License to Ilum

So PvP in The Old Republic is borked. Really, what did you expect?

This isn’t a “ST00PID BIOWEAR!!1” observation. It’s not even a case of “Well, open PvP in dual-faction games is always unbalanced,” which tends to be true and should have been enough of a warning sign to begin with. Rather, and I mean this in the kindest way possible: What did you expect? You, the lover of PvP who thought that a game that focuses so much on storylines and PvE would somehow magically also intertwine robust PvP in with its multitudinous conversation options, companion outfits, and cutscenes.


Something I’m starting to believe is that an MMO can be PvE-focused, like TOR or LOTRO, or PvP-focused, like All Points Bulletin or Eve Online, but it can’t be both, not to any level that’s acceptable to both crowds. I’m no expert on development times, but just take a long, hard look at everything PvP-related in TOR. You’ve got three warzones and a planet (and open PvP if you roll on a PvP server). That’s it. For PvE? You’ve got 50 levels of content, eight distinct storylines, lots of planets, operations, flashpoints, etc., etc. Which do you think took longer to develop? Which do you think BioWare gave a damn about more? It’s a PvE game, with just enough PvP tossed in to (in theory) sate the rabid masses.

The thing is, those “masses” might not be as massive as they think they are. While hardly representing a huge sample size, a poll we did on the Massive Online Gamer website about a year ago asked what level of PvP people enjoyed. The numbers were something like 25% “All the time,” 35% “Occasionally,” and 40% “Never.” That would lead me to think that the only people who would cancel their subs over bad PvP are the 25% — a clear minority. While it wouldn’t be good for any game to lose 25% of its subs (though, in theory, they wouldn’t all quit), it’s pretty clear that if a game company has to alienate the PvP-ers or the PvE-ers, it’s better off tossing aside the PvP-ers.

Part of the issue, too, is the 20/80 problem: 20% of the people make 80% of the noise. Right now, the PvP community is en fuego, threatening (and in some cases, going through with) subscription cancellations in the wake of this poorly timed update, coinciding as it does with the end of the first “free” month’s subscription. But if you’re waiting for TOR to transform into a PvP-er’s paradise, expect a long wait. Even if BioWare “fixes” Ilum and makes warzones fun and exciting, you’ll still have a very limited playground, at least as compared to PvE offerings. And take it from the experience of someone who’s spent four years in LOTRO’s Ettenmoors: Even a balanced Ilum will get real old, real fast.

Maybe game companies should stop trying to cater to both player bases and design their games as strictly PvP or PvE affairs, or at least fully divorce the two. The TOR PvE experience is entertaining (at least for this level 27 so far)… what if there were another Old Republic-themed game out there, purely PvP, with epic ground and space battles? Yeah, it’s clear that BioWare wouldn’t be able to handle development of both, so maybe it’ll be up to licensors to make those decisions when they dole out the rights to their IPs. Hey, if one MMO based on your game will make you lots of money, what would two do?

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2 Responses to License to Ilum

  1. dndhatcher says:

    “Something I’m starting to believe is that an MMO can be PvE-focused, like TOR or LOTRO, or PvP-focused, like All Points Bulletin or Eve Online, but it can’t be both, not to any level that’s acceptable to both crowds.”
    PvP also comes in 2 flavors. Competitive, sportlike PvP (instanced, teams, rules, objectives) and open world PK PvP (no rules, no mercy). I also have never seen a game do more than one of these 3 things well. I just wonder if GW2 is going to be the first to pull off all 3 at the same time or not.

  2. jasonwinter says:

    Yeah, I had that in mind too, but I figured I’d just leave it to the two, better-recognized options 🙂 And, honestly, I think open-world PvP (as a part of games that prominently feature the other two types) is going the way of the dodo.

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