This overview is based on RIFT Beta's 3 and 4.
Definitions Applicable To This Page
There are varying definitions of Open World PvP found in every MMO.
Definition: Open World PvP
Combat can occur between players in a non-instanced fashion anywhere in the game world where permitted by the server ruleset. Virtually all Open World PvP games place some limit on where and/or when this type of PvP can occur. This is typically done by zone, area, or character level. Regardless of restriction, if this type of combat can occur, it is considered Open World PvP.
Definition: Objective Based Open World PvP
Objective Based Open World PvP is defined as PvP which occurs for control of something in game. It may be a keep, a castle, a town, a game area which yields high value materials, etc... Though gaining personal experience, personal favor or faction benefits, loot, and drops may be thought of as objectives for a single player, they are not part of Objective Based Open World PvP.
Server Rulesets and Impact on Open World PvP
Rift provides servers with a PvP ruleset and servers with a PvE ruleset. Roleplay(RP) versions of these servers are also available.
The PvE Ruleset is a server where a player may only attack another player if the subject of the attack has manually flagged themselves as a PvP player by typing /PVP in their chat window. If they have flagged themselves for PVP their player tag will be displayed as a yellow tag. You may attack a yellow flagged player which in turn automatically flags you as a PvP player. A PvP player may un-flag, you will not be un-flagged until you have waited a set period of time.
A player may flag themselves for PvP anywhere in the game world without restriction.
As such, on a PvE server, it is possible for Open World PvP to occur, but only between players that have knowingly flagged for PvP.
There are PVP quests on a PvE server and NPC's can be attacked and towns can be controlled.
The PvP Ruleset is a server where players are automatically flagged for Open World PvP if they enter a zone where PvP can occur. In RIFT's case, a zone equates to a province and all provinces in the world, with the exception of the starting province for each faction, are auto flag PvP zones.
PvP can occur in the starting province if players manually flag as described in the PvE Ruleset section.
Objective Based Open World PvP occurs in RIFT as follows. Major towns in a province provide services such as crafting stations, quest givers, general goods merchants, rare planar goods merchants, trainers, etc ... One side can contest a town in an opposing province which in turn denies the use of any of that towns services as long as the town remains contested. As this is a significant impact on play for those currently playing in the province, it becomes the focal point for larger scale battles as the defender must respond to bring those services back on line.
There are currently no additional objectives in the game such as keeps, castles, or guild halls to fight over.
Open World PvP Mechanics
Though a player can walk or ride a mount from province to province, grouping and getting involved with a large scale Open World PvP battle is typically accomplished by using 'fast travel' tokens which are purchasable from specific merchants. These tokens will get you into the province but you may still have to ride or walk to the site of the battle. A more reliable route is to use guild tokens, purchasable at nominal cost from a guild merchant. Guild tokens allow you to fast travel to a placed guild banner which is ideally placed near the battle site.
Note that fast travel tokens have a substantial cooldown and are not really useable to get you right back into the battle if you die. I am still unclear how the game determines where you respawn when you die, but it appears to be at the nearest respawn point you have actually uncovered. Thus, if you use a token to initially spawn into a province you have not explored, you will likely not even respawn in that province if you die. This needs confirmation.
Ancient wardstone system
Ancient wardstone system is a mechanic implemented into the game, that rewards Open World PvP. There will be Ancient wardstones popping out of nowhere, that look extremely different from standard wardstones. They have a floating faction symbol and if a player attacks it, he/she gets flagged for PvP. This happens on both PvP and PvE servers. If then player proceeds to eliminate wardstones and turn them in, they will get bonuses for their teams.
- Riftpodcast's interview with Chris Junior, Senior Systems Designer for RIFT