Not to many topics spark the interest of MMO players moreso than PvP. Furthermore, most MMO games that have focused on PvP (and released in the last 5 years) have not performed well (in terms of retaining a solid player base for an extended period of time). As a PvP player, some of the failures of PvP MMOs has been frustrating because it makes it less likely the next developer will try to build upon PvP and instead focus on PvE. So, with that brief introduction, i wanted to list the key attributes that could make a PvP-focued MMO successful. Please add your own attributes.
PvP must be consensual (as I believe free-for-all PvP is more of a niche market) and PvE can be done in "safe zones." Allow PvE to have higher rewards when done in a PvP zone. Make PvP a preferred alternative to traditional PvE leveling with faster leveling, gear and gold. PvP is fought between people of similar "levels".
This is to change the perception that "the game begins at level x" mentality. The journey should be the same as the end-game. There should be a minimal difference between "end-game" and leveling.
Go with at least 3 factions in PvP to prevent one side from dominating. Make each faction have exactly the same skills and spells, but change the artwork/graphics. Place severe restrictions on playing on more than one faction to prevent "spying."
My major problem with most PvP MMO games is the 2-sided fight, which results in one-side winning via population "zerg", and the losing side becoming frustrated and logging off and/or quitting the game, which of course makes it even worse. While DAOC did this, the factions were unbalanced in skills/spell combinations. Guild Wars 2 is proposing a 3-way server battle in open-world PvP is an example of solving the problem.
Modest faction-wide benefits associated with PvP goals and significant temporary benefits for major PvP goals. Benefits could include higher experience gains, better crafting probabilities, increased damage mitigation, extra gold in PvP and PvE, etc.
This is the idea to generate faction-pride. People should care about whether or not they have the PvP objectives. Major PvP objectives should be temporary because it could allow one-side to dominate in PvP.
PvP progression rewards are modest but enough to motivate players. All players are publicly ranked in PvP via a website or in-game titles.
Many players are motivated to improving their characters over time and like to be recognized for it.
Player-made equipment is customizable and can be the best in the game with luck in crafting (significantly enhanced by holding PvP objectives) and special ingredients (dropped in PvP and PvE fights).
This allows PvP players to generate the best gear rather than forcing them into PvE. This doesn't mean PvE rewards are bad, just that PvE raids are not required to have the best gear in PvP. People who only PvE can also craft this gear as the same ingredients drop in PvE as in PvP, but perhaps at a lower drop-rate percentage.
Scenarios provide less benefits than open-world PvP when server populations reach "medium" or higher but full benefits when the server has low-population. Scenarios try to fit pre-made groups against other pre-made groups.
Scenarios should be a viable alternative to people playing in "non-peak" times to get PvP action quickly. However, the game encourages (but doesn't force) open-world PvP. Putting PUGs against pre-made groups is just a receipe for frustration and should be avoided if possible.
Automatic chat and voice channels for PvP coordination (provided within the game, another anti-spying method).
Tries to reduce the benefits of pre-made groups by giving voice chat in-game, and prevents spying because that voice chat only works for that faction. Having automatic chat channels in PvP should also improve faction pride and coordination, especially for those without microphones.
Allowing players to significantly change their character's skills/spells/attributes (maybe even changing class??) because the game mechanics change post-launch. Players who feel the "nerf bat" hit them extra-hard should be allowed to change thier character to adjust to the new mechanics.
Everyone knows the nerf-bat will come around, and around, and around in a PvP MMO game. It just is a fact of MMO games. Given the investments in time and energy by players into their charactes, game companies should allow players to change their characters in the face of game-changing mechanics. How easy it should be is up for debate.
A pre-launch plan and game-code to integrate/merge servers should it become necessary. This might require character unique names across all servers.
Eventually every game faces a decline in population and PvP games require decent population to work. The game should have a plan in place to make server merging or cross-server integration seemless to the players rather than causing some type of drama.
Well, that's my list of attributes for a successful PvP focused MMO game. I left out obvious things like "server and client stability". Right now, Guild Wars 2 looks to be the "next" game that has more of these attributes.
What attributes do you think a successful PvP-focused MMO game should have? Let's get a good list together so game developers can really see what people want.