With Fortnite on everyone’s mind, it harkens back to a simpler time when PvP was just being born. MMOs were the primordial soup in which many online game design ideas were born and we are seeing the decedents of that era dominate the market. Some are already saying that the Battle Royale genre has been tapped out. I offer a different opinion.
Back in the early MMO days, Everquest ruled the land. Yes, there was Ultima Online, but soon after, everyone played EQ. The game still exists and has fans today. What we did see though was a game come out of nowhere to build their own niche in the market called Dark Age of Camelot. DAOC offered levelling, bosses, but most importantly three-faction warfare. It also offered something else, a team battle zone which allowed the three factions to battle openly day and night.
This design was the early stage of Battle Royale style games now. If you could chat back in those early days, you would join your group to go hunt, fight, and siege enemy fortresses on two full warfronts. The design of this gameplay went through different trends brought on by the players themselves.
The open zone allowed for anyone to fight. Initially, “zergs” would form with large groups of players running around the map to capture artifacts. The artifacts would benefit everyone from the faction. Gaining that extra edge could mean levelling your character faster (a major boost in those days). These zergs always existed, but a much more fun trend took on with players in later months.
The eight-man group became the original “dive” comp for those who get the Overwatch reference. You hosted a series of classes: tanks, support, and DPS to run in and attack any opponent to come upon. Other factions would run their own top eight-man groups. It became a high-intensity skirmish game. Sure there were still zergs out there, but even they became targets for a well-run group of eight players.
So with solo, duo, squad, and now 50v50 play hitting Fortnite, there are a lot of parallels here. The game industry is not that old, many top designers remember those days online about 17 years ago. Yes, RvR, as it was called in DAOC, is now old enough to drive in some states. The BR genre has tapped into this gameplay and grown tremendously well with solo fights all the way up to epic battles.
As people think the genre is tied up now despite many BR offerings expected from E3 this year, there is a way to innovate the genre. If you go back to those faction based warfare days on the fields of Camelot you might just find some gems of wisdom when it comes to iterating on the BR genre. There is a ton of potential to tap into the competitive gameplay aspects as well as add in advancements on levelling and customization.