A Discussion on How to Make MMOs Better for Players and Developers
Old Gen Versus Next Gen
For those of you who have not played Star Wars: The Old Republic, the PvP system is nearly identical to World of Warcraft. There's a PvP stat called Expertise (Resilience) which is gained from only PvP gear. You get the best gear by grinding Warzones (Battlegrounds) or participating in Ranked Warzones (Rated Battlegrounds). For players, PvP essentially turns into a never-ending gear grind. For anyone who plays alts, other games, has other hobbies or is just a busy person, this cycle is very difficult to keep up with.
The business reason behind introducing new PvP gear is it keeps players logging in and playing the game. This makes sense from a business perspective. What this means for players is that anyone who can't keep up is left behind as the gear gap very quickly enlarges. What I'd like to discuss are some thoughts about how developers can avoid this model, but still keep players happy.
The first approach is putting everything on a level playing field. No matter what gear you have when you enter a PvP zone you have the same stats as everyone else. This is what Guild Wars 2 does, and it's what Star Wars attempted with their 'bolster' system. For the casual player this is a great solution. No longer are you ever behind in gear, and no matter how often you play you'll have the same stats as those playing ten times as much as you. The problems with this model are the incentives. If you don't receive gear why take part? For me personally, gear isn't a driving factor to do something. If it's fun I'll take part, but there are some people who need gear as an incentive to do anything in an MMO. With this approach there needs to be some sort of incentive. Could be titles, leaderboards, vanity gear and pets.
The second approach is something that, to my knowledge, has never been applied. PvP gear was instituted in games was to prevent the best gear from being obtained only from the hardest PvE content. This meant those players that only wanted to PvP had to PvE. There was no other way to get the gear that would allow them to do what they wanted. World of Warcraft put in Resilience to make PvE gear less desirable in PvP situations. That worked to a large degree, as PvP gear quickly became the best gear for battlegrounds.
The idea of a PvP stat is sound. It allows people to do what they want successfully. The problem with a PvP stat is that it increases as gear tiers increase. Meaning that as better PvP gear becomes available, the maximum amount of the PvP stat you can acquire also goes up. So even if 'entry' level PvP gear is available for new max level characters, the amount of PvP stat they have will be far less than those in the best PvP gear available. Not only will their PvP stats be lower, but because the others stats also increase in better gear, their primary (strength, stamina, etc.) and secondary (crit, haste, etc.) stats will be lower. A new max level PvP'er with access to entry-level PvP gear faces a double dose of low stats against them.
My suggestion here is to keep the PvP stat a constant rate, but require a full set of PvP gear to maximize that rate. So if a character in full PvP gear can acquire 1000 Resilience (or Expertise) in a full set, that number should never go above 1000. The PvP stat is a flat % increase or decrease to damage, so 1000 would equal whatever the greatest % modifier would be. This would keep PvP gear as being better than PvE gear for PvP, but it would also lessen the gap for new players. Primary and secondary stats would still increase as gear gets better. A new player would no longer have two sets of stats to worry about maximizing just to stay competitive.
This article is just to start a conversation. It's not likely that MMO titans like World of Warcraft or Star Wars: The Old Republic will change their models. For gamers with no intention of jumping back on the hamster wheel, Guild Wars 2 should look more and more appealing.