DAoC was about PvE

In yesterday’s post about Crowfall I mentioned long-term goals and driving factors for why players should care. What makes someone wake up at 3am to defend a relic? Why should I care if I lose my keep? Many games creating a PvP system these days seem to look to DAoC as an example. WAR, GW2, ESO, and Crowfall all have the keep capturing mechanics and really did/do borrow heavily from the system. While they miss many features like proper character advancement in PvP, map size, and the nitty gritty details of how sieging should work, etc., there’s one bigger picture key ingredient they’re all missing: A focus on PvE.

DAoC was about PvE. The game long-heralded as the best RvR/PvP game of all time was driven by the players caring about PvE and how their characters performed outside of the frontiers (where the realm war/RvR took place).

DAoC had relics which increased your character’s stats and damage. Owning these was paramount and the goal of RvR was typically to try and push hard enough that you controlled the keeps necessarily to make the relic vulnerable. To make players care a bit more about those relics, the realm controlling most keeps had access to the best PvE zone in the game: Darkness Falls. Darkness Falls was the best place to level characters, get gear (that wasn’t player made), and earn money.

I have memories of being in Darkness Falls grouping for Legion and hearing the announcement that Albion was advancing and taking our keeps. We bailed out as fast as possible and rushed to the frontiers to defend or retake our territories in order to keep our coveted Darkness Falls longer.

Player made gear was typically the best back in the day. You weren’t going to earn that gear by PvPing. PvPing gave you realm ranks and points to buy new abilities which made you much stronger, but you still needed that player made gear. Player made gear, like all gear, wore out and broke over time. There was always a need to earn money which meant PvE.

Perhaps I should have started with this, but getting to level 50 was through rigorous PvE. Leveling wasn’t quick (before people macro’d and abused the leveling system like they do in every game). Leveling could take months to reach 50, and you weren’t a ton of use before level 50 out in the frontiers. Leveling through PvP wasn’t an option, and the silly “scaling” systems of today (another way for these games to ignore Pve) did not exist.

Although the “end-game” of DaoC was PvP, and one could PvP the entire time they played (after reaching level 50 and gearing up), the core of the game still maintained a healthy focus on PvE. The key isn’t to ignore PvE or come up with systems to avoid it. The two play-styles needn’t compete against each other. A great game can and perhaps should utilize both in harmony.

  • I agree and this is one of my primary concerns about CU with its supposed de-emphasis or near elimination of PvE. As much as I loved PvP in DAoC, the majority of my time was spent PvEing. Leveling, DF raids and dragon raids (which is far removed from what is done nowadays in WoW or anything else), dungeons, epic armor questing, artifacts (post-ToA), gold farming, helping others with any of that, etc. I have always enjoyed doing both in any game I have played and the intersection of the two in DAoC made it a much fuller experience for me than a PvE only or a PvP only version of the same game would have been.

  • We really need to stop talking about PvE and PvP like they two separate things. They also arent even two separate things tied together. They are terms that define aspects of a system that is a whole in itself. Dont design a PvE system and then a PvP system that fits. Design the whole damn thing as one system. I kind of feel our attempts at defining things has had a negative impact on our design.

  • But the playstyles *do* compete against each other. It ALWAYS happens, unless PvP is instanced, or a game is essentially PvP-only.

    It happened in GW2 (WvW lost out to PvE players). It happened in ESO (AvA players finally admitting to themselves PvE pays the bills, and ZOS is catering to them). And it happened in the granddaddy of them all: DAoC (Trials of Atlantis).

    The lesson is: if RvR and PvE are mixed in a game, PvE will win out to the extent the game becomes PvE with supplemental RvR activities. (The only exception seems to be if the PvE is so vestigial and unexciting that it doesn’t attract a PvE crowd e.g. Darkfall, or the indie game Champions of Regnum).

  • WAR started out with a mix, but as time went on it became focused on PvP. I liked that, but WAR is no longer around, so what do I know?

  • Keen what is the reason that you will go back and play Everquest but do not seem so inclined with DAOC ? Does Everquest just hold up better with age ? Population issues? Just curious.

  • My memory of DAOC’s PvE is a lot different to what you describe. It was slow – considerably slower than Everquest – the choices of where to go at any given level were limited, the dungeons were unvarnished and plain and the whole process of leveling was quite dull.

    I managed to get my Albion Mercenary into the low 40s but I’d really run out of steam in the 30s, which was where my Friar stalled. When we moved to Midgard I played a Skald, which was better, but by then I was losing interest. Darkness Falls was, in my opinion, a bad dungeon. It was, again, plain and uninspired and the mobs were uninteresting.

    Worst of all, it introduced me to a concept I’ve ever since wished had never come to MMOs, the NPCs who sell armor and weapons for Tokens. That is the main factor that made me feel “playing” DAOC had turned into some kind of surrogate job. Sadly I’ve had to get over my objections to that system since just about every MMO I’ve ever played since insists on using it. I still dislike it though.

    That said, the concept of having control over the main PvE dungeon in the game (I agree it was that – I didn’t like it but it seemed almost everyone else did) was a good one, and your argument on the necessary inter-weaving of PvE and PvP is sound. I just don’t think the PvE was up to much.

  • @ bhagpuss

    I am not trying to be argumentative here, but I found your comment interesting as my experience in transitioning from EQ to DAoC was very different from yours. If my memory serves, I had ~45 days played on my main (a level 45 paladin) when I cancelled my EQ sub to play DAoC and I hit level 50 on my warrior in DAoC with ~35 days played. So, leveling progression was much quicker for me. I seem to recall that this was the general consensus I observed in others that transitioned from EQ to DAoC.

    If you are talking about the gameplay itself, certainly it would be described as quite slow these days, but on the whole it seemed much more interesting than EQ combat did to me at the time. From a melee’s perspective at least, there were positional, reactive and chain attacks that allowed you to DOT, stun, snar, do extra damage, etc., based on your real time reactions to what happened during combat such as if you or your opponent parried, dodged, blocked or changed position, which all depended on how you spec’ed your character. You could also guard other characters or intervene against attacks made against them, etc. Maybe with the introduction of AA’s to EQ it got more interesting? I did not play EQ much after AA’s were introduced.

    Regarding your experience in dungeons, although some of the dungeons in DAoC were not fully itemized at launch I found them to be on the whole a similar experience as to EQ’s dungeons. Although, I recall enjoying the atmospheres/themes of the DAoC dungeons more, but otherwise the experience was similar. Work your way in to a camp spot to pull to and begin slaughtering MOBs, collecting XP and loot. What made Darkness Falls the most interesting, at least for me, was the lure of the best XP and loot combined with the constant threat of PvP. Even when I was PvEing/leveling in DAoC I enjoyed it most where PvP might occur, such as the frontiers or DF. I certainly can understand if your preferences differ.

    I tend to agree with you somewhat about the token system although I waffle on how feel about it from time to time. I think this is because, although I am sure there are better alternatives, in most MMORPGs it seems to be a choice between either a random drop system or tokens.

  • I only played DAoC in beta where I got a friar to like level 14, but I kept abreast of it for many years, and everybody said the PvE sucked rocks for that entire duration. Seems a bit odd to hear one voice so many years later saying the game was “about” PvE.

    I agree that PvE was important, that the game was driven by traditional PvE advancement mechanics, including the “carrot” rewards for PvP, even though DAoC’s particular PvE implementation was (generously) nothing special. I agree that titles like Crowfall will likely fail if they don’t include PvE or even worse– include poor PvE.

  • DAoC PvE: AoE’ing different camps until 50, farming DF for tokens, go RvR when ‘ready’, farm RR. Anything else was done because you were sick of sitting in an AoE group, or you weren’t in a social circle that did things efficiently and went about it the slow way.

    There are DAoC emulators up, anyone who wants to see this ‘great’ PvE in action feel free to roll on one and ask what you should do to level.

  • I am having trouble reconciling this post with your apparent enthusiasm for Camelot unchained which doesn’t have ANY pve. Thoughts?

  • The lack of PvE from Camelot Unchained is probably one of the more dangerous departures from what worked in DAOC. I dont think that CSE has much choice though – including some half assed version of PvE won’t cut it and I doubt they have the resources and time to add a polished high quality PvE experience that would actually fit a modern RVR focused game like Camelot Unchained (even though PvE may have been important in DAOC, there is no recipe for what type of PvE would work 15 years later…). In short – it probably is the best we can hope for…

  • @Jpic: I think I like EverQuest more than DAoC for a ‘go back to’ game. I can play the EQ Emulator but not the DAoC one because i think EQ’s PvE has held up for me more. I like EQ PvE more. I like many things about EQ more.

    @Baba Black Sheep: I have, from the start, been skeptical of CU’s lack of PvE. I’m not sure how they’ll manage to provide a full experience without the PvE. I think they’re focusing hard on the ‘building’ side which in a skewed way could be sorta PvE’sih? They also have a heavy focus on crafting/gathering. It’ll be a real challenge for them.

    @Argorius: Yep. Gotta agree.

    @SynCaine: Although I personally enjoyed PvE, I didn’t base this post at all around it being great. This post was clearly about DAoC being PvP relying HEAVILY on and even being centered around their PvE gameplay. In fact, PvE pre-ToA was really unfinished early on.

    @Rodalpho: Even people who hated DAoC PvE (which was atrocious post TA) can’t deny the game was centered around it. Again, this post says nothing of it being great, only that it was integral.

  • I agree with you about eqs pve. I wish I could get past the dated graphics and playing on a “sorta” legal server.

  • I remember some fins groups lasting all weekend with members rotating in and out. We kept a list of who was waiting and would always want a Druid and/or Warden. Good times!

  • I think you’re missing or at best scratching the main point that made the DAoC PvP raiding better than in all other games.

    You would get passive boni for a group of people for holding a structure (be that relic boni, DF or guild rp/dmg boni for claiming a keep) instead of individual boni for taking a structure, which only encourages circle raiding and PvE for PvP rewards. (I’m looking at you, WAR.) This is so much superior on so many levels…

    Similarly while the leveling was a terrible grind of sitting at the same spot, pressing one button and not being challenged at all for hours upon hours, it was still better than WoW-like quest grinding, because it highly encouraged group play and social interaction instead of punishing groups. (Doing a collecting quest with a group of five people where everyone needs 10 of an item of which exactly 10 spawn… on a five minute timer… so much fun…)

    Powerleveling and the rather short time to being RvR ready (pre ToA) also meant you could basically skip the horrible PvE for new RvR chars.

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