Many of the most prolific and popular MMO's on the market today include some form of PvP (player versus player) combat. There are probably thousands of research papers written to analyze why people enjoy pitting themselves against each other, but the market in gaming is undeniable and a developer would be remiss if he were not to address and cater to this highly competitive, and often willing to spend hard cash, market.
One of the greatest challenges a developer faces when designing a game is a creating a balanced PvP system for players to use. Any reasonably complex system will involve a large number of factors to consider, including abilities, effects, their associated numbers, and enough complexly layered code to drown a whale. Insuring that everything works well together can be an exhausting job, and in a game that sees regular updates, this is a task that can never really be considered "finished". More complications and considerations are added when a developer wants to support both 1v1, and team-based combat.
The already myriad challenges associated with balancing PvP increase exponentially when designing a system that allows for both one on one fights between individuals, and group fights that can involve multiple players. Every layer of complexity added involves more coding, testing, and tweaking, and each form of PvP has its own unique challenges and factors to consider:
- 1v1 is generally the easiest type to design and balance. It involves less variables, abilities, and effects to consider, and developers most commonly begin by coding for PvP that's geared towards 1v1. Features for group combat are then added on later.
- - Team combat, on the other hand, involves a great deal more complexities. With multiple players comes a much wider range of factors to consider, including how abilities can be stacked and combined with each other, and how they might work together and affect each other.
Each of the above forms of PvP are fair challenge to developers just on their own, but the real trick is making them both work at the same time and within the same framework. It's much easier for a developer to make a system that's great for 1v1, or one that works well for teams, but both at the same time is often considered to be a holy grail of games that feature player combat.
Considerations regarding factional gameplay need to be taken into account as well. Should naturally opposing factions have skills that counter each other? Should their abilities mirror each other with different skins, or should each get its own unique skills with advantages and disadvantages.
All of these different factors combine to present a unique and demanding challenge to developers who want to give their players a way to have fun killing each other. A developer who is willing to invest the time, patience, and dedication needed to tackle all these diverse problems, however, will be rewarded with a player-base that will return again and again for years. A truly fun and fair PvP system in a game can elevate it above and beyond the crowded field of MMO's and browser-based MMORPG's into one of the great games of the generation.
About the author:
With an insatiable hunger for new MUD games, Julian Talley has played most of the popular multiplayer games around, and many of the not-so-popular. Games that feature fast-paced and well designed PvP are of special interest. In his off time, he attends college and enjoys writing.