Massively Overthinking: Revisiting sheep and wolves in MMOs


A single of the meta discussions we’ve been obtaining right here on MOP this week has centered on PvP sandbox titles like Albion On line, particularly how Albion has created really serious attempts to cater to non-PvP-oriented players to bring them into the gameworld – in truth, “synergizing” sheep and wolves has been one particular of the game’s crucial philosophies for years, and in my thoughts, this current patch is just one particular extra instance of how it is not just idle chatter.

That stated, I do not truly know irrespective of whether it performs. Our PvP columnist digs the game, but does it truly appeal to PvE players, and are they sticking about when they poke their heads in? And is it any diverse for other games with heavy PvP, like EVE On line, or even anything like Black Desert, which is not marketed as an old-college PvP sandbox? For this week’s Overthinking, I am dropping this conversation in the laps of the MOP writers: What particularly can MMO developers do to attract sheep to the sandboxes exactly where wolves prowl, and what can they do to preserve them about?

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): High levels of customization, engaging PvE experiences, and have PvP that happens in a tiered sense can genuinely boost the likelihood that MMO devs can preserve wolves and sheep with each other, but it will not be best. If you go back to the Shard Defense post I wrote on Asheron’s Call’s deathiversary, what you had was frequent players who had been impacted by macro level adjustments (like towns acquiring destroyed) and the micro level PvP wars that could have an effect on them. That is genuinely simplifying it although. Additional particularly, you had unengaged players essentially bearing witness to the biggest effects of the occasion. Then you had adventurers who unknowingly had been causing concerns. If you had been fortunate, one particular of these adventurers was also a lore fan and disseminating information and facts. These persons developed a faction to participate in PvP that picked a side in the game’s on-going story. Other players could assistance a side either by means of direct conflict (PvP) or trade (PvE).

I do not feel you can genuinely have a really FFA PvP game that each griefers and carebears will get along in, but you could conceivably developed a PvP game exactly where the PvP players are essentially the center of the dramatic action. Say, holding towns. On the other hand, GM events could then threaten stated towns, and PvP players would essentially select a side that effects stated towns. Non-PvP players could either select to straight participate and PvP or aid with some non-PvE system. Taking a web page from Asheron’s Get in touch with two, I don’t forget capital towns had been invaded by huge amounts of quickly spawning mobs that could only be defeated by appeasing an NPC leader inside the city. The NPC leader basically had a riddle to be solved, and when a player could attain that NPC and resolve the riddle, the town would be saved.

The dilemma is also how usually and how severely you want to disrupt players’ game lives. I loved WoW’s zombie plague occasion, but it was also an occasion that brought on a lot of persons to rage quit their gaming sessions at the least. That was some fantastic sandbox play in a extremely theme-park MMO and even that was hugely controversial. FFA PvP catering to non-PvPers is just a genuinely messy subject, although I nonetheless applaud any business that attempts it (as lengthy as they’re attempting to study from previous games and not just spit-balling concepts).

Andy McAdams: I feel it is a huge problem that developers look rather unwilling to address on the complete. The dilemma with PvP games is that a singularly focused PvP audience is not adequate to sustain a game with only wolves, the game dies. I feel the way to preserve the sheep in a game is to supply strategies for the sheep to completely get pleasure from the game with the alternative of remaining comparatively protected. There certainly wants to be some threat constructed into the game, but the sheep want to be in a position to be in a position to do points to safeguard themselves from the wolves. That protection could possibly be anything like becoming in a position to employ Computer/NPC escorts when crafting in risky zones – protected strategies to travel in between zones / cities / towns. Perhaps you can send Computer/NPC adventurers into the wild for your mats (like actual NPCs that could be attacked).

I feel that the wolves want to adjust their expectations as effectively. It is a wolf-consume-wolf out in the wilds exactly where points come about without the need of consequences, but if it is wolf-consume-sheep in a not-wild space, there should really be true consequences for the wolf. Attacking a sheep should really be a selection, a threat to be balanced by the wolf, and in order for that to come about there have to be true in-game consequences for the globe. That could possibly be jail time, a level encounter, becoming unable to engage with merchants/enter cities/have bounties. There are lots of strategies to make the PvP dynamic threat-reward evaluation that does not skew to sheep constantly becoming there to just be ganked. What sane individual walks into an atmosphere had been the entirety of the game is made so they get ganked as often as feasible with no likelihood to retaliate? That is what most PvP-centric games are.

Empower the sheep to expose/safeguard themselves for varying threat-rewards and set consequences for wolves so that ganking sheep becomes a threat-reward selection as effectively. Everyone wins.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, weblog): I do not feel the wolves-and-sheep circumstance is resolvable in a game whose developers are designing for wolves and sheep. Sheep do not want to be preyed on. Wolves want to prey on sheep, not other wolves. At times there is no compromise, and a lot of devs know this and do it anyway, hoping to trick sheep into becoming content material. Please recognize, I grew up in classic Ultima On line, in a PvP-centered guild, in a globe exactly where you marked protected runes, place your keys below a trapped box in your bag, stored all your great gear in the bank, and in no way went anyplace alone. But we didn’t have hundreds of MMOs to select from back then. If sheep and wolves didn’t function for UO when there had been no selections – and in spite of the entertaining I had, even the devs know it didn’t function – it is a really hard sell in 2019.

That stated, if an MMO is becoming made as a virtual globe rather than a predator/stalking/ganking simulator, open globe PvP is nonetheless certainly doable. I continue to be a enormous supporter of the TEF (short-term enemy flag) program pioneered by Star Wars Galaxies due to the fact of its tiered strategy. Initially, there is a really hard opt-out if you do not ever want to kill or be killed by players, you can select that and go on with your day. Second, there’s a faction program, so fewer than half the other players would even want to kill you. Third, there are enhanced rewards for fighting players truly worthy (i.e., larger rank) rather than noobs, with minimal penalties for death. Fourth, the overt/covert flags permit persons to temporarily flag and unflag for PvP so they’re not constantly a possible victim unless carrying out activities that’d flag them as an clear enemy. And fifth – and most essential – a lot of the PvP was encouraged to take spot in public spaces, goading covert players into joining the fray, which they willingly did.

I saw so a lot of self-described “sheep” willingly participate in globe PvP in SWG, persons who will not touch anything like Albion no matter how really hard it performs to entice them with protected zones and GvG. Aspect of the purpose TEF performs so effectively is that it attracts a crowd that is OK with the pop-up PvP of TEF and is not hoping for a gankbox complete of straightforward marks. It is tougher in this case to modify the stigma and the playerbase than the mechanics.

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, weblog): Speaking as one particular of these soft, doughy sheep, it is really hard for me to rewire myself to like PvP sandbox something. I fall to pieces when I have to engage yet another human player, fingers flailing like spastic eels on the keyboard and heart price racing to uncomfortable and worrying levels. It would look, then, that it is not possible for me to get pleasure from this sort of MMO. And not for lack of attempting, genuinely. I guess the only point that would entice me into joining in to these types of games if there had been some manner of protections to quash griefing and mad ganking from taking place at all. Soon after all, I have a tendency to favor becoming a crafter/gatherer in these types of games, which tends to make me the most succulent of lambs, and nine occasions out of ten extra consideration appears to be paid on creating crafting and gathering entertaining without the need of truly paying consideration to creating it semi-protected.

Note I stated semi-protected I contend that there should really be inherent threat involved for my selected profession. All I’m advocating is “risk” right here to not imply “heart palpatations anytime I comprehend I have to venture out to beat on a rock.”

Mia DeSanzo (@neschria): I am enormous carebear, but I also adore Black Desert On line and have sunk a shamefully huge quantity of hours into that game on characters level 50+ (when you turn out to be open for PvP). It is not very the wild and crazy murder scene that “open PvP” implies. PvE players should really appear into the culture and consequences of PvP in a game prior to rejecting it out of hand. I genuinely do recognize wanting a game exactly where you in no way have to be concerned about becoming randomly PK’d, but if you can tolerate it taking place sometimes, you could possibly want to attempt some of these PvX games that have a small anything for absolutely everyone.

MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, weblog): Honestly I feel the only way to profitable have sheep and wolves with each other in a game is to let the sheep fully opt out of the wolves’ gameplay. Simply because the PvP should really only be wolves vs wolves. Other players shouldn’t be involved. I feel the language wants an overhaul as effectively: It shouldn’t even be known as wolves and sheep due to the fact that tries to enforce the notion that one particular is meals there for the other. Let’s get in touch with them wolves and dinosaurs. The dinos do not care about the goings-on of the wolves and do not want to concern themselves with it. Wolves can run and do wolf points, and the dinos can do dino points. That is the way it should really be. But if a dino desires to be a wolf a although, or a wolf a dino, make it so. Games want to study Star Wars Galaxies’ program and head that way, permitting persons to opt in and flag for PvP and participate in hot spot PvP zones. Shroud of the Avatar also lets you opt into PvP, and you can not modify willy-nilly, so there’s no throwing a punch and then going protected once again.

Wolves and dinos can coexist, but they should really in no way have interaction forced upon them. If you want PvE players in your game, you make them dinos, not sheep.

Samon Kashani (@thesamkash): This is surely a challenging dilemma without the need of a single answer. I feel the key difficulty for MMO developers is that they have a tendency to see the wolves as the objective, or the endgame. The wolves are placed up higher on pedestals. The wolves have so a lot extra to acquire and so a lot much less to drop than the sheep. The sheep performs hours gathering mats, placing them with each other, crafting anything good to go out and fight some beasts, only to get it taken away in 5 minutes by a ganker. That is a swift way to have an individual turn off your game and not turn it back on once again. Just as with talent and classes, there wants to be a balance.

Maybe one particular point developers could do is add in yet another alternative – a third pillar if you will. Exactly where are the shepherds or sheep dogs? Give players extra motives to safeguard each and every other and function with each other. Oftentimes, games will just recommend that you can function with each other to keep away from acquiring ganked but do not explicitly reward you for carrying out that. Bounty systems can function in that path. Perhaps the ganker loses anything from his bank, confiscated by the authorities. This way he can not just preserve his most effective points protected and away although he goes ganking.

There are alternatives accessible, developers want to attempt new points and not worry their playerbase. A single of the coolest points is what we are seeing in EVE On line ideal now – developers throwing points into disarray. I adore it.

A single final point: A terrible way of attempting to resolve this dilemma that some developers have a tendency to do is forcing the PvE and the PvP players with each other. For instance, locking a portion of a quest/achievement inside the PvP aspect of the game (hunting at you ArenaNet). The PvP players do not want PvE persons taking up space on the server, and the PvE players do not want to fight each and every other. Do not force it like that.

Tyler Edwards: Realistically, I do not feel extremely a lot. The moment I hear open PvP is even a possibility, I start off tuning out, as evidenced by the truth this is the initially I’ve heard of Albion attempting to make concessions for PvE players. I know I’m not alone in this. These of us who are not interested in open PvP have a tendency to be quite set in our strategies, and I do not feel there’s a lot that can be performed about that.

It is not just about not wanting to be ganked, despite the fact that that is of course the greatest aspect. It is also about the sort of neighborhood such games attract. Although I know this is not universally correct, my individual encounter has been these that gravitate towards open PvP are quite hostile to these of us who favor PvE. Why would I join a game just to be consistently derided for becoming a “carebear”?

Just about every week, join the Massively OP employees for Massively Overthinking column, a multi-writer roundtable in which we go over the MMO market subjects du jour – and then invite you to join the fray in the comments. Overthinking it is actually the complete point. Your turn!


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