I wonder whether PvP MMO games such as All Points Bulletin should adopt a gear system which is inverted to the norm for most MMOs, such that players start with powerful gear that degrades to a constant level, rather than having to work up to the level of gear of the early adopters by struggling against those same – now seemingly overpowered – early adopters.
It’s like have an Olympic race where you’ve trained yourself to be an excellent athlete at the four hundred metres event with times towards the low end of the forty second bracket, but when you turn up you find out that all the runners who competed last year now have bionic leg replacements that mean they can run it in the low thirties. The problem is that the only way to get bionic legs yourself is to win against the guys who already have them. So your competitive goal actually turns in to trying to convince one of the bionic competitors to give you a piggy back, and the whole race turns into some sort of perverse bionic Grand National with unenhanced jockeys riding around on the backs of whichever bionic big boy they can convince to carry them.
I just don’t think PvP is compatible with the traditional gear system of MMOs because game knowledge and skill is already a massive obstacle for the new player to overcome, layering on an additional artificial ‘gear gap’ makes for a game that will be inordinately intimidating to all but the most dedicated of masochists. This is why I think Counter Strike was (perhaps still is) the darling of the FPS online world for so long, because it used gear to allow players to specialise into different roles based on their personal preference or what the map demanded, without creating any sort of gap between the new and veteran players; yet if you visit a Counter Strike server as a new player you will know who the veteran players are quickly enough, because they will be the ones who understand the map and use its terrain to their advantage, but if you play carefully and craftily, you have every much a chance at killing them as they do you. This is why I think that adding gear levels to FPS games in order to keep players grinding away at them is such a massive mistake by gaming companies, because yes, you may well keep the early adopters invested in your game for longer, but once your game has been established for a week or two you essentially close the doors to a huge proportion of the potential new player population.
When you take these things into consideration, it quickly becomes clear just how good EVE Online’s skill training and ‘ship role’ systems are for allowing players to have disparate levels of ‘gear’ and yet still participate in PvP in a meaningful way.
Today’s post was brought to you by the phrase ‘Oh look, I’ve been two-shot by a magnum having emptied my entire automatic rifle clip into them without any discernible effect’, and the command ‘/quit’.