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Wilhelm Arcturus, The Ancient Gaming Noob, put up a post recently about whether PVP is required for all MMOs and generated more than the usual amount of debate on a blog post – probably because, well, PvP. When I stuck in my initial tuppence worth, it was with the view that it’s not exactly essential but having it both shuts up a certain vocal minority and provides something extra to do for a majority of players, so on the whole it’s worth the investment for most games.

Syncaine has now weighed in, opining that for a themepark style game PvP provides a valuable form of filler content that can be low maintenance for the devs but highly repeatable. Now I usually read Syncaine’s posts and comments with a high level of scepticism simply because the two of us come from vastly differing views on which games we like and what constitutes a successful game. This time around though, we seem to be in agreement that PvP makes a good addition to a game as long as it doesn’t wreck the rest of the game in the process (by being something you must grind for rewards, or by driving balancing/design decisions that impact the PvE side). We seem to be agreeing that both of us like ESO as well. I’m not sure if this is a case of a stopped clock being right twice a day, one or both of us mellowing with age, a blindingly obvious universal truth or an omen of the coming apocalypse (actually, we can test that last one – if Tobold comes out in agreement with Syncaine… apocalypse).

I do have a further thought though. By and large, PvP has been useful filler content because it’s repeatable, and a game HAS to have repeatable content to keep players occupied – no developer could generate game content as fast as players can play through it. Recently though, we’ve seen games that put content creation tools in the hands of players (e.g. Neverwinter) and EQNext is promising emergent content from using Storybricks AI – in other words, a game world that is constantly generating its own content from the interaction of players and NPCs. Both of these approaches can yield a constant supply of new content for players to keep them satisfied without having either PvP or the carrot on a stick approach of adding daily grinds for rewards. Remember, for most players PvP isn’t a “must have” in and of itself, it’s just something else to do when they’ve dome everything else. It will be interesting to see if anyone can make an MMO that retains players without PvP some time soon.


  1. Clearly we must head off Tobold to preserve the fabric of the time-space continuum.

    Indeed, SynCaine seems to be quite on top of this one. I like his answer better than Psychochild’s, which sort of endorsed the idea that bad behavior needs to be accommodated. It may be true, but it doesn’t speak well for gamers getting better or more open minded as a breed.

  2. The problem with player created content is most players suck at creating content, and I’m not sifting through 99% of the trash to find a gem. Hell, even on the Steam workshop the amount of crap for Skyrim makes finding good stuff a huge pain.

    • Yeah, Steam workshop is just piled with crap for a lot of games.

      I have to go back and look at Neverwinter and their Foundry system. When our group played that, we actually ended up trying out a lot of player created content that was really, really good. And I have no idea how the good bubbled up and was so accessible. I think there is a pre-release peer-review system you have to get through before your stuff is made available generally. But it worked.

      Pity the game itself wasn’t all that appealing. We got bored in the 20s because everything was scaled as “super easy” and would remain that way for another 20 levels or so. Even good content is dull if it is always “click click win.” WoW five person normal mode instances were challenging by comparison.

  3. In order for a MMO to retain significant numbers of players it needs the budget to attract them. Pvpless games have been few and far between, A Tale in the Desert and Love are too wierd and low budget to make or break the case.

    Original EQ was pretty much pvpless except on one server and was top MMO of its day. EQ2 is for most of its players pvpless.

    Pvp also brings quite a lot of baggage that many games don’t manage easily. The pvp section of a general purpose game tends to bang its drum very loudly indeed.

    I guess designers tend to toss it in, sometimes as an afterthought, because once you have an engine for players to whack NPC orcs it’s not much work to let them also whack PC orcs.

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