Before I get started, allow me to say that much of this is biased by my personal opinion on the topic of PvP. I’ve been thinking about the topic lately, and have decided to put what I’ve come to down for those who wish to read it.
Opinions on PvP are wide and varied, from hardcore perma-deathers to softcore corpse-retrievers, but I think a general rule among those who play MMOs for PvP is this: gear should not decide who wins or who loses a fight. I believe the playerbase is more forgiving to a system in which classes weigh heavily on the outcome of a fight than to a system in which gear gives an insurmountable advantage to a player. I don’t think I have to name any examples of gear-based PvP systems on the market right now, but I would like to mention DAoC as inspiring the point I’m going to make about what I believe is the right way to do PvP.
Players in DAoC now create things called templates for their characters. In a nutshell, it basically maxes out all the stats of the character, pushing him to the end of his potential. What this little patch of genius means is that gear plays almost no role whatsoever in the outcome of a PvP match in DAoC. Almost everyone in the game is templated if they’re PvPing, and it gives everyone a fairly level playing ground. You have classes which are strong against some classes and weak against others. This is only natural and should be strived for—without this, you would only be able to create classes aesthetically different. I have come to call this the class rule—classes should generally fair better against certain other classes, but that should provide an advantage, not a win, to the player. There is an equilibrium needed here. If the class rule becomes too overbearing, PvP will get stale.
The beauty of the class rule is that you get a playing experience based more on skill than any other PvP system. To shamelessly plug DAoC once more, many times, battles are decided by which CCer is able to get his or her mezzes off first. Other times, it’s decided by which healer is able to elude the tanks for the longest. And yet other times, it’s decided by which team is able to effectively eliminate the other team’s heavy hitters. There are almost no instances in DAoC in which gear plays a major role in which group is victorious. Basically, battles aren’t decided by who farmed the most. I (and I daresay most PvPers out there) believe this makes for a much better PvP experience. Stop telling me who I can fight by the gear they wear, and start telling me that as a cloth wearer, I should be looking for those big, lumbering tanks and trying to avoid those nimble, sneaky stealthers. Stop telling me I should be looking for the guy with the least epics, and start telling me I should be looking for my most opportune moment to pounce. That’s what PvPers want.
Another slice of genius worth mentioning is AoCs brilliant idea to separate PvP and PvE levels. I think this was a great move by Funcom, and it has really sparked my interest in a game I hadn’t given a look before. Let’s hope that they can continue this sentiment on through to gear. Us PvPers, we’re an odd type. We don’t want to farm, we want to fight. Give us the opportunity to do so without all this raiding hubbub.