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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 , ,