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Obsidian's PVP Plans Revealed

William Murphy Posted:
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Recently, we were privy to a developer Q&A with Eric Demilt, Director of Development at Obsidian on the upcoming MMORPG Skyforge. Obsidian is developing the game in cooperation with Allods Team, and though we’ve slowly been learning about some of the many classes in the game lately, Obsidian and Allods decided that the time was right to pull back the curtain on the title’s PVP modes. Read on for the full details.

Right away, Eric wanted to make sure that how combat works in Skyforge was clear: “We’re not a traditional MMO, we’re an action-combat MMO. We’re more frenetic, lots of moving around. That means our combat roles are different too.” To that end there are less direct healing abilities, and we focus more on beneficial buff spells and mitigation. On top of that, our mouse targeting makes player positioning very important. 

Now, what we covered in the call was the organized match-made fights of Skyforge. Before we go on, for those wanting to know if there’s a larger scale “warfare” mode: yes, and it’s called Pantheon Wars. That’s a completely other ball of wax though, and we’ll be learning more about it at a later date.

Now, back to Skyforge’s small group and death-match PVP. Since the class system allows you to change your class and built at any time out of combat (think The Secret World, but less confusing), this means you’ll be able to potentially change your class mid-match, if you see the need to do so to counter a team’s composition. 

On top of all that, one of the key parts of Skyforge is the ability for players to become gods, and in PVP, this means you’ll be able to become a god at opportune times (like manning a Titan in Titanfall) to wreak havoc on the opposing team.

PVP is just as viable a mode of progression in Skyforge as adventuring, questing, and running dungeons.  You’ll gain levels, work on becoming a god, and get plenty of loot along the way.  There’s a full matchmaking system as well, so solo and fully pre-made groups alike can partake. Here’s a brief rundown of the PVP modes that the team has planned for the start of beta. This list can and will expand as the team heads towards launch and beyond. You can get the full details on each map and mode from the official site, as well.

Lugran Research Base

  • Number of players: 6
  • Number of players in team: 1
  • Game mode: FFA - Free For All

Kingezi Arena

  • Number of players: 6
  • Number of players in team: 3
  • Game mode: TDM - Team Deathmatch

Ring of Immortals

  • Number of players: 16
  • Number of players in team: 8
  • Game mode: CP - Control Points

Alcedon Facility

  • Number of players: 16
  • Number of players in team: 8
  • Game mode: PL - Payload

Esten Quarry

  • Number of players: 24
  • Number of players in team: 12
  • Game mode: CTF -Capture the Flag

With the match types unveiled, we were able to ask Eric quite a few questions about Skyforge and the team's approach to matchmade PVP.

Question: How does the God form fit into PVP and Skyforge?

Players aspire to become a god. There are planets protected by gods. Players are immortals defending their worlds, gaining power and becoming gods themselves through prestige. You work towards unlocking your god form. Characters are super powerful in this form. If you’re playing Titanfall and a Titan shows up in battle, it’s a game changer. There’s a resourced tied to allowing you to become a god. It’s a distinctive visual and you will be much more powerful than other characters while you’re in “god mode”. You can cause havoc on a battlefield and it’s a balance changer if used tactically.

Do you hold it in reserve? Use it from the start? Hold it until later? It’s a dynamic that is missing from standard PvP and one we’re happy to have.

MMORPG: When is it viable to change classes during a PvP match? On death or respawn or is it not possible at all?

For immortals (normal players) on death or respawn allows for changing classes or if you get away from combat enough to fall out, you can then. Gods can change classes at any time even during combat. 

Question: Will there be any limit to the number of people in God form in the arena in small group PvP?

No limit. As long as people have unlocked god form and have the resources available, there’s no cap on how many can go to god form at any given time – same for high player PvP.  “Resources” are roughly akin to a “mana bar” in this sense. Not iron ore.  You have to build it up, and then unleash it. Like an ultimate skill, but so much more than that.

Question: How is matchmaking handled with the multi-classing and leveling and so forth?

Another cool thing that touches on multi-classing is done through prestige. Rather than gear score and character level, we’ve dropped that traditional system. We go with the prestige system that uses all-around character progression. PvP is competitive and sport like. We want a level playing field. There’s no ganking (we’ll talk about that in the Pantheon system). Our Matchmaking system uses prestige to match you up with people of similar progress in the game.

Question: Which maps will be available right away in the game, as soon as you log in?

We will unlock them progressively and not release everything all at once to all players. The Lugran Research base (FFA PVP) will be right from the get go after the tutorial. As your prestige grows, we’ll release more.

Question: Is Skyforge intended to be a full-featured MMO? How much of the game’s focus is going to be placed on competitive play? Do you believe that PvP balancing necessarily sucks the fun out of PvE play by making abilities less impactful and dramatic or are there other ways to balance PvP as its own entity within the game?

Yes it is. We intend to have PvP and PvE content, crafting, customization, character development, etc. Gaining fame and notoriety through a variety of systems that you’ve come to expect from your MMORPGs.

For us though, PvP balancing does not suck the fun out of PvE. You have to do it right. You have to design the game with balance in mind and not just nerf to take all those fun things out (like polymorphing). We don’t want the game to be fundamentally different between the two systems. It’s a matter of planning and understanding what PvE gameplay is in your game and making sure you’re planning your skillset correctly so it’s fun and viable in both places.

Question: Gear tends to unbalance PvP in a lot of MMOs. How will PvP rewards factor into that aspect of the system?

We use the prestige system that looks at all the numbers from your character’s development, not just level. PvP rewards are complicated. Players want rewards that will make a difference in PvP. You have to be careful how you roll those out. That’s where high-end PvP matchmaking comes into play so top end are playing against top end, for instance. It’s better to get those guys playing in ranked matches and the like.

Question: How important is balance to begin with?

Balance, if you get it right, it’s timeless like rock, paper, scissors. As variables go up, it gets more complicated. The challenge is to do a couple things. Get the balance where we think it is right. Understand what will happen if we tweak things. Understand that balance isn’t static. Tune it. Tweak it and evolve it. Put new things in or take bad stuff out.  We must understand the systems and take our best educated guess at getting balance right and then test it in the wild with real humans. We can’t make knee jerk reactions to the vocal minority. We need to look at broad statistics and see how widespread the issue is. We get a huge amount of telemetry out of this game and look at all these things together to make decisions.

We want players of a similar skillset and experience together. We want it to be a fun experience.  So balance isn’t only necessary for PVP, it’s necessary to keep the game fun for all players.

Question: Is there going to be a story to each of the PvP arenas? Will beta have access to that form of content?

No, not really. We try to make up little stories why you’re moving from one end of the map to the other but…no. Only a tiny bit of lore ties us into the PVP and why it’s there. PvPers are the sort of the population that’s not always interested in story. We are not agonizing over force feeding it to players.  You go in, you fight. You get power and prestige.

Question: Can you tell us the reason behind class swapping at any time. Some might consider that a detrimental aspect to a sense of permanent identity as a character/avatar. How do players distinguish themselves?

We wanted to remove restrictions of forcing players to put all their prestige into one class. Maybe you made a bad choice from the start. You’re not locked into it and aren’t forced to pay the developer or publisher to correct that mistake. We want the decision in the player’s hands.

Since you’re not identified by class, you can be as free to express themselves in any way they want. People can customize their look in any way they wish – board shorts, class armors, hair styles, or you can make it about the choices you make. No predefined categories hold you from expressing your style or play preference.

Question: Can players host custom practice matches outside the ranked system?

No. All matchmaking is through the system itself.

Question: How do players gain the prestige needed to unlock some of the PvP locations?

Prestige is something that is basically a sum of all the development you’ve done to your character so far. You gain rewards for any kind of content you complete in Skyforge. PvE, quests, PvP matches, dungeons, etc. It’s like experience, but on a much broader level, across everything you do in the game.

And that wrapped up our discussion with Eric and the Skyforge team. The Closed Beta for the gorgeous action MMORPG is right around the corner, with Q4 of this year rapidly approaching. If you’re interested, head to the official site and sign up now. Skyforge will be F2P with a monetization model that we don’t know much about yet.  So stay tuned for more info.


William Murphy

Bill is the former 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.