Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Arena in Rift: What Would it Look Like?

Arena.  The word itself presents a vortex of wild opinion swirling about the MMO landscape. To some, Azeroth's arenas provided the lone reason to log in each day.  To others, arena was the clear antagonist behind incessant balance tweaks and countless fits of rage.  Blizzard said themselves that their implementation of Arena in World of Warcraft was a mistake so why would we want such a system in Rift?  The answer is quite simple:
  1. Rift currently lacks any semblance of "rated" or "competitive" PvP.
  2. With history as their guide, Trion can do it better
To the first point, let's consider the experience from a PvE perspective.  Several months ago, if you were a Warrior toting around a Kraken's Spine there was a certain level of unspoken respect involved.  It's the MMO equivalent of a trophy case - you wear your accomplishments on your sleeve, so to speak, and people know automatically that either you, your guild or both are good players whom have accomplished something very challenging.  It wasn't simply a matter of time before you got your Kraken's Spine as no amount of idling around could help you dodge those phase 4 waves bent on sweeping you from Akylios' platform.  In contrast, everything in Rift PvP is constrained by time and time alone.  After perhaps 100 hours, you'll have enough favor for a full set of the mid-tier PvP gear.  After perhaps 200 hours, you'll have enough for the high-end tier but with each new tier of PvE content, comes a new tier of PvP gear that pushes everything down a level and the cycle repeats itself.  Let me ask you something: when you see a Warrior with 10K health in Whitefall Steppes, what does that level of HP and the associated visuals from his or her gear say about that player's skill level?  Here's the answer: not a damn thing.  At best you could make a loose argument that, since the player has obviously put in enough time to get all that gear, their skill level should at least be marginally beyond a certain threshold but can you be certain of this?  Some of the weakest players I know have extremely high /played times.  Speaking for myself, I have over 50 days /played on my Rogue alone but I'd hardly consider myself a "high-end" PvPer.  The clear bottom line is that Rift needs some form of competitive PvP to rope in the subscriptions of those who enjoy competitive PvP or, I can say with the utmost of confidence having played the game extensively, that when Guild Wars 2 is released on August 28, 2012, most of Rift's PvP population will jump ship and never return. I don't want this.  You don't want this.  So let's do something about this.

To the second point, we need only look at Trion's track record to understand the logic here.  It is unarguable that Trion is among the absolute best in taking concepts from other games, polishing them and bringing them to Rift with their own Telaran spin.  As a one-off example, fishing was something I never enjoyed during my seven years of WoW so when Rift announced fishing was on its way to Telara, I was among the relatively uninterested.  Upon its release, however, I immediately realized that what Trion had done was taken WoW's fishing system and improved it in subtle ways.  From the stylish overlay placed upon the water, to the sounds of a catch being reeled in; the result is a system that is much more fun, much more engaging and has served as a very welcome addition to Rift's vast arsenal of engaging content.  I could spend hours discussing the borrowed ideas that Trion has taken and improved but I'll assume the point is made: Trion knows what they're doing and is not afraid to borrow another's concept and make it their own.  This isn't theft.  It isn't cheating.  It's called good business and it's an excellent practice - especially within the domain intellectual property.  After all, let's not forget how such practices provided the foundation for a certain company by the name of Microsoft.  They seem to have done quite well with themselves.....

So what would Arena look like in Rift?  First and foremost, we'd need to set some ground rules on how the system should be implemented:
  1. Equalization of gear levels:  gear advantages need not apply for competitive PvP.  All players gear level should be normalized upon entering Arena to keep imbalances to a minimum.  The absolute last thing you want in any competitive PvP system is to gate it with a lengthy gear grind.  The prevailing sentiment should be clear:  jump right in, test yourself and compete.
  2. Interesting Maps that Allow for Tactical Use:  the maps should be designed such that tactical advantages could be gained through proper positioning and line of sight.  Bridges, uneven terrain, pillars and more provide ample opportunities for this.  As a personal opinion, I would stray from environmental hazards such as fire or moving obstacles but even these additions could be viable if implemented with care and precision.
  3. Don't be Afraid of Blanket Buffs/Debuffs:  Trion has already shown a willingness to apply arbitrary buffs and debuffs to various aspects of PvP to bring the game into relative balance.  The same should apply here: if healing is too high, then put a blanket, percentage reduction on healing while in Arena.  If damage is too high, then put a blanket, percentage decrease on it instead.  If damage is too low, then put a blanket, percentage decrease on health pools or increase on damage output.  In other words, level the playing field across the board.  Given the fact we would be using equalized gear, this should be even easier to manage.
  4. Be Willing to Separate Ability Use in PvE and PvP:  As with the above point, Trion has also shown a willingness to separate how abilities work in PvE versus PvP.  There are countless examples of this such as an inability to use blinks while carrying sourcestone in Whitefall Steppes or adjusting Chloromancer heals in PvP to allow them to be competitive given their offensive healing system.
  5. Hammer Out and Fine Tune Your Diminishing Returns System:  Currently the diminishing returns system in Rift is a bit clunky.  There's no real clear division between "schools" of crowd control and the entire system itself seems quite "random".  This is especially apparent in larger-scale PvP such as Conquest where I'll try to knock that Warrior away from my Marksman only to find him immune to my knock back for no apparent reason.
  6. Run Rift Arena in "Seasons" and Award Titles, Mounts, Costumes and Other Fluff as Rewards:  Since we will be equalizing gear, working with blanket buffs/debuffs and are willing to separate PvE from PvP in terms of ability usage if needed, then the seasons of Arena in Rift themselves needn't adhere to any patch schedule or coincide with the release of any PvE content.  You can simply have "seasons" of Arena whenever you'd like and end them, with ample notice, whenever you'd like.
  7. Allow for Cross-Faction Arena Teams:  As has been demonstrated on more than one occasion, Trion is perfectly willing to knock down the barrier between Guardian and Defiant.  Allowing Guardians and Defiants to form teams together opens the available player pool immensely and pushes Rift even further down the necessary path of moving away from the same, tired and old two-faction rivalry.
With these seven points realized, I strongly believe that Rift Arena could provide the high-end, competitive PvP that this game is missing.  Further, I know given Trion's extensive track record on rapid hotfixes and ridiculously aggressive content releases that they would be swift and precise in nipping any blatant imbalances in the proverbial bud.  From a lore perspective, the entire system could feel right at home under the guise of a proving grounds for Ascended where the victors are sent forth to champion the cause of defeating those who would unmake Telara itself.

What are your thoughts?  Do you feel the lack of truly competitive PvP in Rift is a roadblock to future growth?  How would you implement competitive PvP in Rift?


  1. Balance is not Needed for arena. Make each team require 1 of each class. Balance Solved.

  2. I think this is a great idea. well written and thought out. have you posted this on the rift forums?