Category Archives: Shadowbane

Time Investment

Phillip II: I can’t lose, Henry — I have time. Just look at you — great, heavy arms, but every year they get a little heavier. The sand goes pit-pat in the glass. I’m in no hurry, Henry. I’ve got time.
Henry II: Suppose I hurry things along. Suppose I say that England is at war with France.
Philip II: Then France surrenders. I don’t have to fight to win. Take all you want — this county, that one — you won’t keep it long.
The Lion in Winter

How do we feel about games whose competitive balance privilege the investment of time?

I do not mean games where you become better with experience. “Easy to learn, hard to master” is a classic design goal, and games without that learning curve often become dull quickly. Instead, I mean games where players can spend different amounts of time on the field, with points accruing to players/teams that invest more time. This includes bringing more players, playing for more time, or often both.

In contrast, think of a round of an RTS, FPS, MOBA, board game, or sporting event. The temporal bounds of the game are fixed, and the rounds are generally distinct. I can play as many games of StarCraft as I like, but I start each game fresh. If the other players are not there, I cannot keep rolling the dice in Monopoly to keep going around the board, nor can my football team show up at midnight to score unopposed while the other team is asleep.

Many computer-mediated games allow and even encourage this sort of play, especially where territorial control is involved, and the economics of the game may create this on a smaller basis if you can farm during off-hours to create an advantageous starting position. For example, your server’s score in GW2 WvW is largely driven by how many players you field over how much time, whereas GW2 sPvP at least tries to have equal players for equal time. EVE Online, Darkfall, Shadowbane, and Ingress are other games where bringing more players or continuing to play before/after the other team does allows you to win through superior time investment. You may be really good at the game, but you only have two hours per day to play, while the opposing guild might be college students who just finished finals (although you dominated during finals week).

On the one hand, it seems like something is wrong with such a game if superior time investment does not yield results. If you are trying to simulate a war, great ways to win a war include bringing more allies, bringing more economic resources, and sacking your enemies’ cities while their troops are elsewhere. On the other hand, now that I am long past the age where I have time to kill, why would I want to engage in competition where my competitors can score while I am not even playing?

: Zubon

To say nothing of the general MMO incentive to keep grinding.

Runaway

This post has a good explanation of long-term design issues in Ingress, similar to the ones that sunk Shadowbane.

In board game circles it’s referred to as the “runaway leader” effect – winning makes it easier and easier to keep winning. It has a few advantages – it is a more intrinsically realistic dynamic. There are some games, like Monopoly, in which a runaway leader taking over is the entire point of the game in the first place. However, runaway leader positive feedback loops are not viewed as good design for longer games because players tend to dislike games where the outcome is decided very early on but they are obliged to keep playing. While nobody is actually obliged to play Ingress, player attrition rarely helps with the underlying balance issues. Note that a game having a runaway leader effect doesn’t mean that a team in a weaker position cannot ever achieve victories – it just means that the odds are heavily stacked against them.

Like Shadowbane, Ingress is not asymmetric, so the rules are not tilted against either side, but the mechanics do make it easier for the winners to keep winning, which tends to have the effect of driving out the losing team and reducing the influx of new players (on either side, because winning unopposed on an empty field in a virtual world gets boring quickly).

I am debating whether I am interested in continuing to play. I live and work in one of those heavily dominated areas, so if I want a competitive environment, I need to drive an hour away. And people who have farmed in the non-competitive environments do that same drive with their farmed gear.

The rumored third faction only makes the runaway leader effect worse unless there is reason to unite against the winning team. MU in Ingress is like PPT in Guild Wars 2: territorial control is all that matters for the scoreboard.

: Zubon

While the rules of Ingress are balanced, the flavor text spurs the current imbalance towards the Resistance. Oddly, the linked post has a commenter who says this is a good thing because it keeps the game competitive. I’m not sure that person understands what “competitive” means.

Farewell Shadowbane

SHADOWBANE FAREWELL
We come to you now with regret and sadness, but also happiness and pride.. Regret and sadness that it has finally come to this, and as of May 1, 2009 the Shadowbane servers will be powered down once and for all. Yet happiness that it lasted so very long, and pride to be able to stand before such a passionate community to thank you for your undying support and unwavering loyalty to Shadowbane.

Memories of Ages past and present will always remain in the hearts of those who fought for land and title, power and greed, and above all, the sword known as Shadowbane. Tales of epic proportions will be remembered and told for years to come. Allow me to remember the tales past with you one final time.

The Children of Aerynth formed communities, better known as Guilds, to achieve their common goals. These very Guilds built cities beginning with an acorn harvested from the World Tree. The World Tree’s acorns sprouted into stone trees, the Tree of Life, which served as the focal point to all cities within Aerynth. The Tree of Life was most important to these communities as they allowed for a sort of immortality to the spirits of the dead as they were linked to the Tree by powerful magic from which even the Wise couldn’t explain. From these cities raised Empires and Alliances but also brought the strife of war. Many wars would erupt among rival Empires creating fear and chaos across the fragments. Empires sought out the power of the One Sword to either bring Order to the world or to let Chaos reign freely. Humans, Minotaurs, Irekei, Northmen, Dwarves, Centaur Lords, and many other races filled the ranks of these Empires on the battlefields known as Aerynth, Dalgoth, and Vorringia over the Ages. In the distance, you could hear the roars of the fired buildings as they crumbled and collapsed into ashes and rubble, the consistent rhythm of the drums of war as Empire’s marched, and the sounds of gears and pulleys as Siege Engines fire upon resilient and towering walls as the many Empires engaged in battles across the continents vying for power and dominion. Alliances were formed to achieve common goals among various Nations only to be met with strife from within tearing the Alliance apart and pitting Nations against each other once again. Each war created new opportunity to rebuild old Empires once lost and rekindle old friendships or rivalries. New Ages began but the cycle remained the same. The search for the Sword known as Shadowbane continued on.

Epic sieges outside the city gates, Events giving the individual player or entire nations the choice side with Order or Chaos, and politicking in the political arena to posture for an advantage using the power of the pen instead of the might of the sword are just the beginning of countless memories that we can remember and keep with us for years to come. Adventures through the many Ages have lasted over 6 years for some, while other’s adventures were still a new experience. No matter if you were a seasoned veteran or a fledgling still learning the ropes you poured yourselves into your quests to find Shadowbane. Unfortunately, the Sword has slipped into the Void never to be found again.

Many passionate and creative individuals have poured their hearts and souls into developing and hosting Shadowbane. We want to thank each and every one of you for your tremendous work and valiant efforts throughout Shadowbane’s lifetime.

Remember, Play to Crush!

Update for those that care:

Following our recent news, the support and enthusiasm the community has shown for Shadowbane has led to an extension of the closure date to July 1, 2009. This should allow the community enough time to play out its final days appropriately. We are looking into various options to make these final days as fun as possible!