Cry PVP, and Let Slip the Dogs of War
The June Producer's Letter has a fair bit to say about the upcoming player versus player feature.
Everquest 2 so far has been strictly Player vs. Environment (PVE). This was consistent with EQ2's focus on a more casual player. But more importantly, they discovered from Everquest that skills and abilities that were reasonably balanced for PVE were not balanced at all for PVP. This is because the AI-controlled opponents aren't as inventive, ruthless, and collaborative with spells and abilities as players will be.
In particular, there is really no way to make taunting work in PVP. Players will not be happy if they don't get to choose their targets. But then, most smart players will go straight for someone other than the tank, whether that's the healer or the tissue-paper mage. So, the ability of these classes to defend themselves must be altered in some way, or the classes would be rendered completely ineffective in PVP.
Before we explore this more, here's the relevant portion from the June Producer's Letter:
Lots of people remember that before we launched, we had always referred to PvP as "something that won't be in EQ2 for launch," but it's always been something that we wanted to include, just not unless we were able to take the time and do it "right."
That begs the question, "what does 'right' mean for PvP in EQ2?"
We have a lot of spells and abilities in EQ2, and they were all designed to be used in Player vs. NPC interactions.
For starters, 'right' means that we need to make sure that every profession has a role to play in PvP, while at the same time ensuring that no profession has the ability to completely shut down others players' usefulness (and, by extension, fun) in PvP.
There's no question that EQ2 is predominantly a PvE game and that there are people who do not ever wish to take part in PvP, and those people then naturally become concerned that their PvE abilities might be nerfed because of PvP concerns.
Given that, 'right' also means that we needed to make sure that we had a system in place that would let us change any individual ability's PvP effect without changing its PvE effect, which is definitely how we plan to balance PvP abilities.
Further, putting PvP into a PvE game also complicates the issue of what people's expectations are for their roles are in PvP. A person who is a support class in PvE will likely also be primarily support in PvP. Our goal in this is to make PvP fit into the world of EQ2 in a smart way, which means PvE roles will carry across into PvP. We're not aiming for a world where everyone can compete one-on-one or completely redefine classes based solely on which type of combat they're participating in.
In order to support PVP, it's clear that abilities will have to be different in some way. Perhaps mage's roots will last longer or be harder to resist. Or the nukes of Enchanters do more damage. The main function of tanks is undermined by the ineffectiveness of taunting, so they need some new tricks to stay in the game. And perhaps other skills, Speechless for instance, will need to be toned down somewhat.
But how to implement these new/altered spells. My earlier speculation was that they would create an entirely separate skill list for PVP. But that doesn't appear to be what they have in mind. What it seems to me that they will do is to take advantage of EQ2's modal combat.
One of the important and valuable ideas in Everquest 2 is the clear separation of functionality between combat mode and non-combat mode. In non-combat mode a character may run faster, regenerate health and power faster, and cast buffs and gates. This has many benefits, not the least of which is allowing for far less down time while maintaining an appropriate difficulty level of an encounter.
I expect that PVP will introduce a new, third pvp-combat mode. It will have similar reduced regen, speed and spell-casting effects. Some spells just won't be allowed in a pvp-combat. Others will work differently than they do in pve-combat, doing more (or less) damage, lasting longer (or shorter), and being more (or less) resistable.
This is the fundamental mechanism that will allow the game's designers to tinker with PVP game balance separately from PVE, and it is the quality that will allow the PVE game to continue as it is, and the PVE-focused players to be largely unaffected.
A game in which a player could find themselves in combat with another player at any moment is a game which is very different from Everquest 2. Even in Everquest 1, this sort of gameplay was only found on specific servers, so that only happened if you chose it to happen. The design team seems to be focused on the second problem with PVP, that it is hard to balance both for PVP and PVE, and the scheme hinted at seems a promising solution.
One thought though. I suspect that PVP will spur some competetive instincts to place an even higher premium on "top-of-the-line" spells and equipment, which will drive up the price even more. But since, as I've discussed before, the rare-based equipment, while nice, is not necessary to play the game effectively, this should result in a net cash flow from the PVP players to the PVE players. Which can be spent on horses, houses, and furniture, and the occaisional palladium torque.