Paeroka’s Ponderings: Gear and level-advantages in PvP

Paeroka's Ponderings featured image for column

Some time ago, I read a topic in the German section of the Black Desert Online forum where a player suggested that the game’s PvP may be better if there were no level-advantages as a higher level gives better stats, for example. He was laughed at by others and called “carebear” for wanting that. Unfortunately, I cannot find the thread anymore – but it would be in German anyway. But this is apparently how PvP should work and it is good this way: If you spend a lot of time in the game, you should have an advantage over those who play less often or are new to the game – other than the already mentioned increased experience and skill in playing your character, of course!

I admit, I am a carebear. I am a huge big carebear! – Why? Because I think that being able to win against somebody who has no chance whatsoever at all, no matter how skilled that player may be, simply because I am higher level and/or have better gear, is a horrible design flaw of PvP in a lot of MMOs. If some new player comes in and has not played the game much but knows how to play so much better than me, then kudos to him! He should be able to win against me. I, on the other hand, should not win simply because I have been playing longer and managed to get my character in better gear. I was just very surprised to see that somebody asking for an even playing field and letting skill and experience decide a battle rather than stronger gear and higher level, is called a carebear. Some people…

Warhammer Online Chicken in Tier 1

Let’s look at other MMOs, though: Warhammer Online, for example, had four different PvP (here called “RvR”, but I’ll continue using PvP to not mix up the terms all the time) tiers and bolstering up. The first tier was for levels 1 to 11. So right from the start, you had your map with PvE zones and PvP zones. If your low level 1 entered the tier 1 PvP zone, it got bolstered up in stats to level 11. It was still weaker than a “real” level 11, but at least, you got much closer to the other player. The best part, however, was when you were too high level for a given tier – in our example, when your character turned level 12 – that you were turned into a chicken which could be one-shot by other players. You regularly had people in chat say: “Okay, that’s it. See you in tier 2” and then you could see the chicken run out of the PvP zone as fast as their little feet could carry them. I do remember some heated discussions about this feature before the game launched but Mark Jacobs stood by that decision. Of course, simply getting downscaled would have been the better option in my opinion, as that would have freed up the whole game to you once you were max. level instead of restricting you only to the highest tier. But I still think the chicken mechanic is better than having high level players repeatedly kill low level players. Especially when you consider that low level players also may be new players which are kind of important to keep in an MMO… ;)

GW2 sPvP with level 2
All specializations are unlocked, even though my character is only level 2. In PvE, you need to work towards unlocking the specializations first

Guild Wars 2’s sPvP (instanced PvP) goes even further: No “artificial” bolstering up, but being at maximum level with exactly the same stats and exactly the same gear as everybody else! When I heard that they were doing it like that, I got pretty excited! Those who have a lot of time (and who are usually the ones with the highest level and the highest gear in other MMOs) are probably also those who get the most practice and as such they will have an advantage over people like me anyway. However, there are also those who do have a lot of time on their hands, who do get a lot of practice and who may turn out to be worse than somebody with less practice but quicker reflexes or whatever the reason. I ask again: Is this bad? Am I a carebear if I say that this is how it should be? That skill should determine the winner of a battle and not the playtime, the level or the gear that a player acquired?

Thankfully, we have so many games around that I think everybody can find a game that does it the way they prefer. So, I know that even though Black Desert Online looks like an interesting game, it is not the game for me. I do prefer Guild Wars 2 where level and gear don’t matter!

 

I regularly have rants and ramblings in my mind, but never really know if I should post them, so “Paeroka’s Ponderings” is where I will try to give these rants a place. Sometimes they will make sense, sometimes they won’t.

Paeroka’s Ponderings: Bored-out instead of Burnout?

Paeroka's Ponderings featured image for columnExcuse the bad pun up there, but something got me thinking… In a conversation about GW2’s content drought, somebody wrote (I don’t have a link, so I’ll paraphrase here out of my memory): MMOs aren’t meant to be played exclusively. They are made to play with breaks in between.

But when I started my first MMO, World of Warcraft, I don’t think anybody would have said that. In fact, it was the contrary. When you left for a month or two and then came back, you certainly had to find either a different raid group or try to catch up somehow as the others were ahead of you in the fights and working on the next raid boss or bosses and you had to learn the mechanics of the fight or even worse, they outgeared you. I heard a lot of people say “I would love to try World of Warcraft, but I don’t have that much time to play.” To be honest, I don’t think I heard people say that about Rift or Guild Wars 2 lately.

Saying “I need to take a break from WoW, I’m burned out” was also something I regularly saw back in those days. Even I felt like that, although I never was in any big raiding group. I was part of a Saturday evening raid which consisted mostly of people with their alts and a handful of people with their mains (me included). It was a rather casual laid-back raid. Then I joined a Sunday Karazhan raid group which was originally made to “just enjoy the content”, but we soon noticed that the raid leader had actually wanted to speed-run through the raid. Which wasn’t possible, because the tank and the healer (yours truly) were neither experienced nor geared for it and he had known that in advance as we had asked if that would be okay with him and he had been happy to take us (as usual, the lack of tanks and healers probably left him with no choice). It started to feel like work and having your weekend evenings booked with raids was just too much for me.

But maybe this mentality has shifted in the meantime. I cannot speak for World of Warcraft as I haven’t actively followed this game in a long time. So I will take Rift as my example instead. I left Rift for a couple of weeks as I had lost interest in the game and returned when I felt like picking it up again. I stay far away from raids in all my MMOs, so that part is out of the equation for me anyway. I know that Trion is adding new raid content every now and then and I know that my guild is doing raids. But it just doesn’t seem to be as it was back in WoW. I hardly ever see them talk in guild chat about needing this or that piece of equipment. It also doesn’t seem to be a problem if somebody disappears for a month and then returns. Maybe it’s because they are even more laid back than my Saturday WoW raid was, but maybe Rift is also just “slower” and you don’t feel left behind that fast.

Looking at Guild Wars 2 and at the original statement, it seems to back this up. True, Guild Wars 2 has been adding raid content. So if you do like raids, your content drought isn’t as strong as everybody else’s. But even with raids, it doesn’t feel like you need to catch up. One big reason for this is that Guild Wars 2 is not gear-dependent. So you do not get outgeared by others if you take a break.

GW2 Shrug emote

Maybe MMOs in general have changed to not require you to play all of the time. Or it is related to the game’s payment model. After all, with no mandatory monthly fee attached to GW2 or Rift, there is no need to get you to keep playing and paying. I guess it just becomes a problem if you get too bored with it and then never return, no matter what gets added to the game. In my case, I got too bored with Rift, but I did return, because as much as I dislike the world and its lore sometimes, I just love too much about this game (mostly the way the world looks – other than the Nightmare region – and the dimensions, of course). The same goes with Guild Wars 2. Even though I am currently very bored and don’t care about the content I haven’t experienced (like the raids), I know I will return to the game and actively play it again.

I guess this is much better – and healthier – than playing too much and getting “burned out”. And maybe, in the long run, it’s even better for the developers. Because if you leave burned out and stressed, there is a negative feeling towards the game. Leaving because you are bored is a more “indifferent” state and as soon as they add something that sounds interesting, you may want to jump back in with enthusiasm and fun!

Paeroka’s Ponderings: Original vs. expansion “maps”

Paeroka's Ponderings featured image for columnWhen an MMO originally launches, I often find myself exploring the world and simply enjoying the stories that can be found. When you play a hobbit in Lord of the Rings Online, you start off with things like delivering a cake to a neighbour. There is this peaceful village that has no idea about the threat in the outside world, so naturally, their biggest concern is this cake (and well, they are hobbits, after all). But even in other regions, you get to explore the culture of the people living there, you get to read about their lives and all that. One could argue that it is a bit boring at times, but I personally enjoy this part of an MMO. I mean, it is a virtual world, so why not have a look at the everyday life of its citizens?

But with expansions, this seems to be gone quite often. In Rift, for example, I don’t find myself exploring. Instead, I find myself eye-rolling and longing for the previous worlds again. Of course, Rift’s “Nightmare Tide” expansion is an incredibly bad example as I find it to be by far the worst area/region I ever played in any MMO. That whole “you’re in a dream/nightmare“-stuff is just too over the top for me. But that is my point, after all. Everything is focused on the expansion’s storyline and yes, you even do get to experience the way the citizens live in that world. But for me, it is too much and I want to get back to the origins in the “original world”. It often feels slower and wider than what you get with an expansion.

Rift_Dreams

Could it simply be me? That the “magic” of exploring a new (game) world is just gone and I can’t appreciate these things anymore like I did when I first entered the game? On the other hand, I wonder if it really is related to the scope of the story. How much time does it take to create such an MMO? How much time does a company have to let their artists and writers create the world and how much time do they get to create the expansion maps? Or maybe it’s just the typical “we start slow and then the ‘main storyline’ gets into the focus more and more”. The developers may feel the need to bring out bigger and better stories and with that, the little calm areas that I care so much about just get pushed off, because they’re not important anymore.

I would say that this is at least partly what bothers me about Guild Wars 2. I get it, the threat of the Elder Dragons gets worse every day and it would not make sense to have our characters stroll through an area and bring a cake to my asura’s grandmother. There is a world to save, after all! Still, that doesn’t mean that I have to like the change.

Looking at the different MMOs I have played – at least those who did get an expansion – I would say that I liked World of Warcraft’s Burning Crusade as it gave a whole new continent and two new races with two new starting areas. The new maps had different storylines they followed while the big bad guy, Illidan, had his own storyline. Not everything was focused on this big bad guy. Guild Wars 2’s Heart of Thorns and Rift’s Nightmare Tide both focus on a big storyline and the maps seem to exist only to deliver the story (while yes, also sometimes telling a side story). Thankfully, both games have a feature that downlevels you (or lets you downlevel in Rift’s case as it is optional there), so I can actually go back and enjoy the lower level zones whenever I want to! Still, I wonder what those two games would need to do to give me new high level maps that I enjoy.

I regularly have rants and ramblings in my mind, but never really know if I should post them, so “Paeroka’s Ponderings” is where I will try to give these rants a place. Sometimes they will make sense, sometimes they won’t.

Help! I like too many MMOs…

In the past few weeks, I thought I had finally fallen out of love with Rift. It was to a point where I did not even log in anymore to get my daily artifact (they changed the system now where you get nicer bonuses for logging in, but that’s not why I went back). Then I suddenly felt the urge to continue building in my dimension. I figured that that’s something nice and since I really don’t like this “old-fashioned” combat anymore, I would at least focus on something. But then I found myself out in the newest region, the Planetouched Wilds, playing through a quest chain with bookahnerk. And while the combat really is boring, it’s just great exploring this world! Rift is one of those games with no loading screens between zones – at least those who are on the same “continent”, like in World of Warcraft. There is something amazing about being on top of a mountain and just looking down to see all the players running around or the NPC doing their daily work. In other MMOs, those mountains can’t always be used to climb on because they are there to avoid having to deal with “invisible walls” as they restrict this zone from the next and you can only switch to another zone at specific points which let you enter after a loading screen appears.

Rift Planetouched Wilds

Then poor Guild Wars 2 was on my list of games I would go on “hiatus” for a bit. There has not been any new content in quite some time and while I liked the new maps at first – some of them, at least – it felt repetitive going through the zones over and over again. While the recent patch has not given us new content (and if I interpret them correctly, there won’t be any new content until July?), they did some other much needed changes which revived the game in general for me. You can now play WvW and the Edge of the Mists and get a reward track like they introduced in sPvP. I also completely forgot that you can unlock Hero Challenges in Tyria through playing WvW which means that I can slowly unlock my alts’ elite specializations without having to visit all the PvE challenges. This alone is motivation enough for me to play the game more often again!

This leaves Wildstar and Black Desert Online. My two newest MMO-addictions. Wildstar has amazing combat and I actually prefer it over Guild Wars 2 – well, in some areas, at least. But once my medic hit max level, I actually did not really know what to do in the game. I still have much exploring to do, so that is something, but I still felt… lost. Now that they introduced the new zone, Arcterra, that’s different. I haven’t played much on it yet, but I certainly will! And Black Desert Online – it’s a bit funny, actually. My first character got this quest chain for a mount and that’s all nice, but I switched to playing a Valkyrie instead and I can’t find that quest chain for her and she’s still running around on foot and that’s annoying me enough not to continue playing the game at the moment. I want to go to the bigger town and explore that and play there and quest and level, but I also want to find out where I can get that mount. It’s not even anything great like a noble steed. It’s a donkey. But still, I want it. :(

Wildstar Arcterra

On top of that, I actually don’t have that much time for gaming! I “stole” some and ignored other things that need to be done for a day or two recently (chores mostly :p), but I can’t do that all of the time. So I guess I should decide which games I want to focus on. But they all offer something unique that I want to experience.

Bookahneer’s Geekwatch: MMO+

Guild Wars 2 Bookahneer's GeekwatchWelcome to Bookahneer’s Geekwatch! This is the place where we talk about miscellaneous things like little pieces of gaming news that have attracted our interest or what’s recently been in the spotlight of other fansites and projects.

Back in August, we received a mail from the developer behind the website MMO+ about his/her project. I am always a bit skeptical when it comes to people asking to have their projects promoted, because I don’t want to recommend something to you which then turns out to be a scam site trying to steal your game accounts or a website that ends up in the gold-selling business. So, I let those mails rest for a bit and check out the website before I make a decision what to do with it. In this case, I actually forgot about it. Blaugust had been really busy and then we’d gone on a short vacation.

Anyway, I just remembered it and looked at the website. It still looks as good as it did when I first visited it. In fact, it looks better. On top of that, several other sites have written about this project by now and the developer asked about feedback on Reddit. So now I can say that it really is a legit project and with that, a really great one, too!

You may – hopefully – now wonder what that website actually is? It’s an MMO search engine! Quite simple, but very helpful. I know from the search terms of our blog that people regularly try to figure out if one MMO suits them or which of several MMOs they might enjoy trying out. This search engine can help you with that. It’s got quite elaborate filters letting you decide what you want, what you don’t want, what’s irrelevant and so on. The MMOs are also colour-coded by their release status (released, beta, development, cancelled).

MMO+ website

I tested it trying to find upcoming MMOs that may be interesting for me and the search engine showed me Black Desert Online and Wild Terra. I don’t really know what I would need to change to get Project Gorgon to show up for me. :p But here is Project Gorgon’s profile on MMO+. At the very bottom of the game’s pages, you can find a button that lets you send in a suggestion in case you find something is incorrect with a profile.

So, if you’re looking for a new MMO to try, maybe this website can help you!