Maybe you’re new to the whole MMO scene. Maybe you’ve never done PVP in an MMO. Maybe you’ve never heard of Dark Age of Camelot (DAOC), or stopped to think about the implications of the planned “Alliance War” end game for the Elder Scrolls Online. Never fear, I’ve experienced plenty and have been wracking my brain over the implications for many a month now; I’ll share what I’ve concluded!
What is the difference between RvR or AvA and regular PvP?
PvP simply means “player vs. player” – RvR and AvA fall under the umbrella of PvP, but they are more specialized and focused. If you hate PvP, it’s probably because you played in an MMO or other type game where there was something called free for all or FFA PvP, and didn’t like the chaos. That’s okay – it takes a special breed to enjoy that sort of mayhem. RvR is a term coined by the devs of Dark Age of Camelot and it stands for Realm versus Realm. The people behind DAOC, Matt Firor included, decided that it was more enjoyable for MOST people if you didn’t have to worry about PvP in your adventuring area and only had meaningful conflict with enemy realms in a “frontier.” In my, not so humble, opinion, they were right. I migrated to DAOC from Everquest and knew nothing of the RvR aspect of that game. I blithely went about, engaging in the PVE escapades until I was somewhere near top level and a friend I had made sent me a /tell, “Hey, Mids are at our milegate and our guild is rallying to defend. Do you want to come?” I had no idea what he was talking about, but I said, “Sure!” I made the horse ride over the to the portal keep, jumped into the frontiers and joined his group. I still had no idea what was going on, but I had the vague notion that enemy players were attacking our realm. Thus commenced some of the most entertaining 2 hours of my gaming history. I won’t bore you with a play by play (if my memory even could call that detail up), but I’ll say that the unknown of enemy players was what kept me on the edge of my seat for the whole time; you never knew when you were going to engage or be engaged, and the thrill of winning our first couple engagements vs. other players gave me a rush like I never felt in PVE. Fast forward to today and ESO’s planned implementation of Alliance versus Alliance (AvA) warfare; I’ll outline the similarities of the two systems in the next section.
How is AvA like DAOC’s RvR?
- Both games feature a 3 faction warfront. This is important to note, because it adds an entire dimension to PvP – knowing that a 3rd faction could show up at any moment while you are attacking or defending one of your enemies keeps things interesting!
- Both games focus their PvP action into one, large area. In DAOC it was the frontier and later New Frontier (much larger area consisting of several connected zones.) In ESO it all takes place in Cyrodiil, a reportedly massive outdoor zone in the center of the continent.
- Both games feature a realm wide bonus for obtaining objectives in the war effort. In DAOC you gained bonuses to physical power or spell power based on what relics you held. We aren’t sure of the details regarding the objectives and bonuses in Cyrodiil, but it’s been stated many times that this is one of the features designed to make AvA meaningful.
- In both games, you’re free to attend the PvP action or not. This was one of the selling points of DAOC – you could have quite a good time enjoying the PVE content and never have to worry about an enemy player attacking you. On the other hand, if you are a fan of the PvP action, you can fully enjoy the huge area filled with content, objectives, and enemy players.
- In ESO, just as with DAOC, PvP isn’t just a death match – there are castles and keeps to lay siege to.
How is ESO avoiding the pitfalls of other recent games that had a PvP Endgame?
This is a good question, and one I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about. Obviously, we won’t know how successfully Zenimax can pull this off until several months after release, but I have noted several things they are doing right:
- They have 3 factions right from the start. Having a 3rd faction helps to keep things from snowballing into a landslide for the stronger faction. When you have 1 faction that is dominating, the other two tend to work together, even if unwittingly, to make things difficult for that faction. Imagine you have a strong faction that has captured most of the keeps or objectives in an area. It becomes increasingly difficult to defend all those objectives from two different enemy factions.
- Zenimax has declared that the only PvP is in Cyrodiil. This is one area were Warhammer Online and Starwars the Old Republic made a huge mistake. Both of those games allowed instant teleportation into mini PvP games. It turned out that those mini PvP games pulled a large portion of the PvP player base out of the end game faction war.
- Megaserver – Having all players on one giant server will alleviate the “ghost town syndrome” that occurs to less popular servers after the initial opening rush. A faction war with 10 or so people isn’t much of a war.
- Benefits for engaging in the faction war: Skill lines, ranks, realm bonuses, bragging rights, PVE and PVP objectives in Cyrodiil – all of these things should help to incentivize the war effort, keeping it populated and full of action.
A potential major problem?
So far, I’ve been pretty positive about the idea of Zenimax including AvA as a major focus of their endgame. I’m fully aware that we haven’t actually seen any of this in action, but the design decisions sound very well thought out. One major problem stands out to me, though: A huge part of the fun in a faction war is developing a reputation. This serves to help develop rivalries between enemies, and those rivalries help to keep the action interesting and most of all entertaining. The problem I’m seeing is that it sounds like Zenimax will assign players to certain instances of Cyrodiil called “campaigns” and that those campaigns are not permanent. In other words after a certain amount of time the campaign ends and a victor is declared. Now, where I’m not clear is whether or not the people in those campaigns will then be reassigned to a new instance with new enemies, or if they’ll all just stay together and the campaign will reset. I think if it’s the latter, everything will be fine, but if it’s the former, and we all have to get to know new allies and enemies every time the campaign resets, there’s potentially a large problem. Here’s hoping Zenimax does the right thing! A faction war without any sense of permanence loses its immersion factor, and that’s not good for anyone!