Monday, February 4, 2013

[STO] PVP as War, PVP as Sport.

In the middle of last year, I read a little on a thread about "Combat as Sport versus Combat as War." It was referencing a very long opinion post for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition (currently in development). Intriguing as it was, though, is was concerning a tabletop role-playing game. Could it offer anything worth noting about Star Trek Online's PVP?

I think so.

Star Trek Online is an online game, and could offer a very competitive environment. However, the overall game structure isn't flexible the way a role-playing game and GM are. This is true for both PVE and PVP. The game's AI can only react so much to players before it falls apart or has to be made more ruthless, more advantaged, in order to provide a challenge. But, on top of that, the typical equipment treadmill for PVE means there will be disparity between players and their ability to obtain said equipment (be it time and/or money). All things being equal, the better gear will win.

Moreover, what makes an ability loads of fun and useful for PVE might be incredibly broken for PVP. This was an issue for City Of Heroes, where players were incredibly powerful for the PVE game, and it translated poorly to PVP. Guild Wars: Eye of the North added a PVE only skill or two, acknowledging that trying to balance for PVP and PVE wasn't as interesting as having some stuff being gloriously, wonderfully broken for PVE. And again, there's no GM or Referee here to intervene. PVP as War might not be a viable option. So, what about PVP as Sport?

Let the games begin.

Red 5 is altering their PVP structure in a way that I think Cryptic might want to look examine. Likely they've discussed it, but I'll say it anyways. Formalize it. Because PVP as War cannot be fully expressed within the game, and makes balancing difficult, embrace PVP as Sport in addition to the current formats.

Sport PVP would require that all characters operate with equivalent equipment, weapons, and devices. All items would need to be commonly available rather than being drop dependent, earned as rewards, etc. By equalizing everyone in this regard, it lets players focus on their playstyle, teamwork, etc. By keeping this equipment separate from the normal PVE equipment, it can (and should be) evaluated more often for balance issues, tweaks, etc.

Level/Rank disparities can be addressed via auto-leveling or, where appropriate, point-limits. Players/Ships at rank X are worth Y points, with a team having Z points, for instance, similar to a wargame such as Warmachine, Warhammer, etc. A lone Vice Admiral player going against a dozen or more Ensign-level players (space or ground) might be an ugly fight, but could be workable. Again, this would need examining regularly. Even if HP were normalized, there would still be a significant difference in available skills/stats.

PVP Tournament formats would need establishing; certainly, players being able to run tournaments easily would be beneficial to the PVP community, I believe. Setting team size/point limits, brackets, seeding, and more would be very helpful. Official tournaments could involve simple entry fees going towards a larger pot (nothing ventured, nothing gained). Such fees could be in Energy Credits or even Dilithium (allowing for a degree of monetization). Rewards ought not be PVP-based, but rather PVE or cosmetic. Ideally, it ought be an activity that can earn Experience to provide a valid means of progression.

All of the above would need to be in addition to the current PVP structure, not in place of. Arguably, PVP could be set into seasons, with adjustments made between seasons. Having the PVP equipment being purchasable via Zen or Dilithium could help offset development costs, and provide a barrier to players prone to harassing others (in theory). Seasons could well have rewards of their own for active participation.

Just my thoughts.


  1. I am in a PvP faction of my fleet and while I enjoy both the vE and vP environments I think they are incompatible in STO. Powers, skills, and equipment that is required in PvE maybe useless in PvP as is true the other way. I think they need to break the skill trees for PvP and PvE in order that we may spec for both appropriately. As they have more PvE competitive missions where most DPS gets the top prize then I think us PvPers are at a disadvantage. Likewise we lose a large population of possible match buddies because they spec for PvE roles and can't be as efficient in PvP. I will say you can be respectable in both at the same time, but I have certain ships/toons that would be fun to take an unusual PvE focus, but my concerns of being PvP ready limit my options.

    1. From playing fighting games over the years, I know that PVP can be a lot of fun. But trying to reconcile power creep, the desire for players to feel powerful in PVE, and the need for something resembling balance in PVP? It can be tough. I don't think MMOs can balance 1 on 1 for the most part - best they can hope for is teams. I do wish they could separate the options a bit more - try to address both as they need to be addressed, without the concerns of the other butting in...