PvP Reward Systems

On Gamebreaker.tv last week an article caught my interest. The article, titled “Are Rewards Essential To PvP?”, asked the issue of whether PvP rewards are essential not only in terms of TERA’s guild vs. guild PvP which spawned the discussion but in rewards for PvP in any MMO.

To answer this question I thought back at players I have played with in a variety of different MMOs. From what I see there are three types of players, the ‘Carrots’, the ‘Sticks’, and those in-between.

The ‘Sticks’ are those players who PvP just for the fun of PvP-ing and killing other players. These include the hard-core PvP audience who will PvP whether there is any reward or none. They will also be the players that continue to play games that don’t even have content patches or updates while everyone else quits due to the lack of content or rewards. The ‘Carrots’ on the other hand typically don’t PvP unless they can get something out of it. They might PvP however if they see a shiny reward for it and want to chase after it. A quote from the Gamebreaker.tv article sums up the ‘Carrots’ well: “Why should I be putting my virtual butt on the line for nothing?”

Those that fall in-between the two groups are similar in both ways. They will PvP because it is fun, but won’t continue playing without new content or some reward to set as a goal. It is this in-between group that PvP rewards are set up for.

PvP rewards are useful for two reasons: they get new people to try out PvP and they keep the players playing for the rewards. While there are many different ways to get people into PvP, which in turn helps to keep a stable PvP community, rewards for player’s efforts in PvP is one of the few ways that developers have to reliably help keep a PvP population up.

Even with these different play styles there is rarely the case where people will not PvP just because there are rewards available. What can cause people to not want to PvP is what these rewards are and how the player obtains them. This is what can cause a reward system to fail and even cause harm to a PvP system.

Detrimental rewards are typically rewards that are required of a player to be competitive in PvP matches. Having PvP armor and weapons are a common reward in MMOs. There will be a PvP currency set up that the player gains through playing. After reaching the required level the player can buy these new armor sets if they have enough of the PvP currency or faction. This has a very real problem however. If the PvP armor is good enough to be valuable it runs the risk of being necessary to be competitive, which you need to be in order to gain the PvP currency to buy the armor in the first place. This problem could be easily alleviated by having only marginal gains on such items. This solution serves to show the question of what PvP rewards should be: What rewards can be both interesting and meaningful for a player to strive for while also be meaningless enough not to break the gameplay that it is trying to inspire?

Guild Wars 2 could have the beginnings of a winning formula. In the game they have a rank system found in many MMOs to show a player’s progression in PvP. This arbitrary number gives something for people to strive for with that “one more level” mentality. In addition to this common feature Guild Wars 2 is doing something different by giving you the armor that you expect to be able to earn through PvP, but instead of giving increasingly better gear the more you PvP these armor sets are for purely cosmetic reasons. While some parts of their system might not be the best implantation (such as the random chests that also give a handful of reward items from a single chest), this focus on purely cosmetic items is a good idea to answer the question above.

Other types of rewards that could answer this question include achievements, titles, and special consumable or timed items. World of Warcraft has a PvP title that is only available during the arena season that the titled was earned. After the season ends the title goes away. Having temporary rewards like this gives something for players to chase, feel proud for owning, but also gives a reason for players to come back even after earning that reward.

Something I would like to see is PvP rewards that are used for anything outside of PvP. If the goal of PvP rewards is to draw in the PvE and PvX crowds, then having rewards that they can use in their natural play style could be a bonus incentive for them to participate. For example, maybe I can get a PvP reward that increases my chance to get a better item in the chest at the end of a dungeon. Instead of spending a month running the same dungeon to get this special dungeon, maybe I could PvP for three weeks then only have to grind the dungeon for three weeks. In the end I am still spending more time to get that item (which is beneficial for the subscription model based MMOs), but the variety of play would have me enjoying my time more than the continual grinding while making me feel like I am progressing in both areas of play.

I have not seen an MMO try to mix the different PvX rewards like this so there is still a lot of thought that can be put into implementing any kind of system like this. Overall there is a lot to consider when implementing rewards for PvP and developers shouldn’t rush the rewards or implement a system without giving it thought on both the reception of the players and the consequences of adding such a system to their game.

Link to discussed article: http://www.gamebreaker.tv/mmorpg/pwn-vs-peen/

Author: Mattsta

I recently earned a BS in Game Art and Design and write for ZAM.com including my weekly Guild Wars 2 column The Scrying Pool.