Zerg. For most MMO PvP players it is a dirty word. One that conjures up images of chaotic, lag inducing and skill-less combat. One that players hate and use to criticize any of the mass-PvP MMOs out there. DAoC, Shadowbane, Darkfall and Aion have all been accused of being Zerg games and looked down upon by the “true-PvPers”. You know, the ones exemplified by the Arena kiddies of WoW.
True story time. A couple of months back, I was leveling my Knight of the Blazing Sun in WAR. I had reached Tier 2 and decided it was time for some PvP. I entered the RvR zone in the Empire/Chaos pairing and jumped into an Open Warband. At the time, there were two Warbands operating in the zone and we were in the middle of taking Mandred’ Hold Keep. As Mandred’s Hold is about to fall the leader of the Warband says this in chat:
Wow, I love mass PvP combat! This is so much fun!
We finish up Mandred’s and decide to head to Greenskin/Dwarf land and take a Keep there. When we arrive and start heading to the Keep we run right into two Destruction Warbands. Fighting is frenetic but is quickly over. We lose. Badly. We are starting to respawn at the Warcamp and reorganize, when the leader of the Warband, the same guy who I quoted above, comes across chat with this:
Damn, zergs!! I hate zergs! I hate this game, its all zergs!
So, this begs the question, at what point does “mass-PvP” cease to be “mass-PvP” and, instead, become a zerg? Massive PvP battles have no negative connotation. MMOs tout them on game boxes, developers sing their praises in interviews and advertisements in gaming magazines point out (in large type, bold letters!) that “THIS IS A GAME OF MASSIVE PvP!!”
Yet if you mention the word zerg, developers are quick to point out the steps and systems they have in-game to prevent or lessen the zerg. So, whats the difference? What makes massive PvP fun and a zerg bad?
The easiest answer and one that I think applies to the quotes above, is that it is “Massive-PvP” when you are winning and a Zerg when you are losing. Our fearless Warband leader loved his “Massive-PvP” battles when we were stomping everyone into the ground, but the second that Destruction beat us, he called it a Zerg.
That’s the easy answer, but I think its more complex than that. I think what differentiates “Massive-PvP” battles and a Zerg is a matter of control. Massive battles are always chaotic, both in real life and a game, yet there are smaller battles happening within the battle that seperates the true massive battles from the Zerg. Flanking, ambushes, protecting the healers; these all happen in “Massive-PvP” battles. In Zergs, there seems to be none of that. Everyone runs straight forward, attacks the closest target and retreats if they are losing. Thats it. No strategy, no tactics; just running straight forward until all the enemy is dead or you are.
How can the developers of Aion or any other PvP MMO stop the Zerg, while at the same time encourage “Massive-PvP” battles? Simple and most honest answer: They can’t. They can give us the tools to do it. Things like a better chat interface, crowd control to control a Zerg, battlefield objectives that limit the effectiveness of the Zerg and a PvP area big enough to avoid Zergs. But, in the end the only ones who can limit Zergs are the players.
Aion has taken a few steps to limit the effectiveness of Zergs. For one, the Abyss is much bigger than any RvR area in WAR, making battles spread out. They also have a better timer system on their Keeps and battlefield objectives than WAR does. WAR encouraged the trading of Keeps by Zergs for the simple fact that they were close together and on a short timer. Aion does not do Keeps this way. Battlefield objectives in Aion are also useful, instead of solely a source for points as they were in WAR. Losing a battlefield objective in Aion has a detrimental effect on your side. This causes groups to spread out to defend multiple points instead of Zerging between single Keeps and objectives.
I know there will be Zergs in Aion. It is inevitable. However, in my limited time in endgame Aion, I have seen more small scale combat than I ever did in WAR. Even the Zergs that I did see, seemed to be more “controlled” than what I am used to in WAR. Tactics and strategy seemed to play a bigger role than they did in WAR, although I think this is because of a game engine that allows for it.
In the end, the naysayers will still call any “Massive-PvP” battle a Zerg and the ones who like the big battles will still call them “Massive-PvP” battles….
Until they lose. Then its a Zerg.
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