It seems the main problem with every single new MMO of late is that they quickly, far more quickly than the developers imagine, run out of content to keep the players entertained. Even on release the available content is burnt through within weeks, and maybe a month or two for the regular payers with ongoing content updates merely filling the gap for a time. It’s a problem of the industry, although not so much for players who have begun merely shifting between more MMO’s more often.
It’s a cycle that has continued for some time now and that seems to be getting worse with more MMO’s and more time. The hype cycle for new MMO’s last less and those playing continue to lament the current direction of them. Yet, in a way I think PvP is the answer. There is something about PvP in itself, and the content created for it that has remarkable longevity compared to other types. Just looking at many games throughout the genre, with little to sometimes no updates the same mechanics, and the same maps can keep people playing for many months. Now many people don’t enjoy PvP and I don’t mean PvP by itself is some sort of saviour to the industry but more the type of MMO design that revolves around open world PvP is.
It is a dramatic shift but one in which moves away from the linear design we’re used to, one of throwaway content and increasing gear grinds to something more resembling an economy. An economy of players, professions, terrain, market and mechanics all working together around each other. It’s a design choice away from quests and levelling into one more involved with the world itself. The sandbox. I hear many challenging how PvP encroaches on this domain whenever an mmo try’s to move more into this virtual world style of play but I don’t see any way around it.
You see, without the regularity and unpredictability of PvP all a sandbox becomes is a game of increasing wealth. a massively multi-player version of cookie clicker. Just keep a regularity in actions, enough to overcome whatever design they have to simulate loss and you amass vast sums of whatever. PvP creates the demand in this equation, through loss it creates the need of new items and gear that further promotes and grows the market. This means more need, and content for crafters and gathers, those that buff and even those involved in transport of goods. PvE type content has that defined end point, eventually the demand for something will finish once people have attained enough of it. For PvP it is far more a zero sum game. continuing on with little maintenance.
There is also something in PvP that shifts the focus away from solely being on the individual. In the PvE occasion, even though you may need to sometimes collaborate with others it revolves around gaining individual wealth. Gaining assets, increasing inventory and expanding until you eventually reach a climate. With PvP this can still be possible but it is much harder to achieve and so it brings the focus more towards groups. Everything is easier and safer in this design and things like territory control can only be achieved with larger and larger groups. It creates small and large conflict and content around a variety of spaces for being to engage in or profit from, whether or not they actually do any fighting. It’s also that with PvP everyone can be a part of it and systems around it create content that is far more accessible to different skill levels, character levels and group size.
The content it creates in the open world for itself is also incredibly diverse, it can happen anywhere and has many different formats. It’s raiding enemy territory in rift, or guarding popular path in Tera, fighting over resource spawns in Darkfall and many other content styles out there. The thing is, it’s all there for the players to engage in and not ignore. In this circumstance I always find PvP the more important content, it might not give experience, or have quest lootz but it gets you engaged with the people and the world far more. Even griefing, a very contested part creates a wealth of content, its immediate action for the player, it can mobilise other people from guilds and elsewhere to stop it, it encourages people to group up and overcome it. It can and does create long running rivalries that result in wars across many. And that’s the thing with PvP, a simple action can create so much content.
PvP is a part of creating a world. A world that contains a variety of players of different interests and whether or not people actively engages with it continuously creates content for them.