Moo Tang Clan: Solving the prisoner's dilemma of Tol Barad

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Solving the prisoner's dilemma of Tol Barad

The Tol Barad battleground has apparently been a big fail with lots of win trading going on. This was due to the massive honor being awarded for successfully attacking and scant rewards for defending. In some cases win-trading was coordinated or at least discussed and argued for on the forums, but on some servers it just naturally and organically occurred. Why defend this time if instead you could just come back later and attack, and gain (literally) 10 times the rewards.

There are changes incoming, but they sound like simple tweaks of the numbers and not a change to the underlying system.

The problem is that, apart from the rewards of the battle itself, there is no difference between successfully attacking and successfully defending. Win-trading is still an optimal path to rewards, whether planned and coordinated or simply by herd instinct.

Consider though if successfully defending multiple times in a row gave some additional benefit, and continuing to successfully defend increased those benefits further. One successful defense might give (say) a +2% buff, two successful defenses (in a row) might give a +4%, and so on, and on. Now, the defenders have a reason not to engage in win-trading because the longer they can hold Tol Barad, the greater the rewards. (Whether it's +2% cumulative or +5% cumulative, has diminishing returns, is capped etc are parameters that can be tweaked. Lets just use +2% for sake of example.)

Tricky thing though is that you can't make this buff apply to PvP, otherwise you've got a positive feedback loop that will eventually make it nigh on impossible for the attackers to succeed. Especially since fewer and fewer potential attackers would even bother queuing.

Thankfully, Tol Barad includes a raid dungeon which only unlocks for the faction that won the last battle. If the defender's buff were to apply to that PvE content then you don't have a positive feedback loop but you do have a motivation for defending, a motivation that grows and grows.

Problem solved? No. A strong defender faction has greater motivation to successfully defend, which in itself demotivates the attackers. They failed in their last attack, and they know the defenders have even more reason to defend for your next attack. We still need some reason for attackers to get in the game, and this is even without the defender's buff further motivating the defenders because, by definition, they are the weaker faction.

A PvP buff needs to be provided to the attackers, one that is also cumulative with successive failures. For simplicity sake say it's a cumulative +2% to all attackers for damage, healing, health, movement, and so on.

This way a generally weaker faction will be buffed and buffed to the point where they can actually win the battle and control the island. The buff to movement could be really interesting: eventually the attackers could chase down lone defenders with ease, zerg from point to point faster than the defenders, and easily escape getting overwhelmed by a numerically superior pack of defenders.

As additional incentive, a successful attack could result in the attackers receiving the full PvE buff the defenders had for one round, before it resets back to the initial +2% for a successful defense. If the defenders have dominated Tol Barad for six successful defenses then the attackers know they would be receiving a +12% buff to raiding if they win. Plenty of motivation to show up and try harder.

Note though that if the recently defeated defender's were to rally the next round and successfully attack they wouldn't regain that +12% buff. They'd start over at no buff, otherwise the buff will only rise and rise and rise, just changing hands every now and then, and that would be untenable. Mechanically, call the cumulative PVE buff for successively defending the Defender's Buff and the transferred PvE buff for successfully attacking the Victory Buff, and the rule then becomes easy to express: successful defenses grant a cumulative +2% raiding Defender's Buff, successful attacks grant a Victory Buff equivalent to the losing defender's Defender's Buff, but the Victory Buff only lasts one round (ie. gets replaced with the cumulative Defender's Buff).

Would this work? In what nasty underhanded ways can you imagine this design could be exploited and abused? Would the forums asplode in flame?

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