Working As Intended: Six things I expect from serious MMO PvP

With PvP-encrusted MMORPGs like Camelot Unchained, Crowfall, and even Revival on the genre's horizon, I have a glimmer of hope that the future of MMO PvP might not be a dreadful dichotomy of sterile MOBAs and psychopathic gankboxes after all. PvP might just have a chance at restoration to a place of honor in MMORPGs rather than be jammed into themeparks as an afterthought or unleashed into empty open worlds as the lazy dev's idea of "hardcore content." MMO PvP has been great before -- wouldn't it be fun if it were great again?

This is how I'd like to see it go down: Here are six things I expect from serious MMO PvP.

Faction balance and guild control

Perfect balance in anything in an MMO is probably unachievable, but that's no excuse for developers to give up. Time and again we've seen MMO dev teams shrug helplessly when one PvP faction in a game dominates the others, whether those factions are official or entirely player-made. Some sandbox devs cede significant power to influential player groups, becoming unable or unwilling to dislodge those influential players from the top of the toy pile, however much they taint the game or drive off paying customers who simply grow tired of the power imbalance and leave. Whether we're talking about Horde outnumbering Alliance two-to-one or a massive ganker guild running roughshod over an entire sandbox, balance and control over the game is a serious problem that affects not just the people on the eternally losing side but the health of the game as a whole. I don't want to see any "let 'em play, ref" attitudes from the sidelines or from MMO studios. Serious PvPers expect a fair playing field and quick intervention from the refs to keep that field fair and fun. To do otherwise is to sign a game's death sentence. Crowfall's map resets give me hope, however ironic, that someone's finally found a way to copy a mechanic from a non-combat MMO in a way that will actually enhance a cutthroat PvP game and solve this core competitive MMORPG problem.

Class and playstyle balance

Don't tell me you're taking away my taunt button in PvP because 'people hate losing control of their characters' while simultaneously granting every other class in the game functional PvP crowd control.
Character and playstyle balance is likewise something I expect from MMO PvP. Like other forms of balance, class balance -- especially for human AI! -- is painfully difficult, but it must be attempted. People won't long tolerate that one class who can take on five people solo because she can heal to full repeatedly with no counters or that other class who can lock down an entire zerg for 30 seconds with one button press.

At the same time, I can't stand it when designers invalidate entire characters, classes, or playstyles because it's too much trouble to make them work in PvP. Don't tell me you're taking away my taunt button in PvP because "people hate losing control of their characters" while granting every other class in the game functional PvP crowd control (sup, Blizz). If you have tanks, get some collision detection and let them tank in all their glory. If you have bards whose signature songs provoke monsters to attack other monsters, that had better work in PvP too. Even it means adjusting gear or health pools or skills for PvP, make it happen. And if you can't make it happen, reconsider whether you're building the right kind of game to begin with.

I'd like to think it goes without saying that gear disparities should be extinguished swiftly; the game's content should never place PvP-focused players at a disadvantage to PvE-focused players in PvP. There's nothing more obnoxious than being steamrolled in battlegrounds by raiders decked in epics. How is that even still a thing? There's no faster way to tell your players that you don't take PvP seriously (or want their money).

Depth, significance, and persistence

I don't mind battleground PvP, not at all, but what I prefer are large-scale encounters imbued with more meaning than a scoreboard that pops up after 20 minutes. I loved Dark Age of Camelot RvR; I loved old-school Alterac Valley too. I want to see high stakes territory-control, grand siege weaponry, and enough persistence that there's a point... but not so much that we're back to a single alliance dominating the game forever and ever.

Trade can only enhance large-scale warfare by adding elements of realism that elevate MMO PvP above the skirmishes of stripped-down MOBAs.
Death, meanwhile, ought to be a setback, not a dire and damning consequence that ensures no one takes risks or does anything but glom together in a massive herd like six-year-olds playing soccer. Designers must find that happy medium between letting people zerg right back into the fight and punishing them so much they'd rather just log out than return to the front lines.

I think meaningful PvP might take root in the player-driven economies promised by Crowfall and Camelot Unchained. Though it's not twitchy, trade is its own form of PvP; combined with crafting, resource gathering, and combat, trade can only enhance large-scale warfare by injecting tactical planning and realism -- supply lines, provisioning, logistics -- that elevate MMO PvP above the skirmishes of stripped-down MOBAs and create a variety of combat and support roles for the multitude of different playstyles embraced by typical and potential MMORPG PvP players.

Deliberate accessibility

Accessibility is a loathed word in gaming circles, but the reality is that an MMO's accessibility determines its income and support. Most gankboxes are so actively inaccessible to newcomers that their tiny playerbases provide only tiny trickles of income; they run on a shoestring, and their lack of maps, updates, and actual players to fight reflects that. You know what's totally not hardcore? A dead or dying game, that's what. The most successful PvP sandboxes, however, are forever chasing accessibility. Not a year goes by that we don't hear yet another plan from EVE Online, for example, about how it hopes to coax newbies to try (and more importantly, stay in) the game with a revamped tutorial.

You know what's totally not hardcore? A dead or dying game, that's what.
Accessibility isn't about "dumbing down" content but about making a game digestible. It's about how well a newbie can participate, how much he can contribute in that twilight transition between newbie and veteran, because that is what will entice him to stay and keep learning. All MMOs must balance their desire to be ambitious and complicated with their desire to be sticky, but distasteful leveling grinds, elongated travel times, endless gear treadmills, and steep power curves are a big problem when tacked onto a game that hopes to feature PvP as its centerpiece in particular. In a world where MOBAs exist, people aren't willing to PvE grind just to get to PvP, a lesson Camelot has learned well. I want some form of character progression in my MMO PvP, else I'd go play a different genre better suited for PvP to begin with, but I also won't pay for an MMO that still clings to stretch-out-the-grind principles, the kind where I'm doomed to be cannon fodder for six months while I trudge through repetitive and unrelated content just to catch up.

Likewise, every large-scale PvP game needs some sort of a niche for small groups and guilds. Existing MMO players are usually uninterested in breaking up their extant teams to bond with the inevitable power group that controls their faction. And not every PvP activity should be best conquered by smashing through it with a giant zerg. Incentivize finesse to keep your casuals and small groups happy. Make sure there are missions only strike teams and stealth scouts can carry out effectively. Give the loners a home and a purpose too. That's not just catering to soloers; that's creating layers of play that make financial sense to studios and logical sense to anyone steeped in the history of warfare.

The reinvention of PvP culture

Ganking is boring. Steamrolling lone newbies and naked miners is boring. It's not hardcore; it's the cheapest, lowest, easiest form of PvP. A child can do it. Any idiot can do it. Heck, it's not even "PvP" because there's not actually any "vP" on the other side of it. I want epic warfare and strategic battles with people who want the same thing I do, not dueling and scamming and one-shooting bads who never even saw it coming, and that's exactly what happens in gankboxes, with the epic battles being so few and far between that they make actual headlines. Developers have seized upon mechanics like flagging and safe zones and chat restrictions and protected level ranges to reduce the potential for ganking and abuse because those are easy band-aids. But the problem lies in PvP culture itself, and that's something few studios address head-on; in fact, some of them intentionally appeal to the ugly side of the MMORPG world with macho marketing or customer service policies that seem to encourage players to go way over the line in their pursuit of abusive one-upsmanship.

Ganking is the cheapest, lowest, easiest form of PvP. There's nothing hardcore about it.
PvP should be a sport, not a mindfrack. I want to see PvP that avoids the lowest-common denominator of player interaction. I don't think it's too much to ask that we class this joint up. And we can start with chat itself: Instead of blocking cross-faction chat or deleting chat entirely, let's try moderating it instead. The very last thing an MMO should do is encourage one group to see the others as incommunicative subhumans worthy of teabagging emotes; being able to see a global chat is one way to encourage the "good games" and handshakes you'd see after an actual sporting event between professionals. League of Legends, of all games, is pioneering social engineering tactics to reward good behavior and punish toxic behavior in what by all rights should be the domain of the social MMORPG. I'm grateful to Riot for its efforts; MMOs need to follow suit.

And justice for all

The final way to show me you take PvP seriously and aren't just milking closet sociopaths for sub fees is to ensure your game world has an appropriate in-game justice system that rises above the "my gang is bigger than your gang" warlordism that plagues free-for-all PvP sandboxes. MMOs have tried, but most fail to be effective at incentivizing or disincentivizing behavior. ArcheAge took a stab at fixing the "ain't no justice" gankbox problem with a court and jail system, but it wasn't enough. As I wrote on old Massively back in 2011,

[FFA PvP] is lazy game design. It's the developers' way of saying, "Yeah you know, we don't really have anything interesting to add to this part of gameplay, so just go ahead and do whatever, because anarchy is like so hardcore." [...] I resent being robbed of a massive spectrum of interesting interactions and consequences, all of which would be far more rewarding than the yes/no option of kill/don't kill. Kidnapping? Torture? Imprisonment? Trials? Fines? Bounties? Piracy? Espionage? Public executions? So very few games even bother with these elements, preferring instead to just turn us loose on each other like rabid dogs. The designers allow us to be criminals and vigilantes, but we can't fill any of the other roles a realistic justice system would have: police, justices, gaolers, lawyers, privateers, bounty hunters. The last-resort option of murder should be exactly that: a last resort, rife with serious in-game consequences and dozens of strong and creative alternatives that provide roleplay experiences for all parties involved.

Developers are always happy to provide elaborate and even draconian rulesets for skill gain and housing and travel and crafting -- EVE even employs an economist to interfere in the player market -- but when it comes time for the creation of a system of logical consequences for the seedy underbelly of the game (the PvPers, griefers, gankers, scammers, etc.), game companies shrug and declare "free for all," all while refusing players any sort of system to make their own justice beyond "if someone tries to kill you, you kill him right back." It's nice advice, but it's hardly viable for newcomers to a game who lack the skills, gear, and social networking necessary to survive in such a world. This in turn ensures that the thugs who rule the sandbox keep right on ruling it, hogging all the toys until all their victims are driven away and the game slowly but surely shrivels.

If you're suspicious that I've come full circle to the first few points in the list, then you're right to be: These PvP problems are bound together because each is a domino that inevitably bumps into and topples the rest. Sandboxes in particular face a difficult challenge with PvP. Getting past the genre's bad habit of dumping PvP into sandboxes and letting it rot there is hard. Balanced RvR-based PvP MMOs, on the other hand, neatly dodge this dilemma by not being a free-for-all murdersim to begin with, and that's precisely why the upcoming crop of competitive MMORPGs has my attention.

Epilogue: The 'real PvPers'

A fellow in our comments suggested a few weeks ago that people who don't play open-PvP gankboxes aren't real PvPers -- that if you aren't a fan of a game like Darkfall or EVE, you can't legitimately call yourself a PvPer or a fan of PvP. But the truth is that PvP is so much bigger than gankboxes. Just do the math: There are more people happily PvPing in World of Warcraft battlegrounds right this very minute than currently logged into all of the open-PvP sandboxes in existence (OK, except maybe Lineage). Every person who's ever gotten up at 4 a.m. to repost his auctions is hardcore PvPing. Hearthstone is card game PvP! And I dare you to look a professional League of Legends player in the eye and tell him he's not a real PvPer. There are dozens of ways to PvP, dozens of formats that people enjoy, dozens of different types of PvP players. Let's see them in MMORPGs in that same variety, and let's take it seriously rather than stuff it in as a themepark gimmick or miserly sandbox design tic. The worst thing that happens is we convince a few PvE carebears to come to the dark side.

The MMORPG genre might be "working as intended," but it can be so much more. Join Massively Overpowered Editor-in-Chief Bree Royce in her Working As Intended column for editorials about and meanderings through MMO design, ancient history, and wishful thinking. Armchair not included.
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kalex716
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kalex716

Zebes Jacobin If the person in question, is knowingly, and fully taking on the responsibility of high risk behavior, even at a disadvantage, does killing them cease to be a gank?

For example, an underskilled player in the game, knows enough that he is entering a resource rich region that is highly volatile, and knows he might get "ganked". But the resource he may gain, are worth the risk in his mind. If a shark comes along and gets him, is this still a gank in your eyes?

kalex716
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kalex716

breetoplay Jacobin Is this not unlike any sort of "competitive environment" in nature as well?

Like the old African proverb:

Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up.
It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed.
Every morning a lion wakes up.
It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle.
When the sun comes up, you better start running. 
This concept has stuck with me when it comes to online games with other people. I know I know, games are just supposed to be fun. We all just want to have fun. The African grasslands are probably not any fun. I get it.

Nevertheless, the idea of "versus other players" is so broad, that not a single multiplayer game escapes the above entirely.The all have PVP in some way, shape, or form.The ultimate goal of any MMO, should be to design a healthy enough "ecosystem" so to speak, in such a way that it has room to support a diverse environment of hypothetical "lions, hyenas, vultures, zebra, gazelles, crocodiles" etc.

Producers, Consumers, Degraders.

Zennie
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Zennie

There is a lot of white knight people in EVE, most of them threatening gankers with lawyers, real life murders and spilling insults about gankers' parents.
Recently one of the popular white knights changed the sides and joined gankers, because he was sick of the white knights' behaviour. I believe he actually disbanded white knight's alliance (in a truly EVE style ;-D)

Jacobin
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Jacobin

Zebes Jacobin Funny you say FFA attracts sociopaths when league of legends has the most toxic / easily butthurt / trolling / wannabe e-sports heroes community on the planet.

Zebes
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Zebes

Jacobin Zebes Ganking is defined as taking cheap kills. Roaming, somewhat fair pvp I just call roaming for pvp. I feel ganking is defined by its antagonistic nature. I realize people use gank as a general "I killed someone" pvp term, but that's not what I mean here.

I am not sure controlled pvp is sterile, because I don't know exactly what is meant. I feel controlled pvp is the only serious pvp. It can get stale if it's poorly done or has a dried up meta, but if that is what is meant by sterile then that's not the issue of it being controlled.  

Also, I am not calling all FFA open world pvpers to be sociopathic players. I am saying that type of game or ruleset attracts sociopaths. I feel stuff like RUST and DayZ are sociopath playgrounds.

Jacobin
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Jacobin

Zebes It depends on how you define ganking. Are 5 people on a clipper in Archeage who fight whoever they come across ganking, or just pvping as is intended in the game? If they only find solo people or noobs is it really their fault or the fault of the game design?

A lot of the time gankers would prefer to fight strong opponents, but will take whatever comes along simply because they just want to play the game. 
Obviously controlled environments ensure even matches, but they are descried as sterile by the author of this article which I agree with. Believe it or not some people like not knowing what is around the corner which is why many are drawn to FFA.
Using terms like sociopath are just a way for MMO writers/posters to sit on top of their high horses and condemn people who don't play exactly the way you want them to. Do I think allowing vets to farm noobs is dumb? Yes, but please don't let dumb game design automatically mean that all FFA style games are for psychopaths. 

Finally, EvE is clearly the harshest MMO at the moment. Are you seriously telling me that people who camp gates on 0.0 are sociopaths? Get real friend.

Zebes
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Zebes

Jacobin What is the point of ganking besides griefing? If I want to meet a foe and fight them head to head, I don't need FFA open world pvp for that. I don't need to loot their corpse for that. 

Unfortunately, pvp sandboxes attract sociopathic people and they tend to ruin things for others. They also tend to attract bad PVPers, because it allows bad players to target other players at a power disadvantage. 

I know that if i want the best PVPers then I am looking for somewhat controlled environments.

Zebes
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Zebes

I hope your massive herd dig at GW2 isn't about all of WvWvW, as the 'mindless zerg' only applies to the cassual play that tends to get whomped by organized play in WvWvW. 

(Unless we're talking the massive blobbing of tier 1 that kind of ruins the fun of the game for PPT battles that aren't really meaningful since the NA t1 scene has had each match outcome decided beforehand behind closed doors.)

If you haven't experienced great organized open field fights in WvWvW then you're missing out Bree! Try to check them out before ANet kills them off. Zergbusting may be dead already due to the Stability change. Open field fights may die off outside of EB depending on how these new Borderland maps play out.

Veldan
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Veldan

BriarGrey "by not slapping down those just making life miserable for someone" 

This I think is the main reason for the toxic PvP environments we see nowadays. The more freedom, the more it gets abused because there is no consequence for doing so. I don't think this should be up to the players though. In an ideal world yes, the playerbase could handle it by themselves. But just like it doens't work that way in the real world (we need police and laws), it also doesn't in game worlds. Rules need to be enforced or very few people will care about them. In my opinion game companies simply need to hire GMs who are ingame all the time and can respond to people who go too far.

For example, in ArcheAge there was a guild on my server with a horrible reputation. One of their leaders used to grab a farm cart and place it perpendicular on the middle of a bridge in a safe zone with an important trade route. Nobody could then run the trade route, while the toxic person just sat there and chat-PvP'd in the world chat about how much fun he was having because others were wasting their time coming to a bridge they couldn't pass. Game companies need to get away from the mindset that whatever is possible is allowed, and ban players like this. All they do is push others away from the game, which benefits nobody in the end.

kimtoad
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kimtoad

ManastuUtakata kimtoad  well there are plenty of "pvp" games to cater to the carebear types, sorry but why the snark from someone who wants safe pvp, if you cant handle the challenge then why pvp at all? less you want the battleground titles so you feel hard lol

kimtoad
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kimtoad

breetoplay kimtoad  no I have the right genre and I do enjoy good pve as well, but I when I want pvp I want it to be a lifelstyle, not whining from those who roll on a pvp server, then complain cause they were trying to hunt and got killed or the mentality of rules and balance, sorry but some of my best times were getting ganked by a group of blood members only to get my revenge later on, forcing myself to level and becoming a better player.... instead of complaining

Veldan
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Veldan

breetoplay flatline4400 Veldan I guess it's true that once you're on the inside, it's less easy to see what goes on in MMO-land in general. It's just frustrating to see that MMO PvP has not improved over time, as if nobody learned from the past.

Boardwalker
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Boardwalker

captainzor Boardwalker  ESO, EVE, and DAoC all have territories/systems that you can control/conquer with a team effort, and gain personal progression in the process. That progression can be in the form of gear, special abilities, and money-making opportunities.

Gylnne
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Gylnne

breetoplay c71clark Nice article Bree and I do remember this happening back then. My question still is, does CCP think they would have no player base without these loud mouth bullying ppl to condone this?

Craywulf
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Craywulf

c71clark It would also weaken the performance of the game because collision detection puts a lot of stress on the software and ultimately forces shutdown. Partial collision detection (selected target is impassible) would be meaningless because there's not a lot of alliance targeting skills. Mostly everything is ground targeted when it comes to alliance skills.

I been thinking about one possible idea of using an effect that doubles the amount of time to recharge a skill when a player is too close to another alliance player. This would dramatically slow down a massive zerg, and force them to put some space between each other.

captainzor
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captainzor

Boardwalker captainzor Not once have I tried to convince you of that.  I am however trying to say that it, alone, does not make the experience worth it to me.  Too much been-there-done-that.  I crave a larger experience.

If all you took away from what I was saying is cosmetic options, then I don't think you're listening to me at all.  I made plenty of other examples of what I would consider "progression" if the games had it in the design.  But aside from your PVP gear, your appearance options, your personal PVP "rank" or whatever you might have, personal titles, personal housing decorations, personal mounts, personal emotes, personal bragging rights, etc etc, what else can the genre offer me right now as "progression" that extends beyond just my own character's tiny bubble of existence?  Do you see where I'm going with this?

I am interested in what you can do for your factions in those games, though.  Especially in ESO since I've been somewhat considering giving it a try.

Boardwalker
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Boardwalker

captainzor Boardwalker  DAoC and ESO, both of which I pvp in extensively, I consider to have personal and faction progression.

You're not going to convince me that personal character progression is not important, but I appreciate the effort. And yes, what you and I feel accounts for "meaningful" character progression is vastly different, because cosmetic options don't cut it by a longshot.

captainzor
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captainzor

Boardwalker captainzor See, there you said it: personal AND faction.  Name a game that's live where you get both in a meaningful way?  That's my gripe.  I don't know of one.  The last game I played where my fight against other players had impact to the overall game realm was the open beta of Multiplayer Battletech: 3025 for cryin out loud.  If you're fighting FOR THE HORDE! in WoW, what exactly can you actually DO for the Horde?  Nothing.  Nothing you do in any battle against Alliance players will net the Horde, as a faction, anything in the game world in terms of strategic options, resources, territory gains or losses, stolen or salvaged technology, prisoners of war, etc etc etc.  The gameworld doesn't react to the PVP in the way it SHOULD in the context of a ROLE PLAYING GAME.  There is simply no RP in the PVP in an MMO RPG.  As I see it, there are games on the horizon to correct this, as Bree talks about, so I just will be crossing my fingers.

But, I don't think it's fair to imply that I'm implying it's unfair that people can progress their characters in the current form of PVP even when others aren't willing to.  Nor did I imply that I don't care about character progression.  That's not what I meant at all.  It's completely legit for players to play the game as intended and "progress" the way the game allows.  I just think the form of PVP progression MMORPG's currently have is pointless and flawed outside of getting cosmetic options that are otherwise unavailable or in furthering your PVP stat over other players so as to give yourself an edge in yet another meaningless battle that may as well be in a completely separate game.

Yes, meaningful progression is a core principle of the genre.  But I guess what you and I feel is meaningful is vastly different.

Boardwalker
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Boardwalker

captainzor Boardwalker  It's really pretty simple, from my perspective. In the MMORPGs that I play, I want progression in pvp, both from a personal and faction standpoint. Note that I said MMORPG, and not just "MMO" or "FPS".

Meaningful character progression is one of the core principles of MMORPGs, and it should carry into all aspects of its gameplay, whether it's "fair" or not to those who don't care about character progression.

Technohic
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Technohic

There are a lot of things that pre-tram UO had right on this.  Something that I think is missed is while you were full loot; most of your gear was easily replaceable via player crafters.  it wasn't until tehy kept getting more and more item based that this got to be less desirable.  

Town bans and empowering players to police with bounties is also something I would like to see again.

breetoplay
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breetoplay

Jacobin I don't agree that gankers are "playing the game as intended." Intended play is very different from possible play. Most designers building sandboxes don't actually believe that their darling utopia will be infested by griefers, and that's all the way back to Koster and UO (the whole "teach a man to fish and he'll use fish to spell 'fuck' on your bridge" lesson). They design the game for freedom and intend people to do a huge range of amazing things. What actually happens is that the dredges of gaming society show up to tag the crap out of the world and drive everyone else off until there's no one left but a couple of warlords and their gangs fighting over what's left.
This is, of course, the intent of survival games. But it's usually not what MMORPG sandbox designers intend. It's just what happens, and after that they can choose to fix it (Trammel) or embrace it (EVE).
To the extent that the devs built it that way, sure it's their fault for attracting those elements and then letting them run roughshod over their gameworld, which is why this article is primarily addressed to devs so that they don't build exactly that.

CistaCista
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CistaCista

breetoplay CistaCista wolfyseyes Then I suggest you stop using the word "ganking" when you mean "corpse looting" :)

Vunak
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Vunak

Nobody said Darkfall was perfect, that's a design flaw. But nobody can dispute having to coordinate on the scale you have to in Darkfall or other games like it (EVE) takes a certain level of leadership skills that LoL and WoW don't take. Sorry but coordination between a WoW 3s or 5s team is way easier than coordinating 100s of guild mates and keeping them on target and on point to be successful.

breetoplay
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breetoplay

CistaCista breetoplay wolfyseyes No, I'm saying the opposite. I'm saying that PvP is a spectrum and that even ganking is a spectrum. We use the word to mean lots of things. Being ganked in a themepark is not at all the same as being ganked in a FFA sandbox with corpse looting, literally the meanings are different. Your character is killed in both, but the context (and result) is completely different.
You're correct that griefers and gankers will show up in any game with PvP. It's developers' jobs to rein them in and divert them into appropriate PvP. This is part of why RvR works so well compared to FFA.

CistaCista
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CistaCista

breetoplay CistaCista wolfyseyes  But there is no spectrum in the act of ganking. You are saying it yourself just now - to be "ganked" has nothing to do with loot or with FFA. Ganking simply means being attacked by a much better player. As soon you enter a PvP server in WoW, or the moment you flagged yourself for PvP in SWG, you are open to being ganked. And it did not feel nice in WoW being ganked by players that were 30 levels higher, in fact in DarkFall you could walk out of the encounter (dead) with a feeling that you put up a great fight - often you would even be complimented on your spirit by the killer. Who also had no interest in looting your elven blade that you had made out of grass 5 minutes earlier.
You cannot create a PvP game that will have no gankers in it. That is what is so delusional about these discussions where people get 20 likes simply for writing that gankers are evil.  
You don't have to like gankers to like games with PvP in them, but gankers will be there.

Jacobin
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Jacobin

I agree with the article, but the constant need on this site to call
FFA pvpers psychopaths or closet sociopaths is just being overly
dramatic. The gankers are generally just playing the game as intended -
roaming around looking for fights. The number of people who purposely
grief constantly is very small, and If the game is designed in a way to
leads noobs to be farmed forever then you can only really blame the devs
for shooting themselves in the foot. You can't really expect players in
a PvP game to protect noobs.

The author describes
MOBAs as 'sterile', but then goes on to say MMOs need faction balance,
class balance, extra accessibility... If a perfectly balanced
environment with no BS and is completely fair is all that matters then
chess would be the only PvP game we would ever need. People who like FFA
want to escape from this blandness and have a little more freedom. While you call a game a 'gankbox', FFA players call BGs / MOBAs / WvW / ESO RvR sterile, empty and pointless. The devs
make all the rules and choose which hoops you have to jump through and
plop the player into the PvP equivalent of a themepark. Its just plain
wrong to assume FFA pvpers only want to farm noobs or zerg everyone.

captainzor
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captainzor

Boardwalker captainzor Don't take this as personal, but, what you just described just sounds like a text book case of a selfish desire to simply become empowered over other people, and that's sadly the exact foundation that the MMO genre's PVP is built upon.  It's all designed to enable players to seek and achieve that goal.  It's purely a selfish endeavor and contributes absolutely nothing whatsoever to your team, your guild, or your faction.  There is nothing meaningful at all in what you achieve in MMO PVP, by in large with the current crop of games, because it changes nothing at the end of a match.  All you gain is another step towards personal empowerment with a built in and measurable advantage over people who don't bother to grind out the same gear you have, or don't have the time to commit to it, but who still like to casually PVP.  And sure, at the end of the day, a better team can defeat the gear advantage, but how often does that actually happen?  In my experience, rarely.  And I have PVP'd quite a lot in WoW and SWTOR over my 10+ combined years of playing them.  And yes, you can look at FPS games and all their multitude of multiplayer (PVP) modes and accuse them of largely the same focus.  The difference there is that you're on an even playfield match to match.  Even in games that actually have personal progression, such as BF4, are still balanced out such that no one has a 1-1 advantage over anyone else, from a rank 100 player to a rank 1.  Someone who's picked up their first rifle with iron sights can still easily take down someone with a rifle equipped with some crazy combination of optics and/or magnification.  It all boils down to actual skill, which you can't buy with 120 shards or commendations (or whatever) form of currency you'll eventually earn eventually just by putting in the time, even if you lose game after game.  In real meaningful player vs player interaction only victory is rewarded, in game, and in real life, and that's how it should be.  Skill and teamwork should be the only thing that matters when you're in competition with people.

But, yes, we all like progression when we put in time towards content in any game.  However, progression does not have to be restricted to each individual player for it to make sense or be enjoyable.  If MMO PVP hadworld progression more often, and your skill-based efforts and team-based efforts actually made progress towards that, then THAT is what I would consider meaningful with regards to time spent.  Any other type of progression based solely around my own character, aside from aesthetics, are just pointless to me.  Of course there's a point that you should do what you enjoying doing in order to have fun playing the game, but that's a different topic.

So what if we pull the PVE card out in this debate?  You may say "But, you will spend hours raiding to get better gear!  How is that different from the PVP'er grinding out PVP gear!?"

I look at this this way: PVE content is (partly) designed around an idea: you are a hero, or a group of heroes, battling enemies of the greater world around you.  The whole game's story, in any given content cycle, revolves around this content.  So, when you grind through this content and improve your gear in order to grind out the next content in order to improve your gear to...... well, you get it.... your personal progression is then "meaningful" to the world at large (in the context of the story) because you are working towards defeating the enemy(s) of your faction.  Yes, it's a loose bit of logic, but I think it's the only thing that makes sense when you try to rationalize the game design without simply pointing the dopamine-fix finger at the reward-based formula.

Back to the FPS comparison, though.  Yes, I realize by my logic there is also nothing truly meaningful about playing a round of Titanfall, or Counter-Strike, or BF4, or whatever.  In and of itself, each round means nothing to anyone aside from your sense of personal victory (read: kill/death ratio) until you start operating at a team or league level.  At that point, sure, there can be meaningful progression if you're working towards winning a tournament or a season or ladder and yes, the very same can also be said of PVP in an MMO, which often have seasons and such.  So, if that is the extent of what makes the game time worth while to you, then that's great.  .  However, there is again the fundamental divide of skill vs gear between those genres, and that is where I take issue.

What I want is to have PVP in an MMO where my efforts at teamplay and actual skill make a difference towards some kind of server-wide initiative other than just accolades and ranks and different colored armors.

Jacobin
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Jacobin

Vunak yep, afk macroing the epitome of skill....

captainzor
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captainzor

BriarGrey omg, exactly.

Vexia
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Vexia

Edany (AmberACurtis) Vexia No pressure, Mark Jacobs. :P

Xvim
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Xvim

captainzor
The pvp stats always feel like a cheap response to me. I have no problem with people who play more having better gear, but the pvp stats are merely saying that the scaling on that gear is too excessive. If the stat jumps are too high, they toss in some useless stat to waste
allocation, but if the jumps aren't that high, people complain that
there isn't enough incentive (espcially on the PvE side).
To call back to classic WoW, you could fight someone in all epics while in blues because the gear had a slower scaling (and there were no pvp stats). In WAR (prior to increased RR cap), a RR 45 could kill a RR 70...again, not easy, but not impossible.
I think the root of the issue is many people / devs feel that if the newer gear isn't better in all ways, it isn't worth using. That happened in WAR quite a bit. Because stats on the pieces were limited, people mixed sets and the "top set" was rarely ever worn in full because people prefered to mix for extra bonuses (again, prior to RR cap increase).

cald
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cald

There are lots of different types of PVP jsut liek there are lots of different types of MMORPGS.. myself i like openworld sandbox games with full loot pvp, not because i like gonig around ganking new starters or anythnig like that but i enjoy the feeling you get from playing a game like that, never knowing what is around the next corner :)
But I also think i will enjoy CU as well..

BriarGrey
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BriarGrey

Back in the day, in the text-based game I played, we had a very clear delineation between CvC and PvP -- Character vs. Character was encouraged and allowable.  You had to be doing it for true roleplay reasons and it had to fit and you couldn't just kill someone over and over, without a GM stopping you and penalizing you.  Player versus Player was not allowed because it had no room in a roleplay world.  So - if you wanted to come in and just gank a lowbie, you ran the risk of getting banned.  And saying "I'm an evil character so it's in-character for me to just randomly kill people" wouldn't help.

The best 'evil' characters were ones that you KNEW could own you in a fight, you KNEW wanted to kill you, but honestly, they very rarely actually killed in-game.  It was interaction and roleplay.

Games changed. The concept of CvC versus PvP was wiped out, and PvP took over as the name, and with it came an attitude change.  More and more, people just wanted to jump in and attack one another without any real reason.  I think that mindset actually contributes a lot to whether or not a game is going to have good PvP too.  If they are all 'oooh yes, it's cool to be the uberest and kill everything' then the game is going have an aura of 'gankfest'.  If the game has more of a roleplayed reason behind the PvP, then it seems like there is less 'ganking' and 'camping' and such and more enjoyment on both sides of the fight, win or lose.

It was a change in gamer mindset and a change in designer mindset, and in implementation and attitude and support -- by not slapping down those just making life miserable for someone, we wound up in an era where PvP is just all about steamrolling through things instead of the immersion it should be, with epic battles, stealthy assassins, and REASONS for it all.

Xvim
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Xvim

Edany (AmberACurtis) Leilonii breetoplay c71clark
I took that "removal of PvE" comment to mean in the aspects of removing
dungeons. For that aspect, we need to think on the amount of time saved
in AI coding as well as the question "what would dungeons add?". If you
have a player driven economy, The Depths having ore / forges would be
probably the closest to useful without stepping on crafters' toes.
Without some incentive, most people will not do them anyway (and in that
case, it is tons of design time wasted).
The other aspect here with that view is removing the easy alternative. One of the things that killed me most
in WAR was when there were even fights that started to take a bad turn,
people would go do a dungeon (that they bugged 1/2 of the bosses in, but that goes back to coding AI above) because they didn't want to die. If there
aren't those dungeons, people will be more likely to think about hitting
other areas tactically instead. Maybe they will go fight NPCs for
crafting materials, but maybe there will be some more people changing
strategies from that number as well.

BriarGrey
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BriarGrey

I just want a giant like button for this article ;)

Edany (AmberACurtis)
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Edany (AmberACurtis)

Rohirrim I don't know what I despised more, ganking in PvP, or Twinking in PvP Battlegrounds... both are weak, boring, and take no skill. The fact that so many games encourage this and promote it as a thing baffles me.

Edany (AmberACurtis)
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Edany (AmberACurtis)

breetoplay Bullwraith TehAcidBaron woolydub One of the things DAoC did that worked well in this regard was diminishing returns for player kills. If you killed someone that was 'grey' to you - you got nothing for it, at all, except for a laugh or two.
Even then, it wasn't funny enough to do it repeatedly and due to not being able to communicate with the enemy other than through an emote or two, there was no instant gratification of getting a reaction from them either, no experience, no RPs, no loot - nothing. 
Do it enough times, and the world was big enough that they could (and did) take themselves elsewhere to do whatever they were going to do and your fun time was over. Most of the time, ganking a lowbie was only done in desperation with the hope that the lowbie would appeal to their realm mates for assistance, bringing out the real game. Bait.
Even repeatedly ganking someone that was OF your level yielded less and less, until there was finally zero reward for killing them - and again, they had the ability to hit you somewhere else, regroup, and gather more reinforcements, etc.
I think it was a system that lent itself well to RvR and PvP skirmishing because it rewarded the best players while removing the type of "rewards" that gankers look for.

breetoplay
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breetoplay

kimtoad Hey I played some Darktide. It was amusing, but that was more because AC1 was a superb MMORPG, not because the PvP was particularly good -- it wasn't because of how griefable the lag portaling was.
It sounds like you might be in the wrong genre, though. I think you'd be a lot more happy in the survival sandbox genre, not the MMORPG genre. That's sorta what you've just described.

Edany (AmberACurtis)
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Edany (AmberACurtis)

Vexia anatheod So far - they're pretty amazing. But that's all I can say for now. :)

breetoplay
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breetoplay

CistaCista wolfyseyes I don't think it's delusional to see the spectrum of PvP gameplay as a spectrum. It is not MOBAs or gankboxes. We have 17 years of MMOs that backup the inbetween.
I think it might be worth pointing out that being ganked in a themepark like WoW on a PvP server feels nothing like being ganked in an open-world sandbox with open loot and harsh penalties for death. People obviously use the same words, but it isn't actually the same.

Edany (AmberACurtis)
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Edany (AmberACurtis)

breetoplay Vexia wolfyseyes Arthurian all the way for me in CU - so if the minions are there, I'll be happy to help support the cause. ;)

c71clark
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c71clark

breetoplay c71clark Cool article! Isn't it interesting that in Eve there really aren't any anti-PK groups or alliances? Maybe it's just too big of a game...

This is the challenge ArtCraft faces. That the Eve e-thugs will find a home in Crowfall.

Edany (AmberACurtis)
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Edany (AmberACurtis)

Vexia - "If the style of gameplay in CU really clicks with me, I can see myself settling for no less."
This is the reaction that DAoC players have spent the last 15 years trying to explain (it is also the difference between RvR and PvP) - and why it is held in such high regard by every player of that game. The 'magic' was in the community and the pride that it fostered. You wanted to succeed, you wanted your guild to succeed, and you wanted your realm to succeed. Sure, there was always in-fighting, but when the shit hit the fan, you pulled together and defended your territory at all costs. There hasn't been anything like it since, and we haven't been able to "settle for less" - waiting for 15 years in fact to get that back. CU is pretty much our last great hope.

c71clark
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c71clark

Craywulf Putting in collision would greatly weaken the zerg. Being able to stack inside of each other makes the zerg effective.

Edany (AmberACurtis)
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Edany (AmberACurtis)

breetoplay notfrancois Now if they just could have taken that system - added some better rewards to it, and made it persistent / open world rather than 10 minute matches, it would have been amazing.

c71clark
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c71clark

breetoplay ArtCraft WANTS this toxic culture. This is Todd's attempt to revive Shadowbane. I think they believe that, like socialism, if *someone* could just "do it RIGHT", it would be nirvana. They fail to accept that it CAN never be "done right" because it is at it's core a system that always ends up eating itself. But.... it could be a fun ride for a short time. I give the game 3 or 4 years if it goes on the same trajectory it's on. And that would certainly be a success to be praised! The fact that if it was more appealing to those who don't like ganking it could last a decade doesn't matter. Todd wants a pvp heaven, and he's shooting for it. Kudo's to him! My best hope is that other developers will see the innovations they are doing (like voxels and full destruction) and run with it!

Edany (AmberACurtis)
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Edany (AmberACurtis)

Leilonii breetoplay c71clark I think that the disconnect from PvE comes from over a decade of being forced to PvE in order to do what what we really wanted to do, which was RvR / PvP.

One of the biggest misconceptions that still floats around about CU is that there will be no PvE - but this is simply not true and has been explained over and over again. There will be PvE. There will be mobs to kill, resources to harvest, housing to be built, crafting, etc. etc.
What there will not be is the 'forced' aspect to it - meaning that you won't have to grind out a month's worth of the same dungeon over and over hoping to get that BIS Item that you just must have to be competitive in PvP.
You won't have to grind out meaningless quests to get to the top level in order to be competitive, because they're doing away with that type of advancement.
You will need to PvE, or someone in your realm will need to do it, because those PvE mobs are carrying quite a bit of the materials your Crafters are going to need to make the best gear in the game that you'll want to be wearing to the battles.
I don't really hate PvE, sometimes I rather enjoy it and the much needed downtime it can bring, but I really, truly and forcefully, despise having to PvE to leve, PvE to gear, and then PvE some more with every upgrade and expansion in order to just be able to survive more than 3 hits in PvP because developers decided that PvE balancing was a far higher priority than PvP balancing - especially when PvP in their games was nothing more than a tacked on 10 minute battleground instance.
So it isn't that they got rid of PvE - they just took out everything that made most of us hate it to begin with, and I'm all for that.

Kalamari
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Kalamari

dirtyklingon breetoplay notfrancois which is not a "pure" pvp-mode. it's pvp with pve components.

c71clark
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c71clark

Leilonii breetoplayI doubt ArtCraft will change enough to keep "virtual world" players. Their kickstarter is over in 5 or 6 days, and unless I am wowed by the information drops between now and then, I'll be giving up an early bird sapphire pledge to go down to 'contributor'. I'll still play, because I think the combat and crafting will be fun, but my pledge was for the EK stuff, and so far that looks like a mistake.

Edany (AmberACurtis)
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Edany (AmberACurtis)

breetoplay c71clark The difference between Camelot Unchained and Crowfall is RvR vs. PvP.
They have the same mechanics in that you kill "enemy" players - but the similarity stops right there.
I love some good RvR, the community it fosters, and the realm pride that comes with that. At the end of the day, I know that the "enemy" realms are just like mine - people with their own bonds, communities, etc.
PvP? 9/10 times it's a total shit fest for me. Every man or guild for themselves, no working together, no community outside of "I got mine so fuck you", and infested with people who go out of their way to ruin another gamer's experience.
While I have backed both games because I believe that both have their place - the difference is purely RvR vs. PvP and I am thankful that Mark Jacobs has stepped back into the arena to give RvR another go since he's the only developer who's either gotten it right or come remotely close to getting it right.

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