Making an MMORPG: PvP

For Senior Staff Writer Chris "Pwyff" Tom, a strong PvP feature may be one of the most important features of any good MMORPG. But what makes for a good PvP experience? Read on to find out!

"What makes a good MMORPG?"

I've decided to devote a bit of my time and a few articles to exploring this. In my last few pieces, I wrote about character progression, followed by gameplay mechanics and combat, and in the one before I spoke of story and premise. Today I'll talk about my favorite aspect of any MMORPG: PvP!

I have a confession to make. As a self-described PvP enthusiast in all things MMORPG, I've never played what many consider to be the holy grail of world PvP: Dark Age of Camelot. Even worse, the reason I missed out on those golden days was that I was firmly entrenched in two very distinctly PvE heavy MMORPGs: Ragnarok Online (before War of Emperium) and then Final Fantasy XI. Still, in spite of my transgressions, I'd like to think that I've acquitted myself quite well by delving deep into almost every PvP-oriented game since: Defense of the Ancients, League of Legends, Heroes of Newerth, Bloodline Champions, Warhammer Online, Age of Conan, the short-lived Fury, Atlantica Online, Champions Online, Aion, Rift and World of Warcraft. In other words, I've seen most of what MMORPGs have to offer, so let's just get down to talking about what makes for a thriving PvP system.

One of the biggest issues that most MMORPGs face implementing PvP systems is deciding whether to employ open-world PvP, instanced-only PvP, or both. Obviously most PvP enthusiasts love to demand both, but they often don't consider the inherent problems. With open-world PvP, griefing is a very big issue and it can often turn away more players than it encourages. I remember in the early days of Aion when rifting had no limitations, mid-level zones would become literal death traps as high-level players roamed the countryside, hunting newbies who just wanted to finish their quests. Of course, it was always exhilarating to coerce everyone into fighting back with superior numbers, but the whole process was exhausting. Most players like to play games where they do what they want, and open-world PvP, by its very nature, can force you into something that you want no part of.

With the above scenario being laid out, you might ask: what's so great about open-world PvP anyway? For me, the greatest appeal is the espionage. In first-person shooters, nothing is more satisfying than knowing you've snuck behind enemy lines to wreak havoc. The same can be said about MMORPGs; there's a very primal pleasure to be found in surprising your prey and then making that daring escape. The inherent sense of inequality in open-world PvP is also what makes it great. Competitive gamers would get burned out if they always had to play against equally matched opponents, and the same can be said here. Surviving a 3v1 ambush with a sliver of health makes for a heady adrenaline rush, and nobody can deny the joys of tracking down a hated rival so that you can take screenshots of his demise.

Sad to say, I don't think any MMORPG I've played (remember, I didn't play Dark Age of Camelot) has managed to make open-world PvP really shine. Vanilla World of Warcraft used to have some great open world PvP fights at places like Blackrock Mountain and Tauren Mill, but, with the introduction of flying mounts, summoning stones and the dungeon finder, open-world PvP in WoW has pretty much died. As an interesting aside, Blizzard tried to revive open-world PvP with the introduction of strongholds in certain zones that could be taken by both factions, but nobody ever participated. The only time open-world PvP briefly flourished was when certain farming areas (the Elemental Plateau, the Isle of Qual'Danas) became popular, and both factions had to compete for resources. Perhaps encouraging guerrilla skirmishes instead of pitched battles is the way to go to create a successful open-world PvP scene.

Speaking of pitched battles, this brings me to the more interesting topic of instanced PvP. Where open-world PvP is all about spontaneous action and instability, instanced PvP's forte is all about choice and balance. This is probably why most developers prefer to implement some sort of instanced PvP: you know for a fact that all the players who are PvPing are the ones who genuinely want to be there, and it's always easy to balance small arenas and battlegrounds. Unfortunately, the big problem with instanced PvP is that it's almost too predictable. Ask anyone who grinded to Grand Marshall rank in Vanilla World of Warcraft, or those who are building prestige levels in Rift. Constantly dropping into controlled 10v10 games (especially if classes are balanced) usually makes for very similar experiences, and that can get a little tedious.

Coninuted on Page 2.

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PvP and Cheats
# Aug 13 2011 at 3:57 PM Rating: Default
What burns me up about PvP is the number of people who use hacks and cheats. Im EQII's Battlegrounds I'd go in with top-notch PvP gear and masters-level weapon skills and get one or two-shotted by someone of the same class. I mean, come on. For me the PvP experience is ruined.
# Aug 13 2011 at 4:48 AM Rating: Decent
I was thinking rogue but then maybe a lock or shammy, what to people think will be the best? Mainly PvP but some PvE Cheers!
What makes a good pvp experience?
# Aug 04 2011 at 8:14 AM Rating: Default
What makes a good pvp experience is an unexpected one...
PVP Issues
# Aug 01 2011 at 1:52 PM Rating: Decent
143 posts
I can see where the choice in instanced versus open world PvP has its pros and cons, and thats a hard decision to make. Really you need both to some extent, with varying capabilities on both. Situations such as for example a buff that does not allow you to be attacked while questing, however if you attack someone while under this buff you cannot receive this buff for 10mins for so for example. That way people have a choice when they just want to quest and not be interrupted. In instanced PvP to me the issues is always lag and things associated with it. Especially when the action gets involved it can sometimes be hard to track whats going on, even with good PC specs. In instances PvP you do need different types as most of the games do ie. Capture the Flag, Defense, Offense, Arena etc.
Interesting but missing some points
# Aug 01 2011 at 11:32 AM Rating: Excellent
139 posts
Interesting article but you forgot one of the most hardcore PvP game currently: EVE Online. While it doesn't have that combat melee rush feeling, the spirit of PvP is there. Assassins, spies, companies, alliances, corporations, bounty hunters...etc all there and they hit big enough to make news headlines.

I personally don't really like PvP in MMORPG because it's extremely twitch finger based and pure luck sometimes. The faster you think (or just pure instinct) and the more accurate/fast your finger is then you can perform compare to others, the better you are at PvP. I like FFXI because it's strategic as you need a brain to think through every steps, make plans, revise the plans...etc.
Interesting but missing some points
# Aug 01 2011 at 12:17 PM Rating: Excellent
Ahah, I've been caught! Truth be told, I've never been able to spare the time to invest in EVE Online, so I missed out on the great PvP I hear takes place in there. One thing I will say about EVE, however, having played Perpetuum (like a toned-down, bare-bones EVE lookalike with Robots), is that there is so much accountability and so many repercussions for your actions that it kills the spontaneity of PvP that I love. In many cases, it's great that actions do have repercussions, but sometimes you just want to troll people without harming them too much, you know?

As for being extremely twitch finger based and pure luck, I'll answer the luck one first. A lot of MMORPGs have luck, yes, but "pure" luck is rarely the case. I recall Ghostcrawler from Blizzard noting that while luck (crits, resists, dodges, etc) is detrimental to the "professionalism" of PvP in MMOs, luck is huge in making games fun. Everyone loves seeing that big crit number that lets them barely survive when they shouldn't have; it also encourages lesser skilled players to continue trying to win, even if they know they're outmatched. If there was no "luck" factor, sometimes it's just not fun knowing you'll lose every time you know your opponent is better than you. Having said that, I played with and against the very best players in WoW 3v3 arena, and I can confidently say that if you can consistently outperform your opponents, no amount of luck will change the outcome.

In terms of MMOs being twitch finger based, it's true up to a point. Saying that slower games employ more strategy is only sometimes true, because if the gameplay is slow, it simply means you have a larger window with which you can make your decisions. On the other hand, proponents of faster PvP would argue that being able to quickly react to your opponents tactics is integral to a "real" tactical simulation.

It's like the difference between Chess and Boxing; chess masters might say that boxers are all brawn and no brain, but boxers might say that chess masters lack the mental speed to react quickly to their opponent's moves. Which is a superior activity?
Interesting but missing some points
# Aug 02 2011 at 4:39 PM Rating: Decent
It's like the difference between Chess and Boxing; chess masters might say that boxers are all brawn and no brain, but boxers might say that chess masters lack the mental speed to react quickly to their opponent's moves. Which is a superior activity?

Speed chess
Interesting but missing some points
# Aug 03 2011 at 8:24 AM Rating: Excellent
1,112 posts
Peals wrote:
It's like the difference between Chess and Boxing; chess masters might say that boxers are all brawn and no brain, but boxers might say that chess masters lack the mental speed to react quickly to their opponent's moves. Which is a superior activity?

Speed chess

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