8 May 2012

Just Listen You Idiots!

It doesn’t matter what MMO I talk about, I’ve only ever played two thirds of the game. It doesn’t matter if it’s World of Warcraft, RIFT, Star Wars: The Old Republic or any of the countless other worlds I’ve kicked around in. Whatever the game, I’ve avoided PvP completely.

I’ve not always been like this: back in the vanilla days of WoW I’d play my hideously overpowered mage and have huge amounts of fun. Looking back, I think that my interest in PvP plummeted when all these special rules and exceptions came in. Resistance gear. Diminishing returns. Trinket rules. Yadda yadda. It went from being one game to three, all forced together like three unruly brothers.

Which is why the last few months have been incredibly strange. On the one hand there’s Guild Wars 2, where I’ve spent huge chunks of my beta time in World versus World (versus World versus World… etc). And then there’s Warhammer Online: Wrath of Heroes, a game that I’d describe as MMO PvP without all the MMO crap that goes along with it.

If you’ve been watching the MMO blogsphere, reading my articles on ZAM or generally following Kill Ten Rats, you’ll have noticed that a large chunk of Guild Wars 2 is made up of what I’d describe as “inclusive” PVP. There’s no vital talent spec or special gear to succeed in WvW. Just dive in and away you go. Competitive PVP is still there in smaller battleground matches, but for big mosh fights you can go with what you have.

I first played Warhammer Online: Wrath of Heroes three weeks ago, but since then I’ve been playing the game almost every day. By putting a 15 minute time limit on matches and stripping down the concept of arena PvP, there’s a streamlined route to getting into the game. No prep-work beyond a five minute tutorial, no gearing up, no talents to choose. Just in and fight.

The strange thing is, my niche in PvP is completely different from my DPS spellcaster roots. In Guild Wars 2 WvW I’m more comfortable playing a Guardian, with the ability to take a bit more damage but still have some spellcasting. In Wrath of Heroes I tend to stick to a tiny healer named Glowgob and a tiny Skaven rogue called Ikkrik. They’re all loaded with survivability, can deal a bit of damage and hold their own against most others.

Interestingly, both games are also microtransaction funded. While I’ve dabbled in the paid pool for both games, it’s not something that’s completely necessary. What I would say is that it helps you get where you want to go quickly. With Wrath of Heroes, you can either unlock a hero by playing hours of matches to earn gold, or you can pay cash and unlock it instantly. After facing the prospect of having to grind for PvP gear in full-fat MMOs, you can guess which route I took.

That said, there’s one way in which all forms of PvP are still absolutely identical, and that’s that people are generally mindless idiots that don’t listen. They don’t fight near the flag/artifact/objective/thing. They don’t focus their damage on a single target. They don’t stick together in a group and they certainly don’t listen to tactics or strategy. As a result, the easiest way to decimate your opposition is to get organised, communicate well and generally kick ass. It’s the kind of stuff that Gnomeageddon and Cynwise have been preaching for years, and it still works.

What I find slightly harder to understand is why there’s this desperate desire to push the eSports agenda into large scale MMOs, as if it’s somehow going to translate to the average joe having an occasional arena match. Why not just build a dedicated PvP game that’s intended to pull in the heavyweight eSports players but is also accessible to newcomers, and leave MMOs as the slightly unbalanced but largely fun thing that they traditionally were?

While I love the PvP action I’m now getting from my games, I don’t think that they’ll encourage me to play PvP arenas in MMOs. The PvP game is too divorced from the PvE experience to be meaningful for me any more. With other games able to provide a more accessible and rewarding PvP experience without any overly cumbersome barrier to entry, I’m already sold on where to spend my time.

(Note: Inspired by Gordon’s rant about why he doesn’t like raiding)

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