|onflicts between players have always been a central part of the Tibian game experience. Tibia has several features that make it different from many other games. The most prominent ones are that the presence of your character does make a difference, that your character can level with no limit, that the penalty for a death is harsh and that on those worlds where you can attack other players, there is nearly no limit as to the details of the attack. All these features have the effect that players regularly have to deal with other players even if they would actually have preferred not to interact with them. This is the basis for ingame conflicts, but it is also the basis for a very strong community, especially since these features also give some power to the community to control itself. The main means to deal with such conflicts is to fight them out through the use of combat game mechanics.
"Player versus Player", short "PvP", is a term to describe all forms of competition between players through the use of combat game mechanics. The term is used to distinguish it from the use of combat mechanics against computer controlled creatures which is called "Player versus Environment", short "PvE". "PvP" includes consensual fights - in Tibia's case usually fighting in war mode - as well as all battles without mutual agreement. "PvP" is a very commonly known term, therefore, this abbreviation will be used throughout the rest of the article.
Tibia currently has three different game world types defining the allowance of PvP. Optional PvP worlds do not allow any non-consensual PvP and Hardcore PvP allows all with no limitations. Only Open PvP attempts to offer a certain freedom while still regulating excesses in PvP.
This article is meant to present our latest deliberations and planned actions concerning problematic areas of PvP. Since problems mainly arise where PvP happens without consent and where regulation is expected, this article applies nearly exclusively to Open PvP.
The Tibian community consists of numerous kinds of players, and each and every one of them has personal preferences as to how he or she wants to play the game. Some really like hanging out with their friends, others are more into hunting and developing their character, some want to fight against other players all the time, others not at all. It is most likely though that hardly any Tibia player can be said as having only one of those motivations. Most Tibians actually have several such preferences, for example many like both PvP sometimes as well as roleplaying some other time.
In order to assess the problems and possible solutions concerning PvP in Tibia, what we had to do was to find out how the majority of Tibians like to play when it comes to the specific area of PvP. We have used many different sources for this, including all channels of player feedback through forums, emails, polls and discussions. From all this feedback, we formulated a description of motivations for PvP that is likely to apply to the great majority of Tibia players.
2.1 PvP Motivation
We have condensed as many personal tastes in PvP into as few definitions as possible. As a result, we have named three different types of PvP motivation. Of course, many players do not belong to just one of those categories but to more than one or sometimes to one, sometimes to the other. However, the following three types seem to be quite representative for the majority of players:
2.2 Distribution of PvP Motivation
In this same context, we had a poll about your motivation for PvP running recently. In this poll, 2718 players voted. They could cast their vote on multiple answers with one exception: The 354 players who voted "none, I am against player vs. player combat" were not allowed to vote for anything else. This means that of the 2718 who voted, 2364 are players who are interested in PvP.
Even if the answers cannot be directly attributed to the three types of motivation, the distribution of votes still gives a very good impression about which motivation is the most common. The 8 top answers have all received over 30% of the votes. Within those 8 top answers are 6 answers that all have in common that the main motivation behind them seems to be to carry out some form of punishment. Now, when someone wants to punish someone else, this means that that person is of the opinion it is justified to punish that other player. Therefore, these 6 answers (revenge a friend; revenge myself; self-defence; justice; punish a cheater; teaching somebody a lesson, e.g., after insults) are most likely to be chosen by players who seek justice through PvP.
The remaining two of these top answers (fun; war) cannot be assigned so clearly. For example, we cannot say why players chose war as an answer. Some will also fight wars for justice, others to find an additional challenge, again others to gain dominance over a game world. Players who have voted fun are most likely not seekers of justice, but they can both find fun in fighting for dominance or in the challenge of the fight itself.
Even if specific numbers cannot be deduced just from that poll, it still shows clearly enough that the biggest motivation for PvP in the community of Tibia is mainly justice. Challenge and Dominance are clearly less common as motivation for PvP, although both are still very significant. Keeping this in mind, we now had to define our main goals concerning PvP in Tibia.
The main problem when thinking about how things should be is to decide about whether we should try to separate these three groups on Open PvP or whether we see the future of this game world type as still being the home of all three groups.
3.1 Preserve The Character of Tibia
During the past few months, a very dominant comment that came in many discussions from our community, was that whatever we do in the future with game world types, what we should do first is work on the current problems on the current world type Open PvP. In Tibian words, this is usually spelled: "You must fix PvP first!" Therefore, our main goal during the past few weeks was to work on improvements on the current Open PvP worlds while maintaining what makes Tibia what it is. This is also the reason why we decided to first try to create a shared environment on Open PvP for all three player types rather than force them to separate.
The result is that we generally do not want to change anything about the fact that you can attack anyone nearly anywhere and anytime. We want to preserve the freedom of PvP because the thrill of an attack happening anytime is something that all three groups like. What this means is that we do not want to add restrictions to PvP itself, but instead, we want to work on the damage it does to the victims in each situation. Further, we want to offer more options in PvP, so that no situation is totally futile. We want to make sure that even if someone is clearly outnumbered and trapped, he has an additional choice to the two current choices "I can die slow or die quick", even if still in that situation the chances of survival are very low. This also means that we do not want to make trapping impossible. It is an important PvP tactic in Tibia and it is needed for many battles. Finally, we also do not want to remove the death penalty. Tibia is a tough game and it has to stay that way.
3.2 Make PvP Fairer
The main problems that were identified arise from players using certain features to their advantage in PvP which have actually not been designed to be used that way at all. The most prominent example is what Tibia players currently call "PZ on demand". This refers to the effect that if your character goes down some stairs into a stack of characters, it turns completely invisible and as a consequence is not attackable. This is currently abused to hide characters with a fresh skull until the skull is gone. There are several more such abuse scenarios. Consequently, our first goal is to reduce the ways in which such features can be abused in PvP. The details will be explained later on.
Additionally, a very important feedback by our players over the past few years was that despite the death penalty being very important and a very good feature, players assess their deaths depending on the reason for the death. Most players said that if they die from a monster or in a PvP fight that was well balanced, they have no problem with the death penalty. However, when someone dies in a situation where he was one against ten, it did not feel fair that he would get the same death penalty as if he died in a one-on-one fight because he really did not stand a chance. Therefore, while preserving the characteristic death penalty of Tibia, we want to tune it better to scale with the fairness of the situation that caused the death.
3.3 Make The War System More Attractive
The second big goal is to make the war system more attractive. We have introduced this system in fall 2009. Since then, it has been used occasionally, but not as much as we hoped for. There are several reasons for this. One reason is that with the current problems named above, it often works better to fight without the war system than with it. The second problem is that the system itself does not offer enough incentives to make those people use it who are interested in wars. The system is currently designed for consensual wars which only cover one aspect of PvP. The reality of wars in Tibia however goes beyond this.
What we want to achieve therefore is on the one hand to design the war system closer to how wars really work. This means that it would have to be adapted to the game world types in some way. On the other hand, we want to create more incentives that may help to get both parties to agree to a war where currently, one side would certainly not agree to fight. Such changes, however, greatly depend on the measures that will be taken concerning PvP fairness in general. Therefore, we have decided to first work on the PvP system and the problems there and at a later stage plan improvements to the war system.
We will now present you the measures that we are currently working on. Due to the fact that PvP is a very delicate topic, we have decided that none of these measures are final until they withstand a public test. Therefore, keep in mind that none of the things that will be described below are final. If they do not work or at least not work as planned, then we will either change them or discard the idea and look for something else.
The first thing we did was look for people from the community to help us find good solutions for as many problems as possible. We are of the opinion that with a topic like PvP, we risk to design into the wrong direction if we do not involve the community into the design process right from the start.
4.1 Discussion With the Focus Group
The best way do manage this was to find a selected group of people who are able to discuss constructively. This group had to be of a manageable size and had to represent as many types of players as possible. The selection process was done by the community management through an open feedback thread about the war system and PvP in Tibia. In this thread, we looked for representatives of as many different opinions as possible and then chose those who were best able to present their opinion. The result was a group of 46 people who were invited onto a private discussion board.
The concept that resulted from the focus group discussions was split in two parts. The first part dealt with improvements to PvP as such. The second part presented many proposals to improve and extend the war system. As mentioned above, we decided that we would not work on both parts at the same time but rather first try to work on the general PvP system and then at a later stage work on the war system again. Therefore, only the first part was presented so far. Once the concept was approved for implementation and testing, we immediately started developing our PvP prototype.
In this paragraph, we will outline the features that have been implemented in our prototype. These features are:
This month is the time when these tests will take place. The implementation of the prototype are nearly finished, so we will start trying it out here at CipSoft with quite a few people within the next few days. Our internal prototype is dedicated to verify the general function of the features and to remove bugs. Once we are through with that, we will open up a test server.
The first phase will be private. Only the focus group and a few more helpers will be invited. We want this initial time because we want these players to plan and simulate realistic scenarios but still have the time to assess the features while they do this. This test is supposed to show us abuse potential as well as provide us with the first feedback on the balance of these features. Once it has run a few days, we will open it up to the public.
The public test server will be accessible for all premium accounts. We will however not add testserver assistants because we need to know how characters can handle these changes in PvP with their current supplies and money reserves. During this time, we want everyone to fight all sorts of scenarios and do that over several days. In certain intervals, we will check how the balance of especially the "Fair Fight Rules" and the "PvP-Blessing" works with the masses.
We hope that this very intense testing will help us tune the features so that they find the approval of the majority of our players. If it shows that there is too much new abuse potential or that the desired effect is not reached, we may also decide against the features. Therefore, we are looking forward to your help in the tests and to constructive feedback on those measures.
5. Future Plans
As was already said, it is not final that these changes will reach the game at all. This depends on the test results. If at least some of those features show promise, we will release them as soon as possible after the final fixes from the test.
However, even if these features make it into the game, we know that we are not done yet. On the one hand, we still have a list of very interesting proposals for the war system. On the other hand, there are still many topics concerning the actual balance of vocations which obviously also have a great impact on the course of PvP.
The following steps are therefore to take up the war system for improvements as well as to look into vocation balance again. We will start working on both topics right after this first phase is finished.
So, get ready to rock the test!
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