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Conquest versus Competition

Player versus Player conflict is probably one of the most debated subjects in the MMO space. I've talked a lot about it myself here on the blog before. It can usually be relied upon to generate passionate opinions and discussions. Discussions that can quickly deviate from a civil conversation about the merits of various implementations into all out forum wars where you best be equipped with your best tin-foil hat for protection and come armed with a fair amount of troll-repellent. 

That passion though often masks a fairly fundamental issue with PVP discussions, and that is what exactly people mean by 'PVP', and in particular in an MMO context. You see, the answer, while possibly deceptively simple, is often overlooked and is at the root cause of a lot of those impassioned verbal conflicts. So this time out we're going to take a step back from the frontlines and look at some of the core concepts that are driving, and dividing, the PVP communities in modern MMOs.


For me the difference is between a wish for conquest and a wish of competition.

They'll never take our freedom!!

MMOs are built from the concept of open worlds. There is a very real desire for these worlds to feel real. We want some of the same rules we believe that the real world is governed by to be applicable to the virtual space. Now that belief may actually be more rooted more in an almost medieval outlook on things, rather than a modern understanding of the world. 'I don't like that guy, I will build an army and take all his stuff', but at a fundamental level it is the desire to be able to conquer ones foes and vanquish them. It is what our legends, myths and stories are based on. Not many of our literary or pop culture heroes marched their grand armies across a dangerous fantasy landscape to sit down with their arch-nemesis and engage in a 'best of three' game of chess.     

The amassing of power, and then deploying it for maximum advantage is in many ways a cornerstone of the design for an RPG system. With a progression based RPG system you are not thinking about a fair fight...usually you are planning, acquiring assets, and training in order to create the situation which gives you the advantage. A 'fair fight' is actually what you are encouraged to avoid in most RPG systems. 

A sporting chance...

In a competitive environment however you see a different set-up. Games like Warcraft III, League of Legends, Starcraft 2, DoTA, or Bloodline Champions are built on the basis that all things are relatively equal at the start of a bout. It's more akin to a sporting challenge...both sides have access to the same tools

Now there is still progression in these competitive games, it is just handled differently. A competitive game can signify progression and skill, not through reward and a growth in actual power, but in acknowledgment and ranking. Pitting players of relatively equal skill levels against each other in league and ladder play with promotion and relegation. 

That avoids the dangers of dominance, and means that players retain that feeling that the match-up is 'fair'. At least as much as it can be in a skill based environment, in these situations there will still be bad players, but they don't have any inequality in power to blame for poor performance, they generally lose through deficiencies of reflexes, skill, knowledge or luck.

((as an aside I am aware that I am over simplifying a little here. The competitive games in this space, while placing everyone on a roughly equal footing, are occasionally prone to imbalances of their own, just ask a League of Legends or Starcraft player and they will be sure to recount their tales of how the developers design has unfairly penalized them in a certain match-up...but those imbalances are fundamentally different from RPG progression system imbalances and are also available to everyone.))

Do we want a fair fight?

At a fundamental level people hold out for the ideal of a 'fair fight', even when the games systems are specifically designed to encourage progression and the acquisition of power. The issue being that those systems fundamentally stand at odds with the type of 'fair' PVP encounter that you might find in the competitive sphere.

Now whether that is down to simple time spent, more gear collected, more rewards acquired, or more experience, and better tactics the experience is still the same for the end user... 

The weak get crushed...

...and in some ways that is how it should be, if your game is truly to fully embrace this 'conquest' style of PVP conflict. There are only a couple of games that support it openly, EVE Online is the obvious example in that field. The open nature of their game world allows for no-holds-barred conflict between player factions and it is all based entirely on their amassed power and resources, and the knowledge of how to use it efficiently.

However to understand the modern MMO you have to consider the fact that the current landscape has been born out of this underlying desire for a living breathing world that players could fight over, but that has evolved with the proverbial environmental pressures from the forces of accessibility, sales and retention. 

Evolution...how we got where we are...

So the mainstream MMOs evolved, that is where the idea of arenas and battlegrounds came from. The needs of accessibility dictated that designers try and find a way to accommodate the appeal of the 'conquest' style of play, while also retaining the 'fairness' of the the 'competitive' desires of the players. Put quite simply more players are interested in playing that content when they perceive that the fight is reasonably 'fair'. 

However the conquest style game-play driver, where the biggest and best aren't just primed to win, their dominance is the actual reward for being the best organised or the biggest, (not necessarily the smartest (although there is obviously overlap there, there is a reason why one big guild or alliance wins over another)), is then directly at odds with the goal of that mass market accessibility. 

Most people simply don't like being fodder for a dominating force. They don't like to be bullied or out-muscled by a force that the game mechanics have allowed to have a clear position of dominance. 

The system however has trained players firmly into the desire to constantly amass that power, and the only way to validate that acquisition of power is for it to have an impact on the user experience, to make them feel powerful and sweep weaker foes before them...which again goes against that desire for accessibility.

So battlegrounds and the like were an effort on the behalf of game designers to try and insert some limits and restrictions upon the setting so that they could force as much equality as possible. The evolution of the PVP options in World of Warcraft illustrated this perfectly. They started with battlegrounds alone, but as they experienced the regular 'mudflation' of MMO item progression, they soon found that fewer players found them appealing when they were getting rolled by teams of better geared, more powerful foes. Then the introduction of the arena systems, and rankings, allowed them to have both. While it separated their players to a degree it did so in a way that made both formats more enjoyable for those taking part. Blizzard of course also had the advantage of years of experience with competitive gaming through the Warcraft and Starcraft franchises.

Where are we now?

That is why we end up with the compromises that you see in most games. It is the clash of those desires. The desire for conquest but the wish for competition. In many ways it is an almost mutually exclusive, or contradictory set of desires. 

In addition some of the restrictions are of a more technical nature (limits on the number of players you can handle in one area), while some others are resource or difficulty based (it takes time to code and develop a good solid ELO style rating system) 

So what exactly am I advocating? Is this all a bad thing? 

Yes and no. I think it depends on your game, and what you want the project to be.

For the mainstream titles I think it involves continuing to refine our odd cocktail of the two desires. Building better leader-board and ranking style features, with better league and ladder play. If you aren't going to be able to have the open world options for conquest and ownership you have to find a good way to compensate and keep people interested.

...sometimes however it is actually fine that you don't prioritize accessibility above the rewards of having a harsher game.  


The contrast in EVE Online here is a good example of knowing the strengths of your game, and making things work appropriately. In EVE the developers have accepted that the conflict will be a niche activity within the game in terms of the number of those who actually take part in the actual conflict. (Although of course in a world like EVE's where there is a market at play, that means you can easily argue everyone is involved, albeit obliquely.) The vast majority of pilots carry on with their daily activity of buying, selling and mission running, far, far, removed from the corporation conflicts between the games elite, and the game is all the better for it. The idea of that conflict however is very compelling regardless of your personal involvement. 

However given most of the 'cool' EVE stories come from that conflict (or the occasional astonishing scam or deceit) it is completely understandable that there is also this desire amongst developers to try and get more players involved in such an activity.

It is gripping stuff!

You could even argue that those games that have received the most positive PVP feedback from players, are those that embraced their chosen style, and stuck to it, complete with the drawbacks. Whether it is the inaccessible but truly compelling corporate warfare in EVE, or the refined tournament play of Guild Wars. Those games that resonate the most are those that allowed conquest or competition. In general I think PVPers appreciate it most when there is that focus, but must understand that such a focus may not be appropriate for those games seeking a wider audience.

That means that it is fine for mainstream games to have their more 'in-between' solutions, because you want a wider appeal. Accessibility is not, in and of itself, a poor goal. It is indeed often a vital one for an MMO, and that is why you have seen the development of these systems that try to balance conquest and competition.

Building open worlds...

As the technology improves my own personal hope is that we are able to go back to exploring the ideas of conquest in an open world setting. 

On one hand I am one of those odd types of veteran player that loves the addition of story, and better storytelling to the genre, but also believes firmly that those two things are not mutually exclusive. It will just require a little bit of thinking outside of the box.

Thankfully I also firmly believe that some games will explore this area more. It is a fascinating element of design, and one I think we won't be able to resist exploring in the future...it simply holds too much potential to be ignored for too long. It's great to finish a great story and storm the castle and beat the bad guy..it is something else altogether to get to keep his castle, and for you to become the bad guy for the next would-be hero to try and conquer...





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18 comments

Leopold said...

That is exactly why I hate to see battlegrounds without ranking systems (just like in your own game *cough* AoC *cough*) but good to know that you agree to the need even if you can't, or aren't allowed to do it in your own game.

I am not so sure that we will ever see a triple A sandbox game. The will just isn't there amongst the big publishers due to the risk involved. Do you honestly think that one of them will fund something like EVE? I doubt it.

Anonymous said...

I loved pvp in Warhammer Online, sadly exactly what you describe happened there. One faction became dominant, players used every trick in the book to achieve that status.

Sometimes aided by 'circumstances beyond anybodies control', like that one faction was more attractive for a certain type of player ('kids play order and need to go to bed early' was a common cliche. no idea if it's true. i never played order *g*) Players used every sign of 'less activity' by the opponent to advance their own gear, etc.

After a while the dominance of one faction (usually chaos), became unreversable. The players of the 'weaker' faction soon got frustrated and left. Entire servers became defunct. Pvp brings out the worst in players *gg*, though it's one hell of a lot of fun.

As a dedicated AoC player I'm always looking forward to any type of new contend, even pvp-wordlbosses :) 'Temporary factions' for these events might be helpful, otherwise this contend would be restricted to the big guilds alone.

Driller said...

LOTRO's monster play is another example of the lengths that developers will go to try and mix these two things. You have a point. I had not thought about it in that way before, but the root cause of a lot of the problems with MMO PVP lie with the fact that we love to beat people down. It is only fun when you are winning, or have a chance of winning. Nothing turns me off PVP than being in a bad battleground team or playing against a well organised pre-made team. It is what killed WOW and AOC PVP for me, and is fast killing the experience in SWTOR too.

Guild Wars system design helped. It was still all about getting an advantage with your build, but everyone could make different builds and that was the actual challenge.

One point you didn't mention though is teaming vs solo play. In a team many of the imbalances can be evened out. A lot of the complaints in the modern MMO space come from people that fail to understand that not every class can be 'equal' in a one on one fight in a class based setting.

F. C. said...

I really agree with the diagnosis.

Just for the record, when it comes to PvP, I'm completely in what you call the "competition" camp. If a MMO's PvP has any relevant Conquest element - for example, gear progression, or a long AA grind - I won't even attempt it's PvP. I don't need to; there are lots of dedicated PvP games with the kind of (reasonably) fair play I like, no need to become frustrated with a MMO's power progression-based PvP.

It's not just a desire for me to be competitive. I also don't want to face other players that have no chance of fighting me. If I think I won just because the game gave me an advantage, I stop playing.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what you guys are talking about here, I don't get that deep in to this stuff, but I just wanted to say:

THANK YOU FOR KEEPING AOC ALIVE AND THANKS FOR THE GREAT, GREAT UPDATES! The new Director really pushes things and I love to read your Community-letters.

That's all I wanted to say. I love AoC - especially since RotGS and the last two major updates (Turan and HoC). I have always loved Funcom games, starting with The Longest Journey up to Dreamfall, through AO and now AoC.

Thank you so much.

Greets from Germany.

Nirgal said...

Interesting.

Maybe Planetside 2 will succed in mixing conquest and competition, even it's a mmofps.

I can only dream of a mmo game where you feel like you are part of a world where your only ennemies are other players...
But it would require lot more thinking and engineering than actual mmo games. And as you said, MMO's need to be accessible and have a wide audience to succeed on the long term, and so must match with the desires of the gamers themselves.

The thing is i'm pretty sure that there's undred thousands people out there on the internet that want a PVP oriented MMO game where your skill makes more the difference than your stuff in a political and socially oriented game, but it seems that no developper wants to please them.

There's still a lot to do in mmo's genre. It became accessible, its economic models evolved, and the games themselves evolved, but with more rules and more pve stuff that is much more easy to deal with as a developper than PvP stuff.

AOC could have been that ultimate MMO, i loved the gameplay that allowed me to crush opponents with 10 lvls higher than me, only because i had better movement and knowledge of the mechanics. But it failed because of that enormous PvE content. The Blood and glory servers were really close to what i expect to live in a good mmo from lvl 10 to 30. After that, the world gets too big to have enough opportunities to meet someone, and there's no other interest in PvP openworld than "duels" and securing your pve spot.

MMO's are really interesting to analyse, the social aspects can have a major influence, like in EVE where guilds create their own wars and battles for something they really want.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this very interesting Blog post.

Imho, there is a way to achieve both. The ranking and competitive aspect is important to a minority of your server community, so maybe 5% want to know their rank, because they are amongst the best of the best and want to know; who is the best? But stack-ranking could perfectly be a voluntary feature happening only in select well balanced areas.
For character balance, I think that if power progression would be logarithmic, meaning that more you level up the small the difference, meaning also that equipment deliver only marginal differences in higher tiers, you can have something where high-level characters have little difference and skill is important.

Getting the next tier equipment still offers more, but just not significant (way less than 1% for high tiers). Incentive is still there, prestige is present and you can use visuals to let the prestige shine on characters. Small power difference, voluntary participation in stack-ranking BGs, prestige to highlight who are the best amongst the best; that seems to meet pretty much the demand.

In terms of Open World PvP, I think that DAoC had the right balance (or non-balance in this case) and approach before Frontier revamp, when they did not have the PvP levels (PvP levels were clearly not logarithmic). The approach was simple but efficient. Three realms scenarios rarely result in one dominating all, as if one dominates the others usually ally against the more powerful. And through realm incentives, you help ensure your population between realms is balanced.

Furthermore, DAoC had a very open minded approach of conflicts. Meaning that innovative strategies and out-smarting your opponents were considered perfectly OK. Our realm was never the most powerful in terms of numbers or raw guild power, yet we were very creative in terms of strategies. In a large field we probably would have been defeated all the time. But the RvR area enabled a lot of creative solutions, and they were not considered exploits which is critical.

Examples: Albion had fortified themselves into a midgard caern. They were about twice our number and had catapults. The first few attempts resulted in epic failure. So we decided to become creative, we pulled a giant (worldboss) through two areas and made sure he got into the catapults AEs. Then while Albion had to handle the giant, we broke through the door. Obviously the giant killed plenty of people also on our side, but it was fun and is still a great souvenir for most of the player. It was incredible.

We also captured relics without killing guards (aggro them, but not kill them) to avoid alerts. We captured castles without going through the front door (with assassins and GTAO). We destroyed doors of empty reliquaries for economic warfare and prevent them from capturing relics. We used assist GTAO to farm people spawning at corps summoners. We synced in order to capture all Albian forts within a minute and rush the reliquary. And many more,…

GOA policy was very permissive and allowed a lot. Many other MMOs then determined strict processes to win-fail in open world PvP, imho this is a mistake. Open World PvP should enable hundreds of approaches and tactics enabling the same creativity as raiding.

Craig Morrison said...

@Anonymous (02:45 AM)

Yes, I had some fun times in DAoC as well. They probably got the closest to balancing a progression based game while still having those open world objectives. I'm not sure however how a larger title would successfully transition there (WAR showed how difficult that was when also trying to appeal to a wider demographic as your sole goal). I do believe the two can sit together, but only if the developer is willing to accept the cons as well as the pros, and understand that you have to sacrifice a little accessibility when you go down the conquest route.

@Nirgal I am also looking forward to Planetside 2. The FPS mechanics are much more suited to conquest possibilities because they are inherently less biased towards 'progression' based superiority. I have high hopes for that one if they can bring in the persistence that was lacking in the first game. If it is another 'rotation' with no actual holding of bases and front-lines as the first game suffered from then I fear my interest will wane...so will be interesting to see what they do there!

@Anonymous (03:57 PM) I'm glad you're enjoying it, the team have worked hard to make that happen, so it's always nice to hear from those who appreciate it.

@F.C ..and I don't think you are alone in feeling that way. That is the challenge of balancing progression against the desire for things to be competitive. Then you also have those who believe that is how it should be, and enjoy crushing weaker opponents to show off their might.

@Driller Yes, monster play in LOTRO is another good example of finding a way to have a balance and 'insert' a degree of equality. EQ2 tried it to an extent as well with their gladiators.

Anonymous said...

Great read. Thanks. This is an interesting discussion, it sparked a lengthy thread over on Massively as well - http://massively.joystiq.com/2012/01/26/the-daily-grind-do-you-want-a-fair-fight/ - do you read the comments over there too?

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Anonymous said...

No semblance of class balance...at all (Rangers...nuff said). An Open world PvP system designed for greifers (everyone stealths at choke points..waits for favored kill class to come along ala Rock/Paper/Sic PvP). A system where you can be attacked while in a quest "cut scene" and unable to respond. Bori. Bori?

Seriously, Mr. Morrison, if I were you I would keep my trap shut about PvP. You obviously shouldn't be giving advice or even observations. Unless, of course, you wanted to do a postmortem.

riseofthegamer said...

Silirrion you and I had some conversations about the gaming industry and we both seem to share different views. Does this make either one of us wrong or right? not really, everyone has a view and should be allowed to express it freely.

My concern is, the industry as a whole has pushed players in to a corner where they aren't left with much choice. My biggest issue with the competitive scene whether it is from the fps/rts/mmo genre is the lack of understanding what the hardcore skill base players really want. Now from a business stand point, I understand why corporations such as Blizzard, Funcom, EA, Activision, etc do what they do, it's about money. It's always about catering to the majority, because the majority will almost always give the biggest payout.

There is a void in the market presently and it hasn't been filled. I am telling you this because if I had the money right now, I would fill that void and prosper. Key elements to making people want to fight in any competitive game is, you must promote skill and reward them for it. If you don't promote skill, then the players that represent that crowd instantly flee the vicinity the moment they realize the game lacks the support for it. Let me show you an example of what happens when you neglect the feedback to best players the game has to offer - below you will find a link to a small interview about Counter-Strike:GO - the player he interviews is rated one of the best in the world, here is what he has to say.

http://www.pcgamer.com/2012/03/13/pro-counter-strike-player-slams-csgo-%E2%80%9Cit%E2%80%99s-not-fun-it%E2%80%99s-a-terrible-game-right-now-%E2%80%9D/

When you create a game and handicap it for the masses, you will only get a small select few to participate in the competitive scene. As I said above, because you cater to the mainstream crowd, by handicapping the game, you scare off your professional players and your left with players who only want to win through instant gratification, such as gear, easy mode game mechanics (Ranger in AoC).

riseofthegamer said...

You once said to me, both can exist and your right, both can exist but that depends on what your objective is as a developer. But when it comes to true competitive game play. Most developers make a game and they don't build it from ground up for the competitive players. It always has some single player campaign attached to it, lack of dedicated servers, pve comes before pvp when building classes from the ground up and almost next to no support system mechanics to tie the pvp all together as one. Age of Conan is a perfect example of this.

I kid you not, I have daily on my ventrilo over 40+ on my ventrilo that once played AoC and many other games but gave up on them, because it doesn't offer what they once had. Out of all mmo's we have played, we always resort back to Age of Conan as the one that has the raw basic gameplay mechanics for the best pvp game, but it's missing all the system mechanics to make it happen. AoC needs to seperate it's pvp from it's pve completely in order to satisfy both crowds, the two just don't mesh together like almost every other game.

I signed up for Tyranny(PVP) to be pushed out of my own server by Role Players and PVE players, on a server which wasn't designed for them. You really have to take a step back and realize what this does as a whole to your pvp community, when you show them your making changes for players who shouldn't have been on that server to begin with. Guards, Slow Combat, Gear Grinds, Handicapping Classes for the mainstream crowd. I truly loved Age of Conan, but I don't anymore along with a vast majority of the players I played the game with, simply because of the lack of support for the competitive scene the game had to offer. My biggest beef is, every single gaming company keeps following in this same trend, where they believe watering a game down for the masses and copying what World of Warcraft does or Call of Duty is considered solid gold. This trend needs to stop, it's killing the industry from the inside out and leading to a bottomless pit where we will only receive games like we receive our music and movies.

riseofthegamer said...

I played Wrath of Heroes, which is sister game to Warhammer Online - It's based purely on PVP and arena, but here is the problem, it requires virtually no skill what so ever. It's a 4-5 button game and movement is not a factor, the end result of the game will go like this. WOH launches, anybody interested in it, tries it. Skill based crowd realize after 1 week the game has no skill curve to it and leaves the game before the mainstream crowd. The mainstream crowd gets bored like they do with every game and goes on to the next big trend leaving WOH a dead game. If Warhammer actually listened to the players that were the best at games like WoW, CS, Quake and so fourth, they would be 10x more successful. The competitive players need a game that rewards them for being extremely good and allowing a tremendous amount of room for growth. Counter-strike is a 12 year old game and kids are still coming up with tricks in the game that amazes people each day.

Another video of one of the best cs players in the world "GET_RIGHT" - watch their teamwork, they boost themselves in the ceiling, use smokes for coverage, prefire through walls, it may not be "realistic" it may not have a "backstory" but this is what competitive players want. They don't play the game for those reasons, they play it for the inner game, like how you play Chess, Basketball, Soccer, Poker - when your in the zone, the graphics and the realism doesn't matter, all your thinking about is the gameplay.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RkrID4v_Vys

Final

Age of Conan needs to come out with a free to play competitive expansion that only focuses purely on pvp and nothing else. Hell, don't even call it Age of Conan, this way you don't have to follow the lore, because I know you once told me on the forums before, that this binds you guys in some situations. Take the games core mechanics and build an Arena game revolved purely around pvp. What to add in for system mechanics:

1. Arena - Whether this is for 2 v 2, 3 v 3, 5 v 5

2. Mini Games - Now some people will argue this is the same thing, when infact it's not. AoC mini games were more like Quake's, you capture flags and have an entire map to run around and split the teams up with constant respawns occuring to keep the game flowing.

3. Duels - Just give them a some cool places to practice duels private and public

4. Large Scale Combat - Do it like Battlegrounds in World of Warcraft but add some flare to it that suits better with Age of Conan.

5. Feat tree's - Allow the users to change feats whenever they want for free, have 2 builds they can switch when not in combat and remove potions from the game, this way you can build classes properly for balance.

6. Gear doesn't matter - Give them a plethora of costumes to wear and unlock for cosmetics only.

7. Rewards - Headphones, Money, Rare In-Game items(cosmetics)

8. Social Network - Website with leader boards, in-game leader boards, chat, spectator mode like HLTV for all the big matches when the seasons are over. If you want to add more money - for teams / guilds that want to own an AOC TV network, charge them money per month to have it, so people can watch them live when they practice, duel, scrim, pvp, whatever.

I know my response is long and may seem over the top, but I am telling you, every person that I know that plays games for the same reason as me, can't stand what the industry has become and is dying for a game that has what these 12 year old games already have. The trend needs to change and pvp needs to evolve across all genres. Thanks for reading.

Craig Morrison said...

@riseofthegamer We did actually consider doing something similar to Wrath Of Heroes with Conan instead of doing content expansions. The question was whether to stop content development and refocus on competitive play (as I guess in a similar fashion to WAR we didn't have the resources to do both.) At the end of the day however the final call did end up coming down to what was more appealing to the greater audience.

So yes, in that context, the hardcore niche audience, that want equal, skill-based, competition, did indeed lose out. In addition, as much as some people liked it, we didn't have an equality based skill system. It is a touch call to base a game based on a fundamentally inaccessible format which relies on a steep skill barrier to appeal to that hardcore market.

However that isn't to say that a skill based game can't work, if it designed for such from scratch. A game like Bloodline Champions is based on skill rather than progression for example, and works because it was designed specifically to be appealing to that e-sport centric audience.

Likewise a game like Age of Conan, can possibly have an arena system in the future, as time goes by the beauty of MMOs is that you have the time eventually to get to some of the different systems that might not necessarily by the most popular or 'mainstream'. Hopefully we will get the chance to add an arena system to the game in the future. I imagine that the area you would disagree with is that it would most likely use existing characters rather than 'equal' skill based set-ups, as for many MMO fans, and that includes the PVP fans, the majority who take part prefer that their progression means something, which brings us right back to the design conflict mentioned in the original post.

If we made a system where the characters progression didn't matter then less people would play it. Which might mean that it ends up not worth supporting on an ongoing basis due to small user base of that feature (not a certainty for sure, but there would be a bias against it), and as we will always have more ideas and possible things to work on than content, the appeal of any given feature is important.

In many ways, it is a little bit of a 'faith' issue. You sound a bit like the 'if you build it they will come' type on this subject, who believes because of how much fun you personally (and those like you) get from that type of competition, and you firmly believe the 'they' will be sufficient populous for it to be worthwhile for the developer to invest in the idea.

The problem of course is that not everyone agrees with that, and there are no good examples of such a system being more popular than a progression based option, but that may simply lead to a 'chicken and egg' situation where someone needs to do it, and commit to it, and then succeed, in order to prove the premise.

I'd love to have an arena system in AoC in the future. Although I think it would end up a little differently than you'd personally like as I think a F2P expansion (i.e. no profit to pay for the development with) that focused solely on a niche interest, is a hard sell ... however, I think it's definitely something we will look in some other form in the future.

I think that as a game concept however, if done from scratch, and with the right budget (that reflected the possible market), such a game could certainly be successful. With the expansion of digital distribution and the indie development scene I think there is a good chance that you will see games that try and attract that audience. I think you are less likely though to see the larger publishers bankroll a riskier proposition like that.

riseofthegamer said...

I don't believe in faith, I believe in delivering a solid product built from ground up to suit a single agenda. I wouldn't try and make a game that caters to 2 individual communities, because I know in the end, one or the other will be watered down and held back from it's true potential.

I live and breath competitive games, I have competed with the best in most of them and I find I excel above the average relatively quick because I look at detail and what divides a great player from an average player. I would never deliver a product that relies purely on faith and assume because I built it, they will come. It's like making music, you have these producers water it down on the artist or make them push it out early because they're on a time frame. When you add a clock to art, you've already killed 50% of the products potential of being great. It's the little attention to detail that makes or breaks most games we play.

riseofthegamer said...

Your right though, a business standpoint, my vision wouldn't suffice for them, because they want concrete results and they want it now. If I was running a development company for making video games, I would deliver the game when it's ready and I would sit down and play my game day in and day out with my community, so I could spot the details that makes or breaks the game.

1. Movement and Control - The feel of a competitive game is a huge, because if it feels like crap, it's going to play like crap, when you get when you pick up 90% of the fps games out there, since the feel and movement is purely depended on shooters.

2. Map Layout - Maps and how they're laid out are a representation of how a game is going to pan out, especially for how players move around a map and control it depending on the style of game mode they're playing. Making sure to add in some interesting trick points that allow for intriguing gameplay, like you see in some of the videos I posted in Quake or CS. The players can shoot through walls, boost on boxes for a team play advantage. Not adding in props that players get stuck on, which I see in so many games. Most competitive games are played out like an arena, so it should be treated as such. Nothing is more annoying then getting stuck on something small on the floor, killing the flow of game play, such as garbage cans, pop cans and so fourth. AoC did a great job with their mini game maps, but Call of Jheb, you can't see because the trees are in your way and you get stuck on so much uneven terrain. A bit of attention could have remedied that.

Graphics - The trick to competitive play is allowing as many users with low end computers and high end computers to compete. Designing the game graphically to look amazing with a few tricks from shadows and textures / particles while still allowing lower end pc's to have a 125+ fps limit is manditory. When playing any game, if your fps is low, moving around becomes clunky and not as enjoyable to play, which is why I tried my best to not fraps game play on high graphic dependent games, it lowers your performance as a player, because it makes your mouse feel like it's on ice skates.

Skill Mechanics - Whether it's an MMO or an FPS/RTS, the speed and flow of game play that gives off both individual skill and group team play is the best to aim for in competitive play. When you lower the cap on individual skill it gears towards a more zerg mindset, where the only way a play can be successful is when his team is around him, there needs to be a fine balance between both. I always use Counter-Strike as an example, because it's a very well known game and the most successful for this very reason. 5 v 5 matches, but 1 player could reign terror on the opposing team and win the match, or you can have it the other way around, where amazing team play which was represented from a vast majority of the Norwegian and Swedish teams. There is no greater feeling then being the last man standing against 4 other players and being capable of still winning it for your team, that feeling alone is what makes players come back for more.

riseofthegamer said...

Gameplay Mechanics - Setting the game up so that the user isn't held back from his true potential is huge. Call of Duty, the guns have no recoil and the hit boxes are huge along with the ability of users always have a radar present to show where the other players location is, is pretty much a pre-installed hack designed for the mainstream crowd. Battlefield 3 implemented 'Random Bullet Spray' in their latest patch to help the mainstream crowd keep up with the skill based crowd. By doing this, it made guns shoot bullets randomly in directions that were out of the users control. This results in irregular game play, allowing for the skillful player to lose and the mainstream player to keep up, I call this handicapped game play. In Competitive play, this must be avoided at all costs, no competitive player wants to compete in a game based on chance, but rather on raw skill and consistency. Speed or Twitch is another factor, when I played AoC, I loved 1.04, people would say you never run out of stamina, but you did. The players who pushed the combat system to the fullest would always run out of stamina, because they were playing the game at it's fastest pace, all the while the players that didn't run out, played at a casual paced(these players weren't very good 99% of the time). Another example for twitch would be weapon switching in a game. When shooting your main weapon, developers would code it to slow down how fast you could switch to your secondary weapon to finish the target off. Now I believe there should be a cap on weapon switch, but there needs to be a fine line, which depends on your game and the type of style your aiming for.

System Mechanics - Having Leaderboards for teams, clans, guilds, players are essential, along with in house tournaments. Whatever game your making, all the proper systems must be in play that promotes competition. Allowing players to practice on maps, modes or whatever is a must. I wish in AoC I could have went in to an HV with my team just to practice, or I could right click duel in main city hubs.

I have already created a game on paper with my brother, drawn out some maps, but my problem will always be money, because like any entertainment industry, money is power. Most people will never be able to achieve their dream because the requirements of money always holds them back. This doesn't change for me, I will continue to keep pushing forward and figuring out ways to step in to the gaming realm, even if I have to work for free. I just want to see in the next 10 years a game built exactly as how myself and many others imagine for competitive play. I just want to see the mainstream trend the industry is stuck in now change and start evolving. Games like Duke Nukem 3D a 14 year old game has more creativity and concept behind it then 90% of the games they make today.

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