A couple of weeks ago, we looked at some different types of endgame, including PvP as one of the principal activities available in an MMORPG once you hit the level cap. Of course, many modern MMOs offer some kind of player-versus-player interaction throughout the leveling process, even going as far as to incentivize low- and mid-level arenas through XP gain and gear rewards. PvP is one of my favorite diversions in an online game, both while leveling and as part of the endgame.
There are several forms of MMO PvP, from the classic battlegrounds and arenas of World of Warcraft and the realm-based World vs. World of Guild Wars 2, to the guild-oriented Strongholds in Neverwinter and open world, full loot PvP of Darkfall: Unholy Wars. There’s even the somewhat strange, but interestingly conceived Monster Play in the Lord of the Rings Online, which signifies the developers’ implicit understanding of players’ desire to have PvP in their game, and the willingness to be flexible with its execution for the sake of keeping in line with the source material.
Not all PvP modes are fun or well-designed, of course, and not all games need to make it a priority in their feature sets. I personally have very little interest in doing PvP for its own sake before the level cap, if there aren’t any associated XP or gear rewards, and have experienced my fair share of MMOs that could have spent their PvP development time more fruitfully elsewhere. Too often, it’s a check mark on a feature list that spreads a development team too thinly, resulting in games that are mediocre at some things but not really great at anything. For all of the flak that poor old Vanguard: Saga of Heroes received for not including a comprehensive PvP system, I argue that that game, rough as it may have been, was still better for focusing almost exclusively on PvE.
The half-baked nature of some PvP systems is not exclusive to MMOs, however. Without naming names, Assassin’s Creed and Mass Effect, there are a number of traditionally single-player games that have clearly seen multiplayer modes tacked on, to benefit from the longevity that such systems can afford. Yet, for all of their window dressing and promotion, they usually feel like anachronisms to otherwise solitary experiences. Furthermore, their inclusion undoubtedly gives pause to their games’ communities, causing players to wonder whether the games would have been better critically received if more development time had been focused on the single-player experience, even if completely distinct teams had been used to complete the different modes.
By the same token, there is an argument that those who want to PvP should look to games that focus on it exclusively. This line of thinking ignores the excitement and sense of meaning provided by PvP that is well-integrated into the larger game world. As a casual or midcore PvPer, I like sharpening my skills in player-versus-player combat while still earning rewards that will benefit my character in PvE, along with the bragging rights that come along with PvP titles and costumes. Engaging in multiplayer in FPS games, MOBAs, and other competition-centric titles is fun in its own right, but there’s no substitute for MMO PvP that fits in seamlessly with the rest of the game.
Do you PvP? What are some of your favorite PvP modes in MMOs?