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The Warhammer Mistake - The Same Problem Aion Encountered

  • Date: 09-03-2009 Views:

    KeyWords: Warhammer Mistake, Problem, Aion, pvpve, MMORPG, balance

  • Summary: I was discussing upcoming MMOs with a friend a few weeks ago when she mentioned a term I hadn't heard before: The Warhammer Mistake. She explained that the Warhammer Mistake is when an MMO developer decides to make PvP the only viable means of end-game entertainment. She argued that this same problem was to plague Aion, a PvPvE game.
Jaime The Warhammer Mistake
By Jaime

Jaime grew up in southern CA, but has been living in Salt Lake City, UT for five years. Since the days of Ultima Online - she has been playing MMORPGs with a passion. Online gaming has become one of her most passionate hobbies, as the games internally and externally evolve over time, providing an ever-changing gaming experience. Her professional experience comes from the fields of retail, telecomm, customer service, and investing. Her hobbies include photography, writing, crafting, outdoor activities, and, of course, video gaming.



I was discussing upcoming MMOs with a friend a few weeks ago when she mentioned a term I hadn't heard before: The Warhammer Mistake. She explained that the "Warhammer Mistake" is when an MMO developer decides to make PvP the only viable means of end-game entertainment. She argued that this same problem was to plague Aion, a PvPvE game.



Aion & Warhammer



Although under less catchy names, I've seen the argument many times before: MMOs should provide full and equal experiences for PvE and PvP. The argument comes from both PvE and PvP fans, usually when a game offers little of the game play they want. This demand for PvE/PvP equality didn't really take foothold in popular opinion until World of Warcraft started offering epic rewards from both PvE raids and PvP battlegrounds. Even Tom Chilton stated that Blizzard prefers that "players experience a mix of content instead of pigeon holing into one kind of gameplay."



Warhammer Online - The Wild Hunt

More Warhammer Videoes



WoW appears to have raised the bar of expectations of players – or, at the least, changed those expectations. But is World of Warcraft setting a good example of end-game balance between PvE and PvP? The gear offered, and the required time investment, is fairly even for both camps. Class skills and talents, however, remain another issue: skills are constantly rebalanced due to unintended effects in the opposite camp they were planned for. Recent examples include not only the upcoming change to Fan of Knives, but also past changes to Frost Presence, Exorcism, Faerie Fire, and hunter traps. With Mastery and Path of the Titans advancement being added in Cataclysm, this skill balance between PvE and PvP is bound to become only more tenuous. Meanwhile, games like Lord of the Rings Online and Warhammer Online – whose playstyle focuses on only one of the camps – tends to only correct these balance problems if they become game breaking.



Warhammer screenshot
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To state things more clearly: I don't believe that Warhammer Online, Aion, LOTRO, Darkfall, or any other host of games that focus heavily on either a PvE or PvP experience are making a mistake by  not catering equally to both camps of players. What they are doing is providing niche gaming. It's niche gaming that console games have been offering us all along: you wouldn't expect Final Fantasy to have online PvP tournaments, or NBA 2K10 to offer a deep storyline with multiple plot twists and an open world map. These games have a design plan catered to specific styles of game play. Why should MMOs be any different?

Many MMO players point to World of Warcraft's success and attribute it to the game's offering to both camps, and note that they have the subscriber numbers to prove it. It's also likely true that if World of Warcraft were split into a PvE or PvP heavy game, then it would lose a large chunk of its millions of subscribers. Subscriber numbers alone don't measure a game's success, however. They certainly point to a profitable game  – but is a game with a half a million happy subscribers any less successful because it turns a smaller profit? There's more to be said than financial success.



Warhammer screenshot
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An MMO that caters to a specific group of players, combined with intelligent design and care for the game and its community, will thrive even if it leaves some types of players out. It is not the duty of any game designer to cater to every gamer's wishes; even if such a design was possible, it would be so complex as to be impossible to maintain. Nor will a game fail if it does not fulfill each gamer's wish. Better game design with dedicated, happy player base is far better than bloated game design with a player base that's only, on average, content while they look for something better.

It isn't that MMOs should drop a Berlin Wall between PvE and PvP, and offer none of the content on the other side of the wall. On the contrary, it's necessary for MMOs to offer both options, especially MMOs focused on PvP, where opponents may be scarce from time to time. Even World of Warcraft, with millions of players, has its lull times for both PvE and PvP content.



Warhammer screenshot
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That doesn't mean, however, that PvE and PvP must be created equal within each game. If a game's designed for PvP content, let it be – sure, you can level to max via PvE, but don't expect to get the best rewards or the most exciting of game play. If a game's designed for PvE, so be it – give players a chance to vent their PvP urges via dueling or, for example, a contained area like that of the Monster Versus Player system of LOTRO – but don't let players get ahead by gank squads. Focus on one thing, do it well, and players will come.



Warhammer screenshot
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Warhammer screenshot
Click here for full image