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Elder Scrolls Online Column: Making AvA Thrive

By William Murphy on March 05, 2013

I’m going to try to keep this short and to the point this week. It’s no secret that three-faction PvP is on a bit of a comeback in recent years. With the failure of Mythic’s Warhammer Online to gain traction, a lot of players blamed the two-faction system. After all, it was a far cry from the RvR system of Dark Age of Camelot that so many love and cherish to this day. Now, with the success of Guild Wars 2 and its own take on three-faction warfare, Zenimax’ Elder Scrolls Online seeks to get back to the goodness of DAoC with Matt Firor and many other former Mythic staffers at the helm.  Here then are five things we think the AvA (Alliance vs. Alliance) designers should take heed of when preparing ESO’s massive persistent PVP in Cyrodiil.

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1.) Open-field Battles and Objectives

Simply flipping keeps (a problem we’ll tackle in a minute), gets boring fast. To help keep players from falling into the path of least resistance, we’re hoping that the fine folks at ZOS put in a lot more than just keeps to own and take over in AvA.  As Garrett put it, “Why not put an ancient ruinous maze out in the open, filled with traps and perils, and at the heart of it there’s some valuable relic that can benefit your side?” And more than that, why not have places like temples, shrines, dwemer ruins... all ready and waiting to be fought over.  Sieging is all well and good. But there should be more to AvA than merely taking keeps.

2.) A Darkness Falls of Its Own

One of DAoC’s crowning PVP achievements was Darkness Falls, an open dungeon that the factions fought over.  Whoever controlled it had access to the best place to gain experience, loot, and so forth.  Put it right smack-dab in the middle of Cyrodiil and make its treasures worth fighting over.  Nothing beats the kind of mayhem that happens in a place like this, as DAoC vets can attest.

3.) Lakes, not Deserts

One of Warhammer Online’s weakest points was just how barren the specified areas for fights were. If there wasn’t some battle going on inside of them, there was nothing for miles. For Cyrodiil to work, it needs to be full of life outside of the players.  Wildlife, enemies, trolls, thieves, imps... it would be fantastic to have a sort of mechanic where if you defeat some sort of enemy (a troll for example), its kin come to your side’s aide.  Let’s make sure that Cyrodiil feels just as much a part of the living world as the rest of Tamriel. 

4.) Solve the “Keep Flipping” Problem

One persistent problem with systems such as AvA? People tend to find the path of least resistance and go for it.  In many case, what winds up happening is that players actually trade the taking of objective points, because it’s easier than defending them or holding them.  And that’s where the problem lies.  In any and all areas of Cyrodiil where you capture an objective, it should always be more rewarding for the players to defend and hold the place, than to just let it be taken and retake it after.

5.) Races and Factions Should Have AvA Strengths

And lastly, this one is sort of supplementary to the others, but each race and faction should have things they’re good at in the ever ongoing battle of rock, paper, scissors.  For example, let’s say Orcs are good at a certain type of siege equipment. Maybe Elves are good at sneaking behind enemy lines, while Britons excel at magical wards around encampments.  Elder Scrolls already has a strong sense of making racial choice matter in character development, and that should carry through to AvA. 

What about you?  What things will ESO’s three-faction system need to get right for you?  Let us know in the comments.

Bill Murphy / Bill Murphy is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.  


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