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Garrett Fuller: The Return of Three Faction PvP

Column By Garrett Fuller on September 06, 2011

MMO trends continue to change into this new decade and many of those trends are just old styles becoming new again. PvP is at the heart of every MMO, players who want to battle it out against more than just AI are automatically excited by different PvP styles. Back in 2001 Dark Age of Camelot introduced a PvP system where three factions were at war. Despite a few of the game’s flaws, the PvP system in DAOC is often considered one of the best the MMO genre has ever seen. The problem is that after Warcraft came out in 2004 and set the model for all MMOs to come, no matter what had come before it. Now over a decade later several MMOs are coming back with this three faction style of PvP which could change things into the next decade if even just one of them makes a splash.

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Why the three tier system works in simple, there is no Good vs. Evil. Everyone has an equal fighting chance, and no one side is more righteous than the other. If one side overpowers the other two, most of the time the other two teams join to defeat the greater enemy. Once that enemy is eliminated the two survivors battle it out. Back in the old days of DAOC, there were many fights where Midgard and Hibernia formed temporary alliances to defeat Albion. Once that was over, the fight continued to see who was truly king of the zone. There were even times we just went our separate ways and decided to fight another day. 

Overall though, the three factions gave us more enemies to worry about. In Warcraft it changed to two factions and this took one of the enemies out of the equation. Thus, players were always forced to do battle against one group and after a while it got boring.  On your server, for world PVP, you knew whether you had a chance or not based on the opposing faction’s population. The other flaw Warcraft had when it launched was the considerable lack of world PvP in its end game. For a game called World of Warcraft, it definitely lacked the war feeling. This lead to a decline in the three faction PvP system quickly as all other MMOs were built on WoW’s back. Even the folks at Mythic who created Dark Age of Camelot failed to capture then same PvP glory in Warhammer Online. It seemed a sad end to a great system which many players loved.

There is hope now with several games going back to the three faction model. The Secret World is boasting three factions from the start and looking at ways PvP will matter in their end game. Even though players will have access to over 500 skills and no specific classes, there are factions to join and fight for. The Illuminati, Templars, and Dragon create a system similar to DAOC’s style. Three factions at war throughout the underground vying for world domination offer a lot of options for players. If Funcom plays it smart and give solid rewards plus faction bonuses to players for staying on top, you will see a strong PvP community form.  Heck we’re already seeing lines drawn in the sand across the web and on Facebook.

One thing that was critical to DAOC’s success was the dungeon Darkness Falls. This was the best place in the game for players to level therefore it was very desirable to hold onto it. It could only be won through world PvP. This is a system that upcoming games should take a serious look at. Hopefully The Secret World will deliver a solid three faction PvP system that players can enjoy.

Guild Wars 2 has dropped a few hints on their PvP system in the past. Right now they are showing off instanced PvP, however in a few past blogs that had mentioned world PvP ideas that the team had. One thing to keep in mind is that some of the top developers on Guild Wars 2 were former DAOC players. The three server system that has been mentioned for GW2 also boasts a dynamic environment where servers themselves are battling over objectives in open world environments. So you may not have the factions broken down, but you will be fighting against an entire other server for bragging rights. This could become major and players are already keeping a close watch as more information is released by ArenaNet. It all depends on the rewards players can reap from their victories. If one server gains a bonus to experience or leveling, it will be a fantastic fight in the server wars. Overall Guild Wars 2 has hit a lot of winning points with fans; this part could be a major deciding factor for them among the PvP crowd.

So was we move into 2012 there are some serious contenders out there to bring PvP heavies back into their games and away from WoW. These systems have been proven to work in the past but many players have not experienced them. In the end having two enemies against you instead of just one makes combat more interesting no matter what type of game you are playing. Let’s hope this trend continues and more future MMOs follow suit.  The whole idea makes war a lot more interesting in the content of the MMORPG.

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Garrett Fuller
Garrett Fuller has been playing MMOs since 1997. He originally joined MMORPG.com as a writer in 2005. In 2007 Garrett went on to handle Industry Relations for TenTonHammer.com. Then, in July 2009, Garrett happily rejoined his old team at MMORPG.com as the site's News Manager. Garrett lives in Hillsborough, NJ with his wife, son and daughter.

His column appears here every Wednesday.
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