Do we really need different server rulesets?

One of the questions asked at the Q&A session at Games Day Baltimore was about different server types:

Q: “We all know that there are, uh, PvE areas and RvR areas in every zone, but given that war is everywhere are there any plans to have server rulesets where there are no PvE areas and everything is an RvR area?”

Jeff: “Not at launch.”

Stepping carefully through the floods of tears of the guys who have convinced themselves that this means their dark elves will have to engage in winsome country dances with dwarf lasses when they should be murdering each other, this news makes me very happy.

All it means is that there won’t be open free for all PvP in every zone all the time. In particular, people will be able to choose when they PvP. Starting areas won’t be constantly camped. You might even be able to get to your trainer without dying 17 times.

But it’s a game about WAR and that means you want to kill the other side, not quest alongside them.

What does the (current) community have to say about this?

Opinions are mixed. In general, the people who played DaoC or EVE are in favour of the single server type. The people who mostly played WoW are not.

James (Community Coordinator from Mythic), drops into the Vault to note that server type plans aren’t finalised yet.

On WHA, a lot of players are concerned that separate rulesets would fracture the community.

Epicone@WHA also started a thread to discuss Core Ruleset doesn’t equal Carebear

The Appeal of Open PvP

It’s exciting to level in an environment where you have to watch out for other players all the time. But in a game where it’s possible to level purely via PvP, the people who want to do that can already do it. I’ll be amazed if there aren’t quests and PvE type content out in the PvP zones also.

But it is key to the idea of open-PvP that it isn’t optional. It can happen any time, any place, anywhere. There is no safe area. If you know where the other realm’s favourite questing spots are, you can go and attack them there. You can jump on people who aren’t trying to PvP. In practice, on WoW’s PvP servers, this has made some favourite levelling spots into no-go areas.

But if world PvP is readily available and the game is fun and lots of other hardcore PvP players are around, how many people would find it a total showstopper to not have the option of an open-PvP server? It will be a small minority. The vast majority will settle for the single ruleset.

That doesn’t sound great – why should anyone have to ‘settle’ for anything? Because splitting up the community is worse. And in the long run, keeping the community vibrant and non-segregated is the best way for the game to grow.

How about RP servers?

I’ve enjoyed playing on RP servers. I’m not a hardcore RP type, but I like to be able to charge into battle yelling “For the Horde!” from time to time without having my own realm fall around laughing at me. I like being able to walk through a city and hear RPed conversations, it makes the place feel more ‘alive’. I like not having to see character names that are wildly out of place in the setting. Plus RP servers tend to get a more mature playerbase, for whatever reason.

Although this can split the community, the RP community does need to stay together because they need people to roleplay with. But they don’t need a different ruleset.

So it’s fine for these guys to just designate a RP server and let the playerbase decide if they want to play there or not.

A Single Server Ruleset

WoW made the mistake of splitting up the player base pretty hard on this issue. They compounded it when they introduced server transfers by saying that you can never move from a PvP to a PvE server. Players saw this and were nervous of having their choices limited … so a lot of people play on PvP servers who don’t enjoy it but wanted to be with their friends, or didn’t want to get stuck on a server type that might limit their options for raiding guilds.

A single server type keeps the community together. Yes, there will be hardcore PvP guys who will leap enthusiastically on any fight that’s going. Yes, there will be cautious players who don’t seek out PvP so enthusiastically or wait until they have friends around. But they will all be playing on the same team, may even be in the same guilds/armies, and will all be playing the same game.

That means that if a player nervously heads out to the PvP zone and is ganked, they’ll be able to call on the more hardcore PvPers in their own realm to come help them take out the gankers. It’s not like being ganked on a PvE server (or having your quest giver NPCs ganked, more likely) where you already know most players don’t prefer PvP because if they did, they wouldn’t be there. So the PvPers get their fun fight, the original player gets some payback, the gankers also get their fun fight, it’s a win-win scenario.

This isn’t purely theoretical, it’s how PvP and the single server type worked in DaoC. (Yes, they later introduced open PvP, and fully PvE servers but they weren’t particularly successful.) Personally, given the choice I might have picked a PvE server, but I would have missed out on some of the most fun gaming experiences I’ve had in a MMORPG.

Warhammer is all about building server communities out of different types of players. Public quests and huge PvP battles all encourage the hardcore and the less hardcore to play side by side. I hope people don’t feel forced to play on a server type they hate just to be with their friends. I hope Mythic have the guts to stick with the single server ruleset. Anything else would be selling the community short.

Does it matter whether the decision is made before launch?

It matters a lot. Theoretically, of course Mythic could decide later to launch an open-PvP server or three and all the players who really wanted a wild-gankfest would go there. In practice, people like to stay with their friends, guilds, and communities. Communities on the servers will start to form as soon as the servers go live and early access begins. (Players are always at their most sociable when no one knows anyone and few cliques have formed.) So some players would go to the new servers, but the majority wouldn’t make it their new home.

If Mythic do decide to go with a single ruleset, they need to make it very clear that this is the case and there are no plans for alternatives. Otherwise people may wait for the open RvR servers before they buy the game.

So watch out for more news from Mythic on this as we get closer to launch.

Baltimore Games Day snippets

[These are taken from WHA forums and Only-WAR forums]

Review by Beowulfhntr, including some video

  • banner scraps can be turned in
  • 10 char slots per server all the same faction
  • squigs and white lions cant be named yet but they want them to be
  • top renown guild gets a statue in the city
  • dyes available through renown, as well as other – basic – means
  • certain classes revisited, such as Iron Breaker and Engineer
  • High Elves playable
  • more PvP scenarios available
  • closed BETA keys given out, along with codes for exclusive in-game bonus item the Skaven Skin Cloak (they better have these at Games Day UK!)

And now for some quotations:

My question was, “I was wondering how you guys were planning on balancing out loot distribution between dps,healers,tanks for the RvR, PQ’s, and renown situations.” I’m not really sure they understood my question right off the bat but after the Q&A session Josh was standing off to one side and i was able to get my answer. They are making the loot distrubution ‘hate’ or ‘aggro’ based so that everyone has incentive to do their supposive ‘job’ during the PQ/RvR/Renown situation in order to get rewarded.

Accord to the Q&A at Gamesday, the servers will not only have a cap for the total number of players on a server but a cap on the number of people per realm. So for example it that cap is say 3000 for both Order and Destruction, once 3000 Destruction players have made characters on that server then the server will be locked from other Destruction players. And only Order players will be able to make characters on that server. Another topic that was covered was that they will have measures in effect for RvR, that if one side is always getting owned then that side will receive ” help ” was the word that was used.

Garthlik at Warhammer Alliance has put up a post that links to all the reviews there, so it’s worth following that for fuller reviews than we’ll probably put here. We’re saving some of our Games Day energy for our own trip to the UK one in September.

A full video of the Baltimore Q&A can be found on WarhammerOnline.tv.

Also, head over Waaagh, for a list of 50 tidbits from Games Day Baltimore. It’s a much more comprehensive listing than I’ve managed here.