Thursday, April 16, 2009

WAR is not War

The comic panel above is taken from the excellent Giant in the Playground.

So there have been a number of good posts out there on RvR tweaks and fixes, particularly Breakfast at War's "RvR Remodeling."

Another quite good post this week was Dark Crag Dispatch's "Shouldn't MMO's End?"

My response to both of these excellent posts is succinctly phrased in Rich Burlew's Giant in the Playground tribute to D&D co-creator Dave Arneson (shown above).

To belabor the point: WAR and other MMO's are descendants of pen and paper roleplaying games, particularly Dungeons & Dragons. With that comes a set of limitations and conventions: the glory of the individual hero and the persistent world are two that are relevant here.

So, should MMO's end? Of course not, like D&D and before it Tolkien, and before that the old myths and legends, the world is bigger than the individual hero. But, should the hero's tale have an end? Yeah, that would be nice. Is finishing end game the end of a hero's journey now? Well, if you feel like it is, sure ... until the next expansion naturally.

Will an MMO ever add in an end to a character's development arc, a meaningful conclusion? If they did, they'd have to add in something to do with the character afterward, some kingdom to rule, some other role to play, otherwise they're throwing away subscription dollars.

But what does this all have to do with RvR? Well, it's the odd nature of the world of heroes. Battles in WAR are comprised of essentially nothing but heroes: elite units, if you will. This is not war, right? There's no infantry, there's no rank-and-file. Which isn't to say that RvR is irrevocably broken or ridiculous or anything, but its a unique beast. People in RVR-chat are often complaining because their fellow players don't defend, for example, but it's not really the hero's role to sit around garrisoning a strategic objective. People aren't committed 100% to the cause because they don't have to be. They don't have to take orders. They don't have to do boring stuff.

Interestingly less PvE-oriented RvR, such as Pancakez proposes, and scenarios are even more abstract. More ... lets say realistic, even though that's pretty ridiculous ... fix would be to add more PvE in ... a whole army in defense and in support of the attack, but of a decidedly trivial nature, so that the stature of the hero is reinforced while the narrative is augmented. But certainly this creates problems of its own.

This is the dilemma for Mythic though: pursue the grandeur and pomp of massive sieges and battles at the cost of any narrative sense as well as the individual glory of the participants, or pursue skirmish-type PvP that heightens the role of the individual, makes more sense narratively, but loses the massive scale and glory.

Dave Arneson, as imagined by Rich Burlew, makes the D&D case pretty clearly ...
"We're not doing a big battle," but Mythic's choice will likely fall the other way.

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