RoM's gear-modification system lends itself to EVE-esque combat. Keep in mind we're not talking about how the mechanics or guts of the games are similar or different; we're talking about how the same itch is being scratched. In the case of RoM's PvP being like EVE, it's more like tickling the itch with a feather, which makes you want to scratch it even more. I want to scratch that itch with a Brillo pad by exploring how RoM's open-world PvP could function more like EVE's, thanks to the arcane transmutor. Let's start with how I think battlefields differ from open-world PvP.
Battlefields vs. open-world PvP
One of the most important tenets of good, open-world PvP just might be making characters unbalanced. Lively battlegrounds are structured like an organized sport. You have many of the same rules surrounding spells and abilities that you have in the persistent game-world, but there are two significant differences when it comes to limiting the number of players and providing goals. In some cases, the only goal is total annihilation, but at the very least there's usually a score involved. Earning points to spend on better gear, having predetermined goals, and the ability to create an easily trackable ranking system are large incentives for participation that go the way of the Dodo in the persistent world.
Outside of battlefields, there's no participation or level limit, which allows large roaming gangs to pick on solo or low-level players. Ranking systems don't work well beyond tallying up individual kill counters. You need more structure to determine fairness for who deserves the points. It also seems to work better to keep prizes you earn within battlefields out of the world, or else you'll have a forum battle akin to crafting rewards vs. boss drops. All incentives just went out the window. What's left for open-world PvP except the small annoyances that become really big annoyances in the absence of incentives and rankings? Taking advantage of RoM's gear-system allows you to make imbalanced characters and increase the risk of losing items. What you'll end up with is something that smells like chapter one RoM with a hint of EVE.
RoM's PvP used to resemble EVE's
Back at RoM's launch, there were no costumes that wouldn't drop on PK, no protection bubbles, no instant on/off PK status and no hero or villain status -- good and bad was tied to reputation. RoM's PvP was more like EVE's than it is now simply due to the cost of losing. Being able to loot another player and be rewarded handsomely was incentive to participate. Having PK status that wouldn't cool-down for 10 minutes -- thus making you vulnerable to retribution -- made a player weigh the odds of whether to go on a killing spree or not. Reputation points had more meaning as well. They provided additional incentives and weaknesses depending on how good or evil you were. Does anybody, nowadays, even care -- or know -- that RoM has a reputation system? The only enjoyable memories relating to open-world PvP that I have all took place before the original system was changed.
The possibilities that RoM's gear-modding system allow are very liberating in that they can let players of different levels compete with each other. The positive is that gear modding could allow bands of lower-level players to overtake a high-level player. The negative is that Runewaker isn't taking advantage of this; it's conforming to old standards of progression-based MMOs.
The line for PvE progression has grown long. I remember back during chapter one when a mid-level player with moderate gear could stomp a poorly geared level 50 player. A higher level-cap and better drops now separate the levels more.
Damage in PvE is too bloated. There are high requirements on killing mobs in and out of dungeons. Oddly enough, when you do reach -- or slightly surpass -- those requirements, the damage that can be dealt to another player is huge. You end up with players killing each other in seconds, no matter that they are equally geared.
Players don't want anything nerfed. Some have paid money to have that tier 10 staff, and they expect it to kill another player in one hit.
Is it realistic to try to change RoM in this direction? Is it even possible? I've always thought that player bars needed more resilience to bring back challenge to RoM, but PvP would be another reason to change it. In short, combat would need to be slowed down. Keep the size of the bars, but lower the damage for all PvE and player combat skills. It wouldn't all be straightforward. Individual class and content balancing would need to be done. The idea is to have bars that players would actually be able to see changing and have the time -- and need -- to choose which potion, heal, or counter-spell to use. It would reduce button-mashing.
Damage-dealing spells would also have to operate differently against players than against mobs. This is already the case, to a small degree. The key is spreading out damage along a much smoother curve through all levels. Players would be taking longer to kill each other, which could afford a large group of low-levels the time to kill a high-level player. The level-cap will most likely continue to rise. Having a moving cut-off point would be fine. Maybe it wouldn't work to allow a level 10 character to inflict damage on a level 67, but if there's always a window of, say, 45 or 50 levels, it's not all that limiting. Getting through the lower levels is very quick anyway.
Perhaps the biggest problem would be with social engineering. Whenever you make game-wide changes, they may affect every single player, but that's not always comforting. Typically, we don't want to see any numbers get smaller.
Runewaker should stretch RoM's unique wings a little farther. Allow for a greater degree of power across all levels and mitigate damage. Bring back the old PK system with its harsh penalties and large incentives. My philosophy doesn't say open-world PvP is an annoyance as I try to quest or shop on the auction house because I'm not doing that. I'm trying to not get killed while questing or shopping on the auction house. That's a difference that every player learns when logging on to a PvP server. Removal of any incentives or goals amplifies the annoyance of being killed.
RoM already has the potential to be a fantasy-based EVE hard-coded into it. I also think EVE-combat could exist within the progression-based MMO by primarily changing the numbers that are already in the game.
Each Monday, Jeremy Stratton delivers Lost Pages of Taborea, a column filled with guides, news, and opinions for Runes of Magic. Whether it's a community roundup for new players or how to improve versatility in RoM's content, you'll find it all here. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.