Does it have PvP? That seems the be the question asked about every game these days. Even the games that are truly meant to be PvE have tried accommodating PvP in some way. The cost is becoming quite evident. PvP is making PvE worse. We’ve seen game after game release and whether or not they’re designed for PvP or PvE, it’s clear that the PvE is the weakest part of the entire game.
AoC, WAR, Darkfall, Aion, and Allods to name just a few have all released as PvP-centric games. To dive a little deeper into two of the examples:
Warhammer Online: PvE lacked all depth. It was a simple quest hub grind of the most straight forward variety. There were few dungeons and the ones that existed before level 40 were, for the first year at least, worthless in both terms of loot and experience. The game was always about getting to the PvP side of things. Every effort made in the game was direction straight towards improving the PvP.
Darkfall: This sandbox was entirely about PvP. The PvE, where it existed beyond the starting towns, involved boxing in mobs who run like chickens with their heads cut off. The PvE content was not rewarding unless you found something to exploit. The idea of being a sandbox was suppressed almost entirely in favor of maintaining this “we’re the PvP game for the hardcore masses” mentality.
The problem stems directly form how PvE is being designed and then presented as something in the way. Usually the PvE in these games becomes something that must be overcome and done before getting to the PvP. It becomes more about putting in your time than it is about playing the game because the PvE is designed poorly or presented as such. Sometimes we’ll see a game where the PvE doesn’t get in the way, but it is added simply as filler. PvE just fills in the holes like putty and it is neither fulfilling or meaningful to the game. Thinking that all people want is their PvP is a sure-fire way to have horrible PvE and ultimately a horrible game.
Leaving out the PvE in these games means that PvP would have to stand on its own. Why is that a problem? If PvP had to stand on its own then people would quickly realize that the game has lost all of its meaningful investment and become more arcade-like since people often associate going through something, especially something they dislike, as having increased the value of what they earned. This is what happened to World of Warcraft in my opinion when they instituted Battlegrounds and Arenas where players could avoid the PvE side of the game altogether. Although WoW’s PvP does quite well for itself, can anyone honestly say that WoW would be a true mmorpg if it were simply a Battlegrounds and Arena game? Without PvE, suddenly the flaws in the PvP are apparent where they were once overlooked by something that was much worse.
I don’t believe the solution is to remove PvP or to make games entirely about PvP. The greatest “PvP games” that people can recall are ones where PvP was surprisingly equal or of lesser importance in the grand scheme of said game’s design. Ultima Online was a game about far more than PvP yet people associate it with the PvP. Dark Age of Camelot, the game that truly invented the faction based PvP system, was very much a PvE game as well.
People think they want a ‘PvP game’ but they really want a game where the PvP is meaningful, rewarding, and a fleshed out experience within a great whole. That isn’t accomplished by turning a blind eye to everything but PvP thinking that as long as you have this amazing PvP or special mechanic that all will either be overlooked or forgivable. Regardless of how important PvP is to a game, it never stands alone in a MMORPG. Developing a strong PvE core is probably the most important part of creating a successful ‘PvP game’ and until we start seeing the emphasis placed back on a balanced experience… well, we’re going to see more AoC, WAR, Darkfall, Aion, etc.