Following on from our PvP “Ask Us Anything” (see below for video) our Gamer-in-Chief, Henrique, has written a post talking further about what PvP means for Bossa and Worlds Adrift.
To PvP or not to PvP?
If there’s one discussion bound to give rise to very strong and passionate opinions, it’s Player versus Player mechanics in online games.
Since the dawn of MUDs (Multi User Dungeons) transitioning to MMOs with Ultima Online’s players shouting ‘Guards!’ to get some needed protection, achieving the right balance of PvP has been the single most difficult multiplayer game design problem to tackle. The majority of games give up on it entirely and adopt some sort of no-PvP flag area, or even server, circumventing the issue altogether.
PvP is not evil on its own, though. It adds a lot of emotion and texture to a multiplayer experience by lurking in the background as a risk that drives players to excel, to strategize defences, to pool resources and to cooperate. At the right level, it’s a force that push games into better places where the gameplay is more interesting, unpredictable – more human.
The problem comes when PvP levels are too high or rewarding above other gameplay avenues, turning it into the primary mechanic, or worse: when it becomes so unbalanced that someone with nothing to lose or no stake to risk can dominate the experience of players who have invested a lot of time and effort. This is called ‘griefing’, the bane of online games.
If a player or group of players intent on attacking others have to invest a lot of time and resources to do so, to ponder about how they’re going to approach the action, and risk big losses in order to engage and kill other players, it’s not griefing – it’s gameplay. But when the balance is wrong and attackers can defeat other players too easily, with no risk to themselves, that is griefing pure and simple.
From its very inception, Worlds Adrift was conceived as a freeform sandbox game – meaning open PvP became a key aspect of the game. PvP is core to its experience, and the development team will strive to preserve this tenet – simply put, Worlds Adrift is incompatible with the notion of non-PvP by its very nature. It’s easy to disable handguns but, for instance, what would happen if a captain drives a ship into a player or rolls an engine downhill over an unsuspecting passer-by? In a game with real-time physics, you can always find a way to indirectly attack another player.
PvP is by no means the only content in the bigger scheme of the game. We envision it will be much more about collaborating with each other to explore an ever unfolding and changing world. We want to create a game where the player can make their character whatever they want her to be. A merchant? Fearless cave delver? A pirate? A simple crewman that works for her living on other players’ ships? We want the choices to be limitless, and ultimately, community driven.
So for the PvP to work well in Worlds Adrift, it has to be balanced and not stray into griefing. At least, an attacker should have as much (or more) to lose as the defender, and has to overcome advantages inherent to defense.
Worlds Adrift’s current position
This balance is slightly off in the game right now. One of the reasons to have a Closed Beta phase is to iron out bugs that only manifest themselves in a live environment, and to tweak balance aspects that only become apparent when players start to interact with the ruleset of the game in ways the development team never predicted.
In Worlds Adrift, roughly 20% of new players experience an attack by veterans on the first day of their game experience*. This is not the rampant griefing some reviews might suggest, but it’s much more than we intended by design. So there’s clearly work to be done – some of which has already been rolled out (such as the Atlas pulse), some in the immediate pipeline (such as swivel guns), and some longer term. We’ll then move on to balancing more advanced PvP situations where the defender is a more experienced player.
No amount of design or balance will ever stop some players who have been killed from complaining that PvP is wrong. After all, no one likes losing anything. But the answer to this is definitely not implementing PvE-only flags, areas, or whatever. The answer will be the understanding that, at the right level and balance, PvP is integral to the experience of Worlds Adrift, and that the gameplay is made better by the correct amount of risk inherent in the skies.
The issues of griefing and “rampant” PvP will also subside when the game becomes more complete, and we can begin to implement more PvE content. We have lots in the works for Worlds Adrift that we’ve talked about and teased before – things like gameplay elements, ancient turrets, and dangerous dungeons on islands, buried loot and treasure hunting, enormous creatures in the sky, and so on. It’s a long roadmap for the game we want to keep constantly evolving.
Our vision for the game
Ultimately, we’ll also be building tools to help community-driven initiatives. Perhaps an Alliance will form that acts as a player-driven police force, or vigilante group? We want this interactive world to be a reflection of the trials and tribulations faced by players on a day-to-day basis, and see the stories unfold about how they were tackled by the players. Worlds Adrift is a game about stories – we’ve already seen some fantastic examples from our community, but the scope of what can be achieved in-game is limited by its stage of development. It’s not at a point where we can add the really cool stuff; we need to tackle the technical issues first (and thus the reason we labelled the game Closed Beta). That’s why we value your patience and understanding so highly.
Every Founder is helping design and create a game that, frankly, the world hasn’t seen yet in terms of its technology and scope. This won’t be a short-term game, a game you pick up, finish, and move on from. Worlds Adrift is in it for the long haul, just like some of the most beloved MMOs out there. The work we’re doing at this time will ensure that players now and players in the future will have the best possible experience.
You should all be proud of what you’ve helped us achieve already; we certainly are, and humbled by the passion, care and feedback we get on a daily basis. There are, of course, going to still be tough times ahead, with more frustrations as we delve deeper into the core of what Worlds Adrift is, but it’s going to be a pleasure to keep collaborating with you all while building the best game we can possibly make.
See you in the skies!
*Source: Internal game data. “Veteran player” classified as someone who has played for more than 3 days.