Time to Effectiveness

This is true. In any PvP game (or game with a significant PvP element), a major factor must be time to PvP effectiveness. From the time I start, how long until I can be worthwhile to have along and how long until I am at parity with long time players? This is mechanical, numerical parity; you may still be lousy because of having no strategy or practice, but how long until I can shoot a bullet that does as much damage as the next guy’s?

In most non-MMOs, that was the instant you log on. A rocket launcher is a rocket launcher, a zergling is a zergling. Now more games have character advancement, so even a FPS might make you level. The better ones use a model like Team Fortress 2: you need time/money to gain options, not power (at least in theory; the “options” might be better than what you start with, but there should be trade-offs).

MMOs are notoriously bad because you need to level. Guild Wars 2 sPvP avoids this by letting you play at full effectiveness on day one, but WvW does not because a level 1 scaled to 80 is significantly less powerful than a level 80. His bullets do not do the same damage, and they will not until after a level and equipment grind, but the scaling means you can at least contribute while taking care of that grind through WvW. In EVE, you can join your friends and meaningfully contribute on your first day. I have been playing Ingress lately, where you can start contributing around level 5 and reach full effectiveness at 8, which was spread over a month for me and is doable in 20 hours or less of (highly efficient, possibly assisted) play.

For MMOs, this is indicative of the larger problem that you need to grind to play with your friends. MMOs are bad for playing with your friends. Their character advancement systems make it difficult to find a span within which you can bring veterans, newbies, alts, etc. together, and it only gets worse over time as the power differential between day one and the level cap grows. I played a bit of World of Warcraft but it never really caught me because I spent almost my entire time in that vast, lonely wasteland between level 1 and the cap.

If I play these games to play with my friends, I want to play with my friends. If I play these games to compete with other people, I want to compete on a level playing field.

: Zubon

16 thoughts on “Time to Effectiveness”

  1. Amen. Opponents to this seem to be that subset of players who feel the need to cover up poorer play or lack of interest in improving one’s play with quantity of time invested and the illusion of getting better via increasing numbers.

        1. In an electronic version? Have some examples? Because otherwise RPG has been synonymous with character progression for more than 30 years.

          1. Folks do still refer to RPers, because some people roleplay in RPGs. If you are looking for example, consult any game with RP servers (official and otherwise).

            1. All the games with RP servers I would consult also have character progression, which was the entire point of contention. Whether or not RPers engage with that progression is immaterial to Jeromai’s assertion that people who enjoy it do so out of desire to cover up poor play/lack of interest in better play. Which is about as ridiculous as me suggesting that anyone who doesn’t enjoy character progression is an entitled brat with no attention span. “I want maximum effectiveness noooooooooow!!”

              I actually agree with you on the issue, insofar as MMORPGs often make it difficult for IRL friends to play together. But, to me, that’s sorta like being disappointed that Solitaire doesn’t have multiplayer; character progression creates stratification by definition.

          2. I diverted you on purpose the way you diverted the original point.

            We were originally talking about anything multiplayer that has a competitive element to it. A fair playing field based on skill is often sought, and yet, there is a sizeable chunk of the population drawn to asymmetry and stacking the odds and “unfair” wins.

            This is most often seen via the everpresent trope of improve gear to get “better” but are you really better? Ever increasing stats is an easy way out, for players -and- devs.

            Capping stats and capping them low makes it easier for new players to jump in and “catch up” and still have the hope of being demonstrably more effective than an established veteran if they are skilled in other ways. It encourages players to improve via other less easy means, improving reflexes, understanding of the map and game, group coordination and so on.

            1. Sorry for the spam, inability to edit comment:

              Liking the feeling of character advancement and progression does not necessarily imply that it must need to go on forever and create stratification by definition OR have an unbalancing effect in PvP.

              One can enforce a scaling cap on PvP, or use upleveling or downleveling in PvE, for example, and hold a map to a certain level.

              The vagaries of the formulae used to scale this stuff may still give an advantage to those who strove and progressed more, but it doesn’t have to be on a “ha, I’m blowing you away without a sweat” scale.

              I can only conclude that opponents to this sort of leveling of the playing field -enjoy- the inherent asymmetry involved.

            2. Your criticism really makes no sense in the context of the types of games we are discussing. We’re already talking about a game which has levels, escalating gear progression, multiple classes that are not balanced against each other, and immense randomness in terms of critical hits, misses, resists, and so on. Is the PvP supposed to be directed towards those who hate the rest of the game? And what does it even mean to have a level playing field between a WoW Priest and Rogue? Paladin vs Mage? Even if you had some form of enforced gear scaling, there is no way to make the fights symmetrical outside of larger-scale encounters, which are themselves problematic (Bloodlust gets better with more people, etc).

            3. You’re describing as impossible something that has already been done. On the PvE side, City of Heroes is the poster child for scaling, as mentioned in the comments, and from the original post we have GW2 and EVE, where you can meaningfully PvP on your first day. Way back in the first A Tale in the Desert, the most hardcore PvP MMO ever made (complete with permadeath), almost nothing was gated and you could engage in the top levels as soon as you learned how. All those games have levels and gear, and the degree of stratification that creates does/did not keep people from playing with their friends.

              Even WoW, the counter-example you are citing, has claimed to be balanced in group PvP, even aspiring to e-sports at times. That WoW has done a lousy job of this does not make it impossible.

  2. My group of friends had a specific set of alts for a while on WoW that were only ever played as a group, precisely because of this issue. It kinda worked, but it was still annoying because people would naturally want a break from these characters sometimes, people would miss sessions and have to solo a bit to catch up, etc.

    Personally I’d be happy with a completely flat power ‘curve’ and no restrictions on access to content — a ‘recommended’ sequence of play that tells a story but doesn’t lock anyone out would be neat; like if GW1 just opened up the whole map immediately. The GW1 levelling/content restriction system is still the closest I’ve seen to my ideal. Oh and kudos to CoH too of course, which handled this problem in a different way that still mostly worked.

  3. As an aside, this is also the reason why a small subset of gamers exist that bemoan League’s business model and the fact that the game is becoming the poster child for esports and competitive video games. Even if you consider the unlocking of characters to be more in the vein of unlocking options for your role, there’s also the fact that rune pages do give you vertical progression and are also a long grind.

  4. Grind to effectiveness and segmentation are the price we pay for the little pleasure jolts players get from dinging levels and gaining epic loot.

    Unfortunately, the experience with GW2 is that if a company tries flattening the power curve and making events be open world (so anyone can join in and there’s no pressure to exclude all but the ‘best’ players) then there is a storm of protest about lack of progression and zerging.

    This would be why we can’t have nice things.

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