First off, what is Shard vs Shard? Well Shard vs Shard is sort of a Rift terminology for RvR (DAOC) or WvsW (GW2) the immensely popular form of objective based open(ish)world pvp.
How do other games do it? The two best examples are the long running Mythic game, DAoC (Dark Age of Camelot) which used 3 factions on one server to counterbalance population inequities. In DAOC you had 3 froniters with multiple smaller "zones" and later on a central area in between was added. Inside each of these frontiers was a number of controllable keeps. The faction with the most keeps controlled owned the PVE/PVP raid dungeion (non instanced) Darkness Falls. Each realm also had relic which granted faction buffs, these were housed in a massive and heavily defended Relic Keep. Keeps could be claimed by guilds and when guards from your keep were pulled it would broadcast an alert in the guild channel. Keeps were upgradeable up to 3 levels. Various kinds of seige equipment existed for taking down doors (and later walls, as keeps could be razed).
The other game that is doing this is Guild Wars 2. As you have no doubt heard, WvsW in Guild Wars 2 is very much an extension of DAOC but differs in several major and relevant ways (specifically as it pertains to how Rift might implement such a system. In Guild Wars 2, the WvsW is not actually completely open pvp. The WvsW concept is that 3 servers are assigned a color (this is called red vs blue) and each color has its own series of keeps, towers and supply caravans each with point values. In the center of these 3 massively huge zones is a 4th massively huge zone that houses a massive central keep worth the most points. Controlling a majority area grants factin buffs and bonuses but nothing else at this time. What makes this system different is how it functions mechanically. Each WvsW match lasts 2 weeks and is essentially a massively huge battlegrouind. It can fill up, so its not truely open. Though the population cap for each server is large, it does limit things from getting to out of control. I personally don't see this as a bad thing. People who played DAOC know that during a relic raid the game became a virtual slideshow as frames per second would drop to the single digits. I'm not sure what the current cap is on players in WvsW. I heard they hope to have it at 1000 per server by launch. Right now I would guess its at about 500. However the game is clearly lacking alot of optimization yet (only uses a single processing thread). Even so I never dropped below 22 fps.
Great, so what does this have to do with Rift? Simpe. People have been asking for RvR for some time in Rift and the devs have even said at one point last year that nothing was in the works. But with WvsW's immense popularity I don't see that standing for long. So the question becomes how do you take a concept from two very different styles of game and apply it to Rift. Well you have to both use Rift's strengths and also modify some of its weaknessses. But the end result would be something that brings Rift back into the mind of people who PVP, and also give current pvp players something dynamic and interesting.
Ok, so how would it work? Rift has several issues that make it as it exists right now a bad fit for WvsW/RvR etc.
1.) Tiered progression system makes a system like SvsS which relies on relative power balance, a very dodgy idea.
2.) Development time. Developing multiple maps and a complex system like this takes a lot of time, and work, and is unlikely to be something that just shows up "in a patch". Its more like expansion content.
3.) The engine has difficulty displaying massive amounts of people even in battles against invasion bosses.
4.)Lore, how would you make a non faction based world pvp system work with lore. Honestly this is the biggest problem I forsee.
1.)Rift's Soul system makes for a much more compelling concept than any other MMO doing this sort of system.
2.) Rifts interesting lore would make for some very unique seige weapons, more than just the standard wooden ram or ballista.
3.) Rifts lore also allows for introducing the PVE side of these systems (a major part of them) into the concept in a very interesting way. (I'll get to that in a bit).
2 Shards. Each shard has its own set of capturable objectives. Each Shard has a max of 75 players. (3 raids plus scouts etc.). Upon entering the Battleground you are put into a raid (you may drop out and go solo if you wish). When you enter you are set to max level, and through the rift loot system you are given loot boxes that cover the 3 basic roles (damage, dps, heal, hybrid/support) if your class warrants. These gears are equal in stats and roughly equivalent to the gear just below the top level of the game. These only function inside the warfront. You are also through the loot box given the necessary runes and souls to spec your character out as you choose. Each zone is fairly large (about the size of Stillmoor) and there is a third central area connecting the two that is about the size of Ember Island. There are several types of objectives.
Supply Porticulum: These function both as ways to get around the island (there are no mounts). And also give you set amount of supply points with which to upgrade your objectives. These start of controlled by planar forces (dependant on what rift/invasions are in the area). There are 6 of these in each zone. One or two people can take the elite that guards these.
Towers: These small guarded watchtowers have doors that are fairly weak if you have a sourceram, but still fairly sturdy against normal player attacks. These features windows where players can attack people on the ground from above. There are 5 of these in each zone. A group can take these.
Sourcewell Camps: These are controlled at the start of the game by planar invaders and are guarded by a powerful planar champion. These camps give your sourcestone which is used to power the siege weapons and to upgrade keeps (buying things like a speed buff merchant etc). There are 4 of these in each zone. These are designed for 2 groups.
Fortess: Each zone has 3 of these large city complexes. They have a large contingent of npc guards, and have a porticulum inside. They also require heavy seige and are guarded by a powerful champion. A raid will be needed for these.
When you move to the central zone, it has all the above plus:
City: This massive fortress has multiple points of egress, Strong guards, multiple champions guarding each courtyard and a extremely powerful raid boss. This city is owned by the plane of death at start. Gaining control of the city means you gain control of the Sourcefont in the center of the city. This grants a buff to players on that shard.
Dungeon: There is a dungeon in the central zone, this is a seperate instance (if this is available you can queue from outside the SvS warfront, but it is a PVP flagged dungeon). You can only enter the zone if you are the point leader. However if you are in the zone, you can stay in the zone if it changes hands. Each zone has a different starting (wing) based on your assigned color (red or blue). Which then meets in the middle before opening up to the raid portion of the dungeon. On the red or blue side area areas and bosses for small and 5 man groups. When you zone in here you are in your typical PVE gear, but it uses the mentoring system to scale you up. Monsters in here drop cash and planarite shards (duo), geodes (5 man) or cores (raid). These can be used to purchase pve gear (there are things on the merchants for all levels of players). This dungeon is public group flagged.
Ok, so how does this point system work? Well the point system works based on a stacking system much like a domination warfront. You gain points over a period of time based on what you hold. But like the Codex you get a different point value for certain things based on how hard they are to capture.
Alright, what about Seige weapons and drops? Won't loot balance be messed up because everyone is set to max level and has the same gear? Here is how it works, but I'll talk about seige first.
Sourceram-A massive ram steam powered via source energy. Once placed it can only be turned. Does huge damage to doors and walls. This is controlled by 3 players.
Sourcepowered Seige Tower-Expensive and powered by alot of source energy this tower is mobile and can house up to 5 players. This can be used to breach walls of fortresses and cities, without breaking the door. The downside being its a expensive way to seige since a wall breach like that would require multiple towers. Moves slowly and takes double damage. This is controlled by 5 players.
Portable Source Cannon-Used for wall bombardment, these do large damage to stone and doors from a distance. They can't be used within 20 yards, they also do splash damage to friendly players. Additionally they require ammo which means you need source gems. This is controlled by 3 players.
Planar Catapult-Used for defense against attacking forces, this fires a massive explosive source ball into the enemy ranks. Does double damage to enemy seige equipment. Requires source gems for ammo conversion. This is controlled by 2 players.
Source Caltrops-Used for keep door defense, these can be placed under a door or wall being attacked. They do heavy blast damage and also cast shrapnel bomb (bleed over time) on attackers. Single use, and costly to use on a regular basis. This is placed by the player.
Planar Enchanted Anti Seige Golem- This is the second most expensive piece of seige equipment (behind the tower). Its mobile, but designed to be placed on walls, at arrow holes, or on the front lines. Its not movable but it does aoe damage (type depends on the planar element you choose to buy). to attacking enemies from mage. It has a 10 second cast time aoe nuke that it does on repeat and a high damage aoe nuke with a dot that it does every 2 minutes. This is controlled by a player.
As for drops. Aside from money, everything dropped within the warfront is only used with the warfront. There are gear drops (these only ever improve slightly upon the template gear). The drops out in the zones and in the dungeon are mostly cosmetic. These are marked warfront only and their stats don't work outside of warfronts. These can be used as wardrobe however. Rifts and invasions drop Source Gems which are used to purchase upgrades for keeps (along with supply) and to buy seige parts. The seige parts can also drop from the planar mobs in the zones.
Alright in closing, I think that covers most everything. If anyone has questions post here. Its fairly comprehensive so I may have left something out. I've been working on this for awhile. I think this system as described above would 100% work for Rift, and would bring renewed excitement for pvp players and probably PVE players as well. One thing I heard often during WvsW this past weekend was that people who hated PVP absolutely loved WvsW. Probably because its about working as a team not about personal glory or kills. Its about strategy and war, not who does the most damage or gets the most killing blows.
Thats one reason why I think its important to have it mentor everyone up to max level and use gear templates. This is about making PVP accessible and FUN! Its also not required since the system exists outside of warfront system and normal PVE gearing system. The dungeon is accessible to any but it also a public dungeon.
Keep in mind as I said, this is not something Rift could do overnight, but I think this is the way to go. I thinkif you half *** a system of open pvp you get something like Illum and SWTOR and that just doesn't work. Time and effort needs to be spent to make a system that works within itself and is self sustaining. This would really increase Rifts popularity in my opinion. Its alot of work for the devs I suppose, but I think the payoff would be huge.