Friday, August 8, 2008

Spirit of Competition misses the point of Competition

I've seen a few interesting posts regarding PVP of late, as Warhammer gears up for its launch. Tobold makes a clever analogy to Chess, in a post whose point is that PVP is un-fun largely because there are rarely, if ever, fair fights. Having the scales tip in your favor dilutes any sense of accomplishment from your victory, while having the deck stacked against you can result in a feeling of hopelessness. In other words, you don't really win much, and losing is generally not going to be fun.

This isn't the first time Tobold has written on the topic, I just picked this one for brevity (and because it's still on his front page). /random had a response to one of the previous editions, describing his own conversion to PVP in DAOC as a formerly PVE player. Basically, he argues that Mythic managed to make a much tighter realm community than exists amongst WoW's Alliance and Horde. The idea (which he believes will carry over to Warhammer), is that you form tighter bonds with players while leveling when it is both easy and rewarding to do so. Combine this with a system where it really matters which side is winning the battle between realms and you will actually have fun trying, even if you lose.

Well, fast forward to 08:08:08 PM local time in Beijing on 8/8/08 (apparently the number 8 is somehow lucky or fortuitous in China), and the opening of the 2008 Summer Olympics. Turns out that Blizzard somehow secretly slipped an Olympic-related event into World of Warcraft without having it turn up in data mining or on the PTR's. The Spirits of Competition will award you with a "Competitor's Tabard" for participating in any battleground PVP match (provided you stay til the end), and players on the winning side of any battleground have a chance to obtain a Chinese flying dragon minipet. Like with most WoW PVP, the latter entirely misses the point of competition.

The big flaw to WoW's PVP system is that Blizzard needs players to voluntarily spend time reusing content they patched in three years back, so they bribe us with "honor points" that are used to purchase gear. There is no spirit of competition; you zone into the battleground and either you win, or you go home with a fraction of the points you would have gotten if you hadn't lost. Because the battlegrounds are instanced and have no effect on the persistent world, there is zero bonding with your teammates (who might be from different servers, a necessary step to cut queues but an unfortunate one in terms of community-building). As a result, most players are just in it to end the pain as quickly as possible. This is where the motivation for AFK'ing, or simply ignoring the battleground objectives in favor of fighting to claim as much "honorable kill" honor as possible before your side loses, comes from. In short, exactly the opposite of the spirit of the Olympics, coming together to strive in a field where the competition matters as much as who wins or loses.

World Event Rewards: One dragon mini-pet and one tabard - note the four interlocking multi-colored rings that totally don't infringe on any trademarks involving five interlocking multi-colored rings.

In a Player Versus Developer sense, Blizzard won this round with their special event content. The prospect of a non-combat pet (remember, these won't take up bagspace anymore in Wrath) that will not be offered again until at least 2010 (or perhaps ever, if they implement a flying maple leaf or perhaps a moose for Vancouver in place of the Chinese dragon for Beijing) was enough to drag me back into the pain that is pug battlegrounds. The reward was enough to convince me to do content that I frankly did not want to do. I even went to the bother of obtaining/gemming/enchanting the blue PVP items I hadn't even bothered to purchase from the vendors to try to boost my performance a bit. I was fortunate; after four straight losses in various battlegrounds (none of which were even close contests), I decided to go back to Alterac Valley (even though I don't need their PVP marks for anything). The Alliance PUG somehow won, and I was lucky enough to get my pet.

In a broader sense, though, this just served to remind me how flawed the PVD decisions behind PVP in World of Warcraft really are. I really hope that Warhammer is a huge success. The genre could use some innovation on this particular front.


LarĂ­sa said...

The tabard was really ugly to tell the truth. I've thrown it already, couldn't stand it. The pet though is quite charming.

I agree about the feeling of being a stranger in the BG. I just PvP when I'm forced to. Like recently I've been tortured in AB to get 40 bloody badges just so I could get a decent stamina belt to put on when I'm now going into some higher raid instances and my HP just doesnt suffice.

It feels kind of weired that I have to do this, just because I want to raid. But that's life.

While I prefer AV because it happens that Alliance wins and because I feel somewhat useful with my good raid nukepower at Drek, I think AB is a little more personal.

Guarding the flag at stables I did make friends with another player at my server. That was nice. But it happens so rarely.

Andrew said...

Good write up. I'm going to check out your blog more often.

I've been doing AB on my 49 mage and one thing nice about this pvp pet incentive is that its bringing out more players at the lower levels of the bg range.

I hadn't ran bgs since I was 39 (2weeks ago)and we were winning less often. I attribute much of our successes now to the larger number of lower level horde against us.

Yet we have lower level alliance players coming in too .... I don't know.