About a month ago, Scott at Broken Toys made a great post on How To Make A Game With ‘PvP Done Right’. Tobold followed that up with We Just Don’t Want To Lose. Both great posts… and there were a bunch more.
So, exactly how can you manage to have good PvP and avoid making losing feel like a crippling loss?
Before I go into anything, lets just put out there that I do not like 100% open friendly fire PvP. I prefer PvP games where there are sides to choose, like Dark Age of Camelot and World of Warcraft and the upcoming Warhammer.
I would think what you would need is to reward players with several buckets.
Let’s call the first bucket the “Combat Bucket”, in here the player is given points for damaging enemies, healing damage done by enemies, casting debuffs and buffs with diminishing returns for recasting spells that don’t stack (i.e. – if you cast a debuff that reduces the target’s accuracy by 5% and a second cast stacks for a 10% total you get full points for casting it; but if it does not stack and a second cast keeps the effect at 5%, you only get points if your cast is considered a “refresh” – the effect lasts 30 seconds and you recast it at 10 seconds or less to go; if it doesn’t stack and isn’t a “refresh” you get nothing). Essentially, within the PvP environment (the open world, the instance, whatever), every action that is taken in offense or defense earns points in the Combat Bucket. You could even split this into two buckets for offense or defense, but that might get complicated.
The next bucket is the “Kill Bucket”. When an enemy is defeated, points are dropped into the Kill Bucket for all the people who participated in the kill. How far/deep to go with this is a very long discussion and requires testing to determine how far is far enough and how deep is deep enough. How is the kill awarded? To a player? To a group? To a side? To everyone who damaged, debuffed, buffed/healed those people, etc?
The third bucket is the “Victory Bucket”. If the PvP has objectives that are met, points are dropped into this bucket. This can be for winning the match in a WoW Battlegrounds type scenario, or even completing mini objectives like the subquests that exist inside the WoW Battlegrounds (gathering supplies and what not in Alterac Valley, or capturing/defending control points in Arathi Basin, or capturing a flag in Warsong).
The key here is to try to award points for as many actions as possible and to reward “doing nothing” as little as possible. With a model like this, sure a player might AFK through a round of fighting and earn a minimum Victory reward (if his team wins the round), but actually participating would earn rewards as such a faster rate that being AFK through rounds would seem like a complete waste of time.
But why the different buckets? Well, with the points you earn, you can buy items, but the items would also be divided up. Some items would require generic “points”, and the player could spend from any combination of their buckets to buy them. Then you’d have items that required specific point types. New weapons and items that affect combat would come from the combat and kill buckets, with special “trophy” items coming from only one bucket. And the Victory Bucket would be spent on titles or armor models. With trophy items, the purchases could be tiered so that maybe you’d buy a first level helmet plume for 5,000 victory points, and the second level helmet plume would be 10,000 points plus a first level helmet plume, making the point cost of the second level actually be 15,000, but also making it so that spending the first 5,000 has no penalty to it except expending the points sooner rather than later so if you end a hard day of playing with 5,800 points, buying the first level plume doesn’t hurt you on your way to getting the twentieth level plume.
Anyway… this is just me armchair game designing again… feel free to shoot holes in my proposal, you won’t offend me with constructive criticism.