I've been participating in, and enjoying, Player versus Player, or PvP, combat in games since the text MUD days over Telnet. Ever since I had my first encounter with this system of battling other players for loot, fame, and glory I was hooked on this concept as being superior to any Player versus Environment or PvE style content because players could learn and adapt, NPCs could not. And like any tactician who's seeking to "one up" his opponent, we would form alliances of players for protection. With a focus on using our individual skills in the most efficient method to defeat our enemies.
Fast forward throughout the years, as the rise of MMOs happened and these tactical mindsets came right along with them. As warfare evolved in the modern gaming space, the player demand for larger and more complex options to customize their tactical choices has risen until games such as Dark Age of Camelot, Guild Wars and even World of Warcraft took this concept to a new level. Now enter Mythic's newest creation, Warhammer Online, and it's no surprise players from that background are looking into new ways to take this concept into this current generation of MMOs.
The debate over whether or not this style of combat is even viable in Warhammer Online is still a hot topic around various forums and fansites devoted to the game. Some claim that this style is not viable in WAR because there is not enough ability for a smaller group to take on a larger one with any kind of dependable success. Some reasons why this is typically thrown out is because there are no speed classes that promote roaming, or that the style of crowd control in the game isn't conducive to succeeding against larger numbers of opponents.
Although, at a higher level, guilds can achieve up to a 65% speed increase on their banners. That could be substituted for a lack of a natural speed class. At the time of this article's writing however, no guild has reached that high of a level, so it remains to be seen how this will effect small group battles in the future. Also with the changes to such skills as "rift" still settling, it's a bit unclear on how the future of group crowd control will proceed as Mythic works toward finding it's groove after it's October release.
Some, however, believe that even if you won't find roaming groups of six players taking on whole warbands in the current iteration of class balance, focusing on a six man group with a focus on a perfect balance of tactics is still important to the overall war effort. With WAR's focus on Open RVR in order to lock zones and siege cities, it certainly is reasonable to say the deciding factor in a relatively even battle will be whoever makes better use of their resources. One way to accomplish this goal is to focus on a smaller scale and organize your warband into specialized six man groups who can operate independently to achieve a goal.
You can liken this type of tactical layout to even modern military training. A large majority of training focuses on squad level tactics even though battles are often fought by large groups of personnel. Each person in a squad learns his job, and then learns his job within the squad and how to operate as a team. From there they know when they are called upon to perform their tasks, what they need to be focusing on without knowing what each squad around them is doing. This type of small scale organization is what allows complex mission objectives to be handed down in stages and broken down into more simple objectives.
In my own experiences, I have seen how a superiorly organized guild that sets up proper group balance, along with effective main target assists, can easily overcome a larger group of players that consists primarily of PUG players and smaller, less organized guilds. However, this does have a limit, as you can reach a point where pure numbers will overwhelm your tactical advantage and your lines will begin to collapse. However, it does make a difference in the number of your opponents you can take down before you fall, perhaps leaving them weak enough for the other PUG warbands to finish them off. Or, in a more complex situation, such as a keep siege, increase the chances you have of success.
What is the future of small scale Open RVR in Warhammer? Does Mythic even want to support this style of play? Or is a focus on large scale battles and city sieges their primary goal? Some argue Mythic may be intentionally not inputting systems that made this style possible in Dark Age of Camelot for this very reason. That it would detract away from their goals with the game in the form of large sized city captures and zone battles. Others want to see this style become more of a reality due to problems currently associated with fortresses in WAR and server crashes. Whatever your stance, one thing we all share is a common interest in seeing how WAR will grow from here and what decisions Mythic will make based on what it learned from Dark Age.