I've been somewhat critical of SOE in recent weeks, but I'm happy to heap the praise on when I see something I like. Believe me, I want this game to be great, because I play it so much. Scott Hartsman's Producer's Letter is packed with exciting information and I'm pretty much in favor of every point he makes. Scary. I'll tackle the PvP aspect of the letter today and the rest tomorrow.
Let me get this out of the way first: There are going to be some players that have zero interest in PvP and I completely understand that. But some of those players are going to be critical of PvP in EQII no matter how it is implemented. The common argument is, "Fix my level 30 fluff spell before you waste time on PvP! P.S. I hate you SOE or should I say Blizzard rofl!"
You have to understand that an EQII type MMO is going to have gameplay elements that are not going to be of interest to you. Some people might not like raids, some might not like grouping, some might not like soloing, some might not like collection quests, and so on. Look, I think tradeskilling is less fun then my actual job and believe me that is not loads of fun. But I don't get mad every time there is a tradeskill update. I realize that some people enjoy tradeskilling and I'm happy to see SOE work on it. Please try to have the same understanding for those who enjoy PvP. Yes, I know there are things that need fixing, and I'll point that out every time I see it. But you can't stop creating new content and options.
Then you have those who think their class is going to get nerfed somehow due to PvP balancing. I don't know how Scott can be clearer but that is just not the case. "We have separate controls for what goes on in PvP. Since this is a piece that we knew we'd need no matter which direction we went, this is something we've already implemented." Read it. Believe it. Blackguard explains, "our coders were able to build in a method for us to have completely separate PvE and PvP effects for every spell." That just makes sense and this is the absolute right way to go about things.
Okay, that out of the way, let's look at Scott's points.
1. Separate PvP ruleset servers. Bravo. Why do I say that? That's the only way you can have real open PvP. "PvP will not be restricted to specific zones. It will take place all across the world of EverQuest II. Fight in dungeons, fight out in the wilds, defend your town, or attack the opposing side." If you like PvP at all, that has to excite you. If PvP was introduced on PvE servers, it would have to be limited to specific zones or areas. Open PvP makes for wild, risky and fun gameplay.
2. "This is strict good vs. evil. You're only grouping with others of your alignment, and opposing aligned PCs highlight to you the same way that NPC encounters would." Excellent. In the current game, Qeynos vs. Freeport has literally no meaning, except for the betrayal quests and the underwhelming sabotage quests. Which is fine, my Guild is both evil and good and I would never want to see that change. In fact, the restrictions on mailing items to opposing players should be dropped on PvE servers because it's meaningless the way things currently are. You can group with someone every night but then not mail them a flask of water? Ridiculous.
But, the whole setup is perfect for PvP - two opposing cities with very different moral codes waging war. There is a real opportunity for exciting and dynamic play here. I can't wait to slaughter any evil folks I see stray into my neighborhood and I hope to see battles with real consequences for the game world. That's just the way it should be in a PvP game.
3. "EQ2 will be introducing the concept of Honorable, Neutral, and Dishonorable victories. Honorable victories are where the rewards lie." This is obviously necessary. A system of this type is crucial to deal with griefing and make PvP fair, as well as making usual gameplay enjoyable. Sure, you can still kill a low level player, but you gain nothing from it and might even be penalized.
4. A variety of rewards will be implemented. What's more, in addition to fluff and titles some will be "real, desirable equipment" and even adventure xp. I am very relieved to see this. I argued strongly that rewards of this type are crucial to making PvP work and I am glad SOE and I are on the same wavelength on this subject. While PvP with no rewards can be fun, EQII and games like it are achievement based games in which people seek to improve their characters and gear. These rewards give it so much more meaning.
"It's time to heat up the cold war." Nicely put.
In summary, this vision of PvP is exactly how I would have implemented it, so you are not going to see any complaints here. Kudos to Scott and the SOE team.
Wait a minute, this is Aggro Me. I have to find some nitpicks. Here goes:
1. While I fully agree with PvP servers, I still hope some improvement comes to the Arena on PvE servers.
A web-based or in-game ranking system would be a good start. So would "combining" the Arenas from every server, if that is technically possible.
2. This one is not a criticism at all. I just hope the population is there to support it. This is really a game for PvE players. There's nothing SOE can do about it if they implement this and no one comes. If they do it right and it's still not popular, that's not their fault. The abject desolation of the Arena scares me a little.
3. Can the EQII classes be successfully balanced for PvP? I don't see why not. But, I would highly prefer they take the time to balance as much as possible rather than push the system out sooner.4. Will the good and evil populations be unbalanced (i.e. too many players on the good side)? I know WoW is struggling with this dilemma and I don't have any easy solution to it. SOE did come up with a solution to this for Planetside, so maybe they have something up their collective sleeves here.5. Having a Station Exchange PvP server does not sit well with me. I don't like the Exchange, as I've said many times in the past and I think this is a bad idea. I'll have more to say on this point in the future. 6. Will non-American players be able to participate, as Anachronist asks in this thread?
I think it is good that SOE is adding the PvP option. I think it is great that they appear to be going about it in the right way. I will certainly be rolling a character on the PvP server and I truly look forward to it.
As always, I'd like to hear what you think about this upcoming addition. Arthais over at EQII Realm also commented on this issue and gets a bit more into detail on the Good vs. Evil and Station Exchange points then I did. It's a good article and I recommend it.