01/07/2017

AFK in PvP

The scene: Alderaan Civil War on a Friday night. While waiting for the match to start, people inspect their fellow team members to get a better idea of what they are in for. Suddenly someone points at a well-geared Togruta Sage and shouts in ops chat: "Not THAT useless guy again! He just goes AFK for the entire match and does nothing!" Then the accuser quits the group.

I wasn't quite sure what to think of this dramatic outburst. People will say a lot of stupid stuff in PvP, as evidenced by ops chat in many a random match I've been in, but to see such an eruption of anger before the game had even started was definitely odd. Still, I wanted to presume the Sage innocent until proven guilty, and just made a note to myself to keep an eye on him.

However, once the match had started and we were brawling around the middle turret, all was forgotten. I was the only healer on my team and the Imps knew it, with the enemy melee on my case at all times. I was forced to practice my kiting, which strangely led to one of my own team members shouting at me to stop running away! I think he was having trouble keeping up with the people chasing me and whom he wanted to kill? I think I spotted Pfannenstiel and his friend Sanne on the enemy team too.

We actually managed to cap a side turret first and were ahead for a little while, but eventually we lost the fight at mid and then never quite recovered enough to reclaim a second turret. "Oh well," I thought, "we gave it a pretty good go". Only as the last couple of hitpoints of the Republic ship were ticking down did I suddenly remember about the Togruta Sage. Looking at the map, I spotted him standing in a corner in the tunnel underneath the middle turret, out of the way of combat and away from any objectives. When the scoreboard came up moments later, it showed a big, fat zero in all columns for him... except for damage done, where a very, very low number seemed to indicate that he had hit a single offensive ability at one point, probably to earn the one medal required to get rewards for the match. The doomsayer at the start had been right.

My mood instantly transformed from being gracious in defeat to pure anger. Considering we had held our own as well as we did with one person down, actually having an eighth who contributed to the match in some way surely would have made a difference. I rarely get angry at people for playing badly, because we all have to start somewhere - but this was something else: someone actively sabotaging their own team for the entire duration of the match. Infuriating. I went to rant about it on Twitter and got a bit of a conversation going.

Now, let's not make a mountain out of a molehill here: This isn't something that happens often in SWTOR. For comparison of what things can be like, I only have to think back to a certain period in World of Warcraft's life cycle when the entrance to Alterac Valley was dubbed the "peace cave" by many, as it was not unusual for half the team on each side to just sit around AFK. But on the rare occasion when it does happen in SWTOR, it's still highly annoying, especially as the game's warzones feature smaller teams, where even a single AFKer can deal a severe blow to their side.

There is actually a feature to kick AFKers from the warzone, but I think many people don't know about it because it's so rarely used and not well documented. The way it works is that you can right click on someone in the ops frames and mark them as being AFK - I'm not sure how many people are required for the system to take action, but I don't think it's very many, though still more than one. If enough people mark the AFKer, there is an announcement, which is visible to the rest of the group as well, that they have to engage in combat or will be removed from the warzone. If the player then gets into a fight, the flag is cleared, otherwise they are kicked after some time (if I remember correctly).

I have actually seen this work in the past, but it's a bit of a hassle. Specifically I remember a Novare Coast where a stealther had decided to just idle somewhere in the middle of nowhere. I called them out in chat and managed to drum up enough support for a kick, at which point they briefly engaged in combat to clear their flag before going back to their previous idling in stealth. My memory of the incident is a bit fuzzy, but I think we then flagged them a second time and they actually ended up being removed... eventually. However, I'm sure you can see how this is a lot of effort to remove a leech, considering that you actually want to be focusing on the game instead. There have been other occasions for me when there simply wasn't enough time or engagement to get the AFKer kicked and they went on to finish the game with full rewards.

Now, I understand why Bioware wouldn't want to make it too easy to kick someone: to avoid people getting bullied or targeted by outright trolls, just because they don't have good gear for example. But it's an interesting contrast to GSF, which tackles the AFK problem in a completely different manner: by automatically flagging people AFK if they don't engage for too long - there is no threat to be removed from the match here, but you simply won't be eligible for any rewards if the match finishes while you have that flag up.

Ironically, I've been flagged as AFK in GSF quite a few times simply due to my own incompetence, as sitting in your gunship and missing every single shot doesn't count as being in combat. However, I always managed to clear the flag in short order. So why can't ground PvP have something similar?

My first thought was that objectives that don't involve combat would be a problem. Nobody should be flagged for guarding a turret! But this is already a thing in GSF too, and sitting on a satellite in a domination match is correctly counted as a perfectly valid form of participation. Likewise, the warzone scoring system knows where the objectives are located on each map and you could automatically be exempt from being flagged while you're near one. AFKers tend to avoid those places anyway, because they want to stand as far out of the way as possible to avoid being killed.

I suppose I could see some situations where such a system could throw up false positives: For example a stealther running ahead in Huttball to be ready for a pass later. But as long as there was sufficient leeway in terms of how long you can be in this state, I think it would be fine. If you spend minutes on end just standing around in stealth and waiting for a pass that doesn't come, you're not really helping your team anyway and would probably be better off trying something else.

So, why do we have such a much more clunky system in ground PvP instead? Maybe people can think of other ways to improve it instead of copying the way GSF handles it?

10 comments :

  1. Trouble is, a lot of ways of theoretically automatically 'logging' the player's status such that they aren't labelled as AFK in Ground PvP will still be abusable and not really fix all that much.

    For example, if earning the regular pockets of 500 Defender points was enough to prevent the player from being flagged, then, even though you're right in that it should deter it, you'd have quite a few matches where one person goes to the node simply to cap it and thereafter go AFK. If they come under fire by an attacking force, there's sadly nothing to stop them quitting to go to a different match and try it all over again. Cue much raging as Grass/West falls because, as the rest of the team sees; "nbdy went to it, you buncha n00bs my grandma cld play betta than you all!!1!"

    Conversely, if they make it so that you need to move frequently so as to prevent them from alt-tabbing then this screws over Gunslingers and Snipers who practically need to stay in-cover at all times due to the Spotter buff. I can just imagine a situation where a Gunslinger moves to prove his presence and in doing so is jumped quickly afterwards by a stealther he or she may otherwise have been able to detect.

    On the plus-side - though this 'plus' is very easily countered, as outlined below - if the AFKer in question stays in-place, are alt-tabbed, and are unable to prevent a capping then not only will they no longer gain Defender points and thus be legible to be flagged to be kicked, but people will also realise far more easily that the player was AFK and be more prepared to do something about it (i.e. the kick option).

    That's very much an after-the-fact notification, of course, so definitely not ideal to begin with. Additionally, I don't think it will be that effective, since I've never seen anyone be kicked for failing to defend a node even when they were fighting to the best of their ability to keep it, so I doubt I'd see people initiate a vote for the AFK player either, sadly.

    It's unfortunate that it is so clunky but there aren't that many functional alternatives which I can see which aren't in any way abusable. I imagine that a big change will catch several of these people off-guard at first but they'll most likely adapt quickly and the problem will reign on and on.


    One thing which perhaps *would* be interesting is some form of punishment system for leaving a Warzone early, such as being locked out of queuing for ten-fifteen minutes. However, even this isn't ideal because it would probably impact people who disconnect from the game altogether rather than be kicked out due to AFKness.


    It's an absolute mess, that's for certain. I'd quite like it if they fixed it somehow, but I honestly don't think it will be at all easy.

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    1. Maybe it's because it's late, but most of that made no sense to me. XD

      Obviously movement shouldn't be a major deciding factor; it's not in GSF either.

      If an AFKer were to cap a node and then lose it due to AFKing, to the rest of the team, this would be functionally indistinguishable from a simply poor player looking the wrong way or getting sap-capped, so I wouldn't have an issue with them not getting flagged. We can't see what's going on behind the computer, but if they actually stood there and made the place look guarded to deter attackers that's already something.

      If someone decides to quit the match instead of continuing to AFK, that's also simply a win for the team.

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    2. Believe me when I say the iteration I posted was the least confusing I could make it seem. Curse my inability to say what I mean in a concise and comprehendable manner! :P

      What I think I was getting at with the standing-around point is:

      Because of the places to stand where you are rarely ever seen, such as behind the turret or the big bulk of the pylon, which nobody ever really tries to use as a stealthy-access point to the turret because there are no flanking paths to really allow it, anyone hiding AFK behind either of these locations is unlikely to be discovered by an enemy unless fighting moves around the back, such as in Hypergates due to the medpac at the back.

      Additionally, you don't even need to be all that elaborate in your hiding to entice people over. Simply hiding down the stairs to the side is enough to make people try their hand, so the AFKer could just do that as well. Cue laughter from the opposition when they realise.

      To be honest, if I were designated to attack a point and I just saw somebody standing completely still (Gunslingers/Snipers notwithstanding) at it and not reacting in any way to my approach, I wouldn't be deterred; I'd try my luck, even if it turned out to be an elaborate trap involving a stealther. I'd definitely be more wary of a point whose defender wasn't immediately visible, even if this is because an AFKer is hiding away from any potential action.

      Then again that could just be me.

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    3. My point is that you can't ever fully prevent someone from even trying their luck going AFK, but a GSF-like system would quickly take care of them even in this situation.

      Hiding around the back? Too far away, no objective points, flagged.

      AFKing next to the turret and losing it? Either they get killed by the attacker and have to respawn and find somewhere else to be, or they stay in stealth and stop getting objective points, which once again leads to a flag after a while.

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    4. Good point; I keep forgetting about the distance aspect for points even while guarding myself.

      That aspect in itself can be annoying and glitchy, since one time on Vhi in Novare Coast I was too far away from the point, so I moved closer. Unfortunately, even though I was right within the turret the game still thought for some reason that I was too far away, so I never actually got defensive points until towards the end when I ran back towards the Spawn:West entrance and back again, at which point the glitch disappeared.

      Had this system been implemented I would have been kicked whilst being in the correct position. It seems to be a very rare glitch because I haven't seen it since (but then now I only 'flirt' with standing too far away in CW and AH for a better vangage point).

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    5. But again, the GSF system doesn't kick (as far as I'm aware), it just flags you and tells you about it, so you would in fact have realised sooner that something was wrong.

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    6. "Hiding around the back? Too far away, no objective points, flagged."

      With some of my classes i like to stand far away from the node, when i'm guarding. Just to prevent being sap-capped. I don't earn defender-medals, but i make sure, that they can't cap the node. I would be flagged as passive, when no attacker comes by.

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    7. But since you're not really AFK, you could step just a little closer for a minute and be fine again?

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    8. I actually realised pretty damn quickly that something was wrong and I wasn't getting the defensive points; I just wasn't keen to move away whilst I "couldn't afford to", hence why I deliberately waited until near the end of the match to correct the issue.

      But, hey, as I say I haven't seen it since, and I hope I won't again. :P

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  2. Given the amount of people on the forums bragging that they AFK PvP to get 4X/Pierce/whatever shiny, I'm surprised it isn't more of a problem, actually.

    Goes to show the forums are an anomalous subset of the population of players.

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