GnM is an online blog that chronicles my experiences through whatever it is that is catching my attention at the moment. Expect shifts between PC gaming news and commentary, to absolute nerding out about the new MG Exia Gundam kit. My brain is full of random esoteric crap, and I'll be spewing it out here. Thanks for hanging in there with me.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

No Arenas, Please.

A few days ago I was reading the dev chat transcript over at Wizards and Wenches and something just jumped out at me. One of the questions was regarding implementing Arenas into WAR, to which one of the devs replied “definitely possible”. More recently, Snafzg over at The Greenskin gives a rundown into what features he would like to see in a Warhammer Arena system. Yesterday, this article over at states that Arena participation is down a whopping 65% from last season! I consider myself strongly anti-arena, not because I don’t like to compete, but because there is no real way to ensure balanced competition. Below, I’ll go into my reasons for my stance.

• No such thing as an even playing field. The very nature of an MMO means that it is an constant state of evolution and flux. With real class balance being more of a moving target than an attainable goal, an MMO can not sustain truly “fair” competition. Every patch changes the dynamic of the game, classes rise and fall in effectiveness, etc.

• RvR in Warhammer is based around large-scale pitched battles. Of course, there is also quite a bit of smaller group pvp, but the niche that WAR ascribes to is massive pvp. Thus, the classes are usually balanced around a group role, taking in to account that they will be part of a larger force. You can’t have large-scale pvp as a balance goal, then rebalance around small-scale arenas. Blizzard made this mistake with Arenas, and the repercussions are still being felt. If massive battles are the goal, don’t dilute the vision by trying to be all things to all people.

• Arenas breed the “e-sport” mentality. While e-sports certainly have their place, most games that support competition at the highest levels of play, usually follow a certain design. I’ll go into this more later, but one must remember that there is a reason the “pro” gamers only play certain types of games, namely FPS’s, RTS’s and 1-on-1fighting games. Also from a community standpoint arenas are more divisive than they are uniting. With all the posturing and e-peen comparisons already going on the community, can you imagine how much worse it’s gonna get when you get inter-faction pvp? Hardly conducive to realm pride. I’m against cross-server scenarios for this reason as well.

• WAR just doesn’t need another “thing to do” right now. While WAR is in great shape overall, it has its fair share of issues. Tier 4 still needs work, the players are clamoring for AoE to be toned down, ALL careers need their fair share of nerfs, buffs and tweaks. End game City sieges underwhelm many players, more polish needed in late/endgame etc.etc. Many players feel Mythic needs to work on current problems, before potentially introducing a host of new ones with an Arena system. Lets get the game to a much more stable point, before rocking the boat again.

Traditionally competitive games are based on the premise that the game rules are laid out, and static. Characters, weapons, maps etc, can all have different characteristics, but within the game, these characteristics never change. There can be a multitude of variables within a game, but these variables will be consistent. For example, let’s look at Ryu from Street Fighter. He has a horizontal projectile, a leaping anti-air punch, and a spinning kick that travels across the screen. Each move has some variation, for example the projectile can be thrown at different speeds, but it never leaves the preset height at which it travels.

And so the challenge is to utilize these moves with maximum effectiveness whilst minimizing their risks. Other characters have their own moves, with their own attributes. In Counterstrike, the guns all have different rates of fire, stopping power, etc. But every player has an equal chance to earn and use the different guns. In an MMO, nearly the entire game is based on modifying how the rules apply to your character. This is done by altering your stats via gear, leveling up, learning new abilities, etc. And so, short of modifying how gear and abilities work in the arena, a true balanced and fair playing ground is not possible.  Lastly, reread this article if you have to. Read the comments. That’s a pretty good argument right there.

Of course, this all assumes that WAR Arenas will follow the WoW example. For all we know, it might be a casual thing where people can just try out new specs and tactics against different opponents. This type of arena I wouldn’t mind at all, but I think WAR needs more issues addressed before we add something else to the mix.

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