It’s quite funny that one of the discussion points for this weeks events is surrounding the use and purpose of PvP in mmo’s when I was actually going to start posting about it anyway. The old MMO debate between psychopaths and Carebears. It started for me last week when there was a post over at XP chronicles discussing the usefulness of Open world PvP that, while outlining many of the popular opinions on the matter it missed many factors that I find invaluable. I just had to write a reply but it seems it is turning into a few replies around certain parts. So, now that this talkback challenge is here it gives me an even better excuse.
A few other discussions so far come from
JVT Workshop who sees the lazy way it is often designed
House of witches notices how PvP changes the environment and a few key characteristics learnt from the Illum experiment
Doctor Hannah hates certain mandatory aspects of it
Looking for Playtime wonders why we always seem to deal with extremes that go between FFA and a sterile experience in a curated world
The question for me isn’t so black and white. For a lot of discussion with MMO’s we always seem to get stuck in dichotomies, that there must be one right way for everything and the discussion of Open world PvP gets the worst of it. The problem here is that for a lot of people their only introduction to open world PvP is in either WoW or one of the many clones that litter the genre and for that system it really is hard to get interested and get involved in such a situation. It is nothing more in most cases than a lazy marketing strategy which unfortunately seems to be the most popular way of doing Open world PvP. I feel sorry if that’s the only type people have known, it’s an easily abused system with little consequence and absolutely no purpose.
Now that’s not to say I don’t find such a thing fun, i do.. immensely. That feeling of exhilaration that comes from the unknown that permeates near every aspect of your play. Simple activities become more interesting and the whole experience more enjoyable to me. As for the question though, if I’m thinking realistically about the mmo population I would have to say having open world PvP depends on the game. For the usual themepark nonsense, the server flagging will suffice although the way some of them go about it..just yeeeeshhh. For the genre, I believe it is a feature that can greatly improve the experience as long is it is being supported in the design.
There are a few points wherein I think it improves MMO’s as well as a few extra challenges there for those that want to incorporate it. I was going to do a little mini-series on each point, and might still do that but I also might give a quick Overview now.
PvP as Content
It’s funny with the way development has been for MMO’s for so long and with how players are being trained in that anything that interrupts the questing process is deemed either irrelevant or an annoyance. The thing is, PvP can and is an interesting form of content. It is dynamic content that can neither be planned for or is run by some sort of script. It is huge, epic and with the right mechanics supporting it can almost create content indefinitely.
The problem with PvP being content of course is that you often see huge power differentials that make the experience not very fun to be involved with. Highly geared players running amok in lower zones killing without any sort of challenge. Now while I still think this can bring about awesome PvP through guilds or other players getting involved to stop it I think the main issue people have here isn’t necessarily the act of getting ganked but the fact they have no chance of fighting back. This is not the fault of PvP but more that most, if not all of these MMO”s are level and gear based and the differences are huge.
Often there is no reason but a highly contrived faction based lore to create and maintain conflict. It does well creating targets but it’s far from being meaningful and leaving it up to players to make the distinction between enemies and friends in my mind is always the better option. Tera created a system that many felt very engaged in with its open world PvP wherein it was guild based and not just another open flagging system (that was part too though). The other element is that we actually need there to be reasons for PvP so as to both direct the action and maintain it. There are a lot of ways to do that with territory and resource control being a good start but there many other ways to make PvP more meaningful in a way that encourages people to join in, make ganking appear less mindless and that makes it easy to understand when and where it will happen.
A very tricky subject as must people find being ganked an awful experience even though it is of no detriment to them. Death penalties have been gone for a long time now. To me I think the issue here comes down to consequence. People hate that someone can kill without any negative actions and, even more irritating is that the mechanics that are often designed to support them like safe zones and such help the other escape from retribution as well.
There are a few differences in the mechanics being used in these Open PvP systems to control an actions but I always seem to see them being abused. It’s hard to design as they won’t to create a system that is both fair and open to people at the same time. The problem is that there is no perfect way to program this, they have tried and failed many times and I don’t think it will ever happen. You see, in many of these circumstances they are taking away control from the players when they should be promoting it.
Imagine if the players themselves created the consequence. If control of towns, outposts and cities was deigned to the players and they set the permission lists, those that are safe within and those to be hunted. Then we might see more consequence towards those who gain a reputation. The unsavourable elements are definitely the minority and might control a few spaces but the rest would be far more amenable to control… it would be an amazing political situation as well. In this situation, with actual in-game consequences to negative acts (and not a mere mini game) I’m guessing we would see far less opportunistic gankers.
Lastly, and unlike the opinions of some PvP, especially when it’s supported creates one of the most engaged and fervent communities around. The thing with PvP in the open world is that it encourages people to group and to seek out larger guilds, corps, potatoe farmers in order to gain a certain amount of protection and I see this as a very positive thing. It creates the initial engagement with the community, experiences for gaining more contacts and well, MMO’s are just more enjoyable with other people around. We also know that MMO’s survive based on the engagement of the community, it’s a part that helps increased longevity.
It’s a point that’s been missing from mmo’s for a long time that needs to be revived and while there are certainly other ways to promote grouping PvP is amongst the better reasons. It’s a natural reason to group that with other mechanics creates long term group content. Unlike other forms of content it’s also the only type of content where the amount, or level of players really doesn’t matter. The Ancient Gaming Noob has been discussing this a bit lately with his experiences in Eve and I have to say that’s an incredible feature for an MMO to have yet rarely see.
Now for some people Player vs Player content is never going to appeal to them, and while this is a shame it is their decision. T9he point is that with Open world PvP developed within the context of the mmo and connected with a range of other features that you often don’t have to engage in it to be a part of it. There is the economics, the politics and many other supporting elements there that never have to be that involved. Sure you can also have an MMO without the PvP elements too, and I think that could work for a time but in the end it would always come down to being something like farmville or cookie clicker… an experience involving gaining increased wealth and not much else. There is a reason Eve works the way it is.