It’s been on my mind recently, so here’s a short list of what I think would make a healthy PvP system:
- No difference between PvE and PvP specs. Champions Online forces you to build your character in a very specific way to enjoy PvP at the higher tiers. In EVE, ships are either PvP or PvE-PvE ships like transports or mining barges have little to no defense. Players shouldn’t have to redesign characters to enjoy PvP.
- Capped power differential at upper limits. PvP is about skill, but most systems emphasize builds and gear because they remove skill from the occasion by making large differences in power between characters. There should be advantages, but not insurmountable ones. Aion was bad this way, twinked level 30s decimated normal level 30s and even higher level players.
- No open world PvP. Open world PvP sounds cool, but it is imbalanced through the use of numbers and level differences. Everyone raves about big fights, but the experience is often different: groups of players harassing solo or small players, and ganking. Battleground PvP tends to be a lot more satisfying due to limits.
- Optional. Make it forced, people will hate it. Count how many forced PvP games have any real subscriber base. Not many.
This may lean more towards the E-sport model of PvP, but to make any satisfying competition, you need to ensure a level of fairness. A lot of PvP is like a team of basketball players versus one kid who plays at a schoolyard. It’s based on a dynamic of rewarding time spent by power, and cementing advantage. That model doesn’t work.