It occurred to me as we start 2010 that I’ve spent more time playing MMOs over the past 10 years than I spent reading, writing, drawing, watching TV, riding my bike, or any other one of my hobbies. I tried to think about why I would feel inclined to spend so much of my leisure time in imaginary worlds clubbing giant rats. After vowing to ride my bike more and actually read something other than quest text in 2010, I realized one of the main reasons I like to spend several hours a week in online space is the people... and sometimes more accurately: killing them. I love questing, but the competitive streak in me loves a good fight with human opponents. Keep in mind that this list is my own, and your mileage may vary, but here then are my top five PvP MMOs.
#5 WORLD OF WARCRAFT
This game’s version of PvP may get flack for being the big daddy in the MMO world, and for pretty much screwing things up entirely back in the early days of the Honor Systems inception, but I have more memorable moments fighting other players in Azeroth than I do in any other game. Back before the Honor System was ever introduced, I spent countless hours fighting the Horde at Tarren Mill, and advancing on the Sepulcher just to see how long we dwarves, elves, gnomes, and men could hold off the enemy. Today, WoW’s PvP is more about E-Sports than open-world warfare, but for that it deserves plenty of mention. Blizzard has a knack for creating games that spawn an entire culture of competitive play, and WoW was no different. Something tells me we’ll be talking about Alterac Valley and Arena Scores for years to come.
#4 WARHAMMER ONLINE
Say what you will about WAR’s failings, unmet potential and corporate controversy, but no one can deny that what WAR does right it does well. Right from the very get go the game herds players into the ongoing conflict between the Order and Destruction armies. It’s still the only game that has ever made me want to PvP (or RvR) right at level one and do nothing else to advance. This is in part because of the lackluster PvE game, but also because of the sheer fun had in playing WAR’s Scenarios and tackling objectives in the RvR Lakes. Nothing beat the feeling of pounding players twenty feet through the air with a shield bash and into the lava, or just how epic it felt when a small band of guildmates held off a horde of attackers from taking our keep. If only the end game of city sieges had felt as good as the lower levels did, WAR would be higher on my list.
#3 ULTIMA ONLINE
While today’s Ultima Online bears little resemblance to the game launched in 1997, it still holds a special place for me as one of the first true online worlds I ever set foot in. And contrary to the popular modus operandi of today’s games, Ultima Online was a wide open player-run world more than a theme park. I’m not condemning either style, merely pointing out the difference. The reason Ultima is on this list is because of the Wild West atmosphere it brought to the MMO. There were murderers, roving bands of brigands, neighborhood watches… all player-driven. It didn’t have a “PvP System”; it just had people in a world where imagination drove the events. It’s been over ten years since I last played around in Ultima Online, and perhaps youth and nostalgia cloud my memory, but there is simply nothing like the early days of Ultima Online.
#2 DARK AGE OF CAMELOT
Trials of Atlantis aside, Dark Age of Camelot is my number two PvP experience for the simple fact of “Realm Pride”. There are three warring sides in Dark Age of Camelot, all vying for control of the land in the wake of King Arthur’s death. Having three factions might be the very thing that made the Realm vs. Realm conflict work in DAoC. When one side would be dominant above the others, alliances would be formed, subterfuge enacted, tactics thought up and tested. It was like a never-ending battle scene from Braveheart… if Mel Gibson had had the foresight to put in dwarves, kobolds and half-ogres. In World of Warcraft these days you can pay a fee to change your faction. In DAoC, no one would have ever thought twice about doing so. When you chose your side, you stuck to it. Hibernia for life.
#1 EVE ONLINE
While this is actually my least favorite game on the list to actually play, I can’t help but marvel at the player-driven world and conflicts within EVE. Hosted on a single shared server, EVE’s player-driven economy is the cause of all conflict in the game, and proof to this gamer at least that money is the root of all evil. Corporations (guilds) fight over resources. Players back-stab, blackmail, and coerce each other in order to get what they want. Over the course of nearly a year one Corporation actually spent the time and energy to infiltrate another in order to virtually assassinate the CEO and steal that corporation’s property which they had gained access to. The equivalent of roughly $10,000 was lost in the crime, as was the victim CEO’s expensive starship. The craziest part? This is all sanctioned and allowed within the game’s rule set. It’s definitely telling of the nature of man, but at the same time I find it inherently cool that a game and more so its players could enact such a scheme and story of such grandeur.