Why PvMP Is The Way It Is: Part II
In part one I took a look at how PvMP has developed over the years and its position with regards to the rest of the game. Here I am going to be looking at why things have come about the way they have.
In the last part I made much of the fact that PvMP is a side game and for good reason. Launching the game with PvMP included as a last minute addition that would effectively act as a mini ‘game within a game’ meant that LOTRO’s PvP faced two key problems from the start:
The system wasn’t finished. You can see this in the fact that the Defiler wasn’t made available until after the game launched. Less dramatically, but far more important in its ramifications, this unfinished state could be seen over the following five years as Turbine tried to fire ‘magic bullets’ at PvMP to make all the problems go away.
The second problem was a lot more subtle in that it perhaps wasn’t so easy to identify right away. However, even if it was hard to spot at first it’s effects would be impossible to miss as the game progressed. The problem was that with PvMP being a side game there was considerable difficulty for an active, long lasting, PvMP community to form and take root.
Right from the start then PvMP was saddled with two major drawbacks. The lack of polish to the system along with missing features; balance issues, etc meant that it was something of a niche for players. That niche status and lack of integration with the rest of the game meant that players would come and go with only the most dedicated sticking around consistently.
With only a relatively small core of players sticking around in PvMP for the long term it seems obvious that PvMP simply wouldn’t be able to generate the numbers that other aspects of the game, such as raids, instances, festivals, etc would be able to generate. That in turn leads to less attention being directed at PvMP in a cycle of diminishing returns.
It is important to point out that Turbine have, from time to time, come along and given PvMP an injection of dev time. It’s is especially apparent in the time sine Kelsan started heading up PvMP. The key here though is that despite good intentions, and some great work, the changes that have come to PvMP haven’t really expanded the system at a base level.
It’s the initial failure to establish a strong PvMP community that is at the heart of LOTRO’s PvMP problems. Players need to feel that their gameplay matters and in PvMP the feeling one gets is very often the opposite. The obvious solution would be to expand the scope of PvMP and integrate it more tightly with the rest of LOTRO. However, here we run into a major obstacle: the community. Whilst a broad based long lasting PvMP community has proved elusive a strong PVE centric community did take shape and its a community that at best views PvMP with indifference and at worst views it with outright hostility.
LOTRO became, and is resolutely, a PVE centric game. Broadening PvMP out of its narrow confines is something that will likely see opposition from many players. Perhaps they might feel that dev time is being taken away from PVE systems; they might feel the game is heading away from its core values; they might see an expansion of PvMP as a threat to the aspects of the game they most enjoy and so on. These are all understandable reactions of course, but they underscore the difficulty LOTRO has in making PvMP anything more than a side game.
The Art Of The Impossible
So how does PvMP ever become more than it is? Well there are in fact some encouraging signs. For starters the RoR PvMP update is more than just a lick of paint, it is obviously aimed at paving the way for the Ettenmoors to see more usage. That fact alone is very telling because it shows us that the devs are not happy with PvMP from a business viewpoint.
The side game nature of PvMP means that it sees relatively limited use. That isn’t a good thing if you are wanting to make money from it and PvMP is a potential cash cow in this F2P era. That the devs would want to see more PvMP players, and thus more PvMP cash, seems obvious. The first step is of course to make the Ettenmoors fit for purpose, which I think is what we are seeing the start of with RoR.
It’s the step beyond that that will be the most challenging. The Ettenmoors is what it is, but it is never going to be able to generate the sort of PvMP community that befits a top tier MMO. For that to happen PvMP needs to expand, not just into other regions, but into the rest of the game through better use of technology, more integration with existing systems and so on.
Whether Turbine has the will to push through such changes at this stage of the game will ultimately decide if PvMP can ever be more than the sum of its parts.