The thought of world PvP and battlegrounds has been on my mind lately as I think on the subject of dynamic content and experience games like Rift and WoW with their battlegrounds. We really hashed out this subject a lot when WAR launched and we saw the immediate negative effects from their scenario/battleground system. Over two years later we are still seeing games launch with battlegrounds while trying to emphasize that there is open-world pvp too. The two can not co-exist as they are.
World PvP should create a sense of connectedness between players, to both each other and the world they’re playing in. When done well, and even poorly sometimes, it changes the world for players or at least their perception of it. Is it dangerous? No longer accessible? Something I want to claim for my realm or want to defend lest it be taken by the enemy? These feelings are then experienced 24/7 — or at least they should be.
What happens when you introduce a system that compartmentalizes PvP is that you take away those feelings, thoughts, or desires. You take away the connected feeling between the players and most definitely the world. Another problem that arises from the battleground system is that you often see them mistakenly being the source of the best rewards. Now we’ve lost the experience and the drive to be apart of your world and interact with other players. It’s been replaced by the path of least resistance, the desire for improving oneself and the selfish nature that comes along with it.
Themepark designed games thrive upon this idea of creating ways for players to want to focus on themselves. They also focus heavily on the path of least resistance and upon variables they can control. While I won’t say that this is a bad thing, because clearly millions love it, I will say that I believe there is a viable alternative and in my opinion a better way to present PvP.
Dark Age of Camelot accomplished something that many overlook. DAOC could easily be considered a close relative to the themepark model. The PvE zones or realms were like continents accessible only by your fellow realmmates. There was absolutely no PvP that went on in the world. It had dungeons, albeit not instanced but rather open, and a few quests, grinds, rare spawns, and in its good ole days only a minor drive (yet still a drive) for better gear. However, it also had another focus.
Accessible only by a portal, DAOC had these places called Frontiers which housed the entirety of the game’s PvP. For all intents and purposes, these could be looked at as 24/7 battlegrounds. They were ginormous though and at times felt bigger than the PvE lands. In them were Keeps that could be claimed and defended. What else was in the zones? There were PvE mobs that provided some worthwhile benefits like EXP that people wanted. These frontiers also housed Relics which were inside large keeps called Relic Keeps. These Relics bestowed upon the owning Realm gains to various things like EXP, damage, etc.
DAOC also had battlegrounds, yet they were not like WoW’s battlegrounds. These were like miniature versions of Frontiers and no bigger than Alterac Valley if it were squished wider. A keep was in the center and it was vulnerable 24/7. The goal? Own the keep. That’s it. It was one of the biggest successes of DAOC and spawned the battleground phenomena.
The point of all that DAOC talk? DAOC seperated PvE from PvP and made PvP voluntary. At the same time, they created such a large open-world PvP frontier that players forgot they were separated. They also created a desire to go there to PvP because of relics, guild and personal prestige, the fact that it was the only area to PvP, and because players took pride in owning the land. There was also the fact that the best PvE open-world dungeon became available to only the realm that currently owned the most keeps. Note: Physical ownership of keeps mattered and there as no ridiculous point system for zone ownership. Your realm owned a keep or it didn’t.
Why then can’t this work in themepark games? The answer is that it most definitely can work. It can work in themepark games just fine and absolutely thrive in the more open or sandbox styles. The small-scale focused compartmentalization and reward taking the focus off of the world and the connection between players would just have to go. It’s a complete opposite of everything world PvP tries to accomplish and actively inhibits it.
I’m anticipating that within a year we’ll see a studio announce a pseudo-themepark pseudo open/sandbox like DAOC with PvP being separated from the world and voluntary, but woven into the game’s soul. LotRO was soooo close it hurt with the Ettenmoors. All they needed were more meaningful claimable objectives (like Keeps) and a more fleshed out Monster system (ideally 3 sides). It’ll happen soon and it will, hopefully, open some eyes.