Tag Archives: PvP

Nagafen will be Pay to Slay

Daybreak gave us our first update since the January Producer’s Letter for EverQuest II late yesterday afternoon.

Why does Daybreak think after 4pm Pacific Time is a good time for news?  That is when you announce things or publish press releases you want people to miss.  Must be a habit from the bad news days.

Anyway, the update was about the coming Nagafen PvP server.

Idealized image of PvP

The beta for the server will start this coming Tuesday, February 5th and will be open to all accounts.  And if this is your thing, you’d better find some time to give it a shot.  Remember what they said in the Producer’s Letter?

If it gets a good following in Beta, we’ll look to launching it live!

The implication is that if you blow this off it will go away… like every past EverQuest II PvP server.

If and when it does go live… though honestly I imagine it is on a trajectory to go live no matter what the Producer’s Letter said… so I guess disregard that last paragraph, Daybreak will probably push this puppy out on optimism alone… you will need to sign on the dotted line for a Daybreak All Access subscription.  No freeps will be admitted.

Other details announced:

  • Nagafen is a seasonal, free-for-all PvP server.
  • Nagafen is a Free-Trade server, where most items are tradeable.
  • In-game scoreboards will keep track of the top killers.
  • Only one character is allowed per account.
  • Stats will be customized and updated for PvP and balance.
  • Channelers and Beastlords will not be available for this season of PvP.
  • Spell research will not be available on Nagafen.
  • Familiars will not be available on Nagafen.
  • Experience potions will not be available on Nagafen.

Free-for-all means no factions.  No need to kill people from the other side of Norrath, you can kill your pals from your home city instead.

They will be doing seasons, which I guess will mean a wipe every so often so everybody can start fresh yet again.  No word on battle royale matches yet.

The stats thing is the bit that always grinds my gears.  History seems to show that you can balance for PvE or you can balance for PvP, but if you try to do both it becomes a disaster so the old SOE solution was to give nearly every piece of gear and every skill or spell both PvE and PvP stats.  For Nagefen they say they have redone the stats and itemization so that it will work for both PvE and PvP, but past experience colors me dubious on that.  We shall see.

Additional follow ups from the announcement include the fact that the cash shop will be pretty bare.  Bags, mounts, and whatever counts as expendables… but not experience potions, as noted above.  And things will be tilted so that PvP will be rewarding if you want to level up.  We’ll see how far people want to level.  As noted, in the old days people level locked around 19 to steer clear of PvP breaking skills.

So another EverQuest II PvP experiment is set to take flight.  I am not rooting against it, I just sound pessimistic based on how this sort of thing has played out in the past.

The Coming Death of Deathtoll and PvP in EverQuest II

The story of PvP in EverQuest II is one of brief flashes of modest popularity interspersed amongst great stretches of general ennui.  It is an object lesson in lack of focus.

Because SOE certainly spent a lot of developer time on PvP when it came to EQII in an attempt to find a way to make it work.  But in what is almost completely a PvE oriented game, with classic level and gear progression, PvP never quite fit right.  Over the years SOE tried a number of things, limiting levels at which you could engage other players, nerfing stats when used in PvP, and eventually just giving all gear both PvE AND PvP stats.   They have had open world PvP, arenas, duels, and WoW-like battlegrounds.

And all of it was, in my opinion, a waste of development time.

PvP is not at all core to what made EverQuest II (or EverQuest) the game it is today.  I won’t say nobody played EQII for PvP, because there is always a small group that likes it and shouts loudly for it in the forums, but you would be hard pressed to convince me that all the work done on PvP over the last 11 years was a sound investment based on how many players it attracted.

Back in June when the legacy Norrath team started talking about nostalgia servers for EQII, I was pretty quick to discount the PvP idea.  Not core.

That is Daybreak's graphic for the idea

Generic TLE graphic

So it was a bit of a surprise to me when Daybreak announced not one, but two Time Locked Expansion servers, Stormhold for PvE, and Deathtoll for PvP.

I am not saying that people haven’t had fun with PvP in EQII, because clearly people have.  But it has never been a serious draw relative to the PvE side of the game, a fact proven once again by yesterday’s forum announcement:

Deathtoll will be merged with the PvE Time-Locked Expansion server Stormhold. This is currently scheduled for Tuesday, April 5, 2016. If you haven’t chosen to transfer your character before this date, we’ll be moving characters that remain on Deathtoll to Stormhold on April 5.

Deathtoll is dead, gone before it made it to the Secrets of Faydwer expansion.

And, in keeping with how these things go, that forum announcement has responses complaining about how Daybreak isn’t supporting the PvP community, completely oblivious to the fact that there apparently isn’t a big enough PvP community to even keep one server going.

If you have a character on the Deathtoll server… and are still subscribed to Daybreak All Access… you should be getting a token via in-game mail for a free transfer to any other EQII server.  If you are a PvP fan still on Deathtoll, I might have suggested transferring to that Russian PvP server… Harla Dar wasn’t it… but the Russian servers are being merged into the Splitpaw EU server.

Thus endeth PvP in EverQuest II… and good riddance to it.

Yes, I know a few people liked it.  And there will still be battlegrounds.  But in the end, non-core feature was non-core, and you cannot argue otherwise without creating castles in the sky built on magical clouds of “what if…” and “If only SOE had…” speculation.

This sort of “must cater to all play styles” idea should die, especially now in this era of the niche MMORPG.  Like so many other unsustainable MMO industry trends, you can probably blame this is one on WoW as well.  They managed to carry it off through sheer size.  You can afford support a small part of your player base if the total numbers are big enough to staff up for it.  More people probably play on PvP servers in WoW than ever played EQII at any given time.

But it still persists.  Maybe Lord British has enough bandwidth to manage it with Shroud of the Avatar… color me skeptical though, no matter how much people love to talk about the good old days of Ultima Online… but when Brad McQuaid is talking about PvP as a feature for Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, that is enough for me to write the whole project off.  That is too big of an additional feature.  But scope creep was his problem with Vanguard as well.

Addendum: EQ2Wire has a summary of EverQuest II PvP posted.

Is PvP a Requirement for All MMOs?

One of my gripes about the Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen Kickstarter campaign was about PvP.

PvP was a stretch goal, but I was annoyed that it was on the list in any form at all.  The promise of Pantheon seemed, to me at least, to be getting back to a difficult and dangerous PvE world that required grouping to take on.  The early days of EverQuest were invoked in this regard.  For a game being made by a small team that declared it was not trying to be “all things to all people,” the mention of PvP seemed like a step in that very direction.

And you should not get me wrong on this.  I am not saying there shouldn’t be PvP.  I play EVE Online, right?  But does every PvE focused game need to spend time developing a PvP mechanism as well?

Going back to the dawn of the first massive successes on the MMO front, Ultima Online was PvP from day one.  But EverQuest was derived from TorilMUD which had no PvP at all.  In fact, the dev staff at TorilMUD split over the idea of PvP, which the PvP faction moving off to follow their dreams with Duris MUD.  But SOE eventually felt that EverQuest needed PvP and so the Rallos Zek server was born.

This moved was widely viewed as a way to concentrate all the griefers into a single thunderdome where they would leave the rest of the player base alone.  It was successful, in that the investment was low (as far as I can tell SOE did very little explicitly for PvP and was pretty hands off when it came to running the server) and it scratch that PvP itch for those who had to have it in a Norrathian context. (Roll stock footage of Fansy the Famous Bard.)  And this lives on today as the Zek server with its own PvP rule set.

Asheron’s Call also had a PvP flagging system and a PvP dedicated server as part of its mix.  So the big generation clearly bought into PvP, as did the next round of games.  Dark Age of Camelot was explicitly PvP and Star Wars Galaxies had a sandbox PvP aspect to it.

Then came World of Warcraft, which had PvP and PvP servers from day one.  Granted, day one was pretty ad hoc when it came to PvP, but Blizzard has a long history with RTS games, so players fighting other players must have seemed a natural to them.  And whether or not you like the various stages WoW PvP has progressed through, it has been pretty successful.  It would be hard to imagine WoW without it.

2 minutes 11 seconds into Wintergrasp

I played a lot of Wintergrasp when it was popular

Of course, WoW also ran into one of the problems with PvP in a heavily PvE game, that of gear and ability balance between the two.  It is really cool that the rogue in your dungeon group or raid can crowd control an off-mob with a stun lock, but I don’t know anybody who likes having that done to them by a rogue in a battleground.  And Dark Age of Camelot ran into similar issued from the other direction, by introducing powerful PvE acquired gear into a primarily PvP game.

So mixing PvE and PvP is rarely a matter of a flagging system or a separate server.  The eternal balance of equipment and abilities… which is already nettlesome in just the PvE environment… takes on an even bigger role when PvP is part of the mix.  It doesn’t come for free, it requires design and development time… unless you take the approach SOE did with EverQuest and just try to ignore the whole PvP aspect of the balance thing, or you take the Guild Wars approach and just keep the two as separate as possible.

And after WoW, things just got went down hill.  The success of the game meant other companies trying to copy WoW features in order to capture WoW numbers.  EverQuest II is probably the most tragi-comic example of this.  So much development and design time has been spent on PvP ideas in that game that it just about breaks your heart.  They have had PvP servers, PvP arenas where you fight with a special sub-avatar of your character, arenas where you fight with your actual character, and, more recently, WoW-like battlegrounds.  And the trend has always been that either the PvP is so bad that nobody uses it or that it is so affected by PvE stats and abilities that a whole array of special rules and exceptions have to be put in place to try to maintain at least some illusion of balance.  The last time I checked in, SOE had gotten to the point where every piece of equipment and every ability essentially had two sets of stats, one for PvE and one for PvP, leading to some of the largest tool tip windows known to man.

Then there was Lord of the Rings Online, which couldn’t bring itself to allow the elf-on-elf combat we all secretly desire (we need more kinslayings) but which felt it had to have PvP, so they gave us Monster Play, a feature convoluted enough that I couldn’t even tell you how it works because I have never once used it.  And I have tried the various PvP options on every MMO I have played.  I know somebody loves Monster Play out there… you can find somebody who loves and will defend any MMO feature ever… but was LOTRO as a whole made better by it?  Could the time spent on that have been better invested?

Warhammer Online at least never had the PvE vs. PvP balancing problem, because I don’t think most of us stuck around long enough for it to be a problem.  Instead, it was bit by the WoW battleground bug, which became the most efficient way to level up, so everybody did those while the open world content languished for want of the numbers needed to make it viable.

And so it goes.  Even today we are looking at The Elder Scrolls Online coming out in a little over a month.  This is an MMO based on an exclusively single player RPG franchise… PvE to its deepest roots… and they are busying pushing the Alliance War, the PvP aspect of the game.  Meanwhile, Star Wars: The Old Republic, an MMO made in the BioWare mold… fourth pillar and all that… has its Galactic Starfighter battleground out and available to everybody now.

Which brings me around to the title of this post.  Is PvP a requirement for all MMOs?  Can you even launch a PvE MMORPG without an announced PvP plan?

Rift – Population Problem? What Population Problem? Factions? What Factions?

It was a quiet weekend in Telara.

While I have only my own server, Shatterbone, on which to base my observations, the weekend before last instant adventure groups at prime time were nearly full raid size affairs.

A Healthy Prime Time Group

This past weekend though, the numbers began to falter.   After a reasonable start, things began to fade. The biggest instant adventure group I saw starting Saturday afternoon had all of six people.  And four of them were the instance group, which joined together.  More common were groups of 2-4 players.

A small group is still manageable.  The requirements for each instant adventure quest gets scaled somewhat based on group size.  Twice though I walked away from groups because the size was too small for the task.

Once it was just my warrior and a rogue, and we could not take down the “one in seven” boss encounter.  Another time there was a zone event in Freemarch and there were just enough people to prolong the whole thing, but not enough to defeat it.  More wipes on the first boss in the event made me walk away again.

Of course, I imagine that the Guild Wars 2 “make our most dedicated fans suffer” pre-launch weekend had something to do with this.  And I also suspect that the impact of GW2 is being magnified somewhat by the fact that, at least here in the US, school is starting up for the fall quarter/semester.  Every district in my valley either started last week or is starting this week.  The universities are warming up as well.

And while the school starting won’t stop anybody from playing their favorite game, it does place time demands on both parents and children such that you might not spend time with your second best MMO.

So Rift is in a bit of a bind.

Continue reading

We Queue Up for Warfronts, Then Chase Rifts All Night

Earl lives on the east coast.   So for our Saturday night groups, he starts playing a midnight while for the rest of us, who are all in California, the time is just 9pm.  And to his credit, it is usually we in the Pacific time zone who poop out first.

Iron man though he is, staying up until 3am on Saturday night doesn’t always fit into his schedule.  And so it was last week, which left four of us to find something to do.

We decided, based on comments left on last week’s incursion into the Darkening Deeps to try and earn that PvP soul by doing battleground warfronts.

Now, if you follow Rift, your temptation is going to be to jump immediately to the comments to say something about the 1.7 patch.  Don’t.  We’ll get to that in due time.

Let us instead speak of our evening in the pre-patch world, where we sought only to earn that 2,500 points of favor to buy the PvP soul while closing a rift or two between matches.

Our group for the evening was:

  • Jollyreaper level 23 mage
  • Zahihawass level 23 cleric
  • Gizalia level 23 mage
  • Hillmar level 24 cleric

And we met up, as usual, in Merdian where it appears The Village People we staging a come back.

I knew they would be Defiant

The plan was to queue for the three warfronts for which we qualified and spend the night focused on those.  To kill time between, we thought we would close a few Rifts in Stonefield.  I had queued up a couple of times with just Hillmar before we all got on and was getting into matches in under 10 minutes.

So I queued us up and off we went to Stonefield.  There we grabbed the standard daily quests and started chasing rifts.

First rift type... death!

We knocked that first rift down.  And then another.  And then another still.

Bioshock rift!

I started watching the queue times more and more frequently.  We seemed to be going well beyond the average.

Average 1 minute - Our time 26 minutes

While I was making it into warfronts solo without much of a time lag, it appeared that joining as a group was going to be an issue.

After about 45 minutes in the queue, we did finally get pulled into a warfront.  We got The Codex, which is the Rift version of Arathi Basin.

A Warfront At Last!

We did… poorly I guess.  As a group we were in the low end of the level 20-29 level bracket.  But as a whole, our side pretty much got stomped.  I ran around healing people, but it felt very much like being on the side in Arathi Basin that doesn’t have its act together.

And to top that off, Gizalia had to AFK during the battle to take care of one of their dogs for a minute and was booted from the match as a deserter.  Trion learned that lesson from WoW as well I guess.  So there were only three of us in the warfront.  And once it was over, which it was fairly quickly, we could not queue up as a group again until the deserter flag timed out on Gizalia.

So we went and did some more Rifts.

Water rift ahoy!

I never tire of seeing those sky covering water rifts.

We were able to queue back up again for warfronts after a bit, but never made it into another one.

We chased rifts around some more, turned in our daily quest in Stonefield, and started to think about calling it an early night.  Gizalia was tired and logged out first.  This, of course, meant we had to re-queue for warfronts as a group again.  We did a bit of tradeskill related stuff and then called it a night.

The next day I got out Hillmar and did a couple more warfronts.  You can be surprisingly effective as a carrier in the Library of the Runemasters as a healer.  I think I carried an artifact for the whole match, just hiding and healing myself.  All of which earned me enough favor to buy the cleric PvP soul, which even came with an achievement.

So mission accomplished.  This bit of extra-curricular activity did put Hillmar a level ahead, but at least he had the soul.

And then, of course, Rift Patch 1.7 came along.  You can read the full patch notes over at Rift Junkies.  It is a long list of updates.

A number of things in the notes would have changed our evening.  For openers, they took out the PvP soul.  That achievement is no longer available and is now a legacy achievement.  Go me.

Now the aspects of the PvP soul are handled in the game as a “Planar Attunement-based character enhancement.”  I have no idea what that means.

Then, of course, there was our long wait in the queue.  This might have been helped with the new mercenary feature.

In order to reduce queue times to as near-zero as possible, players may be added the opposing faction’s Warfront team as a “Mercenary”.

Basically, they are now just throwing people into warfronts to fill them out.  This is a good thing to cut down on wait time.  I am not sure how people feel about it from the story perspective of the game.  The Defiants and the Guardians aren’t as different as Alliance and Horde, but they are at war.  It doesn’t matter that much to me, but I am sure somebody will see it as a betrayal.

And even my getting a level ahead of the pack would have been solved if only I had waited for the patch.

Added a new ‘Lock XP’ checkbox to the Interface > Misc settings pane. Checking it will stop your level 1-49 character from gaining experience until it is unchecked. Characters at the level cap and trial characters cannot lock their experience.

The ability to lock experience is huge.  I want to run out and do some stuff with Hillmar, get his harvesting up or earn some planarite, but I have to get ahead of the group.  We try diligently to try and stick together.  But now there is the magic check box!

Actually, there were three new check boxes.  I have to wonder a bit about that last one.  I realize that it is necessary, but is somebody really running around proposing to random people?  I would bet that somebody is.

And there was a ton more in the patch notes, including pre-set builds for given roles to help people find an appropriate soul combo to accomplish the role they want to fill.  That is probably a pretty big deal as well.  It is nice to have the freedom build a character up with the abilities you want, but the myriad of choices can also be daunting for the new player.

So that was our first run at warfronts.  I hope that with the changes that have gone in, our next run at them will be better.

Fippy Darkpaw GMs Starting Their Own Fight Club

I had to laugh when I read these two posts in the EQ Time Locked Progression Server forum.  This apparently was not exactly what somebody meant when they started demanding that GMs intervene with raid target conflicts.

First, there is the litany of “creative” solutions from one poster:

GM showed up and told the two guilds contesting mobs to pick one person for each guild to duel for the rights? The other day a GM perma killed Yelinak. The time before that we were told to random for rights on raid mob, but the GM disregarded their own decision and left. Wtb Senior GM’s on Fippy? This is completely absurd.

And then there was more detail on the duel situation:

Ok, this is it. I’ve had it with this BS customer service. We’ve been dealing with it for months now, but its finally came to the point where its no longer possible to raid on Fippy.

Twisted Legion shows up to Statue of Rallos Zek spawn 45 minutes before Citizen shows up. Citizen petitions. GM-Sepki shows up and decides to give our guild leader 30 seconds to decide on someone to PVP for the mob? Are you serious, this isn’t Zek. This is Fippy Darkpaw. Make your GMs follow their own rules. You expect people to sit by complacency while GMs decide to change the rules on the fly?

Can we get a LEAD gm, or a SENIOR gm to come and give some consistent rulings. First its perma-kill mobs, now its duel for it, etc? BS

SynCaine proposed PvP previously as a solution, though I am sure he meant a wholesale guild on guild slaughter rather than champions representing their guild.

All Piestro from the EQ community team had to say was:

This action was taken with full knowledge and direction of the head of the EQ GM team. If a GM is forced to intercede, it is advisable to follow their direction.

So if a GM tells you to man up and fight for your raid target, you had best get out there and fight!

Is such a duel standard procedure in EQ or any place else when guilds come into conflict over a raid target?

Addendum:  The big man, HeadGMKaeldread steps in and says… well… we can’t solve your problems.

Greetings,

The raid issues on Fippy are indeed sad, but not something that Customer Service has a good fix for. No matter what we do someone will be unhappy. We understand that, and that is the reason why our rules and policies specifically state that it is better for our players to come to an agreement between themselves.

In the case of Fippy, much like the incidents we previously had on Vulak, two of the major raid guilds do not see eye to eye on how raid mobs should be distributed. We understand this happens, but we simply cannot and should not be involved in these types of situations.  Our customer service is to help people with the game or in the game, not to serve as a mediator to police each and every raid spawn, especially when both sides will either not compromise, or will not work with us.

When we come upon issues of this type a GM will quickly make a ruling and both parties will be asked to abide by it.  At times we may simply make a ruling based on our observations, at other times the two parties will have to compete for the right to the mob. This could be a /roll, a duel, answering trivia questions, etc.  If the GM does not feel either guild is willing to do what they ask the raid mob may be perma-killed.   I did not feel comfortable leaving this with just a /roll, as recent history has shown that raids will start to take advantage of it in hopes of spending less time at a spawn point and still having a 50% chance of getting the mob. We cannot allow it to be a DPS race as that just ends up with guilds kill stealing each other constantly.

There are so many variables; at times a raid may have cleared 90% of the zone to get to a raid mob just be leap frogged. At other times the mob is already engaged and it gets stolen. Now throw in a guild that has spent 6 hours wiping on a mob, or people training each other and we have just started to scratch the surface of open world raids. First in force does not work as each raid mob has different levels of commitment to kill and with the number of multiple boxing raiders every raid mob could be permanently camped.  Please keep in mind that making one policy for this is difficult, and it is not a simple issue.   The simple policy is however, play nice and work it out yourself.  Work to make it a win-win situation for the two raids, or the entire server community itself.

And then, because that was not enough:

If it comes down to one mob and two raids, and a GM has to be involved someone is going to be upset when they are asked to leave.  This type of guild dispute has existed as long the game itself.  If you are not willing to do this you will have to deal with a GM coming in game and deciding for you.  It isn’t just a lone GM decision either,  it will always be gone over with a supervisor and in many cases the game manager.  We don’t want to have to decide and take action, we want this to be a great experience for all, after all it’s a game, and a darn fun one.   But once we have made our decision it is final and if you are not willing to work with the GM, there are consequences to that decisions.

In this specific case we had today, a handful of guild leaders that refused to cooperate with the GM were suspended temporarily from the game.

I hope this sheds some light on the issue we had earlier today on Fippy, as well as the overall issue on contested MOBS.

I was Ganked by Cheaters!

Does the word “Gank” mean anything anymore?

Cute Kitten Picture For Those Who Do Not Care About Ganking

“Gank” used to mean something back in the mists of time.

Or so I am told.

I am not big on PvP in MMOs, so for the most part I can only guess at the meaning of the word based on what I read.

And as far as I can infer from current usage I see about, the term had been reduced to meaning something like, “I got killed in PvP by an opponent who had an advantage in equipment or numbers, or who was totally cheating.”

Which can be reduced to “I got killed in PvP” about 99% of the time.

Cheating, of course, has always had a variety of meanings when people use the term.  It could be deliberate hacking of the game or the use of game mechanics to bestow an advantage.    Often though, it seems to mean, “The other side was more skilled, but there is no way I am admitting that in a public forum.”  You don’t win at smacktalk by saying things like that!

Given the above, I can pretty much summarize the majority of my MMO PvP experience with the title of this post, “I was Ganked by Cheaters!”

I certainly cannot recall a time when I was defeated in PvP where the above did not apply, and cheating (as defined above) is always at the top of the list, since I am massively unskilled at PvP.

But that is just my inference of the meaning of the word from the way it gets thrown around in comments and forums.  And, we know people say a lot of crazy, or at least ill-considered, things in comment threads and forums.

I am also convinced that one of the great lies PvP players tell is that they only want a fair fight.  Obviously this is not so, what with all this ganking going on.  But perhaps that is another topic.

But the word is now so tied in with MMO PvP that we cannot seem to mention one without the other.

So what does ganking mean to you?  Or what did it used to mean to you?

And has it lost all real meaning through mis-use?