The
concept of PvP in MMOs has undergone nearly as many changes as
there are titles boasting the feature as a primary element of gameplay.
Player driven conflict remains a staple across a multitude ofMMOs, and
for many fans its inclusion will be a make or break scenario the moment
developers begin to reveal sizable chunks of information about their
upcoming MMO masterpiece in the making. But once you begin to dig
beneath the surface of all the clamoring for classless advancement
systems, permadeath servers and lootable player corpses,
there’s typically the telltale silence of a community that
demands that PvP content be at the forefront of the design decision
process but rarely voices what kind of wrapper they’d like to
contain the central conflict.


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That said, PvP has been has been at the heart of one of the longest
running nerd-rage debates within the industry for years. Some believe
that for an MMO to be successful, meaningful PvP content is an absolute
must, while still others could care less if a game has any PvP content
at all. There are even those who feel PvP cheapens what might otherwise
be a solid PvE experience. At the end of the day each of those
perspectives carries the same weight, but what ultimately matters is
whether or not a given virtual world offers a compelling enough gaming
experience to sustain a healthy player population over a longer period
within the structure of its business model.



There are numerous trends that may point towards what may or may not
work for PvP-centric MMOs. Looking at the sci-fi genre in particular, a
growing number of games dot the starry PvP skies. While only time will
tell if any of them contain enough of the right mystical components or
technological gadgetry to propel them into the stratosphere of success,
there does seem to be a string of strong efforts being made to steer
things in that direction. Upcoming titles such as href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/926"
target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">Global Agenda,
href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/806"
target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">Earthrise
and href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/177"
target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">Fallen Earth
may very well shape the new face of sci-fi MMOs thanks to a more
lore-driven, factional approach to PvP.



But before jumping headlong into what this symbiotic bond between PvE
and PvP might mean for the genre moving forward, it’s worth
taking a look at what type of hamsters have driven the PvP wheels till
now, which elements have worked and which seemingly missed their mark
entirely.



The
Ghost of PvP Past




Quickly closing in on its 4th anniversary, the highly successful href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/47"
target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">Guild Wars
franchise is one example of a PvP-centric title that, at its core,
delivers meaningful conflict without a necessary link to any specific
PvE goals or objectives. Indeed, the second installment of the series, style="font-style: italic;">Guild Wars: Factions,
attempted to bridge the PvP/PvE gap to mixed results – a
concept that was notably absent from later installments of the series
due to lower player participation than may have been expected from the
experiment. The battle lines still fluctuate momentarily as new groups
of players intent on obtaining a set of elite Kurzic or Luxon armor
make their way to the later mission arcs in the game, but on the whole
the PvP action still resides primarily in the Battle Isles.


Dropping the PvE backdrop altogether has proven to be equally
disastrous in some cases, a tragic tale href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/97"
target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">Fury
could tell quite well. True, the title’s demise could easily
be attributed to any number of core gameplay considerations, but at the
end of the day it’s equally possible that beyond the
leaderboards, reward vendors and  transitory perks, a
lore-driven framework is necessary as a means to drive continual
conflict ever forward. After all, when the drums of war all sound the
same there’s no way to distinguish one side of a conflict
from the other. Consider for a moment how many seasons the NFL would
survive if the decision was made to form one giant pool of players with
teams being made up on the spot by a random generator as participants
entered the stadium. Sure, fan favorites would naturally emerge, but
the entire notion of professional football would lose its luster the
moment you erase the concept of home town teams or team colors.


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In many ways, href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/eve/" target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">EVE Online
stands as a lone beacon in the PvP ocean – not only within
the sci-fi genre, but across the MMO industry as a whole. Players may
make an initial racial selection that dictates certain specifics in
terms of which frigates you’ll first undock from your local
station, but the longer you play the more those defining lines begin to
blur. Eventually you have Amarr piloting Gallentine cruisers thanks to
a skill system that allows players a high degree of control over their
character’s destiny that no other current MMO can touch. As a
result, this sandbox freedom is a key element in EVE’s
continued success, and serves the function of providing a loose
framework for player driven conflict to ultimately thrive.



But just dropping players into a sandbox and saying “have at
it” is still no guarantee that players will flock to an MMO
space simply to engage in some brilliant PvP. Quick fix PvP still
reigns supreme on consoles and PCs for games notably lacking a monthly
subscription, but once you attach a recurring fee there needs to be an
overarching goal or set of objectives to keep players embroiled over a
longer period. In the case of EVE, the elegant solution of allowing
players to control the market, the means of production and eventually
entire sectors of space insures that the central conflict will span
several months if not years. Just take a gander at some of href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/features/mittani"
target="_blank">The Mittani’s excellent
editorials on the subject if you
require any proof in your PvP pudding.



2008 was to be the year when PvP would redefine the fantasy genre in
meaningful ways thanks to the one-two punch of href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/aoc" target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">Age of Conan
and href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/war" target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">Warhammer Online: Age of
Reckoning
brought to us by industry heavyweights Funcom and Mythic Entertainment
respectively. Somewhere along the lines though, those expectations fell
a bit short, proving once again that compelling PvP content alone
simply isn’t enough to sustain high numbers over a longer
period. Even at its peak, AoC’s instanced PvP maps saw little
use due to a lack of incentives to draw players in; an interesting turn
of events considering the overall success of the PvP preview weekend
prior to the game’s official launch in which the smaller PvP
maps were the only content available to players.



The war still rages in WAR, but not to the degree many had hoped back
when the pre-launch hype machine was working double time. Again, many
players point to a lack of depth to the PvE aspects of the game as a
means to drive forward the PvP conflict as the silver bullet
that’s grazed the side of Mythic’s latest MMO beast
– not a fatal wound to be sure, but one that certainly left a
scar where servers bursting at the seams due to high player populations
once proudly stood.



Above are tales that the Ghost of PvP Past will no doubt retell
countless times as the industry marches ever forward. Since my own
particular brand of pondering centers on concepts best left to
discussions with the Mechanized Construct of PvP Future, it’s
time to turn our eyes towards what could very well be the new face of
PvP in MMOs, looking specifically at some of the ways upcoming titles style="font-style: italic;">Earthrise,
Global
Agenda
and style="font-style: italic;">Fallen Earth
plan on storming the industry’s PvP beaches in 2009.


The
Mechanized Construct of PvP Future




The central conflict in style="font-style: italic;">Global Agenda
is based on the simple notion that, after the planet has been ravaged
by  World War III, natural resources have become so scarce
that various agencies have sprung up to vie for their control. While
this premise tends to be a common theme in many post-apocalyptic sci-fi
worlds, the approach taken by Hi-Rez Studios is one in which PvP
gameplay has the potential to thrive in ways similar to
what’s currently seen in EVE. While combat takes place on the
ground in Global
Agenda
rather than the void
of space and has a much more action based focus, the title boasts a
high degree of espionage, political intrigue and skirmish warfare; each
of these elements being key components in EVE’s continued
success.


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The main focus of style="font-style: italic;">Global Agenda
will naturally be on player driven conflict, but it’s
interesting to note that there is also a major
NPC faction known as the
Commonwealth which adds a layer of dystopian disquiet as a compelling
backdrop. In fact, players will start out as a fugitive on the run from
the Commonwealth, forming agencies with other players and eventually
larger alliances. It remains to be seen how influential the
Commonwealth will ultimately be in the direction player-run agencies
take or how deep those interactions might run, but in terms of lore,
you really can’t beat a nice dystopia!



While Global
Agenda
will offer a bit more
overall RPG structure, style="font-style: italic;">Earthrise
promises a similar centralized conflict but boasts one of the most
often requested features for a PvP-centric MMO in the form of a
classless advancement system. Faction will also play a leading role, as
players will choose whom they want to fight for; an established order
that’s attempting to retain full control over the cloning
process (one of the most significant technological advancements in the
lore of Earthrise),
a revolutionary underground that hopes to wrestle control of key
technologies and resources from an oppressive government or if such
petty squabbles don’t concern you in the slightest
there’s always the option to live a life of complete anarchy
as a criminal.



The struggle for resources has proven to be a compelling gameplay
mechanic in its own rights previously, but by adding in the additional
structural element of clearly defined factions for players to side
with, the developers at Masthead Studios could very well craft a sci-fi
MMO that offers the best of both worlds. Awesome PvP is…
well, awesome.
But marry that to a rich, lore driven PvE environment and suddenly you
have the potential for a truly epic MMO experience.



Following in a similar vein, faction could quite likely be one of the
most defining elements in style="font-style: italic;">Fallen Earth,
another post-apocalyptic MMO currently in development that will no
doubt change the way we look at the genre by the time 2009 draws to a
close. In last week’s episode of href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/features/final-frontier"
target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">MMOs, the Final Frontier
I took href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/66726" target="_blank">a
closer look at the overall
setting for style="font-style: italic;">Fallen Earth.
The notion that a dirty baseball bat is a viable melee weapon certainly
makes sense in a world where much of the technology we currently take
for granted has been wiped out along with the bulk of the
Earth’s population. Players will ultimately take up arms for
one of six main NPC factions, which should hopefully serve the dual
function of immersing you in the lore of style="font-style: italic;">Fallen Earth
while also providing an intriguing reason to partake in PvP conflict,
above and beyond the notion that combat will be engaging in its own
rights.



 Captain’s
Holographic Cheese Log: Stardate 4190.9




It will be interesting to see which flavor of post-apocalyptic PvP
players opt to pursue once style="font-style: italic;">Global Agenda,
Earthrise
and Fallen
Earth
have been unleashed on
the masses. While there are obvious similarities, each title offers
some unique approaches to the overall framework and setting for PvP
conflicts to take place. By utilizing elements of PvE lore as a means
of providing more structure to PvP gameplay, each of these sci-fi MMOs
stands on the verge of presenting a new way of looking at the genre.



Looking forward, are there aspects of the lore for these upcoming
PvP-centric MMOs that you feel will potentially help or hinder their
success? Can PvE and PvP happily co-exist, or should the two remain
mutually exclusive? Be sure to let us know in our forums, or you can
always feel free to send a virtual carrier pigeon to href="mailto:[email protected]">my inbox! 
Until next time dear readers, this is Captain Sardu signing off!


To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our EVE Online Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 13, 2016

About The Author

Sardu 1
Reuben "Sardu" Waters has been writing professionally about the MMOG industry for eight years, and is the current Editor-in-Chief and Director of Development for Ten Ton Hammer.

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