Recently Blizzard introduced the long-awaited Honor System into the World of Warcraft MMORPG. The Honor System seems to be an attempt to motivate players into participating into an unending war by dangling carrots of status, powerful items and other gimmicks. This got me thinking and pondering the question:
Should PVP be it’s own reward?
It seems to me that those players that love to PVP have always done so because they like it. PVP has always been a reward in itself. Now I’m not a big fan of PVP myself because for one as I’ve never seen it implemented in a way that makes sense from a lore and role-playing perspective but most PVPers/PKers enjoy it because they love affecting a real-life person at the other end of the computer. Quite simply they find it fun. PVPers never needed rewards, trinkets and such to participate in PVP in previous games, why then did Blizzard find it necessary to bribe players into engaging in PVP?
When Blizzard created the Honor System it seems they basically wanted to stimulate the players into buying into their idea of ongoing war for their Warcraft universe. (It’s clever in that with PVP battles players essentially entertain themselves which reduces the burden on Blizzard to create new content). They’ve made many of the rewards so lucrative that the very essence of the game will be player vs. player combat to the exclusion of everything else. I’m just not sure that this is a good thing. Should one type of playstyle in a MMORPG be given preference over another such as achieving, socializing and exploring? I think not.
My problem with WoW is that it seems the ultimate desire of the designers is to push everyone into participating in faction vs. faction PVP whether one likes it or not. Yes there are the PVE servers but with the release of the upcoming Battlegrounds which is just instanced PVP, the direction of WoW is clear: it’s PVP. As we know from Bartle’s observations and our own experience playing in various MMORPGs, online worlds are full of diverse playstyles. My issue with the PVP playstyle is that it’s the only form of expression that preys on the 3 other playstyle types. It seems parasitical in nature. You can be an achiever/explorer/socializer without hurting other players. You can’t be a PVPer/PKer without hurting others.
The central problem with WoW is that it rewards one playstyle at the expense of others. I don’t think you can build longevity for a virtual world nor will it be successful in the long run with that imbalance. Diversity of player types is good for online worlds. I also have serious doubts whether WoW will have the staying power to keep retaining subscribers 5 years from now as EverQuest did. It is my opinion and that of others that eventually WoW will start losing people despite it’s current dominance in the MMORPG market. Successful online games are all about community building. Continued emphasis on PVP will erode what little community WoW has as EQ veterans like myself abandon the game. I also don’t think that the people that have migrated to WoW from various online games and FPS games will stay once they grow tired of the one-dimensional gameplay of WoW.
I had high hopes for WoW. It sucked me in with it’s amazingly stylized world of beauty, detail and ambient music. There has never been an online world quite like it. Somehow I feel manipulated by Blizzard as the true intentions of the designers like Kalgan is now revealed: massive online PVP. The Honor system really disappointed me because there is not a shred of honor to be found in it. Players now are nothing more then “mobs” to be crushed, steamrolled and harvested for honor points. Ganking low level players or players that are low on health due to fighting PVE mobs is the order of the day with no dishonor mechanism (as promised on page 134 of the official manual) to stop it.
Maybe Blizzard has created a new player archetype for online worlds: the kill-achiever. a melding of 2 player types into one type. I wish Blizzard every success with WoW. It’s a grand experiment in virtual worlds that has yet to be proven successful for the long-term. Perhaps WoW is just not the online world for me. However all is not lost. Maybe there is a silver lining in that future online games that are not so PVP-centric such as Vanguard: Saga of Heroes may be free of the PKer type. We can only hope that games like WoW and Guildwars offer a magnet for the PVPers and gankers to ply their trade. Thankfully WoW is one big virtual bug zapper that attracts the PKer types that populate many online games today.
As to my original question: Should PVP be it’s own reward? I think the answer is yes. PVP should never be exalted above other playstyles nor should mechanisms be put in place that reward it killing for the sake of killing–unless of course that is the desire of the devs as in WoW. I suppose another question is: how much killing is enough? Players who PVPed before the introduction of the Honor System did so for the sheer fun and challenge of it. I had hoped that the PVP in WoW would have been more elevated–something that one did because of an emotional reason to defend a town, protect innocent civilians, etc. Now it’s just another form of grinding(tm).
Most players who participated in PVP on PVP servers before the Honor System were relatively satisfied with the level and frequency of PVP notwithstanding the ongoing ganking. There was a good balance of PVE and PVP. Now I sense outrage, frustration and betrayal on the part of many who have found themselves playing an entirely different game with no dishonor to regulate abusive players. I think it’s disastrous to radically change the nature of gameplay many months into the release of the game. The Honor System should have been fully tested and ready when WoW was released yet Blizzard took the advice of the suits at Vivendi and the rest is history.
I’ve finally come to terms with the PVP-centric nature of WoW and the oft-repeated mantra of the PVP crowd that exclaim “it’s WAR!!!!”. I had hoped that there was a place for players like me that wanted to participate in a nobler form of PVP fighting for one’s country, one’s liege lord, one’s honor, ones family, one’s home. As more and more PVEers like myself that aspire to more then just killing our fellow man start to leave WoW I can’t help thinking that it will be Blizzard’s loss and that the world will be somewhat diminished. Perhaps I was just spoiled by my experiences with EQ.