The Balance
Dec 07, 2007 01:48:03

braveheartStirling Bridge, Scotland, September 11, 1297 - a force of Scotsman led by William Wallace face off against the much superior numbers of the English armies of King Edward II. The English Commander is sure he is dealing with nothing more than a bunch of rabble. The Scottish infantry is outnumbered five to one; the cavalry is outnumbered ten to one. The bridge is narrow. Only two men on horseback can ride abreast. The English, sure of a victory, slowly begin to cross the bridge in the morning light. Yet the grim look on the faces of the Highland men, waiting on the far side of the bridge across the river, tell an entirely different story...

...the Highlanders know that a betting man would give very poor odds for their survival. All of them are afraid, some ready to pee their kilts. Though all feel fear, they are fighting for their independence. Some feel something else as well - they have never felt more alive. These are the men who would count their lives cheap if they were not their to defend their country and win their independence. These are Scotland's heros. Hero's like William Wallace, that Mel Gibson immortalized in his movie "Braveheart".

Despite the fact that Mel Gibson forgot to include the bridge in the battle in the movie...

And the fact that Braveheart wasn't William Wallace's nickname it was Robert the Bruce's nickname...

And the fact that Robert the Bruce and William Wallace never met in the first place...

Oh well...

The point is whether the armies are firing blasters or ballistae this is what developers try to bring to their mmo. Yet not every mmo "has game."

Some, like Lord of the Rings Online (Lotro) was designed with PVP as little more than an afterthought - a feeble attempt to grab a larger market share. Lotro has Player Vs. Monster Play (PvM). This is where some players have the dubious pleasure (I was one of them) of portraying monsters and are given the "pleasure" of acting as little more than cannon fodder for the enjoyment of the rest of the players.

At the other end of the scale are those developers who not only purposefully include PVP in their game design, but take it seriously - sometimes a bit too seriously. There are few games on the market where PvP will make you "more nervous than a long tail cat in a room full of rocking chairs" as grandmother used to say. One of them is Eve Online. Eve Online is one of the few games that has the possibility of permanent character death. Even with your insurance and your backup character (called a clone for those of you who have never played Eve Online) paid up it is very easy to loose it all. CCP allows real money trading (RMT) as long as they are the benefactors (you can sell game time cards for in game currency). Venturing into Low Security Space in Eve Online can rapidly degenerate into a situation similar to the battle described at the beginning of the article...the difference being the English would be armed with Howitzer Cannons and the Scottish would be armed with pocket knives.

In between these two extremes is the realm of well designed, well balanced game play. It is this later game mechanic that serves as a constant challenge to developers - game balance.

Players will cry loud and long for balanced pvp/game play. But what they really want is unbalanced PvP with the scales tipped in their favor. In many cases, despite the best efforts of developers, unbalanced game play is exactly what players get. Developers spend a great deal of time balancing the abilities inherent within character classes. In cases like Everquest 2, with as many character classes that game has, it becomes a task that would challenge the wisdom of Solomon. In cases like World of Warcraft's arena combat, PvP becomes little more than a contest of inventory management as Richard Garriott pointed out recently - whoever has the best gear wins.

Yet this is not always the case, and this is the subject for my next column.

Until then...

See you online,

- Julie Whitefeather

Submitted by Brent on Dec 07, 2007 01:48:03 CST (comments: 0)


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