Learning From the Past: How to Make ESO’s RvR Better than GW2
Let’s get one thing out of the way up front: yes there have been plenty of RvR MMO’s before Guilds Wars 2, and yes I’ve played them all. The reason I’m getting ready to compare Elder Scrolls Online to GW2 is because GW2 is the most recent, the most similar, and the two are going to be in direct competition for the same RvR player base.
Guild Wars 2 World vs. World is a pretty amazing experience and I’ve enjoyed many things about it. Massive armies face off against each other all day, every day. The castle objectives and siege equipment are beautifully designed. The atmosphere is fiercely competitive, with many of the world’s great MMO guilds squaring off in the top tiers… but for all its strengths, GW2 has failed miserably in several areas.
Here’s a list of mistakes that the developers of Elder Scrolls Online should take careful note of, lest they be condemned to repeat them:
• Launch your game without any sort of RvR progression system. Guild Wars 2 faceplanted in this area. The only tangible benefit to RvR at launch was to collect tokens, which for some shockingly stupid reason could only be used to buy one type of armor that many classes were not interested in. There were no RvR specific levels, skill trees or titles to be found. GW2 finally wised up and added a chincy RvR progression system eight months after launch, but it was way too little, way too late. ESO should implement deep RvR specific leveling trees that offer tangible benefits such as valuable RvR specific skills, varied weapon and armor purchases (on par with best in game), and titles.
• No leaderboards. Are you shitting me? Leaderboards are insanely easy to implement and have been a staple of every decent online game released in the last 10 years. People who play PvP MMO’s are intrinsically competitive. Competitive people like to feel accomplished. Leaderboards provide that. ESO should launch with individual and guild leaderboards that cover a wide array of stats. (Overall kills, KvD ratios, capture points, etc.)
• Heavily reward zerg play over small group play. Who doesn’t like being a faceless sheep in a crowd of hundreds of other laggy, faceless sheep? Based on design decisions in GW2, running with “the zerg” became the only viable meta in RvR. Two things can offset this kind of play style: much larger maps which force splitting forces to cover wider areas, and diminishing returns on rewards when you fight in huge groups. ESO should consider both of these mandatory.
• Raid windows? Who needs raid windows? What’s been good enough for every MMO since 1999 apparently didn’t make any sense to GW2 developers. Their decision to cut raid windows from the game meant RvR commanders had abso-fuckin-lutely no idea what condition their forces were in.
• Class too strong in sPvP? Nerf them in RvR! GW2 failed to split any skills between structured arena PvP and RvR. Since the developers had a serious hard on for the idea that GW2 could someday be an eSport, their balancing was heavily focused in that direction. Of course, they flopped hard as an eSport, and the game mode that was actually popular (WvW) is still suffering from majorly imbalanced classes (see Rangers).
• Cater to the casuals. Unfortunately, every MMO since WoW has been terrified of being too “hard core” lest they scare away the casual players. This dumbing down of the genre has left us with an endless pile of weak PvP experiences. In GW2 the developers are so afraid of griefing, that they block you from being able to see the name of the person you’re fighting in RvR. This in turn eliminates rivalries, infamy… you know, all the stuff that makes an MMO worth playing? Death penalties are also incredibly weak, meaning that dying and killing feels watered down and boring. If ESO is willing to be bolder than it’s predecessors in this area, it might actually create a RvR experience that is meaningful to the people who play it… one that may stay relevant for years to come.