This post over at Mike Darga's got me thinking about the PvP system in Lord of the Rings Online. As far I know, the PvMP system used in LoTRO is unique among MMOs. The bulk of LoTRO is a rich PvE game that contains no PvP apart from dueling. One zone, the Etinmoors, is devoted to PvP. There you can enter and play as one of your regular characters, a freep (free peoples...i.e., a normal character) or you can play as a creep (i.e., a monster player). A creep is a character that cannot leave the moors, and exists solely to oppose the freeps.
There are six creep classes, some of them very odd classes like "giant evil spider" and "stealthy wolf [worg]" that have no real analogues in other MMOs that I am aware of. The creep classes start at level 60, but weak 60s. They can eventually grow to be as powerful as a decently geared 60 freep, but only through PvP. To advance their abilities to the highest ranks, they have to kill human controlled opponents. Because of this, if you are playing creep side LoTRO is one of the more hardcore PvP games on the market.
In addition, the PvP in LoTRO is set up Realm vs Realm style. By that I mean it's modeled after Dark Age of Camelot. There are keeps to take over, whoever controls the most keeps gains advantages. The most important potential advantage to holding keeps is access to a raid dungeon in the zone. From a freep perspective, this means they can take down bosses to get rare gear. From a creep perspective, this means they can take down bosses to earn abilities that are otherwise unavailable. Also, like DAoC, there is no limit to how many players can log on a given side, which means that often the outcomes of battles are determined largely by how many players show up to a given fight. In my mind it makes fights in the 'moors a lot more realistic and varied than battle ground style PvP matchups ala WoW or scenarios in WAR.
It also opens up advanced strategies, such as having a small force serve as a distraction while the main force takes a keep or other objective. That's certainly not a dynamic you'll commonly find outside of MMOs that specialize in PvP. It's like a casual version of the PvP you'll find in serious PvP MMOs like WAR, DAoC, or EVE. I certainly don't have the patience to play something like Darkfall where deep PvP is the primary experience on offer. However, I thought it was great that a deep PvP experience was offered as a side game in LoTRO. I also thought it was pretty neat that there were six creep classes that are only available if you decide to PvP.
That is why it pains me that Turbine has seemingly stabbed their PvP game in the back and left it to bleed to death on the side of the road. For PvP to be fun from a creep perspective, a lot of freeps need to be out on the 'moors. Unfortunately, as it stands currently, a freep would have to be next to insane to engage in PvP for the primary reward.... gear. The PvP gear you can earn in the 'moors is the hardest set of level 60 gear to earn in the game by a wide margin. It takes hundreds of hours of killing out in the 'moors to get the full set. It is also the worst endgame gear for a 60 by an equally wide margin. The stats pale before even crafted gear, much less the gear you can get from Moria 6 mans. And the set has 0 radiance, making it well and truly useless for any serious end game content.
So why did Turbine do this? I suspect strongly that they are trying to consolidate their audience. LoTRO is arguably among the best PvE MMOs currently on the market. PvP was never anything more than an entertaining side game in LoTRO. Even in my kinship founded by hardcore PvP fans, PvPers were less that a quarter of our members. Development resources are limited. Do you devote 100% to your core strengths and try to become a market leader in that area, or dilute your resources on a side game to try and keep an additional small subset of your users barely happy? Turbine has seemingly made their choice.