Separating PvP Abilities From PvE
I’m not a hardcore PvPer in the way that I play games like Darkfall and lament the loss of old school FFA PvP such as that found on certain Everquest servers where high level players could just, and did, repeatedly grief and gank everyone and anyone without care. No, I’m the type of guy who prefers sanitized, sanctioned PvP in which every player is on a (more or less) equal footing.
This is not just because I hate losing to players only because they’re 40 levels higher than me and I never, in anyone’s wildest dreams, ever stood a chance against them but also because I take no satisfaction in defeating an opponent in an unfair fight. Now, this doesn’t mean I follow some strict code of the Samurai or an ancient chivalry philosophy, it just means I want to know that I beat my opponent because I was better than them and not because I had a huge advantage in levels or class imbalance which they could do nothing about.
Balancing inter-player combat is tough in any situation but unfortunately in games like World of Warcraft it’s made even tougher by the fact that the developers need to make sure everything works and fits into PvE as well. Unfortunately, however, it’s been my experience (from a variety a MMOs) that this feat is practically impossible to accomplish. Even with the best will in the world, PvP and PvE are essentially two separate games existing within the same universe and trying to mix them together so they can exist in harmony is very, very difficult thing to achieve.
Some solutions do exist though and probably the best one I’ve seen was in Everquest 2. The developers came up with a very simple, yet very effective, method of dealing with the divide between PvP and PvE: they gave every PvE ability a special PvP version. For instance your normal Kick might deal 200 damage when used in PvE but only 100 damage in PvP (as mob hit points scale higher than player’s and thus this offset the difference). Likewise a Scout’s stun ability might last 6 seconds in PvE but only 3 seconds in PvP and so forth. Simple, elegant, perfect.
Although the system wasn’t perfect and the devs spent a lot of time tweaking things, the fundamentals were sound. And if an ability was prone to exploit (such as Scout’s Evac) it could be altered in PvP with no impact whatever in PvE. Not only did this make the devs lives a lot easier and PvPers a lot happier but it also created a nice separation between these two forms of gameplay. PvE could remain challenging and balanced without affecting PvP and vice versa.
Last month I wrote about how Everquest 2 is a better game than World of Warcraft and this is one of the many reasons why. I played on Darathar and Nagafen (the EQ2 European and US PvP servers respectivily) for 3 years in total and never felt the frustration or annoyance that I sometimes feel when I PvP in WoW. It’s not that hate WoW PvP or want to rage quit or anything like that, I just felt like writing a commentary about the situation and giving SOE the credit they deserve. If I was a MMORPG developer, separating PvP abilities from PvE is definitely a fundamental I’d observe.
Anyone else know of any good examples of mixing and balancing PvP with PvE?