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a well oiled machine

February 25, 2009

It’s an old analogy for a cohesive team, but it definitely works. When someone says a group works like a well oiled machine what they’re referring to is smoothness. The team doesn’t get in its own way and does well with transitions. It takes some familiarity with your team as well as a lot of personal skill to get to a point where everything feels smooth. I’ve made quite a few posts on my affection for small scale PVP, particularly scenarios… and this is going to add to that list.

I really enjoy the well oiled machine. I was a tank lead for four different WoW raiding guilds and part of that was running what I’d call PUGGs. Two G’s because I’m hip… actually they were guild groups, but still just picked up on the fly. As I mentioned in this post, I have a pretty hardcore approach to being a tank. So whenever I was fully in control of a group, rather than having a seperate raid-lead, I pretty much forced the group to run at my pace. If the healer has mana I don’t care if your dog is chewing on your couch, we’re moving on. I didn’t run five mans that I needed nothing from to waste an hour of my life, so we’d push through in a half hour while listening to hardstyle techno.

The same is true of PVP. I don’t like PUG scenarios any more than the next guy. I like to run with as few people I don’t know, or trust as possible. I think what I hate most in life is losing. I don’t mind if the other team wins, though. If they’re better geared, or better organized, there really isn’t much shame in seeing them beat you. The shame is losing when you know you could have won, there is nothing to learn from it, you screwed up and lost. Some of my best experiences in PVP in many games have been extremely close games where both teams are evenly matched. If they win it can be heartbreaking, if you win it’s the most exciting thing in the world. If someone on your team does something stupid and literally throws it away? That’s what being a loser is. I think that’s why it’s so amazing to watch the Special Olympics, the audience and the participants all know that there are no losers if everyone gives it their all.

Now I want you to imagine something else. Imagine that this year at the Super Bowl, instead of two teams of eleven, we were treated to a game featuring forty-four players on each side. Would it be fun to watch? Would it be fun to play? That’s how I feel about open RVR. What’s a keep siege? It’s a wall of tanks, with a bunch of AOE behind it guarding some PVE mobs. What’s large scale open RVR? It’s a zergfest.

The thing about RVR as opposed to PVP is the distancing from player skill. The thing is six to twelve people can take a fort without any issues. No one has to die, it can go very smoothly. Now let’s take forty people with us, that means thirty-four of them can suck and die and the fort will still get taken. It isn’t even that this is possible, but that it occurs on a daily basis. People seem to forget that much smaller groups can take the same objective and then celebrate their ineptitude when half the group is killed and they ‘barely’ manage to capture it. The fact is the surviving group most likely could have taken it without the assistance of the people lying on their backs.

Now this isn’t entirely fair, right? There are also run ins with other huge zergs, so obviously the most skilled group wins right? The problem is these battles are outside the scope of the games engine. It might be a bold statement, but think about this for a moment. If the incoming damage on a target exceeds their maximum health, then there is no level of healing which can save the target from death. This only takes about four players to do on non-tanks and tanks without shields. There is no counter strategy to this. The target is either resurrected, or stays dead. Either way that focus fire will be killing targets at a rate of at least one every five seconds.

All right, so you retaliate by focus firing them back. You have six people together, just AOE them, right? The combined effort of another six people dropping AOE on that focus fire group is, just as before, an unhealable situation. Engineers are notorious for this as a group of them can splash an entire opposing group with enough damage that any amount of focus on squishier targets results in death. What you’re running into here is a point where strategy turns into nothing but a mantra of ‘nuke, nuke, nuke.’ In this case it’s actually a very telling term, there is no way to counter a nuclear weapon except to refuse to combat it entirely.

When scale is increased to the size open RVR can get to, with literally hundreds of people fighting, the only viable strategies are troop strategies. Movement of an individual is entirely inconsequential as the only way to assure your safety is to remove yourself from the battle. Again, this is because there is no defense against the level of focus fire produced by large scale RVR, except to refuse to fight. In these style of battles, here are the most dominant classes in the game (listed alphabetically): Bright Wizard, Engineer, Magus, Shadow Warrior, Sorceress, and Squig Herder. All the ranged DPS classes. Why? Well, they can avoid being hit for longer. That’s the only reason. One of those classes has an even larger advantage due to being able to AOE from that distance, while no other class can, but I’ve mentioned them enough already.

Most notably, none of these classes d0 well in 1v1 and most aren’t entirely great in 6v6. They all do quite well in 12v12, however. Scenarios are large enough scale to allow ranged to shine, while small enough to not be considered RVR. We’re once again back to PVP, which is a much more personal idea. Scenarios are great because they can be varied. Yes, there are deathmatches, but the zergging is kept much more in line by the size restriction. This allows organized teams to establish order in these battles, something not possible in oRVR. In other game types groups of two to six can have a very large impact on a game. You don’t actually need a group of twelve guildies to shine.

Does anyone recall how much impact a good 5v5 arena team could have on a game of Arathi Basin? The WAR equivalent to that is only four people in a scenario. The reason Arathi was my favorite was that you didn’t even need five people. Two or three people, only a fifth of the team, could change the entire outcome of a game. The same really is true of WAR. Omelettez and I don’t pair our characters the way we do because it would be easier to PVE with them. We’d be running with two DPS if we wanted to do that. WAR’s normal PVE is not remotely hard enough to warrant our current Healer + Tank pairings. We pair the way we do because of PVP. No, definitely not because of RVR. We’d be running with two ranged in that case so that we could camp forts and pick off people for free renown.

I really don’t care for RVR. I’d rather play an RTS and have some control over the game. That’s what skill in games is about to me is control. How well do you control your character? How well do you control your team? I mentioned Eddie Gordo the other day in reference to the way a lot of Choppa and Slayers were being played on PTS. For those who don’t know, Eddie Gordo is notorious for having a lot of random moves leading to each other. When played well he’s actually an interesting character, but because people who don’t understand the Tekken games usually begin their play by literally mashing buttons, producing what was basically an uncontrolled opponent. I preferred Kazuya, mixing wave dashes and pokes to lead into EWGF combos. It’s similar to why I liked Ken so much in Street Fighter 3. His Kara throws still make me smile.

The thing about this all is that the broader the picture is the more convoluted balancing becomes. Raise your hand if you think MVC2 is in any way balanced. Before you do, let me get my AU-1 so I can snipe you six times per second. I get pretty exhausted sometimes thinking about the state of WAR balancing. I’m really glad that it feels like Mythic is finally moving towards class balance. Hopefully they don’t do what WoW did and try to balance purely 1v1, which is what caused a lot of the issues with TBC and is now extending into WOTLK. Really, the game should be balanced around 6v6, or 12v12. Preferably 6v6 as this will allow the game to mature through scenarios and possibly someday have a form of pure PVP, as arenas did for WoW.

That’s right, I want arenas. I can’t see a way for open RVR to ever be an attractive form of PVP. It would require a complete overhaul of the system. Removal of keep lords. Removal of NPC guardians at objectives. Removal of renown/XP gains for capping undefended objectives. Removal of separation between factions in zones. Removal of high tier players from lower tiers on oRVR realms. That’s right dude on your mount in T1 RVR, I’m talking to you. You too miss full sentinel gear picking on rank 20s in T3. Really, none of that is what I love about PVP. That’s this convoluted idea of RVR.

You can complain about PUG scenarios all day long and how unorganized they are, but what about those huge roving Warbands? How organized are those really? When you see fifteen people killed by something that only takes six people to kill, don’t you ever wonder how many players are merely hiding in a zerg to make up for their skill level? It’s the same people who couldn’t stay above 1500 in WoW. It’s the same people who think Shoto’s are cheesy and just spam fireballs. It’s the same people who play games on the lowest difficulty just to see the ending.

Have you ever run a scenario at low level in crap gear and somehow came out top damage? I have. Omelettez has. I’m sure we’re not the only ones wishing a lot of people would go back to oRVR and stop cluttering the real PVP.

Well, anyway, I think I’m done venting. Thanks for reading this far… or skimming this far. 🙂


8 Comments leave one →
  1. February 26, 2009 7:59 am

    Wow I suddenly feel guilty for some reason. You would make a good teacher lecturing people (not kids, people) (and I mean that in the good way of speaking). I confess I have used to put the game slider to easy, but that’s changing now as I grow and learn and want to experience some more on whatever.

    I dislike doing keep/fortress sieges for the reasons you mention. When everyone is on the stairs (talking of about 17 people or so) when you look at it, seeing there is no progress whatsoever, it just wants to make me quit and roll to one of my other characters. (I have many characters for this reason, to keep my cool/not getting frutrated)

    The way people work in Scenario’s with eachother is sometimes to cry about yes, there are good times aswell. I am working with two of my friends to get to the same rank and to do Scenarios and work together in those. I own a Runepriest a Swordmaster and a Bright Wizard all for their reasons, healing, meleeDPS/tanking and the Ranged DPS. I prefer to go up close and fight there, right in the faces of destruction.

    I never got bored in playing those three and it gets me to behave different when I play my swordmaster. I usually guard the healer, going in forward with my fancy 2-H while keeping that healer as my defensive target all the time to keep an eye out for him. When I play on my Runepriest this is what I want to see. But rarely get to.. QQ

    This is more a talk on tunnel vision I suppose. I tried to get more into your post but didn’t work out very well 😛 just my random thoughts that popped up when I read your message.

  2. brikkhowz permalink
    February 26, 2009 1:32 pm

    good post, well spoken 🙂 I agree

  3. Silent Observer permalink
    February 27, 2009 12:09 am

    This has to be in the top five of my favorite posts I have read in the past couple of months. I’m normally just a lurker on the forums, hiding behind bushes watching arguments develop and posters trading rebuttals. As such, I’ll normally only venture out of my safe hiding place when I actually have something of significance to contribute to the discussion or when I strongly agree with the sentiments of a fellow poster. In this case I believe you’ve hit the nail right on the head.

    I am also a very strong believe in the potential of scenarios in this game, oRVR for me had lost its luster well before my first toon had reached rank21. Much akin to your thoughts I found oRVR boiled down to nothing more than a game of my zerg is bigger than yours (atleast for # > 15). No skill involved and individual effort meant quite little. Not exactly an environment that rewards skill. I like scenarios mainly because even with a small group (2-4ppl) you can completely reverse the momentum of a game (I suppose this applies even to solo effort in some cases, but that is much harder to achieve). It reminds me a lot of twinking in WoW which was the only thing that kept my sub going post BC. My bracket of choice was 39. Twinking was fun to me not because I could easily win fights against non-twinked players but because there were some really skilled alliance twinks to fight against. For the most part each class had similar qualities of gear and items at their disposal to compliment their build and play style. In this way I felt that the playing field was leveled (even more so than at lvl cap). In these BGs winning or loosing came down to who could react faster, think more quickly and (possibly) most importantly anticipate the others actions. I haven’t really experienced ‘pure’ PvP like that since the days of AC where skill>spec>gear. I hold onto hope for WAR, I really think this game could become great if they keep focusing on balancing issues at the 6v6 or 12v12 scale like you suggested. I suppose only time will tell…

    Well that became long winded rather quickly, thanks for the entertaining post and the chance to reminisce about truly fun MMO times, until a certain stat ruined everything *coughresiliencecough*.

  4. shadowwar permalink
    February 27, 2009 11:38 am

    Wow, so much I disagree with. Going to mark this so I can do a spotlight for WCPI post of my own, as a response would be WAY too long for a comment 😉 Good read though.


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