Meaningful PvP?

I was playing a little bit of Ultima Online over the past few weeks. I downloaded and started playing on a free shard that tried to stick to the olden days of UO, meaning they had a lot of PvP. I was playing well by myself and I went into the Blood dungeon several times, when one day it seemed very busy. At first people were helping me out, but eventually the inevitable happened… someone PK’d me. And this got me to thinking about PvP.

This experience exemplified the continued issue with PvP. The guy didn’t even actually kill me, he demanded some trinket off me (my robe) and then let me go. That’s it, but it still did what he needed it to. It ruined my otherwise fine day, and actually I haven’t even returned since then.

You may think me as a carebear or what not, and I guess to a certain degree I am. However, I have played many PvP games in the past. I played Shadowbane, Dark Age of Camelot, and when AC2 came out I went to the RvR server. Truth be told, I really do enjoy PvP every now and then and think it offers and extremely fun dynamic to a game that the developers just cannot design if they wanted to.

So I want PvP around. But doing an all out PvP game, like Ultima Online, is just too off-putting to too many people. And so far there have been few games to implement the RvR system well. The best has been DAoC and everyone else seems to be a “meh” experience.

PvP needs to mean something first and foremost. Developers can’t just throw it in and hope it works. Or even throw it in with a couple minor prizes for those who partake. There needs to be real purpose in it. To me, the best PvP game thus far that I have played was Shadowbane and this was largely because it involved warfare and city building. When you fought someone, it was usually under the context of war with that country, honestly I don’t remember too many instances in that game where I was actually killed just to be killed. It always in the context of nation vs nation instead.

You need to give the player something to fight for. In my mind, I think that the best idea is to make the PvP aspect incorporate both city building and resource control. City building helps cover a secondary thing that players have wanted in an MMO since the inception of the genre, and resource control just makes sense.

People need to be able to have the control to build their own cities, and then turn around take control of other people’s cities via war. It shouldn’t be an easy thing or even something that every player and/or guild should be allowed to do. It should take great effort to build a new city, and then even more effort to turn that city into a nation of cities. This needs to be something that does’t happen often, and because of this might be something that works as an expansion as great wealth would be need to do it.

Once cities and nations are built, armies and guards are needed to defend it. This is where PvP comes in. Players should be able to choose to join these armies and guard units. The rulers of the nations would have the ability to reward these troops as they see fit, be it from salaries, lower dues, bonuses that the nation can buy into, or access to special smiths that can help the troops improve themselves.

Now the troops could only attack other nations armies they are at war with. So this isn’t full out PvP. Not only do you have to choose to be PvP orientated, but there is another level of control that says you have to choose to be at war. War doesn’t need to be consensual, there should always be the danger that you are going to be attacked if you are a nation, but I don’t think it is in the best interest of the game to let anyone declare war, I think just leaders should have that capability.

Of course there needs to be a prize still besides just building the city for countries and pvp to exist, and that is the resource control. The country would have control over various mines in its sphere of influence. They can do with those mines as they want, leave them open and free, charge a levy for any who enter, or shut them down to a select few people. Perhaps other countries might raid the mines promoting a need for a guard or two at the entrance, but by and large the leaders would have control over it. If resources are done right in the first place, this in itself is a big enough prize without the need to throw up arbitrary prizes to the player like a special suit of armor for any who PvPs enough…

Would this system even work? I don’t know. It isn’t perfect, far from it. For all its trying to leave non-pvp’ers alone while having a strong pvp end game, it still begs the question… If one nation takes over a lowly crafter’s nation over, and doesn’t want lowly crafter in that nation… How is that not affecting the crafter who wants nothing to do with PvP?