Thursday, August 28, 2008

Player versus player and MMO games

I wrote this for a forum post over at Gamers with Jobs, but it kinda sums up some of my thoughts on WAR. So I'll re-post it here for posterity.

This is going to seem really out there, but I think one of my favorite PvP (or RvR) experiences was Planetside. I played some DAoC, a good bit of WoW, and I participated in the WAR Preview weekend. None of those three games really came close to having a real advantage to being in a coordinated squad like Planetside did. In Planetside, my outfit had SOPs for tower taking, defense, base breaching, etc. Teamwork was exceptionall important and it made a small group of people extremely effective, even in the face of overwhelming enemy opponents.

I keep thinking about that experience and trying to figure out where DAoC, WoW, and WAR are lacking. This is all just high level theory crafting about WAR and what I think is the ideal MMOPvP game.

1) Outside of some minor differences, all three realms in Planetside had the same basic equipment and gear. Your level did not limit your ability to use something, it just limited the breadth of versatility of your soldier in the field. Basically, an almost level playing field. WAR seems to get closer, and time will tell if this happens one it is released. In Planetside, you would not run into someone who was stronger, faster, and better than you in every way. This is where I see WoW really falling down with PvP.

2) The battlefields are a mess. WoW and WAR both seem to have the idea that the best place to fight is a huge, open field. In Planetside, fighting in a skirmish in the open was a huge no-no. Fight on objectives. Don't fight in the roads. And a large part of this problem is that WoW, WAR, and DAoC don't offer transportation that allows for maneuvering. In Planetside, we often had lots of air positioning to get drop-ships to a base, or complex cat-and-mouse driving of troop carriers to get people to the objectives. I feel like WAR, WoW, etc, are all just a huge open field that everyone runs on. This means there is an advantage to being a loner and hoping you don't get picked off. There is no reason to band together because people will just focus fire you down. I guess it's like fighting in pre-revolutionary war days where everyone just runs at each other.

3) There's no tactical or strategic tools in the game. As a squad leader in Planetside, I could set waypoints, and give people some basic instructions like "Take WP1 tower!" and people would do it (if you were in a coordinated group). You can tell people to do things in WoW, but seeing a huge waypoint on your screen is much better than "Take RH!" "What's RH?" "Relief Hut!" "Where is that?" Even in PUGs, it was possible to do some basic things with the tools that helped people out. It wasn't perfect, but it made things easier.

4) Planetside did not have the concept of tanks (ok, they had tanks, but they were tank tanks, with treads and stuff). Everything was about suppression and damage. I realize WoW is a PvE game first and foremost. I *love* PvE. But WAR seems to have tanks as some kind of vestigial PvE idea. It's a step in the right direction, I think. It just needs to go a little farther. Collision is a huge help here since in Planetside, it meant having a vehicle between you and a bad guy was saving your but. I just wish people between me and a caster in WAR would soak the hits and not just pass through them harmlessly. DOH! If I can't hide behind the big guy with all the health, what good is he?

5) Population controls. WAR doesn't seem to have them. In Planetside, each "island" had pop-locks to keep the ratio of enemies in check for good fights. Sometimes it sucked, but it mean that one side having the lions share of players did not lead to an imbalance. Some people have told me that WAR won't repeat the Alliance/Horde issue of PvP imbalance, but I get the impression that most people who are really looking to fight seriously will go with Destruction. Maybe I am wrong, but if I am not, I don't understand how the game will force more fair fights in the non-scenario style RvR and PvP.

To sum up, I really like the idea of a PvP centric game. But, I feel like organization and good teamwork will not be a huge influence in WAR, based on the RvR I did over the weekend in the elf area. I'm willing to admit I don't know as much about WAR as I do about Planetside. It would be nice to be wrong.

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