We would like to provide an open UO style world, but we do not want to run off newbies. Please give me your ideas for and opinions about PvP in what you see as the Ultimate RPG.
1. Avoid Levels and Rigid Zones
Most MMOs seem to resort to separating new and experienced players into levels and zones. This approach causes the ‘leveling curve’ problem – and somewhat related (it makes swaths of land unusable to a player depending on what level they are at)
This may be a bit redundant but, take UO for example: Ultima Online of course didn’t have levels really and it didn’t really have zones.
I remember getting together with 10 other newbies and swarming a RedPK GM swordsman and beating him down with the clubs from our newbie gear. (thanks to stamina drain from trying to run away through us) That isn’t something you could do in any other MMO that I can think of. While it was difficult in UO, as it should be, to tangle with higher skilled players, it wasn’t impossible to defeat them through a little craftiness. – While it wasn’t a good idea going into Destard as a newbie, it wasn’t impossible to run through and recover your GM Mage friend loot.
Great things about UO aside, I think taking a step out of the world of MMO can offer new ideas on how to handle PVP. In pen and paper games, it isn’t zones and levels that separate the characters – it is the story that binds them together. I don’t think any MMO to date has made any leaps and bounds in advanced questing in PVP or PVE.
2. Advanced Questing
When I make a pen and paper story if I have a variety of player characters I cater to it -- I create quests that require 1 high level wizard, 2 mid level warriors, 1 low level thief. I have applied this method even in PVP between two groups of players.
Don’t make all the goals of PVP simply a test of who has the biggest sword or combination of spells. Allow PVP to be based upon“contests” which apply a character(s) unique collection of combat and social
abilities to the circumstances/location of the encounter that cannot be anticipated by simply having 1 member of each class in your party and all the best gear. A contest should be generated based on the player(s) in the opposing groups.
1. Assess which players/groups are contesting one another
2. Enumerate their skills and weaknesses
3. Pair skills against weaknesses
4. Generate a circumstance to fit the paired skills/weaknesses
5. Customize the circumstance to the local area, fit it into a hierarchy of storyline
6. Begin testing each skill and the player’s choice of when and how to use each (some players may not even take advantage of their skills against weaknesses if they haven't been paying attention)
When doing this bear these 3 things in mind:
1. The contest should not conclude before each player has had a chance to even appreciate their situation or experience – unless they are already aware that they are in a situation where it can conclude very quickly
In an MMO: Maybe allow different kinds of deaths. Once a newbie reaches 0 hp, allow him to run a screen or two and bleed before he keels over (maybe he can get to town so he isn’t looted by the pk) – The PK gets a kill and something for his efforts, the newbie gets to feel like he had a narrow miss and knows at higher levels he will take harder kills
2. Death shouldn’t be total punishment
In pen and paper, I allow players to piggyback their dead players legacy by following it up with their next character.
In an MMO: You might unlock a quest from the act of being killed – you might have creatures to face off with in death – you might even have some boons in death like earning spirit points towards something you can use when you resurrect.
3. Contests shouldn’t lock a player into a single outcome – in MMO’s this is of course, death.
Death isn’t the only thing that can result from a failed confrontation with a competitor. It could be that both walk away but, the defeated player looses wealth, fame, shares in a guild, a title
You also might consider stages of defeat:
Being defeated can be an incrementally hazardous experience - allowing a player to accept penalties for having lost a percentage of the total contest before deciding to break away. Or even allowing a killed player to have inflicted some damage to the victors title, holdings, home security (maybe more dangerous NPC spawn around house), or other boons, rather than nothing at all
I also highly recommend looking at VTM (World of Darkness mainly) social/combat systems for ideas about adding complexity to contesting players and environments. (admin please snub this last paragraph if you find it too promotional sounding. I think you’ll find that they don’t sell these books anymore though)
Oh and lastly, (but this is a personal preference) - keep the fantasy theme. I'm a big fantasy reader DnD player and that is what originally attracted me to UO.
That's all I have for a short post for now. I hope I've put something useful out there for you Richard. -- and thanks for the Ultima series! It's a shame to have fallen into EA hands.