Winning for Losing

Way back before I got distracted with Crowfall news, Rohan had an interesting few posts exploring the challenges of structured PvP vs transient PvP. Namely, how do you solve the “3rd/4th faction” problem of people migrating to the winning side in structured PvP? The clear answer involves incentives to stay on the losing/outnumbered side, but the implementation is tricky.

Or is it?

I consider one of the gold standards of loss incentives to be Titanfall’s Extraction phase. At the end of each match – be it CTF, Death Match, etc – there is a no-respawn phase in which the losing team tries to make it to a waiting drop ship. If all losing members make it, the entire team receives a significant bonus (less than a win, but not by much). The winning team will of course try and kill the stragglers, but they can also destroy the drop ship and get bonus points. While it is still possible to queue into a complete blowout match in which the other team practically insta-kills the drop ship, most battles end with the drop ship taking off. Not only do the extra points for an Extraction soften the blow of losing perhaps a close match, the psychological reward for “escaping” is immense.

You lost, but you didn’t lose. And, yes, there is a difference.

This might seem weird to say, but I actually enjoy hopeless defenses in many games. Whenever I play used to play PlanetSide 2, for example, I looked for the bases under attack by near-overwhelming odds. From my perspective, such bases present A) easy opportunity for kills in the chaos, B) no expectation for success, C) small chance for epic comeback. Being spawn-camped by tank spam is miserable, but anything less can be great low-pressure fun.

The same sentiment existed even in WoW PvP for me. Being farmed at the Graveyard in WSG is enough to make one ragequit. Dial it back a few notches though, and I found it immensely entertaining simply being annoying, e.g. by tanking DPS as a healer, taking potshots and then forcing someone to chase me for two minutes, and so on. My team might lose, but I still won. Some of my favorite PvP memories was on my Rogue, when I ran around Sapping everyone into diminishing returns and watching their futile attempts at unstealthing me.

All of the above examples (except for PS2) are from transient PvP rather than structured PvP. Still, I think you can achieve a similar incentive structure using the same principals. For example, if a certain team is way behind or outnumbered, start giving them an alternative currency (call it Honor or whatever), or even a bonus to the normal PvP currency. In this way, winning becomes much less of a zero-sum game, and offers an “out” for those players who would, strictly speaking, be better off defecting to the winning side. Plus it would attract goofballs such as myself to hopeless defenses, thereby making the match more entertaining for everyone involved.

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Posted on March 23, 2015, in Philosophy and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. This is why my favorite part of GW2’s WvW is Keep Defence. Yes, it’s fun taking other people’s stuff but defending your own (or, even better, defending the stuff you took off them as they try to get it back) just has a greater degree of satisfaction somehow.

    And even if you end up losing the Keep, the degree to which you feel you “lost” is calibrated by how long you held on and how costly you made the whole process feel for the other side. When the ring finally closes and the Keep changes hands after a three-hour battle it often doesn’t feel like you lost at all – it feels like you won by three hours.

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  2. @Bhagpuss : I have read you multiple time stating that you love defending in GW2 WvW. I love defending in games, but I was not able to do it efficiently in GW2 ( I just pew pew the Zerg, between two retreat to avoid the focus fire. ANd my arrow cart are useless or destroyed in seconds.

    On the main topic : One good way to provide equilibrium is to reward the loser with an award multiplier : the loser does not gain a lot (or at least fewer than the winner) but he gain a Award multiplier for the next match (and the nearest the loser is to the better the better mulitplier he has). With this, even when losing, you are still fighting, (because you want at least to have the multiplier) but you still have to win the next match for the greatest effect.

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  3. “Some of my favorite PvP memories was on my Rogue…” I think this is because the Rogue class can somewhat break the “graveyard farm” cycle through stealth. The rogue gets to pick the fights it wants far more often than most other classes, and generally if you DO end up in a fight you didn’t want it was because of your own error (like being too cocky) rather than it being entirely involuntary like ganked at the graveyard. Other classes just don’t have that perk. So even a rogue on a losing team still feels like they can participate.

    I find that the thing that really drives me away from losing battles is the fact that I am playing less and feeling like I am not able to DO anything. In MOBAs if you are losing then it means you’re often dead and even when alive can’t perform your role. So you end up sitting there watching the game go by. In MMO PvP it often means sitting at a graveyard or having to make a long run back to the fight. Any time you’re not playing, you’re probably not having fun. So situations like Bhagpuss’s keep defense where you might eventually lose but you spend a lot of time alive and killing attackers can still be fun because you were active for it.

    Also, untying the rewards for PvP to win/lose can help, because then players don’t feel like they need to switch sides to progress. I think developers have to strike a key point between rewarding winners, but not making losers feel like their time was less efficient or wasted.

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