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Open letter – 24/7 availability, game balance and PvP

Thod-Theodum
There have been two posts on the forum in the last few days that have concerned me more as others lately.

One was from Harad Narvar. Harad is one of the players who has enriched this game a lot with his work on the mapping project and lots of other great work. To my knowledge he is leader of the Nettles – a tiny (3 members) non PvP company that is dedicated to wander the lands and to investigate them. I have high respect to what Harad has done for this game.
The other post was from ‘You are a Troll’. I don’t actually know who he is – only that he is from a medium sized settlement (that seems to rule out EBA and EoX) and seems to lead a small group of friends. And as far as I can tell he isn’t an EL member.

Both messages have been written in frustration about some parts of the game. I felt the best might be to take a step back and see what is good and what is wrong. In my view a lot in the game is due to the unfinished state. This causes a glass half full / half empty issue. There is no right or wrong for many issues but there certainly are different viewpoints.

24/7 availability
The first problem in the game is the 24/7 availability that is currently needed to play. You have to be online to recruit and to greet people, to defend your territory, to be up to date what is happening, to ensure you are around if something special happens.

From a design perspective this is what the game needs to be – after all – it is 23 hours a day online. In this 23 hours players must be able to do something, as a sandbox these actions must have an impact. So this is something that is needed.

From a player perspective this can drive away players and has done so already. Casual players feel they can’t keep up. Hard-core gamers invest too much time in the game until it becomes unsustainable and the leave due to burnout. I have seen both happening and it is sad when you see someone leave.

The latest example of this was the Nhur Athemon event that was leading to the post from ‘You are a Troll’. As a seemingly more casual player (casual meaning here not logged in every day) he missed out when playing with his friends. Having been in the same situation with Emerald Lodge due to PaizoCon UK I know how it feels.

Should this game become a success eventually then a lot of this problem will go away. Larger groups, a greater team at GW of programmers and more players with a higher player density will alleviate the situation. Right now both sides – GW and players need to be aware that manpower is scarce. Availability isn’t 24/7 – not for programmers and devs but neither for players in all settlements.

As settlement leader I got a message on Friday when I was already on the road to set my settlement level before Monday. I managed Sunday night after a long weekend of PFS games and 4 hours on the motorway. Doing this on a regular basis isn’t sustainable. At the same time we players need to dial back with pushing more / faster for content as GW also needs to be sustainable in what they can deliver without burnout from their part. When was the last time you said thank you to GW here on the boards.

A shout-out to Lisa and Bob here. They not only added some more escalations and one close to EL – Lisa even dropped me a personal e-mail to tell me so. GW listens and tries hard and that is why I’m engaged in this game.

Off course I could look at it from the half-empty perspective – back to 24/7 availability. I was logged in until around 21:00 local time. Lisa’s message had a timestamp of 22:05. When I checked the board and e-mail after breakfast at 7:30 am all was already over again and PFU with EL member Erin Rockheart had cleared everything.

I take away the positives. GW tried hard, they listen, we had at least one of our members participating – and PFU collected all loot for us which is very much appreciated.

My advice:
a) Don’t play favourites. I really appreciate to have been notified but for fairness everyone should have similar chances.
b) Information needs longer lead times or needs to be wider spread. The Nhur Athemon was well publicised but people were taken by surprise how quickly it ended.
c) For example for special events – let them pop up at random times over a longer time scale, send a message to anyone logging in with a company that has a holding adjacent (2 hexes away?). GW sending out personal e-mails to settlement leaders (while very much appreciated) is not sustainable on your side either - so this part unfortunately would need programming time

Game balance and fairness

My feeling is that the whole game is moving in the right direction. GW listens to our input and the great bit about crowdforging is that I believe this will result in a much better game down the line. But there has to be a realization on both sides that balance and fairness (at least as perceived) sometimes is lacking.

There is a stark contrast to the 3 week long grind and minimal reward for finishing the Ustalavians and the large rewards you suddenly get for Nhur Athemon. Certain escalations seem lucrative – certain seem just grinds that are done because the alternatives are worse.

Being at the right place at the right time can be a large advantage.

This is work in progress. GW sometimes gets it wrong. It is important that in these instances replies from GW don’t come over as condescending and are not just seen as moaning. I call out especially Ryan here. I tend to agree with the content when you reply here on these boards – but sometimes you have the ability to further throw oil into the fire. You surely are not in a simple situation and I guess a lot of crap is thrown your way – but sometimes try to take a step back and try to see it from a player perspective.

For us gamers – well – if it gets too much – just take a step back and maybe even stay offline a day. Start with the assumption that GW tries hard and isn’t deliberately screwing you over. Try to see it from their side of view – and then try to post something constructive. Oh – and post early – don’t just let it build up until you explode and leave.

PvP

Adding these three letters quickly results in derails – but after all this is a game of PvP and territorial warfare. So what is right (and wrong) with the status of it?

Currently there is ownership of land and there isn’t. This might be best illustrated with a quote from Ryan
Ryan Dancey
The one thing that kind of bugs me about this was the opinion people seem to have had that the Towers they controlled were "theirs".
I understand where Ryan is coming from – but wow – reading it the wrong way comes over absolutely condescending.

There are two parts to ‘ownership’ and GW should better understand them or they drive off people from this game.
Let’s start with the emotional ownership. An emotional ownership is based on what players feel is fair, on time, on history, on diplomacy, on distance to the own settlement and maybe other aspects that I miss out.
Let’s look for a moment at the emotional ownership of EL towers. We fought for one of them hard and risked out whole settlement in the process (Baron’s Folly), we named them and spun stories around them (well – partly as added defence). The Emerald 7 have been among the towers who changed hands never or only once in the whole war of the towers. We worked hard using diplomacy to keep them. So clearly we should be expected to feel a very strong emotional ownership to these towers.

The in-game ownership. That ceased the moment Nhur Athemon took over our towers.

Meaningful PvP happens if two parties feel emotional ownership for the same resource but in-game ownership only allows a single party to ‘own’ it and one party wins the in-game ownership in a ‘fair’ contest. Meaningful PvP drives enjoyment of the game and could be a great selling point for this game.

But PvP can become a problem when emotional ownership or entitlement conflicts with the in-game implementation or reality.

To repeat – this is a PvP game. So taking towers of Nhur Athemon belonging emotionally to someone else is the kind of conflict that can lead to meaningful PvP and as such should be encouraged and no ownership should be taken for granted. At the same time logging in on 48 hours after the start of a month long event and see 100% of the emotional ownership being wiped out with no chance to defend anything unless you travel back in time is the kind of PvP that drives away people.

Add the interwebs, players boasting or taunting and miscommunication and you quickly develop from meaningful PvP towards a toxic mix.

Hopefully long term emotional entitlement and ownership more closely correlates with in-game options. GW needs to understand this to develop towards this goal. Players need to understand this to show restraint and don't let the opponent feel like he/she was griefed.

I actually think there is a good understanding from GW side – but programming takes a lot of time. There is also a lot of restraint and work-together from the community – and I especially include the EBA and Golgotha here. But currently we have to endure ill-working PvP and collateral damage does happen. It helps if players realize that the other side isn’t out to grief them but tries to do meaningful PvP with the limited options they have. Attacking someone just because he is a member of X is perfectly legitimate and the only tool given in game.

At the same time PvPer need to realize that some players while technically members of a settlement don't emotionally agree with the conflict war and therefore don't feel they are legitimate targets. [insert] If you read the forum then it appears there is war between EBA and EoX while in the game this state is still many iterations away.[end insert] This problem might go away long term with education and better in-game options of warfare.

I would prefer if (insert EoX or EBA here) could attack the smithy and shut it down for 48 hours instead of having to attack the smith in front of it to harm the opponent. I hope holding warfare will be a step in the right direction.
The idea is going into the right direction. Just hope the implementation doesn’t throw up too many issues. I can already see issues if burning down becomes too easy and defence impossible (or vice versa).

My only advice to EBA / EoX in this case – restrain yourself. Maybe even work out a max number x (2 or 3?) of burned down / taken over holdings per settlement on a given day ahead of the holding warfare. Possibly even restrict this for 1 week.

I just don’t want to hear lamentations on morning 1 of holding warfare when one (or both) sides lost 100% of holdings and feel crippled. And worse - having a large number leaving the game because of it.

This goes back to the meaningful PvP aspect. I regard it as meaningful if you fight each other over holdings after all what happened in the past. I won’t regard it as meaningful if it turns out it is too easy to burn down a holding and this results in scorched earth.

I trust that GW will fix problems quickly – I don’t trust that they get it right the first time round. And both of you are important for this game to prosper in the long term.
Thod/Theodum are the OOC/IC leaders of the Emerald Lodge - a neutral settlement in the center of the mal that tries to the first to explore the Emerald Spire - should that part of the game ever become available. We have a strong in game and out of game relationship with the Pathfinder Society.
We welcome both hard core players as well as casual players with or without tabletop experience. We have a strong group in Europe and are slowly expanding into the US. We are predominately PvE as our neutral political stance means that we tend to use PvP only in self-defence. We are not anti-PVP - but expect limited PvP opportunity with us.
Baron Malthius
+1
Harad Navar
+1

However, it is my opinion that there is no "war" game mechanic in PFO at this time. Feuds are skirmishes. War is months, if not years, long. There is no in-game mechanic for declaring a "war", no in-game "war" rules of conduct, no in-game way to declare a winner of a "war", no way to "surrender". The "war" flag being waved about does not involve characters in game. It is an extra-game grudge match between people, not characters. Please don't call this "war".

It is also my opinion that holding "warfare" is an mechanic of economic dominance and is waged against in-game constructs, not against players. Granted, characters will die attacking and defending outposts and holdings, but again, not a true war.
Knowledge can explain the darkness, but it is not a light.
Doc
Good stuff.

Meaningful PvP happens if two parties feel emotional ownership for the same resource but in-game ownership only allows a single party to ‘own’ it and one party wins the in-game ownership in a ‘fair’ contest. Meaningful PvP drives enjoyment of the game and could be a great selling point for this game.

But PvP can become a problem when emotional ownership or entitlement conflicts with the in-game implementation or reality.

I'm still wondering what's going to happen to some players when their settlement gets burned down.

attack the smithy and shut it down for 48 hours instead of having to attack the smith in front of it to harm the opponent.

That would be awesome! GW make this happen. The people wanting to avoid being killed in a war they don't think they should be affected by could go run and hide, legit, but they have to deal with the crafting stations being broken. Maybe they will try to defend instead? Meaningful choices.
Jakaal
I know this was never intended to be a theme park style MMO and was intended to be mostly PvP but of a more settlement level. I either didn't properly understand what that meant or we aren't there yet but the way the game is currently and has been for months, I do not want to play this game. Maybe once it's closer to finished I'll try again but with the direction the community seems to be going, I doubt I'll come back.
Thod-Theodum
Doc
I'm still wondering what's going to happen to some players when their settlement gets burned down.

A lot will depend on if it happens and not how it happens.

Several members in my family became reluctant to go to PFS conventions as it became too deadly. My wife refused to go to a certain convention because of such a bad incidence and my son was close to quitting because of another death.

Now something very interesting happened at PaizoCon UK. I was sitting together at a special table with my whole family (and two other players) and all four of us got killed. The 'Killer-GM' was Mike Brock - Paizo Employee and worldwide responsible for PFS.

We left the table with a game to remember. My daughter even went so far to call it the best game ever (I wouldn't go that far having died but it was a very good one). Instead of quitting the game several members in the family felt invigorated by the experience.

You can read about it here: http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2sg40?Help-my-whole-family-just-got-killed

It won't be the burning down that will cause players to leave the game. It will be the circumstances of getting burned down.

Did you see it coming long term or was it a surprise?
Do you feel you lost in a fair fight or have you been burned down because of some exploits?
Did the enemy behave honourable afterwards or did he rub salt into the wound mocking you and asking for additional tears?
Thod/Theodum are the OOC/IC leaders of the Emerald Lodge - a neutral settlement in the center of the mal that tries to the first to explore the Emerald Spire - should that part of the game ever become available. We have a strong in game and out of game relationship with the Pathfinder Society.
We welcome both hard core players as well as casual players with or without tabletop experience. We have a strong group in Europe and are slowly expanding into the US. We are predominately PvE as our neutral political stance means that we tend to use PvP only in self-defence. We are not anti-PVP - but expect limited PvP opportunity with us.
Doc
I want to hope that kind of invigoration you describe can be had in PFO when "it" happens. There are just so many rage-quit threads on these forums after some kind of PvP-related scenario, that I'm pessimistic. I'd say HTFU but I'd just be called a bully methinks.
Thod-Theodum
@Harad
Changed war to conflict (at least in the place I think you felt it was wrong) and added a short sentence.
Thod/Theodum are the OOC/IC leaders of the Emerald Lodge - a neutral settlement in the center of the mal that tries to the first to explore the Emerald Spire - should that part of the game ever become available. We have a strong in game and out of game relationship with the Pathfinder Society.
We welcome both hard core players as well as casual players with or without tabletop experience. We have a strong group in Europe and are slowly expanding into the US. We are predominately PvE as our neutral political stance means that we tend to use PvP only in self-defence. We are not anti-PVP - but expect limited PvP opportunity with us.
Nihimon
Thod-Theodum
Attacking someone just because he is a member of X is perfectly legitimate and the only tool given in game.

Yes, but…

Killing someone outside of a Feud was supposed to incur the penalty of Reputation Loss. Currently, that penalty is so trivial that it is irrelevant.

Paying for a Feud was supposed to be a meaningful cost. Currently, the cost is so trivial, and the free Influence handed out so large, that it is irrelevant.

Those killed in PvP were supposed to have recourse to things like a Bounty System and Death Curses to give them a sense that they're not completely helpless victims.

As it stands right now, the only constraint on PvP is more PvP from the other side. This is effectively the same constraint that exists in murder sims and other games that are "overwhelmed by PvP", and it's a far cry from what we were promised.
Nihimon murmurs in sheer ecstasy as the magic courses through his veins
vyal
The issues you've described, Thod, are one of the reasons I promote an NPC/Script/Server/Insulated approach to player conflict, and in particular, to player conflict involving in-game structures. (buildings) Especially if such structures are a means of territory control, or in some way are a resource, political, or similar beneficial mechanic.

If it's currently a design goal that players can use time zones to their advantage, then they will, and scorched earth will be the result, however short or long that takes, however near or far in the future. So, not much value in discussing that point without knowing if that's a design goal or not, from my perspective.

If there's room for the introduction of new, innovative, fun, and challenging mechanics that involve NPC/Script/Server/Insulated implementations, then I'd love to contribute to such discussions. If not, well, 20 years of MMO history has taught me that if game mechanics permit it, players will do it, and nothing will stop them.

Put another way.. if it takes less time and/or resources to destroy than it does to build, destruction will ~always be the more attractive choice; cue the lamentation, toxicity, and popcorn. If it takes MORE time and/or resources to destroy than it does to build, that's something that can lead to meaningful player interaction.
 
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