I understand that many people are turned off by the idea of mixing roleplay with PvP. I completely understand that. When the term RP hits people, images of Goldshire and naked Night Elves come to mind immediately. In truth, however, roleplay is really just telling a story through an interactive medium, in this case an MMO. For instance, if in the course of playing SWTOR you find yourself asking, "What would my character do in this situation?", then you have just brushed up against roleplay. In RP-PvP, players enjoy a very similar experience.
Today, let's talk about mixing story and PvP. Players have found diverse ways to integrate the two. Beyond the break, I have examples of how you may find ways to do it yourself, even if hardcore roleplay isn't your thing.
Generally speaking, I like the idea of an RP-PvP server, but a large majority of roleplayers don't like them, citing reasons like non-roleplayers frequenting the server and the general lack of immersive justifications for attacking people in the open.
Recently, I asked Daniel Erickson why he was in support of RP-PvP servers. In this impromptu Q&A, Erickson stated that it just made more sense for an Imperial character to see the enemy and attack or run away. I asked about neutrals like Bounty Hunters and Smugglers, to which he replied that as far as the story is concerned, those neutral classes are working for their specific factions. I'll give him that, but unfortunately, we really didn't get a chance to talk about other possibilities like free-for-all PvP other than to say that Jedi attacking Jedi doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but we'll see.
Many outsiders to the world of RP find that RP-PvP servers hold the greatest sense of immersion for the game. To a point, I would agree, especially if you love PvP. If you score high as a Killer on the Bartle test, then create a character on an RP server, think about his or her motivation, and kill every Imp you see -- in the name of the Republic, of course.
I would also like to encourage roleplayers to create a character on an RP-PvP server to try it out. Normally, I don't encourage roleplayers to PvP because, let's face it, there is a lot of griefing of low-level characters in open PvP. However, it's guaranteed that you will not run into a single member of the opposite faction on the first two worlds, and there are multiple safe zones sprinkled throughout the leveling process. Your first encounter with an enemy player won't be until at least level 16, if not higher. Also, because of the number of open-world PvP "lakes" on planets like Ilum and Tatooine, the chances of running into someone of the opposite faction more than a couple of levels higher than you is slim.
Personally, I find Warzones and any type of instanced battlefield to be unimmersive. Perhaps I have a hard time wrapping my head around why I am going to the same place over and over fighting for the same control points. Not that Warzones aren't fun. They are tons of fun, and Star Wars: The Old Republic gives us plenty of out-of-character reasons to play them again and again. Just like every other PvP zone in any other MMORPG, the Voidstar and Alderaan warzones appear to be so final if you take the story into account. I can't help but think, "OK, we just lost a decisive battle... shouldn't we move on to another battle?"
However, SWTOR did throw a wrench into the works with a PvP zone called Huttball. In the online PvP world, Huttball is capture the flag (CTF) with a throwable flag, or as I like to call it, full-contact soccer. And just like soccer, Huttball can be treated like a sport. For roleplayers, it's not too far-fetched to have a character that likes to play sports, so why wouldn't he play Huttball?
If you're interested in finding immersion in the other Warzones, maybe you can look at them as training exercises. In fact, military-type guilds may have a fun time viewing them that way.
As I mentioned before, we know that Ilum and Tatooine have some sort of open-world PvP. Thanks to Darth Hater and other sites that reported from the Fan Site Summit, we know that Ilum contains capture and defend mechanics. Opposing bases sit on either side of a massive battlefield. In the center lies chaos. If you complete specific mission objectives, then you win or have the ability to attack the other base. Giant walkers and anti-aircraft turrets line the battlefield. Sounds pretty explosive and fun.
To add the extra bit of immersing kick, give your character a reason for being there. How did he end up in the military? Why does he enjoy or not enjoy being in this battle? As an added bonus, if you run with a group of roleplayers -- or people who just like in-character fun -- give orders in chat. I've seen other military guilds do that sort of PvP, and it was just a lot of fun to watch.
I'm not sure whether guild-based PvP is going to be possible at launch, but I hope it is. I believe guilds maintain the greatest level of player-generated content in a themepark MMOs. I was playing Star Wars Galaxies when the Starsider roleplayers decided to have a gigantic guild war. Upwards of 20 guilds declared war on each other. There were rules regarding when another player could be attacked -- simple rules, nothing too complex. This allowed for open and very immersing interaction with the other characters. In this specific case, red did not equal dead but rather equaled friend.
The PvP possibilities are endless in this new galaxy far, far away.
The Hyperspace Beacon by Larry Everett is your weekly guide to the vast galaxy of Star Wars: The Old Republic, currently in production by BioWare. If you have comments or suggestions for the column, send a transmission to firstname.lastname@example.org. Now strap yourself in, kid -- we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!