Where's My PvP?
PvP MMORPG Gaming Combat RvR PK Player vs Player Realm vs Realm
So whatís wrong? Are us PvPers just living in the past, remembering our first time and nothing can come close? Are games focusing far too much on other content? Are developers just tacking on PvP to get us to spend some money on their games? Or are they just having issues finding what would work best for their game?
To find the true question, and answer, I believe we must step back and take a look at some games that promoted PvP as a main feature, rather then something else to do. So come with me and letís start by heading back into the 90ís with Ultima Online.
Along with Everquest, this was probably one of the first true ďMMORPGĒ games available. What set this game apart, however, was its open world (also called sandbox). Where EQ was quest and PvE driven with a leveling system; UO was a cold, skill based, world. You basically made your own content and learned skills in whatever you wanted. Another intriguing part of the PvP was the full loot system. This game forced people to befriend others, and slay anyone that tried to take a cut of their land/resources. If someone was running around over geared with no friends, he might as well have a target stapled on his back.
What started to drive PvPers away from UO was the introduction of Trammel, which was a ďcopyĒ of the world that didnít allow PvP. With many players flocking to trammel to do their skill leveling and monster hunting, it left no risk to the game, and no prey to hunt.
Next, letís take a look at Dark Age of Camelot. Its unique three realm system introduced a new type of PvP called Realm vs Realm (RvR). This not only pitted players against each other to fight for their realm; but you had to fight off two different enemy forces. The frontiers also gave players a great system, and a reason, to fight for their realm. Basically each realm has their own territory that is protected by keeps. If an enemy realm(s) took enough of these keeps, they could break supply chains. This would lead to an attack on a Relic Keep. Inside the relic keeps, your realm held a relic of your realm (each realm had 2 relic keeps). If taken by another realm to their relic keep, it would provide a bonus to the capturing realm in the form of physical or magical damage to all combat, both PvE and PvP.
This system lead to large scale battles, alliances, betrayals, and many hours of fun. Even after Trials of Atlantis (ToA), the expansion many blame for the downfall of DAoC, came the New Fronteers system. The RvR Frontier system was expanded on, offering more to do for smaller groups, and new tactical ways to attack and defend. While ToA defiantly dealt a heavy blow to the subscriptions, due to many balancing issues, the game gained and lost subs over time. The largest problem was how long it took Mythic to respond to their errors, and the lack of content to new players. Sadly this game eventually became a quick 1-4 day grind to level 50 just to get to the content and play with others. I still tip my hat to this game for providing one of the most unique PvP experiences I have had. But as soon as the servers started to merge, and realm loyalty disappeared, this games demise was ever too quick.
Last, letís take a look at Lineage 2. While I did not get into this game very early, it still held its strong end game PvP throughout its life, even today. There were two things that really shined in this game, the open PvP and the castle siege system. While this game had possibly the toughest grind I have ever experienced and a horrid economy, the PvP was what kept me playing. Due to the open PK system, you were almost required to be in a guild. This developed friendships and loyalty within the game. It gave you protection, along with the possibility to access some content you otherwise wouldnít; such as guild houses, and Castles. At the same time, this also would drive conflict and give you enemies.
The other thing about the open PK system, that many developers seem to not think about, is that it had balance to prevent abusing it. The system used in Lineage 2 was called Karma. Basically, if you attacked a player your name would turn purple; if you killed a player and they didnít fight back, you would turn red. However if they do attack back they would turn purple and killing them would make you remain purple for a short time. Going red makes you gain karma, purple is kind of just an in between state. This give balance as a red player (with too much karma) could not use stores, and they had higher chance of dropping their items (which is a huge deal in Lineage 2). So, you could choose to kill someone if they are annoying you, but you have to be willing to take the karma and work it off.
At this point I just want to make it clear that what I have gone over is not all these games had to offer; nor are they the reasons for these games failing or just generally not holding subs.
Now letís look at some of the games that have come out recently, starting with Warhammer Online. Made by the creators of DAoC, it had promised a similar RvR system with keeps and a new element, attacking capitol cities. Where this game went wrong, however, was the lack of customization of your character, making fights last longer, a lack of realm pride and ultimately Mythicís Achilles í heel, not responding to the communities concerns quick enough. I feel these last two really drove people away, especially old DAoC players, as they were the main reason a lot of us left.
Next, Age of Conan. While this game had incredible graphics and based around a very brutal world, the PvP felt very last minute and had no real risk/reward. After awhile, when you saw another player you had about a coin toss as to either some immature kid getting kicks for no real gain/competition/reward, or a decent player that would give you a good fight. While is can be fun for awhile, I can get the same game play from an FPS, and I donít have to pay monthly for that.
Last, Iím going to talk about Aion. While I had very high hopes for Aion, it ultimately let me down. The game had beautiful graphics, amazing sound (that I would some times just listen to while doing work), and possibly one the most balanced combat/class systems at launch. The problem was mostly due to lack of depth to PvP. Other factors such as PvP gear being easier to gain by doing PvE, no arenas or battlegrounds, and very little end game just made my cancel finger heavier. Aion truly is a game that could be good, but just isnít ready yet. If more things were added in to fix these issues I would consider going back.
Ultimately, there are quite a few things that can be done to make PvP enjoyable, although not everyone enjoys the same thing. While some lean heavily on the high risk/high reward side, many others just want a casual team vs team battle with low risk and enjoyable game play. Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, there are a few different things that a game can provide that I believe most PvPers would enjoy.
Owning territories in a game is usually something players enjoy to do. Being able to siege and defend is a mechanic that almost always works, and keeps a lot of PvPers happy. The only down side is when developers donít execute this well. For example: The main fight for a keep take should be on the outer walls. As the attackers get further and further in, the fight should move more into their favor. This isnít to say the defenders should have to abandon ship when the outer wall is breached; in fact they should still have a good fighting chance. Just as long as the majority of the battle (in duration that is) doesnít happen inside on top of the lord *cough* Aion *cough* then this is usually a good mechanic to have.
While some players dislike this, I think the inclusion of some form of battlegrounds is good. This can defiantly keep new players coming in and not feel like they must rush to end game just to get into PvP. Battlegrounds also provide balanced sides so strategy tends to play a larger role. Battlegrounds also give objective based combat, which tends to be more enjoyable then stealthing around for 5 hours trying to find solo players. As long as it doesnít take away from other end game PvP, I believe this can only help a PvP game.
With many new players getting into MMO games, this draws in a much more competitive crowd as well. Arenas can help give these people what they want, a true battle of skill and teamwork. The only downside to arenas is when it comes to balancing. This can be done usually by setting special rules to arena only (for 2v2 and 3v3 type matches), but it should not affect other parts of the game leading to broken large scale combat or any other PvP.
Skill Based Game play:
Probably my biggest pet peeve in MMO gaming is when a game is dominated by gear. For example: In WoW I recall playing my lvl 60 hunter (this is with lvl cap of 80) and just getting steam rolled by one player, a lvl 60 twinked out paly, in battlegrounds. Not one person could kill this guy, even when we all stacked dmg on him. He could have had very little understanding of his class (then again, a paly in WoW is essentially 3 buttons with a few extras every now and then) and still have done almost as well as he did.
I prefer when gear does give you some boosts, but ultimately a more skilled slightly under geared player still has a chance to beat you. I do have hope in the upcoming games that are leaning on to twitch based combat, thus no more auto target and whack away. (For example: C9, Mabinogi Heros, and Tera Online.)
This can be a real disaster for some developers. Unfortunately there is no way to ďbalanceĒ classes perfectly, thus I canít really say much on the matter. I did hear once that if you are receiving as many complains about a class/skill/ability as people saying itís not good/powerful enough, than itís fairly balanced. The nice thing about MMOís is the fact they are always changing.