Themeparks: PvP is the filler between the cracks

Wilhelm is asking if an MMO must contain PvP. It’s actually a more interesting question when you really thing about it, especially if you limit the discussion to themeparks (the answer for sandboxes has its own tab on this blog).

Instinctively you might want to say ‘no’ for themeparks, because they are PvE focused and you would want that to remain the focus. Makes sense, on paper. But in reality, themepark PvE content is often one-and-done, and what is repeatable (daily quests, raiding) is often tied to some long term, but still one-and-done reward (rep grind, raid gear).

PvP shouldn’t be the focus, but rather play the role of filler between content updates. From my experience I think vanilla WoW did this best. Whether you were waiting for a raid to reset or had a night off, battlegrounds provided a nice side activity, made more rewarding as you could use your raid gear to get an edge (though not a brutally overpowered one from MC/BWL gear).

As time went on PvP in WoW got a bit silly, first with PvP-specific gear and later with rankings and all that stuff. It went from being a fun side activity to a game-within-a-game. It also didn’t help that all of the talent on the WoW team left and the interns ran the place, but we know that story.

I like, on paper, what ESO has planned. Once you reach the level cap, you can still PvE to gain more skill points for horizontal progression (you can only use a small number of skills at one time, so getting more skill points to open more skills doesn’t increase your power, just gives you options), but you can also get into the 3-way RvR battle areas. I think the limit to horizontal progression will help the PvP balance a great deal, as will the fact that (as of now) the best gear comes from crafting, not PvE, raiding, or PvP. Assuming that stays mostly true (a few items being BiS from non-crafting is fine IMO, so long as most stuff comes from crafting and the gap isn’t too great), I can see the model working.

I can further see it working because as players spend time on the repeatable content that is RvR, Bethesda will be given time to expand the PvE offerings. I don’t think ESO players will experience running into a ‘content wall’ like in SW:TOR.

So my answer to the question is yes, you do need PvP, but at the same time you need to ensure that the PvP remains a low dev time, high repeat, limited impact aspect. Not easy to get right, but certainly pays off if you do.


About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in MMO design, PvP, The Elder Scrolls Online, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Themeparks: PvP is the filler between the cracks

  1. Anonymous says:

    I loved vanilla WoW’s PVP not because it was ‘filler’ between PVE, but because it was PVE’s other half. The best PVP guilds had PVE gear. The best PVE guilds had PVP gear (at one point). Basically, the best WoW guilds played WoW, period. People topping recount in MC with their HWL gear. Shaman dominating battlegrounds with their Hand of Rags. It was awesome. Once they added resilience and decided to segregate the two as two separate games (along with the addition and emphesis on arena), it all fell apart IMO.

    When PVP is a side attraction – different gear (all theme park MMOs now), different skills (EQ2?) – I just don’t care about it. It’s video gamey, immersion breaking, and plain stupid. So much has been lost in the name of ‘balance.’

    • C. T. Murphy says:

      I am with this person. I hate this whole notion that we have to divide things up so cleanly. I blame themepark design for that, and late WoW’s over-designing itself.

      Playing a MMO should be just that, playing a MMO. Not ONLY x, y, z parts of it.

    • kalex716 says:

      You know its funny, because I never realized it at the time. Back in vanilla I was a raider, because I liked PVP. I wanted good raid gear, to maintain my edge in the PVP scene. You played WoW in whatever capacity you had to in order to keep best in slot gear.

      This meant you logged in, you were exposed to the most options for content as the gear spread would allow.

      As soon as BC came out and choice arena/pvp only gear became the best for PVP, I thought it was brilliant. I could focuses specifically on my beloved PVP and progress!

      But slowly, that grind became all too apparent, and I naturally closed off the rest of the game to myself and got bored much faster, resulting in me leaving.

      • SynCaine says:

        Yea, players are very good at ruining the game for themselves, and its up to the devs to prevent that. It’s why raid timers are important; players rage against them, but ultimately its for their own good.

    • Quelldrogo says:

      Well said anon. Gear segregation is horrible for gameplay. Regardless of how the loot is earned, it should boost character abilities in both PVE and PVP. My toons always had a mix, filling in the slots that didn’t drop.

  2. sid6.7 says:

    This isn’t a new observation from me, but if you look at the history of games — not just computer games, but games in general — the obvious trend is that most games have competing players.

    We had sports, cards, and board games long before we had computers and with some rare card game exceptions, they were almost all universally player versus player.

    It wasn’t until the advent of the computer that we began to see player versus computer (or environment) games. Oh sure, there might have been the occasional running of the bulls or gladiators who fought the lion, but by and large it was me versus you.

    So it shouldn’t come as a suprise that a large part of the attraction of MMOs is that we play both ‘with’ and ‘against’ other players. Even when you aren’t competing directly, you compete indirectly for resources and status.

    You can take away the ability to attack each other, but you’ll never take away player’s ability to compete against each other. PVP, in some form, will always be a motivating force in MMOs.

    • SynCaine says:

      Indeed. High-end raiding is basically PvP, only instead of fighting directly you fight indirectly for world/server firsts. Remove the ‘leaderboard’ aspect, and people wouldn’t care nearly as much.

      • sid6.7 says:

        Even within your own raid, you fight to justify your spot on the team. That’s true even in casual raiding guilds.

        • Botz says:

          Indeed. One of my best memories of wow was walking into the MC with an all blues hunter and being #1 on the DPS meters all night despite the other DPSers being in half epics. I was accused by some people of having hacked the DPS meters, but the truth was I actually knew how to play my class and nobody else did. And hunters were massively OP.

    • Botz says:

      I raided in wow because I wanted good gear to PvP in. Raiding ended up taking up 90% of time. Walking into a BG with full dragon stalker and a xbow of smiting made all the hard work raiding well worth it.

      PvP was model was pretty simple: Fight others because it’s fun to fight and show off your gear. PvE model: Work really hard to take down a boss and get sweet gear. PvP was casual fun and PvE was epic work followed by a reward. The fact that they were linked was the best possible motivators all around.

  3. Dril says:

    Whilst I think you’re correct that it needs to be filler, I suspect that a LOT of “PvPers” in themepark games use it as anything but. I’m sure it’s also a case of vocal minority and all, but the sheer amount of whine that comes from people who seem to think that most hotbar MMORPGs should churn out PvP content as their primary focus is staggering. Notwithstanding the fact that I think it’s fucking stupid to PvP in hotbar MMOs (why are they in a subpar engine and not playing MOBAs, Mount&Blade, FPSs etc if all they want is a game balanced around and churning out content for PvP?), the simple fact is that it’s delusional to ever expect themepark devs to make a PvP game just for those select few who think it’s srs bzns.

    I’m also having a hard time with TESO’s model. Is the endgame of an Elder Scrolls game seriously RvR? Beacuse if so, that’s even less incentive to buy it. I can’t imagine what balancing horrors await the dev team as people start their incessant crying about Nightblade healers being able to heal then stealth away.

    Ah well, you’re bang on about classic WoW (and to a lesser extent I think Wintergrasp managed to get a bit of that feeling going – it was always fun to win at the last second then immediately get a VoA group as a tank) but it seems nobody wants to copy success, not even Wildstar. Top kek.

    • Mobs says:

      Balance will forever suck, but speaking of nightblades: stealth doesnt work that way. Very short timer. Also Syn, did you see the new patch notes? They made a ton of improvements to the new user experience and also the flow and feel of combat and it’s impact. It is really starting to shape up!!

      • SynCaine says:

        Interesting, if they actually added true collision detection to PvE, that alone would make a huge difference.

        • Mobs says:

          Some great changes in that patch. Beta test is from this Friday to Sunday. I am super pumped, ping me and lets play the beta. I have a 13 (i think). The changes they made to the new user experience I think is very encouraging as far as it comes to their willingness to be flexible on what are pretty significant changes.

    • Dynaform says:

      I asked in wildstar beta chat if there was separate pvp gear. First response was “Ya stupid it’s an mmo”. People don’t even realize there is a different way. I gave a short history lesson of what happened in wow..

      Anyway I hadn’t been following teso at all but based on the info in this post I’ll drop the $50 and give it a shot. I am never grinding 2 sets of gear so I can play the 2 games within a game again

      • Mobs says:

        I watched alot of the WildStar like first 15 levels and such recently. It is soooo much like WoW, and I never say that.. btu it really is. Also all of thier attempts to jam as much cheap humour into everything on the screen, I am sure, will get very old for me. I was falling asleep watching all the newbie quests. It was so mundane to watch.

  4. Mobs says:

    I can feel that the combat MAY be fun, at least for a bit, but they use skill shots and shit on the ground for like every skill. I don’t know about it,
    it just feels like the team in general just loves REDDIT and decided to make a game with cheap humour and hover boards because its all fan service. It just seems like the culmination of 1 million memes turned into a video game.

    • Dril says:

      Are you talking about Wildstar?

      If so, that’s bullshit, really. WoW still holds the throne of “LOOK LE POP CULTURE REFERENCE RIGHT HERE” that it’s undeniably sat on since Cata (and arguably sat on since launch). Wildstar is just…blech. It’s like they took Borderlands, sanitised it, made the writing worse, have less charm, added in more steretypical space stuff then packaged in a kiddy-friendly look.

      This from a studio that wants their audience to be hardcore 40man raiders?

      High tier game design.

      • Mobs says:

        They have less pop culture and more internet culture to me. But , all the same, I do not like it. I do not mind it sometimes… I think Borderlands was really tasteful when it came to references and it seemed a lot more thoughtful. Wildstar is just shoe-horning the lolz. “You guys like hoverboards?! WE KNOW YOU DO !”

        • Dril says:

          That’s pretty much what I’m saying. I loved Borderlands; it’s a shame Carbine don’t the talent or nouse to follow suit.

          I can see where you mean internet culture in terms of the videos, but in game I didn’t really get much of that “internet hipster” vibe that they try and pull off in the devspeak stuff. If anything, the in game tone is even worse.

      • Mobs says:

        I haven’t experienced first hand myself and likely never will, but my expectations seems generally accurate.

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  6. Kyff says:

    I have played and enjoyed MMOs for years without feeling the need to PvP ever. Entering the arena in EQ, EQ2, VG always felt pointless and I mostly did it to oblige guildmates. In Darkfall there is a reason to PvP and that makes all the difference. There is definitely no need for an MMO to necessarily include PvP.

  7. Matt says:

    Vanilla PVP was much worse than you remember. If you were a raider it was great, since you were smashing face left and right. If you weren’t, it was getting smashed left and right. No resilience and low health pools meant that one and two shotting was fairly common. The PVP gear was extremely good, but pretty much no one, no matter how rose-powered the goggles, remembers the GM/HW grind fondly.

    This may be a case where the system favored your specific cohort well (raider who pvps when bored) but failed to serve the main PVP crowd well at all. Pretty much every change made in BC was a reaction to this.

    • SynCaine says:

      No one was getting one-shot at the level cap, not even from fully geared rogues/mages. Raiders were stronger in AV or WSG, yes, but we were far from god-like.

      Especially in AV, it was more about timing the release of the NPC allies to coordinate a push than anything else, and the eternal stalement status happened because neither side was organized. When I would organize AV (through massive use of chat initially, until the server learned to follow the plan), we would crush the other side, regardless of how many raiders they had (we were Horde, so they had more and were better equipped.)

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