(fears about) Emergent behaviours in WoW’s PvP (to vanish)

Posted on World of Warcraft official boards:

This is a comment to the current ruleset on the PvP servers. I believe, and I’ll explain my reasons here, that the battlegrounds plus the reward/honor system will *break* the fun and the depth that the current ruleset was able to produce. While these two upcoming systems (rewards and battlegrounds) are surely a good thing for the PvE servers, they risk to completely denaturalize the PvP servers. Similar to what happened when Ultima Online introduced the concept of Trammel/Fellucca, offering improvements from a side but also breaking the core of what made that game unique and deep from the other.

Those considerations come from my direct experience on the PvP servers both during the closed beta and now at release. With this game many players finally demonstrated that the market rewards a game with a decent PvP system. If so many players have choosed a PvP server it means that this server offers something different and compelling. So this difference is seen by a large part of the players as a “quality”. A quality that I hope noone wants to see vanish.

My point is that both the reward system and the battlegrounds, while a great addition for the PvE servers, could break the quality that made till now the PvP servers so interesting and fun to play.

Now to continue to explain my reasons I have to point out exactly where is this “quality” I see in the PvP servers and that now I consider “menaced” :

The two ruleset aren’t that different and I love the PvP server exactly because it isn’t an hardcore environment.

The basic difference is that on the PvP server there are less OOC system that you can use to your advantage. The core difference is that on the PvE server the PvP is optional, like a cookie with zero gameplay value and role into the world. While in the PvP server the PvP is encouraged and part of the world, within a structure coherent with the setting based on well distributed zones (alliance, horde and contested). It’s the game, not a side-effect.

The reason why I love it is because PvE and PvP are melted together within a game world with its own coherence. Not anymore undependent layers that you can swap pressing a switch.

It’s here the only difference. It’s not just more or less “risk”.

It is encouraged for the simple reason it cannot be ignored to some extent. You’ll have quests dragging you in the contested zones and if you want to go there you are forced to accept the PvP as a reality. To me this “makes a world”. It’s less an OOC system and more a RP layer I can accept and consider.

The PvP is there, if you want to play the game you need to accept that in the zone there could be enemy players that could gank you in the worst situation possible. BUT at the same time it’s still an acceptable game because I’m not really loosing, nor I feel frustrate.
At worst the PvP is a timesink, an annoyance, at best it’s a whole new stack of fun possibilities and situations.

I’m noticing a trend as time passes. Everyone feels this PvP/ganking as pointless, boring and often frustrating. Obviously there’s no incentive. This is producing fun behaviours because with the time I’m seeing more and more horde ignoring me or even teaming up, communicating with emotes.

The ruleset is actively policing the game. Since there’s no incentive to fight endlessly we are starting to see an “emergent society” forming. Teaming-up becomes more appealing that charging on sight.

The more the zones put horde and alliance into close contact, the more the players ignore each other or team up.

I’m not sure how much this is unintended but I consider it the very best part of this game. The server is policing itself and unfun/ganking is somewhat limited because there’s no point to do it. Even the most dedicated ganker gets bored of it quickly.

What happens is EXACTLY roleplay at its finest, this is my point. Often miscommunication or a mistake bring to break a temporary friendship and produces a fight. Cooperating isn’t easy and this mimics what exactly should happen within the roleplay level. We are in a world where the two factions aren’t at war as many players assume. Instead they try to cooperate and often they fail. Building friendship is an hard effort that everyone can break up easily, going back at the starting point. This is already in the lore and mirrored right in the game without the players even noticing it.

This game produces real behaviours and real consequences because it mimics its deep structure instead of faking everything in every part of the design.

What happens is that the current system is able to melt completely the OOC to transform it into perfect IC. I have a lot of OOC fights when my group wants to freely gank everyone and I oppose myself to do that. But from an observer point of view this is also perfectly plausible as IC. There are players trying to cooperate, players that go hostile only when under a threat and also players that attack everything on sight and often break those cross-faction friendships. I’ve seen peoples fighting and blaming each other because someone was seen fighting side-to-side with horde.

This is magic. This is roleplay happening without effort from the players. We don’t even need to struggle to get into the role, it happens automatically because the structure of the game is so wonderfully crafted. It’s immersion within a game that respects its own rules.

For me this is spectacular. WoW is offering an environment that is absolutely unique and that cannot be found on any other mmorpg.

Now all this risks to vanish. This because of two points:

1- The PvP battlegrounds are wonderful on the PvE server but they will clash with the design of the PvP servers. This is where you mirror the Trammel/Fellucca model. You are drawing a line between PvP and PvE. As I wrote above the soul of this wonderful PvP environment you created is because those two layers are finally melted to the point that they are impossible to discern. They form a cohesive world. It’s obvious that a battleground goes right against this concept. If a battleground can be considered as a way to balance the combat (since it’s an instance you can regulate the access and so prodice a “fair” environment), the implementation of this system on the PvP server risks to draw a line between “fair combat” / “griefing”. Where the “fair combat” is the instanced zone and the “gank party” is the rest of the world.

In this case the PvP servers don’t offer anymore a “quality” that the PvE server cannot deliver. They just become: PvE server + griefing.

2- The reward system. Right now we are starting to see that wonderful example of emergent behaviour I described above. The PvP servers are really gaining a depth that no type of premade content will be ever able to offer. The fact that the two factions are starting to cooperate, producing infinite layers of possible interaction, can be seen as a side-effect that needs to be cut out. Obviously I believe that instead here lies the real quality of this game. You should nourish it, not suffocate it. Now think to what happens when a player of an opposite faction is a complete “character” that *may* be hostile or not, opening a stack of possible reactions that you need to figure out as fast as possible both in the case it’s a menace or a somewhat friendly and useful opportunity. This is exciting, it’s involving for the player and then for the player roleplaying its character. But now that player of the opposite faction is something else: it’s a bag of points. Or “bags of improvements” as Lum would define them.

Now you can guess by yourself that everything that works right now in the PvP servers won’t work anymore after these two systems will be in. At least it won’t work in the same way. The fact that players will be able to gain “honor” (or whatever) from killing a player of an opposed faction means that all the encounters will be just of two types: charge or flee. If you expect to win you charge, if you expect to loose you flee.

All the complex interactions that the ruleset is starting to produce now will vanish as the Greench after the 31 December: With no warning. The game will loose its depth and will become more an arcade, where the players are forced to react to a situation as expected. No freedom, just whack-a-mole and collect your bag of improvement.

At this point I won’t write another post of this length to offer solutions and design ideas, since I feel always like wasting my time, but I’ll suggest a way that may be able to coordinate the development of the PvE server along with the PvP server:

– Instead of gaining points (of any form) from killing players, please give rewards (of any kind) only by strictly accomplishing goals. Conquering and holding a town for “x” time may be a goal. Please develop the whole reward system so that it works *exclusively* on goals and NEVER rewards for killing a player, even in the case the fight is fair. So give us something to fight for and reward us when we achieve that goal but don’t incentivate the fight between the factions outside those goals.

This will preserve that “quality” that the PvP servers offer now.

I give out free cookies to who suggests a better title for this message so it can get read more than ten times before sinking in the archive of posts.

Plus another reiteration to summarize the concept:

The battlegrounds will simply draw a line between “fair” combat and griefing. While they make sense in the PvE server they don’t in the PvP one. Because the basic idea of it is that the PvP melts with the PvE. The battlegrounds break this concept directly. It’s a theme park you go join. It’s Dark Age of Camelot, not World of Warcraft. It’s faked, not cohesive.

Instead the reward will simply wipe the complex interactions we have now. When a player is a bag of points you know already what to expect. Right now a sight of an enemy players may deliver so many possible interactions. With a reward system all this is wiped completely because the interaction will be strictly codified.

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