Slashdot just had a Q&A with the developers of Warhammer: Age of Reckoning. One thing that comes through very strongly is that the game will focus on “Realm vs Realm”, grand scale PvP.
Now, I like PvP. Or at least, I like good PvP. That’s a bit like saying “I like food. At least, I like nice food”, but still. When I say “good” PvP, I suppose what I really mean is balanced. The worst possible experience is getting beaten again, and again, and again, and not being able to do a damn thing about it. For some people winning is everything (or as the quote goes, “winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing”), but winning with no challenge gets boring pretty quick too. Also, my ideal PvP really needs some reason or structure. A straight-up deathmatch can be fun, but I much prefer something with objectives like Onslaught mode in Unreal Tournament 2004 (as did the majority of the player base, if the number of servers per game type was anything to go by). With objectives other than just “KILL!”, there’s space for players to be good at different aspects of the competition.
So if I purport to like PvP, why wouldn’t I touch a WoW PvP server with a barge pole? Because… it’s not PvP, really. I mean the “general” PvP, the fact that you can attack anyone while out and about (as battlegrounds and the like are common to all server types). It’s playing a PvE game, only with extra being-killed now and again while trying to do your quests. Balance is non-existent; you’re running around as a level 50, see a level 60, chances are you’re dead. Vice versa, sure you can kill him, but what do you get? The laughably mis-named “honor” system attempted to give an incentive to “fair” fights, but I won’t go into the train-wreck of 14-hour-a-day honor farming which the new patch is hopefully fixing.
Obviously a whole lot of people like the PvP servers, fair enough. In discussions about it, the most common reason I’ve seen is the extra sense of excitement, danger, that you constantly have to be on your guard. But the frisson of being randomly killed is about as appealing to me as the frisson of playing on a dodgy internet connection. After all, in both cases, without warning, at any moment… boom! Something happens which takes a few minutes to recover from (reconnect to the ‘net and log back in to the server, or run back to your corpse). Yeah, it’s a pretty facile analogy, but still.
Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see how Warhammer does it. If they can really get meaningful large scale PvP working, I’ll be impressed. If it’s random ganking with occasional massed lag-inducing zerg rushes… meh.