Syncaine had a really great post earlier today. We don’t tend to agree with one another much at all but his post on PvP Hotspots and what creates a good PvP atmosphere actually agrees pretty closely with mine, though with a slightly different view of the whole process.
I can’t speak for Syncaine obviously, only for what I take from his blog. He brings up the fact that you can’t expect people to just PvP in an MMO. It’s hard to put a finger on the exact reason people will spend 100 hours or more PvPing just for fun in their favorite shooter, and yet if given the exact same offer in an MMO they refuse to take it. Maybe it’s got something to do with the greater skill involved in FPSs, or perhaps it’s the early knowledge that all you are getting is PvP.
The fact remains that players in MMOs need something to encourage them to PvP. A one time reward like a sword or piece of armor isn’t going to do the trick either. You need a reason for those people to fight and keep fighting. That, I believe, is where PvE comes in.
Several companies have come out with MMOs focused on PvP heavily. Wanting to make a great PvP game is a noble goal, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that if you want your PvP game to be a success then you need to focus heavily on PvE. Many won’t believe me at first, but I think that most of us older gamers, gamers raised on Ultima Online and Dark Age of Camelot, would.
In Ultima Online the biggest PvP hotspots were areas with rare gathering nodes, and dungeons. Both of these were very PvE oriented areas with PvE oriented people, invaded by Griefers who were looking to destroy the easy prey and get a ton of gathered materials very easily. This led to other PvPers, the ones that actually wanted to PvP and not just screw with helpless people. These new PvPers were attracted to the area not for the loot from the miners and dungeon delvers, but from the bodies of the Griefers. The Griefers got mad that their free loot was suddenly harder to get, and in their anger they began to fight back. But the easy marks didn’t stop coming, because that is where the goods were. The Griefers kept coming thanks to the supply of prey, and the PvPers kept coming for two reasons: 1) to have fun in PvP, and 2) to defend the easy marks who were bringing ores and rare weapons and magic components to town to trade, which resupplied both the Griefers AND the PvPers.
Jump forward to Dark Age of Camelot and one of the most popular PvP areas was Darkness Falls. Like Syncaine says: “the original and constant driver for that area had nothing to do with PvP, but rather the great and varied (lvl wise) PvE…”.
When games like Warhammer tried to make a great PvP game, while leaving their PvE content as a hollow shell and separating it from the PvP, they kicked themselves before they even launched. Darkfall (speaking from an outsiders perspective) seems to have been a victim of the same thing until it’s recent expansion. They tried to create PvP hotspots by making locations to conquer, and due to their location they were desired, but they didn’t draw the PvEers in the numbers that were necessary. Once they made a PvE hotspot that was wildly desired by everyone, the PvPers came on their own.
Of course Darkfall has the problem that it never attracted PvEers in very large numbers. The majority of Darkfall players are lovers of hardcore FFA PvP. The game practically has a sign on the box saying “if you don’t want to PvP stay away.” The attitude of it’s average player doesn’t help either. In truth it just might make their entire game more enjoyable if they encourage carebears to join and get hooked on the gameplay, then get hooked on the FFA aspect. Don’t tell them that though, the very notion of a carebear enjoying their game makes them spit blood.