PvP Hotspots

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.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in Combat Systems, Dark Age of Camelot, Darkfall Online, EVE Online, MMO design, PvP, RvR, Ultima Online, Warhammer Online, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to PvP Hotspots

  1. Jordan says:

    Speaking of dungeons…what are the early returns on both the new “newb” dungeons as well as the revamped ones? Back when i played dungeons were one of the big weak spots in the game. Dungeon delving for me is a very important component of an interesting mmorpg world…hoping the new ones are good and they continue to add content in this area.

    • SynCaine says:

      I’ve personally only been to one myself, but from vent and the forums people are happy with them. They added an NPC that has a repeatable quest for the dungeon with some nice rewards (1-4k gold + mats or regs). The quests are kill X of Y, found within the dungeon.

      The other major changes are around mob density (people report spawns of 10+ mobs) and ‘agro range’, which for some mobs is now the entire dungeon. Makes them a lot more challenging, as well as rewarding for groups.

      They are no longer spots to go to turn in a key, basically.

  2. coppertopper says:

    “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.”

    “No, you PvP in an MMO because of X, and X better be a damn good reason. That’s repeatable. Often.”

    No truer statement(s) has ever been made about AAA MMO PvP. Remember how the first couple years of WoW there was always some PvP going on around Southshore? Players were motivated by the proximity of an enemy town and PvP came naturally. Yet instead of fostering that kind of PvP, which suits a fantasy setting, we get more FPS multiplayer maps.

    • SynCaine says:

      BGs are one thing, because it’s basically fantasy Quake. But the stuff like Hellfire towers and all that are the real joke, for so many reasons.

  3. Mala says:

    I think it just really comes down to a robust set of interacting game mechanics. So often everything compartmentalized to such a degree that the whole (in my opinion point of the MMO genre is lost.

    I’ve so often heard “Do you really want some guy to come ruin your day while you’re farming” The answer is not necessarily, but I sure as hell want them to be BE ABLE to. That complex interaction of game mechanics is what has the potential to set MMOs apartment from other genres (generally helped or hindered by how instanced/compartmentalized the game world is, its not a coincidence that heavily instanced games also tend to have separate PvP and PvE content, and never shall they interact).

    Or, to put it another way, PvP hotspots might not even be the right term.. just…hotspots will probably do fine to convey what you’re looking for. PvP (in an MMO) in my opinion should be the result of genuine in game conflict of interest, not simply a mini game.

    There are plenty of games out there already that given me concentrated PvP for PvP’s sake when I want it, and they usually don’t charge me amonthly fee either.

  4. Visperas says:

    Recently, I wrote a post about Villages: http://erruksdarkfallblog.blogspot.com/2010/10/roads-and-villages.html
    I believe Villages need rather a decrease in village stone HP than a reward increase. This way, villages might be a small-PvP hotspot instead of an alliance-PvP hotspot. What do you think? Do we need to take care of solo players and small clans?

    • SynCaine says:

      Decreasing the time spent at a village would only lead to a smaller window for people to actually meet up and fight. Sure it would make it easier to capture, but actually harder to find PvP.

      • Visperas says:

        Well, then, maybe Av can make them more fun to capture at least. But anyway, my question is more towards whom are the village capture feature designed? Big clans and alliances or small clans and solo players?

        • SynCaine says:

          I’d rule out solo players, but powerful clans vs smaller ones should come down to location rather than feature. In other words, remote villages worth less should be something that interests small clans, while the best villages are events on a similar scale to sea fortresses.

        • Visperas says:

          Yup. A more obvious diferentiation between villages might be a good thing but then, we need some stuff for solo players aswell.

  5. Pingback: PvP IS PvE « Manifest Pixel

  6. Dblade says:

    The problem though is getting the players to stick around to be farmed, mostly. PvE in PvP games sucks, because it puts a lot of burden on the PvE seeker, and it makes him penalized in the long run for fighting and dying.

    That’s kind of why you don’t see much PvE in EVE in lowsec and 0.0 space unless the system is secured by a large force, or its something you can do and have a chance of running away or evading PvPers.

    You can make a rich PvE spot in the hopes of getting PvP there, but the more successful at the start, the more likely people will stop going there to do PvE at all as it becomes impossible to due to camping.

  7. MAnalog says:

    “because it’s fun”, is entirely a reason. I was going to go further on this, but I realized it was another Adventurine ad. Next week it’s back to LoL when they release something.

    No one else is catching on to this guys FOM rotation?

    • Anti-Stupidity League says:

      Yes, it can be _a_ reason, but it does not support long-term pvp, just like Syncaine said.

      Did you even read the article or did you notice that you couldn’t really disprove any of his comments and that lame “it’s just an ad” reply was the best that you could come up with?

  8. no says:

    synlame is the Joseph Addai of the blog-a-sphere he gets 2.3 yds per carry average(not quit enough to win with) and once in awhile he’ll get 3-4 yds per carry and over 100 yards, then fumble the ball and get pummeled on an 8 yrd run only to be carted off the field.

    synlame yer fun to watch sometimes. Just not good enough to be primetime.

  9. Torcano says:

    Is this “no” kid a joke?

    Anyways, in my opinion no self-respecting PvP game can be successful or even just good if it doesn’t have these Hotspots. They are what makes open world PvP possible, fun, interesting, and meaningful.

    As you said, the success of EvE’s 0.0 space and PvP in general is how interconnected and meaningful it is. Alliances fight over systems in 0.0 to control resources, and through trade these resources eventually flow through low-sec as a vital aspect of the economy.

    This should be the model for any sand-box/open world PvP game to follow. Players want to fight, but they want to fight FOR something. Without something on the line, both risk/reward, PvP is a shadow of what it could be.

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