PvP is broken, and why it can't be fixed: an outsider's analysis

PvP is broken, and why it can’t be fixed: an outsider’s analysis

Disclaimer: I don’t play PvP. I do, however, read these forums a lot, and over the last year I’ve seen PvPers complaining about many perceived problems. I want to address these problems seriously (even if I can’t take all of the complaining people seriously).

There are two ways to approach fixing perceived problems:
a) change the feature that causes the problem
b) change the perception.

Option b) is what benefits from having another perspective, which is the point of this brief essay. By looking at the issue from another point of view we can perhaps discover ways to deal with it, either by finding a workaround solution, or finding out that the problem was never in the feature itself, but in the way we approach it.

First of all, let’s list some of the more commonly expressed complaints, especially in regards to PvP even though some of these are applicable to a PvE environment too.

  1. Obelisk/dungeon entrance camping. A player’s character is unresponsive for several seconds after using a map room to teleport to an obelisk, as well as when entering or exiting a dungeon. The player sees only a loading screen, but his character is still in the game and can be interacted with, including attacking (and killing) the character in PvP while the player is helpless to defend himself.
  2. Horses have a major advantage over players fighting on foot (this item can be applied to any “OP meta” in the game). This complaint usually includes the implication that the complainer himself does not, for some reason, use this “meta” tech. Often, we also see claims that using the meta “requires no skill”, thus belittling the prowess of those who use this “meta”. I would submit that this has more to do with the player’s ego than actual constructive criticism towards the “meta” feature, but that’s a discussion for another topic.
  3. Single players have a distinct disadvantage against multiple opponents in combat (and smaller clans have a similar disadvantage against big clans). This boils down to basic math. All other things being equal (such as player skill, tier of used weapons and equipment, healing items, etc.), superior numbers prevail. This complaint is sometimes flavored by stories of good old days when a single skilled player could defeat multiple less skilled opponents, ignoring the fact that even back in the good days, multiple equally skilled opponents had the same advantage they have now.
  4. Alpha clans are monopolizing resource gathering. These resources may be in the form of dungeons with specific boss drops, or crafting materials such as brimstone. Although it is strategically viable to deny resources from your enemies, this limits the way other players are able to compete, which is why Funcom has recently put into place some rules and regulations for this behavior.
  5. People with more time to play get a big advantage. Related to the “superior numbers” problem above, in this case, the numbers refer to the amount of hours players are able to dedicate to playing. Someone with 30 available hours a week has, theoretically, three times the opportunities to harvest, train, explore, level up thralls, craft equipment and build defenses, as well as mount offensives against other players, than a player with only 10 hours of available playing time. Longer, unbroken sessions also have advantages over shorter periods that may be interrupted by real life. People with less free time may be unable to even be online to defend their bases. Basically, it becomes a competition of who can be online for the longest, rather than who is the more skilled player.
  6. Clans with more people have an advantage over clans with fewer people, or solo players for that matter. Another numbers-based complaint, addressing the fact that even if all players had the same amount of time to play, more people will mean more harvesting, more thralls being trained, more equipment being made, even specialized builds for different clan members to optimize harvesting, crafting, fighting, etc. This further transfers to being able to have at least someone online during raiding hours, someone dedicated to repairing damage done to their base by bombing runs or trebuchets, as well as having people in multiple places at the same time – even defending their base while mounting an attack against an enemy clan’s base simultaneously.
  7. Thralls are one-shotting players. A long process of “balancing” thralls who were, at one time, mostly useless, turned out to become pretty useful, to basically necessary in order to compete, to actually overshadowing the real protagonist of the game, the players. This problem is most evident in PvP where players bring fighting thralls into battle against other players, and the thralls contribute more to the fight than their controlling player, even up to the point where a single mistake on a player’s behalf may cause their defeat in the hands of an AI combatant – thus removing the focus of PvP from its intended point, players fighting players.
  8. Offline raiding. Related to the problems of “more people” and “more time to play”, some people and clans cannot reliably be online at every raiding season, leaving their base vulnerable. And any vulnerability will certainly be exploited, especially if the risk of failing or getting caught is negligible. Thralls alone (the same thralls that are one-shotting players, mind you) are unable to defend a base with any competence, and can be killed at the attackers’ leisure.
  9. The ratio of Bombs necessary to blow up a foundation to the amount of resources required to repair/replace said foundation strongly favors the defender. Naturally, this is usually a problem mainly when not offline raiding because repairing the damage requires a player to actually be present to repair the damage. (Again, more time/more people gives an advantage here.) Those who get offline raided tend to argue that blowing up their base is too easy because farming bomb materials is too fast easy.
    The list would go on, but for the purposes of this discussion, these examples should be sufficient. Fundamentally, all of these listed issues can be summarized into one sentence:

The problem of PvP is that people don’t fight fair, mostly experienced by those on the receiving end of unfairness.

This is why I submit that PvP cannot be fixed, not without changing the fundamental basic structure of the game. A sandbox game, by its nature, does not and cannot have mechanisms to ensure fair and balanced conflict between groups of players. A fair fight requires a strictly regulated environment, such as in tournament games where a set number of players on each side have the same initial resources, start at the same time and have a definite goal towards which to battle (whether it’s the destruction of the enemy base, capturing a flag or accumulating the most kills within a predefined period of time).

A sandbox game has none of these. It’s free-for-all, join-at-any-time, play-as-much-as-you-want playground with no rules of engagement, no restrictions to daily/weekly playing time, and no definite victory conditions.

To conclude this analysis, I see two possible solutions to these perceived problems; as mentioned earlier, we can either change the features that cause the problem, or change our perception.

The first solution is to get a different game. From the most basic foundations, Conan Exiles is not built as a fair, balanced battle arena. To create an environment where all players had equal opportunities, and skill alone determined the victor, would require a complete redesign of the game, or finding another game that offers similar features but that has been designed with the focus of fair PvP environment. Considering the incredible freedom offered by the sandbox nature of Conan Exiles, I’m afraid we’re talking about mutually exclusive concepts.

The second solution is to change the perception of what the game should be. This means accepting that the competitive environment is not, and is not intended to be, fair. Again, this can be hardest for those on the receiving end of unfairness, but a certain number of those on the winning side would prefer a more equal challenge (although it can be argued that the game does offer opportunities to handicap oneself if a greater challenge is desired, by using suboptimal equipment, character builds and thralls). We have been conditioned by our society to encourage fairness, which is why this can be a tough pill to swallow for all parties involved.

I hope this “outsider’s view” gives you some food for thought and a topic for discussion, and of course, I’m happy to hear your feedback on this analysis.

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Great post! Thanks for that.

This is exact the essence: A open world survival game can never be a fair and competitive pvp game. If you want competitive pvp you need to play guild wars or something else with arena pvp…

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I was actually going to say something like this in the essay, but you know, the advantage of the first player (ie. who gets the white pieces) has been studied since 1851, and statistics suggest that the first player indeed has a slight advantage. Of course, across multiple iterations where both players alternate between white and black it cancels itself out.

(Damn, am I already sidetracking my own thread with off-topic?)

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Hello! I have played in all types of gameplay and to be honest, only pvp gives me the will to continue playing after reaching level 60! In PVE there is no real danger if you dont want to face it! You can reach level 60 unlock almost every feat needed to play in your style! Butt in Pvp you are in constant threat of being discovered and killed! And i have found decent players sometimes! Even traded itens! Not everyone is trying to ruin others , butt its true that i have given up on some servers because of those who are relentles in raiding you only when you are offline and have their bases no where to find, and run from you when they are discovered and dont give a chance for revenge! But that makes you to explore more and build in places unraidable or hidden or out of the main roads! Its a brutal land, but it calls to me everyday!

Well, thats totaly at Funcom… Funcom DOESNT WANT that, because if 1 skilled player can kill >2 not-skilled players, the “unhappy people” (non-skilled players) are more than the happy ones.

That was the logic Funcom said in their Livestream.

Besides a bubble, what to defenders even have to defend? :smiley:

Most of your other points. Tell me a survival PvP sandbox game, where the player-base isnt like that…

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I don’t see anyway to change that though. Players that are “not skilled” are by definition at a disadvantage to a “skilled” player and its entirely possible that no matter what the nerf applied, one “skilled” player could defeat any number of “unskilled”. If someone chooses to run around in rags with bone swords at level 60 because they think that’s good enough, and take on someone in epic heavy with a simple star metal weapon, they are going to be no match. And no matter what the weapons and armor are available, a “skilled” player will seek out whatever is “best” and when two “skilled” players meet, it’ll be a cointoss. Funcom may not LIKE that reality, but that’s just how it is unless all weapons and armor are equalized and all player stats are standardized to the point that its a boring contest of who clicks and rolls first and fastest. It’s a fools errand to try and “balance” a game that has progression, random loot drops and built in advantage for people who were simply playing the game first.

I think “balance” in video games is actually a very constraining and destructive concept. It comes from a competitive video game subculture that when playing games seek to be “better” than other people playing the same game. I’m all for them doing what they wanna do, but gearing a game for it in my mind breeds the wrong attitudes for the players of the game.

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@jot29: you’re replying to the points PvPers make, rather than the point I was making. I can’t in good conscience discuss the merits of those arguments because they weren’t mine to begin with. Rather, I’d like to hear your opinion on my conclusions.

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Whats with the third option? Funcom starts finally fixing its game?

There shouldn´t be a new meta after every update. There shouldn´t be a meta at all to begin with. Spawning on obelisk could be fixed easily. Horses too. Make buildings indistructible while offline and the offline raids are gone. Buildings will still decay, thats enough to clean the server. Thralls where never useless. But thralls oneshotting people is a no go. Its the same as get slaughtered at an obelisk after spawning. Thralls do not need to make unreasonable damage to players, they are made to help a player in all kind of situations but not taking over controll of a fight completly. Clans beeing to strong is mostly a problem on official servers, because the clansizes are simply to big. Lower them to 4-5 and you will take a lot of pressure out of the can. A 2 man clan can still fight against 3 or 4 and win. Or get another small allianced clan to help.

There are a lot of things Funcom could do but refuses to do, because its easier to sell dlcs and toss unfinished and unbalanced stuff into the game, just to say: we have new content added for you to the game.

I know this is exactly the post you where waiting for Kapoteeni, so please go ahead and take everything apart what I said. Have fun!

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I’m afraid you’re missing my whole point. There is no fixing the game in a way that would still resemble the game we have now. Every individual point you make that would “make the game better” are valid on their own, but they are all micro-level changes that won’t alter the fundamental problem, ie. the game is not fair. It cannot be fair in its present concept. The game is just a collection of mechanics that enable the problem.

I’m not even saying that Funcom shouldn’t change the features you perceive as problems. What I do submit, however, is that it still won’t fix PvP because the game’s core concept allows for unfair matches. All those fixes may lower the curve, but it won’t make the playing field level.

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Yes because it’s always Funcoms fault right? Because it’s not reality that 1 person should NOT be able to fight a group of 5 to 12 people waiting to ambush them as they exit a building (dungeon) right?

The main problem with PvP is the mentality of the player base. Or, perhaps it is the naming of the servers. Perhaps they should just scrap the name of the servers entirely because the concept of Player vs. Player does not exist. If you are lucky you will fight GvP or Group vs. Player. Or your will get raided offline with is More Player vs. Base with no one home to defend it. As mentioned by the OP you have large groups of players camping spawn points waiting for people to materialize to kill them before they can even interact, much like in other MMO’s where they would kill people who were talking to NPC’s getting quest and thus incapable of defending themselves. The mentality is not to actually fight against other players at all. Sure, if you have a cheap easy means of killing another player they will take it but actually fight them? And then the toxic behavior does not even stop there, no it goes much further as after killing someone when they are stuck porting into a zone and literally cannot interact they spend the next 10 to 15 minutes berating them in global about their lack of skills and how they are a care-bare or some other such nonsense. This has been the case in many different games made by many different companies so to sit here and cry that it’s Funcom’s fault is just pure and utter garbage.

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A very well considered and articulated reply Kapoteeni. I am in agreement with you. There wil always, and I mean ALWAYS be a meta in PvP, no amount of nerfs and rebalances will ever change this. Even if every weapon is reduced to the same damage, for example 50 and removed we removed Legendarys and all debuffs. It will still exist. The reason lies in the architecture and animation differences, such as the spears reach, the daggers swing speed, etc. For this reason weapons such as the two-handed greataxe will never be the meta. The idea that there will ever be complete balance across the board and that all weapons will be viable, I am sorry to say, is a pipe dream.

While it has generally always been the case, one factor which I believe has impacted upon these is the changes to the dodge roll. The change has (intentionally) geared it so that solo players stand less of a chance against groups of opponents, which weighted the odds of such a victory away from individual skill, and towards raw player numbers in a battle. Thus further empowering clans. In relation to Horses, the dodge length was reduced while the animation duration for light and medium especially was increased. I wager that horses would have been easier to dodge using for example, the classic light dodge. For the record, I am not here to argue a return to the old system; that is a discussion for a different thread and day. I am just calling attention to it. Rather, like Kapoteeni these are just a couple of thoughts based on 1) my own observations, and 2) what friends of mine who do play PvP regularly have said.

PvP will never be completely balanced, no matter how many nerfs and rebalances we throw at it. As Kapoteeni correctly stated, the reason is because the game itself is built upon a foundation of imbalance. There is no solution other than this

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Most of these are fixable, and could allow for a better PVP experience. But it would take some dev work…

  1. Make a delay for damage when you port in for 30 seconds. Cannot use anything but move on the control during this time.
  2. The only real advantage is the no stam usage and after raid hours the horse itself takes only fall damage and NPC damage. Fix those, and all others are just part of tactics. You are on horse, i need to create obstacles to make it hard to ride cleanly.
  3. The main issue with this advantage is that evreything in game items can be perma stored, uising the preserve boxes on some items. Makepreserve boxes like they were in day 1 after release, slow down the timer only. And make everything have some sort of decay. This create value in everything, as well as make people use it or lose it in a timely matter (times tbd).
  4. IF you made certain areas have a 100% chance of daily purge, it would make up keep with those areas harder. (add in #3) also if you had some sort of “upkeep:” cost for everything you owned, it would require more than running by to refresh and make it harder to build just to build.
  5. See #3 and #4.
  6. See #3 and #4.
  7. The latest patch is working on the one shot deal. Still needs more tuning, but they have always said after the leveling release, thralls would get multiple balance passes over time. So I have patience on this one.
  8. Can be fixed by utilizing already existing data…last log in time of clan members (it is used in thrall clean up calculation). Use the same data and create an all buildings safe time (or at least 5x Health) based on the data + 60 minutes. Meaning for 60 minutes after I log off, my bases can be hit as normal, after that it would take 5x the mats to raid it. Tied into this is going 24/7 as well.
  9. Make land claim have a 15 minute cool down from explosive damage taken. Meaning I can’ place or repair for 15 minutes after last explosive damage in the claim area. Meaning if i fight you off long enough, i may be able to have a clan mate repair before your next attack.

It just would need some recoding, which may or may not be plausible at all.

Reality is offline getting fixed first and adding in decay on PVP for everything would do a lot to help “balance” servers. Imagine logging in and playing pvp for the entire time. Right now, 75% of the game is PVE-C, and the Ci is very light. going offline protection of sorts and making it so that no matter when you log in, you are at risk is really what PVP should be. Problem is, offline is way too easy, so the 6 hours window was useda as a band aid, that really deters a server from being true PVP.

I would also, for PVP, removing clans would help from resource blocking and obbie blocking, as it would hurt allies when you weren’t online. Thus making it a nuisance even to friends. It would also punish for bringing a thrall in a joint raid, as it can kill friends in cross fire.

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On a whole, I agree with Kapoteeni’s list of arguments: No mechanic of detail will solve this.

In Funcom’s Age of Conan, PVP and PVE two very distinct things:
a) No impact of PvP fights on PVE or on every every day life.
b)Weapons and armors are dedicated stuff (those for PVE, those for PVP)
etc.
AND… we have almost the same situation as in Conan Exiles.

In my mind, PVP will have and will keep a huger number of players IF, at least:
1)if newcomers have a chance to fight and progress: the need of some sort of PVP match making
2)if PVP is unable to impact PVE life or every day life:
-to fight must be vonlontary (not when the victim is sleeping or at work)
-the fight could take place on dedicated battlefields with no impact on bases etc.
- lvls in PVE are different from ranks in PvP (see AoC for that)
-I see a lot of unfair things on youtube or in game’s chats where High Lvl PvP guys are
laughing at poor newcomers or at less skilled guys. PvP names could be temporary and
generic names “Warrior1”, “Archer15” etc…

And??? What could be the reward (dealing with PVP ranks) of a PvP match if no loot or no pleasure to destroy no pleasure to kill:
- some points that allow you to compete in the next PVP rank matches
- a huge amount of ressources available for your PVE base? quantities dealing with the rank
- World boss keys or even some rare legendary sword
- a named dancing girl, highlyboobed and agressivelytitted???
- a white horse able to run as fast as the wind in the desert???
- a huge and heavy steed who bites and trample to death your opponent???
- a named chef able to make a breakfast at dawn before a glorious battle?
- your name engraved on sacred stones?
What do you expect?

Apparently in most castle designs, they tried to do this. Force anyone entering to make one or several direction changes so that if the “guest” was a raiding party, they were slowed down alot.

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Love it

Nice post, i can only comment on the ob camping as i have seen several threads on this, Everyone has different opinions on ob camping. Ppl complain they r loaded in and die, and the other side says "well it your choice to use the maproom. Either way imo its honorless. This one feature does have the easiest fix to appease both sides. Simply have the obelisks in “temples” or what not with doors that only open from the inside. The person porting in will be loaded and can then exit the obelisk. The campers can still camp the temples.

Oh I love the ‘‘don’t teleport’’ solution from people, it is has to be the s…dest solution I have ever heard in my life.
Might as well take cars away from people so no one will have accidents on the road anymore, instead make cars safer, following that logic.
I agree with you, it’s honor-less, not able to be hurt after teleport until moving will fix all arguments.

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I like your approach, Kapoteeni! A lot of truth, but PVP IS NOT BROKEN.
Let me call out the three main misconceptions about PVP that I find very often on the forums:

  1. Don´t overestimate peoples´ ranting.
    Most of the rants (“fix your game / the world is unfair”) are driven by feelings. There are a lot of guys complaining who just don´t have enough frustration tolerance to cope with the harshness of the game´s world, while this harshness is indeed intended as you can see in the opening video.
    Don´t think that those loud and numerous voices complaining are the majority of players. There is also a big part of the playerbase who is not driven by frustration and therefore not spamming the forums.

  2. There is not the ONE WAY people play PVP in Conan Exiles.
    Some play with clans, some solo. Some want to have fighting action, merely the combat of persons, and others prefer the building and / or the blowing up of fortresses. Of course also the time invested differs a lot. Some people stay for years on one server and live through ages with their friends and foes, others change their server weekly or monthly (build up, fight, get destroyed first time, move on).

  3. ABOUT THE CONCEPTIONS OF FAIRNESS AND IMBALANCE:
    Yes, in a sandbox building and fighting game there is no equality/balance in fight.
    And this is NOT UNFAIR.
    This is why PVP in Conan Exiles is not broken. It is unbalanced, and that is another cup of coffee. WAR is never balanced. And war is not fair. If you are fighting for survival, you will not fight fair. Sorry, it´s plain nonsense to expect that. That means: of course you get offline raided eventually (for different reasons).
    That´s what this game is great in: IMBALANCE. No sarcasm.
    Imbalance makes for the greatest epic stories and adrenaline filled moments. And it is a simulation of the real world confrontations. So simulating a world that is unfair in it´s nature of course leads to a game where fair play is not found in the BALANCING but in sticking to the game´s rules:
    You play the game fair if you don´t cheat. You play fair, even if you kill the naked and raid offline. But still you don´t have to do it. You can (and lots do that even in PVP) still play in a gentleman´s way. You will even profit from that, but only in the long run. Yes, you can establish reputation in a server. That will change a lot, but only over a long period of time. Again, it all depends on the individual playstyle.

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I agree, plus who wants to spend 15 min travelling from the dreggs to frost temple or north jungle. Granted yes there are horses now but comeon, your not traversing ALL that terrain with a horse. Build near resources and your prime time for bombing.

But no, the “just dont port” thing is dumb. Why you gonna ruin a nice part of the game for everyone.

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