What Does This Post Have To Do With Shadowbane?

Sadly, quite a bit.


77 Responses to What Does This Post Have To Do With Shadowbane?

  1. Belsameth says:

    Never played it but it’s always sad to see an old MMO die.

  2. Facebook User says:

    Damn. I’m sad now. Greatest PvP experience I’ve ever had.

  3. Boanerges says:

    Remember, Play to Crush!

    Don’t worry, Blizzard didn’t forget…

  4. Rodalpho says:

    sb.exe has encountered a problem and needs to close

  5. D-0ne says:

    Remember, Play to Crush!

  6. Arrakiv says:

    Surprised it took that long.

    (Not that I’m filled with joy about it, mind you.)

  7. Vetarnias says:

    Is it fair to say that Shadowbane ganked itself out of existence? (Still, six years isn’t bad at all, come to think of it.)

    (And what’s the new Broken Toys running gag now? Oh yeah, Darkfall.)

  8. Jeff says:

    I’m sad to see any MMO close down.

    I remember playing this game, it was a game that reminded a little too much in the wrong ways of Ultima Online. But there was still some fun to be had.

    Sadly my most enduring memory of Shadowbane is walking around in the wilderness without seeing anything for a good half hour. No players, no mobs, no wandering squirrel or deer.

  9. naum says:

    remember, play to crush!

  10. Raad says:


  11. Freakazoid says:

    Can’t say I’ll miss the game.

    Can say I’ll miss the old memes.

  12. Merkwurdigliebe says:

    “…the Shadowbane servers will be powered down once and for all.”

    Can I have their stuff?

  13. Fraeg says:

    Hmmmm… some of the most memorable PvP I have ever had was in SB beta, and early release.

    Sad to see it go.

  14. Sentack says:

    Pretty sad. I wonder if they might opt to go open source with the game, or because it’s could be sold off to some company, it has to stay locked up just in case an investor might want revive it.

    Oh well, it was a neat game, too bad it just didn’t fly that well.

  15. Pentagony says:

    It looks like playin’ to bake bread has won out after all.

  16. hitnrun says:

    I never really got into the actual game, but as a semi-interested member of the game’s forum jockey phalanx a decade ago, this is still a momentous closure for me.

    Sad to see it go, even if it was basically stillborn from its troubled development.

  17. Ritchian says:

    Shadowbane is finally closing down. Its been coming for a while. But it is still a shame.

    It should probably also be noted somewhere Ultima Online has somehow managed to outlive yet another MMO.

  18. Mahkno says:

    UO outlives Shadowbane…

  19. Tethyss says:

    I met these folks about 3 GDC’s ago. It just confirmed what I suspected: they were passionate and dedicated, but didn’t really understand PvP and the average player.

  20. Mike Darga says:

    RIP Shadowbane.

    Anybody know how the SB diehards feel about the current game lineup? I can’t decide if Darkfall or Warhammer seems more likely to receive an influx of players.


  21. JuJutsu says:

    Mike Darga :RIP Shadowbane.
    Anybody know how the SB diehards feel about the current game lineup? I can’t decide if Darkfall or Warhammer seems more likely to receive an influx of players.

    Darkfall receiving an influx of players would require the game to be available for sale more than 3 minutes per day.

  22. VPellen says:

    Steve walks warily down the street
    With the brim pulled way down low
    Ain’t no sound but the sound of his feet
    Machine guns ready to go
    Are you ready, Are you ready for this
    Are you hanging on the edge of your seat
    Out of the doorway the bullets rip
    To the sound of the beat

  23. geldonyetich says:

    I wasn’t exactly sure how Shadowbane’s “free to play with no micropayments” model was going to do anything but inevitably close.

    Unless I’m mistaken about their payment model, the only thing Ubisoft was getting out of it was a bit of publicity for hosting the game, and that wouldn’t last forever.

    Apparently Ubisoft couldn’t even wait until May 1st to shut down the official website.

  24. Wanderer says:

    Gonna miss it….

    I still have (somewhere) the screenshots I took on my last walk around the world before I quit (before the first server merge). It was heartrending … miles of empty land, with the occasional smoking ruin of an abandoned guild town.

    It’s been a long time, but there are things I will always miss about Shadowbane. The music. Flying. Rune runs. Stalking enemy powerleveling groups. Centaurs. A lot of fun with good friends. Character generation and skills. Runes, period. Real PvP. Being able to ninja loot the good stuff from other people’s kills and leave old shoes in its place. Newbie Island, which had the best (and in my time, the only) content in the game. My guild’s Tree sprouting. Some of the art. Feeling like what you did mattered.

    I’m not going to miss the exploits, bad design, lag, server crashes, incredibly bad customer service, sb.exe errors, hours of PvE to pay the repairs from minutes of PvP, getting moved to 0,0,0 when you flew over a wall, falling through terrain, more sb.exe errors, getting stuck, idiotic management decisions, zergballs, and most of all, Pay to Crash.

  25. Amp says:

    It’s really too bad only the shitty vanilla coated MMOG’s make money.
    Enjoy your wow clones.

  26. Zuzax says:

    Sometimes the play crushes back…

  27. Raad says:

    I and millions of others are.

  28. Amaranthar says:

    Amp :
    It’s really too bad only the shitty vanilla coated MMOG’s make money.
    Enjoy your wow clones.

    It wouldn’t have to be that way if only the PvP+loot oriented offerings had some reasonable means to protect against born-to-be-ganked.

  29. Wanderer says:

    Shadowbane was doomed to fail, and not because of its non-vanillaness. Its fate was sealed before launch by its own developers, and the nails were hammered into its coffin by the live team.

    How easily we forget, in our nostalgia, waiting for hours to get into the game because the login servers had the kind of programming error college students make in Network Programming 101. I quit several months after launch, and the problem with people being randomly teleported to 0,0,0 (the bottom of the ocean) where you drowned and lost all your stuff had not been addressed. How hard would it have been to put something there that automatically teleported anyone who arrived there straight to Khar? There was the problem with Trees de-ranking, and the one with buildings vanishing, that they couldn’t fix because they had never written the logging and admin tools to even find out what the problem was. Their was their initial stubborn insistence (finally overcome just before I quit) that they were never going to offer any type of respec; if they changed the way things worked, you could just level up a new character, and of course the first people who leveled up, who had to figure out everything from scratch, deserved to be punished for such audacity with permanently gimped characters (why they thought people who came for hardcore PvP would be eager to spend a couple of weeks grinding a new toon to R6 every time they got nerfed eludes me). We forget the Rolling 30’s finding a godmode switch in the #$@%# client and wreaking havoc with it, and the admins being unable to spot the problem, let alone fix it. We forget their approach to restoring normality — instead of rolling back the server 3 days, just rolling back any toon the player asked for it, so of course everyone gave their stuff to an alt or a friend and got the rollback, for a fine company-sponsored dupe. We forget the incredible cluelessness of a company that completely failed to comprehend that any game needs a supply of new players to replace those lost to attrition and churn… and Shadowbane’s new players never made it to level 21 past the gauntlet of newbie-gankers outside Khar (though there was some amusement to be had in ganking and robbing the newbie-gankers). How long did it take the live team to fix that delightful problem where, if a pet bit a guild city guard, all of the guards in that city promptly proceeded to attack each other in an orgy of slaughter that ended only when every single guard was dead? (usually requiring the city’s owners to be frantically running around killing them as fast as they spawned) There was the scandal about how siege engines were released, and the business of the GM’s giving one faction in a formerly balanced and fun civil war access to an indestructible demon city. Everything the live team touched turned to sludge. Hell, how many times did they change /stuck, never really succeeding in making it useless for exploiting until long after they made it useless for getting unstuck? And this in a game where walking up the stairs in one of the inns on Newbie Island was almost guaranteed to get you extremely stuck, with your body downstairs and your head upstairs. Or the crafting NPCs … no, we don’t play to bake bread, and we also don’t play to spend an hour junking out the stuff people sell to our NPCs. A “junk all” button was just not hardcore enough, I guess. There was their decision to set the cost of repairs exorbitantly high. If you PvP, you are naturally going to get hit, and sometimes going to die, and there was at least a 4:1 ration of PvE:PvP time. That is, of course, leaving out the whole idea of paying for city maintenance. We wanted to Play to Crush, not Pay to Grind. We could have done that in EQ, and baked bread besides.

    I said this almost six years ago, on waterthread I think: The real problem with Shadowbane isn’t that it was doomed to fail (and it failed years ago; its body just took a while to realize it was dead). The real problem is that the industry bean-counters were going to (and did) blame its failure on its PvP-centered nature, not on the real reason: a company that thought they could substitute attitude and passion for basic professional competence, and thought that if they just kept telling the players how l33t they were, those players would overlook any and every catastrophic failing of design, implementation, and live management.

    In short, they thought PvPers were stupid, and they were very, very wrong. Shadowbane would have failed if it had been the softest and carebear-est PvE. But now “everybody knows” that PvP games don’t sell … thanks to Wolfpack. Thanks to Shadowbane. Thanks for nothing.

  30. Wanderer says:


  31. Mark Asher says:

    Shadowbane was a great MMO experience. And for those who think it was the lack of shiny graphics and a more stable engine that doomed it, I suspect it was really just the nature of hardcore PvP. The people who get ganked more often than they gank eventually quit.

  32. wufiavelli says:

    I remember one of the devs said long a go one small thing that might of saved the game would be a annual server reset. (not to mention all the other problems)

  33. geldonyetich says:

    Mark Asher :
    Shadowbane was a great MMO experience. And for those who think it was the lack of shiny graphics and a more stable engine that doomed it, I suspect it was really just the nature of hardcore PvP. The people who get ganked more often than they gank eventually quit.

    The hardcore PvP aspect does alienate its players. However, even moreso than the hardcore PvP aspect, I suspect the main reason Shadowbane didn’t survive was that their server architexture never could successfully support what they wanted to deliver – at least near release, when people were paying attention.

    PvP conflicts which escalated to something even remotely epic invariably brought down the whole server. Rollbacks happened constantly, destroying a sense of “accountability” that was so vital to Shadowbane’s design. This is a problem they never got around to solving in time by the time it fell off of most players’ radar (certainly mine). Maybe ever.

    They did have some good game mechanics, such excellent character customization (runes being a major part of that) and well-refined play mechanics. However, all this is worthless if the game couldn’t be made stable.

    Shadowbane will always have a special place in my heart as the game that used my demo file of the end-of-beta event to generate their release-day screenshots. 😉

  34. Wanderer says:

    Mark Asher :The people who get ganked more often than they gank eventually quit.

    Perhaps that’s a fundamental problem with PvP games, then. If it’s a normal distribution, you’ll have a bell curve with most people near the middle gankage-wise, trailing out to the unkillable gankers on one end and the ones who couldn’t gank an afk newbie on the other. If you gradually lose the ones out on the gankee end, the center of the curve will shift ganker-ward as the people who have been semi-competent gankers of the poor PvPers will become gankees of the good ones. Eventually, as attrition nibbles off more and more from the gankee end of the curve over time, you’ll wind up with one guy left, and he’ll quit because he’s bored.

    Looking at some other forms of PvP, that doesn’t seem to happen. Consider, say, chess. Yeah, it’s PvP, even though the players aren’t making pictures of centaurs and irekei fall over. International-level chess is positively cutthroat. There are some people who win nearly all the time (and tend to wind up world champions), and some people who lose nearly all the time, and a whole bunch of people in the middle who win some, lose some — but we’re not running out of chess players. There’s a comfortable spot for every chess player. Some play with family and friends. Some play the library or the coffeeshop on the open tables in the park. Some play at their local chess club. Some compete regionally, some nationally, some internationally. In short, there’s a group where everyone can be around the middle of a curve which, I suspect, is more like an hemisphere than a bell. People who win all the time seek more challenging opponents; people who lose all the time find someone closer to their own ability.

    With typical MMO PvP, there’s no real equivalent to that. Everyone is in a tournament where they’re likely to face Viswanathan Anand. At least within the same game, there is really no way to find your own niche, where you’re competing against people of your own skill level. (I’m not including artificial environments like WoW’s arenas here; I’m talking about world PvP, Shadowbane style) Plus, there’s something in the gamer mentality that seems to seek domination rather than challenge. Someone like Viswanathan Anand would not want to play an unranked player like me at chess; I’d be about as much of a challenge as a fluffy kitten on the other side of the board, and not as cute. But his PvP equivalent would be more than happy to gank me and dance on my corpse, even though I’m only somewhat more of a challenge in PvP than I am in chess. For the chess player, it’s about finding someone as good or better than he is and outdoing them; for the run-of-the-mill PvPer, it’s about finding someone worse than he is and dominating them. The focus is on the win, not on whether or not it was fun to achieve it.

    Personally, I’m weird. I’d rather lose a good, exciting fight that I had just a hair’s chance of winning than I would beat any number of poor slobs who never had a chance against me. If I want something easy, I’ll go slap down Hogger with a fish. But, I’ve learned, my mindset isn’t as common as I wish it was.

    So how do we structure a PvP game that doesn’t result in losing all the people who get ganked more than they gank? If I knew that, I’d be running the best MMO in the world, not leaving anonymous comments on Lum’s blog! From what I’ve read, EVE may come the closest anyone has, tying increasing rewards to increasingly dangerous zones. Maybe something like that could be expanded and generalized to other types of MMO’s.

    I do know that as long as PvP games (all the way back to early UO) depend on a large supply of victims for a small number of killers to prey on, and there is no corresponding reward for those victims to continue being prey, they’re going to gradually bleed to death. If, as in Shadowbane, they make it nearly impossible for replacements for those players to join the game, they’re going to bleed to death faster. If the game also suffers from catastrophic design, implementation, and management problems, there is nothing in the gaming world that can save it.

    Shadowbane promised us “Play to Crush”. We got “Pay to Crash” and “Pay to Grind” and felt like we’d been the victims of bait and switch. We didn’t play Shadowbane to grind levels over and over again just to have a playable character in a slightly different spec. We didn’t play Shadowbane to farm gold to keep our cities standing and our gear from falling apart. We didn’t play Shadowbane to spend hours maintaining our NPC merchants. And we certainly didn’t play Shadowbane to spend an hour or more traveling to a battle (who decided not to put in a /follow command?) only to have the server crash in flames just when things started getting interesting, to spend another hour fighting with the login servers, to and come back to find the enemy city had been completely rolled back and the only evidence that a battle had happened at all was our repair bills, and the need to kill undead for hours more.

    I can rant about this for hours. The bottom line is that PvP didn’t kill Shadowbane; it was born with fatal birth defects. On May 1, they’ll take it off life support. But it was doomed to die before it ever went live.

  35. Raad says:

    Axe meet grind, grind axe.

  36. Mandrik says:

    I can’t think of Shadowbane without thinking of LtM. Then I immediately think of the release of WWIIOL. Then I taxi to victory. *sigh*.

  37. hitnrun says:

    I obviously had less… invested in Shadowbane than you, because I didn’t even renew my trial account, but I loosely agree with your take. I followed the game’s development religiously for a couple years but it became obvious at release that we’d been had. All the tangential matters mocked by Lummies (ugly graphics, constant delays, complete lack of gameplay progress reports) but considered trivial by Shadowbane fans were, in hindsight, symptoms of Wolfpack “Studios” being a few visionaries and that great writer they picked up off the street presiding over an unmotivated, incompetent, or unfunded dev team.

  38. geldonyetich says:

    hitnrun :
    @Wanderer[… ]but considered trivial by Shadowbane fans were, in hindsight, symptoms of Wolfpack “Studios” being a few visionaries and that great writer they picked up off the street presiding over an unmotivated, incompetent, or unfunded dev team.

    Not so unmotivated as to not take the game back to the drawing board a few times. Not so incompetent or unfunded as to fail to launch the game. Granted, the developers came in and out in waves on this particular project. How many were there that were there in the beginning?

    Me, I chalk it up to a failed experiment. One whose very results remain inconclusive as (like most big-budget games) the conclusion was rushed out the door.

  39. geldonyetich says:

    Interesting tidbit, a little research into that question of what happened to the original minds behind Shadowbane reveals at the founders of Wolfpack Studios (Josef Hall, Todd Coleman) went on to create King’s Isle Entertainment. They’re behind Wizard 101. They went from Play2Crush to Play2TheTweenMarket. I wonder how much of a jump that was.

  40. Owain says:

    I think the game play on ShadowBane was excellent with respect to PvP, and city building. City sieges were too easy, however, which was a problem, but there was still good game play to be had. ShadowBane’s biggest drawbacks were the terrible bugs that never seem to be fixed, a horrible user interface, and killer lag.

    I finally was able to get a copy of DarkFall, and so far I find the game to be very good at the lowbie stage. I like the skill based design, and at least so far, gear doesn’t seem to be quite so dominant a factor in PvP as it is in other games. Gear is easy to get, wears out, and (relatively) easy to replace. I have run into a few jerks, ninja looting is prevalent, but ganking isn’t as much of a problem as I thought it would be, at least in the lowbie areas.

    Feedback from guild members who have been in the game longer and are in the midgame relate that Darkfall city combat has some of the best features of Shadowbane sieges, without the severe problems that plagued SB.

    Accessibility to buying the game in the first place is DarkFalls biggest problem at this point, but otherwise, the game play seems to be very solid. I suspect that the devs are using this period of time for extended development and testing before releasing the game to a wider audience. This might not be a bad way to go for the long term viability of the game. We’ve seen Alpha releases, and Beta tests are common. Darkfall may be the first game to use a Charlie test phase.

    If you can get a copy, Darkfall is turning out to be a very good game. As always, it’s not for everyone, but so far, I think it’s a far better game than any of the recent MMO offerings (Vanguard, Age of Conan, or Warhammer).

    For players who favor an open ended sandbox game, with free for all PvP, it’s the ONLY game in town.

  41. Mike Darga :RIP Shadowbane.
    Anybody know how the SB diehards feel about the current game lineup? I can’t decide if Darkfall or Warhammer seems more likely to receive an influx of players.

    Former SB diehard here. Warhammer is a themepark game, and is closer to WoW than SB.

    Darkfall, with its FFA PvP, city ownership, siege combat, etc is the new SB. Immediately after the SB announcement our guild, Evil Bastages, started getting more traffic in our forums from former SB players from various sub-guilds of our EB nation that dominated Scorn, Vengeance, etc.

    I’d say, barring the difficulty of obtaining a copy of the game, the DF release has been much better than Shadowbane’s. They had a few issues where certain methods of raising certain skills that should have been squelched in Beta were left in for a few weeks on the live EU-1 server. Short term, this gives the players who got accounts in the first two weeks an advantage, but long term things will even out. The game is still in the early stages, high level magic users are still rare and we are only now starting to see naval combat. With a lot of these small issues fixed in recent patches, I do hope that the Adventurine dev team starts taking a closer look at siege mechanics. There were many lessons SB’s devs learned the hard way, and they implemented solutions to combat things like 3 AM sieges, etc.

    They also need to go ahead and open up NA-1…


  42. I really loved the Shadowbane Lore. Shame there wasn’t a game I cared to play that used it. Good luck to the players and devs on finding new opportunities.

  43. Realist says:

    The reason it failed is lack of understanding the difference between “playing to crush” and “playing to grief.” There lots of games that are player vs. player, where the whole point is to crush the opposing player. That includes most strategy games and first-person shooters. The key difference in those games is that you don’t invest a lot time building up capability to enter PvP, and you don’t lose much when you are defeated. In a game like Shadowbane, players can and did lose a lot of time invested. MMOs cost time & money to play. Why would anyone want to pay to play in a MMO where griefing is common and everyone eventually loses? Perhaps more important, what kind of development talent would such a project attract? Devs who really cared about the grief of the players or those who love inflicting it?

  44. Owain says:

    ShadowBane had a small but devoted audience, in spite of it’s shortcomings (as mentioned, bugs, lag, poor interface) precisely because of the challenges offered. Yes, you could and frequently did lose significant virtual assets in terms of the time and energy spent in building a city. One siege, and it all goes up in smoke. People who played ShadowBane did so because this was the case. Shadowbane was not a glorified instance of The Sims Online.

    Some people who came to Shadowbane expecting a variant of Everquest left quickly, and that is fine. Such games are not for everyone. There is a market for such games. I think ShadowBane’s problems were mostly technical in nature rather than being a bad game design. Darkfall, from my direct experience now, seems to combine the best parts of Ultima Online at it’s beginning, and ShadowBane. Darkfall is not for everyone either, but I do have to laugh when I read on the DF forums where somebody posts a rant about how he’s quitting Darkfall because someone was mean to him, therefore that must mean DF will inevitably fail.

    Games like DarkFall and ShadowBane appeal to some people, but not to others, just like every other segment of the computer game industry. I don’t like sports games, but that doesn’t mean sports games are failures because fewer people play the latest EA NBA Live title than play World of Warcraft.

    I don’t understand the sentiment where people root for a game to fail. What does that accomplish? I no longer play WoW, or any other other recent MMO’s that have been released, because those games do not provide what I want in an online game, but I’m not hoping that they fail.

    If other games go on to take a healthy share of MMO market, that’s great. People are being entertained, and the game companies are making money, which in turn will encourage further development in all markets. That, in my book, is good. If DarkFall goes on to be a success in the market that it chosen, I think that a lot of people are going to be upset by that, because they are afraid that somewhere, somehow, a ‘griefer’ is having a good time, and God knows, that just isn’t right!

    Game bigots. How stupid is that?

  45. Realist says:

    I hope they keep going because it puts all the dysfunctional people in the same virtual environment.

  46. JuJutsu says:

    “Game bigots. How stupid is that?”

    “Shadowbane was not a glorified instance of The Sims Online.”

    Oh sweet irony.

  47. Owain says:

    “Oh sweet irony.”

    No irony involved. There’s nothing wrong with the Sims Online, but it was a bit silly for people to say that an unrestricted PvP game like SB was a bad game because it included unrestricted PvP. The irony lies with players who came into a game like ShadowBane, whose motto was “Play to Crush”, and suddenly they are Shocked, Shocked to discover that unrestricted PvP is taking place there! So what did you expect? The Sims Online? That was the intended point, which JuJutsu, for one, mush have missed.

    So, as a public service announcement for those who still may not be sure, DarkFall, like ShadowBane, is not a variant of The Sims Online. There IS unrestricted PvP going on there.

    For some folks, it seems the genres are easily confused.

  48. sinij says:

    Owain, I see you are new to this blog. Blaming everything on PvP is what THEY DO around THESE PARTS.

  49. JuJutsu says:

    “That was the intended point, which JuJutsu, for one, mush have missed.”

    Yup, that’s not the point that I took at all. I read “…a glorified instance of XXX” as a denigration of XXX whatever it is. If that was not your intention, I’ll take what you say at face value.

    If there were players that subscribed to Shadowbane and were shocked that it wasn’t like The Sims Online it must’ve been frustrating to other players. Just out of curiousity, how many instances of that did you run into? I wouldn’t think there would be much carryover from one to the other but I wasn’t there to see. I think it’s pretty easy to distinguish between the genres but that’s just me.

  50. Paks says:

    I really think most people that played SB had a good idea going in that the game was geared towards PvP on the supposed hardcore side. I’m sure there were a few who tried it just to see but I believe that didn’t happen often or at least I didn’t see it much. I mean really all the devs spouted was Play to Crush! so I doubt that could have been misconstrued by a lot of people.

    I played the game from early beta till about a year after release and I agree with a lot of what Realist is saying. You literally had to farm for hours on end just to maintain a city, then had to farm for repair costs, to buy new armor, and runes, etc. That was a lot of time spent just farming.

    I played on Death for the most part and saw entire guilds drop one after the other when they started losing cities they spent hours farming for by either exploits or fair sieging. It was a disaster, plain and simple. I still don’t know what the devs were thinking. I guess Play to Crush! really meant Play to Grind then lose it all in one fell swoop. That does not equate to fun, and that is one of the main reasons many guilds left. The second reason was bugs and exploits.

    SB had some great ideas, but the devs just could not deliver. What they did deliver ruined a lot of the fun the game could have provided to players.

    Now Darkfall is plain and simply the joke of the internet. That’s exactly how I feel about it. I’ve never seen a worse more blind community with a dev team (namely Tasos) who’s even worser (hah!) and blinder to the monstrosity he’s built, and I hope I never see the same ever again. Those ships did look cool though. 🙂 If AV works the bugs out of the game, then good on them, but I wouldn’t touch it with a 20 foot pole.

    And since we’re plugging MMOs, mine is Mortal Online (http://www.mortalonline.com/news). The first thing that attracted me to the game was the community. Then I looked at the features and started to drool.

    But back on topic. I’m always sorry when a game fails as I know it can’t be an easy thing on a personal level (yeah ok financial to!) for devs and their team. I wish them all well in whatever they do next.

    /pours out some hardcore pvp liquor for SB

  51. Mark Asher says:

    I played Shadowbane for some time, and after the first few months the players still playing were not driven from the game by bugs and interface issues. We were used to those by then. Eventually I think what drove other players from the game were a couple of factors: 1) Boredom, and 2) WoW.

    In Shadowbane, on some servers, someone won. The server was more or less conquered, and there was no reset. What do you do after awhile, especially when there isn’t any decent PvE? You get bored and quit. Even if no one “won” on your server, chances were that if you were a rank and file guild member, you got bored. There wasn’t much to do after awhile. The guild leaders had fun with political intrigue, but what did the grunts have to do? Nothing but show up for the city seige or defense from time to time, and there weren’t as many of those as you might expect. Shadowbane was a game where you could experience everything it had in a few months.

    Then the WoW beta launched, and after it was opened up a bit, that sucked away Shadowbane players too. There was a lot of PvP in the WoW beta — mages with invisibility, paladins with unholy damage that could hit Horde Undead, etc. There was a lot of ganking and it was really just as much fun as ganking in Shadowbane, with the added bonus of a vastly superior graphical and PvE experience.

    A PvP game is essentially a limiting design. PvE means everyone gets to win. PvP means many players have to play the role of the loser. A well-done PvP game can find an audience, but it will always be a small subset of the audience that a popular game like WoW can command.

  52. Owain says:

    My ShadowBane/The Sims Online comment was meant to compare two polar opposites. No putdown TSO was intended.

    “Just out of curiousity, how many instances of that did you run into?” (i.e. Shocked that there was free for all PvP) “I wouldn’t think there would be much carryover from one to the other but I wasn’t there to see. I think it’s pretty easy to distinguish between the genres but that’s just me.”

    Actually, I made that comment based on ShadowBane slams that I have read here and elsewhere. I had always assumed that the people making those posts had actually played SB, and thus at least had a slight familiarity with the game, giving them some small justification for their harsh critique. Maybe that was a bad assumption on my part, and it may be that most of the people making comments about how bad ShadowBane was never actually played the game, so their posts have less to do with ShadowBane than they do with their own reflexive aversion to PvP.

    That is Game Bigotry in it’s most virulent form.

  53. Mark Asher :
    A PvP game is essentially a limiting design. PvE means everyone gets to win. PvP means many players have to play the role of the loser. A well-done PvP game can find an audience, but it will always be a small subset of the audience that a popular game like WoW can command.

    PvE is just as limiting, you’re limited by the length of the roller coaster ride that the dev’s build for you. Look at your own example, WoW. People hit 80 and 80% of the game is obsolete. Soon they clear all the current raid dungeons and there is nothing left to do until more content is released. WoW is popular because it is easy and accessible to casual players.

    Also, I don’t believe that PvP centric games are limiting to players. If properly designed, the additional risk from a game centered around open PvP yields far more reward. It is important here to remember the rewards are not only purple l33t phat lootz, but also the gameplay experience itself.

    It’s like playing no-limit hold’em (PvP) vs playing slot machines (PvE). The one takes skill and a willingness to take risks. The other is mindless, caters to those with an aversion to risk and just feeds money to the Casino in the long run. In poker, even if I lose a hand, I still enjoy the experience greatly. I replay it in my head afterwards and adjust my strategy so that the next time maybe I will come out on top. Slots, well, slots is just boring.

  54. Owain says:

    “Also, I don’t believe that PvP centric games are limiting to players. If properly designed, the additional risk from a game centered around open PvP yields far more reward.”

    Grimhawke makes a very good point here. I played Ultima Online for nearly 5 years, and for the most part, the only content I and other KGB (Knights of Glory and Beer) members had was what we provided for ourselves, as Anti-PKs in the great Anti/PK wars on Pacific and later, Siege Perilous. The KGB left UO only after Origin changed the game to the point that it was no longer a game worth playing, in our eyes.

    Games like WoW may be more polished, and have larger geographic areas, but at level 80, as Grimhawke points out, most of that land mass is pointless, so everyone is jammed into what little content there is for end game players.

    With a free for all PvP design, the entire world is available for game play, because you are not dependant on level appropriate mobs. Instead, you compete against other players, which is far more rewarding that yet another dungeon crawl to fight yet another uber boss, so you and 8 other guys can compete for a pair of uber purple pants to drop to complete your sets of uber purple crap that never wears out.

    That’s even more boring than slots.

  55. Tet says:

    The only thing sb did well (not their usual “a good idea that went wrong”) was the backstory. Too bad it only came into play when you read the website.

  56. Amaranthar says:

    A common thread between SB and WoW, as unlikely as that sounds, seems to be “end game”. Why can’t an MMORPG be made with no end to it’s play? Diverse play for wide appeal, and no end by it’s design?

  57. Owain says:

    “A common thread between SB and WoW, as unlikely as that sounds, seems to be “end game”. Why can’t an MMORPG be made with no end to it’s play? Diverse play for wide appeal, and no end by it’s design?”

    End game design is more of a concern for quest-centric games like WoW. When most of your game revolves around completing a succession of quests, once you have completed the quests available, where to you go from there, other than releasing yet another series of quests to grind out?

    PvP centric games, when done properly with minimal restrictions from the game mechanics, are much more open ended.

    As an example, shortly after Ultima Online Siege Perilous opened, the Knights of Glory and Beer (KGB) entered into a conflict with a rival guild named the Imperium. Both the KGB and the Imperium claimed territory around the city of Trinsic, and the Imperium, as a role playing device, declared that anyone wearing plate armor in it’s territory would be subject to attack, since obviously peaceful folk would have no need for such armor.

    Over the next year, the KGB waged a series of wars against the Imperium, some successful, some less so. Each war was concluded with mutually agreeable cease fires negotiated between the two guilds, and each cease fire eventually was discarded because we both found that fighting each other was just too damn much fun.

    None of this was content supplied by the UO development team, and was far superior in entertainment value than anything Blizzard has supplied for WoW, or any other MMO to date. Further, this was content that was unique to our two guilds. Other guilds may have had similar conflicts, but no one else had the same game experience that the Imperium and the KGB enjoyed. In games that follow the WoW PvE formula, everyone does the exact same quest arcs, and nothing ever changes. Even when you successfully complete the quest arc in WoW and defeat the final boss, if you wait ten minutes, everything resets, and nothing has changed.

    Compare this with a game like UO. In the end, the KGB succeeded in vanquishing the Imperium. They fragmented, their players dispersed to other guilds, and as an organization, they were no more. The same was true on ShadowBane. The KGB had it’s defeats, and had it’s victories, but no two fights were ever the same. The balance of power constantly shifted and the fortunes of war ebbed and flowed.

    This style of play is a bit too unpredictable for a lot of gamers, which is why WoW has 8 million suscribers, and a game like Eve has far fewer. But for many players, a game like the original UO, ShadowBane, Eve, and now Darkfall offers a challenge that cannot be duplicated by PvE games, because devs just cannot program that kind of variety and unpredictability into NPCs. For that, you need PvP with as few restrictions as possible.

  58. Realist says:

    PvP centric games can be and many are successful including most board games, miniatures battles, RTS, FPS and so on. Guild vs. Guild or high level “open-ended” PvP is fun. I played StarCraft for a long time before UO and always played to win. That’s what I call, “Play to Crush.”

    It’s when the game, initially intended to be open-ended PvP, becomes griefing centric is where it ends up failing. It’s a common pattern in this type of game. This pattern was the reason whey UO had to change it’s model. They realized that instead of the great open-ended PvP game they had intended, it had instead become a n00b gankfest game for the twisted enjoyment of dysfunctional bullies. They needed a place for the dysfunctional bullies to play and so created Siege Perilous and Felucca. Shadowbane tried to center it’s whole game to catering this crowd. That set represents only a tiny fraction of the whole MMO market. Is it really any wonder that it was an epic failure?

  59. EpicSquirt says:

    I have a/no position: I though everybody with a clue played EVE Online in 2003, it launched short after.

  60. Owain says:

    ShadowBane was far from an epic failure. It’s PvP game play was very good, as several here have mentioned. It biggest drawbacks were technical, not involved with game design at all. If ShadowBane had been able to solve the bugs, the crashes, and the lag, I think they would have a very healthy population still.

    If you want to have free for all PvP, you will have bullies, but not all players subscribe to that play style. The Anti-PKs in UO (and I was one) took it upon ourselves to combat the griefers. Between UO, SB, Vanguard, Age of Conan, and now DarkFall, I for one, have never made an unprovoked attack on another player, but I’ve had plenty of PvP over the years. The problem with UO and other PvP-centric games was that it was too easy to be a criminal, particularly with the recall spell in UO, and similar features in other games. The griefers could run in, whack PvE types, and recall anywhere they wanted, escaping justice.

    Instead of piling restriction upon restriction making PvP more complicated and more trouble that it was worth, the game devs should have made it easier for law abiding players to deal with the problem themselves.

    There were griefers on Trammel as well, but they were just more sly about it. They would lead a train of mobs where noncombatants such as miners or lumberjacks were working, and then hide, causing the mobs to agro on the crafters/harvesters. They would go into dungeons and if they saw another player low on health, they would maneuver so as to block escape routes if a player tried to run, allowing the mob to kill them.

    Griefers will always find a way, even now on DarkFall which is supposed to be a free for all PvP game. One thing I have noticed is that ninja looting is rampant on Darkfall, particularly in the newb areas where I currently am. These griefers are taking advantage of the fact that if you attack a member of your own race, you lose standing. If your faction standing gets low enough, you can’t even enter your own towns because guard towers will open up on you. There is no penalty for kill looting, which should flag another player as a criminal as it did on UO, so after you finally drop a mob with your newbie weapon, nothing prevents another player from running up and looting your kill. Thus, anytime a mob drops, it’s a feeding frenzy as everyone tries to clean the body out before it has a chance to even bounce once or twice.

    If the DF devs really feel they need the racial standing attribute, they should have a mechanism to flag players who feel compelled to steal what isn’t theirs. Even better, have no restrictions, and if someone steals from you, allow you to take him down with no penalty if you are up to it. If you are not capable yet, bring a friend or two, and punish ghouls who feel compelled to loot corpses.

    Yeah, this makes for a wild and wooly environment, but no restrictions are better than complex rules that are filled with bugs and loopholes that griefers are more than willing to exploit.

    The best way to combat griefers is make sure that actions have significant consequences, and to allow players to identify serial criminals and punish them themselves.

  61. Realist says:

    EpicSquirt :
    I have a/no position: I though everybody with a clue played EVE Online in 2003, it launched short after.

    Eve works for the same reason the old school UO worked (for a while) is that it’s got no serious competition in the space MMO genre. How long before someone makes a good PvE centric space MMO? It would probably put them out of business or at least force them to change the model.

  62. Mark Asher says:

    I don’t know what kind of endgame can be designed that doesn’t need to be refreshed with new content from time to time. Players like to see their characters improve in some way. Once they hit a wall, they often become bored. It’s a small subset of players who will play just to PvP.

    I think Mythic thought Warhammer would grab 1.5M subscribers – I know Lum thought that. It’s down to about 300,000 probably, maybe even fewer than that. It’s not that a PvP centric game can’t do well, but my guess is they will always just do a fraction of the numbers a game like WoW can pull down. No matter how good the design is, I think a majority of players won’t like a game with PvP at its core.

  63. Vetarnias says:

    Owain :
    This style of play is a bit too unpredictable for a lot of gamers, which is why WoW has 8 million suscribers, and a game like Eve has far fewer. But for many players, a game like the original UO, ShadowBane, Eve, and now Darkfall offers a challenge that cannot be duplicated by PvE games, because devs just cannot program that kind of variety and unpredictability into NPCs. For that, you need PvP with as few restrictions as possible.

    I wonder to what extent this is true, because to players like me, either unaffiliated or with small guilds, games like SB or Darkfall are a bit too predictable to my liking.

    Either you have the 200-player guild to back you up, or you don’t.

    Either you join one such guild, or you get relentlessly ganked wherever you go.

    SB, for instance, forced you to join a guild that owned a city for the best gear, or you were forced to stick around the so-called free cities which, by and large, only sold junk.

    In my case, and in the case of players like me, it meant forfeiting independence just to be able to survive in SB. And that meant joining an anonymous zerg that considered you as little more than another member of its grind army.

    I haven’t played Darkfall, but I’m assuming this is the exact same thing.

    People like me know all too well what is the fate awaiting them in SB/DF: The bottom rung of the latter, that of the peon. We’re sure to be losers at those games because we don’t have the numbers — even though we don’t want them.

    Is it any wonder then that so many stick to mindless, superficial stuff like WoW, even if they don’t always like it?

  64. Owain says:

    “It’s a small subset of players who will play just to PvP.”

    Free for all PvP is admittedly a niche market. Not every game has to have 8 million subscribers. Game companies seem determined to swing for the bleachers trying to hit a home run every time, and frequently fail miserably instead. A better strategy might be to tailor their product for a particular market, be it PvE, role players, PvPers, or whatever. When they try to make games to please everyone, they frequently please no one. (Vanguard is a good example of this, I think).

    Warhammer had some interesting features initially with it’s public quest areas, and battle grounds. In the final analysis, I think their product wasn’t a significant improvement over WoW, so PvE players weren’t impressed, particularly since there was more PvP involved than they cared for anyway, and PvP was not particularly rewarding either. Battlegrounds get old quickly, and trading keeps back and forth in the RvR areas wasn’t compelling either.

    Some things just don’t go well together, and that includes PvE and PvP. The goals for each of the two populations are too divergent, and trying to shoehorn them together for the sake of getting a larger market share seems to be counter productive.

    Even Darkfall has a large PvE componant in the newbie areas at least (I have no direct experience beyond that yet). It makes me wonder what a pure PvP game would be like. A persistant first person shooter, so to speak. At one time, I played a lot of BF1942 online, but have not played other similar games recently. With a game like that, you never get into any of these interminable PvP/PvE pissing contests. It wouldn’t appeal to everyone, but if done well, I bet there would be some money to be made.

  65. EpicSquirt says:

    Might be, I am looking forward to have a look at Jumpgate Evolution and even Star Trek Online.

  66. Realist says:

    I visited the Jumpgate Evolution site, but it’s hard to guess how good it will be.

    Star Trek Online is sure to attract a lot of fans. It would be really cool if it’s a lot more than just a space simulator. In such a universe, you should be able to explore science and technology to no end. You might even be able to come up with some real-world breakthroughs. That would be truly exciting!

    If you want a game to stay fresh, it needs to have endless possibilities.

    Static questing and repetitive PvP just won’t cut it.

  67. Owain says:

    What Vetarnius says is true to some extent, but having been in the same guild for 10 years makes it hard for me to understand why someone would want to play an MMORPG (one of those M’s stands for Massively, I do believe), when it sounds like what they really want do play is a single player game.

    If you want to conquer large areas of the game map yourself, yes, you do need to be member of a large organization. On the other hand, I have first hand experience with many smaller groups we have had alliances with. Neither group had direct command and control over the other, but we had shared goals, and provided mutual support.

    We have a thread up on the KGB forums at the moment (although it is a couple of weeks old now) oracle.the-kgb.com, describing a siege in Darkfall where one of our allies were defending their city. They had just beat back the latest wave in a successive number of assaults on their main gates, and the defenders were sorely being beat down. Most were wearing only partial gear after suffering previous deaths, and due to breakage. The word goes out from the scouts on the wall that a large force of riders are approaching the city from the southeast. The defenders heaved a sigh, and prepared to repell yet another assault when they discovered that the riders were members of the KGB who had ridden halfway across the continent to help break the siege. Not exactly a “Riders of Rohan” moment, but for our allies, it was quite an uplifting experience, and we ultimately successfully defended the city. Times like these are why some players play games like ShadowBane or Darkfall.

    Some groups form huge monolithic entities where yes, you are just a cog in the machine. Such organizations frequently collapse under their own weight as well. Your milage may vary, but in my experience, we have had better luck maintaining loose confederations than we do trying to run massive juggernauts. The other way may work better for some groups, but I think we have had more fun.

  68. Mark Asher says:

    “People like me know all too well what is the fate awaiting them in SB/DF: The bottom rung of the latter, that of the peon. We’re sure to be losers at those games because we don’t have the numbers — even though we don’t want them.”

    Yes, that was Shadowbane to some extent. Most players in a SB guild didn’t really get much say in anything. Still, there were plenty of friendly guilds from what I could see.

    I am interested in Darkfall. Seems like buying the game is the most difficult part. Hopefully in a few months they will have polished the game and maybe they will add a second server.

  69. Wanderer says:

    What Mark Asher said.

    I left Shadowbane for a number of reasons. I got fed up with the bugs, with the crashes, with the exploits, with the management, with the endless, mind-numbing, far-worse-than-WoW PvE farming necessary to support PvP, etc. My server was emptying out like an unplugged bathtub, rapidly turning into a single-player game. But, definitely, the guild dominance problem was a big part of it. I’ve ranted about that here before. On every server except Mourning, I believe it was, some guild won. They dominated the server. You were a member of the uber-guild, or you were prey. I assume being prey sucked; I couldn’t tell you, because my guild was a member of the ruling nation. That, I can tell you, most certainly sucked. PvP was pretty much limited to arranged duels with friends and guildies, because it was next to impossible to find someone who was not in your nation and thereby off-limits. When the Ice Island nation collapsed, that was pretty much the end of any real PvP at all. Not long after that, I gave up and followed my guild to another game. Despite emails promising me copious amounts of free play time, I never went back.

    Yes, I’m bitter. Shadowbane was my Holy Grail, and when I finally held it in my hands I found out that the gold was tarnished brass, and the glittering gems just few bits of broken glass stuck on with glue. I dreamed of Play to Crush, and got Pay to Crash instead. I’ve never actually baked bread in a game, but it has got to be more fun than gold farming in Shadowbane. And right there, I think, is one of the biggest reasons Shadowbane failed: They attracted players with the promise of a PvP-centered game, one where we could dispense with the boring grinding and get on with the fun fighting, and then required the most dull, boring, and mind-numbing grinding ever seen in a game.

    I’m still waiting for someone to build a good PvP game. Not perfect, not ideal, but just plain good. The first thing they have to do is stop thinking that anything that happens in an MMO is a simulation of real life.

    Shadowbane, actually, provides an excellent example of this. Consider the zergball. For those of you who weren’t there, city sieges in Shadowbane were a very strange thing. A group of players would infiltrate a city and start summoning more of their army. Then they would all stack on top of each other right by the Tree of Life. With no ready way to target a particular person, and with AoE spells only hitting a few targets no matter how many were in the stack, the members of the zergball were almost invincible. Healers (who could, of course, target their own group members) kept them up; summoners brought in more fighters; DPS waled away at the Tree. All in all, the zergball was a highly effective combat strategy — and one that was, of course, totally unlike anything that could happen in the real world. The players didn’t care about simulating a genuine medieval siege, marching up to the walls and hitting them with siege engines and so on. The players cared about winning, and piling 50 or 100 people on one square meter of space was the way to win. The rules of the game and the resources available to the players made the zergball the optimal strategy, so that’s what we did.

    Yet developers of PvP games still believe, against all evidence to the contrary, that people will react to actions taken against game characters in ways identical to their real-world reaction to a real-world instance of what those actions are simulating. One would think the difference would be obvious, but MMO history shows that it is clearly not.

    For starters, there’s the whole idea of killing people for fun. We’re not murderers in real life. We spend our game time, however, simulating the killing of simulated people. Likewise, robbery. Most of us, by and large, won’t even keep a lost and found wallet, let alone engage in armed robbery. In a game that allows looting another player’s corpse, though, we do it all the time. No, despite what the Jack Thompsons of the world try to claim, we don’t suddenly turn into sociopaths when we log in. Instead, we are FAR more aware than non-gamers of exactly what we’re doing. We’re not killing people, we’re moving their game pieces from our spot on the game board to the rez spot, and possibly deducting points from their score along with it. Likewise, if we loot their corpses, we’re not stealing money from people; we’re transferring some points from their game score to our own, as provided for under the rules. The only difference from when you land on my fully-developed Boardwalk in a game of Monopoly is that there is no way in Monopoly for you to defend yourself from me cleaning out your bank.

    The rules and laws that govern real-world human society will not spontaneously appear within a game because they are a response to real-world conditions, just like a medieval siege is a response to real-world fortifications. Players devise methods to work with the tools they have, within the constraints imposed by the structure of the game, to attain their goals. Neither the tools, the constraints, nor the goals are the same in a game as they are in real life, so only a fool would expect the methods to be the same. In military terms, you get the zergball; in social terms, you get the griefer.

    A griefer has far less at stake than a normal player. For starters, in any interaction with another player, there are two possible outcomes for the griefer: Win (successful griefing) and Tie (unsuccessful attempt). For the legitimate player, there are also two possible outcomes: Tie (unsuccessful attempt) and Lose (successful griefing). Think of it as a game of poker, except if I win a hand, I win your chips; if I lose, we both keep our chips. You, like the normal player interacting with a griefer, have no way to win; I, like the griefer, have no way to lose. Even though I might be a terrible poker player, and only win 1 out of 100 hands, I’m still going to beat you in the end. The most you can achieve, and the least the griefer can achieve, is the status quo. In the real world, most people have the basic decency not to be griefers, and for those who don’t, their fellow citizens have the tools (police forces, for instance) to MAKE them stop. That doesn’t happen in games, in either aspect. There are fewer moral inhibitions against griefing, or at least more ways to rationalize being a jerk, and there is no way for the griefer to lose; at worst, he breaks even, which is also the best his prey can hope for.

    If players can’t control griefers, who are using the resources of the game solely and specifically to destroy the enjoyment of other players, the griefers will proliferate. Griefers are like vampires, living on the fun that they drain from other players. In a real community, if they were being preyed on by bandits, they would imprison or kill said bandits. In an MMO community, neither imprisoning nor killing is possible; the most that the community can do is temporarily inconvenience the bandits (i.e., the griefers). They can’t hurt the griefers because the griefers don’t want any of the things that the other players can take away from them. The designer of Dawn, the eternal vaporgame, claimed that griefing woudln’t take place in Dawn because, with permadeath, griefers would eventually be killed and gone. He was, again, missing the point: the griefer loses nothing but some time; he has a few friends powerlevel his new toon, or uses a handy exploit, and goes right back to his griefing. The players who have been his prey, on the other hand, have lost something they valued — their characters, the wealth they’ve been working to accumulate, whatever — and, in all probability, a great deal more time than the griefer has to invest to get what he wants, namely a PK-capable character. The player can’t win; the griefer can’t lose.

    Games in which one player has the power to hamper another player’s enjoyment of the game are attractive to griefers. For them, fun is zero-sum: they gain enjoyment by taking it away from others. When you have a game where the potential griefers have many and powerful tools available to accomplish their ends, and their targets have few if any ways to protect themselves or turn the tables, you have a recipe for disaster.

    Real world situations are meaningless. In the real world, we have no choice but to deal with whatever comes our way. In an MMO, if we’re not having fun, we don’t have to deal with it; we can go play something else. And, as the slow death of Shadowbane shows, we will.

  70. sinij says:

    Wanderer :
    We’re not murderers in real life. Most of us, by and large, won’t even keep a lost and found wallet, let alone engage in armed robbery.

    Didn’t you get the memo, we like PvP, so we must be antisocial parasites, blight on society and so on… Now you go and spill the beans.

    They can’t compete with us, so they must demonize us. It isn’t that most people dislike PvP, it is that in PvP it is very obvious who loser is.

    In reality what separates PvPers from Carebears is tolerance to losing. Best PvPers don’t mind losing, worst Carebears can’t stand it.

  71. JuJutsu says:

    “They can’t compete with us, so they must demonize us. It isn’t that most people dislike PvP, it is that in PvP it is very obvious who loser is.”

    Grats. Just when some PvPers start to sound sensible, you remind us why you got the rep you so richly deserve.

  72. Vetarnias says:

    When you talk of every server becoming stale except Mourning, are you talking of when it was subscription-based, or after it went free?

    Mourning, maybe for that reason, was the longest-lived of the original servers (along with the loreplay server, if I recall), but I also remember that when I played (in December 2007), it was considered one of the rare servers where you didn’t have the lopsided scenario you mention.

    All the other ARAC servers were notorious for having pretty much fallen to the Asian zerg, and, ironically, what was assumed to have spared Mourning a similar fate were the long-lasting effects of early duping and exploits which the other servers (added after that time) did not have.

    I too saw the major flaw of the “tree of life” summoning. It was utterly ridiculous: teleport right in the middle of town and attack from there. That was one of the factors breaking the game for me, along with a few guild-level shenanigans, and my friends and I just decided to quit one day and never looked back. I wrote about that whole story last year, but because I’m lazy, I’ll just copy-paste the relevant parts here:

    “Since I only played for less than a month before giving it up, I can’t make comparisons with what it used to be like when it was subscription-based, and I can’t discuss the impacts of the major hacking that went on in those days. All I can say is that I have the impression of witnessing a game that is more or less in its death throes, deserted by most players and now home to the maniacal player killers without any sense of purpose beyond, well, crushing.

    “We started out on Mourning, which of the non-loreplay servers proved the better choice, for I have since found out that guilds of Chinese (or CN in game lingo) players have basically taken over Redemption, Braialla and to a large extent Wrath, capturing every city on the map and destroying any political competition that may have existed; and without such competition there is basically nothing left, except farming or player killing. But those two options make no sense since that accumulated wealth is just going to sit in the bank unused, because there is no way in the game one person or even a small guild that managed to buy a city could ever seriously think of defending it.

    “I can say now that the best time I have had on Mourning was when I was levelling my character on Newbie Island, blissfully unaware of the greater perils awaiting me outside of this small haven. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those “carebears” everybody sneers at; I want PvP as much as the next guy, and it’s a major (if not the central) part of Shadowbane. But I want my PvP to make sense. I don’t want to be killed by a player 30 levels above me who kills me for no other reason than because he can, or because he fancies the handful of coins in my inventory and that it’s far more interesting to take it from the middleman than spend hours killing spawns for it. With the guild system in place I was expecting the PvP to come in the form of ambushes against players of enemy nations, or extended sieges. The closest to this I can claim to have seen came while claiming or defending mines, but for the most part the player-killing seemed gratuitous and aimless.

    “In fact, after getting killed more than a few times outside King’s Cross (one of the game-run cities on the main continent) for no reason at all, my friends and I were thinking of quitting the game, and in fact it was only thanks to the eleventh-hour intervention of a Good Samaritan that we were convinced to continue playing. He told us to seek Dragonscale, a guild-nation that had a wide reputation for accepting newbies.

    “Through strange twists of fate, we ended up in Divinity, a guild that had pledged allegiance to the Dragonscale nation and which controlled a small city in the middle of the main continent, while granting us access, through our affiliation, to the better-equipped cities of Dragonscale. I accumulated a fair amount of money and eventually opened a forge in our city, then called Kings Gambit. I had enough money to train my swordsmith up to level 5 and to hire two other weaponsmiths; overall, maybe 2.5 million had been invested in the forge.

    “Then weird things started happening. Divinity broke its affiliation with Dragonscale to become its own nation, shutting us out of the better places for equipment and advanced training. In the meantime, we were automatically shuffled inside a guild called Blood Rose, that pledged allegiance to Divinity. At the same time, an expelled member (on suspicion of treason or something like that, I never knew the full story) came back with a few of his buddies and periodically killed anyone who was unfortunate enough to hang out in town. In what was the pinnacle of stupidity, two players part of our group defending the town, knowing full well that another attack was imminent, decided to go on duelling one another. Not surprisingly, when the enemy showed up they were among the first killed. Then the next day, Divinity dropped its dream of nationhood to pledge allegiance to another nation, but Blood Rose didn’t follow and went back to Dragonscale, shutting us out of Kings Gambit. (The city has now fallen to another clan, so it’s a moot point now).

    “That incident basically made us decide to start over on Vindication, where we hoped the more restrictive rules would lead to a… shall we say mature?… player core. Also, to avoid being shuffled around like on Mourning without having any say over it, we decided to start our own guild as soon as we could afford it. Unfortunately, the loreplay rules may have made sense on a busy server in the game’s heyday (if it ever had one), but on an essentially deserted game it meant we were confined to one city (we were a ranger guild, so Wood’s Hollow was our only option) and that we did not have much of a choice in terms of what other guilds we could join (as we could only pledge allegiance to another ranger nation, of which to my knowledge there was only one). For a game that prides itself on being as anarchic as possible (though what it achieved is less anarchy than nihilism, an even less pleasant result), those were very limited choices indeed.

    “The end, for me, on Vindication came when I discovered I could not even pick a deserted spot far away from general attention and put together a few buildings. I gathered enough money to buy an inn deed from the Runemaster, which I figured was a good place to start since you could place a builder and a steward inside of it. And the manual sort of said in passing that it was a logical choice as well: “Most Buildings and structures will be associated with a city – that is, within the influence of a Tree of Life. They need not be – an isolated Inn built at a distant crossroads is perfectly valid. Players may call any collection of buildings a city, but without a Tree of Life to define its influence, such cities will not appear on the interactive World Map or receive their own regional designation on other players’ maps.” (p. 124). So based on this information which all but proves that it can be done, I get to the location and start placing my building when I get the message that I can’t place it outside of the fortress zone. Even leaving all affiliation with Wood’s Hollow changes nothing to this hard reality — the building can’t be placed outside of the fortress zone. And how, pray tell, do you get a fortress zone? Well, in theory, you just have to buy one of those expensive tree-of-life acorns and start a city. Except that each region will only accommodate a maximum number of such trees, a number that was, needless to say, reached long ago. To start a new city, therefore, you need to take one down, and that is not about to happen when you’re an up-and-coming guild with a handful of members equipped only with the second-rate wares sold at one of the developer-created free cities. And because Wood’s Hollow had no builder, and that the Runemaster only sold limited building deeds (and no housing whatsoever), there went any hope of every buying so much as a cottage, let alone a forge or a bank, which are probably restricted in placement anyway, without first joining up with a city-owning guild, which guild would probably decide who can place such buildings and where (in other words, not us). Even more troubling is that the inner workings of a game should so blatantly contradict the manual, unless of course those inns to which it refers happened to have been placed at distant crossroads by the developers themselves; such instances always seem to scream — run away, and fast.”

  73. Holy walls of text batman…

    I skimmed and noticed there is some misinformation here:

    Summoning into the middle of a city was not game breaking. If you’re nation was so disorganized that they couldn’t coordinate a few scouts with tracking and a hit squad to crush the opponent before they could summon a large force then you deserve to lose your city. Siege times were set by the defender which means they have the advantage of being prepared.

    Stacking wasn’t game breaking either. We had no problem taking down high priority targets in a stack by having one person ID using tab targetting and instruct via voice chat to /tar xxx.

    Our nation did our fair share of farming, especially in the early stages of the servers we played on, but later on most of our city funds and warchest came from other sources, ie pking, tributes and most of all running a very successful merchant city under a neutral tag.

  74. Anonymous says:

    If you really didn’t want people summoning their friends into your city, you could put up a no summon spire.

  75. EpicSquirt says:

    @Mark Asher
    You’re totally missing the point and you’re trying to impose one which isn’t there!

    Warhammer didn’t fail because of some PvP vs. PvE debate. Even for a player like me who is interested more in PvP the PvE was enjoyable. I liked the public quests and running around doing random quests while waiting for a scenario to come up was enjoyable.

    Warhammer failed because bad design decisions have been made and bad partners have been taken (Emergent’s Gamebryo as game engine, EA in general, GOA as European distributor) and that stuff which was supposed to be good turned out to be a big pile of crap.

    Warhammer is a fiasco from a technical point of view, the days of software engineering as some kind of software factories which can be handled in an offshore-way are over, Warhammer lacks craftsmanship in every aspect, it’s not a product made by skilled people, it is bought intellectual property, copied UI, random art assets from random EA studios all over the world, a mediocre game engine with broken networking, broking collision and broken line of sight checks, an unstable client and servers which do not scale.

    I expected better and I wouldn’t have bought the game if Warhammer’s European open beta would have been actually open.

    300k are still playing it, half of them will move away as soon as something interesting like Jumpgate Evolution or one of the games from Cryptic launches.

    It would be nice if people would stop seeing the success or failure of an MMOG just from the PvE vs PvP perspective, some games, and it happens more and more often, even if they would succeed while having mediocre game ideas, they fail because they’ve been implemented completely wrong.

    No one can explain to me what the benefit of putting a player, who lost the connection to the server, into a long re-login queue is! (Okay that got fixed at some point, but it drove many people away. Come home from work, try to login while making dinner, play for 5 minutes, crash, re-queue for 50 minutes.)

    No one can explain to me what the benefit of several character/guild databases and all that server cloning, merging, population re-balancing is while most of the PvP areas are empty and the populated ones are dominated by one faction. (A global persistence model is much better, you don’t have to be EVE, but why not allowing to log any of my characters to any server?)

    Stuff like that needs to be addressed before a single line of code is written and stuff like that needs to be addressed before you think about screwing your game with too much AoE, too much CC and ruin the first good experience with broken end game.

  76. Vetarnias says:

    Shadowbane: Now with an additional two-month gankf… reprieve: http://chronicle.ubi.com/newspost.php?id=18536

  77. Keybounce says:

    Grimhawke[EB] :

    Mark Asher :
    A PvP game is essentially a limiting design. PvE means everyone gets to win. PvP means many players have to play the role of the loser.

    In poker, even if I lose a hand, I still enjoy the experience greatly. I replay it in my head afterwards and adjust my strategy so that the next time maybe I will come out on top. Slots, well, slots is just boring.

    In a nutshell, this is the problem with PvP.

    Any given poker hand always starts the same. In some games, it’s 5 cards; in others, it’s two cards. Maybe you have something revealed, maybe not.

    Now, poker is primarily a betting game. As such, some people might have 30,000 chips; someone else might have only 500. The 500 chip person can play at a table that they are comfortable at; maybe that’s a 50 chip table, so that a loss doesn’t destroy them, maybe it’s a 500 chip table so that they are “all or nothing”. And that 30,000 chip person will probably think twice before going to a 30,000 chip table — it probably took a long time to get 30,000 chips.

    But this is the issue:
    Poker is PvP, where you can choose your opposition level, and each hand starts even.
    Most PvP games (all but one that I’ve seen) is effectively unrestricted — not only do the two sides in the competition start uneven, but you can’t even choose your opposition. And the one exception — Puzzle Pirates — only restricts the difference in strength to an approximate range that some players complain is too narrow, and others complain is too wide.

    Add to that the other imbalance — PvE always fountains some sort of reward, yet PvP usually does not.

    PvE is designed to be completed, usually. Check out “SegaHard” on tvTropes for the exception. With PvE, the general design assumption is that you will finish and win. With PvP, the general design assumption is that the bigger/nastier/stronger side will win, the weaker will lose, and attempting to fight a battle that is approximately even will cost so much resources and so much of your play-time’s results that no one wants to fight a generally even battle.

    Even if two guilds are roughly equal, and the guild leaders decide to fight, what happens on the battle field? Usually it is a battle between small groups, that tend to be imbalanced fights.

    And if you don’t have a guild, but have some sort of open PvP? The real world has people whose job is to spend large amounts of time enforcing laws. Tell me who will spend time and money to enforce game laws instead of playing the game? What games even provide the backdrop needed to have player enforced laws? And without some sort of in-game police, courts, and jails, what acts as the deterrent to in-game outlaws? What happens to stop the “Might makes right” rule of the largest barbarian army?

    Yes, back in February it seems that Eve saw a great big empire crumble overnight. So? Maybe in that one part of space, might changed. Maybe it’s a case of one organization breaking up into 20 little ones, or maybe it was actually defeated. I don’t know, and the answer doesn’t matter.

    What does it take for a good PvP?
    1. A fair, balanced game — look at any good board game. Doesn’t mean “Identical all around” — look at Time Agent for an extreme example.
    2. The ability to choose your level of risk, rather than being forced to play what your opponent wants you to play
    3. A loss doesn’t require that you are “dead dead”, and unable to come back into the game
    4. While engaged in PvP, win or lose, you need to generate an increase in resources. Even if your game does not directly reward a loss, you must have some other way to gain while losing in PvP. If that means PvP’ing someone weaker than you, then there must be some way for those at the bottom to win and grow.

    Number 4 points out an interesting problem. If the way to grow at the bottom is PvE, and the way to grow at the top is PvP, then you still have two different games. What do people who like the starter game do when the game changes? And if the idea is “Don’t gank people weaker than you, here’s some PvE for you at any level”, well, then you have both a PvE and a PvP game together.

    WoW initially tried that. Take a good look at the original WoW, when first released. You were supposed to be looking forward to meaningful PvP, where if you engaged in imbalanced fights you were punished. Etc. A “Transformation” in MMO PvP. Notice that the idea died very, very quickly.

    Eve? I’m one of the “never played it” people. The idea of saying that you have to start with mindless mining, spending your real time training up your character for at least a month before you had any fighting skills worth mentioning, the idea that at any time while mining you could be ambushed just for someone’s fun, that no matter how strong you get there’s always someone stronger who has nothing to stop them from doing whatever they please, and that, in general, at any time you might lose everything you had and have to start over at square one? Not even mentioning that the “mining” operation in general was so boring that people botted it for fun and pleasure.

    Sure, I bet some of what I just described is in error. But that’s the reputation of the game among those who do not play. If a game like Eve wants to increase its playerbase, then dispelling myths like what I just presented is the way to go. I’ve never, ever seen anything to tell me that this description isn’t correct, and I’ve heard plenty from people that do play that what I’ve described isn’t too far from the truth. Yes, there’s supposed to be a “patrolled” area for beginners, but at least one strong faction in early days was talking about waging war in that area. Still happens? I don’t know.

    Over the next year, the KGB waged a series of wars against the Imperium, some successful, some less so. Each war was concluded with mutually agreeable cease fires negotiated between the two guilds, and each cease fire eventually was discarded because we both found that fighting each other was just too damn much fun.

    None of this was content supplied by the UO development team, and was far superior in entertainment value than anything Blizzard has supplied for WoW, or any other MMO to date. Further, this was content that was unique to our two guilds.

    So lets see:
    1. If you were high ranking in the guild, you got to get involved with the politics and war decisions, or maybe the cease-fire negotiations. If you were rank-and-file, what did you get?
    2. If you weren’t in that guild, you missed out completely?
    3. If you play a game to escape the real world’s “people on the top tell you want to do”, and wind up in a game where people on the top tell you what to do, how is it any different? (Yea, that’s bordering on trolling. Sorry. Maybe someone can word it better?)
    4. So you declare that anyone in plate armor will be attacked. Was that declared in-game, or on a forum somewhere?

    That’s a key point, actually. Do people who only play the game, who don’t read the forums, find out what’s going on in-game, or are they attacked first, taught later? What happens to people who are in another guild, that wander into your battle zone? Does this “guild fighting” mean “You can only safely wander around in the areas your guild claims, and the rest of the world is off-limits to you”? Or is it “Off limits, unless you play at the same time as a large force of your guild, so you can go into another guild’s area as a team”? In that case, what does someone do if they want to play solo? If they want to play at a different time? If at whatever time they want to play no one else from their guild is available — maybe they are all busy fighting elsewhere?

    Something to keep in mind: Games will either be designed to be replayed, or played through. If a game is designed to be played out, then when you play it out, you are done.

    Look at games like Starcraft. If it did not have a PvP online game — if all it had was the campaign game — you would play it out, and be done, until the sequel came out.

    But with the PvP addition, it has huge life.
    But what happens in that PvP?
    1. Everyone starts at the same level.
    2. What happened in the last game does not affect this game.
    3. You can lose, and still play again.
    4. You aren’t restricted to only playing with people you know and trust, or only in certain areas, or certain times, etc.

    What happens in big PvP MMO’s? Just about the opposite.

    Play out the campaign game, and wait for the sequel? That’s the PvE game. You finish it eventually. Maybe there’s different newbie quests, so you’ll create a bunch of new characters of different nations, just to look around and admire the art work. But eventually you’re done.

    Advance faster than you can complete the quests? Fine, you’ve only played part of the game by the time you’ve played it to the end. Now go back and do more quests — you’ve got replayability. But even then, you’ll eventually do them all.

    Got a PvP game to continue after the campaign game is done? Good. Oh, imbalanced, unfun, and destroy everything you have at the other person’s whim? Not good.


    Personally, I think the “Realm vs. Realm” system of Pirates of the Burning Sea to be the best approach. The “game” is designed to be won by one side — which results in a “server reset” as the NPC politicians negotiate a truce and a reset. It makes it clear that it is a game, a “big old board game”. And being on the losing side means you get a bonus the next time around to make it more even.

    But PotBS doesn’t run on Macs, and I gave up on microsoft windows a long time ago.

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