designing an mmorpg

Designing an MMORPG: Duels in MMORPGs

PvP can make or break a game. How it’s implemented, how many options there are…all of this has to be balanced with the PvE portions of the game. It’s a complicated topic, which is why we’re starting with duels in MMORPGs.

Last week we didn’t cover a new topic, instead, we took some time to look back at what has come so far. There was also the first peek at a map and the results of the previous week’s poll were announced. If you want to see any of that be sure to take a look at last week’s article. This week it is full steam ahead as we begin our dive into PvP.

For this series of articles, we’ll work through all the types of PvP by size, so it begins with duels in this article and we’ll work our way up to massive server v server battles. When it comes to duels there are really only two ways for them to be done, or you can go the route some MMORPGs go and not allow them at all.


Open World

Designing an MMORPG: Duels in MMORPGs

Sometimes when you’re walking down the street you see a guy who just needs his face punched in. It’s an urge we’ve all had in the past. Doing it in real life gets you in trouble of course, but what’s stopping you from doing it in-game? With open world duels, you can challenge anyone almost anywhere they’re standing. In a volcano? Not really the best place. Todmorden, the central, neutral city doesn’t allow fighting on the streets either. But anywhere else in the world is free game. It doesn’t matter if that person is the same faction as you or a different one. Everyone has that one friend who needs their ass kicked while you’re lost in a forest somewhere.

Duels out in the open world are initiated by sending an invite to whoever it is you want to fight. So long as you aren’t on a PvP server (if there are any, more on that in the future) you’ll be able to take part in a fair fight between you and the other guy. None of his friends can do anything but stand by and watch, at the same time you don’t have backup either. This could allow players to create their own fight clubs and start up one-on-one player-run tournaments.

Open world duels seem like they offer a lot of potential but many MMORPGs leave them out entirely. Guild Wars 2 is perhaps the best example of an MMORPG that has left out dueling, while in World of Warcraft you can usually find people dueling outside major cities.

Much like in World of Warcraft, it’s important if you do have open world dueling that you allow players to have the option to automatically reject invitations. Some people will just never be interested in dueling whatsoever.


Arena Only

One way to keep players from harassing each other for duels in the open world is to limit duels to arenas only. City of Heroes had a fantastic PvP arena system that allowed for customizable fights. You could restrict what level you would be fighting at, change some rules, and even change the win conditions. Arenas can take the idea of a duel and elevate it to a whole new level, it isn’t just fighting until someone dies. These arenas could be placed all over the world, though limiting the number of them is for the best.

You also have to take into consideration the fact that if the arenas are their own instances, it will make the game less populated. One way to prevent this from happening is to have what are basically cages and pits out in the world where people can watch you duel in a limited space.

Arenas also allow for tournaments to be formed with ease. This could be a tournament hosted by a single person, a guild, or even an official tournament.

The other thing arenas do is allow for dueling to be a spectator sport. You can watch the action from a variety of angles instead of being restricted to watching a duel on the ground.


No Duels Allowed

Finally, there is the option of not including duels at all. It has the benefit of keeping the peace amongst players, though it also leaves a bit of an empty hole. Players crave the ability to fight each other. In the game, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to ban duels either. More than anything, not having duels in the game benefits the development team. It allows them to focus on other areas of the game instead. Even this argument can be seen as a bit of a weak one, though, as a well-implemented duel system doesn’t need a lot of babysitting from the devs.


And now we’ve come to the point in time where we cast a vote for which of these options will be implemented in the Dark Fantasy MMORPG of our dreams. There are three options for you to pick from: open world, arena only, no duels. If you’d like to see both open world dueling AND arena dueling be sure to vote for both of them because no one has ever said that they HAVE to be mutually exclusive. One thing to keep in mind is that this doesn’t have any impact on PvP servers, which would have their own set of rules, though if Arenas do win then the PvP servers would have the arenas in addition to the open world PvP.

Voting for which system of duels in MMORPGs you prefer will continue until Monday when I start writing the next article.

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About Shannon Doyle

Shannon first discovered MMOs in 1999 when she picked up the newly launched Everquest. This started a lifelong love affair with online gaming that has taken her around the world and brought her to While she still pines for the streets of Paragon, the City of Heroes, today she spends most of her gaming time walking across Tyria in Guild Wars 2, roleplaying with anyone who says hello.