One of the biggest takeaways from the Elder Scrolls: Online (ESO) announcement in 2012 was Player vs. Player (PvP) content. It has been made clear that PvP will be a large part of the game. However, based on the information released so far, PvP seems to be monodirectional. It is doubtful that PvP will be exactly as advertised so far, but that doesn’t mean us as a community cannot hope and dream about how we would want PvP to pan out. Here are some things that are great about ESO’s PvP and some things that would make it an all-around powerhouse of a PvP game.
Open World PvP
This is a huge part of Elder Scrolls Online already, so I can talk about it more. The entire providence of Cyrodiil is devoted to Faction PvP. This can be done on a large scale and small scale. Based on the information ZOS has released, strategy will play an important role in this game. Zerg-rushing with a massive group of people through a large part of the map will not be as effective in this game as it would be in others. Factions must guard and defend their captured keeps and resources, or lose them to other factions, draining their effectiveness in the providence. While a main army will probably be the most effective at taking the White-Gold Tower, it will also be necessary for smaller groups of players to stay at key keeps, keeping them from being taken and cutting off supply lines to the main army. With this type of strategy being implemented throughout PvP, players will feel more engaged in the world than ever before, and even those loners or small groups of players can be effective in harassing supply lines, taking over outlying farms and resources and the like.
With this comes the implementation of ESO’s “Guild PvP.” ESO is strongly encouraging guilds within the game to participate as a group. They will be allowed to take keeps as a guild and it has been rumored that it will show the guild crest instead of the faction crest at the keep. This not only encourages guilds to work together more often, but also spreads responsibility among a faction. A guild is going to want to keep control over the keeps they have taken, making sure they are guarded from attack. It is much more likely a guild group will stay around and keep protecting a keep from attackers then if it was just a group of random players.
Small Group PvP
This hasn’t been confirmed in ESO, but it would hurt the PvP population in game not to include it. Players, especially devoted PvP players, want to know how they stand up against other players or other small groups, head-to-head. An arena type feature would be sufficient for this. Allowing players to battle individually, or 2v2, 3v3, etc. with teams capping out at 5 would be enough to for players to establish where they stand in the ESO universe as far as PvP skills. After all, there will be a significant portion of the player population who play the game to compete against challenges and be the best at them. The competitive nature of games won’t allow anything less for many people.
This feature has been confirmed on the ESO website as “Leaderboards and Achievements.” We do not know to what depth the ranking system will go, but we do know that it will be such a ranking system that determines which player will be crowned emperor when a faction takes over the white-gold tower. It is stated on the ESO website that you’ll be able to track yourself, your guild, and your faction as they compares to others.
A Ranking System is truly necessary in making a PvP Powerhouse. If players have no way of measuring themselves against each other, than all the PvP content means little or nothing to the individual player. A player wants to know if they are at the top of their game, who is better, and who they need to beat to become number 1, this also applies to teams and other small group PvP features (if implemented). For a truly competitive experience, some kind of ranking system is necessary.
ESO has already set itself up for success with their three faction system. With a large population of players committing to the Ebonheart Pact with race favorites Dunmer and Nords (thanks to Skyrim) it is possible that the Ebonheart Pact could have a significant population advantage in PvP versus the other two factions individually (Overall polls from various sites have put preemptive numbers at roughly around 40% Ebonheart Pact, 30% Daggerfall Covenant and 30% Aldmeri Dominion). However, no single faction should have population superiority over both other factions, allowing for temporary truces to be called in order to overthrow the larger population faction.
This three faction system will keep PvP from being imbalanced based on faction. It has been proven in most two-faction MMOs that one faction will establish itself as stronger in PvP and PvP players will flock to it, making the imbalance issues even worse. With a three faction system, it will be much harder for players to imbalance the PvP experience by all playing on one faction, as success will vary much more per faction.
Cross-Faction Communication & Areas
Cross-Faction communication could potentially be needed in order to keep faction balancing through temporary truces a viable option. If factions cannot communicate, how can they work together to overthrow another faction? It would be possible, but much more difficult. However, in order to prevent flame-wars, and seriously deteriorating chat, cross-faction communication needs to be extremely limited. It would probably be best if cross-faction chat was limited to “/yell” or “/say” distance. So that only those characters in the immediate vicinity of each other can hear each other.
Cross-Faction areas should be implemented into the game eventually. I can understand ZOS wanting to establish Cyrodiil as the heart of PvP and minimize high level players attacking starting areas of opposing factions. However, it severely limits many different types of players when you cannot access as certain part of Tamriel because you aren’t part of that faction, world explorers and PvPers among them. Also it is a novelty PvP experience to be able to attack an opposing faction’s major city. Something that might not be done incredibly often, but certainly sought after, especially if an achievement is given for it. On the opposite side of that, it is also a novelty experience to repel an opposing faction attacking your city.
Neither cross-faction communication nor cross-faction accessible areas are necessary for providing a good PvP experience, but in order for it to be a top-of-the-line PvP game, leeway should be made for these two things.
So far, ESO has laid the groundwork for a very engaging and enjoyable PvP experience. With plenty of challenges, and unique interactions players will keep coming back for more. Also with the announced Leaderboard and Achievements retention should be at a high rate as well. Here’s to believing that ESO will be the new PvP Powerhouse MMO.
(images taken from Elder Scrolls Online’s public image gallery at http://www.elderscrollsonline.com)