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What Mythic Is Up Against

June 22, 2008

So my wife and I were doing our weekly Saturday morning garage sale shopping trip (last week I got a snowblower for $15!), and out of the blue she says this:

“I don’t think I’m going to play Warhammer.”

Hur? Trying to mentally shift gears, I eloquently say, “Wha?”

She grimaced. “You didn’t tell me it was player versus player. My friend at work Johnny said other players try to kill you.”

“Um, yeah,” I said. “Wasn’t trying to be sneaky about hiding that from you, or anything. Ooh, look! A matching end table set!”

I let the conversation go at that point, but it got me thinking.

Surprisingly enough, I haven’t been pushing WAR on my wife as much as you might think for a blogger who writes about it daily. She knows I have the blog, and she’s even mentioned it to friends and family — it got her brother Bob interested in playing, at least. But I haven’t tried to seduce her with the features or enthusiastic babbling, because I know two things:

1. My wife is not me. She does not get all pumped up on hype or proposed features or specs or what have you. She’s a very immediate, in-the-moment gal. She’s not a hardcore gamer, like I, and while she does play games (most notably WoW in the past), she doesn’t see herself as much of a gamer geek.

2. The best way to get my wife hooked on a game is to almost take a hands-off approach: show her it, let her fiddle around with it, and answer any questions. Be passive, in fact, not active in teaching the game. It doesn’t make her feel dumb or under the gun to perform.

Since I can’t show her the game now or let her fiddle with it, what’s the point of trying to sell her on the Warhammer concept? She might be interested for my sake, to stay in touch with my hobbies, but the already-considerable obstacle between her now and her playing has gotten even larger with her newfound revelation of PvP combat.

I sympathize with her, because I feel the same way to a lesser degree. Some people are highly competitive and thrive on PvP like peanut butter thrives on jellyfish. Yet some other folks aren’t quite in that mindset, and they absolutely hate feeling stupid in a game as hordes of other, more highly skilled folk come smash their face in for the audacity of simply booting up the game.

PvP makes some people feel stupid. People who feel that way don’t tend to return for more embarrassing moments. That is what Mythic is up against.

To their credit, they have realized this and talked about it numerous times. It’s why there are non-PvP areas for peaceniks to go bash the faces in of NPC Orcs and bunny rabbits. It’s why the Tome of Knowledge exists, or crafting, or even Public Quests. People scared of feeling stupid need to have the option to slowly dip their toes into PvP at their own pace without being shoved in by rude bullies looking for an easy kill. It’s why you’ve had a lot of people concerned with how much they’ll be able to PvE through the entire game without being forced at any point into PvP.

At this point, a lot of WAR folk — and perhaps devs — lose any shred of sympathy with the line of, “Well, it’s a PvP-oriented game. If you don’t like it, if you can’t hack it, buzz off. There are a lot of other games out there for you.” I hope you can see the error in that thinking — while some PvPers might be more than content just playing alongside and against other hardcore PvPers with no “carebears” to mess life up, it doesn’t spell success for the title. It spells “early cancellation”.

There are far more MMO players out there who are highly comfortable with PvE and fear PvP than there are players who are really into PvP. Mythic needs to tap that former group and convert them, seduce them, encourage them into trying out their PvP and realizing that what might’ve scared them about other titles is not so here. That they can PvP without feeling useless or “stupid”.

When I brought up this topic again with my wife at a later point, I regurgitated Mythic’s viewpoint about how a lot of games we play in life are competitive and cooperative in nature, so it’s only logical that online games should be as well. She replied with, “Yeah, but those games… they have, you know, rules. Boundaries.”

You get what she’s saying? She’s okay competing with people in games as long as there are rules that keep them from being psychopathic jerks with meat cleavers. She needs to know there are rules and boundaries in place to make it somewhat fair, to give her a fighting chance, and to punish people who deliberately look to grief others.

I’m just saying, my viewpoint and your viewpoint when it comes to PvP in WAR might not be others’ viewpoints. That’s what Mythic is up against.

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12 comments

  1. Great topic Syp and you’re totally right. How I kind of view it is this way. PVP games are very personal, especially depending upon the physically representation of your character within the world. For example, Counter-Strike is a very in your face personal game because people often find ways to be derogatory to other people after they’ve killed them (i.e. knife scraping over their body). This is even more so because Counter-Strike only gives you one life per round, so it’s a very intense and personal experience for people, as the penalties are harsher. This turns a lot of people off it (not too mention the negative culture that it breeds as well).

    In other games where your physical representation isn’t a body but more instead a vehicle, I find it isn’t so personal. In a sense you feel like your plane, spaceship, or car got destroyed instead of you and you can just jump into another one. Warbirds Online was like this. The action was very intense and the penalties harsh (i.e. takes a while to fly to a battle area) but you didn’t feel any personal vendettas were taken out against you, thus you just jumped into another plane and continue to play. No big deal.

    From WAR’s perspective, I think that the more Mythic can help relay a sense of fantasy and participation within the greater war around you, the less “personal” individual combat will feel against you. In other words, people won’t be standing around upset because they were just killed and ridiculed by a dwarf wielding a ale mug but instead people will be too focused on the great RVR objectives and will just want to get back into the battle.


  2. I got my husband interested by saying, “Oo, they have a class that sounds just like your paladin in DaoC.” 🙂

    (ie. not only is he now interested but I also may have a pet tank == RESULT!!!)

    I have a lot of sympathy with your wife’s view because honestly, if I had never played an RvR game and found out that yes, it was fun, I wouldn’t have been all that keen either.

    Also hardcore PvP players have a reputation as total jerks. It’s not enough for them to just kill you in game and move on. They have to camp the corpse, talk shit about you on the forums, make like you must be some kind of loser in life and just act like … idiots. That’s a lot of assumptions (some of which are not totally false) to battle again.

    At the end of the day, I think the only answer is to just try it. Maybe in beta, let her mess around with the classes that sound like her kind of thing, try some low key RvR at level 1, where it’s all very non-complex and there’s nothing at stake. Then see how she feels.


  3. I kinda feel the same way that your wife does. I only just recently became interested in WAR BECAUSE it is PvP-centric. Up until a few months ago I sucked at PvP in most MMOs (most notably WoW). I loved it, just sucked at it. Now that I’ve become a little better, I hope that my skills can carry over into WAR. I still shiver sometimes when I think about how much PvP will be a part of WAR, but I think that I’ll eventually get used to it and be able to hold my own. Nice article!


  4. Very interesting article. I have to admit, I love PvP, I love the competition, I love owning, and I love being owned (less than owning of course) by players who are truly skilled. And most of all, I love running around with my buddies and taking on all-comers.

    I did not realize, however, how many people out there were intimidated by PvP. I guess I forgot that just because my friends and I embrace the play style so heartily, that there are others out there who just don’t play like we do.

    Like you said, though, people never want to feel stupid. I guess my mindset when it comes to these kinds of things is, “Well I got rocked that game. What did I do well? What can I do better? I probably need to go look up that move that kept killing me, and find some sort of counter.”

    I honestly believe everyone has the potential to be good (or at least competent) at these kinds of games, all it takes is a little knowledge of the mechanics, a little experience, and a will to learn (and look stupid for a while!). Don’t be afraid to ask questions, people may call you an idiot, but as you learn continue to learn you’ll eventually surpass all the jerks who gave you crap along the way.


  5. I had the same reaction about WAR at first. I’ve played UT2004 which was usually a good experience although it did introduce me to a fair number of idiots, and my only other experience with PvP has been World of Warcraft. As a general rule, PvP in that game has *not* been a good experience. The usual corpse camping, high levels killing quest givers and one-shotting you if you try to do something about it, uneven battlegrounds… pretty much all I got out of PvP was shaking hands and a desire to throw my keyboard out the window.

    Unsurprisingly my initial reaction to learning that WAR is a PvP game was “no thanks”. I did keep an eye on it though, and I gradually learnt that it’s kind of a Star Trek version of PvP (“It’s PvP, Jim, but not as we know it!”). The gentle blur of the lines between PvE and PvP, the inability of high levels to come into low level areas and gank (turning them into a chicken is gold imo), and the general feeling that your allies are right there behind you; those are the main aspects that have changed my mind.

    I really hope that this game can help change the current bullying type of PvP that seems to be dominant right now, and is so offputting to many of us.


  6. I was totally not going to play Warhammer because it was PvP, but a friend of mine sat me down and told me to go read up what the games designers said about PvP and PvE and how it would be a bit different to other games.

    I went and did the reading and came back and told my sisters to go do the same and read up on what was actually going to happen and that you could actually have fun and do PvE if you didn’t fancy doing PvP at any point.

    I think spinks is right when she mentions that PvPers have a reputation for being jerks and for being aggressive and boastful too. I know someone who is terrified they’ll be yelled at if they make the slightest mistake and then mocked for being a noob when it comes to PvP.

    I’m hoping some of us can help to take away from some of that. I quite enjoy PvP with friends, but I do hate the attitude of some PvP players who like to talk big and diss other people.. we’ll see.


  7. I think that’s part of the problem though, if it was just accepting the fact that you’ll look stupid once in a while and that it will take you a while to learn the game, then it wouldn’t be so bad but I think it’s more than that. I think the culture and mentality that surrounds the game will make or break it for new PVP players. If they are given a chance, not repeatedly ridiculed when they make a mistake and are actually helped with the tips and tricks of the game, they’ll sink their teeth into it and hang on.

    I mean my example of Counter-Strike above relates perfectly to this. Our clan had our own server where we pushed positive values of the game, so as to create a really great open, sharing, and caring environment to those new to the game. These people loved it and really got hooked on the game because of the environment and people around them. In effect, we created an environment that seemed almost like the TV show Cheers, where everyone knew everyone else and there was a lot of great camaraderie and teamwork on the server and within the clan.

    So as long as those vets in the game (especially those who get into the beta early) can be patient with those new to the game, especially newer non-PVPers, then I think there will be a great community and culture around the game that will definitely attract a lot of outside people to it.


  8. I totally see where your wife is coming from and I bet a lot of other people (myself included). I was never a big PvPer myself, however, the 2 MMOs that I’ve played for decent amounts of time – FFXI and WoW – were not focused on PvP. (And some people think that WoW is a PvP game, but really the game has been built around PvE encounters).

    My hope is though that because PvP will be integrated throughout the whole game and will reward you and help your character progress that people will warm up to the idea of a PvP oriented game.

    PvP can be really fun! What makes it not fun is when you are ganked constantly, or you have no power over someone the same level because their gear so superior (my thoughts go back to the time I started doing arena on a new character at the beginning of Season 3. Everyone had pretty much all the gear from the previous season, so I had no chance against any team because I couldn’t survive long enough or do enough damage). I’m praying that both these things are really dealt with seriously in WAR and if they are, I could become a PvP convert!


  9. As a long time fan of DAOC, I was/am a hardcore PvP player. I have a large group of real life friends who are not by any stretch of the imagination. After a bit of demonstrating what DAOC had to offer the casual RvR player and some of the PvE encounters they were hooked. One by one. The “meanie” PvP players tend to stick to their own little groups and destroy like minded players. While the overwhelming majority of people play much more casually and form raids to take keeps, siege objectives and steal relics (or jam a mile-gate for 6 hours!). Mythic has a good deal of experience with this type of game and they offer something totally different to the community, something that casual players and “hardcore” player can both enjoy in RvR.


  10. Great thoughts and experiences, all! Thanks so much for sharing — I think and hope Mythic gets it, but I guess the true test will come at launch.


  11. There was one interview with Jeff Hickman where he explained that they’ve put a lot of effort into making pvp approachable. He described his wife feeling similarly to yours, but enjoying pouring oil onto enemies from the battlements (presumably in some sort of siege scenario).

    You may get better traction with this approach – something like “It is pvp centric, but it will try to ease you in. It’s not getting ganked by level 70s as soon as you step out of your starter zone.”

    Given her comments about the “rules”, you may also be able to reassure her with some of the descriptions of the scenarios – the devs describe them as “all the games you used to play as a kid, only with swords”. King of the hill, tug of war, tag. With swords.

    Depending on the dynamic and personalities involved, the prospect of pvp tanks may help too.

    If you do have any success with convincing her, share what works and what doesn’t – I’ll be taking notes for my wife 😉


  12. I am not a huge fan of PvP, when it is 1 on 1. I am much more interested in consensual team pvp, which is what RvR is.



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