More thoughts on PvP, bear with me.
Gear is important in an MMO, as it not only allows our characters to grow in power, but also gives us something to work towards and look forward to. This applies whether you have a PvE focused game or a PvP one. The degree of importance can vary, but it is always a factor; whether it’s something as simple as picking up a weapon in a FPS game or something as complex as an epic quest item in EQ; both are examples of items improving your character.
Now let’s say we have a PvP focused game, and each time you kill a character they drop an item. This method is one of the major ways to gain gear and is a prime focus of the player base. You have two choices with regards to the defeated player, they either lose an item or they don’t. In the game with player loss, the item you get off the corpse is that exact item the defeated player losses. In the other game, it’s a randomly generated item by the game based on level. How exactly would these two systems play out?
In game one, players would avoid death at all costs, since each death would cost them something of value. Clearly in this game item loss and gain would be fairly rapid, as you would be constantly losing and gaining new items based on your PvP performance. A good day would result in a positive gain, with you storing away excess items for later use. A bad day would mean you have to dip into your item bank, or worst case go farm new items to get back into PvP. Over time the better PvP players would build up a sizable collection of items, and could afford to use, and lose, top quality stuff. Factors like how skills your guild mates are would be of utmost importance, and crafters that could provide gear that would give you an edge would be highly valued.
In game two, death would mean you don’t gain an item, and so would be somewhat unfavorable as it would delay the process of getting more powerful. Any time you find an item less powerful than the one you own would be useless, as you would always use your best gear at all times. It would be entirely possible for weak players to gain access to the most powerful gear due to the randomness of the item on a corpse, and once acquired they would remain powerful until the game introduces new gear. Powerful guilds would only serve to speed up the process of gearing up, and once ‘maxed out’ players would have little reason beyond social to stay in any one guild. Crafting would only be valued if the item crafted was easier to acquire and more powerful than that which can be gained in PvP, anything less would be considered a waste of time.
Clearly the above is over-simplified, but I think it drives the point home as to why PvP can’t be positive sum. Players need more motivation to compete beyond the simple ‘its fun to win’. If you look at PvP as a risk vs reward formula, where the two must balance each other out, clearly the higher you make the risk the greater you make the reward. And perhaps more importantly, the lower you set the risk, the lower you can make the reward. Remove risk, and you basically remove reward. That’s the current state of BG’s in WoW, zero risk. Regardless if I watch TV and make my character twitch for 30 minutes, or if I go all out and play to the full extent of my abilities, at the end both methods will eventually get me enough points to purchase every single item I could want. Even worse is the fact that method two might only speed this process up by a marginal amount, depending on random factors I have no control over. With that as your reward system, it’s no wonder why so many WoW players could care less about BG performance, and why so many play a team based activity in a purely singular fashion. Even players that put the time and effort into building a twink generally don’t care about winning a BG as much as they care about scoring huge critical hits on lower level players, ignoring anything that might be going on around them.
If you need further proof, gather 15 people together, level yourself to say level 25, queue up as a group to AB, and see what happens. Unless you run into a pre-built team of twinks, you will likely dominate AB even against full teams of level 29 players. Half the opposition will likely run around at random, running into 3v1 situations and getting themselves murdered. You will easily be able to control the 3-4 players that actually seem to be trying to win. Level that same team to 29, get half decent gear, and you can 5 cap AB all day long, to the point that AB won’t even be fun for you anymore, simply because nothing you face is a challenge.
It’s a very sad state, and hopefully future games are learning this valuable lesson from WoW. Learning that perhaps giving everyone something may be a short term way of keeping people happy, but long term it destroys the system, and converts it into a mindless points grind.