PvP: The Content Creator

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.



15 thoughts on “PvP: The Content Creator

  1. I certainly spent more time in Huttball than anything else, including leveling in SWTOR. I had great dislike for the other 2 maps though.

    The part that bugs me about PvP is that it often is balanced against PvE. Then we get pvp-only stats, which is where all PvP has broken for me in the past, unless you have ranked PvP. This is the core reason I left SWTOR oddly.

    • A lot of people love huttball although, I never really did. just didn’t capture me… well, the pvp in swtor didn’t in general.

      I’m an opponent to separating gear, just seems silly to restrict peoples gameplay like that . both take a lot of time so it should be more accessible in both. for instanced PvP i like it like gw2, equalised with gear but giving options.
      for outside that it’s a little different, I don’t think there should be such defined power differences in the first part and also that gear shouldn’t have any restrictions.

  2. We seem to be on mostly the same page here. One bit that has crossed my mind recently (and inspired by Simcha– http://simchaandalts.wordpress.com/2014/05/17/memories-of-pvp/) is that during this conversation we’ve accepted “Hardcore FFA Sociopathy” as a sort of baseline when it is, in reality, an extreme. The vast, vast majority of PvP one may come across in a themepark world outside of instances is really rather minor. It’s often cat-and-mouse and very casual. These days corpse camping isn’t really even a thing anymore (just rez at the spirit healer if they’re camping you) and getting killed by another player isn’t often more than a little blip.

    And let’s not forget that if you announce in global chat that an enemy player is giving you grief, it’s likely you’ll have at least a few other players who think “oh, PvP! Fun!” and run to your aid. Too often I feel the dislike and movement away from PvP is a direct result of the bubbling off of our individual playtime and the lessons we’ve been taught by games like WoW that say that we don’t need other players (and even when we do, you don’t actually have to organize or interact with them since the finder just plops you into a group). So it doesn’t surprise me that individuals who expect to blow through leveling content without a hitch get up-in-arms when that expectation is broken.

    And maybe that’s the core of it: expectation. There trend has been to go from worlds that were absolutely defined by the interactions between players to worlds that actively discouraged social activity via solo mechanics outside of well-defined and completely separate instances.

    • I hate that analogy and yet it keeps getting propagated… i mean, i can still count all my murdered hitch hikers on one hand so I’m hardly what you would call sociopathic yet.
      EXACTLY!!.. Player agency seems to be an almost extinct function. There are so many options available to the player in order to circumvent or ignore the situation and yet, doing nothing seems to be a popular action. Expectation is definitely, to make players more accepting of change but also bringing players backin touch with each other. Random gankers and griefers have far less impact when you are connected to a social group.

  3. I know times change and all that but I’d have thought just looking at the number of PvP servers vs PvE servers for most of the MMOs that have been market leaders in their day would indicate that open-world PvP is a minority interest among MMO players. It’s clearly not a minority interest among gamers but I’m not at all convinced that the crossover between “Gamers” and “MMO Players” is that high. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find that there’s a tighter correlation between “cookie clickers” and MMO players than there is with, say, FPS players.
    I would also need to be convinced that this supposed malaise is an actual problem. SW:ToR, for example, was excoriated by much of this corner of the blogging community but it’s still going and going quite strongly. MMOs do fail and close but it seems that a lot more roll on and on despite poor critical receptions and lack of attention from the blogosphere. Aion is still going, so is Tera; Allods, still apparently strong in its home territory of Russia, is adding a new race, which is a considerable amount of work and not something one would expect from a game in decline.
    Rather than looking to change the tastes and behaviors of the market, isn’t it more likely that canny developers will work out how to cater to them and profit from them? I’d see the current trends for buy-in betas and subscription launches that transition intentionally to prepared B2P/F2P models as clear signs that producers are finally beginning to learn how to monetize the product efficiently. Whether that plan includes open world PvP would, I am guessing, depends largely on how readily that market segment can be incorporated without alienating the existing customers. A risky proposition at best.

    • I do see that, but I also see many fill pvp servers on release as well which kind of tells me people are looking for it but this themepark opvp just isn’t good enough.
      Then look at eve, if it was an actual Avatar based game I’m guessing it would get and maintain a lot more.

      Talking about mmo’s that roll on… Doc is still going and getting updates, lineage is a huge earner, and there are many more pvp based games idling along. Hell, if dark fall can have players I’m sure a pvp mmo that isn’t crop would get plenty.

      Unfortunately we really haven’t had a good modern example to test this though, the only ones really trying to create interesting spaces inclusive of pvp are those with extremely restricted budgets. There are many other problems there. When we do, and if it fails then I will proclaim my blogging ineptitude.. Until then I’ll ramble on about some sort of world ideal.

      I really don’t think it’s that risky in the end. It comes down to whether the game is any good and I’m sure a decent big budget sandbox would do very well at this stage. Sure the PvP part might turn people away in the beginning but many would be enticed to try and word of mouth goes from there

      I too think the market is working itself out and we shall see where it goes.

    • I think the reason why OWP has been a minority interest in most MMOs is because there are no clear in-game reasons for it. Currently the only real options are “kill them and take all their stuff” or “kill them and /dance”. In the latter, why even bother having OWP in the first place, if it has no consequences. In the former, why do we want to take their stuff? What is the motivation for it? No game that I know of has attempted to give in-game meaning to OWP beyond EVE’s politics and economics. I’m hoping that ArcheAge, Black Desert (if it ever makes it to the West), and/or EQNext will push us towards normalising OWP by making it meaningful in a not-artificial way (forced factions, I’m looking at you).

      • That right there is the key i think. Create motivation and reasons for PvP beyond just faction hate. Of course there are many ways to support this but that alone would be a big step

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  5. I remember you said the same thing about GW2 and how you were content with GW2 due to WvW/PvP. But later it seems that is not enough to keep you happy and you complained about lack of updates and eventually quit despite updates like EoTM and WvW ranks etc:) I think pvpers have high demands for updates too, just different from pve ones but still time consuming for the company.

    • i said i was content for now i believe and here I say that pvp has longer legevity compared with minimal updates. Interest in it lasted over a year which is pretty amazing if you think about it. The main mechanics stay the same, as did the flaws and bugs and issues. The improvements were’nt really that, ranks that were’nt connected to anything personal in terms of progression or customisation… just a meaningless number, and eotm is another map but it’s unconnected to the base game in any meaningful way. They just couldn’t improve on the parts that really mattered unfortunately… well culling changes were amazing but then, such an enormous issue shouldn’t have made it in.

      And yes, we definitely do require updates but I wouldn’t even say the demand is reasonably close to that required of primarily pve players. If you design the mechanics right and it will last a lot longer

  6. Some good points, especially about the wealth inflation. We’ve seen this with WoW for several years – when your only gold sinks are PvE-based, then it becomes ridiculously easy to amass all the essentials and you are left desperately searching for some bling to show off.

    In my opinion, you missed two critical aspects of PvP helping to create content in a positive way. First, is information. Players need to be told early and often that they will have to venture out into the world, and that one of the dangers could be other players. In EVE, one of the first things you read is “don’t fly what you can’t afford to replace”. If you lose stuff upon death (whether it be to players or not), and you are introduced to this mechanic early, it becomes a part of your gaming experience. You internalise it, and not only does it make your decisions more interesting in a risk-vs-reward-way, but it helps avoid cultivating the paranoia of meeting other players that is the main feature of DayZ and Rust. You accept losses more easily because they happen more often, and PvP becomes less of an anomaly.
    In the current PvE MMO setup, you have no consequences. There is no loss or gain from OWP, even on PvP servers. Therefore there is no need for any kind of warning to new players that it is a danger. They even start in safe zones that are highly unlikely to be sporting enemy players out to kill them. So by the time they get out into the world, they have had no reinforcement of the idea that this is a dangerous world full of enemies, some of whom are players. The whole game is presented as a PvE experience, and when you are forced into PvP (even on those servers!) I would definitely guess that it serves as a jarring disruption to the wider game. Basically, you’re telling players that the game is about one thing (PvE), and then they are upset when not only do they discover that it can be about another thing (PvP), but that other thing has been neutered so as to not actually affect anything in the “main game”.

    The second aspect I think is crucial for an MMO with OWP, is the ability for players to directly create content for people. Being able to give out quests, either formally or informally, to other players is something that would be incredibly attractive to so many people. If you’re a crafting class, hire people to go find a rare resource. If you’re a merchant, hire someone to transport your goods to a far-off market. That player can then hire guards for the transport. A rival merchant might tip off some soldiers about the incredibly rare gems being transported, so they can attempt to ambush the transport and steal the gems. An adventurer might commission a blacksmith to make a very specific kind of weapon for use against a rare monster they’ve tracked down, which the smith needs to collect tools, equipment, or ingredients for, or needs to research certain techniques from ancient times. The possibilities are endless. Some of them will pit players against other players, both directly and indirectly. But all of them will also involve co-operating and socialising with other players, many of whom will not be ‘known quantities’ (i.e. friends/family/guildmates). It is much, much harder for player-created content to exist without meaningful OWP being supported in the MMO design.

    • I should add the clarification that pseudo-OWP like WvWvW in GW2 or Cyrodil in TESO is not the kind of thing that I have in mind for this whole topic.

    • That first point will be in my next post, righting power problems. In the right design, losing gear and that sort of thing really doesn’t mean as much. Your’re not grinding the same dungeon for some sort of uber sword just engaging in the world for some better stuff. I agree it is rather jarring within pvE games, or those more focused instanced heroes and that’s something I don’t think will ever get better. In the right game thoguh it is about training people into that mindset early on, to be aware and understanding of the mechanics and options available.
      Thinking maybe a pop up message at first “hi, you’ve just been ganked will you A, get even B, call for help or c, be more careful in the future.

      Having ways for the players to create content is a great step. I always loved ho in the original silk road if you were trading then you had to hire some soldiers to help you.Some sort of complex work order system where you can pay for party member or look for work. Where you can put out an acquisition for items or materials. Maybe even Larger contracts for war time acts like storming a castle or controlling a province, maybe even blockading trade routes. It could be so easy to set up yet provide a lot of amazing content. PLus it gives direction in a sandbox that is always sorely needed

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