Keen has been actively discussing design choices for Age of Conan, and he made a post listing where he stands on various issues. I agree with a lot of what he says, maybe because we played on the same server in Dark Age of Camelot, and we know a) how good PvP can be when it’s implemented well, and b) how quickly you can screw it up when you drop PvE elements into the PvP balance.
I’ll preface this by saying that I think Keen and I were lucky to play on a fantastic DAoC server. It wasn’t just the game that played well, it was three realms of a pretty damn good gaming community. Maybe our experiences were different from other people on other DAoC servers (although I think Keen did play on at least one other server), but we do have a ton of experience playing on (for me) the best PvP mmorpg to date.
Anyway, on to Keen’s list, and my reactions.
1. PvE Raiding Gear that influences the outcome of PvP
Friggin’ dumb, that’s my opinion. Didn’t anyone at Funcom play DAoC and get subjected to The Trials of Atlantis? Didn’t they see the outcry for a DAoC Classic server, with no ToA foo? If you want a PvP-centric game, don’t waste time designing treadmills that keep your players out of PvP.
I’m all for PvE raiding as a way to cater to players who aren’t thrilled about PvP (although I think the Holy Grail of PvP is a system that gets PvE players interested in PvP, like DAoC managed to do). But if I don’t want to raid (or honestly, don’t have time to raid), then I’m going to fall out of PvP because I feel like I won’t be able to compete on a fairly level playing field.
2. Raiding Treadmills: The art of raiding for gear to raid for more gear and so on…
If I wanted to play Diablo, I’d go play Diablo. Or WoW. Which I quit. Because I don’t enjoy endless raiding to replace endless gear. Sure, some people might enjoy it, (and maybe they should play a Raid-focused game like WoW, not a PvP-centric game like AoC), but who are you going to fight against in PvP if enough people don’t progress through raiding treadmills to get good gear, so they feel like they’re competitive? Has anyone at Funcom looked at the number of end-game raiders in WoW compared to the overall population? Who’s going to be out there in PvP enjoying themselves if they feel their gear isn’t competitive?
3. Should only the Hardcore players get the gear? PvE and PvP.
I liked the DAoC realm ranks, where hardcore players earned extra skills. I don’t think it should extend to gear, though. The skills should also be set up so most players can easily earn the first couple ranks, and then it ramps up pretty steeply to prevent a huge disparity between players. You want a Bell curve of abilities in PvP, not a long flat line indicating most players don’t have additional PvP skills, with a sharp rise at the end of the graph showing that perhaps 5% of your players have tons of additional PvP skills.
And please, don’t make me raid Pve for better gear for PvP. I probably won’t do it, and then I probably won’t PvP, and then those who do PvE raid won’t have me (the collective me represented by, say, the majority of the WoW population that don’t raid) to compete against in PvP. If you want to improve gear, do it in a way that’s accessible to everyone in the population (DAoC’s spellcrafting comes to mind).
4. AoC Specific: Battle Keeps and who gets them. The role of the Mini-games.
I’ll have to play this to see how I feel. In general, I dislike any sort of instanced PvP, but I know there’s another type of player who disliked having to roam the DAoC frontier looking for someone to fight. Instanced PvP was set up for people who used to enjoy running pre-made 8-person groups, and they only wanted to fight other pre-made 8-person groups. To me, removing those people from world PvP greatly reduces the organic quality of DAoC encounters. Part of the magic of DAoC was how the RvR ebbed and flowed based on the wide variety of people competing in the same game space (8-man groups, keep raids, stealthers, gangs of stealthers, zergs, and even people trying to do PvE frontier quests or leveling). If you start pulling some of those elements out into instanced areas, I think it lessens world PvP.
Clearly, this is just my opinion, and like I said, I was lucky enough to play on an outstanding DAoC server where lots of people were looking for a fight each night. I know there were people who were frustrated by the open and unpredictable nature of combat and wanted an 8-man fight, right now! 🙂 I think part of the reason Blizzard went with instances is because they didn’t want anyone to have to wait for a fight, or to wonder where a fight might occur. That bores me, but other people seem to enjoy it. I like the unpredictability of world PvP. I like complaining that I got zerged, and then turning around and zerging right back. I like the surprise of encountering an enemy stealther skulking around a milewall at 4 am when the frontier is dead quiet, instead of knowing there are always other people in the same small instanced area ready to fight. Other people don’t like that, I’m cool with that, but I don’t think too much instancing bodes well for an open world PvP environment. We’ll see how Funcom handles it.
5. Zergs… For the Swarm!
Keen seems to dislike zergs. I think zergs have their place and actually provide a service to the greater PvP community. Not everyone playing on a PvP server is both highly skilled and highly resilient when they first enter World PvP. If they get their asses handed to them night after night in “even” fights, if there’s really experience loss in AoC and you lose over and over, and if they feel there’s no point in going out to help take or defend a keep, the overall PvP population will suffer. Zerging helps keep people involved without feeling too awfully vulnerable. You’re still going to get your ass handed to you in PvP if you suck, even if you’re in a zerg, but at least you’re dying with friends and developing a sense of community.
I was in Hibernia on the Percival server in DAoC, and for the first year of the game (maybe more), we got our butts handed to us on a nightly basis, mostly by the Mids (*shakes a fist at Keen and the rest of the ebil bastages*), but also by the Albs. The only thing that kept me coming back for more was the comradery of the zerg, and the sense of community that grew out of trying to defend ourselves against superior opponents. I wouldn’t have kept returning to the frontiers if I had to lose in 8-man groups over and over every night.
Part of what made DAoC great was the variety of PvP elements I mentioned before, and the zerg was certainly part of that. One thing Hibernia could do at the outset was move in a huge group and take back keeps or mile walls through force of numbers. It’s not fun for people who like “fair fights” and want to run in 8-man groups to run into the zerg, but hey, I didn’t enjoy getting smoked by Wolves of the North in straight-up 8-mans 🙂 There are pros and cons to both types of gameplay, and ultimately, they allow a large portion of your server population to participate somewhere in PvP.
6. Hardcore vs. Casual
I’ll agree it’s too big an issue to take on in just this post, but any PvP system that doesn’t encourage a variety of gameplay choices in PvP is going to exclude either the hardcore or the casual, and you want everyone involved for a healthy PvP environment.
7. World of Warcraft
Any “go back to XYZ game” is just a wasted comment. Don’t harass the poor ‘keen 🙂 He’s working hard to express his opinions and concerns.
8. Fun, involved, and innovative gameplay
I haven’t played the beta yet. (Yet! Open beta key in my hot, sweaty, hands!) I’m looking forward the PvE, and I hope that the PvP heads more toward including everyone without extensive PvE, and I hope world PvP is emphasized more than instanced PvP. Most of all, I hope Funcom is paying attention and responsive to what the gaming community enjoys. It took a lot of patches, changes, head-scratching and forum wrangling to make Dark Age of Camelot a good game. If Funcom doesn’t have PvP nailed out of the gate, I’ll at least take solace knowing that things can change.
Last but not least, I was searching for Keen and Graev in my Google search bar, and it tried to complete my search with “Keen and Grey“. Dude, don’t go country on us, k?