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Community Spotlight - PvP in MMOs: What Gamers Want

This week in her MMORPG.com Community Forum Spotlight column, Community Manager Laura Genender discusses user blog involving PvP and what kinds of experiences players are looking for.

PvP in MMOs: What Gamers Want

High end content in MMOs is basically restricted to one of two paths: raids, which require players to work together against large events or creatures; or PvP, which allows players to generate their own high-end challenges against each other. For our community, at the very least, it is the latter which seems to be catching the most attention.

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Perhaps that’s no big surprise; after all, two of the big upcoming giants – Age of Conan and Warhammer Online – are mostly centered around PvP. Current popular games such as World of Warcraft and Guild Wars offer plenty of PvP, too. But for user T0nyd, this isn’t enough.

In a blog entry titled “PVP MMORPGs, are they real?” T0nyd outlines the features he believes are key in any MMO PVP experience:

“For me to call an MMORPG a PVP game,” T0nyd, starts, “I want to be able to level from 1 to max through PvP. I am not saying that I believe no PvE should exist. I am just saying that I believe if I choose I should be able to gain EXP and advance through the killing of other players.” Through T0nyd’s description I can imagine a starting area with multiple starting NPCs, oftering you quests to kill monsters, make armor, or kill other players. While some of us obsessive gamers (like myself) would likely feel compelled to complete all of them, it would allow players to choose – if they desire – how to advance.

The downside is, once the newbie area entered out (as most MMO newbie areas do), would the PvPer be out of luck for finding kills? Game populations fluctuate over time, with more new players coming in near release and expansions. Those in between times are often low on pickings, and any new player would be forced to bypass PvP.

T0nyd’s next idea concerns the PvP quest system. “Why does it always have to be kill (insert number) of pigs/rabbits. Why cant kill (insert number) of orcs mean orc players as well. Why cant there be a quest to take a keep from an opposing faction.” Me, I think this would be pretty fun – it takes an easily made and somewhat monotonous quest style and spices it up with non-artificial intelligence. As with above I see an issue if players have to perform group events, or are assigned to take an unoccupied keep; I think that this would have to be an instanced sort of “match up” system to balance the defenders vs. attackers. But assuming we can solve the issue of low numbers, this seems like an excellent plan.

And of course, where there are quests, there must be rewards! “You should obtain useful equipment doing what it is that you like doing, be that crafting, killing mobs, or killing players,” Asserts T0nyd. And while we’re at it, T0nyd suggests a change in armor as we know it in MMOs. “What happened to the days of armor is armor in rpgs. Yeah, equipment should matter. The question is, how much should it matter?” This reminds me a bit of Guild Wars, where gear is a factor but not the end-all be-all it’s become in several other games. Assuming class and skill balance is done correctly, the player starts to determine the outcome of PvP instead of the character. I’m a big fan of player skill-based systems.

In a slightly more bitter tone, T0nyd continues his discussion with a look at instances and PvP. “Why do games avoid world PvP?” He asks. “Why do games avoid actual objectives in world PvP? Back when WoW was released I loved fighting over South Shore. To bad South Shore wasn't some objective. To bad SS and Tarren Mill couldn't be conquered by either faction. This might actually involve players enjoying themselves so we cant have that. Instead lets make little isolated areas called instances and lets have the players fight there. Also lets not have these little instances matter at all. Great concept, err no.”

While I empathize with T0nyd, I understand why instances are favored in development: it allows players to play out a story so to speak, which is uninterrupted by the outside world that chooses not to participate. Buildings can fall, cities can burn, and it doesn’t actually change the gameplay of anyone else. In fact, almost every player will get to be the hero of Miscellaneous Burning Town.

While we all think “why would they do that?!” there is actually a good number of players who enjoy this style of gameplay. With that being said, I would like to see an MMO with more world-wide events just like T0nyd. In fact, a compromise: like DAoC or CoH/V, I think it’s great to have certain areas which are effected by player ownership status – but not all areas. The game better be balanced though!

Read the rest of T0nyd’s blog entry here.