Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Arena: Prologue (Competitive Scene)

Unfortunately, there are some aspects of the Arena that KingsIsle cannot easily and reliably mandate:  unsportsmanlike behavior and other dark factors of competition.  Verbal/personal attacks (known as "trash talking"), false reporting, accusations of breaking the rules, extreme or abnormal taunting (such as spamming Menu Chat endlessly), and use of derogative words (especially in a family-friendly environment) by an opponent--or opposing team--are just a few of the violations of competitive etiquette in Wizard101.


Several Defenses

The game's white list may protect viewers from seeing actual profanity, but up against the cleverness of useless players, it is trumped.  It cannot block against phonetic spelling, such as in this "send tense” (sentence).  This loophole can easily be countered by switching your Privacy Options' "Block PVP Chat" to "ON."  (Remember to Report the offender for “Inappropriate Language” or “Inappropriate Behavior.”)

But, what happens when spectators of the match are the ones throwing "trolling flurries?"  A great fix for pure soloists (in complete solitude and lacking friends to chat to)  is done in two steps:

  • hitting the "O" hotkey to Open/Close the Chat Window and
  • accessing your Gameplay Options to "HIDE" "Chat Balloons."  This temporary adjustment to your settings will allow you to PVP without having to see textual waste flying across the screen.

But, what if you are playing a teamed game, like 2v2 or more?  Given that not all players can voice chat with one another, communication via the chat box is vital for participants.  Hence, the next readily available resort is to click on the name(s) of the offensive speaker(s) and set them to "Ignore."  However, even this has a catch: "ignored" players each require a slot from your Friends List.  So, if you're full on contacts like I am, this option is out of the question; you'll have to see public messages from the audience simultaneously with Group Chat.


Seeing the Picture

With so many layers of countermeasures against malicious text, a player who is unfamiliar with the Arena scene may believe that inappropriate behavior is prevalent.  Some subscribers have even avoided participation in PVP (which is an included feature with their payment plan) because of the environment.  Others who have given the activity a try have commented accordingly on Cassandra Dragonheart’s post on PVP.  Then there are some extremists who lovingly use “PVP” and “PVPers” as negative connotations...but before we judge, allow me to take us on a few different avenues.

Think of a competitive sport you like to play for fun.  Football.  Basketball.  Maybe even underwater basket weaving.  Field and track.  It’s evident that human nature is a welcoming host to the notion of “comparison.”  In our minds, something has to have “better” or “worse” status than another thing; without this thought process, we as a society would be in a state of chaos due to randomly made decisions.  However, when we rely so heavily on the ability of “contrasting” and (consequentially) condition ourselves to think very linearly about “what trumps what,” we will also find ourselves in trouble.

For example, the tallest child in the playground may seemingly be the best teammate to have in basketball (via comparison), but (1) does he know how to play, (2) has he had experience with the weight and bounce of a ball, (3) is he playing to win or playing for fun, and (4) what do we know about the other children and their skills?  Some of us forget to realize that there is more than what’s shown on the surface.  Hence, just because you are in the state of winning/losing a match or have won/lost a game, it doesn’t mean you’re a better/worse player.  Yet, our nature and our perception tend to associate the outcome or progress of a duel to our skill level in relation to the other player(s).  This is truly a dangerous perspective as it allows taunting or “bad sport” players to affect how you play. 

Professional sports players deal with “boos,” jeers, and some of the nastiest comments every second that they’re on the field or court.  Spectators and cheerleaders who are against a certain player or team will try anything, from name-calling and chanting to gestures, to try and distract their target.  This is still ongoing to today regardless if the player performs decently (despite the distractions) because, as with all activities, there’s a constant psychological flow called a “stream of consciousness” that can be disrupted.  This part of our mind is continuously processing our thoughts, both on surface and instinctive levels, and do tie into instantaneous decisions.  A soccer player aiming for the goal is focused on the ball, but he or she could have hundreds of thoughts flowing in per second.  “Do I trick the goalie?…Too complicated?…They are skilled at diving but bad at predicting ball movement…We’re down by 1 and desperate for a tie…How many teammates are behind me?  Opponents?  Do I pass or take the shot?  The goalie is solid…do I trick them?…Everyone would be shouting my name if I make this…Too soon, don’t count eggs…Good breakfast this morning…I feel good about this…I’m going to try to score…All or nothing…”  With determined thoughts, the player will have a certain pressure or speed to their kick that would develop a winning move.  However, there are fans of the other team behind their goalie, waving around objects and yelling discouraging slurs.  If the player in possession allows that “background noise” to break their current stream of consciousness, the pressure or speed of the kick may change, resulting in a failed attempt to add a mark to the tally.  In Wizard101, spectators and opponents (if Block PVP Chat is not enabled) may throw text of all sorts (passive-aggressive, direct, indirect, etc.), not necessarily focusing on being mean to you personally, but also to affect your decision-making.  The ugly truth is that this sort of pressure is “fair game,” as long as it doesn’t violate KingsIsle’s Terms of Use

So, back to perception:  when you win a duel against someone who was rude or had rude cheerleaders, you may feel a stronger sense of dignity and pride along with some other positive emotions.  You generally have a greater incentive to start up another match, since you “proved” yourself.  It may even turn into an amusing story to share with friends.  On the other hand, had you lost that match, there are clashing reactions from frustration to disappointment.  In contrast to winning, you may feel as if your opponents “proved” something.  Words cut deeper at this point, and can even discourage you from starting up another duel, or in extreme cases, can lead you to quit PVP altogether.  What do you do at this point?


Seeing the Facts

An important concept to grasp, in any activity, is that losing is actually a greater long-term benefit than winning.  You’re given not only experience on what techniques and tricks are used in the arena, but you also tested your deck on its strengths (if it has any) and weaknesses.  All deck builds are subject to weaknesses of some sort, and most likely yours was countered in its current state.  Remember a post I made awhile ago, called “How to Face New Challenges,” which was geared towards beating the “unknown”?  The variation of spells in our deck also matter in PVP.  Having (or lacking) certain cards does play a large role in the flow and outcome of your fight. 

For example, too many healing spells can result in fewer attacks that are readily available to you, meaning you are giving your opponents a better chance at surviving.  In addition, if their deck happens to rely on lengthening a match to slowly gain an advantage, then your equipped setup was the actual fail, not you.  Some players rely on short, repetitive and structured decks where they play certain cards at certain rounds, which usually has a strong advantage against “late-game” decks. 

In this direction of thought, I am focused on the idea that winning or losing a match does not constitute that you are a better or worse player compared to your opponent, respectively.  Even if you win or lose a series of matches, being recognized purely on quantitative performance (win/loss record or streaks) is like being given a fragile mask: once a loss interrupts your wins (or vice versa), your skill level is now determined by the performance of others throughout history.  If someone manages a longer streak than you, say in about 8 months from now, does that mean they play better than you?  Of course not; we have yet to determine the skill level of your opponents and their opponents, and all other factors in the game.

Those of you who know me well may recognize my quote, “…Nah, just more experienced.”  A lot of you have heard this after exclaiming, or heard someone exclaim, “Wow, you’re the best PVPer”  or something to that effect.  While it may sound like modesty, it is actually my belief that experience combined with performance is what determines skill level.  What has happened in front of us and what we learn from it and how we apply that knowledge are all determinants for what kind of player we are.

Thus, try not to recognize or give the trolls of the Arena any credibility to their statements.  Some players in the Spiral can be mean with what they do or say, but it will only feel like “the truth” if you respect or listen to their words, or allow their actions to distract you.


Adjusting To a New Experience

I realize that quite a lot of players in Wizard101 don’t have prior gaming experience to this MMO, so dealing with competition in a psychological way is not yet touched on for most of us, hence a lot of concepts above exhibiting an “easier said than done” tone.  The competitive scene may be intimidating, but realize that it should not inhibit your interest in playing against a non-computer opponent.  Think about the sports mentioned earlier.  We accept that fans will boo or cheer obnoxiously in most events, but it doesn’t stop us from learning and playing football, soccer, basketball, etc. with our friends and family.  If you want to jump into the Arena to try out some human-vs-human play, you’re not restricted to playing with the rude kids.  Ask a friend or a friend of a friend to help you improve or provide you with company.  Not only will supportive opponents allow you to focus, but they can help you in trial and error with deck building.  You can use the “Practice PVP” option available to both Crowns and Subscription Players. 

When you think you’re ready to try your skills against strangers, you can slip into “Ranked PVP” or continue at “Practice” against random opponents.  Hold a conversation in Whisper or Group Chat with a PVP partner/mentor/knowledgeable friend, and discuss strategy if time permits.  Or, you can socialize.  Keep your mind busy: focus on the cards and not stranger chat.  Sometimes even silence can psychologically affect the other player if they keep PVP Chat On and see your PVP Chat is enabled too (elaboration will be made in future chapters).

If you find yourself in front of an opponent who has some kind of unique advantage over you (Arena Gear, Crowns Gear, Spritely Pet, Polymorph Cards), don’t think negatively and expect to lose just yet.  Use this match as an opportunity to learn from it, then use your experience to your advantage in your journey to becoming a Warlord and beyond.  If you win, props to you.  If you lose, don’t focus on the benefits their advantage gave them; instead, focus on determining its weaknesses.  A Spritely Pet uses up positive healing charms and has a small chance to trigger; it is also taking up space over a “reliable” talent such as increased Damage, Accuracy, Health, Resist, etc.  Remember that you won’t be playing the same player over and over, but you will face reoccurring tactics, equipment items, and deck builds.  Understanding these is more important than understanding how you already performed against one specific Wizard. 

Also, treat PVP as if you’ve entered a dungeon with special bosses, ones that are randomly created with the ability to plan and adapt to the way you play.  Losing is not a permanent fail; eventually you will perform better the more you watch, read, and ask for tips. 


Applying the Opposite

When these concepts become second-hand to you, try an alternative spin on what’s trending in the Arena.  If players are dominantly rude, respond as a good sport.  Represent yourself as a respectful player, and keep that integrity (meaning that you do it even when no one’s looking).  I admit that I sometimes steer away from self-respect to take up a defensive position for myself and/or others when dealing with poor sports, but all of it becomes a fragment of a memory in the end, thanks to my prior competitive gaming history.  Instead of letting people’s words affect my attitude in the current battle, I focus instead on the dance* between myself and them, to determine if it’s a “GG” (good game) and call it, or not.  (*Great metaphor by winicott1001)

Sometimes I will even offer to share some advice with my opponents that lost at the end of the match, in hopes of not only renewing their incentive to start another PVP battle, but also to encourage them and support their efforts of participating in the challenges of the Arena.  If you recognize someone “incorrectly” using a deck build similar to yours, ask if they would like some tips from you (assuming you know the strategy and tactics well, of course!) or another PVPer.  Sometimes nice gestures can be as viral as this meme; there are countless stories of Starbucks customers paying for the person behind them, resulting in the same act by the following customer. 

Overall, I hope we can restore the “fun” in PVP for existing and future players who have yet to read this post.  Competition isn’t always a scary thing; as I mentioned before, it can act as a tool to improve our strategies and understanding of the game.  What contributes to the intimidation is how we behave and react to various forces.  Thus, with some effort from us, the negative environment won’t have to be a permanent stamp, and more of our friends may take on a greater interest, giving us a larger pool to learn and improve from.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting this. I really like PvP, and your advice is really well placed.


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