If you build it, they will come. With sharp objects. And the intent to murder.
That’s how PvP in MMOs works, yet so many attempts to create PvP hotspots fail. Too often the approach is to design something that is fun to fight over, without putting much thought into WHY the players want to fight over it. “Because it’s fun” is not a good reason, nor is “that’s our PvP space”.
You don’t just PvP for the sake of PvP, at least not long-term, in the MMO genre. You do in Quake, but then again that’s ALL you do in Quake. No, you PvP in an MMO because of X, and X better be a damn good reason. That’s repeatable. Often.
Giving out the uber sword of awesome to the winner is not the answer. Let’s ignore balance and all that, but as soon as I win the sword, I’m done with that PvP hotspot. Everyone is done with it as soon as the uber sword is no longer ‘best in slot’. If the hotspot is intended for a group (god help you if it’s a fixed size), that hotspot likely has a shorter lifespan then the time it took to develop.
You also can’t expect hotspots to just happen. Tarren Mills happened, but it was random (and quickly killed by Blizzard…), and later attempts to recreate Tarren Mills failed horribly. If you get one, sweet, but if your plan revolves around that happening, expect trouble.
The genres best PvP hotspots all have one major factor in common: players wanted to be there, badly, for reasons beyond PvP. Darkness Falls from DAoC was an amazing PvP hotspot, but not because of its great PvP. Yes, once players picked up on it you would go in just to PvP, but the original and constant driver for that area had nothing to do with PvP, but rather the great and varied (lvl wise) PvE and it’s (at the time) unique reward structure. The same can be said for early UO dungeons. You went there because of the PvE rewards, but you went in knowing PvP was also likely to happen. The most contested systems in EVE are such not because the community as a whole said ‘PvP hotspot!’, but because of their logistical and material benefits (bonus points for EVE here, some systems see heavy action due to player history, and the desire for one Corp/Alliance to capture the ‘home’ of their rival).
Aventurine has attempted multiple times to create such hotspots, with varied results. The Sea Fortresses are successful (for the most part, they are not perfect) due to their rarity, uniqueness (water), and now increased rewards. Villages are less successful because of their lack of rarity, non-uniqueness, and current lack of meaningful rewards. The system is simply not set up in such a way as to encourage conflict. The time spent by a player at the location is limited (a small group knocks down the stone quickly, and then they move on), the overall motivation is low, and the PvP is too easily avoided (if you are capping a village, not only can you do it naked with just a hammer, but you can also run away with little loss).
The recently revamped PvE is a step in the right direction, primarily because it gets players into dungeons and makes it worthwhile to stay in them. Similar to Darkness Falls, control of a dungeon is beneficial, the elimination of enemies is noticeable (vs say, killing someone in WoW, where they simply respawn and fly right back in 5 seconds with zero risk), and the rewards are such that new players and veterans alike will always have a reason (generally gold) to go back time and time again.
Regardless of the game though, creating a PvP hotspot starts not with the actual PvP, but with the act of getting the players to that area, and keeping them around long enough to cause a clash. It’s only at this point does the actual enjoyment of the PvP start to factor in, but with most examples, they never even get that far.
Chuck-o-the-day: Chuck Norris does not have a seat on the UN Security Council. He has a couch.