Rant: PvP Servers
As the next generation of MMO's start to be seen on the horizon, one trend that we can see is a focus on PvP as a vital aspect of the games. I personally am in the belief that PvP is the best endgame an MMO can have. No PvE only game can ever put out enough content fast enough to keep up with the pace of its gamers. Even the smallest amount of content takes a lot of development time, and when you factor in tweaking and testing, developers will always find the player base hot on their heels.
In a PvE game, the end game usually will end up consisting of raids that involve a large number of players. Due to the often time gimmicky nature of these raid bosses, once the strat is discovered to beat them, the raids become more of a routine chore then something exciting. We have seen this in World of Warcraft countless times when new bosses are introduced. One guild gets the world first kill on it, the strat is learned, and the bosses starts getting killed by a large number of raids across all servers. The real problem with this as an endgame is that it becomes very hard to justify the tedium over time. Kill boss, get strong loot, kill stronger boss, get stronger loot, kill super strong boss, get super strong loot, and the cycle goes on forever.
Now let's throw PvP into the equation. Suddenly the prospect of PvE raids becomes a lot more justified. Kill boss, get loot, obliterate other players! The beauty of PvP as an endgame is that if it is done in the right setting, the players will write the story instead of the developers. Players will find themselves seeking out other players, rivalries will form, and players will actively seek out these people. Even in the event that your PvP rival is a complete and utter idiot, in most cases he or she will still be more unpredictable then a raid mob who uses the same gimmicks every 30 seconds.
PvP servers provide the best environment to play on as far as endgame goes. Every MMO should have at least 1 PvP ruleset server. I know some developers will cry about the lore and the story and all that crap, but they need to face the music. The people who are PvP oriented honestly don't give a flying crap about your lore and story, they want blood and mayhem. As a devloper, you should bite your tongue and drop all the lore crap for just a single server because by its existence, you will sell many more copies of your game that otherwise wouldn't have been bought. Brad McQuaid may have been a terrible manager of the Vanguard project, but when it comes to making people swallow mouthfuls of crap, hes the Wolfgang Puck of bullshit and spin. He was smart enough to toss in the PvP servers when VG launched because he knew it would sell a lot more copies of his game. There is a right way and a wrong way to implement a PvP server, so let's take a look at some of the more successful MMOs and their approach....
World of Warcraft (RvR)
Seriously, I don't know WTF Blizzard was thinking or who they think they are fooling. There is a really good reason why WoW's PvP is the laughing stock of the MMO world. They have contested zones that aren't really contested, no penalty for death, graveyard rushing, and instanced PvP. I remember playing when the game first came out before the battlegrounds and having a good time. Ever since battlegrounds they have systematically cut the balls off of PvP and those who seek it in its natural setting. It's actually to the point where there is literally almost no difference at all between the PvE server and the PvP server. Congrats to Blizzard for making the most trivial, meaningless, and unskilled PvP ever to grace the MMO genre. If WoW is your first MMO and you think your some sort of tough guy in PvP, your bragging rights are about on the same level as a toddler talking smack about how he can tie his shoes. SandLOL?
Everquest 2 - Nagafen (RvR)
If your looking to play a modern MMO with half decent PvP servers, this is probably your best bet at present time. As usual, Everquest 2 has taken things much farther then WoW. As someone who has and is playing on the Nagafen PvP (highest populated PvP) server, I will be the first to tell you that not all classes are created equal in PvP. Where it does shine however is the fact that none of the PvP on Nagafen is instanced. All PvP takes place on the overworld and inside of non-instanced dungeons. The other interesting aspect is that they give you the power to change which faction you are on. If your team seems overpopulated, you always have the ability to exile into the 3rd party team, and from there a full switch to the other faction. The PvP rewards can be time consuming to get, but it is worth the trade off to have world PvP making this the best choice among more modern MMOs.
Dark Age of Camelot - Andred / Mordred (FFA)
This was probably the some of the best times I have ever had in an MMO. A true Free-For-All PvP ruleset where you could attack anyone of any level anywhere outside the capital cities. Unlike many PvP servers, the "Dreds" as they are referred to, the FFA format allows communication between all players since there are no factions, only guilds. This allows for 2 very important aspects. The first being the abilities to have a real political environment, the second is ability to talk smack to your enemies. Of course we can't forget that along with these fun features, DAOC comes with the best PvP reward system in an MMO and capturable castles and relics that have a real impact on the battles. Unfortunately DAOC is growing a little long in the tooth, and these servers are now a ghost town, but to this day this is probably the funnest MMO experience I have had in my career.
Asheron's Call - Darktide (FFA)
We can't talk about PvP servers and not talk about Darktide. One of the most extreme PvP environments ever created. Upon creating your character, you are presented with a warning message telling of a horrific existence that awaits you beyond the portal. A warning which rings true the second you enter the world and find a crew of people waiting where new players arrive to give them a nice warm welcome to the server by baptizing them with a battle axe and stealing everything except your underwear which is unlootable. Unlike the previous examples, a death on Darktide will cost you a lot more then your dignity. Your killer will be walking away with one or more of your valuable items, which includes your equipped weapons and armor as possible drops. Darktide also had guilds, basically the "Blood" guild which made up about 1/3 to 1/2 of the servers population and everyone else. Being a member of the Blood guild however didn't guarantee your safety. Also unlike previous examples, Darktide allowed you to kill anyone....including your own guildmates!
At the end of the day, PvP has been proven to provide player-driven content to give games an exceptional level of staying power. Games like Lord of the Rings Online will undoubted find themselves struggling to produce content fast enough to keep up with the rate its players will consume it. If these developers are in the business to make money, then shelfing the lore and giving us 1 real PvP server may be prove to be a wise financial decision. PvP is going to become a much more predominant force in this genre. Age of Conan, Warhammer Online, Pirates of the Burning Sea, Darkfall, Fallen Earth, and Aion are all coming with PvP built in different ways. Gamers should be able to find some comfort in the fact that in the next generation of MMOs, hopefully we will be in the driver's seat and less dependent on developers to spoon feed us content.
Co-leader of Inquisition