A Place for PvP

I’ve been playing LotRO as my main MMO for a few months now whose main PvP is monster play. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that PvP in LotRO is pretty well borked. It just feels like an afterthought; like they got done with a PvE game and realized they’d left out some important addition they couldn’t be without.

The result, I think, doesn’t live up to the spirit of the rest of the game. I mean, come on; two of the three monster races (orcs, spiders, and wolves) don’t even wear armor. And they’re wildlife. Wildlife. You know, that stuff you spend 98% of your hero career slaughtering? That’s just what I want to be when I grow up.

Anyways, the whole experience got me thinking about PvP and the key things I think are important for it to be included in a game.

Included from the ground up

It’s hard to hide afterthought PvP. It shows. If your game has PvP, it needs to be done right or not at all. That means fleshing out every aspect of the system and making it as satisfying and rewarding as the rest of your game. If any part of it is below the standard of your PvE, people will deride it as tacked on. In this day and age, whether or not to include PvP should be a drawing board decision before any line of code is ever written.


I’ve played both PvP and PvE centric MMOs, and games that try to blend both tend to come off cold. I’m not saying it can’t be done, just that it’s probably better not to try unless you’re going to be a PvP game. Any MMO that’s PvP-centered is also niche too, remember, and, face it, two faction open-world warfare goes stale quick.

The answer is to separate PvP off into it’s own area of the game– at least most of the time. It works best in the form of battlegrounds and, yes, arenas, and should always be optional if you have a strong PvE element in-game too. That’s not to say it shouldn’t be in the open-world in areas. It can be, and add a lot of fun to a zone, I might add, but players should never be forced into participating. Incentivize it and they will come.

And, most importantly, PvP balancing should always be separate from PvE balancing. There’s nothing more frustrating than seeing one of your favorite skills changed for a playstyle you don’t even like. Keep each to its own and you’ll be fine.

Meaningful, for those that want to play

Players that prefer PvP should be thusly rewarded. Give them lots of rewards but also incentivize success over loss. Here’s the thing though, I don’t think buffs will do it, Warhammer. I never found some temporary buff to be that exciting. Give me gear. Make me look cool. Give me mounts, and pets, and vanity items. Really, give me something I can actually hold and want to hold.

That being said, should the benefits of PvP bleed through to PvE? I think that’s okay, so long as it doesn’t pressure anyone into changing their playstyle. There’s a difference between an incentive and an unfair advantage (or even a disadvantage), and that’s a lesson developers are still learning. PvP should also give experience with every kill, by simple logic. If killing mindless AI monsters gives experience, why not the decked out player?

Another lesson: buffs that benefit the whole realm equal to myself do not make me want to earn them. Where’s the fun in that? I mean, sure, it’s cool to help out your fellow player, but the selfish bastard in me wants a little something extra, if you know what I mean. Give the realm a 5% experience gain and me 10% for winning that round. And some phat lewt.

Be this guy


This is by far the most important. Loot based PvP fails, every time. Why should I bother PvP’ing, when someone who’s done it since the beginning will roll me every single time? Even new players should have a chance at winning and old players should still have to consider who they’re rushing.

Take the Call of Duty approach: you start of deadly and get slightly deadlier the longer you play; you get better at a certain style or class. Not only that, but even when you’re losing, it makes you feel like you’re winning by Stream of Rewards style play. That’s a recipe for addicting PvP, as box sales show.

Overall, I think these are probably the most important parts of PvP an MMO needs to address. There are lots of niche PvP MMOs that do it great and are a lot of fun. But there’s also a couple half-baked PvE games that shove it into the background and shuffle people towards it. That’s not good planning and, really, lacks in the fun department.

And PvP can definitely be fun. Now, I need to go work on my spider in LotRO. I have this really cool web in a barn this pig Wilbur is going to love

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