PvP Isn't Necessary in MMOs Anymore
I know I’m gonna get some flack for this but I need you guys to approach this with an open mind.
This takes me back to a simpler time in my life. Back when the thrill of hunting other players and asserting my dominance over them was all that mattered.
I was ruthless. Bloodthirsty. An absolute monster – someone that I don’t even recognize when I look back. The amount of money I wasted in MMOs to have an advantage over other players is disgusting.
But then I grew up. And don’t laugh. I may not seem like it at times, but I am a functional adult. And when I hit about 24, 25, that thirst I had for PvP just kind of.. vanished. And I feel like at that point, I truly began to enjoy MMOs for what they were, and started to realize that PvP was just a distraction from the game.
Now I’m not claiming that PvP in every MMO is a distraction. Some MMOs have PvP as a focus, and they’re centered entirely around that activity. But for the most part, MMOs are not.
Yet the vocal majority of players on social platforms often criticize “PvE carebears” as they like to label them, making the unfounded claim that PvP is an integral part of every MMORPG.
PvP dates all the way back to the era of MUDs, with the first introduction of it in an MMORPG being in Neverwinter Nights – not the RPG, the MMO, back in 1989. Then Meridian 59, Ultima Online and Tibia introduced and expanded upon PvP, making it much more mainstream in the late 90s.
PvP has been around almost since the inception of the genre, and with the inclusion of faction-based MMOs, such as World of Warcraft, Aion and ArcheAge, PvP based upon individual faction became quite normalized and very prevalent. And that made perfect sense. But it never felt like it was a “requirement.”
But, recently, especially with the release of the Elyon and Swords of Legends Online Closed Betas, I’ve noticed a sentiment resounding throughout the general MMO community.
And that is that for an MMORPG to be “successful,” it needs to have a focus on PvP. The mere inclusion of PvP isn’t enough, though, no. The game, at its core, needs PvP as a focal point to survive long-term.
There is no way an MMO can exist, let alone thrive if you can’t fight other players.
And that opinion, which is mirrored by quite a few players left me sitting here, reading through all of these threads thinking to myself… but why, though? What about PvP makes it a necessity, where the game’s overall success is solely dependent on the inclusion of a single feature?
PvE players aren’t sitting here claiming “MMOs need dungeons or raids to be successful.” Well, okay, there might be a few people that hate Black Desert because of that very issue, but generally, PvE players seem to be content so long as you have monsters to LMB or RMB on.
Interestingly enough, this isn’t a notion that just.. surfaced out of nowhere, though. Rather, this is something players have been claiming for years.
I’ve been playing MMOs since 2005? 2006? I started all the way back with Tales of Pirates, which was a PvPvE MMO.
This was the very definition of a hardcore PvP MMO. Dungeons, Raids and World Bosses were all completely open-PvP areas. You could begin a boss encounter, engage it for 30 minutes straight, and then get ganked by another guild or group of players while you’re otherwise preoccupied.
Boss fights, guild fights. Everything in that MMO was a thrill to be a part of. Being one of the top crusaders on the Phoenix server during the game’s prime was something that – to date – I’ve not felt since.
I then moved on to Perfect World International, which is an entirely open-world PvP MMORPG. If you were killed out in the world, you had the potential to drop items, or worse: Gear.
I’ve spent over a decade in PvP servers in WoW, and PvP has been a main part of pretty much my entire gaming career.. up until the last couple years, where it seemed as though PvP kind of just.. began to stagnate.
The more people I asked, the more people I played with all claimed that PvP was no big deal to them. The overwhelming majority of players I polled on Elyon’s full open-world PvP said that was the largest turn-off for them with regards to the game.
This could be in part due to the aging population of general MMO players like myself. As we age we not only grow out of that PvP-obsessed phase, but our tastes also evolve. Sometimes for the better, sometimes… well, you get the picture.
With this in mind, then, where does the notion that “PvP is required for an MMORPG to be successful” even come from?
In my opinion – which is the entire purpose of this article, mind you – as my opinion here isn’t fact, and shouldn’t be taken as such, but in my opinion, PvP is not required to have a successful MMO. At all. Not anymore, anyway.
Meaningful. PvE. That is what I feel is one of the most important aspects of an MMO. Tab-target combat? Action combat? Either can work. Anime, Medieval aesthetic? Both can be beautiful. 2D? 3D? I’m sure we can have fun in either.
Current MMOs are a testament to all of the above. And you know what? Let’s go ahead and take a look at the current state of PvP in MMOs and see if we can’t get a little.. insight to back my theory up.
What is the largest MMORPG in the West right now? World of Warcraft. And while it’s debatable whether or not PvP has really been good – let alone balanced in WoW in a while now, it’s worth noting that they removed PvP servers, opting for a simple toggleable “Warmode” feature for players. And Arenas are the most barren I’ve seen them.
Final Fantasy XIV: PvP has never been popular. The modes present are merely.. side-activities. There has never, and likely will never be a large focus on PvP.
The Elder Scrolls Online: While Cyrodiil has always been a lot of fun, you can go online and find out how active PvP has become over the years.
Guild Wars 2: While the PvP brackets, much like the aforementioned MMOs is in decline, people at the very least still find it to be fun, with whatever minimal participation there is.
Black Desert Online is an open-world PvP MMO, but the majority of the time players just sit around grinding their respective monsters, not engaging one another.
I can go on. But instead, I want to point out a few very distinct similarities with all of the games above.
With the exception of Black Desert, every single MMORPG has a very large focus on narrative. Well, some of you might argue WoW’s narrative is kind of.. disjointed and nowhere near as good as, say, Legion’s was, but nevertheless, they all have a focus on the wide-reaching narrative.
This narrative pushes the game along, and this narrative is one of the reasons these games are as good as they are. Yet they’re all becoming progressively more PvE-focused over time.
Even Black Desert is introducing dungeons into the game – yeah, dungeons. After years of nothing but grinding and PvP, they’re finally implementing one of the most popular types of PvE content.
“That doesn’t mean anything,” you might be thinking. “So what? Old MMOs are just beginning to cater to a more carebear audience.”
Existing MMOs aren’t the only titles with a larger focus on PvE over PvP. New World is a new upcoming MMO. When it was announced, it had an overbearing focus on PvP. Now, PvP is more or less optional. And while the vocal majority of players are upset, the majority of players that will play long-term are not.
Blue Protocol is one of the most anticipated MMOs on the horizon, and it doesn’t even have a PvP mode. Bandai Namco have confirmed there will be absolutely no PvP in the game whatsoever. And much like the earlier titles, Blue Protocol will have a large focus on narrative, dungeons and raids.
The most popular MMOs on the market right now have a noticeable decline in their PvP community. People still participate in PvP modes, but not nearly to the extent they once did.
And as is evidenced by both New World and Blue Protocol, the direction the PC market is moving is away from PvP.
Although it is worth noting that mobile MMOs are touting “game-changing PvP game modes” – modes holding hundreds of players all auto-attacking one another. Allowing for open-world auto-play PvP. And Mobile games target a younger audience.. huh, maybe we’re on to something here?
Is there a connection between younger MMO players, PvP and mobile devices? Nah..
Regardless, I know this new focus, this new direction has left some people a little.. “disgruntled,” I guess is the word I’m looking for? But is it really so bad? There’s a reason why Battle Royale’s and MOBAs exist, right? And a reason why Mobile MMOs have found the success that they have.
The vast majority of players that used to camp lowbies, gank people when they were questing or AFK, you know the type.. they’ve all moved on to games like Fortnite now. And I feel like – and again, this might not be the popular opinion here, but the genre is better off for it.
We didn’t need that kind of toxicity. The kind of toxicity I see every time I play Overwatch. The kind of toxicity I see when looking at Twitch compilations. I feel as though the era where PvP was a prevalent part of the MMO genre has long-since passed. I honestly don’t think it’ll ever return, either. At least for PC MMO gaming.
However what we have in its place isn’t necessarily better. With the decline in PvP participation, comes the increase in players participating in competitive PvE content. Mrs Stix has, as an example, cleared every Savage raid tier in Final Fantasy XIV and is pushing through Ultimate content. The most challenging content in the game.
And the sheer number of elitist, entitled, toxic “children,” is comparable to what I witnessed in PvP. People blaming one another for taking a step to the left instead of a step to the right. For popping their defensives a second too early. For not having a full understanding of the raid before having ever even stepped foot into it.
I’m actually appalled by how bad competitive PvE content can be, and the amount of people that project their own faults onto others.. has left me with a strong disdain for ever returning and participating in competitive PvE content.
At least when it came to PvP if I messed up, I’d probably just end up dead somewhere. But if I mess up even slightly in a raid, everyone dies and they give you the Bat glare. Yeah.
So realistically we just substituted one outlet for another, especially as the competitive PvE scene continues to grow in scale. And if, no, when Mobile MMOs become more mainstream than PC MMOs, we’re going to a resurgence of PvP fanatics and PvP-focused Mobile, cross-platform titles dominating the genre.
At the end of the day, I’ve always had a lot of fun in PvP, but the idea that any game requires a single feature to “succeed” is asinine.
PvP is one of the last things I think an MMO needs to retain an active playerbase. And if we’re using statistics here, then more people are turned away by griefers during the leveling process than they are attracted by them.
So having PvP, especially open-world PvP available is potentially doing more harm to your game than it is good. We can see that if we look at any of the most popular MMOs currently available.
Now again, I don’t want you guys to take this as me saying “PvP shouldn’t be a thing.” Don’t get the wrong idea, that is as far away from the point as you could be. I’m merely saying that we don’t necessarily need to have the feature present in a game for it to be successful, let alone have it be a focal point.
But what do you think? Should PvP be the main focus of an MMO? What would that even look like?
Do you enjoy having PvP in your game? Do you even engage in PvP at all, or do you prefer running dungeons, pushing competitive-level raids, grinding for whatever outfits are available in the game you main?
I’m genuinely curious and would love to spark a discussion with all of you. I’m seeing so much hate for PvP lately, but reading so many contradicting statements online from people of the exact opposite opinion.
And for those of you that do think PvP should be present in a game, in what form? Open-world PvP without limitations? Arenas? Battlegrounds? Faction wars?