Category Archives: PvP

Heroes of the Storm 2.0 Isn’t that Different

If there’s one thing Blizzard seems to love, it’s revamping games. They never seem to be able to go very long without some sort of major overhaul to one of their titles. The most recent game to get this treatment is Heroes of the Storm, having recently been given a quasi-relaunch as “Heroes of the Storm 2.0.”

Opening a loot box in Heroes of the Storm

I used to be a big-time Heroes player, having been invited to the technical alpha and playing regularly up to the official launch and for some time after. However, I had started to lose interest in recent months.

2.0 seemed like a good opportunity to revisit the game, but would it reignite my love for Heroes of the Storm or drive me farther away?

What’s in the Box?

Most of the 2.0 changes focus on revamping the game’s progression and rewards systems. These changes are too complex to be declared entirely good or bad; it really depends on who you are and what you want.

2.0 is clearly taking a lot of cues from Overwatch, and while the two systems are not necessarily identical, you’ll definitely see a lot that’s familiar in Heroes if you’ve played Blizzard’s shooter.

Firstly, leveling has been redesigned. Account level is no longer its own thing but is simply the sum of your total hero levels across all characters. Whenever a hero levels up, you earn a loot box full of random cosmetic rewards, with certain level milestones offering boxes of a higher quality. And of course you can also buy boxes for real money if you so desire.

I may have argued in the past that the furor over lockbox mechanics has gotten a little out of hand, but I’m still not a particular fan of the idea, and it’s hard to celebrate when a game suddenly embraces them with open arms.

Tracer's Spectre skin in Heroes of the Storm

That said, for at least some people, this system can be seen as an improvement. Before, if you didn’t want to pay cash for cosmetics in Heroes of the Storm, you were simply out of luck. There were very few mounts or skins available for in-game currency, and they required a lot of grind to acquire.

Now, you can earn every cosmetic in the game without spending a dime. At least in theory. If you’re unwilling or unable to pay real world money, this update is bound to be a huge boon to you.

On the other hand, if you can pay, the news is much less positive. Whereas before you could get whatever skin or mount you wanted whenever you wanted (more or less — mounts tended to cycle in and out of the store, but they always came back eventually), now only a very small selection of cosmetics will be available for direct sale each week. If what you want isn’t available right now, your only choice is to gamble.

And while you can potentially get everything from loot boxes, the odds of actually getting what you want are not great. In a rather transparent attempt to keep people chasing the good stuff, Blizzard has clogged the game with reams of new items that I can’t imagine anyone really wants.

There are banners that only deploy under certain “blink and you’ll miss it” circumstances. There are announcers that are barely heard since they don’t cover map-specific call-outs. There are voice lines that are mostly just copies of the dialogue your characters are always saying anyway. There are tiny sprays no one really uses. And there’s a dizzying variety of emojis, for those who want to add a personal touch to the all-caps bile that is the chat in any MOBA.

Through various veteran reward systems, I received over fifty loot boxes when I first logged in after the update, and out of the all that, I got nothing that I actually wanted.

Purchasing a skin with shards in Heroes of the Storm

The new pyrotechnics for making a purchase are a tad… over-zealous.

Now, to be fair, there are some systems in place to limit the negative effects of RNG. As in Overwatch, if a duplicate of something you already own drops, it’s converted to a special currency (called shards in this case) that can then be used to unlock items directly, even if they’re not part of the current sales.

So while I didn’t get any drops I wanted, I did get enough shards to buy several several skins and a mount. It wasn’t everything I’d hoped to get, but it was something.

Progressing Progression

The loot boxes can be a positive or a negative depending on your perspective, but the other changes to progression skew more heavily toward the negative.

The leveling curve has been rebalanced to provide a much steadier curve. This means that higher levels are now earned much more quickly, which is a necessary change given we are now expected to keep leveling heroes indefinitely, but it also means that the lower levels go by much slower.

One of the best ways to earn gold in Heroes of the Storm has traditionally been to level as many characters as possible to level five, due to the 500 gold reward for doing so. The reward is still there, but it’s now much more of a time investment to achieve, so it feels much less worth it. This doesn’t seem like a good move for a game that derives so much of its appeal from constantly trying new characters.

Also, while high levels are earned more quickly, “quickly” is definitely a relative term here. Getting new loot boxes is going to become quite a grind after a while.

The new combined account/hero level in Heroes of the Storm

I’m also a little torn on what’s been done with master skins. Instead of being a mark of progression, they’ve now been thrown into loot boxes alongside all the other skins. Used to be if you saw someone with a master skin it meant something, especially if it was for a difficult or unusual hero like Abathur or Cho’Gall. Now it doesn’t mean anything.

That said, a hypocritical part of me is happy to be able to get master skins for characters I don’t play as much. I always loved Sonya’s master skin, but I don’t play her enough to justify the grind it would have required under the old system. Now I’ve just bought it with shards, which is simultaneously gratifying and demoralizing.

A Trying Challenge

Something else that deserves a mention is the recent Nexus Challenge 2.0 event. Like the previous Nexus Challenge, it sought to woo Overwatch players by offering rewards in both games for those who play a certain number of Heroes matches while grouped with a friend.

This event was a bit more rewarding than its predecessor, with four tiers unlocked over four weeks, each of which offered significant rewards for just five matches. However, the final three tiers all required that you play in PvP modes, whereas the previous Challenge only required versus AI games.

It’s a nice idea, but it didn’t work out so well in practice. The queues swarmed with inexperienced players, but what’s worse is that many of them weren’t interesting in learning how to play Heroes of the Storm and simply sought to throw games as quickly as possible. This was a miserable experience for veterans, and I can’t imagine it was a good introduction to the game for new players who are genuinely trying, either.

I don’t begrudge Blizzard’s desire for cross-promotion, but I have to believe they could have come up with a better system than this.

Status Quo 2.0

The Thunder-Guard Zarya skin in Heroes of the Storm

In the end, though, the bottom line is that Heroes of the Storm 2.0 isn’t as radical a change as Blizzard’s marketing department would like you to believe. When you get past all the pomp and pageantry of the new progression mechanics, the actual game isn’t much changed.

That can be good, and it can be bad. If you liked Heroes before, you’ll like it now. If you didn’t, I doubt lockboxes are going to bring you back.

I’m not really sure where I stand with the game. I’ve had a lot of fun with it in the past, and there’s still much about it I appreciate, but after so much time spent with it, I am a bit burnt out, and there are some things that have been driving me away.

All of my favorite heroes have been nerfed into uselessness or revamped into something unrecognizable. I swear the game was more stable back in alpha; now that it’s launched, I ought to be able to trust that my characters will maintain some kind of singular identity.

I’m also not thrilled with the direction the meta-game has been taking. Right now it seems dominated by increasing power creep, especially around burst damage. Heroes used to be a more laid-back take on the MOBA, but increasingly it seems to be the sort of game where a split second’s mistake will spell total doom.

I may find my passion reignites at some future date, but I don’t think the 2.0 update will be the cause.


Eight Reasons Your PvP Team Lost

PvP is a pillar of online gaming, whether it’s an MMO battleground, a MOBA, a shooter, or spreading gossip in Ever, Jane. The unfortunate reality of PvP, though, is that for every winner, there must be a loser. Sooner or later you find yourself not the pwner, but the pwnee.

Sometimes your best efforts just aren't good enough

As your virtual corpse decays on the battlefield, trampled by enemy mounts and teabagged by the opposing team, you find yourself asking, “Why? Why, o God, must I suffer so?”

I am not God, but perhaps I can offer some answers to that question.

The Lone Wolf

“There’s no ‘I’ in team” is a piece of advice we’re constantly bombarded with from childhood on, and it’s a good one. It deserves to be as ubiquitous as it is.

And yet, despite both its omnipresence and its fundamental logic, the concept of team above the individual is still somehow lost on a shockingly high number of gamers.

Thus, you see people charging eagerly into five-on-one confrontations (presumably whilst screaming “LEEEEEROOOY JENKINS” at their monitor) or simply camping the bottom lane while everyone else is contesting the map objective because SERIOUSLY RAYNOR DID NO ONE EVER TELL YOU THIS IS A *(@!ING TEAM GAME.

Ahem.

The Accidental Death Match

Team death match is a very popular PvP mode in many online games. So popular, in fact, that lots of people like to turn all the other modes into team death match, too!

Carrying the flag in a World of Warcraft battleground

This is why, while you do the boring but necessary work of guarding the flag, your teammates have charged off to some random field in the middle of nowhere to battle back and forth with enemy players for no other reason than the sheer joy of meaningless irrelevant slaughter.

They may cost you the match and your faith in humanity, but at least they’re enjoying themselves. And in the end, isn’t that the real victory?

No, no it isn’t.

The Learning Experience

Everyone has to start somewhere. You just hope it isn’t your team.

Alone of all the failures gracing this list, the newcomers are the only ones deserving any sympathy. They don’t mean to be bad; they just don’t know any better. They’re new to the game, and they’re trying their best, even as they make countless mistakes that seem glaringly obvious to your experienced eyes.

You can’t blame them too harshly, even if they sink your team like the iceberg did the Titanic. Try to take comfort in the fact that the loss will probably be a learning experience for them, and they’ll do better next time.

One would hope.

The Critic

A less than successful battle in DOTA 2

Everyone’s a critic, or so they say, and never is this more true than in online gaming.

If you play any online PvP — or really any kind of online gaming — you’ll find no shortage of people willing and eager to critique any and all aspects of your play, completely unsolicited.

If you’re lucky it’s only a critique, and their advice is actually useful. This can still be a bit annoying if you didn’t ask for it, but it’s preferable to the alternative, which is an endless string of all-caps profanity delivered by someone who boasts half your kills and twice your deaths.

The Saboteur

As we learned from Michael Caine, some men just want to watch the world burn.

As annoying as all the other mistakes mentioned within the hallowed paragraphs of this article can be, they’re mostly honest mistakes. But sometimes there is more at work, a dark malignancy at the heart of your team, a malice lurking in the heart of a teammate that is turned against his or her own.

Maybe something was said that caused offense. Maybe something went wrong early and they’ve decided a quick death is preferable to trying for the epic comeback. Maybe they don’t have any particular reason. Maybe they don’t need one. Maybe they can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with.

Whatever the case may be, they’ve decided to do everything in their power to make you lose. They’ll feed the enemy kills. They’ll sit in your base and refuse to fight. Heaven help you if the game allows friendly fire. One way or another, they’re going down, and they’re going to drag you and the rest of your team with them.

A PvP battle in WildStar

The Full Murphy

Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong, will.”

Sometimes it is not one single factor that brings an end to your dreams of glorious victory, but a confluence of them. A perfect storm or chain reaction of horror and nincompoopery.

Someone charged in too soon and got themselves killed right away, leaving your team at a disadvantage as they contest an objective. The healer goes down and spends the rest of the match throwing out verbal abuse instead of heals. Someone else decides to just start feeding the enemy free kills to “get it over with.” And all the while Raynor is still camping the bottom lane and doing basically nothing because SERIOUSLY WHY IS IT ALWAYS THE RAYNORS.

There’s no coming back from a mess like this. Just pray it’s over quickly and your suffering can come to an end.

The Unthinkable

If you look across your team and cannot find fault with their play, despite your best efforts, and still find yourself losing, it may be time to consider the unthinkable: Perhaps you are the noob.

It is a terrifying thought. The mind rebels from the mere possibility. But think back and analyze your own behavior.

When the enemy team captured the lumber mill, where were you? Were you putting on a valiant if hopeless defense of the mill the likes of which would make King Leonidas himself weep manly tears? Or were you dueling the enemy team’s rogue approximately fifty miles away from anywhere relevant?

A match in the online PvP game For Honor

When your team’s healer was dog-piled and killed, were you doing everything in your power to defend them, or were you furiously typing a thesis on their rank incompetence without contributing anything yourself?

Look in the mirror. See yourself.

The Impossible

If all other possibilities are exhausted, maybe… just maybe… hear me out… you simply lost fair and square to a superior team. I mean, anything’s possible, right?

Nah, that can’t be it.


For Honor Is Fascinating, Baffling

For Honor is the latest buzz-worthy title from Ubisoft, promising intense competitive action against a brutal Medieval backdrop. In the lead-up to launch, they held an open beta event, and I dove in to see how this latest entry in the online PvP field stacks up.

Two teams zone into a match in the For Honor beta

For Blood and Honor

Providing For Honor impressions requires taking a step back just to define the game. It incorporates elements of MMOs, RPGs, MOBAs, and fighting games, but it doesn’t exactly fit into any of those genres.

Its basic premise is an ongoing conflict between three factions: Vikings, Samurai, and Knights. You must pledge yourself to a specific faction, but oddly this doesn’t affect your choice of class. You can, for example, play a Knight class even if you’re sworn to the Samurai. I suppose it helps keep things balanced.

There are three classes per faction, and it seems each can be customized a fair bit, both visually and in terms of gear and stats. Some are gender-locked, though, which is a bit off-putting.

For Honor does feature a single-player story-mode, a decision I salute given how many similar games have neglected this feature (looking at you, Overwatch), but the beta only included competitive modes, so I can’t comment on its quality.

The heart of For Honor is its unique dueling-focused combat system, which utilizes combos, counters, and multiple angles of attack to create a very deep and challenging experience.

Executing an opponent in the For Honor beta

Executions are delightfully brutal.

If you’ve played Age of Conan, For Honor’s mechanics may feel familiar. You can angle your weapon to the left, the right, or above. This will block attacks from that angle, but also prevent your own attacks from getting through as long as your enemy’s stance is focused the same way.

This makes combat into something of a cat and mouse game where you are constantly trying to exploit your enemy’s weaknesses without exposing yourself too much at the same time. It rewards a deliberate style of play, but it’s also quite fast-paced, so you need to be able to think fast.

You can also guard-break an enemy to get in a few free shots — though there are counters to this — and each class also has access to some active skills that are unlocked as you gain experience throughout a match — much like a MOBA. Some game modes even have swarms of weak AI minions to farm for XP, strengthening the MOBA feel.

But this barely scratches the surface of the incredible depth of the combat system and its various combos, counters, and abilities. When I first started on For Honor, I thought the tutorials were incredibly thorough and had covered everything I could possibly need to know, but it quickly became clear they were only the most shallow and basic introduction to the game’s mechanics.

I’ve been gaming for a long time, and For Honor is honestly one of the hardest games I’ve ever played. It took me a fair bit of practice just to be able to survive basic training scenarios against the AI. The sheer number of different combos and interactions across all the classes is staggering.

A failed mission in the For Honor beta.

This image pretty much sums up my experience with For Honor.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to experience much of the game’s PvP thanks to frequent crashes and disconnects. On the odd occasions the servers did cooperate, I was once again slaughtered quite handily.

On the rare occasions everything aligned and I was able to best my opponent, I found it an incredibly satisfying experience, but that’s not something that’s going to happen often when you’re still new to the game.

That same complexity applies to its meta game, as well. While For Honor focuses on small scale matches — including duels, deathmatches, and a point control mode called Dominion — it all feeds into a massive territorial war between the three factions. A video explains the mechanics of this when you first investigate the game’s multiplayer, but it dumped so much information on me so fast I failed to absorb any of it.

A Niche Perfected

While I spent much of my time in For Honor being frustrated, I nonetheless developed a high opinion of it, at least from a certain perspective. It’s extremely challenging, but it doesn’t feel cheap or unfair, and I greatly admire its depth and complexity.

However, I do think it will only appeal to a specific type of player.

Let me be clear: For Honor is not a game you can just jump into and play. I do not think there can be such a thing as a casual For Honor player.

A duel in the For Honor beta.

This is a game that will require hours of research and practice in order to achieve even a basic level of competency. You will have to pay your dues.

For those who are willing to put in the time and effort to “git gud,” I think For Honor will prove an incredibly rewarding experience. I could also see it being a strong contender as an eSport, depending on what kind of community it ends up having. I think a duel between two highly skilled players could be thrilling to watch.

But for those of us who don’t want to put that much effort into a video game, For Honor will likely never serve as anything but a source of frustration. It’s an excellent entry in its niche, but that niche may end up being rather narrow.

I come away with two totally different yet not incompatible opinions. As a student of game design, I love For Honor. As a guy who plays video games for fun, I don’t like it at all.


Steam Hammer Interview: Survival in a Steampunk World

Steam Hammer just wrapped up a $50,000 Kickstarter to help bring to life their hardcore steampunk, sandbox-style RPG. Lots of words there, but there’s a lot to describe. We talked with Konstantin of Big Way Games to find out more about their upcoming multiplayer title.

Steam Hammer is a sandbox survival RPG. Aside from the Steampunk theme, how will Steam Hammer differentiate itself from other multiplayer survival games?

The game also includes the Acribians, a race with their own architecture, armor, weaponry, and, of course, airships (they get flying whales). Other survival games generally stick to one race, while Steam Hammer players also get to enjoy how Acribians fuse flesh and machinery. The result is the kind of Frankenstein/cyborg mix you’d expect from the end of the 19th century.

steam hammer

Since it’s important to our audience, what sort of features will most appeal to MMO fans?

MMO fans get your standard package: 64-person servers, the ability to create and join guilds, and the opportunity to play on a single server with friends. That way they can build the city of their dreams without worrying that someone is going to come rampaging through and wreck the whole thing. None of that should come as a surprise, however, so, again, I’ll just say that what we offer is fairly standard.

What was the motivation behind choosing a Steampunk setting?

We’ve had a soft spot for steampunk ever since Arcanum. I think it’s becoming more popular lately, which means we can make money on a game we’ve had a blast spending more than a year developing.

What are the biggest incentives for players to work together in Steam Hammer?

Players pick from a variety of professions, and the fact that they can’t master them all forces them to work together. You can only pick one or two classes to perfect. For example, you might be an armorer and a farmer, but that rules out being a builder. That, in turn, means that all you can build is a miserable little shack. If you want to create a powerful weapon at a factory, you need someone to build the factory and then an engineer to build the machinery. Plus, there’s collective defense—you can’t stand alone on the field of battle. Large airships, to take one example, have four turrets, and so you need four gunners as well as a pilot to man them.

Players can fly airships! So how difficult is it to build one?

It takes a three-person team something like 30 hours to build a large airship, though we’re currently working to balance that. Our Kickstarter campaign let us add small airships to the game as well. They’re still in development, but I imagine they’ll take half as long to build.

steam hammer screenshot 2

Steam Hammer looks to be a very socially interactive. Are there any AI controlled threats in the game or does most of that come from other players?

Other players definitely represent the most serious threat, but there are also ornery wild animals to worry about. At some point in the development process we also plan on adding blots, which are humanoid monsters that swim up out of the depths of the sea to raid player settlements. In addition, there are also caravans of airships flying over the islands that can be looted or even boarded and captured.

Will the game feature long term progression for your characters like a typical MMORPG?

You can play Steam Hammer for quite a while, spending the time mastering different professions and switching classes. Another factor is that all materials and weapons have a quality attribute that takes a long time to max out. Leveling up several combat and peacetime professions will take about 10 days of playing time.

How will the servers operate for Steam Hammer?

We will have plenty of very customizable servers all around the world. For example, on our servers at around 7-8 p.m. we have a judgment hour, which is when you can attack any guild or player without your karma taking a hit. When you set up your own server, you’ll be able to turn judgment hour off or turn on those conditions permanently. You’ll also set how fast players level up and many other parameters.

Can players transfer character between servers?

No, they cannot.

Steam Hammer seems quite ambitious. Are you worried about not delivering any of the features promised in your Kickstarter?

Everything is right on schedule. We’re currently hard at work building everything our backers paid for.

Finally, for those that missed the Kickstarter, is there any way to late back Steam Hammer?

Certainly. The game will be released to Steam in March 2017, and buying it will be the best way to support us. Strong sales, after all, will give us impetus we need to keep developing and making the Steam Hammer world more interesting and engaging.

Thanks for your time!

There’s no short supply of multiplayer survival games on the market but a well-done steampunk setting is sorely lacking. Big Way Games looks to fill that gap in impressive fashion, if all goes according to plan. With Early Access launching in just a couple of months, it won’t be long before we can dive in. Follow Steam Hammer on Steam and get notified as soon as it goes live.


Favorite Games of 2016

2016 has come and gone and now it’s time to reminisce about what turned out to be a great year in gaming. Tyler Bro and I have compiled our three favorite games we played in the past year. Most of them didn’t actually release last year, but that only shows one of the great things about gaming. Multiplayer games especially tend to evolve over time and many are in better shape than we’ve ever seen.

The Bro’s Picks:

Elder Scrolls Online
elder scrolls online 2016

I’ve fallen in love with Elder Scrolls Online. There’s so much interesting content here and two months later, I’m just scratching the surface. I tend to get a little ADD when it comes to MMORPGs so the wealth of options is fantastic. There’s a ton of dungeons (with a myriad of difficulties), expansive PvP, crafting, and crazy amount of customization options.

Unlike many other MMORPGs, I don’t feel compelled to play in a particular way. I log on and get rewards for doing whatever it is I find enjoyable. This is not the MMORPG it was when it first launched. ESO took a while to get to the point it’s at now, but One Tamriel really sealed the deal for me. This is my MMORPG of choice for the foreseeable future.

Overwatch

overwatch 2016

Elder Scrolls Online lacks one important multiplayer feature: competitive PvP. This is where Overwatch comes into play. I don’t always want an intense skill based multiplayer game. When I do, Overwatch is just a few clicks away. For a long time, League of Legends was my competitive multiplayer game of choice. With less time to devote to mastery, Overwatch has served as more than a capable replacement.

The characters feel truly unique and most of them offer a different experience from a typical shooter. Using abilities at the right time can mean the difference between a victory and a loss. The pacing of the matches feels just right too. Overwatch is one of the few multiplayer games that really changes things up for a gamer who sometimes feels like they’ve seen it all.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

witcher 3 2016

Of course, sometimes it’s important to just sit back and enjoy a fully immersive single player experience. In that regard, Witcher is hard to beat. I actually played this for the first time in 2015, but I enjoyed it so much I played through it again (with DLC) in 2016. There are some flaws, sure. The pacing is a little off in the main game, and combat isn’t super deep. I don’t think I’ve ever played a perfect game though so I’d qualify these as pretty minor complaints.

I love the characters, story, choices, and world. I can’t say at any point that I lost my sense of immersion in The Witcher 3. Actions and reactions flow in a natural manner, and there is a ton of choice & consequence. Making tough moral decisions is such a great part of the game. I hope to see something similar in that regard in 2017.

Tyler Bro’s picks:

Landmark

A player character in Landmark

Landmark was a pleasant surprise. We were all pretty disappointed by the cancellation of EverQuest Next, but if that was a case of life giving us lemons, Landmark is some pretty fine lemonade.

It’s a pretty simple game — really more of a toolkit than a game — but for what it is it does its job well. There’s almost no limit to what you can create in Landmark, and some of the creativity on display within it is truly awe-inspiring.

It might not be “main game” material, but it’s a nice place to pop into for some relaxation every now and again.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

An Imperial agent character and Lana Beniko in Star Wars: The Old Republic's Knights of the Eternal Throne expansion

If we’re to measure only by hours spent in-game, SW:TOR was my top game in 2016. Bar a few short breaks here and there, I played it heavily over the entire year. The major changes made by Knights of the Fallen Empire intrigued me, and I wound up getting sucked in for the long haul.

This is actually a bit surprising, even to me, because I’ve never really been a Star Wars fan, and there are some pretty big things about the game that I don’t like, from its business model to its combat.

However, I am a sucker for a good story, and that’s one thing Bioware tends to deliver pretty consistently. Between the class and expansion stories, I had no shortage of plot to keep me engaged, even as I largely ignored the multiplayer and endgame content.

StarCraft II

Nova's ship, the Griffin, in StarCraft II's Nova Covert Ops DLC

Although its last expansion technically launched in 2015, 2016 was still a fantastic year for StarCraft II. Its co-op mode has far exceeded everyone’s expectations, and I can’t even count how many matches I’ve played over the past year. With new maps and commanders coming regularly, it just keeps getting better.

Meanwhile, the Covert Ops DLC also provided a small but very quality dose of story content. I had my doubts about whether Covert Ops could measure up after the excellence of Legacy of the Void’s single-player experience, but it won me over with its intense story, innovative gameplay, and epic challenges. If Covert Ops is truly to be the last story update to StarCraft II, at least they left on a high note.

For all the stumbles made by Blizzard’s other properties in recent times, StarCraft seems to have the Midas touch these days.


Best PvP Systems for MMORPGs

PvE (Player vs. Environment) systems in MMORPGs are systematically all very similar. Obviously some games deliver more enjoyable challenges from artificial intelligence than others. Yet the core gameplay boils down to the same objective: kill bad guys and take their loot. On the other hand, PvP (Player vs. Player) in MMORPGs vary widely by objective, scope, and type. Which PvP system is the best for MMORPGs? To some extent, this depends on the game. Arena combat is a better fit for World of Warcraft than Eve Online. That doesn’t mean arena combat is better than Eve Online’s free-for-all PvP combat. People seeking a PvP MMO typically come to the table with a vision in mind. To me, the best PvP systems for MMORPGs coincide with the experiences people see in those visions.

In the spirit of competition that draws many to a seek an MMORPG with a good player vs player system, I’ll be eliminating one system at a time. By the end of this post, there will be only one. Highlander style is the best style, after all. This we learn at a young age.

baby knows only one pvp system can win

5. Duels

First on the chopping block is duels. It’s a fun time waster challenging friends to fight mano a mano, but that’s all it’s really good for. MMORPGs where duels are the highest form of player fighting are typically placed there as an afterthought. Blade and Soul is the only MMORPG where high end PvP is built around dueling. While it’s an improvement over dueling random folks in town, matches still tend to get repetitive. The problem with duels is that there’s not enough dynamic play for a strong PvP system. Strategies change depending on the class but not dramatically so. The player skill element arises from playing one’s class well, assuming gear is even and class balance on point. There’s not as much to react to compared to stronger 1v1 venues such as RTS games and CCGs.

4. Battlegrounds

Next has to be PvP battlegrounds. This PvP type caters to players looking for a quick, instanced PvP experience. Usually fighting in battlegrounds is incentivized with unique gear rewards. The problem is that battlegrounds are inherently casual experiences. People hop in by themselves or with small groups and just run around like headless chickens. There’s no sense of community here because the battlegrounds’ instanced nature changes who plays from match to match. There’s nothing really on the line and the lack of any pressure from a loss diminishes the PvP experience. The mentality going into battlegrounds then becomes grouping with the few people that care about teamwork and hoping for the best. There’s just too random many people in a battlegrounds fight to communicate effectively. Big PvP battles require coordination to get the most out of them, and that’s not something battlegrounds handle very well.

3. Arenas

Battlegrounds and duels are weak PvP experiences so cutting them felt good. Arena PvP though can be pretty awesome, and it’s next on the list. In 3v3 and 5v5 matches (or even larger like the original Guild Wars), class dynamics really start to matter. Even 2v2 displays expertise greater than the sum of its parts. Teamwork is huge in the arena and World of Warcraft’s arena competition has shown how important player skill and class knowledge are on the big stage. What makes arena combat great is also what keeps it from rising to the heights of greatest PvP system.

wow's pvp arena system

WoW’s PvP arena as an e-sport

The small group on small group battles requires everyone to be on their ‘A’ game to succeed. Not only can that be overly stressful at times, but it also significantly limits the audience that can participate. The people that play an MMORPG and can enjoy arena combat day in and day out are relatively few. Arena players instead typically gravitate towards MOBAs or arena shooters. So while arena type combat is enjoyable, it doesn’t mesh with the virtual worlds that are MMORPGs.

2. Open PvP

Open PvP systems allow players to kill each other with little to no restrictions. It creates a dangerous world, which fits in well with the games built around that concept. Open PvP can be full of lame griefing, but it can also create a unique atmosphere. To ensure that players can still enjoy the game, good developers will incentivize and discourage particular activities. This may include huge penalties for indiscriminate killing or major bonuses to joining a guild that necessitate ‘choosing a side’. What’s enjoyable about open PvP systems is simply the freedom that the game gives to the players. This creates wild stories, such as the ones that Eve Online is known for. The price of admission isn’t always worth it though, and that’s why it’s hard to rate as the best player fighting system.

I considered creating another heading for guild wars or territory wars but felt those played equal parts to the highest ranking forms of player vs. player combat. In a good open PvP system, players are encouraged to band together to survive and/or thrive. This isn’t just because there is safety in numbers, but because resources and territories can be controlled by large groups. Open systems without these type of objectives to fight over might even be a worse experience than only offering duels.

One other note: open PvP is generally exclusionary to other PvP types. You’ll notice that World of Warcraft, for example, uses all PvP systems on this list except for the open variety. That doesn’t necessarily mean WoW does all of these well. As noted earlier, Blade and Soul is built around duels. World of Warcraft includes dueling because it’s simple to do so, but it doesn’t add anything to the game. More on this in the next section.

1. Faction Wars

What separates faction wars from the rest of the bunch is its perfect mix of approachability, coordination, teamwork, scale, and variety. Faction wars can cater to both big guilds and individuals, admittedly with different levels of success. Still, there’s a lot to be said about an involved faction war system. The best example of how to integrate this system into an MMORPG is Dark Age of Camelot. The Realm vs. Realm play in that game is legendary, bringing together thousands of players to assault other realms while defending their own.

DAoC Pvp system rewards

This castle could be yours!

The greatness of a factional PvP war system is that it essentially combines the best components of all of the above systems without any of the flaws. Like duels, individual skill matters, but there’s no shortage of variance. Unlike casual battlegrounds, faction players will see the same people assisting the realm. This camaraderie leads to trust which leads to coordination. Arena combat might be great for small groups, but it’s really only for the best of the best. On the flip side, any competent human can contribute positively to their faction. And finally, against open PvP, faction warfare still gives the thrill of big battles and potent enemies but with a safe zone to protect against uneven ganking/griefing. In factional PvP systems, help is almost always just around the corner.

As I alluded to in the open PvP section, listing factions and war as bullet point descriptions doesn’t make a true faction war MMORPG. Games like World of Warcraft and Star Wars: The Old Republic might meet the technical definition of a factional MMORPG. Yet, I would in no way consider these faction war MMOs. A proper faction PvP system is more than just telling players to pick a side and fight the other side when seen. Proper rewards and incentives must be given, which can be as simple as the World vs. World server ladder in Guild Wars 2 or as complex as the aforementioned Camelot. So don’t be fooled by fancy terms when seeking a new MMORPG. Look into the details of what that MMORPG experience offers to see if it truly is what it says it is.

If you’re not sure which of these suit you best, try looking at individual MMORPGs. This list of PvP MMOs should help out.