Making Peace with PvP

To Finish of the Week of our first Voluntines, an event that has created some amazing personal posts about our interests and background comes a post from the Mr Murf, the Ringmaster himself. It seemed fitting to do this and not because I lost the original link to it…. Anyway, here he talks about some of those earlier MMO’s and the where and how they encouraged his interest in PvP. About how these experiences that may seem frustrating at first can serve to engage and create a far more interesting world.


I consider Healing the Masses to be a sister blog to my own. Though I’ve restarted blogs a few times now, Eri began Healing the Masses roughly around the time I began my first blog through the Newbie Blogger Initiative. Over time, as we’ve become friends and blogmates, it became more and more apparent that we share certain similar attitudes toward MMORPGs. That’s why when Voluntines Week presented the opportunity, I wanted to show my appreciation by joining her on her own home turf to write about PvP.

Though I began my MMORPG career with Ultima Online, I did so after the Renaissance expansion created Trammel, a version of the game’s world with zero PvP that rendered Ultima’s wild west obsolete. In its place was a carebear paradise, and that’s where I spent most of my time.

To be perfectly honest, the idea of PvP scared me. The direct conflict, the tangible loss, the fact that I wasn’t in control of my own game session – these factors all compounded to keep me as far away from Ultima’s PvP free-for-all areas for good.

In one of my earliest experiences taking the risk of open PvP, a guild leader tried to recruit me and a friend. In Ultima Online, guilds were created by guild stones which were placed inside houses. His guildhouse happened to be in the open PvP area, and he wanted to give us a tour. Obviously, this was a bad idea because as soon as we stepped into his house, he declared us trespassers and killed us both (neither of our characters were very advanced) without taking any sort of penalty. I had just bought the suit of armor he took off my body corpse too.

For a lot of people, that would be a huge turn-off, probably spoiling them on direct conflict with other players in MMOs forever. That was largely how I felt too. My opinion began to change, however, because I constantly taunted and spoke poorly of that fellow whenever I had a chance. Unlike in most games where your nemesis is forced upon you by a narrative, mine was given to me by chance and choice. Even if I never went back, that experience stayed in the back of my mind, slowly warping my view of PvP.

I tried other games, including branching more and more out into PvP, but it was World of Warcraft that convinced me that I could PvP. Heck, it even convinced me that I could enjoy it.

I started WoW later than my friends, so when I finally began playing, I was forced to follow them to a RP-PVP server. It was still vanilla, so people were actively leveling and participating in the lower level zones. That meant lots of opportunities for me to be ganked, harassed, camped, and every other horror that open PvP can inflict upon your character. Those things did happen, but more and more, I began to enjoy them.

Yes, someone camping you sucks. It interrupts your play, produces no benefit for either party, and is largely just an activity done by griefers looking to grief. At the same time, it forces people to seek help and to cooperate. That’s exactly what I did too. If someone was getting camped, I’d run to help out or at least help rally some troops together. Even if the activity did slow down my crawl toward the final level, it was fun. Plus, I met cool people doing it. Just like that one guy that murdered me in Ultima Online, I made rivals too.

For one, there was an Alliance druid who leveled at exactly the same pace as I did, so whenever I’d do a Battleground, we’d bump into one another. At the time, queues were server specific, so you became familiar with the names of your enemies. I don’t know anything about the guy, but I hated him. He’d always use his druid powers to run his team’s flag back and forth. I, as an up-and-coming rogue, typically found myself slowly stealthing toward the enemy flag – the same one he was barreling toward, mind you. Skill-wise, we were evenly matched, but neither of us ever wasted an opportunity to emote something nasty at the other.

For the other major one, there was an Alliance guild, epic’d to the nines, and always willing to step on Horde players both big and small. The Horde side on my server was very underplayed, so we had no guild with equivalent raid experience or loot as this one. If they wanted control of a teleportation stone, they took it by force (relatively little was required since gear level discrepancies were entirely out of control in late vanilla).

Though I enjoyed Battlegrounds and city raids and getting revenge on campers, I absolutely adored fighting over control of instance entrances. Especially when it carried over into The Burning Crusade where I had found myself in that top server guild role for a change, it added a sense of dynamism. The word felt less static, less like a game. More important than the goals you had determined for yourself before logging in, PvP could make your entire night turn on the dime toward an epic confrontation. It kept you on your toes and helped keep you invested in your community.

Some of this is specific to my own experiences. Many others will have entirely different accounts of communities so toxic that others on their side refused to help or worse. Perhaps I got lucky or perhaps I am whitewashing a past that really was far more annoying than I now recall.

However, I cannot shake the attitude that PvP can drastically improve an experience (perhaps as much as it can ruin it for others). As MMOs more and more become games about alternative from lobby to instance with nothing in between, PvP that takes place in the real world rather than a set-off location becomes less and less relevant.

Many utter a sigh of relief at the thought. Others, like myself, view it as yet another important part of the genre that has been hollowed out in favor of accessibility and mass market appeal. That may be a good thing to grow the market share of the genre, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is a good thing for someone like me.



12 thoughts on “Making Peace with PvP

  1. It’s weird but the longer I play MMORPGs the more I think PvP adds rather than detracts from the experience. I think most people,are petrified of PvP before they experience it and I totally respect the feelings of those who will have absolutely nothing to do with it at all. However, like Murf, I experienced it early in my MMO career and have increasingly sought it out since.

    I had a monk on on of EQ’s faction rules Zek servers all the way back in 2000 and I played on the open PvP Sullon Zek server for several weeks when it started. The first MMO where I actually PvP’d a lot, though, was DAOC.

    Subsequently most of my PvP has been in more controlled environments – WAR, WoW, EQ2, Rift battleground instances and GW2 WvW. Those controlled experiences have hardened me so that I no longer fear being ganked and I can happily go PvE questing in DinoStorm even though I know that at any moment a level 20 could fry my level 6 ass.

    I do think it gets a lot harder when there’s more at stake than your pride. I still don’t think I’m hardened enough even for pick-an-item PvP loot rules, far less full loot. I can’t argue that that wouldn’t make the whole experience more intense – I’m just not sure intensity of that kind is what I want from my MMOs.

    • I think some of it is just wanting SOME form of obvious human interaction in the virtual space. As time has progressed, it has become less apparent you are playing with real people and not just bots with misspelled variations of Raistlin, Legolas, or Drizzt for names.

      As far as more open PVP and looting, I agree. I think there is a necessary balance you want to strike to best foster a broader community, and absolute open PVP with full looting will always turn more people off than on. I do enjoy it sprinkled into the mix a bit, however, but I hate how everything has become so separate from one another. I feel like if we ever do get a true sandbox MMO again, it’ll still have specific sandboxes for specific types of players.

      I like a little RP with my PVP with my PVE. A blend makes for a much more dynamic and appealing experience that can be different from one session to another. Since it is hard to make a MMO with a dynamic world, it is left to player interaction, emergent gameplay, and a little creativity to pick up the slack!

    • It is a hard thing to get in a first and it makes a lot of people nervous but it really does seem to add something to the world and the ongoing experience. The controlled environments definitely do help ti encourage people in PvP but I think we do need some new experiences now to further that interest by bringing it into the world.

      In terms of having loss well, I think in an economy designed for it it really isn’t as bad but to get used to that feeling you first have to lose the usual gear grind mindset where gear is almost priceless and irreplaceable. That and having it so innately tied to our characters power.

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  3. I despise PvP without consequences. UO had PvP flags, Noto-PK guilds (I lead one) and full looting. It took them too long to fix the housing bugs related to PvP and Trammel was the result. PvP can work.

    PvP in today’s games is just griefing. It does nothing but waste time and impede the fun of others. I don’t mean BGs, i mean open world PvP. It has no consequences and therefore no value. Prime example is SWTOR. Huttball is by far the best thing to come out of that game but that game also released Ilum. That open world PvP zone just never worked. People who played Vanilla WoW on a PvP server probably have nightmares of STV for the same reason.

    BGs are a separate topic 🙂

    • While I don’t think the usual themepark model would do well with loss due to the whole gear grind stuff, there does need to be a certain counter to this approach that does have a more pvp mindset.
      I agree it mostly seems like griefing but even that can create a more dynamic environment and some amazing consequences. I just imagine of they actually integrated such things into the game
      AS for bg’s… I honestly don’t think there should be gear given from them as with it takes the focus away from open world pvp and territory control. Leave gear to the game proper and other mechanics, both pvp and pve. Leave bg’s for mindless action or even esport aspirations.

      • Doesn’t have to be loot. Use a variant of the honor system, based on a bunch of factors. Fight instigation, level difference, hit point difference on combat start, target variety (to avoid camping) etc… Have the score move slow enough so that people who trigger it accidentally don’t get too much penalty too quickly. Have it decay over time. Have graveyards have a no-PvP timer and enough time to heal/buff.

        Penalties, in increasing quantity, include KOS in town, higher repair costs, stat debuffs after death, score increases on attackers, bounties, etc… There are plenty of options on this. Ganking is one thing. Griefing is another.

        Have open world pvp in designated zones mean something. Territory control, PvE access, general stat buffs, customization vendors, etc…have a balance buff for the losing parties to make sure that faction balance is a good thing (or you get WoW). Remove PvP penalties in this zone.

      • all those would be great. The honour system sounds interesting although I’m guessing people would figure out a way of abusing it.

        My ideal mechanic is to give players more control over towns and cities. Have the control of them attained through a variety of means but let them then set the permissions. Level of penalties incurred, maybe even a name list for KOS… paying money for roving patrols in the area to get them as well.

    • I mostly agree with you, Asmiroth. PvP without consequence, without gameplay purpose, should really never enter into anything called a “game”. It’s beyond worthless and it’s purely destructive to building a community. Thems big fightin’ words I typed there, but I stand by them 🙂

      I think most games with PvP get it wrong and those that get it right still suffer content wise despite any goodness PvP may actually add. I can’t cite Eve enough on this point. It’s a game of pure consequence, yet open-world PvP (excepting the rare game-changing battle) adds just about NOTHING to gameplay on a day-to-day basis. It’s such a minuscule piece of entertainment that it’s very hard to make the case that open world PvP is worth anything. It is, just like the Xbox and Playstation FPS counterparts, just an arena for lashing out at other players for personal gratification. That is literally the chief object of open-world pvp.

      PvP, excepting battlegrounds, has never added anything worth keeping in WoW. The devs agree: all open world zones continue to be re-invented with every expansion as an admission that open world pvp just sucks as content unless PvE elements are added. It’s just not worth the time and the few moments of excitement and adrenaline gained are quickly extinguished by the fact that every other thing you do in game is vastly more valuable to your experience.

      I enjoy things like battlegrounds or other similar PvP activities, because there’s actually some gaming involved in content like that. I think the appeal is obvious: people *definitely* enjoy competition and sport and thats the total extent to which PvP is valuable at all. Battlegrounds scratch that itch and provide far more valuable content experiences than open world. I say this based on player participation in each. Open world pvp, even in open-world pvp focused games, is rare. That’s really the only testimony that matters: how much do players actually participate in it? That number continues to be a small, almost never-increasing segment of gamers.

      But I’m glad you made peace with it, Murfs 😀 I love the essence of surrender implied in this post, the admission that PvP is an acquired taste which is rarely enjoyed for it’s own sake. You’ve merely made peace with it, accepted that it’s not going away and *learned* to enjoy it. I think that kind of testimony speaks for itself!

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