Thursday, August 14, 2008

The PvP Matrix

Syncaine and Tobold have both had discussions lately about what constitutes “good” PvP and a couple of ideas keep popping up. Balance and Consensual PvP. The context of most arguments about what makes PvP fun (or not fun) revolve around either the idea that is imbalanced or it’s simply not consensual.

While most people seem to argue for or against one particular area, it occurred to me that balance and consensual PvP are not entirely mutually exclusive ideas. To illustrate this point, I created the following diagram based on the Ansoff Matrix.

In this diagram, I have placed a scale for Consensual PvP from complete Free-For-All to 100% Opt-In PvP. On the Y axis, I have created a scale for Balanced PvP that at one end represents imbalanced Powerful Rewards and the other end represents perfect Competitive balanced PvP.

Each of the quadrants is an area where two of the four PvP types intersect. For example, WoW Arena PvP can be found in the “Powerful Rewards” and “Opt-In PvP” quadrant since it is both a 100% consensual activity and very imbalanced from a gear reward perspective. Unreal Tournament, by contrast, is a FPS game that would fit as both consensual and competitively balanced.

You’ll notice that almost all MMORPGs will be skewed towards the “Powerful Rewards” side of the spectrum due to the gear progression and character development inherent in RPGs. I personally am of the mind that the more we can do in MMORPGs to move towards competitive balance, the more people will enjoy PvP overall. We may never be able to move entirely to the Competitive spectrum, but things like breakable gear would certainly help the problem.

The reason a diagram like this is important is to keep the discussion in context. What is it that you personally do and don’t like about PvP? For me, I enjoy competitive balance and FFA games. Others may enjoy a more WoW Arena style that is not exactly balanced, but is consensual, competitive and offers great gear rewards.

The problem is that two people often argue two very different things. They get upset about an FFA world because the significant imbalance through Powerful Rewards makes it an unfair fight. The issue is only partly the fault of the FFA design, but the larger issue is actually the perceived imbalance. Likewise, players like me want a challenge – so the issue with WoW PvP for me is not that I can get ganked, but that it’s not competitive unless I’m at the same level and gear as my opponent. Others simply want PvP only on an Opt-In basis and would rather not be interfered with at all unless it’s of their own choosing.

The point here is not that one quadrant is better than another quadrant, but that there ARE different quadrants and different players enjoy being in different sections. Two people might both enjoy PvP but actually enjoy wildly different parts of it.

**If you like the diagram, feel free to steal it. Please just credit where you got it. Thanks! :)

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