Just to make it clear: This is not the ultimate guide for anyone on how to balance a game. In fact, I believe that 100% balance can and will never be achieved in a game, i.e. MMO. It’s my point of view on how and why a PvE focused games will have difficulties to balance PvE and PvP and why I think that the balancing in a PvP-game is easier..concerning the combination with PvE and some more general stuff.
One of my strongest believes in game design is that it’s possible to make a PvP-game and add some good PvE to it. The other way around will fail most of the time for several reasons, i.e make a PvE-game and add good PvP to it.
Why is it so? In PvE you build the careers around scripted events which should be a challenge. In a PvP-oriented-game the first thing you will do is try to balance the factions/sides against each other and then you start to think about the PvE content. With this, the focus and action of certain skills will just work different from they would do in a PvE game, e.g. a script doesn’t care if it’s polymorphed for 30s.. a player might get.. a bit upset ;)
PvE based games/encounters are always about a dps-race, because there has to be something pushing you to your limits. So bosses get enrage timers, stupid jump-stuff to do, positioning at certain times, because otherwise there will be the ultimate cloud of doom…and so forth. So as any PvE component has to get more difficult so do things get less roleplay and more action oriented with damage numbers getting bigger and bigger with every addition of content.
Focusing on PvP will reduce the damage numbers, because the enemy there will have in general not that much hitpoints you would give an NPC and..normally.. make the time to kill longer, so increasing defense and changing the way crowd control works. To add a NPC/Script that can be killed with this numbers is quiet easy as it’s only a scaling of the NPC-health. The other way around is way more trickier. The only way for a PvE based game to fulfill both stuff is to either increase the health of the characters (which makes the PvE-content easier) or change the way some stuff works for PvE and PvP. For some unknown reason I didn’t find a PvE based game where the PvP component just felt right…. As much as I’m ranting, I think that WAR was able to deliver both, even though Mythic waved PvE goodbye since release of lotd (for a number of reasons where I don’t want to guess what they all might be).
Maybe I’m wrong with this all and it all just boils down to the question of horizontal and vertical expansion, as in any PvE based game I know of the vertical way is done. For most of the people gear is the carrot they are chasing after..and new gear will be offered at new bosses which should be more difficult than the old bosses. The easiest way is by increasing the NPC’s health, so that they still be a bit of challenge when you have obtained the new gear..and this goes on until no one wants to pay for the game anymore.
And that’s the problem WAR is facing right now. The RvR pack didn’t do anything to RvR…other than introducing a grind for bigger and better gear (aka. vertical expansion. Mythic dev’s tried to not call it an expansion..for a lot of good reasons.., but people perceived it still that way). It didn’t do anything horizontal..except the way the campaign works and this is the most boring stuff I know of in the game when looking at RvR (Thanquol’s incursion is filed under PvE for me ;) ). The dev’s at Mythic are realizing the problem of gear/rr-disparity, but I don’t think that they can handle it appropriately ..i.e. making the right changes at the right times. Of course it’s the easiest and fastest way to “make new content”..and it’s the cheapest way in terms of investment in programmers and such.
The low investment on side of Mythic is apparent if you look at the scenario weapons and the rr90 and rr100 gear. It’s almost identical, the only thing that changes are the numbers with increased item level. The effect of new content wears off, when people realize what has to be done for this gear..are getting caught by the gear-grind-treadmill …. That is another problem WAR is facing right now..the fresh smell of the RvR packs has gone before you could say “what the..?”.
That’s the problem with a shallow vertical way of adding content..
As always I drifted away..sorry for that.. ;)