PvP vs PvE

So I’ve been pondering the PvP (or RvR, if you prefer) vs PvE question, as it applies to my own play styles. Specifically after others pointed out (accurately) that PvP requires player skill to do well at. For every PvP encounter, one human wins, one human loses. In RvR, one group of humans win, one group of humans lose, but assuming the encounters are balanced, 50% of the players are going to lose every encounter.

But what is player skill in this context? I think that’s where things start to rub me wrong. If I’m playing Team Fortress, my win/loss record depends almost entirely on player skill (the only other variable being lag). In an MMO there are other factors; namely your character and gear stats. So if what you’re looking for is a chance to prove that your skills are better than the next guy’s, why not play something that relies only on player skill?

Now, I’m the first to admit I’m a dinosaur. I had the “Chainmail” rule-set from which the first edition of D&D sprang. To me, these are still ROLE-PLAYING Games, and I embrace and enjoy the ‘spreadsheet’ factors involved in them. When I get into an RvR or PvP battle, and the opponent is “bunny hopping” around so I constantly get “You must be facing your target” or “Your target is out of range” over and over, I’ll happily admit he’s a better key-puncher than I am, but to me, that’s not why I play these games and frankly that’s not fun for me. When I read a fantasy novel, the opponents aren’t rapidly circle-strafing each other and leaping behind each other like frenzied crickets. They’re looking each other in the eye and using their sword-fighting skills and strength to try to overcome each other. Until an MMORPG can capture that feeling, I can’t see myself giving up PvE. Because yeah, a Mob is in my ways a puzzle to figure out, but at least fighting them feels more Arthur/Robin Hood/Conan/Arragorn-esque than spinning in place trying to keep an eye on an opponent with limitless energy. (I’d love to see an MMO give each character an energy level that drains constantly while fighting, and drains really quickly when jumping or running sideways {aka circle-strafing} during a fight. Heavier armor could make energy drain faster, so you could opt for light armor and be very nimble/mobile, or a real tank that basically has to stand there and trade blows.)

Or to look at things from a purely gameplay point of view, my roots are in turn-based strategy games. When I play single-player RPGs, I vastly prefer ones with turn-based combat systems. I take joy out of understanding my characters strengths and weaknesses, and his opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, and using my brain to win the encounter, not my eye-hand coordination (which, as I approach the half-century mark, grow weaker every year). I’ll happily grant the hypocrisy in that statement… stopping to think about what kind of attack to use next isn’t very Arthurian, either. Which is why MMO PvE battles are kind of the sweet spot. You know your character’s skills, and after a few encounters you understand what your enemies weak points are, and now you can use that knowledge to watch the flow of battle and quickly react, based on knowledge more than on how adeptly you can punch in commands.

Hmm, again, just kind of thinking out loud. I apologize if I send mixed signals in this blog, sometimes saying one thing, sometimes another. But I don’t compose these posts ahead of time. Writing them is my way of exploring my own thoughts on these topics, and sometimes it takes me a few tries to really understand why I react to things the way I do.

My Warhammer Future

So I sprang for a 60-day timecard for Warhammer Online via that Black Friday deal. I’m not exactly sure when I’ll use it though; pretty sure it won’t be until after the 1st of the year at the earliest.

I’ve been reading the blogs of some of the folks who are still playing and still enjoying the game, and the more I read, the more I understand that they are looking for something very different from what I’m looking for in a “full time” MMO. And while I’m glad they’re finding what they’re looking for, I don’t think my MMO needs and desires are likely to change enough to make Warhammer my next home, unless Warhammer changes.

I do enjoy RvR, but not as a ‘staple’. It’s something to do now and then for a change of pace. What I really enjoy is playing co-op against PvE with a few folks I get along well with (I also enjoy small-scale raiding, but again, not as a staple..I’ve never tried any large raiding but am pretty confident I’d dislike it a lot). It’s a laid back social event, filled with gaps in the action to laugh and joke around during, without the irritation of Ventrilo, which I hate. I love my text; yeah, I’m a dinosaur.

To go into more general terms, most of the time I play MMOs to relax and escape the mundane dreariness of real life. I play MMOs for the same reason a lot of people read fiction. I tend to do PvE while semi-overlevel because I don’t really need more frustration in my life than I already get outside of games. I also like “immersion” in my games. I like crafting, and social clothing, and goofy pets that are just there for fun, and housing, and hanging around in an Inn listening to people come and go and chat. Warhammer is very focused on the gameplay experience, which makes it unique and (in my opinion) very valuable. Just maybe not right for me.

It would’ve been perfect for me if EA had offered a Lifetime Membership to Warhammer. I would’ve snapped that up and would’ve enjoyed it on an occasional basis for a long time to come. But they didn’t and that means $15/month for a game I’ll probably want to play once a week or so. I can route that $15 to other games instead; games I’ll play 3-4 times a week.

I wonder if Mythic/EA will change focus of Warhammer at all, and bring in more PvE content? Despite what others remember, I recall Dark Age of Camelot having a very rich PvE component, and that’s where I spent a lot of my time, only heading into RvR every so often, usually on weekends. I can’t think of a primarily PvP MMO that has done well. EVE is the closest, and it has a huge economic component to it, from what I remember. There’s a lot more to do than just do PvP in it. Yes, the blogosphere is full of very active and chatty people that love PvP, but again and again we see that the general populace isn’t as interested on a long term basis. The constant consolidation of Warhammer servers seems to indicate that the players who want full-on RvR as a main leveling system aren’t as plentiful as us primarily-PvEers.

So I’m going try Warhammer again come January, and I’ll try to keep my mind open and try to level up a single character to Tier 4. People constantly tell me there’s “enough” PvE content in the game, but leaving Warhammer and going into LOTRO or EQ2 or WOW, it becomes really evident how huge the gap is in the PvE between Warhammer and these other games. What I never did is jump Pairings when doing PvE and I’ll have to start doing that to get more quests.

The pity of it all is that I’ve fallen in love with the Warhammer world and lore. Some of this is from Warhammer Online but a lot of it is from reading the Gotrek & Felix novels, and now I’d *love* to play a rich-PvE MMO based in the world.

Improving PvE in Warhammer

Rick and I have been having a bit of a (civil) brawl over at his blog. The topic is PvE in Warhammer. The nice thing about a back and forth with a smart, lucid guy like Rick is that it gets you to thinking.

My basic “problem” with PvE right now is basically lack of population doing it. Running the solo quests isn’t a problem, but doing group-based quests (essentially, Public Quests) can be really hit or miss insofar as finding other people interested in joining forces.

Anyway, jumping right in, and I don’t claim any of these as original ideas; I’m sure other, smarter people have already considered them.

1) Summoning Stones and a PQ Queue: Scenarios are popular (in part) because they’re convenient. What if Mythic put in a PQ Queue? You click a button to enter a queue for some or all PQs in your level range, then you go about your business. Once there are enough people in queue for a PQ, everyone gets teleported to a Summoning Stone near that PQ area, already grouped up and ready to fight. PQ’s wouldn’t be instanced; you could still get to them the old-fashioned way. This would just be an alternate and convenient method of getting into a PQ group without having to run back and forth across the world looking for groups.

2) Checking Open Groups from the map: How would it be if you could open the map, hover over a region and get a list of all the Open Groups active in that region? You could then join one of those groups and head to them. One of the frustrations now is that you might be in Region A, lonely and unloved, while there’s a Warband pwning PQs in Region B and you’d never know about it. This idea would require more Flight Masters though. As it is now, by the time you get to another region the Open Group might have broken up. (This idea could also help LakeRvR.)

3) Checking for Open Groups while in a group: So you’ve been there. You’re in a group, you’ve run a PQ a few times. You want to go to another PQ. But is anyone doing it? How do you check? You can’t. You have to quit the group you’re in, look, then if you come up empty, rejoin the group and keep grinding the current PQ. This idea is more a convenience than anything, but when three or four people want to do another PQ it’d be nice if you could just say, in the current Open Group, “Hey, I see there’s a group of 5 doing the next PQ over. We could switch over to that.”

So there you have it, my contribution to the idea gene pool. Rick’s point is that the only thing wrong with PvE is that people aren’t organized. I agree with him to a certain extent. Presumably people *are* out there somewhere doing it. They’re just not responding in /region chat and they’re in Open Groups that I can’t see from where I am.

Last night I logged in to find a Warband of 2 full groups doing a PQ. I quickly joined them, finished the current ‘run’ and then we did another. And then the group dissolved. Where’d they all go? Unknown. Three of us moved to another PQ in the same chapter and the rest of the night was spent calling out over /region for helpers, and not getting any bites. Maybe everyone had gone to another Pairing? Maybe everyone had logged off? There’s just no easy way to tell, given the tools we currently have.

Witching Night begins tonight, which is gonna mix PvE with LakeRvR, and I’m excited to see what impact that has on doing pure PvE PQs.

Feel free to add to the GroupThink by listing your ideas to help PvE in the comments below.

Bonus XP in LOTRO

[EDIT: Not only is it a bonus XP long weekend, but former players can come back and play for free for a few days in the Welcome Back Weekend.

From October 2-6, 2008, we’re offering free LOTRO access to our former players, and +25% bonus experience gain for everyone who logs in and plays. Returning players are invited to patch up, jump in, and start playing on their old characters to get them ready for Moria!


In preparation for the release of Mines of Moria, Turbine has announced 25% Bonus XP from Oct. 2nd to Oct. 6th. I’ve been meaning to log back in to LOTRO — I don’t want to totally lose touch with the world — but Warhammer is shiny and new and comes with a monthly fee (I coughed up the $$ for a Lifetime Founder’s Membership to LOTRO back when it launched, so the game is now ‘free’ to play for me.) so I haven’t gotten around to checking in with Middle Earth since WAR launched.

Perhaps this will be my incentive. Balancing two MMOs is pretty difficult for casual gamers that get at most an hour or two per weeknight to play. This challenge is made worse if, like me, you’re an alt-aholic (I have 14 Warhammer characters already…granted lots of them are level 2 or 3, but still).

Honestly LOTRO is probably a better “workday” MMO for me in the long run. By the time I log in, I’m generally tired and cranky and fairly impatient, which doesn’t make me a great group member. The stronger PvE focus of LOTRO is a better fit for me under these circumstances. But for now, Warhammer is providing plenty of solo PvE enjoyment. I don’t really get all the hate that the PvE aspects of War gets, honestly.