Gaarawarr Gabs with Stuart Zissu – Part 1
Realm vs. Realm. It’s the focal-point of WAR and what separates it from the majority of MMOs out there. It’s also the focal-point of this interview with Stuart Zissu, the RvR Strike Team Lead at Mythic. Because it’s such a big part of WAR, it’s the longest interview yet.
It’s not hard to imagine why though. RvR is one of the main reasons I decided to play WAR and it’s also one of the things that I have the most issues with. I’ve talked about a couple of my main issues with the RvR system in my posts “Behavior Modification and Training in MMOs” and “Everything I need to know about WAR I learned from Monopoly“. The problem is, that is the tip of the iceberg for things I’d like to discuss when it comes to RvR. lol
Time is finite, however, and so I couldn’t discuss everything I would have wanted to. We did talk about quite a bit though, like the Zone Domination System, how easy it is to confuse RvR issues with C&C issues, Warcamp Grinders, and City Sieges. And that’s just in the first part of the interview!
GG: Let’s do this!
Stuart: Oh, we’re recording it…?
~rubs hands together evilly~ Muahahahahaha…
GG: While this can be server dependant, it seems that the state of RvR varies from one moment to the next. A good case in point is when the Land of the Dead was released. From the moment it went live to everyone, the Doom and Gloom started. “Oh my god… this has ruined RvR! There’s no possibility of anything happening anymore! They finally ruined this game!” And so on… A few days later when the shininess wore off, RvR picked right back up on a lot of servers, especially on Iron Rock. There were groups on both sides of players that just wanted to run around in the Land of the Dead hunting the other Realm as well as groups in the normal Tier 4 zones pushing the campaign.
One of the biggest complaints that arose at that time, because of that, was in terms of how Zone Domination works. The majority seem to think it moves too slowly. Are you looking at any aspects of RvR that could possibly be utilized to speed up the Zone Domination timers? Possibly things like the more kills you get, the shorter the timer gets, etc.
Stuart: So the Domination System was actually put in to combat the specific situation where “OK, we’re fighting using Victory Points and no one is out here so we can’t get our skirmish pool up. We can’t flip the zone.” It was almost impossible to do or would take, like, six hours or whatever, and you just can’t do it. It’s not worth doing, [so people say] “Screw this, I’m going home.” So we put the Domination System into say “Hey, look! If there’s no one here, use the Domination System. If there are people to fight, it’s still quicker to do via Victory Points.”
But what happened is, we put the system in and people understand [it]. It’s very straightforward, [so] they use the Domination System. I wait two hours, or half an hour, or whatever it is, and it flips. All of a sudden, everyone is like “That is the way you need to go to flip the zone.” What is funny is that if you look on some servers, they do understand that the Victory Point pool is the faster way to do it, and when they go to push the campaign, they actually do it through the Victory Points. That is when you start seeing twenty-minute zone flips and fifteen-minute zone flips, because people are concentrating on it. They are working toward the goal and they’re systematically moving the campaign.
When you’re in a situation where you are waiting on the Domination [System], it’s because there is no other way to do it. So it’s either you wait the two hours, or the half an hour, or you just can’t do it. So our idea was that this is a supplement to the Victory Point system. A lot of people are starting to see it as the way to flip the zone, which it really isn’t. The Victory Point pool is still the way to do it, which means you need to have people out there.
With the Land of the Dead, as the shiny wears off, more people will start coming out and that will start to go quicker. We expected when the Land of the Dead came out that RvR would take a little backseat in the Old World (as we call it) for a little bit and then it’s slowly going to come back. Where people [are] fighting over here and then jumping to the Land of the Dead and then coming back out, then jumping back in, then coming back out.
GG: Is there anything coming down the pipe, or is Mythic looking at adjusting things, to get people to show up to Keep defenses? Something that says, excuse the language, “Get your ass out of the Warcamp and actually participate in the campaign itself.” Maybe because you gain certain benefits that are greater than you would just standing there and saying “OK, I’m gonna wait here for an hour.”
Stuart: So what we have right now is the idea that, when the zone flips, it takes into account which Keeps and Battlefield Objectives you participated in and gives you an extra reward on top of [the basic one] for those. When you guys came by for lunch and I was in the room, and actually just now as well before I came in here, we were discussing new systems to further incentivize people to not only get out of the warcamp, but we also have this issue which we call the carousel where it is like “OK, there is a bunch of people at that Keep and so I am going to go over here to this Keep and take this one [instead]. And then they come to take this one and now I’m going to go to this one over here.” It’s this carousel where people just go round and round [avoiding each other].
We’re working on a new system to incentivize people to go “Oh look! There’s a ton of people at that Keep. I am going to go over there and fight them and take that Keep from them because that is where most of my rewards will be.” We’re still ironing out how that’s gonna work, but it is something we are looking to do. To focus people around Player vs. Player conflict instead of just taking a Keep, whichever one is easiest to go for.
GG: Is Mythic looking at some kind of system to where, if a group make-up is a certain way, it gives some kind of group synergy bonus? Say for a Fortress push, with the tank group that’s going to be tanking the Lord, they might have some sort of bonus group ability for setting up the group a certain way that will assist them in their fight?
Stuart: So you’re saying some sort of special ability that, because your group has A, B, and C in it or something, that you get to do Z better?
GG: Yes, to sort of promote certain alternate blends of groups instead of the usual ones found in open RvR pre-mades.
Stuart: That’s an interesting thought, but it’s not my purview. That’s more of a C&C type of thing or Player Systems. Personally, I have thought of things like that and I think there was a game called Mythica that was doing something similar to that.
Andy: Lord of the Rings Online does that.
Stuart: Yeah, LotRO does it with the fellowship.
GG: There’s a little bit of it in the Renown abilities in WAR, already.
Stuart: I hear you, but it’s more of a C&C thing.
The C&C interview was before this, so cases like this we weren’t able to follow up on.
GG: So right now, it seems that every standard you run into is one of a couple types. One is generally going to the “instance” setup, which is generally something like Armor, Toughness, and AP Regen. The “warcamp grinder” is the other one I’m going with. It’s usually Influence, XP, and Renown. Are standards being looked into at all? We see them in instances or warcamps, but we rarely see them pulled out for the purpose of open RvR.
Stuart: So, when you claim the Keep with the standard, it does affect the whole area. So in that way, you’re actually getting a bigger benefit than if you were to just pull it out and run around with it.
GG: Well, part of it is that, originally when WAR was being developed, it was talked about that the idea behind the standard was that you were carrying it into battle, using its abilities, or planting it where you then had the ability to lose it. Not to mention the whole “banner scraps” idea.
Stuart: Yeah and no one wants to lose them.
GG: Yeah, you’re right. But people would pull it out and use it if there was an incentive for RvR. I’d love to see more of, instead of just buffing a stat, it has more of a purpose on the battlefield (outside of claiming a Keep). Is anything being looked at for that for open RvR?
Stuart: Again, that is C&C because it uses Tactics, but I do know that, not standards in general, but I believe they’re looking at the Tactics and stuff, trying to balance those and make them more interesting.
GG: This is where we were talking to C&C and there are so many questions that overlap, that it was hard to know who to talk to as it kind of hits both sides.
Stuart: The C&C and RvR teams are always laughing because people in RvR forums are talking about career balance and career balance people are talking about how this works in RvR and it needs to be switched up.
GG: Well, it’s really a big melting pot.
Stuart: It definitely is. One affects the other drastically.
GG: And in a game like this, the RvR is the overlay that the Combat & Careers work through, so people tend to confuse the two, understandably.
OK, so people have been waiting a while and it’s become one of those things that is now kind of a Myth that people say is never coming: The second Keep ramps.
Stuart: It’s coming. We wanted it in what’s coming up in the next few days but, due to technical issues, we had to push it out of this milestone.
(This interview was done before the last patch. The second ramps are on the PTS, currently.)
We have been ready with the content and had it tested to come out when the next patch comes, but it’s gonna miss this one and make the next one.
GG: Is it going to be just Keeps or are we talking Keeps and Fortresses?
Stuart: For right now, it’s just Keeps, and it will be for all Keeps in Tiers 2, 3, and 4.
Andy: Fortresses are a much bigger endeavor for us to tackle because, for one, we have alternate plans for Fortresses that we’re working on. I believe Jeff Hickman touched on that and we have to decide what we are doing with them. Also, I think there are even more art adjustments that have to be made on Fortresses, if I am correct.
Stuart: Yes, art-wise, Fortresses are different than Keeps where, as the ramp that goes up and over on a Keep works, [one] that goes up and over is not going to work in a Fortress.
GG: While we’re talking Keeps and how ramps are going to be added in all Tiers, one of the things that got added as an RvR carrot was Gold Bags in the mail if you claimed a Keep and the zone flipped. Unless it is bugged, that only happens in Tier 4.
Stuart: Yes, that is just in Tier 4.
GG: Are we ever going to see that in the other Tiers so you have a reason to claim Keeps in Tiers 2 and 3?
Stuart: The problem with getting a Gold Bag each time for those is that the Gold Bag [is awarded] when you take the zone. In Tier 4, that means pushing the campaign to the next zone over. In Tiers 2 and 3, taking the campaign is just two zones and ten minutes later you can take it the other way…and ten minutes later you can take it the other way. So we would be giving Gold Bags out every ten minutes, which is much higher than we would want it to be.
So the system, as it is, works mostly for Tier 4 because that is also where the Gold Bags really count. Yes, Devastator stuff is great. I’m actually working…one of my guys has one piece left that he has to get…but really, the Gold Bags start to matter in Tier 4 when you’re getting your Annihilator and Conqueror gear. That is why Gold Bags are the “Ahhhhhh! I need my Gold Bag stuff!”
GG: ~sigh~ I have so much I want to talk about. Well, RvR for me is one of the main reasons I wanted to come to this game. I’ve had this conversation with Andy, so along with the Tome of Knowledge, RvR (or what I like to call “purposeful PvP” because I don’t like the pointless kind) was the big reason.
What made me step back from RvR a lot is the frustration because, to me, the frustration comes from RvR having a purpose. But it almost seems like the mechanics are fighting against each other. The mechanics are supposed to kind of guide you into what you are supposed to be doing, but instead there is a lot of “Me! Me! Me!” attitude and not a lot of “Us! Us! Us!” because of the way the campaign works.
GG: So we see things like the Token System being introduced to give people more of a reason to fight, and the Tier 4 Renown bonus being added so when you capture a zone you get the reward that was only in lower Tiers before. But a lot of what we see right now, the big issue seems to be people just standing around the warcamp. It’s something I actually brought up when the Token System was introduced, that there is a lot of reward even if you didn’t do anything at all.
Are we going to hopefully see, in the future, maybe a scaling back of rewards such as these incidental rewards? Because, quite frankly, I don’t get to play a lot right now and when I do, I am looking for what zone is flipping so I can go there and chat with people and catch up on what’s going on while getting free Renown and Tokens. I am doing nothing and I hate the fact that I can do that. I am kind of hoping that we see more: You have to get involved or you’re not getting anything.
Stuart: That goes back to the question you asked earlier where the first step is to say you get more bonus for participating in a Keep or Battlefield Objective flip. We are looking at those rewards to see if they fall in line. If the zone reward that you’re getting is…if it’s still better for people to sit in the warcamp than to actually participate in the Keep, maybe we will look at lowering the zone reward and increasing the Keep reward. So in the end, you are going to have the same amount [of Renown awarded], but you are actually going to have to go out and participate [to get it].
All this talk about incentivizing people to fight other people, that’s all about “Sure, you can sit on your ass in a warcamp and get something. You’ll get lucky when a zone flips. But if you’re actually out there fighting, then you are going to get a ton more.” Besides the fact that it is more fun, which as we were talking earlier, it drives me. It doesn’t drive everyone, but it drives me. We realize that if we put the rewards out there, people will go to it.
Now, we run the risk of “If we put a reward on this Keep over here, then all the people will want to do is this Keep over here and they’ll forget the whole campaign. They don’t push to the cities or whatever.” It’s a very hard balance that we are trying to get where it’s “Give the people enough rewards so they want to do things but don’t reward them for the wrong things.” Reward them so they want to keep doing what they are supposed to be doing: to push the campaign. And reward them for fighting each other instead of sitting in a warcamp.
There is all this balancing that you have to do here, when you raise one, it affects everything else. So we are playing with the sliders right now.
GG: I am not necessarily the person who goes out in PvP groups just to PvP. I like to PvP, but I want to do something with the campaign primarily (RvR) and I get my PvP along with it; however, we have seen a switch come where, for a lot of people, they PvP to get their gear but not to move the campaign.
Part of this came when the loot rules were switched so that you could loot things like Invader and Warlord gear in open RvR instead of just in the cities, where it had been restricted to previously. Technically, you can now progress your character fairly well without ever worrying about the campaign. This seems like a detractor from the reason why you’d want to get there in the first place.
Is there a chance we’ll see a switch back to the way it was before where you only see certain items drop when you’re in the correct area? So players can still drop all the same items, but only if you’re in the correct Stage of the city siege. Especially since there are going to be changes to how people are participating in the city siege stages. Is there a chance that, when those changes go in, we’ll see things moved back so people are focusing again on the campaign and not just duels or smaller fights?
Stuart: So…what we feel, and what we want the drive for the campaign to be, is you want to get into the enemy city because the city is where the end-game is. The city is where a lot of the fun is. The city is where the rewards are. One of the things, again talking about the sliders and everything that we’re fighting, is right now not everyone loves the city sieges. So, we are doing work on the city sieges to make them more enjoyable to people, to change the rewards and the structures.
(Some of these changes are on PTS right now, were recently tested, and received good reviews.)
No details that I’m willing to talk about right now, but one of the other meetings I had today was about some of the stuff we are doing to the city sieges. Once that is all in line and once we have “This is the campaign, as it should be from start to end,” we can look at the sliders and say “OK, this is what we have. Let’s up the rewards here and move these rewards over to there,” to make sure people are moving their way through the campaign. The way that’s fun, the way they want to, and the way we want them to. We want them all to align.
So one of the things we are actually looking to do in the First Stage of the city siege is [adjusting] the main city Public Quest. Right now, the way it is, everyone is fighting around this Lord that pops up once you get to the second stage of the Public Quest and it’s near-impossible. So what we wanted to do was…we said “OK, so people aren’t finding that fun, so let’s move that over to the side and look at what we can do that is A. FUN! and B. RvR!” So what we are doing is we’re allowing both sides to fight over the main city PQ and we’re putting in objectives.
So right now, you have two objectives and we are adding another one so there will be three to fight over. We are changing the mechanics of the PQ so that it is more like a Scenario, granted not 100% balanced because we can’t control the instance, but it’s going to be this type of thing where you want to hold the objectives and you want to kill people. We are actually looking to take the burnables out of that part of the PQ, leave them in the city a bit, but make the PQ about RvR, about killing people, about taking objectives.
Once you get to Stage Two, the Lord shows up, but he is an optional objective. You can kill him, or you can keep fighting people and taking the objectives and win that way. And one of the other things that we are going to do is, currently if you lose Stage One, you are not going to get loot — you’re done. Stage One is done and you are just fighting Stage Two to stop the other guys from winning. We are going to allow it to where, if you win Stage Two, it flips to your Stage Two. So now you’re fighting to win. So let’s say you’re fighting Stage One and lose…
GG: So you don’t have to let it reset and start back over at Stage One?
Stuart: Right. You can go back and forth in Stage Two as you get reinforcements, as people leave, as people learn what they are supposed to be doing, as you take a nice area and all of a sudden your team has the advantage. And now you have taken your Stage Two and now you have to do what they were doing. Now you can either go kill their Lord or you can hold the objectives or whatever…
GG: So you might possibly only see Stage One the very first second you walk in and spend the rest of the time fighting over Stage Two back and forth because nobody wins it?
Stuart: Maybe. Now, granted, it means the PQ could take a lot longer, but it’s going to be more fun. It’s going to take longer because both sides are equally matched. Some of the stuff we were seeing was “Damnit! We lost Stage One. Just let them reset.” Or “We just lost Stage One. Let’s screw them out of their loot.”
GG: Or “Don’t finish Stage One because we can’t beat Stage Two anyway.”
Stuart: Right. So now Stage One is just the “OK! Everyone on your mark. Get set…” and then Stage Two is the “Go!”
Again, this was tested this last Friday and Saturday with some very fun 48 vs. 48 action in the cities and it got really good reviews. If you missed it, you missed out on a glimpse of the fun Mythic has in store for us with the RvR end-game revamps that Stuart is talking about here.
In Part 2 of this interview, we touch on topics like past changes to the city siege, unbalanced Instances, the city siege Victory Point rumors, and more. Until then…