# Introduction This document is a collection of my thoughts on the state of PvP. It is structured as follows: * the first 2 chapters go over what I consider to be the most important aspects of PvP health; * after that, there are 5 chapters in which I go over topics presented in the current PvP CDP; * the CDP template is applied to all chapters to allow me to post those on the official forums more easily, even though sometimes it doesn't exactly fit; * while I attempted to make every chapter as much of a direct feedback as possible, a few of them are more of a food for thought. # What PvP needs right now _Unfortunately, most of the topics presented in this CDP do not tackle the important issues. In this post, I will try to outline what the most critical problems in PvP are and propose solutions to each one._ ## Feedback Overview It might not be immediately obvious, but PvP is quite close to a quite decent state (ignoring the playerbase issues for now). A great demonstration of this is the PvP tournament (https://www.arcgames.com/en/forums/neverwinter#/discussion/1254228/tournament-of-the-champions-pvp-tournament-update-2-0/p1; big thanks @gotflounder and all of the people behind that). Those matches are a blast, especially the very close ones (+ape vs paper royal flush was awesome). ## Feedback Goal Fixing a few small things can bring a significant improvement to general PvP quality (as seen in the tournament mentioned above). ## Feedback Functionality _This part describes what rules are in effect for the tournament to illustrate which issues PvP is facing and how those should be solved in normal PvP queues._ Certain items are banned. Those are things that should have been adjusted a very long time ago (OP sigil) or straight up removed (overload drains). Spawning mobs in PvP is outright stupid and should never be enabled (e.g. frozen storyteller's journal). There is an enforced team composition. I don't believe rainbow teams (no more than 1 of each class per team) are necessary for normal PvP queue. However, I believe a change should be made so that matchmaking will allow at most 1 healer role per team and roles (not loadouts with the same role) cannot be changed while in match. Everyone is roughly on the same power level, i.e. BiS or close. This is related to PvP accessibility which I have discussed in the first CDP (https://www.arcgames.com/en/forums/neverwinter#/discussion/1253338/cdp-topic-game-content-accessibility/p6, towards the bottom of the page) and will quickly revisit here. This is not something that can be done immediately, and as such should not be the focus right now, but in the near future. ### Summary Most of this has been mentioned in an earlier post by @fireball310, but for the sake of completeness: * adjust overperforming items (sigil of the paladin, shadowclad); * implement a modified version of old tenacity as described in the "Intersection between PvP and PvE" post; * slightly change matchmaking rules and role swapping rules while in a match to avoid creating unbalanced matches with many healers (I've seen up to 6 or 7 healers per match and that's no fun). ## Risks & Concerns Effectively none. Players who like to play with an unfair advantage and abuse certain broken items will not be happy. <div style="page-break-after: always;"></div> # What PvP needs as soon as possible ## Feedback Overview This is a writeup on changes that are more focused on bringing new players in as opposed to helping those that already PvP have a better experience. I consider those equally important, but I also believe that chronologically they should be implemented after the biggest balance/meta issues have been dealt with. ## Feedback Goal Implementing changes described here would open PvP up to a wider audience and make it more appealing to newcomers. Additionally, it touches on the team aspect of PvP in contrast with playing solo. ## Feedback Functionality ### Accessibility _This is a reworked, shorter version of my post in the first CDP. For those who wish to read a more detailed one, here's the link: https://www.arcgames.com/en/forums/neverwinter#/discussion/1253338/cdp-topic-game-content-accessibility/p6. The post is towards the bottom of the page._ Everyone agrees that PvP is not at all inviting and the experience for everyone but the most dedicated ranges from suboptimal to horrible. While this includes multiple aspects such as general PvP strategies and build strategies, I will focus mostly on power gap. Originally, I offered three approaches to solving this issue, however after some more thought and discussion, I'd just propose one based on scaling. I admit that I don't know much about PvE scaling as I do not play scaled content, but I will describe how this would work in PvP. Note that the proposed idea is something that has ease of implementation at its core, rather than describing a perfect solution. #### Solution to power gap For the sake of readability, this part is just a list of key ideas: * gear (meaning weapons, armor, rings etc.) should be a mix of items gained from PvP or PvE; * if there is a (even potentially) BiS item gated behind difficult or limited content (TOMM, Tales of Old), there should be alternatives very close in overall power; * gear should not be scaled; * enchantments should be scaled to a certain rank; * for regular enchantments, anything between rank 10 and 12 seems reasonable; * for weapon and armor enchantments, scaling should be set to rank 12 to preserve effects of the highest level version; * artifacts should be scaled to legendary or epic level, perhaps the active one could remain mythic to keep the cooldown; * artifact gear should be scaled to epic level; * insignias should be scaled to rare level (or at most something between rare and epic); * reinforcement kits can remain unscaled; * guild boons should be disabled; * mount speed and dismount rules can remain unscaled; * mount passive powers should be scaled to epic level; * mount active powers should either remain as they are or be disabled completely. Please note that those are ideas, exact levels targeted by scaling should be discussed. If this was implemented, it'd be nice to have a switch that would scale us to PvP levels or perhaps just walking into Trade of Blades could apply PvP scaling. #### Vote kicking Vote kicking should either be only allowed after a certain condition has been met, e.g. player hasn't dealt or received damage in the last 1 minute. If this cannot be implemented, vote kicking should be completely disabled. Something to consider here is that if the above solution to power gap is implemented, players are much less likely to kick others because of low gear. Vote kicking, similar to many other issues in PvP, is just a symptom. ### Queues, premades and competitive PvP In general, PvP playerbase should be split as little as possible, that means as few queues as possible. At this point with such a low amount of players, the only viable approach in terms of matchmaking/match quality is solo queue. Something that should still keep match quality at a reasonable level is solo/duo queue, i.e. one can queue solo or with 1 teammate. In the past, we have seen a solo queue event &ndash; perhaps it would be possible to have a similar event replace the normal solo queue with solo/duo (or any other setup) for say one week to get some data. It is also clear that a less restricted option is needed. A lot of friends who play PvE only have mentioned to me that the main reason why they don't play PvP is the fact that they can't queue with friends. Unfortunately, this is a classic example of a catch-22 &ndash; for matchmaking to produce quality matches with such a queue, there needs to be a large playerbase, and one of the things that might make playerbase grow significantly is allowing queuing up with friends. I discuss this more in detail in my "The current state of PvP, modes and options" post. There was a nice idea (https://www.arcgames.com/en/forums/neverwinter/#/discussion/1238432/req-team-competitive-queue-for-domination-details) about team queue in the past; team (not guild based) queue which would have its own leaderboard. Sadly, there is a very similar problem to the one described above &ndash; if there are any reasonable rewards and there is a small amount of players interested, it will most likely be exploited. However, team queue is something a lot of people have wanted over the years, too bad it wasn't implemented when PvP was at its best. Very recently, a PvP tournament has been launched as a community initiative (https://www.arcgames.com/en/forums/neverwinter#/discussion/1254228/tournament-of-the-champions-pvp-tournament-update-2-0/p1). There are some great rewards provided by nice community members, that said, it would be nice if those events were more recognized and helped (especially in terms of rewards, I'm happy that there has in fact been some promotion) by Cryptic. Related to this is a spectator mode, something that would greatly help with creating high quality PvP content. <div style="page-break-after: always;"></div> ## Risks & Concerns ### Power gap reduction Players who have worked hard for their BiS gear will feel like part of their work was in vain. The same goes for players who like to abuse their high level gear to stomp lower geared players. For the long term health of PvP, that essentially means no concerns or risks. ### Vote kicking The overwhelming majority of vote kicks are abusive, i.e. to increase one's chance of winning by kicking low geared teammates. If this and the rewards model are implemented well, PvP won't be very inviting for botters or PvE farmers, therefore risks are also rather low. ### Queues, premades and competitive PvP Depending on the setup chosen, there could be premades stomping pug groups. In a team based leaderboard/rewards system, if there is a small number of teams, it can easily be abused to get the rewards with low effort. Things like spectator mode would likely require a significant amount of development time. <div style="page-break-after: always;"></div> # PvP Rewards and Leaderboard ## Feedback Overview This feedback describes the state of rewards and leaderboard in PvP. ## Feedback Goal Improve rewards as an incentive for players to play PvP and make small, QOL adjustments to leaderboard. Establish PvP as an alternative path through the game's progression. ## Feedback Functionality ### Rewards There are two types of rewards in PvP: seasonal and per match. The former are somewhat decent. The latter are pathetic. Per match rewards need to be upgraded and awarded _only_ for wins. This is essential to prevent what we've seen back in the day with botting and clueless PvE players sitting in campfire just to get the daily AD, flaming their teammates who don't give up fast enough. To further ward off people that are just there for the rewards, it could be made so that rewards get better with consecutive (or just total) wins. There are many options in terms of what to include in possible rewards. RP, rough AD, guild vouchers, campaign currencies and more. An alternative effortless approach to this would be to reward the tokens used in the seasonal store, e.g. a chance to get 1 token per win. Design wise, an important feature of PvP rewards should ideally be that there is very little PvE grind required to upgrade and maintain a PvP build. Right now, the _entire_ PvP build is obtained through PvE, I hope that I don't need to explain why that is horribly wrong. A lot of the pieces come from excessive luck-based PvE grinding like Avernus named mobs hunting/Juma bags and TIC; others from very gear demanding content like TOMM. In short, making a PvP toon right now is pointless &ndash; in order to be BiS in PvP, one must first have a near-BiS PvE spec (or other characters to farm the required content). This is historically one of the most common reasons (from my experience the most common) why PvP players quit the game. Because this game is mainly PvE focused, PvP gear should be a mix of items gained from both PvE and PvP (and it's plenty enough if the PvE part means only boons). ### Leaderboard Even since its introduction, leaderboard has been laughed at by top end PvP players. Rating players accurately is extremely difficult in a system which allows different premade sizes (e.g. solo vs 3man) and has gear being a major factor in a player's performance. This was further made worse by very weird elo calculations (losing elo for winning matches). Today, the situation is completely different. Leaderboard has become the main motivation for high end solo queue players to continue playing. There are titles awarded for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place which is certainly nice. However, leaderboard "fame" along with rewards based on leaderboard rank has further worsened some problems PvP is suffering from &ndash; in this case it's kicking any lower geared players with hopes of getting an easy win. Leaderboard is something that is essential to a competitive setting, but just like matchmaking, it won't work well without a large playerbase. If at some point PvP has such a playerbase again, it would be nice to have a second leaderboard for (5man) premades. Unfortunately, leaderboard or ranking in general suffers from a large flaw. If you observe the behavior of most high ranked players, what you'll see is that they play a lot of matches at the start of the season (the sooner the better, ideally first 2 days) and if they win a lot, they never play again. The problem is that they keep their high rank and are extremely difficult to pass. I'm very much against the "play more games to be higher rank" model &ndash; it makes no sense as ranking should be based on skill. However, what's currently happening is straight up abusing the ranking system. This is easily solved by elo decay, which is what most (all?) competitive games do. Elo decay fixes this problem by forcing players to remain active otherwise they lose elo (drop in ranks). An amount of time is chosen (since a season lasts 28 days, I'd go with perhaps 4 days) and if a player doesn't play a certain amount of games for this time period, they start losing elo. Elo decay implementations tend to be much more aggressive towards the top of the ladder, e.g. top 5% of players have to play at least 10 matches every 3 days, whereas players around the top 50% mark only need to play 5 matches every 4 days. In some cases, elo decay doesn't affect those below a certain elo threshold at all. Additionally, what happens especially around the top spots (but based on how many players are ranked, it can happen anywhere) is that you win 5 matches in a row, but don't move from your spot. Because of this, I'd like elo or whatever matchmaking rating is used to be visible. This way, a player can better track their progress and won't feel stuck. ## Risks & Concerns If the rewards are too good, even if they are limited to wins, players who have no interest in PvP might play it just to try and get the rewards. This &ndash; especially without other changes in the accessibility area, which I mention in another post in this CDP &ndash; might lead to match quality degradation. In the leaderboard section, there are risks related to elo decay. It must allow players some time off but it cannot be too lax either. Unlike rewards which should be a high priority, leaderboard is something that should only be addressed once PvP is in a healthier state, although I could see a properly implemented elo decay being very beneficial. <div style="page-break-after: always;"></div> # PvP Campaign and Seasons ## Feedback Overview This feedback goes over the implementation of PvP Campaign and Seasons, describes some of their design flaws and proposes solutions to them. ## Feedback Goal A proper campaign can serve as a good introduction to PvP while seasons are what helps keep the day-to-day PvP going. Implementing this feedback would make those systems fulfill their roles better. ## Feedback Functionality ### Campaign As with most systems introduced after M16, this campaign is a very simplified version of the original one. In this state where the PvP queue pops rarely, it's fairly difficult to complete it, especially the 100 wins task. Boons which come with this campaign are fine and need no adjustment. The campaign rewards large amounts of glory, which would theoretically make sense in a healthy PvP gear system. Now however, this glory is useless as all the glory gear is once again outdated. There is a decent amount of rough AD offered &ndash; a title, fashion item or something along those lines would make more sense. Similarly to what PvE campaigns have with dungeon keys, there could be a repeatable task here as well. That's where rough AD as a reward would be reasonable. ### Seasons Seasons are something implemented as an attempt to help horrible queue times. Initially, they were a big success (we could see 4 or more instances of PvP at peak, up from usually 0 or 1), unfortunately everything quickly went back to where it was originally. The major problem that seasons have is that everything that currently motivates people to play PvP is tied to them. This means that after 4 weeks of a season, the 2 week break completely kills PvP (again, 0-1 instances at peak). An obvious solution is to reduce the 2 week break to one week. Perhaps some of the rewards (such the per-match ones I have proposed in my Rewards post) could be separated from seasons to improve this futher. ## Risks & Concerns Neither of those proposed ideas come with any risks except for development time, which could definitely be used for more important PvP issues. With the amount of resources that have typically been allocated to PvP, I'd only make the season downtime change. Adjustments to campaign, unless taken much more broadly so as to convert it to an introductory/tutorial system, are just a luxury and should not be prioritized. <div style="page-break-after: always;"></div> # The purpose of PvP, motivation ## Feedback Overview This feedback describes reasons players have to keep playing PvP and its purpose as an alternative game mode. ## Feedback Goal ## Feedback Functionality ### Motivation to PvP In the past, the sole motivation for players to engage in PvP was the competition. Most of you will not remember, but there were quite large PvP-only guilds fighting each other for bragging rights, training their new members, sparring and organizing inhouse premades. This was the golden era of PvP whose "beginning of an end" was, no surprises, M7 with its strongholds. Strongholds offered advantages such as extremely overpowered boons, new BiS gear, consumables and broken overload enchantments. Another, maybe even more important source of motivation was just relaxing or a change of pace from your usual dungeon grind. Again, this is sadly not the norm anymore, but back in the day, most PvE had no problems with running PvP with me. I was in a PvE guild back then and we'd run almost as much domination as we did CN. Dungeons or any PvE content is scripted, repetitive and gets boring fast. PvP, especially well maintained healthy PvP, offers unique experience and challenge in every match. Recently, whenever I asked PvE players about PvP, the point they seem to agree on is that they want to queue up with friends. As a premade veteran I couldn't agree more, however, this whole solo queue vs queuing with friends is treading of a very thin ice. In the past, especially due to poor matchmaking, we've had situations of 5man BiS parties running in PvP destroying matches for those that queued up with less than 4 teammates. Whether this would happen again I don't know, but if it did, it could be the final killing blow to PvP. Purpose is different based on player types. PvP focused players will want to play because of the competition. PvE players play to get a break from farming dungeons, or a challenge when they've beaten all PvE content in the game. For both groups, it is important that PvP is accessible for newcomers and in general offers a fun, competitive experience. This is related to the solo queue point, general balance and meta, rewards. I go over these important topics in another post in this CDP. I'd personally be quite afraid of any drastic changes in this area. One option is to change solo to a solo/duo queue (many competitive games do this). Another is adding a PvP event similar to what we had in the past with the solo queue event, except this time, it would be the other way around, i.e. allow queuing up with 1 or more teammates. ## Risks & Concerns This is an essential part of improving the PvP experience, however, it is also one of the more difficult ones. I would appreciate discussion especially on the solo queue vs queuing with teammates subtopic. <div style="page-break-after: always;"></div> # The current state of PvP, modes and options ## Feedback Overview This feedback describes the implications of adding new PvP modes. It also goes over one of the most important aspects of PvP "friendliness" towards PvE players and newcomers &ndash; queuing up together with friends. ## Feedback Goal Prevent devs from focusing on the wrong issues in PvP. Offer a solution to the solo queue vs group queue dilemma. ## Feedback Functionality ### Solo queue and group queue _I believe this to be a vital topic for the future of PvP. Further discussion on this topic is very much appreciated._ Currently, the only way to play PvP is via solo queue. It was introduced a long time ago in an attempt to improve match quality and prevent certain players from running full BiS premades just to stomp newcomers. This way, the social or teamwork part of the experience was nearly completely removed from PvP. As a result of that, a lot of players quit PvP or the game. It's true that in terms of match quality or balance, in games with matchmaking, solo queue will produce the best results (with the exception of organized premade vs premade). Neverwinter however is not suited for this, and therefore, it's better to sacrifice a tiny bit of match quality to preserve the social aspect of PvP. With that said, it's also clear that implementing something like this right now would not work, it would kill PvP within a few weeks. There is a solution to this issue. It relies on those concepts: 1. there is enough people queuing up &ndash; with different party sizes, the matchmaking algorithm has to do more of mixing and matching; 2. the power differences between players (gear gap if you will) are relatively small; 3. the game has a relatively low skill ceiling, i.e. to be at the same mechanical level as veteran players, a dedicated newcomer only needs say a few months. Notice that 1 and 3 have been true all the way until solo queue was introduced, whereas number 2 was true until M4 (my opinion, everyone views power creep/gear gap differently). At the moment, 1 and 2 are not met. 3 is a constant that is true especially from M16 and onwards. By focusing on 2 first, along with some other meta/general PvP changes, 1 should improve on its own. **Once conditions 2 and 3 are met, solo queue should be removed and PvP should once again have only one queue (the original, unrestricted one).** Finally as a result of those and other good changes, 1 will be satisfied automatically. Those that remember the days of when "premade pug stomping" was rampant will know the true nature of it &ndash; it was BiS players forming those premades, not _skilled_ BiS players. Being in a full premade with voice comms is an advantage yes, but it doesn't make the opposing team helpless even if it's 5 players who queued up solo, assuming the three requirements mentioned are met. I remember running as a trio into full premades in those days and usually all it took was the 2 people outside of my trio listening and the match was easily winnable. ### Different PvP modes As we've seen (PvP focused players) with the recent addition of stardock arena, changes like this are a waste of time for the devs. For me and most veterans, this map should just not have been added at all. I believe the same thing applies to modes. Domination is what defines PvP in NW and it is how it should stay. I'm not against adding more modes, perhaps there is a large group of players interested in say CTF, but as I see it, that's more of a luxury addition more suitable for a very good, healthy PvP. Open world PvP was pretty big when it was introduced, but by design it suffered from problems, most importantly companions. These not only very significantly improve the already ridiculously huge power gap, but they also pose a balance problem that is likely impossible to solve with the resources available. ## Risks & Concerns The solo vs group queue topic is absolutely essential to the future of PvP. It mainly depends on accessibility and gear gap reduction, which have to be seriously improved before any progress can be made with this. Adding more modes to PvP is something that may require a lot of resources. Based on the current state of PvP, I'd recommend focusing on fixing what exists rather than adding something new. <div style="page-break-after: always;"></div> # Intersection between PvP and PvE ## Feedback Overview This feedback describes how to improve PvP meta and make it more balanced while having no negative effect on PvE. ## Feedback Goal Improve PvP meta especially in terms of too low or too high time-to-kill. ## Feedback Functionality This has always been a very problematic aspect of the game. The "meta" in both parts of the game is completely different, so balancing classes, items and the rest is not easy. With the game simplification of M16, the path to balancing both at once is much clearer. There will always be some issues that are difficult to fix. As a quick example, dps DC can build very tanky and still have similar or higher burst than a lot of dps focused classes that build glass cannon. In PvE, this evens out over time; in current PvP meta, burst is way more important than dps and this makes the spec overpowered. Most of those issues can however be solved rather easily and with low effort. Class differences and uniqueness have been dramatically reduced in M16, to the point where balancing specific class mechanics for PvP is no longer as necessary. Instead, it is enough to just target the PvP meta globally. Anyone who has been around for a while knows that Tenacity used to do most of what we need in PvP right now. Current implementation should include: * increased healing depression to 35% (note that current healing depression is 20%); * reduced critical damage by 20%; * crowd control resistance as a replacement for the buggy, unreliable cc stack system (which is an outdated band-aid fix to oppressor CW and trapper HR). A more in-depth post on this can be found here: https://www.arcgames.com/en/forums/neverwinter#/discussion/1253487/tenacity-and-pvp-meta. **The numbers are just my own rough estimation and as such should be discussed further.** As for separation of PvP (potentially even from the rest of the game, as Chris mentioned in a recent stream), I'm not a fan of this idea. The general social setting and persistence of the world is what competitive PvP-only games cannot offer. And this is why I like about playing PvP here &ndash; I can play a few matches, then go chat with others, run a dungeon with friends, mess around in PE, join a guild together. Competitive games are restricted only to the matches themselves and a friendlist with chat. <div style="page-break-after: always;"></div> ## Risks & Concerns Implementing tenacity as described will likely require a few tiny patches later to adjust the numbers. It's not easy to get them right on the first attempt, but then again, it means just changing a few numbers. <div style="page-break-after: always;"></div>