Orks have tusks. So do elephants. Coincidence or conspiracy?

It’s strange. A few years ago no one seemed the slightest bit interested in PvP yet now we can’t seem to escape it. Warhammer Online, Age of Conan, Aion, and Allods Online are recent triple-A MMORPGs with a heavy focus on player versus player combat and even older games seem to be actively retrofitting themselves out with PvP mechanics. EQ2, now over 5 years old, introduced battlegrounds with it’s latest expansion in February and WoW seems to be pushing it harder than ever before with some rather large changes coming in Cataclysm designed purely to improve PvP.

I like PvP. A lot. So overall I’m pretty happy with this new trend especially as it seems to be endorsing the kind of consensual combat that I like. Unlike the olden days or in indie games, these MMOs don’t offer free-for-all gankathons but instead restrict PvP to particular areas, battlegrounds or private arenas. We have the blood lust, for sure, but it seems like we still want to feel safe and secure.

However, as much as I like this new found PvP aspect in games, I can’t help but wonder if it’s asking too much of MMOs as a genre and even if the whole thing is really necessary. Now MMORPGs are competing not only on offering immersive PvE with lots of content but also a whole sub-game of PvP. Plus that’s not just a lot to ask, it’s also a bloody tough balance to get right.

So what do you think about this new trend of focusing heavily on PvP in MMOs? Is it unnecessary and diminishing our PvE experience or an additional feature that enriches our gaming one? I demand to know! Answer me or I’ll come round to your house and gank you! And by gank I mean politely ask you to inform me of your opinion. Because, y’know, you might own a gun.


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  1. Fremskritt says:

    You are safe from me, I only own virtual guns. Unless you break into my virtual home that is, in that case it’s BOOM AIMED SHOT!

    As for PvP, I wrote about the exact same thing on my blog yesterday, but in a more specific sense. From what it seems to me PvP has become less of a HUGE ARMIES CLASHING and more of a brawl, something that doesn’t appeal to me very much. I want to feel part of something bigger and not just compete on the leaderboards.

  2. Wasdstomp says:

    I like small group pvp for the most part. I mostly run around in zergs in WAR just because that is how everyone rolls.

    Usually my best experiences of pvp in any MMO has always been the first few months. If you rush to max level you get that small pvp experience before there are a million zerglings running around.

    Zergs tend to minimize skills in pvp, but I am not sure how you could create a game that ensured small pvp unless you instanced zones to be a certain capacity, but than it would just feel like a bg, or scenario.

    • Professer says:

      Anti-Zerg game mechanics, a PvP MMO’s best friend.

    • Gordon says:

      FFA PvP in EQ2 was my favourite because it was the perfect match of individuals, groups or large raids. For instance, some people rolled Scouts and just spent hours picking of soloers, some people roamed around in groups for PvP/PvE and others went around in hardcore raid forces look to wipe out everyone. It was a nice mix.

  3. Yogi says:

    I think that the trend of having decent pve content with optional pvp environments is nice. When I was younger I really enjoyed world pvp in World of Warcraft. Then again I played a mage and rogue and we could stunlock/polymorph our way out of any problem back in Vanilla. I sometimes still miss the danger of knowing that at any moment … the wrath of some jerk could be brought down on my poor alts head. Or the joy of knowing that someone out there in the world was having a horrible day, thanks to you. I was not so much a ganker as someone who attacked those near my level that were oblivious but not in combat. Like on the way into an instance in BRM. I caught them by surprise, but they could have any number of 39 friends right behind them for an MC run.

    Im off topic. As I have grown older (omg 26.. where is my cane!?) Ive come to appreciate the ability to log onto my game, play through my pve stuff, and not have to deal with someone camping my body like a douche. If I am bored with pve, then I can travel to where I want to pvp rather than where someone really wants to pvp me. Its nice to have that peace of mind.

    However I do think it comes at a cost. Sure I can reliably play anytime I want and have fun, but there is a certain heart stopping, blood pumping, feeling to running from an enemy player and trying to escape or questing in a contested zone. Not to mention that world pvp at random felt as though you were more involved in the lore of war. Combat isnt about signing up and shipping out to the danger zone… wait a sec. Ok combat in the games lore isnt about teleporting off to some island and then coming back for milk and cookies. You are supposed to randomly run into an orc here or a gnome there. These moments were memorable for me as they were the times I was the most angry and ,likewise, the most rewarded. Depending on who stabbed who.

    So all and all I think its a balance. Great when a game can do it well. However, if they fail to balance the two and pve takes too large of a hit for pvp, the game begins to lose its luster. At least for me and my pve needs. Ultimately you will never make everyone happy. Those games meant for pvp will be loved by the people are into pvp. Same with pve. The danger zone is the mix and how well you mix it. Signs you up for constant criticism from both sides.

    My comments have felt all over the place today. My head is all stuffy :(


    • Gordon says:

      Yep, I’m with you. I don’t have the time now to worry about PvP during my PvE ’session’ and instead perfer to keep it to BGs (even though they’re getting a little dull now) because then I don’t need to watch my back if I take a quick AFK during a quest.

  4. Usiel says:

    I’m also a big fan for PvP. It’s the only situation in which you can show versatility, since the Situations are not standardized as they are in PvE.

    When Warhammer showed it Endgame deficit, we had a highly supported concept for easy to implement changes of their System that nearly made it into the game. Our group however broke up, when a Dataexpert, found out that the structure of the game wasn’t designed to support open battle.

    However I prefer Battles that have an effect on a conflict scenario and I’m not a real friend of PvP as a Sport like in Arenas.

  5. Ferrel says:

    I’ve written a whole lot about this over the last couple of years so I’m going to just try and cram the gist of my rants and raves into a single reply!

    First and foremost I believe there is a very real, very vocal PvP community. I believe they’re deserving of a game but not nearly as wide spread as they lead us to believe. No PvP-centric game has yet to eclipse even minor success PvE games. They’re not “the next big thing.” They’re relatively stable market that works well for smaller titles. Darkfall is a fine example. Warhammer is an example of over reaching. There just isn’t a “million+” fan base that everyone wants there to be.

    That said, for reasons unknown to me, developers continue to throw money into PvP titles and PvP features. That is all well and good but sometimes instead of trying to offer a “bland experience to every demographic” you need to just offer a solid experience to one. Hybrid games at launch just don’t work. WoW works because PvP came later and it has huge budgets to develop it. That isn’t the case for every “next big thing.”

    I also think PvP is lazy development. Who hasn’t heard a producer say “every battle will be different!” They are clearly thinking that one PvE Dungeon takes X amount of man hours and will be completed only y amount of times. On the other hand you can create one PvP battleground and players will do them over and over and over. They call each time “new content.” It isn’t.

    PvP battles don’t really change every time. Yes, they’re slightly different, but you notice similar trends and patterns. Class A plays this way. Class B plays that way. Mix the names up a bit and you still get a fairly redundant experience.

    The only reason I think battlegrounds in most games are popular with the non-PvP fan base is because they offer the path of least resistance. Win or lose, a BG will give you a token. Do that enough and you get the item of your choice. A PvE dungeon still largely uses random loot drops in most MMOs. Nobody likes running the same dungeon 50 times and not getting the item they want. It isn’t fun. In short, every PvP item can be bought with tokens. Only some PvE ones can.

    It is essentially coercive PvP for some players. EQ2 is doing it right now. I’ve decided that I’d rather not play or ignore the system than be forced to do it for my gear upgrades. That is just my choice though.

    In short (not really short) I think the market is there but not as big as everyone pretends it is. I also think new games trying to split their resources is unwise. Be PvP or be PvE. Stop promising “a little something” to everyone until you can actually deliver it.

    • Gordon says:

      Don’t forget PvE is going down the token path though and even EQ2 took a lot a lot of steps to try and make it easier to acquire items from instances by preventing stuff that people already owend from dropping again. Anyway, yeah I pretty much agree with you :) PvP is a lot of fun but the same battlegrounds or arenas eventually start to get boring after a while whereas constantly moving through new PvE content and quests is a lot more interesting. I like the idea of RvR on a grand scale but unfortunately I’ve yet to see it be pulled offer properly.

  6. lonomonkey says:

    I agree with Ferrel here, I do think too it’s lazy design.

  7. Elleseven says:

    I like the trend. Maybe the reason there is a trend in more PvP is that it gives very busy adults/parents time to jump in and leave whenever you want. You really don’t need to study encounter guides etc to particpate. I experience more emotional high/lows when playing against others than defeating an NPC. If it wasn’t for PvP I would have quit WoW 2 years ago.

    One thing to ponder is the definition of PVP. Is it Arena, world PVP, battlegrounds or all of the above. For me PvP is bg’s only but I know others that think PVP is only World PvP on a PvP server.

    My suggestions for PvP – 1) (which I know will never happen) Everyone queues in with the same level gear. Let skill trump gear level. If you need to be unique they could have different colours of the same level gear to represent awesomeness. 2) Have a Soul Caliber rip off using WoW (or fave mmorpg) characters. 3) We used to play a game called British Bulldog. I would love to see that developed into a bg game (with same level gear of course).

  8. Wiqd says:

    I really dislike any game so far that’s put out PVP solely because of the way they’ve implemented it. I personally do not like PVP, but I liked WAR’s implementation of it because the game was built around it. Aion also had a nice system because you knew you’d get into it eventually and the world was built around it. Unfortunately, in both these games, PVP is completely optional.

    I haven’t played Darkfall, but people rave about it being a sandbox PVP game. I wasn’t particularly fond of the game just based on how it looked, really, but it sounds like the type of PVP I would like.

    For me, the game has to be designed around PVP. I’d like a game with open PVP anywhere, even large cities. I wrote a post a long time ago on how I’d design an open PVP world that contained things like bounties and a bounty hunter’s guild for people so the justice system was all player based. It may sound weird, but I really do think there are enough people out there who believe in having justice, that a system for open PVP would work like that.

    I’m also a fan of losing things in PVP like items. Some people aren’t, but those craving the ultimate PVP wouldn’t mind. Everyone who disagrees has been tainted by the “supposed” PVP of games like WoW, where nothing is really at stake.

    • Tesh says:

      Indeed, you have to design strictly for PvP. In my book, that means a very narrow power band (ganking stinks) and player-skill-based gameplay. That runs contrary to the “progress quest” MMO design ethos.

      To me, PvP only works when things are normalized and player skill carries the day.

      • Gordon says:

        “To me, PvP only works when things are normalized and player skill carries the day.”

        Agreed, although unfortunately that is pretty much impossible to achieve in any sort of RPG game with a large variety of classes and item progression :(

    • Gordon says:

      The problem with PvP everywhere is that it opens up a whole can of worms in regards to ganking and balance. I definitely would like to see it but I don’t think it would work in a normal progression based (whether it’s skill or levels) game as ultimately someone is going to be more powerful than someone else “just because they’ve played for longer” and thus have an unfair advantage.

  9. Pindleskin says:

    PVP in the sense of world-PVP is great for me. As long as it’s balanced then I don’t mind being attacked while questing. Battlegrounds on the other hand feel less like wars and more like just another jousting competition. If done properly (like Warhammer promised and AoC hinted at) PVP can be great, but it needs to be hugely spectacular to fit in with the RPG style. Wintergrasp tries to do this but loses out in the fact that the fighting is so centralised.

    I miss the old AV’s of yesteryear (12-hour battles anyone?) and until I can enter a battle and just be stunned by the sheer immensity and grandeur I’ll juts stick to my PVE.

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