So you've read all about what makes PvP in Champions Online different than in any other MMO you've played. Now for the fun stuff: tips to help us get a leg up on the competition! We asked Champions Online PvP Designer James Laird and Producer Rob Overmeyer for some hints and strategies to help us get started on player vs. player pwnage, and they delivered in a big way... er, make that 10 big ways!
1. Power Up For PvP.
Cryptic insists they’re building Champions Online so that stats and powers are equally viable in both PvE and PvP, but some powers may be slightly more equal than others when it comes to PvP. “The might power where you rip up a chunk of ground and hurl it, that has an advantage on it that will disable travel powers,” James explained. “If you’re in PvP and someone’s flying, you can literally throw a rock at them and knock them out of the air, then clobber them when they land... I keep comparing it to deck building in a CCG, where you find a few good combos and then kind of fill in the gaps.”
Rob continued the thought: “It’ll be interesting to see how the community goes through the powers options. There are no classes, so it’s not like ‘just roll feral’ or ‘just go ranged DPS.’ So there will be those builds, like ‘I just picked the three powers that maximize my crit, and I have an anti-fly and a self-heal, and I’m self-sustatining.’ That’s as far as powers.
2. ...But Don’t Sweat the Stats
Statistics provide the baseline for the effectiveness of your powers and the survivability of your character, but the devs urge you to pick your powers first, then mold your stats to suit. According to Rob: “As far as stats, I think players’ preferences and the builds that they pick will determine what stats become PvP or PvE stats. The guy who likes to throw big chunks of rock; if he has that power and he has strength as his primary stat, he’s going to do more damage and knock people back farther.” And with new UTC arenas like the lava-based one soon to be revealed in beta, knockback distance could potentially be devastating.
“From the stat perspective, it’s less effective to concentrate, like, min-max, your two primary stats It’s good to fill out more of your other stats - you get more benefits and a broader spectrum of damage overall.”
Champions Online PvP provides for plenty of classic matchups. Red vs. Blue, for example.
3. Start Small
Cryptic introduces PvP through duels and Ultimate Tournament of Champions (arena-style team deathmatch) early in the game for a reason: BASH (free for all PvP starting at level 21) and Apocalypse layer objectives on top of straight PvP, so these formats naturally come later. For example, consoles summon reinforcements in the first Apocalypse tier, so a team that communicates and summons more sigs at just the right times will beat a team going full bore at deathmatch-style play. Use duels and UTC to get comfortable with your powers and roles before taking on the tougher formats, even if you start PvPing later in the game.
Keep in mind that PvP loot tends to be better at the end of each tier, rather than at the beginning. While a level 19 and a level 12 would both fight as level 20s, not only will you have more powers and power ranks at the end of the tier, your loot opportunities will be better as well. "At the low levels of a tier, you want PvE drops. At the high levels, you want PvP drops to kind of get this back and forth," James explained. "Even if you're just doing PvE, it's still worth your time to duck into PvP for some good gear."
4. The first rule of fight club is... block. And know your role(s).
As much as block increases your survivability in PvE, it's even handier in PvP, where you don’t always get to pick your battles and you certainly don’t always see the big hurt coming. James noted that if he’s suddenly drawing a bunch of player aggro, he’ll block to get out of the fight and get to a safe distance where his teammates can cover him. It stands to reason; rather than give chase, most newbie PvPers will attack whichever enemy is most convenient. James added: “When I’m playing a more offensive type of character, I’ll usually take one of the block enhancers, because I know I’m more fragile. “
Rob noted that “the really smart players will use block in conjunction with swapping roles. You can swap real quick if you need to be more defensive if there’s a lot of x type of power players in this map.” From James:
5. Don’t check your PvE knowledge at the queue.
Obviously much of what you do, offensively, defensively, and in support roles, will carry over to PvP. But Apocalypse, Champions Online’s objective-driven PvP map, is especially suited to the attentive PvEer. “PvEers are going to go in and recognize the sigs [signature characters, from the Champions lore]. If they get on the side of the hero team, they’re going to fight sigs that they’ve probably encountered already. Like Mindslayer. They’ll hopefully say, ‘I fought Mindslayer, I know what Mindslayer does, I know how to shut Mindslayer down.’ A PvEer could absolutely jump in and feel comfortable with that kind of scenario.”
James added that “a team that’s good at PvE - a raid team or a lair team - they’re also going to work well as a PvP team. You’re going to want to have different roles. You’re going to want to have healer that’s the support role and some DPS that’s the offensive roles. Those same roles translate exactly. If you take that team of five heroes and team queue for UTC or something, you’ll do well.”
6. Watch for lengthy chargeups.
PvE players know that villains and boss characters have “freems” - power tells that tell you when and what type of attack your enemy is about to make. Not so with players, but that’s no excuse. “You’re going to quickly learn that when you see the archery guy strike a pose and hold it for 3 seconds, you need to block - he has a five second chargeup that does a ton of damage,” James noted. “You will see the chargeups.”
7. Boldly fight the hold.
Holds, like any form of immobility, are frustrating. The game counsels you to “Press F to Break Hold” and it turns out to be sage advice, even if that countdown timer bar doesn’t seem to be ticking down faster. “You can hit any key, any of your attacks,” according to Rob. “It’s really misleading, but it is actually working. When you attack the holds, you’re building endurance. So right when you break free, you can lay out a big whammy attack. That would probably be a good strategy for someone with a defensive role: ‘Go ahead and hold me, now I have all my endurance, thank you!’ James added: “By the same token, there are stats that increase the effectiveness of holds. Or increase the effectiveness of holds.”
A long chargeup comes first. The big hurt comes second.
8. Melee DPS - embrace the hold.
Melee DPSers should always keep a hold handy. “A lot of holds are really useful because so many players have melee powers,” James explained, which allow you to close the distance to your enemy despite superspeed, flight, and other travel powers. “The holds may not last for long, but it’s enough for you to get in a good gauntlet chainsaw.”
9. Crowd Control makes a huge difference.. for now
Many MMOs either gimp crowd control abilities for PvP or make them all-powerful. Champions Online leans toward the latter. “Crowd control abilities are 100% useful... to a fault, I think.” But this particular hint might not stand the test of time. From James: “That’s something we’re looking at in our ongoing balance testing. Players complain it’s too effective.” But
From Rob: “We’ve all come from games where the CC war was just insane. You’re a melee DPS and what are you going to do when that other guy has 500 yard roots or mezzes or stuns... But what we can’t have is a PvP mechanic for powers and a PvE mechanic for powers. That’s death to any game. We’re continually looking at it. Right now you have a resistance buff that you get when you get held that reduces the effectiveness of the next hold applied to you. But there are holds that are charge holds and if they charge to the maximum... it’s math.”
10. Don’t forget about deployables
Deployables like gun turrets are a big part of the action in games like Team Fortress 2. Gadgets and sorcery (runes and circles in Champions Online work in much the same way, so don’t forget to deploy (or target!) these damage-dealers to be successful. “We were joking about it, but recently players have started putting together these sigil circles that buff you right over their enemy’s teleport-in locations,” Rob explained.
Thanks again to Cryptic's dynamic duo of PvP design, Rob Overmeyer and James Laird, and look for more great guides here at Champions Online @ Ten Ton Hammer!