Lately there has been a great deal of discussion regarding how PvP affects PvE in MMOs. Anyone who has read Epic Slant for a while knows I’m pretty passionate about the subject. I’ve been quiet on the subject for a while but these great blog posts and the fact that my beloved SOE is trying to cram battlegrounds into my equally beloved EverQuest II has me a little hot. I’m not sure who wanted battlegrounds in EQ2 but regardless of who wanted them we most certainly didn’t need them. Nobody does in fact.
Battlegrounds are basically the lowest form of PvP in an MMO. They’re brought out and touted as a valuable feature but in reality they do far more harm than good in most products. In a game like Warhammer Online they work because they offer players an opportunity to escape the open world zerg-fest but still advance the core of the game. In a PvE game, however, they’re very detrimental.
When it comes to a PvE focused product like World of Warcraft or Everquest II battlegrounds really aren’t all that useful. They’re set up in these two games as an entirely separate product. Characters are pulled out of the world, breaking immersion, and thrown into a can with other unfortunate souls and forced to battle over what is essentially nothing. The outcome has no effect on the world. These battles are meaningless. You fight and die in repetitive competitions for tokens.
Tokens purchase gear that has been designed specifically for PvP (which I’m glad for but it still is necessary to note for my point). This gear is usually less effective in PvE content than gear you’d receive from doing that content. This does more to create a very clear separation between the PvE and PvP version of the MMO you’re playing. No real value is added to the opposite side of the game. Players simply have one more thing to do.
I’ve said in the past that having one more thing to do does not necessarily add value to an MMO. This is especially true when that activity is far from the core of the product. Battlegrounds are largely an excuse for the lack of content because a developer can suggest that they offer a different experience every time. Anyone who has done the same battleground for the 20th time can attest that there are subtle differences but each experience is largely a slight variation of the prior outings. Even when fighting a “smarter opponent” you are still limited by the random engine, spell lists, and gear. Fighting one ranger will be similar to fighting another.
For PvP to be successful and not a tack on feature it needs to be integrated throughout the world from the onset like it has been in successful titles in the past. Games like UO and DAoC both had a very strong PvE experience coupled with supplementary PvP. Characters could move seamlessly from one form of play to the other without losing immersion or being taken away from the primary game. These implementations were very successful but are frequently not replicated, which is interesting.
In my eyes it comes down to one simple fact. If you have to build a huge wall between your PvE and PvP so that characters are literally transported from one game to the other and back, you don’t need both experiences. The money spent on those systems would be better spent focusing on the primary aspect of the MMO. If we’re going to keep the vE and vP separate lets do it by MMO. Do we really convert a lot of accounts from the minority feature set players to warrant supporting them? As a PvE focused player I know I got out of Warhammer Online pretty quick once I figured out “something for everyone” actually meant, “we’re going to put an afterthought of PvE in and that should be enough for you. Go RvR!” Oh I RvR’d right into another product and I’m not the only one.