There and Back Again: The Future of PvP

When I was younger I remember sitting around my friends basement, eyes glued to my friend’s huge cathode-ray tube television set, controller in hand, staring intently into the upper right hand corner of the screen. Periodically, I’d glance to one of the other corners, though this tactic was frowned down upon as you would be able to discern your enemy’s location. The trash talk was thrown like candy from an Independence Day float, and the pizza and Mountain Dew seemed to never end.


This was my first foray into the world of PvP gaming, and man was it sweet. The feeling of trouncing your best friends into a James Bond-approved submission, showing almost superhuman reflexes and coordination necessary to end up on the top of the PvP rankings.

Compared to today and the plethora of MMOs I play, I could really care less about PvP. What the heck changed?!

It all comes down to gear. Equipment. Virtual swords and armor.

When I first started playing World of Warcraft, I remember when they first introduced the battlegrounds. Areas set aside with objectives to capture or defend, with or against your fellow man. Finally, in a setting that wasn’t Terran Mill and Southshore we could show up those Alliance kiddies in proper Horde fashion! I was excited the first time I jumped into a PvP game… and I was dead in seconds. Huh? It ended up being that I was too low level. So, looking at the way PvP was set up, I needed to come back when my level ended in a “9” in order to really compete. Level 19, 29, 39, etc. In the level 20 – 29 range, if you weren’t level 29, you were useless. It wasn’t even worth trying as the chances of making a contribution were slim to none.

At level cap, it was slightly different. Everyone was the same level and had the same advantage… but not quite. Those who had the time to raid three or four nights a week would be wearing armor that was nigh impenetrable, or wielding weapons that would stop you in your tracks. Those who played PvP more got better and better gear. It got to such a point that it seemed entirely futile. If you weren’t the right level, you were at a disadvantage. If you were at the right level, but didn’t have the gear, you were at a disadvantage. So, then, what is the point of even playing PvP if you have to be beaten down for 200 matches just to finally get the tokens needed to compete?

That sounds… fun?

The level of time and punishment needed to obtain even a semblance of equal footing just looked more and more insurmountable. So in today’s MMOs, I don’t even bother. I’m not a raider, so I’ll probably never see the best items needed, and I’m not willing to be teabagged over and over again just to finally be on the same level. So for this reason PvP, for me and a lot of other gamers, is pointless.

However, the times are changing…

On the Rift forums, it was announced that Trion is testing the waters of more competitive PvP that is based on equal stats. You want to win? There are no advantages. You need to outperform your opponents with skill and tactics. Their motive for switching to such a format could be the pending release of Guild Wars 2. PvP in the original Guild Wars was very skill based. Teams, with coordinated skill combinations, would compete with the same resources. If you went into PvP at level 2, you were bumped up to the max level. Those who acquired more skills obviously performed better, but that’s just because their toolset  was more diverse. The number of skills you could use were still equal. PvP in Guild Wars 2 will be a very similar style.

So if you take away that grinding of gear or tokens needed to PvP in the first place and put everyone on equal footing, just like in the style of Goldeneye, PvP becomes a lot more fun. It feels like Guild Wars 2, and now Rift trying it out, are showing they don’t just want PvP to be something for the small population elite. They’re taking a page from the shooter genre and showing that they want it to be enjoyed by everyone.

Those who are organized and good at PvP will still dominate and those who were just relying on overpowering gear will be humbled. This may be the change needed to bring MMO PvP back to being a fun part of gameplay for many. I know I’ll be giving it another shot.

\\ Ocho


3 thoughts on “There and Back Again: The Future of PvP

  1. I’m looking forward to GW2 PVP as well… I have a short attention span and could never get so devoted to PVP in one game to get good enough to really matter. That being said, from what I’ve played I can really see myself getting lost in some WvW really quickly.

  2. It’s flatly absurd that MMO devs have taken this long to understand this. PvP should be about player skill, not gear.

    I welcome the new (old) PvP regime.

    Incidentally, I’m very interested in MechWarrior Online and MechWarrior Tactics, both PvP-only games, both designed to be balanced. Frozen Synapse is really good, too. MMO PvP is just so… broken.

  3. I think it will take a long time for the paradigm to shift towards a gear free pvp future, depending on how well GW2 does of course. There will be a long period of learning again as to what works best and how to keep that sense of progression going without completely breaking the mold, personally I think they should take a page from the average manshoot and bring in a greater use of unlocks.
    It’s funny that rift is doing that now as I was practically screaming it at them for months back like a year ago when rank * completely broke PvP.

    There is one problem with all of this, even though the no gear approach can work perfectly well in the instanced environment where the developers have complete control it still leaves the Open world environment as a bit of a clusterF. The solution to that issue is a long way of although GW2 is leading the way again with there automatic scaling of players based on zone levels.

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