new MMO must cater to a younger demographic. Perhaps new games should NOT come with time saving features included.

    I was looking at Steam the other day, and they are selling old Sega games at discount. Crazy Taxi has listed in its features, "Painfully slow buses and cable cars to frustrate and annoy". I'm not sure how this is a positive feature. The game specifically tells you that it is out to frustrate and annoy you. How do you justify paying for a game like that? At the same time, how come that game is so much fun?

  2. Both of those terms make me giggle inside.

    And though the race for Little Timmy was legendarily brutal, and should have been in a free for all arena, I'd have to say that would be the part of the quote with the weakest argument for it. But an argument can be made for it. In a multiplayer game, it is common to collect things to show them off. And nobody grinded those whelps because they were easy to get.

    I'm not inclined to call it a bad thing or not if we are talking directly about how it affects gameplay mechanics. Though it affects the audience it attracts, my main concern for these kinds of trends is that the MMORPG industry is not large enough to really have the kind of diversity to appeal to different crowds. If a trend happens, it tends to dominate most of the AAA MMO's on the market and in the release tube. Yet, there isn't enough trust in the industry yet to really branch out yet. So we're stuck in that regard.

    I think theme park games will keep the time saving features, if only because the directed style of gameplay featured in the game tends to play into that. An older audience doesn't have the time to invest in, say, the setting up and aggressive expansion of a corporation. So theme parks work. However, we don't have enough EVE's to give players a choice when they want a more in-depth investment.

    Oh man, I played the hell out of Crazy Taxi. I'm not sure about advertising a feature in that manner, but the main point of those things is that they are frustrating but don't knock you back down too much. It's part of the challenge rather than some sadistic developer laughing at you. It's not an arbitrary challenge. And it's the kind of challenge you talk about when you are talking about the game. Especially when that trolly was the one thing between you getting to the target and the clock running out.

  3. I do not enjoy PvP in any form. If I'm collecting pets, its because I'm feeling completionist, not because I want to have something that no-one else has. If I'm trying to get better gear, its because I either want to be better at soloing something, or I want to avoid having a group tell me I'm not contributing enough. Its not because I want my gear to be better than someone else's.

    People for me fall into two groups, my friends (or those I care about), and those I don't care about. If I have something that a friend wants and is feeling jealous because I have it and they don't, I will feel bad and will probably make it a priority to make sure they obtain the item as soon as possible. I hate making people feel bad because of something I've accomplished.

    Finally, in the increasingly rare (in mmos) case that there's truly a limited number of something and as a result I find myself in competition with other people to obtain one, I will probably just avoid the activity or the game entirely.

    I really do not like competition with other people. I like cooperation, and then, only with friends.

    Perhaps I'm just in the minority.