Blaq (http://zewar.wordpress.com) was talking about the third realm in EA’s latest Wrath of Heroes which kicked me in the head a little bit about the good ol’ days. Right, well that’s not really fair. WoH merely has three teams and no realms to speak of. Let’s not get me started on kicking inbred puppies, I’m interested in what people mean by the third realm that manages to get badly interpreted on occasion. It’s not as simple as putting a third team into a playground and expecting things to work themselves out. As Blaq mentioned, all this does is create two losers that fight each other over an objective while a third team becomes the winner by completing the other objectives uncontested. Who is this fun for? The winning team has no conflict or competition, and the teams engaged in conflict both end up losing as a result.
One would assume that Mythic was trying to harness the energy of DAoC on a faster paced small scale battle with WoH, but that’s really moving in the opposite direction of why three realms in DAoC was important. Games really need to be designed from the ground up to reward groups of players for helping each other achieve greater things. That’s where the whole pride aspect came from. When you went out and did something epic, it benefitted everyone. This sort of mindset goes away when the only reason you give players to log in for is a personal gain. It’s one thing to give players a big ol’ sandbox to roam around in and kick each other in the face over, but it’s something else entirely when you start to highlight objectives that help out the strangers around you that look the same or wear your colors.
Maybe some of you out there never really played DAoC during the peak of it’s lifespan. I certainly didn’t, but I’ve heard enough about the game from close friends that were a part of it to understand why the multi-realm RvR worked so well. A DAoC article for review. There was a level of complexity in DAoC that really required guilds to form strong foundations and realms as a whole to have a leading class of players that could take in the battlefields and execute plans of attack. WAR was a much more simplified version of this closer to launch, but still required some realm coordination back when Forts existed. Today it’s a zerg on zerg pile of bodies, that while entertaining for the people who remain, is hardly something a realm needs coordination to accomplish. One thing that I’ll attribute to the dumbing down of MMO PvP is the attitude you get from PvP’ers in general. Not that I like making generalizations, but people today are bigger assholes than they were ten years ago. Much bigger. Or maybe they’re just getting more efficient.
Because really everything is becoming more efficient. Today we have such wonderous technological advancements like MAPS in-game! Or Guild Rosters that don’t require you to alt+tab to your internet browser and be logged into your guild site (upon which tabbing back may or may not crash the entire PC). Quest givers these days have annoying icons over their head, and pretty much a line pointing to your objective. I’m getting away from the point of RvR, but you get the idea. As the lowest common denominator slowly expands to encompass more and more people, you attract a lot of pond scum and destroy the intricate complexities that made the competition that much more valuable in terms of time invested.
I’m in it for the long game, the strategy, political positioning and alliances. I also like the high impact combat, but that’s only a piece of any given game, and not a very large one most of the time. It’s more of a culmination of different plans, preparation, strategic placement, and honed skills that all turn the tide of a battle. The real exciting battles come from having things planned out, the deck stacked in your favor, and something totally unexpected happens in the middle of execution. Being able to react on the fly is a huge source of adrenaline and overcoming both an expected and unexpected enemy simultaneously is one of my favorite outcomes. You rarely find this in two sided games because people have been trained to follow the person in front of them almost mindlessly.
The third realm is rarely a balanced affair due to this, however, it doesn’t mean the third realm is ever a failed state. The dynamics of being the weakest realm, strongest realm, or one that has to temporarily ally with another realm to overtake a more powerful enemy is far more interesting than being on one side or the other of a wave of players bouncing back and for to the flavor of the month realm. I can find enjoyment in being any of the three realms because of the battles. I know if I’m the weakest I can play cleanup when the other two realms collide and destroy each other. If I’m the strongest I can push multiple fronts simultaneously and dominate the field. Alliances between realms are shaky at best and can cause some serious political intrigue when they break mid-combat causing chaos to break out as well.
Sadly, WoH, and probably some of the other games touting a third realm or three team combat, may be passing these factors up. MMO’s, to a purist like me, are world building affairs. The Warfronts and Scenarios that have come into popularity over the years are NOT where we need a third realm. It’s the big wide open world where it really makes a difference. The guilds, keeps, objectives, resource generation, political system, and all the other things that are involved with being a part of a realm are made dynamic provided they’re all attainable by kicking someone else in the teeth. The 3-way battles are just the cream floating on the top. They reason behind the battle makes all the difference between whether it’s a sweet whipping cream, or a mouthful of pond scum.