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Since the early ages of video games, “Player versus Player” (PvP) has always been one, if not the most entertaining feature.  As my previous article also highlighted, very few other situations can create such thrill in a virtual environment. The very basic form of PvP consist in a duel with 2 players facing each others and it was the foundation of some of the most successful games such as the iconic “Pong”. Artificial Intelligence made great progresses since then and developpers managed to create complex virtual adversary with realistic behaviours. However, combat against human opponents remains a central aspect in most multiplayer games and obviously in mmorpgs.

Even in today’s mmo, simple duels are comon, usually as a form a training to keep up with your character’s combos and counters. Duelling is now so classic that most mmo are providing this basic feature. Developpers quickly introduced new forms of PvP involving group of players in the “open world” of the game.

Ultima Online (UO) released in the late 90’s was a precursor on many levels including this aspect. With a skill based approach for the character progression, guilds were already declaring war to each others in 1998, letting their members to fight anywhere, including towns, without much penalty. Player Killers were also introduced in UO, with a heavy penalty system for those bloodthristy players if they were caught. Even a bounty system, allowing victims to report and put a bounty on their assassins head was already available. Many other features encouraged PvP in the game and it remains a reference despite his technical flaws.

This was just the beginning and Ashron’s Call walked in his footsteps using more or less similar mechanics, within a 3d environment this time instead of 2D iso.When Everquest (EQ) took over the still new mmo industry, they quickly realise the potential and released PvP dedicated servers few months after the release. Introducing for the first time segregated PvP with factions, using races to determine which faction you would belong to. We could also see the first glimpse of PvP tournaments in duel or group versus group. This was a great time, but something important was missing to the PvP. The simple joy of killing another virtual player was not enough and players were now expecting meta effects, this is where Dark Age of Camelot arrived and managed to fill this gap.

Dark Age of Camelot (DaoC) like UO, was originally designed with the PvP in mind, where other mmorps usually consider PvE as the main ingame feature. A massive dedicated zones would let tons of players fight each other in order to conquer as much land as possible, including forts and relics. These artifacts would provide bonuses to your whole faction, even if you didnt personally took part in these conquests.  Fight were fierce and epic in size, and the game was a success on so many levels.

When World of Warcraft (WoW) arrived on the market, this blockbuster redefined what the mmo genre would be until even now, including PvP. Instanced in small scaled “arenas”s, also known as “structured” PvP (sPvP). The main improvements were the great responsivness of your character’s and a well developped competitive aspect with ranking system, tournaments and so forth. Beyond the commercial success and the fact that WoW democatrised the genre, it reduced the scope of PvP in mmos.

Several other games managed to keep the spirit of open PvP with epic battles. Titles such as Shadowbane or even more recently Darkfall managed to produce some of the greatest PvP enviroment to date. On the other hand, they struggled commercialy speaking, targeting a niche of hardcore players who are totally dedicated to the PvP. The hard truth is that most players will prefer to spent most of their game time in PvE, PvP being a secondary activity for most of them. I guess this is a quite less stressfull but also since most mmo creates enviroments less enclined to PvP, players get used to it. Well, gamers behaviours and preferences is another article 🙂

So what’s next? As I write this article, Guild Wars 2 is the most awaited “triple A” mmo in the west and should release this year. Deeply influenced by DaoC for his large scale PvP battle and by WoW for his sPvP arenas, ranking system and fast gameplay approach. It will most likely be a huge success. However, i already feel that a huge aspect is missing. Despite the recent success of sandbox games, this feature has unfortunately been discarded from GW2. Offering almost “limitless possibilities”, a “triple A” mmo inclined toward PvP with a great sandbox aspect could definitly be a hit. Games like Archeage with player built structures and siege weapons will be the first of this new generation of mmo and hopefully more will follow.

GW2 here with some siege action

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Written by Fallanx

August 23, 2011 at 10:03 am

Posted in MMORPG, PvP

Tagged with , ,

Tera: The Exiled Realm of Arborea

with 2 comments

I’ve been playing Tera on the korean server for over a month last march after Rift’s fiasco. This is the review i wrote once i cancelled my subsription.

Note that the game is not yet released in the west but will be published in Europe by Frogster and by En Masse Interactive in US. For the record En Masse Interactive is a branch of Blue Hole studio, the Korean developper.

The first thing you’ll notice when you enter the game are similarities with NCsoft products, especially Lineage 2 for the graphic chart but also with Aion.  They share the same graphic engine in different versions; menus are also pretty much similars. As it is often the case in Korea, most of the dev team consist of ex-NCsofters.

As an exemple; this Tera loading screenshot (on the left) is clearly reffering to the original Aion’s tower of eternity (on the right).

 

Despite this, the game looks pretty hot; offering some good particule lightning effects and other treats for the eye. I would describe the graphic chart as an asian-fantasy gothic environment with a tendency toward the “cute and childish”. The game as a nice ambiance generally speaking but its pretty much a ripoff of L2 on steroids. UI is poor compared to the latest MMO; offering less than the regular basic options with only 2 sizeable action bars. You dont have much skills to use indeed but i’m used to more choices and don’t like to have to switch bars using alt etc; even rift was better on this. Gameplay is very arcadish, it can be played with an x-box controller and you can feel this very quicly with the basic commands. If you do so, wash your hand afterward 🙂

The strong feature of the game is dynamic combats; quite different from the regular mmos as you will have to dodge and evade alot using a skill every class get at low level; especially versus elite mobs and boss. The manual targeting system is also unusual and give the game a personnality. The heavy scripted AI provide also some epic fights in dungeon or vs outdoor elites mobs. However, fighting against regular mobs/packs in solo gets quickly repetitive despite varations in the mob types.

Instancied dungeons are also pretty boring after a couple of runs; despite the size of the boss encounters you end up grinding them in order to get rare drops.  Groups are at the center of the game, you will have to find fellow adventurers right from level 10 in order to keep going. Group quest are offered in all zones 20+ so far and mostly consists in killing huge elite mobs. Without a group you can managed to keep going but you will miss a massive part of the game and i believe you better choose another mmo if you plan to do so.

Regarding the classes, it seems to be a bit unbalanced but nothing major compared to other games using the same static class system. Patches adjust them on a regular basis; i personnaly prefer a skill point system, less discriminative toward new players and more open. I found my priest doing alot of DPS for a primary”support class” and sometime too few healing but I like his abilities & the general feeling. I found the character customisation pretty interresting; consisting in glyphs to enhance abilities, enchants and crystals to improve gears stats but i hoped for deeper specialisation. The quests are pretty bad, the craft system is not innovative at all, the instanced zones give you the feeling to play alone most of the time, there’s no housin either. The main story is also linear, with average quality cut scenes. I’ll skip the so called ‘”political system” which was mostly broken when i played the game, allowing guilds to get votes from any players regardless of their level; creating weird alliances with other servers to convince them to create a char to vote for you.

The PvP aspect was also very poor, with some sort of forced duel system in the wilderness or premade group combats in instanced battlegrounds. In either case you had to be level 40 at least to be able to participate in the PvP.

Overall, i had fun in PvE’ mostly because the combat system was a bit unusual for a MMO  and the game has an interresting graphic environment but it quickly gets old; and after a while i got the feeling to play a console game on PC with cool graphics.

Tera’s dev team tried to not just create another Korean MMORPG within an heroic fantasy world, the game has indeed some interresting features but overall they miserably failed to deliver a unique gaming experience. Patches might change it in the future but the game in his current state is not delivering enough to commit to it more than a month.

You can clearly see the arcadish approach on this capture i made. It might looks cool but after a while the freshness effect is dispelled by the lack of content.

Written by Fallanx

July 27, 2011 at 2:39 am