Thursday, August 25, 2011

World of Tanks - Lessons To Be Learned

So we talked about how World of Tanks and Eve Online are very different and offer very different types of vehicular PvP. Now we're going talk about what each game can learn from the other.

World of Tanks

To be fair, this is a relatively young game (1 year) and I have not participated in the Clan Wars part of the game yet, so my advice is mostly centered on the Random Battles and platoons.

If you look at the wiki, you can see the developers at Wargaming.Net have a lot planned for the future (see left). That's good because while the variety of maps, tanks types, and tiers gives lots of options for players, I can see the monotony of random battles, even with friends, eventually setting in. Variety of game play is the spice of life in Eve and WoT would be well advised to offer more variety.

Another thing is the interface. If I have a module in Eve and I want to compare its stats to modules of the same type but different tier (i.e. metalevel), all I need to do is click a single button. World of Tanks makes it not real easy to quickly see if I want to upgrade to the next gun. Also, some windows are modal (like the tech tree or market) and if I want to quickly check something in my hanger I have to close the window I have open. Modal windows suck.

Finally, its cool that WoT allows modding. I have a mod installed that gives me more indication of what the tanks are with colour codes for the different classes and the tier number on it so there is no need to memorize every tank of every faction right away. But some mods have been developed that allow player to reskin tanks to make them look different and some skins are done such to highlight specific hit areas on each tank so players can aim more precisely for vulnerable spots on their opponents.

Now I'm in a quandry: my mod is designed to help me remember the tanks I'm facing and thus improves my gameplay (e.g aim for lower tier tank I can hurt instead of higher ones, etc) and the skinning mod is designed to help a player find and remember the vulnerable spots on enemy tanks to improve their gameplay. Why is the former OK if the latter gives me feelings of a line being crossed?

Perhaps Eve has the right of it: prohibit modding to make sure players have as much of an even playing field as possible in terms of the client.

Eve Online

Eve needs arena PvP. Full stop.

It boggles the mind that this simple game play mode has never been added to Eve's feature set. Even worse, it was considered and technically sound a few expansions ago but cut because some people at CCP felt it didn't work for the game. I think that is poppycock but let's play devil's advocate and ask ourselves why arenas would not work in Eve.

1) Safe Space - By their nature, in order for arenas to provide an even playing field for the teams then outside interference must be disallowed. However, in Eve no one can hide completely safely in space, that is to say, that everyone can go everywhere in theory. These two concepts cannot exist together.

2) Lower PvP Population in Low/Null sec - Arenas would provide easy access PvP and thus cause a number of pilots to not bother with frustrating roaming to find targets when willing targets are available. As fewer people choose to roam, fewer targets present themselves for those that do.

3) Gaming the system - Eve players are notorious min-maxers and any system put in place to try and find even matchups would quickly get disassembled and analyzed to find the perfect combination to give an advantage, making casual arena players quickly loose interest as they can't compete with the "hackers"
To which I respond, bullcrap. (I realize this is making a strawman and then beating up on him, but since no official explanation was offered to the general public as to why arenas don't work, I'm going to do this. People can correct me in the comments and I will re-evaluate my position then.)

Docked in stations players are completely safe. Sure they may not be doing anything in a space ship but they can market PvP from there, including in null sec causing great havoc to enemy logistics. The casual PvP population in low and null sec is already low and the players most interested in arena type combat (assuming moderate consequences and fast turnover) are players not interested in long-ass roams and big risks anyways. In other words, the players most likely to participate in arena combat are players that would otherwise be tempted to log out and do something else, like World of Tanks.

Now I could go on to how I would design and implement an arena combat system in Eve much like Seismic Stan did in his latest blog post, and I hope other bloggers take this topic and run with it in a Blog Banter type idea (hint hint), but suffice to say that I think something needs to exist to provide casual quick PvP in Eve to keep players with short time scales in the game, to provide a stepping stone between PvE combat training and PvP combat training, and actual full on PvP combat in low and null sec (and high sec wars).


  1. Apparently CCP was going to release something like Arenas (simulated combat) two or three expansions back (an option on the menus raised the subject to light). Later CCP said that the concept was dropped because they couldn't avoid destruction or bring back things that were destructed. It went to forgot box with treaties and so many dropped features. The feature was supposed to serve testing of ships and modules, not ranked combat.

  2. Anonymous2:40 pm

    As you said, EVE players are notorious for gaming the system. If it were to provide PVP without risk of loss, people would use arena combat in lieu of small fights incessantly, both despite and because of the higher level of excitement and risk available in the 'real' eve's PVP.

    Assuming that weren't the case, I'd still be concerned about the time sink it would provide upon small-gang PVP, maybe even turning the real PVP field completely over to real gangs that are only out to capture sovereignty or something terrible like that.

    Plus, what is an arena but an instance, the terrible scourge so cleverly avoided in EVE's original design? It may seem like a great idea from seeing it implemented in other games, but I believe it's the very lack of this feature that gives EVE a large portion of its excellent nature.

  3. I personally don't think there is a place for this in the game. Too many "rules" of EVE would need to bent or broken to make this work.

    First there is no way to "force" people onto teams that will end up even.

    Second, how do you force people into specific ships, specific fittings, and still balance teams. Would there be specific fit ships suddenly made available to players but could never leave the system they are in, or Concord pops you?

    Third, where is this system? Can people magically "spawn" in the system, fight as long as they want and then instantly "spawn" back to where they might be needed? If people have to travel to an arena, there is no way this is not going to pull people out of other areas of the game.

    And last, whats the cost to the player? If they actually lose the ships, then there will be mass petitions of people insisting so and so threw the match and they deserve their ship back. If the ships result in no real loss, then you might as well be playing on SISI.

    Sure if CCP wants to do something on SISI to make an area where people can be forced into "matched" combat situations, then great, let them. but to try to make a loss-less, matched teams arena inside EVE just does not sound like an idea that can be implemented in a manner consistent with the rest of EVE.

  4. I'm really surprised by the number of players who are resistant to this idea. To simply say that "it has no place in EVE" is fundamentally wrong. EVE is a sandbox with the design goal being to offer as many playstyles as possible. Why exclude this particular playstyle?

    The specifics of how such a system would work are good for discussion, but the sentiment of those who summarily dismiss the concept strike me as the nay-saying types who fear change and are likely to say "it's my ball and I'm going home".

    Looking at Kirith's Devil's Advocate points, I'd counter with the following.

    1. Safe Space

    A system could be in place allowing consensual PvP in high-sec that's a little more elegant than the existing can-flipping nonsense. Rixx Javix's idea of a "Thunderdome" sphere is one interesting idea, essentially a POS shield that is erected with the combatants inside, expiring only after certain conditions are met (with a timer failsafe). There'd be nothing to stop people observing/camping these spheres.

    Another variation could be the Incarna-based simulation I suggested in my post, which would essentially be a limited version of existing combat with a quick-match interface dressed up as a 'virtual trainer' device. There would be no rewards beyond the experience to prevent any direct competition with 'real' combat.

    2. Lower PvP Population in Low/Null Sec

    You said it best; roams are frustrating. If an alternative and better mechanic is available that exposes an existing one as undesirable, then so be it. It seems silly to resist the inclusion of a fun gameplay aspect simply because it undermines a weak one. I don't think I'm alone in saying I'd rather not spend an entire evening on a dull tour of gates and systems for a quick 5 minute bit of action at 2am. However, nothing would be stopping those who enjoy roams from continuing. Who knows, perhaps it would ultimately lead the the wholesale overhaul of low-sec that so many have been clamouring for.

    I suspect sov-holding null-sec organisations would not change their playstyle much anyway. Even if they were distracted fighting quick matches, they'd just get caught with their pants down by some purist reds who don't go in for all that easy combat rubbish.

    3. Gaming the System

    Undoubtedly there'll be players that do this, but this is not a phenomenon exclusive to EVE. Teamkillers, hackers and cheats can be found in any competitive online game. It would be down to the design of the interface to make sure these activities don't impinge on the enjoyment of others.

    All-in-all, despite protests from the hardcore, I would welcome the opportunity to play EVE casually in this manner and would still embrace the deeper aspects of the game.

    They are certainly not mutually exclusive.

  5. SISI exists, if you don't want to loose stuff in a fight, go there and use it.

    There is already mechanics in game to get "safe" fights, can flips, or come into a lowsec system and ask for a 1v1! Most people will actually honor it!

  6. Great blog post. I've been thinking about this a fair bit lately too. I haven't hardly played EVE at all this year apart from the Alliance tournament.

    The few times I've logged on since were extremely frustrating roaming for hours and not finding a single thing to shoot. I'm having loads of fun playing World of Tanks when I want a quick fix of PVP.

    I've just started back at Uni and I simply don't have time for hours and hours of patience needed for EVE. More and more people I know are heading this way too. Next up there will be World of Warplanes just to add to the mix. If CCP wants to retain these "casual" players, they really should think about implementing some kind of arena pvp.

    And just to reply to Anabaric's comment, it would be absolutely nothing like SISI. People should obviously still lose their real ships/ISK, so there should still be risk involved (unlike SISI).

  7. Anonymous7:44 pm

    I gained most of my early PvP experience by setting up 1v1 fights in high-sec or occasionally in our wormhole with corp mates. At first, they were rookie ship fights. Yes, I could fly plenty of other ships, but after having perfected two fits for the velator, it's just so much fun to win. I'd eventually successfully take on two or three other rookie ships at a time.

    I still frequently run 1v1 frigate or cruiser fights when I'm in a highly populated high-sec system (Amarr, Dodixie, Rens, etc.). It's quite educational just being able to try out different types of fits and see what works and what doesn't. Some of my favorites are the kiting imicus with drone HP rigs, shield rifter, dual rep cap injected tristan, and tracking disruptor bantam.

    It's an easy and cheap way to get some good experience in. That said, it's still Eve. Siesmic Stan said, "EVE is a sandbox with the design goal being to offer as many playstyles as possible." I don't completely agree with that. Yes, you can choose your play style, but one of the underpinnings of the game is that any activity can be disrupted. Even in those 1v1 high-sec duels, I'd occasionally see neutral RR, warp to a site in my frigate with my opponent breaking our agreement and coming in a battlecruiser, agression manipulation to get bonus kills, etc. Just the other day, I beat someone in a rifter mirror match. Before the fight, I noticed he had a 35 mil bounty on his head. So I popped his pod and traded my rifter (along with a hefty chunk of sec status) for 35 mil.

    Eve is not fair. That's the appeal. You have to make your own way. And if you can't learn to stand up and fight your way to victory or avoid an unwanted confrontation, you will (and definitely should) fail. This makes success all the more meaningful.

    Although I like the concept of an arena system (as much fun as AT9 was to watch), it conflicts with too much of what makes Eve what it is.