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May 01 2009 -
PvP in Focus
ast year, two major Tibian issues were up for public discussion: the PvP system and the death penalty in Tibia. We asked you about your opinion on these two topics and wanted to know what you like and dislike about them. Many players participated in these discussions and contributed valuable feedback, elaborated on drawbacks and weak points and proposed ideas on how to change the situation for the better.
In this featured article, we want to tell you a bit about the internal discussions that followed the public ones. We want to give you an overview of the goals we established for the re-evaluation and exemplify how difficult it sometimes is to reach a consensus. As you may know, we decided to handle the PvP system and the death penalty together due to their close relation. However, we would like to focus on the PvP system in this article since we already tackled the death penalty and the blessings with the spring patch.

A Solid Basis

Quite early in the public discussion about Tibia's PvP system, it became evident that opinions among players are divided concerning the current situation on PvP worlds, with sometimes widely divergent views. Yet, this was not really a surprise since every PvP world is somehow unique and your personal experiences have a huge impact on your point of view. For many players, the PvP system is an essentially important part of Tibia that is highly charged with emotions such as thrill, excitement and fun.
There are different motivations to fight in PvP, just to name a few key words that were addressed in the public discussion: challenge, competition, prestige, friends, but also power, revenge, loot, the loss of the victim, or jealousy. Whereas many players emphasised the importance of the principle "Kill anyone, anytime, anywhere!", there were also several players who asked for more restrictions.

On several PvP worlds it seems as if the general Tibia rule has become a forgotten and neglected virtue. Many players suffer from the oppression of others who are more powerful and often organised in groups and networks. In a poll we conducted in February, almost 43% of all voters said that they feel oppressed and cannot deal with that situation. In contrast, the number of voters who described themselves as oppressors is quite low, only about 7%. Yet, much power is often concentrated in the hands of small groups and thus, enables them to oppress a large number of people or even to rule whole servers.

We really appreciated the diverse feedback we received. The different perspectives, positions and motivations provided a solid basis for the internal discussion and understanding of the problems.

Internal Discussion

CipSoft members from different departments took part in the internal discussion which was led by the product management team. The participants had different PvP backgrounds and experiences. Some of them already fell victim to random player killing and the abuse of power several times, some of them really enjoy PvP, some even randomly kill other players.
But before starting to discuss everything in detail, we focused on defining the goals we want to accomplish with the re-evaluation of the PvP system. They were meant to influence and guide our discussion. To define goals, we first had to answer a fundamental question about PvP worlds: What kind of place should they be or rather, what should they not be?

Player killing is allowed on PvP servers and if you create a character there you should be aware that you might be killed by another player. However, PvP worlds should not be places where killing is rampant, where the oppression of other players and excessive killing sprees are a daily occurrence. The skull system already restricts player killing to a certain extent so it does not get out of control. Also, it is clearly stated in the comment of the general rule in Tibia that "you should not abuse your powers to oppress others and force them to play by your own rules."

Defining Goals

Tibia is a game, meant to be entertaining. Players should enjoy the time they spend in Tibia. It is quite alarming to hear that more and more oppressed players think about leaving the game or have already left since they can no longer enjoy the game. So how to achieve a balance between a PvP that is thrilling and challenging and a PvP that is fair and not as open to abuse as it is now?
Our goals had to cover all those aspects and finally, we came up with the following guidelines for our re-evaluation of Tibia's PvP system:

1. Reduce Possibilities to Oppress Others
As already mentioned, the PvP system as it is now leaves too much room to take away someone's freedom and force your own rules on another player. It should not be possible to completely ruin the game experience of others, and to destroy their fun by threatening them.

2. Reduce Frustration that Results from Deaths
Death is meant to be a painful experience, something to remember. However, if the frustration level is too high, negative consequences are likely to follow. It may scare players away or even may encourage them to resort to illegal tools to make up for the lost time. Moreover, the more you lose upon death the more you are afraid of it. If someone threatens to kill you over and over again you are more likely to yield to the pressure the more you fear death.
In the spring patch, we reduced the death penalty and changed the blessing system. So far, it seems that the reduction was well balanced since almost 69% of all players who took part in our poll on the spring patch features said that they like the reduced death penalty.

3. Reduce Aggression
A poll has already shown that the atmosphere in Tibia is considered aggressive by many players. Here we see need for action since we want to provide an entertaining game with a unique and positive game experience. Aggressive players also tend to be more involved in destructive behaviour and rule violations which makes it even more important to reduce aggression. As you can read in the comment of the general Tibia rule: "If destructive and aggressive behaviour towards others makes you feel good, this is not the place for you."

4. PvP should be Emotional, Challenging but also Fair
We want to maintain the excitement and fun in PvP, the thrill that runs down your spine in a battle when you do not know if your character will make it out alive or not. PvP should not be easy as pie, it needs to be challenging and you need some skill to master it. Additionally, PvP fights should be fair. Our anti-cheating measures will help us to accomplish this goal since there are several players who use cheat tools to fight in PvP since they do not have the skill it takes to fight fair PvP battles. Sooner or later, however, our detection tool will get them.

5. Offer Alternatives and Additional Options
If others oppress you and there is no way for you to escape that situation, you are likely to give up sooner or later. Alternatives and additional options offer a way out. For players who are interested in measuring their strength with others, a war mode or duel mode would come in handy. Such combats would be based on mutual agreement. We do not want to restrict the PvP freedom on the normal PvP worlds too much so providing alternatives and ways to opt out is also an important goal. In this respect, new server types and regulated PvP scenarios are also interesting options worth considering. Generally speaking, we also want to offer more ways to spend time in Tibia and provide a greater variety of goals which are not related to PvP.

6. Tibia is a Tough Game, Keep it that Way!
Whatever we plan to change, this is one of the most important maxims to bear in mind. Tibia is a challenging game and it will remain challenging in the future.

As you can probably imagine, finding a consensus is a difficult task sometimes. Opinions also differ between CipSoft members even though all of us are working towards the same goals. To address all topics we discussed in detail would go beyond the scope of this article. Thus, we have chosen an example to show you that pros and cons cancel each other out sometimes.

Revise Exiva or Not?

In the public discussion, the Exiva spell was a hot topic since it is closely related to PvP. Many players were of the opinion that a revision and restriction of Exiva is absolutely essential to cut down on power abuse. However, there were also lots of players who objected them for various reasons. The Exiva spell enables you to locate other players in a rather short time. This comes in handy when you are looking for your friends, for example, or want to know where your enemies in war have gathered. However, it also makes it possible to hunt a player. This means whenever he is online he can be traced and there is no way for him to hide from Exiva.

The arguments raised by both sides, were also addressed in our internal discussion and we pondered a bit over them. Quite early it became clear that opinions on Exiva also differ among the participants in our internal discussion and that finding a consensus would be far from easy. So which arguments were raised in favour of an Exiva revision and which arguments were brought up against it? The general ideas suggested by many players was to restrict Exiva one way or the other. We discussed several different proposals on how to revise Exiva:
  • Reduce the range of the spell, for example, that it would only work on the island it was cast on.
  • Reduce the accuracy of the spell so it would not be possible anymore to track a player effectively.
  • Only certain groups of characters can be found with Exiva: characters on your white list who have agreed to be added to that list, guild members, party members, skulled players and players with Soulfire. Some players also suggested to make the appearance of your character's name in the "Who is Online?" list optional as well as your online status both ingame and on the website.
  • Introduce a counter spell or rune that allows a character to hide himself from being found.
The key question for us was: How would a revised Exiva affect oppressors and victims? What would be benefits and drawbacks regarding our goals? We would like to give you an overview of the pros and cons that were raised in the internal discussion.

Revised Exiva for Oppressors
  • Benefits for us concerning our goals

    • A revised Exiva could limit the power of the spell and thus, make it more difficult for oppressors to find their victims and hunt them. This would be an important step in the right direction towards goal one: reduce possibilities to oppress others.

  • Drawbacks for us concerning our goals

    • In a typical power abuse situation on PvP worlds, a single player has to face a powerful group of players, often an organised network. Reducing the accuracy or range of the spell would only have a small effect, if any. You would just have to place enough scouts across the Tibian lands and within a few minutes you would still be able to deduce the location of the character you are looking for. It would probably take bit longer to find someone with Exiva, however, the time benefit would most likely not be high enough to discourage oppressors.
    • Even with a counter spell or Exiva only working for a certain group of people, it would still be possible to locate and ambush someone. As already mentioned, power abuse groups are usually well organised and networked, and they have many members and collaborators. If they know where your house is, know where you like to hunt, know who your friends are, they could probably track you even without Exiva. They would only have to post a few scouts in front of your residence to wait for you, for example.
Revised Exiva for Victims
  • Benefits for us concerning our goals

    • It could give players an opportunity to escape and hide. It would offer a way out, an alternative. Something we want to accomplish with goal four: offer alternatives and additional options.

  • Drawbacks for us concerning our goals

    • Currently, Exiva is not only used by power abusers to locate victims. A victim can also use Exiva to see if some of his enemies are getting closer or are already nearby. With a revised Exiva it would hardly be possible anymore for a victim to locate its enemies whereas it would still be possible for an organised group to locate their victim in a reasonable time.
  • Reducing Exiva's power would make the game more interesting again since some skill would be needed to track and find someone.
  • A revision would also affect players in war. It would be more difficult to locate the enemy in war. Moreover, if the "Who is Online? list were also optional, you would not know anymore how many members of the opposing guilds are online. All in all, battles could become less predictable with more surprise effects. Some players would probably like that whereas others would probably disapprove of it.
  • Since it would be far more difficult to locate someone, it would also be harder to take revenge for certain actions such as loot theft, for example.
So all in all, it would become more difficult and time-consuming to find another player if Exiva would be limited but would that really stop oppressors from hunting someone? None of us could answer this question with sufficient certainty. Thus, a final decision on Exiva has not been made yet and a consensus seems difficult to achieve since pros and cons balance each other out. There are other ideas on how to change the PvP system that currently seem to be more feasible.

Ongoing Process

So as you can see, there is still a long road to go and the re-evaluation of the PvP system is far from being completed yet. The oppression of players and massive random player killing were described as some of the most pressing problems on normal PvP servers.

Besides the Exiva spell, we discussed many different aspects of the PvP system, for example the skull system, the power of teams, random player killing and wars. We evaluated the feedback and proposals we received from players carefully, always with regard to our PvP goals. Non-PvP zones, no protection zone block for self-defence, black skull, kills counting for all damage dealers, these ideas and concepts seemed promising in the internal discussions and were presented in the developer notes on our discussion board.

Since such changes would affect the PvP in Tibia quite much, we wanted to involve you in the development process and asked for your opinion. A final decision has not been made yet. Furthermore, the PvP re-evaluation is an ongoing process and open to change. The goals we defined will guide us on our journey and we are confident that we will be able to improve the situation considerably: Preserve what is good in Tibia's PvP system and change what needs to be changed.

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