State of the Game – VvV PvP on the Atlantic Shard

PvP is always the most controversial aspect of any MMO.  Egos are at stake, if the pvp is any good there are winners and losers, players try to gain every advantage that they can, tempers flare, and the love spills out into general chat channels – for better or worse.

In 2014, PvP in Ultima Online had a serious problem.  The primary game system to encourage and facilitate PvP was sadly broken.  Publish 8 in December of 2000 brought us Factions, and at first it was mad fun.  There were all kinds of shenanigans, from hordes of white wyrms invading Faction bases, to the infamous sigil hued items bug.

There were plenty of abuses along with the fun, and over time, the actual reason for Factions, to enable and encourage pvp, faded. Factions simply became a source for the best, fairly cheap, artifacts in the game.  With publish 77 in July of 2012 the devs attempted to sort this out, and in the process killed the main reason, by that time, that most people joined Factions.

By the time 2013 had ended, Factions was pretty much a dead game system, with only a few hard core addicts hanging on for dear life, desperately seeking someone to have a meaningful fight with.  All it took was one dedicated thief to manipulate the entire system, and well, the whole thing was pretty much irrevocably broken.

So in 2014 the devs announced that a new pvp system would be developed to replace Factions.  A focus group of dedicated players, with clean records, was formed, and under a veil of secrecy the process began. The culmination of that process was the ending of the Faction system,  and the introduction of the Vice vs. Virtue system with publish 86 in September of 2014.

So you may be wondering, why does the name of the Atlantic shard appear in the title of this article? It has to do with the evolution of MMO gaming. Ultima Online was one of the first major commercial Western MMO’s – there was at least one major Korean MMO that preceded Ultima Online, but Ultima Online was certainly one of the pioneers of the genre and it established certain design choices that were followed by subsequent game studios developing MMO’s.

One of those was the game server system, in Ultima Online they are called “shards”.  Partly due to technical limitations, and partly due to creative choices, many of the major early MMO’s offered multiple servers that you could choose from.  The same game existed on every server, or server cluster, but each developed their own character, and you had to choose.  Many MMO’s offered, and continue to offer, differing rule sets on different servers intended to appeal to different kinds of players – servers with more hard core rules sets, or servers with wide open PvP, etc.

In 2003 an MMO came along that bucked many of the major trends in MMO design, that MMO was EVE Online. One design decision the developers made was the choice to never offer more than one game universe.  Everyone would play by the same rules, in the same game universe.  Interestingly enough, in recent years, this seems to be the direction that Ultima Online is heading in.

It started with the introduction of the character transfer system, with publish 23 in March of 2004. Suddenly all of the shards became a single Ultima Online game universe, and the repercussions have been huge, both for good and for ill. One of the things that has become clear in the past eleven years is that, given the choice, players will tend to gravitate toward a single server, and that server has become the Atlantic shard.

So here we are in 2015 and the Atlantic shard has become the dominant shard, at least among the Western shards. It’s the shard you go to if you want to make gold as a merchant, and it’s the shard you go to if you want to make a name for yourself in PvP. It is also the shard where the relatively new Vice vs. Virtue system has made it’s mark to the greatest degree.

When Publish 86 hit the fan, PvP on Atlantic exploded. It was 24/7, non-stop, virtually everywhere that PvP ever happens in the game. It didn’t just explode in the cities, where the VvV system is based. It exploded at Felucca “spawns”, including Harrower spawns. It exploded at Yew gate. And then publish 87 hit, with the Treasures of Doom event, and there was a lull in the action.

Help Guards Flood Fire Famine

So some of us fretted, including myself, was VvV just a flash in the pan?  Has the action ended?  Is the VvV game system going to go the way of Factions?  Is all the fun over – because believe me, for those of us who love PvP, the introduction of the VvV game system was a lot of fun. Nothing is ever perfect, but this was good, very good.

I’m happy to say that with the end of the Treasures of Doom event, Vice vs. Virtue action on the Atlantic Shard, at any rate, has resumed.  Even during the event, PvP continued to be more active at spawns, Harrowers, and Yew gate, than it had been before Publish 86. Now that the event is over, guilds are once again fighting over cities: for bragging rights, for silver, and just for the halibut.

A more appropriate name for the VvV system would have been “Guild Wars”, but we all know that name is taken, because that’s what it really is, a fight between guilds.  Everyone in your guild is your friend, and everyone in VvV in every other guild, is your enemy, and the dominant guilds change like the weather, Just about every major PvP guild on Atlantic has taken turns dominating the VvV field, depending on the time of day, the day of the week, whether a major storm system is keeping everyone home, or the Super Bowl is distracting some of the more dominant PvP’rs, allowing those who are at a disadvantage due to geographical location to take a turn at the head of the queue.

As of this moment, VvV on the Atlantic shard has been a huge success.  Will it be a success a year or two from now?  Who knows?  But as of this moment it has brought a lot of fun back into the game for those who love PvP, and the devs deserve a pat on the back for attempting to listen to the players, and give them what they want – something fairly simple, relatively fast moving, with meaningful rewards, and those all important bragging rights.