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All or Nothing PvP: Should our idea of high-risk change?

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by Dafeesh, Mar 6, 2015.

  1. Dafeesh

    Dafeesh

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    Anyone play Runescape back in the day? If you did any PKing then you know what risk was. For the ones who don’t know, Runescape is an MMO which uses the ‘all or nothing’ principle when it comes to world PvP. Two players walk in, wager everything they are carrying/have equipped, and one player walks out with both players’ stash. Almost everything in the game is not bound to your account so most everything you have on you becomes your wager in a fight against another player. I’ve not played too many high-risk PvP games out there so I apologize if there is a better example than Runescape, but I will be using this game as my example for the article.

    What high-risk aims to achieve:
    I believe this system of PvP offers the player two things: 1) the ability to bet on their skill, and 2) have the player feel a sense of worry/risk when PvPing. Contrary to PvP in WoW, which has virtually no punishment for death, Runescape offers a sense of horror (and extreme excitement) when PvPing. The goal of this dynamic is to give the player something to care about. Instead of just jumping into a fight and not caring if he or she died or not, the player is forced to care about if he lived or died, mainly because it could represent hours of work put into the game to have the items that he or she has. To some extent, the ability for Roleplaying is more accessible because of this. The goal is to make death feel like death.

    What it succeeds at delivering:
    Risk-based PvP definitely delivers on the side of fear. You're usually risking quite a bit if you plan on actually succeeding at PvP. It also succeeds at being exciting...50% of the time. When the player dies, it is usually tragic and wounding not only to his pride but to his bank. On the other hand if the player scores a kill on another player, it usually ends in extreme excitement, in which the player is filled with joy when he just won a fight that doubled his bank account.

    What problems it offers to the game:
    Possibly just a card game-
    The problem with high-risk high-reward PvP is that it can sometimes be too fair. “Too fair? There’s no such thing as too fair!” I disagree. Watch a game of professional poker. Yes, some players have a higher ability to read hands over another player, but this is usually overshadowed by huge level of luck. In the end it becomes almost a 50/50 until enough cash has swung in one player’s direction enough to consider him the winner. Don't get me wrong, I do believe there is skill involved in Poker, but the large degree of randomness creates such an inconsistent level of play that it is so fair it becomes a 50/50, which in my mind defeats the point of a competitive game. Games like Runescape offer a combat style that also has a very high level of randomness. I’d agree that randomness is fun, it definitely is, but it can also be extremely frustrating when fallen victim to.

    Does not create reward-
    When one player falls to another player, the winner receives the spoils but, in the end, no reward has been produced by the game, only transferred. Let’s not talk about gold or currency, but rather let’s talk about ‘fun’ as a currency. When a player dies, that’s -10 fun. When a player scores a kill, that’s +10 fun. The net fun in an outcome is still zero, even though a major event (in the player’s eyes) just occurred. Not only is this bad design from a typical video-game standard, but it also doesn't make for the ideal competitive setting. The goal, in a perfect world, is for the player to still be having fun whilst losing without diminishing the fun of winning.

    So let’s just give PvP a positive net reward:
    Let’s jump back to WoW. When you die, at the absolute worst it’s merely an inconvenience, but when you score a kill it has the potential to be epic, but in the average it is usually dull. If I am to do the same as I did previously, with ‘fun’ as currency, I’d say that WoW shoots for more of a -1 -> +2 kind of trade. It’s nowhere near as drastic, but it does have a positive net reward.
    So here’s just a thought: let’s just make it so when you score a kill, you gain currency, and when you die you lose almost nothing! Well, other than the problem of cheating and exploitations (see old PvP worlds in Runescape: kill trading) this creates the idea of winning as a task, rather than competition, and adds another inflation factor to the online game. This would be just another reason why currency numbers keep getting higher and higher without control, while also making PvP less and less fun.

    The solution != math:
    So what is the conclusion? Is risk-based PvP doomed? I personally don’t think so. We just need to do a different take on it. Imagine this scenario: Two players get into a fight and are both risking 100 gold. In the ‘Runescape method’ the winning party would leave with 2*100 gold. I’m going to offer the idea that what if the winning party receives 0*100=zero=null=nothing. “Hey, that’s zero! How can people have fun without a reward?!?1one!!” Well, I believe that the solution is as follows:

    1 - 1 = 3:
    Solution: remove the reward from combat alone, amplify the events taking place, and deliver rewards in a competitively positive way. In my Runescape example, I would have it that, when a player dies, he loses his items and the slayer receives nothing. Rather, since the main incentive to PvP is gone, the best solution is alternatives. Give large rewards for player-controlled zones in PvP worlds. Give rewards for killing a PvE event in a risky PvP world. With these new incentives, the question changes from “How can I kill another player” to “Why should I pick a fight with this player”. Since there is no longer any direct benefit to fighting other players alone, the experience becomes a lot less ‘gimmicky’ while offering the incentive to cooperate with other players and drive more consistent and healthy competition. There will still be plenty of PvP however. Even though the incentive to do a standalone 1-vs-1 another player is gone (outside of extreme competitive drive), the points of interest I listed above should be rewarding enough to have people step out of their comfort zone and ‘risk it for the biscuit’ in a fashion that isn’t around ruining someone’s day, but rather a healthy competition by fighting over an objective. In my opinion, the dynamic of the game would be a lot more diplomatic while still offering that sense of risk and reward.

    Should high-risk PvP be avoided in online games? Do you have a better idea than mine? I'd like to hear from you! :)

    TLDR:
    I'd appreciate it if you read the article if you plan on commenting. TLDR: High-risk PvP (like in Runescape) approaches reward in the wrong way. It should be used as a means of risk and sense of self-value, but reward should come from the non-PvP events that are fought over via PvP, not by kills.

    Battle is the most magnificent competition in which a human being can indulge. It brings out all that is best; it removes all that is base. All men are afraid in battle. The coward is the one who lets his fear overcome his sense of duty. -George S. Patton

    Edit: Formatting
     
  2. AndrewGrayGames

    AndrewGrayGames

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    If you want a mathematical answer, there is none.

    If you want a "Should I do it" answer, I want you to first consider the effect World of Warcraft has had on modern games, too. Look at Dragon Age: Inquisition, look at Xenoblade: Chronicles, but also look at League of Legends, and The Elder Scrolls: Online. That doesn't mean don't do it - that means look at what's popular, and see what you can do to make high-risk PvP fit more cleanly into the expectations that those players have.

    Having played a couple of high-risk PvP games (EverQuest for three months), I think the trick with modern games and gamers, is to keep the risk high, but to level the playing field by making it easy-ish to get back to your previous level of competence. The real problem with high-risk PvP as implemented in the past is it breaks flow, because you're PvPing, you're getting into it, you inevitably die and lose all your stuff (including your +5 Llama Suit of Laser Eyes)...and you have to stop to get a new set of gear to be competent again, which may or may not take hours, depending on the quality of the gear you lost.

    If you can solve the flow problem, if you can find a way for players to A) have the high level of risk you want to see, but B) find a means by which to allow players to get back into the action quickly after sustaining such a major loss, I think high-risk PvP can then work.

    One way might be for gear to drop on death, but not money, and have a basic tier of PvP gear available from vendors that lets you be competent enough to kill a better-geared player. Or, you could have an objective system, where your alliance being victorious at something grants all nearby players a 'shield' on their gear that prevents it from being lootable for the next death, but failing to maintain that thing revokes the 'shield' buff (and, said buff is not static; everyone nearby gets the buff when the objective is taken, and everyone nearby loses it if they can when its lost.)

    The problem isn't the existence of risk; losing a fight is inherently risky, because you will be awarded the absence of a reward that the other side will get. The problem is, stacking the risk so high that players can't catch up. That's why high-risk PvP fell out of vogue so quickly when WoW's instanced PvP and lack of a death penalty came into play.
     
  3. CDMcGwire

    CDMcGwire

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    Here's how that's coming along, by the by:


    Back to the point. I think all-or-nothing risks will always have a place in an obscure corner of a competitive game. However, in order to have a more broad appeal, what exactly the player is risking needs to be reconsidered. Losing gear sucks. It's like having the controller switched to southpaw. People have the gear they have because it's the play-style they want to use. As you noted in your OP. [if I'm not too tired to read properly]

    However, I'm all for waging some sort of reputation or aesthetic in PvP. Imagine that, instead of losing your nice sword, it gets more basic and dull looking. Winners shine like the sun, losers look like chumps. People will risk PvP because they don't want to look like chumps, but they'd be willing to risk it because they can immediately take another shot at the "Crown" and look like pimps.

    This solves another problem inherit with purely cosmetic awards. Which is that, once you have the coolest looking/rarest swAg, you no longer have a reason to keep going for it. Now that you can lose that status, they can re-experience that climb to the top in a natural way. It becomes much more exciting, I would think, if having the coolest swag also made you a target for people looking to have that swag.

    Sorry for saying that word, but it's appropriate when talking about player motivation in multiplayer. Bragging rights and swag.
     
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2015
  4. Dafeesh

    Dafeesh

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    Hm, I agree with both of you. Having the player risk actual items is an element that is dangerous to work with because it also adds a risk for the developer that the player would get too deterred from the game to continue. I know that when I lost my full set of gear is Runescape I considered quitting multiple times because I hated it so much.

    The problem is that I really like the element of fear based on risk, but that comes with a cost. Unfortunately, nowadays games have taught the average player to not consider the risks, and play even when failure is obvious. This isn't bad, but it isn't what I want my game to be like.

    <explanation>
    I'm making a 'Runescape' style browser based game with the gameplay style of League of Legends. "Oh great, here we go again with another 12 year old making an MMO." I've been programming in C# for over 8 years and I already have a prototype of the game up and running using all hand-writing code with Sockets. Mind you I'm not trying to sound pretentious, I'm just trying to explain myself.
    </explanation>

    So the question comes down to how much does a player have to risk to truly fear death in-game? I would imagine every player would have a different level of an answer for that, but I really like idea of risking Aesthetics and titles.

    So I have an idea. What if (for world PvP), there is something similar to an Elo system, but in the outside world without matchmaking. If you are a low rating and kill a high rated player, you will gain a lot and he will lose a lot. High rated player kills a low rated player and there is hardly any change in ratings. This brings the focus back to 1v1 fights but I think that might be pretty fair. The only problem I see with this system is that players that purposely tank their rating just to screw people over because of their low rating. Also, I would imagine there would be some kind of compensation for team-based fights. If 10 low-rated players kill 1 high rated player there should be some kind of safety for the person being ganked. This idea would be on top of my previous idea (objective based monetary rewards).
    What do you guys think?
     
  5. CDMcGwire

    CDMcGwire

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    I've always found the idea of lower ranked/tiered players getting a bonus for defeating higher ranks. Could be a bit tricky, as you said. Have we talked about the potential for PvP-Only gear? So you can upgrade and then lose all your PvP gear without feeling completely out of the game, just the PvP.

    Also, consider that to make the player feel at risk, you need not threaten all that they own, just the most important thing they own. So, on death, the chump that kills them gets their trusty Dragon Scimitar.

    OOH, ooh, ooh. And when you kill that punk, you get the sword back, but it's slightly more powerful. Actually... That might not be great. People will die just to have their things taken... Which is great! Because that punk might just leave with their sword.
     
  6. AndrewGrayGames

    AndrewGrayGames

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    That can work if items themselves can level up. When an item has been with someone for a while, it's XP gain slows; the item changing owners causes it to gain XP more quickly for a while. Thus, in some ways it's beneficial for the item to change hands. Of course, this has issues, because it encourages "fixed" matches where someone gets their item into 'just' 100% XP gain, and they arrange for other players to gank them, then get counter-ganked, in order to gain the re-invigorated weapon.
     
  7. CDMcGwire

    CDMcGwire

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    Yeah I thought about that. It'd have to be random matchmaking only.
     
  8. makeshiftwings

    makeshiftwings

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    The real answer is, perhaps unsurprisingly, that some people will like it and some won't. EvE Online is pretty popular and has risky PvP. Some players' "greatest stories" are about when they lost ships worth hundreds of dollars in real life money. To a lot of other people though, that doesn't actually sound fun at all. High-risk PvP is much like high-risk gambling; it appeals to certain people, but not to most. I personally am not a fan of high risk online MMO PvP, because I have an unreliable internet connection, a cat that likes to jump on the keyboard, and friends who like to call and interrupt at the worst possible times. If a game punishes me too much for having to answer the doorbell I find that annoying rather than fun. But there are a lot of gamers who live for that sort of thing and have no problem staying glued to the screen. So, like any game, decide on a target audience and try to stick to it. I'd say the sales figures show that most people prefer low-risk PvP, but that doesn't mean you should do that; sometimes it's better to try to fill a niche than copy what's popular, especially if copying what's popular means going up against WoW.
     
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  9. khanstruct

    khanstruct

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    Adding to CDMcGwire's thought, give value to something other than gear. As he mentioned "reputation" or ...swag.

    Aside from bragging rights, and possibly your name in lights (or on a leaderboard) maybe having a high reputation can get you a seat at the "cool kids table" (entrance into the castle for cool quests and such). While losing reputation will remove this option, it won't actually hinder the player and make them rage quit.
     
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  10. Dafeesh

    Dafeesh

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    Having a 'reputation' based on kills/deaths in the worlds sounds nice, but I know of one popular game that purposely got rid of it: WoW. Back in Vanilla WoW (I believe) a player gained levels of honor and achieved ranks when killing players out in the world. Did they also lose ranks if they died? I'm not sure, but they ditched this whole idea. Maybe it was because of the installment of battlegrounds, but it might be because they discovered people, in the end, didn't like it. Has any of you heard about or experienced this yourself when this was a thing? Maybe another game that I don't know about tried this, too. I'd still like to know.
     
  11. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    Woah woah woah... what?

    Why should losing be un-fun? Some of the best games I've ever played are games I lost. I've had some pretty boring games I won, too.

    If a game has to be won to be fun then, to put it diplomatically, it's design is deeply and fundamentally flawed.
     
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  12. AndrewGrayGames

    AndrewGrayGames

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    Agreed. The reason I love PvP isn't the easy, curbstomp battles; it's the close battles where it doesn't matter if my team won or lost; it was so close, and as a result so exciting, that that alone made it memorable.

    Still, putting a number to 'fun' is a pretty wonky thing to even attempt. I'm a rigid rules-type of guy and even I don't try that.
     
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  13. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    Quantifying fun isn't necessarily a bad idea, especially in this case since the intent was to explicitly acknowledge that the activity can be its own reward. It's just also having the activity as its own punishment that seems flawed. The whole zero-sum where only the winner gets to have fun makes the whole thing worthless in my mind - it's saying that the only point to the activity is the "reward", and seems to be forgetting the fact that the reward doesn't actually exist.

    To me, rewards and loot and such should guide behaviour and provide opportunities for meaningful choices. They shouldn't in and of themselves be the whole point of the game.

    So, to me, I like getting loot, leveling up and improving equipment because doing so broadens my available choices in a game. I get more abilities, can reach new places, can take on new foes, and so on. The reward isn't the loot or the advancement, it's the new play opportunities that those things give me. I have a very activity-first view of things.

    If you flip that around to a reward-first view of things, it's all too easy to forget that the fun should come from the activity. Activities in games should never be a chore required to reach the next reward.
     
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  14. IcedCoffee

    IcedCoffee

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    I don't see how a loot system like WoW would be enjoyable with high-risk PvP. I don't get into high-risk, but I don't like wasting time to get things just to lose them. Well, if they are very difficult or time consuming to obtain in the first place that is.

    If attaining equipment that would put you back into a winnable bracket were easy, or if you simply started off with it, I think that would be a different story. Maybe there would be limited amounts of top gear that players had to defend like a title belts. And if they didn't log on frequently enough the gear would return to circulation.

    A battleground style game would certainly be pretty fun with these mechanics. Maybe the players could gain buffs by doing well until they die. Or even buff their nearby team mates if playing on teams.

    All in all though, high-risk is certainly doable. It just has to balance out the fun with the rage quitting.

    edit: Titles make everyone feel important. It's another thing to consider.
     
  15. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    That's exactly what I was talking about above. If your game is so reward-first that playing isn't fun in and of itself I think the game is fundamentally busted.
     
  16. IcedCoffee

    IcedCoffee

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    It's quite an elegant system. Nothing like the tears of developers that have no clue.
     
  17. tiggus

    tiggus

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    The main problems with "high risk pvp" or "pvp with consequences"(my preferred term):

    a) if players have something to lose they will only willingly engage in battles they think they can win - fair fights are mostly avoided
    b) the alpha pvpers who are above average at pvp tend to band together eventually and crush the rest of the players making it fun for them and miserable for everyone else until people start leaving. People not in the alpha group begin to feel the game is pointless for them. Population dwindles.

    You can balance and tweak item/xp/stat/money/reputation loss all you want but those two factors always tend to emerge in my experience, and I've played a boatload of PvP MMO's with harsh penalties. That being said they are my favorite types of games while they last. Eve has a unique way of getting around #2 which is just make the world so damned big the alpha pvpers can't be everywhere at once.
     
  18. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    Of course, because the problem is with the gameplay and those solutions focus on rewards. The result is a system that self-tunes away from fair fights and to have all of the wealth distributed towards the winners of the fights. In other words, it un-balances itself while also removing the factors that make games intense and interesting.

    Can anyone think of ways to avoid that? The first thing that pops into my mind is only allowing fair fights, but that's so simple it's surely been tried before, right?
     
  19. tiggus

    tiggus

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    It has been tried, never seen it done successfully. The problem is not everyone in a multiplayer game is the same level/power so to try to force fights to be fair is almost impossible unless you only allow people of the same power to group together. Age of Conan tried a few different approaches and they were all exploitable and reduced the fun of the game.

    For example: I am grouped with my buddy and we are hunting orcs but he is 4 levels higher than me. A enemy player comes along who is two levels lower than me and this rule says you can attack anyone within 4 levels of yourself. He attacks me and kills me while my buddy just has to sit there and watch.

    Another system which was a disaster was having high level players get penalties for killing low level players. Large group battles would take place and guilds would include lowbies in their group just so they could run out and die from AoE, inflicting massive penalties on the other sides high level players.

    It is a lot trickier than it seems, I say if you are going to do full PvP just do full PvP and let the players form their own solutions via grouping/guilds.
     
  20. ExileGamesStudio

    ExileGamesStudio

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    I think the best method came from the original runescape game where you had a massive world full of quests and resources and other things to consume your time where you were safe from being killed by other players. But there was also the high risk pvp area in "the wild" where you could go to find better gear or quests but wasn't required to advance in the game. It also had the level system depending how far you ventured into the area the level would increase. For example if you were at level 10 of the wild then players with 10 levels higher or lower of you could attack. This method have you the ability to escape if you were being overpowered by a player with a much higher level as well as allowed you to get to an area where your friends of different levels would be able to join in and help. Or you could just avoid the wild altogether and not have to worry about being killed by another player. That method gives all types of players the gaming experience they're looking for.
     
  21. evan140

    evan140

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    Your overall reasoning is flawed. The experience as a whole is your measure of fun. You can lose and have an amazing fight and thus are glad you took part of it. For example, when I play Planetside2 and someone playing as a sniper (Infiltrator class) actually kills me before I get them, I'm impressed. (They often aren't very good.) I will even go as far as occasionally complimenting the person that got me, and I've had the same done to me. I've had people send me a /tell something like this after I take them out, "That was the most bawlzy thing I have ever seen. OMG lol!"

    While your idea is still valid, you just need to remember that not everyone wants the same thing. You clearly want a sort of "hybrid risk system", and that's fine. Go for it. But there are many gamers (including me) that would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to play on a total (or nearly) free-for-all PvP system in an MMO. Is it for everyone? No, of course not.

    Frankly, I dislike your concept of a PvP system because it feels both limiting to me as a player, and in my opinion, encourages griefing in PvP. But maybe other people would enjoy it.