Warhammer Online: The Problem with Progressive PvP

Many of you don’t like detailed prose, so here is the short summary.  You can read further to see the details.

Key points:

  1. Warhammer is a solid universe with a great story background for a PvP game.
  2. Renown ranks are in such disparity that it makes the game boring and causes resignation due to scenario and open RvR defeats.
  3. Slow accumulation of renown causes low morale.
  4. What are alternative ways to gain renown?

Warhammer is a solid world with a great story for a PvP game.

I am a big Warhammer Online fan.  I love the MMORPG and the books.  The game lives in a story setting that really makes it worth playing.  The amazing sense of humor and great graphics coupled with a RvR system rooted in the rich DAOC experience combine to make one of the best games on the market.  The dialog, stories, and lands all link nicely back to the primary narrative.  I love going to places in the game that I read about in the books.  It adds such depth to the overall experience.  There are two tie in books associated directly with the game that I own:  Empire in Chaos and Forged by Chaos.    My favorite recent addition to the mix is the Gotrek and Felix first omnibus.  Inside, you’ll find 832 pages of quality writing that vaults you right into the Warhammer world. These books provide an important part of the game’s MMORPG experience, and Warhammer seems to be one of the richest multimedia (in the literal sense) experiences out there.  This allows an immersive experience in the PvE areas, and an important reason for having such a hotly contested PvP environment.

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Renown ranks are in such disparity that it makes the game boring.

The problem with this game’s PvP system (and to be fair, most others with loot  as the differentiator) is that it is progressive and unbalanced.  That is also a benefit, as much as it is a curse.  What happens when disparity sets in between hard core players and casual players?  I have a low ranking RR30 Ironbreaker on Volkmar.  He constantly got killed by a RR79 Witch Elf.  The difference in damage output and defense is enormous between these two players, and the amount of time invested to get to RR70+ is something I don’t have the tolerance for at this point in my life.

RR Gear Type
31-33 Annihilator Gear
45-50 Conqueror Gear
55-60 Invader Gear
64-70 Warlord Gear
73-80 Sovereign Gear

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The chart attempts to illustrate a recent scenario in which we were soundly defeated.  60% of our group, was in the Annihilator gear range.  A third had Conqueror (including me).  Most of the opposing team was a “pre-made” running with Warlord and Sovereign gear and coordinating through guild Ventrilo.  Now this is a lot of fun if you are on the delivering end of that message, but it is not a  joy to be constantly annihilated in your annihilator gear.    Notice the Destruction is Victorious quote!  Also, notice that everyone sits at Rank 40.  That masks the real differentiation.  Renown Rank grants better Mastery Skills and superior equipment.  Part of the fun with lower level (particularly T1) PvP in Warhammer is that there is not so much gear disparity. Part of the definition of a game is that A) there are rules and B) that the outcome is uncertain.  That level of disparity in group composition without some form of normalizing effect means the outcome is certain.  Hence, it is no longer a game.   There needs to be some form of balancing act, or the inherent imbalance of a few hard core players and hard core guilds will make the end of it a certainty.

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Slow accumulation of renown causes resignation and low morale

Now if you have 30 hours to dedicate to a game in a week, you too can be rewarded with a great deal of power and prestige.  You can dominate all of the casual players around you!  However, how long do you think the casual players are going to pay Mythic $14.99 a month to be dominated by some 300 pound house bound, unemployed, Dorito munching AD&D’er ?  A lot of frustration (in a mild, humor filled way) was being expressed on my guild’s vent channel tonight.  A couple of players decided to stop paying for the privilege of allowing the hard core players to farm them, and they have canceled their accounts.  Now this is the norm with any game, but I think Warhammer’s unique imbalance issues causes players that enjoy both the story and the social relationships that they forged in the game to quit when they otherwise would have stayed on if a more level playing field existed.  So, I will stop the whining and begin the suggestion part of the equation.

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Are there alternative ways to gain renown?

Any system that places renown acquisition outside of direct player versus player confrontation will certainly cause a lot of consternation for many of the players who “earned” their points.  However, there needs to exist some more equitable ways for casual players to cross this almost impassable chasm.  What about the following ideas that confer renown on the player without PvP but keep them in a PvP zone:

1) Crafting quests within a RvR lake

2) Solo and Group Quests within a RvR lake

3) RR parity scenario group options

4) Scenario handicapping functions or temporary loot

5) Player buffing system that costs players money to be doled out by Rune Priests, Warrior Priests, and Arch Mages (and their Chaos mirrors).  These could only be used within the RvR zone, and they would diminish in value proportionate to RR.  Talk about a boon to player economy.  This was one of Star Wars Galaxies’ (the pre-CU) greatest inventions, and it added an immense amount of depth to life in the cities, the player economy, and the social aspects of the game.

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6. NPC helpers that can be crafted, earned through quests, or paid for through alternative non-PvP activities.  These would be healing pets, DPS pets, or defensive turrets or positions that would boost your team relative to the higher RR players.

There has to be a way to get solo players and others showing a more casual bent to their game play a method of progression.  If you feel that your progression has halted, you lose interest.  If you can’t progress, then you really can’t compete effectively.  I know from several years of Tae Kwon Do that Black Belts have some slight advantage in sparring over Yellow Belts.  If all a Yellow Belt did in class was to point spar Black Belts, I don’t think he or she will be spending too much time at the school!  Why would Warhammer be different?  This is a game worth playing, but I can’t get motivated if I can’t progress.  Let’s hope the producers examine alternative means for RvR balance and renown point acquisition.

Comments

  1. I have to say i love detailed prose. I didnt even finish the article b/c i love it so much that i had to let you know. Now, back to the top to read the article.

  2. “I have a low ranking RR30 Ironbreaker on Volkmar. He constantly got killed by a RR79 Witch Elf. The difference in damage output and defense is enormous between these two players, and the amount of time invested to get to RR70+ is something I don’t have the tolerance for at this point in my life.”
    -Stopped reading there because I fear this is the premise for the whole article… which just brings it down to a very elaborate “someone died in RvR” post.

  3. I play a RR71 Warrior priest and I couldn’t agree with you anymore.
    It just feel boring to me to kill low RR chr that cant put up a fight, not because of their lack of skill but because their lack of time investment in game.
    the reason I started playing this game was because I thought everyone stands on even ground in pvp and gear wouldn’t play such a major role, boy was I wrong.
    I really loved your article and I hope someone from mythic could read this.
    THANKS!

  4. “-Stopped reading there because I fear this is the premise for the whole article… which just brings it down to a very elaborate “someone died in RvR” post.”

    If only it were that simple.

  5. “NPC helpers that can be crafted, earned through quests, or paid for through alternative non-PvP activities. These would be healing pets, DPS pets, or defensive turrets or positions that would boost your team relative to the higher RR players.”

    Still think that’s a kick-ass idea

  6. “I have a low ranking RR30 Ironbreaker on Volkmar. He constantly got killed by a RR79 Witch Elf. The difference in damage output and defense is enormous between these two players, and the amount of time invested to get to RR70+ is something I don’t have the tolerance for at this point in my life.”

    On the flip side, why should the person who has dedicated a lot of time and effort into the game not enjoy a greater degree of power in-game? In every activity, it is those who put the most into the endeavor that get the farthest. It’s the difference between someone who goes on a stroll through the park once a week versus a professional triathlete. Chances are, the professional spends more time perfecting their skill, whereas the casual would struggle. When placed in a competitive environment, it is the triathlete who should win 90% of the time. If we were to use a Gotrek and Felix reference, it would be the difference between the escaped dwarf slaves in Elfslayer and Gotrek himself-the guy with the most experience is the most effective.

    That said, I think NPC helpers would be kind of fun. Would give Mythic a chance to introduce characters from the Dogs of War. In order to do this, though, they really need to improve NPC AI and pathing, or else they would become more of a liability than anything.

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