About a month ago, Amazon’s large age of conquest MMO, New World, announced a huge shift in focus from a free-for-all, full-loot PvP game to a less hardcore PvP game with some PvE features. The MMO at least plans to cater to a wider audience of PvE players while still including much of the larger scale 50 v 50 territory battles, among other things.
I won’t go into all the specific details of what the game plans on including; we’ve already got you covered there. This column is Fight or Kite, where we talk PvP MMOs specifically, so I want to talk about why it was a good move not just for PvE players who wanted a reason to play New World but for the PvPers themselves. Settlers, hold my musket – I’m going in!
The number one feature you need for PvP is a playerbase
It’s really as simple as that. It’s more important than lore, combat mechanics, support mechanics, graphics, and even a good user interface. The absolute most important thing a studio needs in order to ensure that a PvP game has a slug’s chance in a salt mine of coming out successful is having a lot of players.
Easier said than done though, right?
A PvP MMO needs to reach that critical mass of players in order for you, me, and everyone else to have someone to fight. And when a game can’t quite reach that level, it’s nothing but a fizzle.
It reminds me of Absolver, which I absolutely adore. Now there is a game I really need to spend some time and jump back into again. As amazing as the world was, as fluid and beautiful as the combat was, it simply never reached that critical mass of players. Who can say why? I know there are still some dedicated players, but it isn’t the super esport that it should have been.
My game time in Absolver steadily declined as I began to get tired of the fights. Now, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t the combat or the fights themselves that I grew annoyed with; it was the fact that with such a dwindling population, I would regularly fight the same players match after match, day after day. There are times when that can make for a fun revenge battle for you. But when it happens over and over again, it gets old.
So, those of you out there who feel cheated and lied to about New World, consider that even from its early testing Amazon must have been able to see the writing on the wall. And you need to realize that we need other people in our game for it to survive. More players in the game is always a better thing.
We’ve discussed sheep and wolves before too. It appears that Amazon could tell it was designing a game for the wolves, just the wolves, and discovering (shockingly) it was populated by nothing but the wolves. And when the gaming wolves get hungry, they don’t turn on each other and battle; they run to where they can get some other easy pickings. As in, a different game. That’s not healthy for any MMO’s population or longetivity.
Fortunately, in Amazon’s case, the villagers actually listened to the crying boy before it was too late. Well, hopefully before it’s too late. If early impressions are accurate, it’s going to be an uphill battle to right this wrong. Yet, if our poll is any indication, many MMO players are now interested when they weren’t before. (Whether they’ll find what they seek is another story, of course.)
We want a game that feels alive and feels like players exist in it. If I just wanted a murder simulator or pure PvP combat game, I’d play Absolver, For Honor, Apex Legends, or any number of other PvP-only games. What I want from my MMORPGs is a world that is alive. And in that living world is a foundation for PvP, among other things. That is why we play MMOs and not something else, after all.
I believe even if the content is basic, good combat and systems can hold players engaged for a while. When I started playing ArcheAge Unchained, I was having a blast even though the quests were very basic and honestly dull. Simply learning the new systems and enjoying how the skills played together kept me logging in. New World already has impressive animations and graphics. The setting seems rich with possibilities. If Amazon makes the right choices from here forward, then it has a shot at making a successful game.
Similar PvP games exist – and they moved to the center too
Yes, I can hear you from the peanut gallery. “What about the dozens of players who liked the game how it was before? What about us?” Well, for players that truly can’t get over the switch, I’ve got some good news and some bad news. The good news is there are games you can play right now, today, that include free-for-all(-ish) PvP. The bad news is most of those games that are actually worth playing also realized they need to include a bit more support for the PvEers and hybrid players too.
The previous version of New World centered more on guilds fighting for territory, alongside easy griefing too. So I’d suggest giving Albion Online a peek. It was also pitched as a hardcore PvP sandbox game but has begun to open up to a broader market. It’s free to play on Steam too, so there’s no real harm in trying it out. It’s extremely well populated and constantly being updated and adding new features. It isn’t pure free-for-all ganking in every zone, but you can get your kicks in any place that matters.
Now, if the isometric Warcraft 3 graphics aren’t quite your cup of tea, then I’d recommend Crowfall. I’ve played it on and off over the past year or so and it should cover your desire for guild territory battles when it finally launches. The combat there is quite fun as well, even in the alpha. You can loot your opponents in most of the open fields too. ArtCraft has also included the God’s Reach zones for newbies to get their feet wet in, but for the most part, the game has open faction combat.
ArcheAge Unchained actually lets you grief in zones that are at war (about every few hours, and there’s always at least one leveling zone ripe for the griefing). It’s perfect for the griefer who wants to chase around lowbies trying to complete their PvE quests. I’m sure there are plenty of other games that I don’t play as much that you can get your griefing on in too.
One thing you will see in all those games is at least some form of relief for players who don’t want to PvP or don’t want to feel like they are under siege at all times. That’s what Amazon has come around to, which is really not that novel an idea.
Griefing is not PvP
One last thing before we close this one out. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it to your face again: Griefing isn’t PvP. It just isn’t. From a practical standpoint, there is no difference between a high-level player face rolling someone who isn’t prepared and stands no chance of fighting back and someone who smashes ambient creatures and level one mobs. I understand there is probably some reverse-bully, God-complex mentality where now you get to be in charge deciding who gets to play and who doesn’t. But that isn’t player vs. player combat and you know it.
I know there are some strong opinions about the New World change-up. I’ve read the polls and the comments, and I’ve definitely seen the concern over the fact that the game doesn’t appear to have enough PvE in it – yet – to justify the “switcheroo,” especially not if it’s really launching in May.
Yet, I still think we can find some common ground here. We all want to see this game do amazing things, and we want the experience playing the game to feel amazing. Can we agree that broadening the playerbase, giving it a wider overall appeal, is better for the game and for you? We need other bodies in the game to actually PvP against. This shift actually gives the game that chance.