Friday, August 8, 2008

When progress stops

I mentioned that I am in the beta of Football Manager Live, and I've been playing that pretty constantly for weeks now. In FML there are up to 1,000 managers per game world, and every day your rank among the managers is calculated, based on your match and financial results. When I started I was obviously rock bottom, and then I slowly worked my way up to rank 250. And there I stopped. Every day I'm moving either a couple of ranks up, or a couple of ranks down again, but for the last two weeks I've been around rank 250. Apparently there are 249 managers that constantly play more and better than I do. Not really a surprise, as I only play about an hour per day, and I'm not really an expert on football. That's how such rankings work, the long-term value reflects your relative ability and commitment, and it is impossible for everyone to be at the top. At some point progress, if measured by going up in ranks, stops. And if you play for the progress, then the fun stops too.

The reason I mention this is because FML is a PvP game, just like Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. And as far as I understood, your progress in Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning will stop too. There isn't an endless raid circuit, like in World of Warcraft, because the Trials of Atlantis expansion of Dark Age of Camelot showed Mythic that a raid circuit pretty much ruins RvR. Progress *must* stop when you reach the level cap and get the endgame set of gear out of the dungeons, because only that way will RvR be balanced. You simply don't want somebody with T6 raid gear easily killing somebody who "only" got T4 gear, because then PvP just stops, with everyone feeling obliged to raid until they have the top gear. The PvE game is supposed to stop at some point in WAR, and only the PvP game remains. And in that PvP game you (or your guild) will make some initial progress, working your ways up the ranks, until at some point your progress stops. Some other guild will be at the top, and will constantly be better than you, because of their higher ability and commitment. At some point your progress has to stop in PvP, by definition you can't raise forever in the ranks. And then what will happen to your fun?

I'm not saying that a PvE game like World of Warcraft provides endless fun. The raid circuit only offers an illusion of endless progress. Most players get stuck somewhere in the raid circuit and realize that with their ability and commitment they won't be able to progress more. But I think that the process takes longer in WoW than it will take in WAR. And it is easier to restart in WoW, just add another 10 levels at the top and everyone progresses again. Players like progress! I don't know how they are going to react to a situation where the only progress is a movement of the front line, and that one resets whenever one side wins. Is sacking Altdorf or the Inevitable city once a month enough to keep players motivated for the long term? You tell me.

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