PvP MMORPG Thy Time is Now!
To sum up the title of this thread in one sentence, it is time for a PvP-MMO to emerge that will do for MMO PvP what World of Warcraft did for the entire genre. The MMO genre, in my humble opinion, has grown very stale and PVP which should be at the forefront of a new MMO surge, is no where to be found. Many a game has tried, unsuccessfully, to merge the PvP and PvE crowds under one banner. I would say that the many MMO free floaters( the non-WoW addicts) out there are simply waiting for a challenging MMO that combines the aspects of player vs player combat and player vs environment combat in a way that is less irritating and more rewarding than what we have today.
We can start this discussion off peering at some of the popular MMO's of the past. We have the lovely Dark Age of Camelot vs Warhammer comparison so lets dive into that. DAoC was/is a rather elitist game that caters more to the time and patience dedicated individual. DAoC also breaks many a mold when it comes to how the traditional MMO is played, which is funny because I consider DAoC one of the fathers of these MMO traditions. We have DAoC with a very divergent spell casting system with mechanics that have not bee copied by other MMO's. I can think of a single MMO where that if struck in melee your spell is canceled almost every single time and not just that, you are also barred from casting for a few seconds. I do enjoy this unique mechanic as it really sets DAoC apart from every other MMO when pertaining to caster based combat. I also love to ponder the myriad of classes DAoC has to offer with the uniqueness of a three faction based system.
So where did DAoC go wrong and how did Mythic attempt to make Warhammer its better. As I said earlier, DAoC caters to the elitist crowd with its buff bots, easily interrupted casting of spells, and its general hateful attitude toward new players. When combat can be decided by one single attack from a player that you can not even see, frustration will occur. I assume thats why Thidranki, the most commonly used low level battlegrounds, has around five stealth characters per one non-stealth character. In my opinion, this brings to mind what I call the unholy trinity of MMO play and thats grind, gear, win. Most MMO's like DAoC are a time plus gear based game. My time invested plus my level of gear equals easy victory. With Warhammer, Mythic attempted to undo its mistakes with DAoC and instead, they made a slew of different mistakes. In an attempt to quell the elitist form of game play they dumbed down the game in such a way that it feels more like an arcade game than an MMORPG.
In my opinion, the first mistake made with Warhammer was the idea that every class should be able to do damn near everything. I can just imagine a Mythic employee brainstorming, " Everyone hates crowd control, so lets give all classes a ranged attack, so that way the player doesn't feel useless when rooted or snared ". I would say that a good class based PvP system is that every class should be unique in that it has its own advantages and its own weaknesses. When you make a class, like Shadow Warrior, and define this class as a ranged class, then give it shorter ranged bow attacks than the ranged stun a tank has, you shouldn't be designing an MMO. The huge problem with DAoC combat was not the uniqueness of each class and it certainly was not that not all classes had a ranged attack, it was more along the line of gear is the most important thing and that crowd control lasted 30 minutes. I joke not when I say that in one single crowd control cast, you could be mezzed or stunned for over 30 seconds easily. Somehow Mythic confused, I would like to actually play the game and not be crowd controlled for the entire fight with I want classes to be bland and crowd control to be negligible.
Mythic also chose to do PvE and PvP in a very strange manner in Warhammer. Lets begin with how gear matters, but is less important in Warhammer. which is the direction I would like an MMO to go. At launch PvE gear was drastically better than PvP gear, which brought to mind, is this even a PvP game. I am not saying that PvP gear should be superior to PvE gear. I just assume that in a game that is supposedly based on PvP, gear would be attainable in all levels of PvP that is at least equivalent of PvE gear. I assumed wrong. Public quests were at least marginally enjoyable at first, which held back the burn of not being able to do what I enjoy (PvP) to attain gear, but then quickly turned into the most dreaded aspect of the unholy trinity, a GRIND.
With DAoC low level PvP being focused on battlegrounds. DAoC battlegrounds is an instanced area with a conquerable Castle. This DAOC BG design led to a much more enjoyable fighting local with its areas to PvE in and its PvP could happen at any time. This inspired a sense of urgency when in a BG. With Warhammer you have the mini-game BG concept as well as open world RvR zones which are of little use unless you are going to PvP. What Mythic forgot was that a Battleground or RvR zone should encompass every option available to the game be it crafting, PvE, PvP, etc. I could do on all day about how both games had severe bugs which impacted PvP like Pets walking through doors or Pets getting stuck on bridges but this article isn't about bugs, its about poor design choices and what people really want from an MMO.
I believe that people want an MMO environment where each class is unique in its advantages and weaknesses and that they the player have a choice in the design/creation of their character. I would say that Age of Conan and Aion have respectable character design tools. I would also say that Age of Conan and Aion both have a lack of class customization. When I make a warrior I want hard choices to make. Am I going to be a warrior that fights with a shield, dual wield, or use a two hander. Am I going to choose abilities that make me a great tank/disabler or am I going to be offensively speced. Is my warrior going to be an agile mobile warrior or a strong ponderous warrior. Am I going to focus on fast attack hits or slow hard ones. Am I going to spend points here to do this or that. Am I focusing on a specific talent branch to unlock abilities that help flesh out my warrior.
So many MMORPG's forget, that we as the player, we want choices. We want as many character design decisions to be made by us as possible. This is why a game like Guild Wars thrives. In GW the player is given a moderate amount of classes with an immense number of ability combination choices. It is these kinds of choices that drive replay value in an MMORPG. When you have such a diverse amount of character creation options it only pushes the player into making new characters, which in turn keeps an MMO trucking into the future.
When I say choices I do not mean choices like what I see with the new Star Wars MMO in the above image. I will not say that this is fact. I have only mildly read up on the Old Republic, but what I see with the Smuggler Tree is exactly the wrong direction to go with character choice. As I view this Smuggler tree it seems that as you progress, you unlock a new class option. The problem that I see with this is that it is an illusion of player choice. We could make a class tree like the look of this Smuggler tree and have 30 different classes, but in the end, this smuggler tree leads to only two destinations. So when you go Smuggler/Scoundrel/Scrapper/Luck/Sawbones, there is actually less choice than what appears. I see only four actual path choices there. I don not see this as a flexible system. Just at casual glance I would suggest they combine Sharpshooter with Gunslinger and Scoundrel with Scrapper due to the fact that if you pick one, you have to pick the next in line. The only true choice option comes when you choose the option of Luck and then you can either go Dirty Fighting or Sawbones. This type of game design seems like it creates needless code and time wasted, just to give you the illusion of choice.
The next step in the progression of MMO's will be in the broadness in range of character progression. Let's face it, all types of players should be thought of when pondering character advancement. A myriad of advancement options should be available be it crafting, leveling in PvE, leveling in PvP, leveling through player support. When I say player support I mean anything that helps another player to do what they choose to do but better. Healing and buffing are good examples of support mechanics that should help you advance. If a player is focused on combat and a buffer comes along and does what buffers do, why shouldn't the buffer gain from it, the combat oriented player did.
Character progression needs to be thought in a broad sense that including level/skill advancement, the gain of new abilities, and how items play a role. So much focus has been placed on item advancement and the different variables that may effect the game such as magic resist, magic penetration, health, magic damage, etc, that we forget about the other forms of advancement. In most MMO's, level advancement is just there to slow you down from wearing optimal gear. When you gain more health from one single item than an entire level or your choices in what attributes to raise, you have just cloned WoW. We have WoW and obviously , we do not need another. I am not saying that gear should have zero effect on combat. I am just that I remember the days of D&D, when finding an item, be it weapon or armor, that did more than damage or give AC, was an enjoyable experience. Sweet, I just got a +1 sword and gauntlets of ogre power. In those days, when you attainted an such an item, you were excited about it. With the current MMO's its, WoW another epicz purplz that I don't need and can not sell or give away to a friend because its bind on pickup. Whoever thought up the idea of Bind on Pickup should be neutered.
To use Guild Wars as an example again, you can begin at level 20 (max) and create yourself a set of gear on the spot. In a game like this, gear is not the focal point of the game to which it revolves, choice in character design, intelligent use of said character, and player skill is what matters.
World crafting is a key factor in a games longevity. Warhammer is a shining example of a World that feels like a jumble of patches on a quilt grandmother made. Warhammer's world just never seemed to fit together in a logical fashion and especially not in a fashion that caters to player vs player interaction. When it comes down to it, players want a developed world that they can explore and not what feels like tiny instances sown together. I still believe that if they would have taken the world of Warhammer and designed a circular map with PvE only areas on the outside and a big giant PvEvP center, with the ability to walk to any of the PvP keeps at any time, Warhammer might have succeeded in its desires to be the king of PvP MMO's.
Personally, I desire a faction based world that is designed around open PvP. I believe that faction based warfare is the easiest method of PvP to develop and when combined with a vast open world, and limited travel capabilities, a PvP MMO could flourish. Using traditional MMO races as an example, imagine a world that takes 3 hours to walk from one end to the other, one where keeps and cities dot the landscape. A world where humans and dwarves were allied against the neighboring tribal Orcs that live in tribal villages scatter over the plains. Hours to the west is a forest populated by various Were-creatures that wage an endless war between were-species. A world that if the Were-creatures constantly battle each other, maybe they never run into the Human and Dwarf alliance. This is a world of possibilities. A world where maybe the Humans and dwarves push back the Orc tribes and come into contact with the Weres. A world were a decimated Orc alliance wanders into Ogre land.
There is simply endless possibilities when it comes to crafting an MMO with endless racial, class, or skill based options. Faction based warfare has yet to even be given a chance. Try as they might, Blizzard prefers PvE and a tightly controlled PvP environment. Blizzard never gave world PvP a chance and tried, successfully, to squelch it whenever it appeared. It is sad that I can think of but three MMO's, that being DAoC, Eve, and Shadowbane, that even attempted to focus on faction warfare. You could say that Warhammer was an attempt at faction based PvP but in my opinion, two factions do not make it so. I also will not get into the horrid game that Darkfall is and why I will not consider it a PvP MMO and why I would not tack the RP on MMORPG when speaking of it.
It is time for come someone to step up and craft this game. There is a big gaping whole in the MMO market and there exists an immense portion of the MMORPG player base waiting on it.