Massively Overthinking: PvP MMOs without the PvE

Back in April, we ran an Overthinking about a perceived lack of high-quality PvE-oriented MMO titles on the horizon, and that’s a conversation that keeps coming up whenever we talk about upcoming MMOs, particularly Camelot Unchained, as we did on the podcast last week. And that leads me to this week’s question:

Would you play an MMO without standard PvE combat? Are you planning on playing Crowfall, Camelot Unchained, or other MMOs that focus on PvP (and non-combat activities like crafting) to the exclusion of PvE combat, or do you need to be killing mobs for it to feel like a “real” MMORPG?

Brendan Drain (@nyphur): I don’t think MMOs necessarily have to focus on either PvP or PvE; in fact, one of my favourite things to do in a new MMO is often to switch off or ignore the UI and just explore a new big fantasy world. Exploring high level zones often means sneaking around and avoiding combat, something few MMOs offer as deliberate gameplay. When Massively was young, I even ran a series of articles about urban exploration and freerunning in MMOs in which I looked at all the different secret places you could get to in games like EverQuest II and Age of Conan and how non-combat abilities like gliding and speed boosts could help. EverQuest II also has some really compelling non-combat pursuits like collecting and decorating, and a lot of my time in EVE over the years has also been spent playing the market, manufacturing, or taking part in the player-driven community rather than actual combat. I think if it were done right, I’d definitely play an MMO that has no combat at all or very little emphasis on it.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): Yep, I’ll play them. I like PvP, and I especially like PvP that feels epic and has a grand purpose as it did in Dark Age of Camelot. Way too many MMOs with PvP are just griefer havens or battlegrounds-as-afterthoughts, and I’m over that as much as I’m over PvE combat grinding just to get to the good stuff. A game that’s going to provide the RvR experience without the gankboxing and the themepark grind? Oh yeah, and there’s crafting too, and it’s not just another MOBA trying to elbow into the MMO market? Sign me up.

Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): Frankly, I’ll play any game that makes me feel that I’m getting enjoyable things to do on a regular basis. The problem with PvP isn’t really PvP in and of itself; it’s that making a game with a strong PvP focus tends to make players a form of content rather than, well, players. I am actually interested in seeing how Crowfall develops, and I’m not about to write it off simply for a love of PvP, which is something I frequently enjoy even if it’s not always my main objective in a game.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): Honestly? Probably not. I tried, really, really hard, to get into the PvP scene with Warhammer Online, but ultimately I had to face the fact that PvP stresses me the heck out and is the opposite of what I want to do in an MMO. Now combat — any variety — doesn’t have to be the centerpiece of an MMO for me to play it; I’d be open to a really excellent non-combat MMO if one came along.

MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): If the game were lacking PvP combat along with the absent PvE content, I might very well play it to see what other fun features the game is centered on. (I think I just pinned myself into trying Ever, Jane, eh?) But no, I have no interest in playing a game that is solely PvP unless there are other robust systems to enjoy. To me personally a MMO is so much more than combat anyways that the lack of combat doesn’t change my perception of its MMOness. The games that are adding deep and integral crafting systems are certainly worth checking out because that would be the area I would want to focus on. If a game doesn’t have a system I can devote myself to, then it is not worth bothering with. I am just not a people-hunter at heart.

Your turn!

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149 Comments on "Massively Overthinking: PvP MMOs without the PvE"

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Wandris
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Wandris

Dixa Wandris disUserNameTake mysecretid  That is not even the case with Eve sure many things are crafted but you still have a great PVE element with gear that drops, missions that let you buy loyalty items etc. Now look at a game like BDO, right now it isn’t quite the definition of what people would call a sandbox although as years go buy and more sandbox elements are layered on it may very well be considered a “sandbox”. When it comes to MMO’s the scope is usually so large and so changing that very few can be considered pure sandboxes, maybe landmark, trove, minecraft, rust, Ark, LoF etc. if those can even be considered MMO’s.

Dixa
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Dixa

Wandris disUserNameTake mysecretid what i don’t get is people using sandbox for games that are not actually sandboxes.

a sandbox is a game where every single aspect of the game is player controlled or created, like eve. sure, basic shuttles are provided by the system but everything else from ammo to weapons to ships and modules has to be created by a player first.  that is sandbox.

Wandris
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Wandris

disUserNameTake mysecretid GW2 WvW lack the breadth of games like EvE and other sandboxes. Everything in these games from armor, siege gear etc is finite, destructible, lootable, craftable. The gameplay is slower and largely based around guilds which can bring alliances/politics into play. GW2 had this potential but it opted for something more fast pace, less complex, and the whole game built on different design principle. In a game like EvE you have entire guilds or groups of players dedicated to mining to support industrialist, to support PVE and PVP operations which then all ties into territory control and warfare. Darkfall had this in a fantasy setting, as well as perpetuum and I am sure a few others. GW2 you have your group loot barrels to build your siege equip to smash a gate, kill the boss and get control. If you lose players the respawn and are with you again in a few minutes. Then there is territory which trades hands every half hour., there is little attachment to the teritory you claim. It is different when you have to work months if not years towards something as a guild instead of a hollow victory which is undone a few days later at best.

These days EvE is really the only game that stayed healthy for a long enough time to fully develope and still has many years ahead of it. Camelot unchained and crowfall may turn out to be great games but it could also be another 5+ years before they reach their potential, and I am not sure if a game like crowfall is going to be much more than a lite version of a sandbox although I could be wrong on that.

Gylnne
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Gylnne

SkyyDragonn I hope MJ will also stream the crafting, building system of CU.

AGx
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AGx

Would I play it and would I enjoy it are really two different things. When I played WoW, the PvP was actually my favorite part, especially the open-world stuff. I loved it when it felt organic such as when the quest-line you’re on involves, say battles between the opposing factions where each faction is questing in the same general area and fighting opposing NPCs. When you run into a real player, it’s a thrill to fight them. It feel like just a part of the quest but much more dynamic. I don’t want to play something that’s just a glorified lobby and arena. If they can somehow make an all PvP game feel like that, I’d be on board.

disUserNameTake
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disUserNameTake

fluffymagicalunicorn CU is going to be a technical nightmare, and I would guess it will fail rather dramatically soon after it goes live due to lack of players.
Balancing 30 separate classes across three realms will essentially be an impossibility; most MMOs struggle to balance for PvP just 8-10 classes and usually that’s with every side having access to the same set of classes.  CU will suffer from the same problem of DAOC, which is that entire factions will be considered under-powered and will be under-populated because of this inherent balancing issue.  The three separate realms to which you belong permanently (I think?) is also going to have the same problems that this type of system always comes up against, which is that people will abandon the losing side and pile onto the winning one even if they have to re-roll their characters.  
It is also relying on a monthly subscription model, which is not something that looks like a good business choice for the future.  How many people are actually willing to shell this out when there are quality “free” or buy to play options out there like GW2 or MOBAs?

Anyways, I’m not looking for them to fail, and I wish the developers the best and hope they’re successful.  But their game model and their financing system really looks like a dinosaur to me.  I could have some of the details wrong (probably I do!), but rebooting DAOC seems like a loser if you’re just going to make the same mistakes twice in terms of game mechanics.

disUserNameTake
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disUserNameTake

Infraction Many of the most played games in the world right now are purely PvP: League of Legends, DOTA, Starcraft, etc.
The problem is that the mechanics of the MMO genre do not lend themselves to PvP systems that most people enjoy.  They want a level playing field which is more like a baseball match, not a system where they are immediately at a disadvantage due to not having grinded levels or gear.

disUserNameTake
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disUserNameTake

CastagereShaikura Yes, it is an inherent conflict between PvE and PvP that when you balance for one of them, it often imbalances the other, either from something being nerfed into the ground (usually because it is too powerful in PvP) to a class being buffed for PvE which then results in it being OP in PvP.  It requires constant balancing to keep both of these areas in a good state.  In my experience, GW2 has done a pretty good job of this, though in some sense it is a neverending and unsolvable problem in the genre unless PvE and PvP are completely separate from each other with different gear etc.

disUserNameTake
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disUserNameTake

SirMysk Needs (More) Coffee, Probably A more “twitch” oriented play style has generally not been implemented in MMOs because of technical restrictions.  The more players you have on one map, the more interactions you need to tell distances between them and for computing collisions.  So that’s historically been why tab targeting and the like is used in large real time PvP battles.  It doesn’t require much intense computation from either the client or the server, which is not the case for instance in shooters.

disUserNameTake
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disUserNameTake

Dandurin Nanulak But what prevents bringing 50 cats to hunt one mouse?

disUserNameTake
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disUserNameTake

anatheod “I thought GW2 would bring that but WvW was a dissapointment.”
Having participated in both WHO and GW2, I far prefer GW2.  What exactly is disappointing about it for you?

disUserNameTake
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disUserNameTake

mysecretid What do these games offer that GW2 hasn’t already done with WvW?  (I’m seriously asking because I don’t know.)
The problem I’m forseeing for these titles is that they’re simply not going to get the numbers of players needed to sustain a healthy PvP “ecosystem” and economy, non-withstanding whatever new systems they put in place.

disUserNameTake
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disUserNameTake

Smiggins “Currently games are 90% PVE with bad PVP tacked as an after thought”
I don’t know if you have played it and thought that it wasn’t enjoyable, but the PvP in GW2 is very well thought out and certainly is not just tacked on. There is competitive 5v5 arenas where everyone has access to the same gear, and WvW/EOTM where you use your PvE gear but the PvP maps are separate from the PvE ones.  You might give it a try if you haven’t already.

disUserNameTake
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disUserNameTake

There is an inherent conflict between the game mechanics of most MMOs and having an enjoyable PvP system with longevity.

The most successful PvP games (some of which are wildly successful) follow fairly closely the structure and rules of real sports matches.  There is a set time limit, or at least the game mechanics tend to result in matches that don’t take longer than an hour or two.  Each side has the same number of participants, like in a baseball game.  There is essentially no effect from winning prior matches on the current match, e.g. every match starts anew.  The rules are the same for each side, and it is the skill and abilities of the players that determines the outcome, primarily.  All the players have access to the same tools.
The tendencies of many MMOs are the opposite.  In factional warfare, there is typically no time limit and the conflict never ends, so this tends to become stale and boring.  Each side can essentially bring as many players as they want (the N+1 effect), and not only that players will abandon a losing faction for a winning one, creating further population imbalances.  So the side that is winning tends to keep on winning.  Players can bring all their shiny toys and abilities from PvE into the conflict, and typically older players have a huge advantage over newer ones.

So while I am someone who would love to see an open world PvP system actually work in an MMO, it seems that more structured and segregated systems like in GW2 are much more likely to be successful.

Another problem is that the open world games tend to only implement the mechanic of killing other players without all the systems that keep people from being godless killers in the real world: police, courts, summary execution, banishment, jails, etc.  Now that would actually be potentially interesting if there were consequences for PK’ing in an open world game, but most developers go the cheap route of providing a consequence free murder simulator.

disUserNameTake
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disUserNameTake

Samizdat I would hesitate to call PS2 an RPG or a traditional MMO, really, though these are pretty loose terms.  I’d consider PS2 more of a shooter with extended multi-player capabilities, so I think it has more in common with CoD or Battlefield than WoW or other MMOs.

disUserNameTake
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disUserNameTake

anatheod Foggye Archebius “30 non-mirrored classes is nothing to sneeze at”
And a complete nightmare to balance.

schmidtcapela
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schmidtcapela

squiddy54 schmidtcapela 
As far as PvP MMOs go, the only one I currently play is Planetside 2. I do engage in arena PvP in a few more MMOs, and play a fair number of PvP games. As long as there is no PvE elements to ruin the PvP, I tend to enjoy PvP.

Also, when it comes to PvE MMOs, either having no PvP or making PvP optional is nowadays the rule rather than the exception. Very few MMOs nowadays try to force PvE players into PvP, and those get a wide berth from me.

squiddy54
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squiddy54

schmidtcapela Wow it must be hard to find games for such a terrible player.

Shadanwolf
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Shadanwolf

I played DAOC for over a decade.It was (past tense) the game for me.Looking forward to what Camelot Unchained turns out to be.Zero interest in Crowfall.

ZenDadaist
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ZenDadaist

A PvP game with no PvE has to be pretty special for me to get interested in it. Guns of Icarus did very briefly (I hear they’re putting PvE in now) but other than that CU is the only other PvE-less MMO I think I would play. I like a mix and though I can live without PvP I do prefer games which do have it.

Smiggins
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Smiggins

I would like a game to have equal parts PVE and PVP, even if I rarely ever PVE, I still like the option to be there. Every once and awhile PVE is nice for something different to do as long as there is loot to get out of it. Im not going to grind mobs just for the sake of grinding mobs.

IMO both play styles should be fully supported in a game to where if youre a PVPer you can spend 100% of your time PVPing, if youre a PVEer you can spend 100% of your time PVEing.
Of course you have to make sure the anti-PVP types can be completely protected from PVP if thats what they want, theyre a sensitive bunch.

Currently games are 90% PVE with bad PVP tacked as an after thought, which is probably why Im not playing any games right now.

Hurbster
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Hurbster

No, no interest in PvP at all.

shadowblender
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shadowblender

I like the mixture of PvE and PvP because it’s makes you give the game a chance. The sooner you get in PvP and go on the loser side, it can scare you off fast. PvE gives something else to look forward in the game, maybe try the PvP later when you perfect your combat skills(with mobs), but if it’s only PvP, you either like it and stay or leave. IMO.

Dandurin
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Dandurin

Dreema
ArcheAge isn’t PVP-only, you level up doing PVE and/or professions.   There are quests and dungeons at every level, though not as many dungeons as typical PVE MMO’s.

It clearly guides you toward large scale PVP as end game, but you can continue on farming, trading and running from pirates (as I did) as well.

Dandurin
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Dandurin

Nanulak
I enjoyed that kind of activity in ArcheAge.  
I think more games should explore cat-and-mouse gameplay, where combat is incidental and not the point of the activity.

anatheod
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anatheod

Foggye Archebius anatheod i have to admit that CU’s strongest point is the RvR pride which current MMOs lack. As for classes, 30 non-mirrored classes is nothing to sneeze at. 
I am planning to back CU as soon as i get my paypal issues resolved. I will propably play both till i decide which one keeps me engaged the most. I will vote with my wallet when the time comes.

Zenethian
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Zenethian

The only MMO games I’ve really enjoyed PvP in are games where your build isn’t class based, like The Secret World, EVE and Ultima Online.  Everything else screams “afterthought” in it.  I’m really really excited to see games like Crowfall that put PvP first; I’m really interested to see how they work out.

CastagereShaikura
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CastagereShaikura

MMO pvp has always been stupid to me. When added to any mmo with pve it screws up the pve because they are always tweeking it for class balance which mostly screws up pve gameplay. Lets face it npc’s are never complaining about player skill being over powered.

Nanulak
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Nanulak

Some of the most fun I get out of a PvP game is going about my business while avoiding PvP.  Sometimes I like to explore and harvest while playing hide-n-seak from my opponents.
I love to build things both for personal use and for realm defence / expansion.  I can see myself entering PvP just to get a pile of neatly stacked building materials [enemy players home]  

I see myself running caravans to supply my own projects as well as aiding the war effort.  I can see myself as a train robber and stealing others supplies by attacking their caravans for free stuff.
I may find myself crafting the night away for the next days raids / defence.  Digging out a mine node and then harvesting its contents while defending it sounds fun to me.

And all of this was done without PvE…..So yeah, I can see myself playing a game without PvE.

Foggye
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Foggye

Pashgan The players are the true content in PvP games.  Force some socialization, encourage community, and pride then you build friendships, and something much more rare in MMOs, rivalries.  If you can identify with your own side, then you can feel good about your choices.  If you can learn to identify, then you can learn to hate and even respect the opposition.  I’d rather play a game against and with other players, and not an UI or script.  Provided it’s down right.  That’s just my opinion.

Foggye
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Foggye

Cramit I have a similar stand point towards PvE myself.  It’s become stagnant.  Making, farming mats.  No more, no thank you.

PvP is interesting because it’s content is people.  You’re fighting other players, you’re fighting with other peoples.  The experience will often vary.  PvE has added so many convenience systems that has desocialized PvE with automation, and dungeon finders to the point where I ask myself I just don’t play a single player game instead.  Where RvR becomes appealing to me, is that the conditions of combat and/or the map are also player related; it’s more warfare then just plain fighting.

MMOs should be able about people.  So only PvP/RvR I feel can deliver this is it’s done smart enough.

Foggye
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Foggye

Archebius anatheod – I believe at the end of the day CF and CU will be two very different games.  

CF does seem like mix between a MOBA and a Stronghold Kingdoms.  Drawing interest from that more action-like combat that, while introducing more a ladder system for heirachy.  Then it resets.

While CU is half DAoC, and half something new.  This is going to be persistent warfare, where very land will change in the tug of war.  The exciting part here is Rock, Paper, Scissors approach with non-mirrored race and class choices that gives each side it’s own personally to identify with, and unite it’s playerbase.  I’d really love to see RvR come back in a meaningful way, and not some mirrored strapped on feature that really doesn’t matter to the game.

vinicitur
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vinicitur

I have no problem playing a MMO without PVE content if the other content can hold my interest. I backed CU because that is what I saw presented to me. The point is not ganking which in itself is just boring as hell. But there is gonna be an in-depth crafting and building system so I can jump from one character to another depending on my mood.

Plus I am getting really tired of the the attitude that AAA devs/publishers have: “We have something for everyone.” That may be technically true but having one core idea and half-assing the rest doesn’t interest me anymore.

Foggye
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Foggye

mysecretid – One thing to consider with games like Eve, and projects like Crowfall and Camelot Unchained is that they’re about warfare and territory control and not just killing.  Meaning, you could make a career in the game just harvesting, constructing, and/or trading between those whom actually do the combat.  That aspect may have something to offer someone whom doesn’t necessary all for a beating someone down.  

On the other hand, I do firmly recognize that PvP and RvR games aren’t for everyone.  But I think that distinction is VERY important.  It’s not an all purpose game, it’s a PVP or RvR game.  So those whom don’t feel comfortable with it can stay clear, while those whom crave it will jump right in.  You don’t have to worry about your race/class/spec being nerfed for PvP because it’s too good for PvE.

Feydakin
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Feydakin

Depends on the game… maybe? I tend to not get hugely into the PvP aspect of any MMO, but if it was compelling enough and well made, maybe. Does Planetside 2 count? I play the hell out of that. ;)

wjowski
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wjowski

Veldan SirMysk Needs (More) Coffee, Probably 
No, fighting games and FPSes do do it better by rewarding genuine player skill over gear or unbalanced class abilities.

wjowski
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wjowski

Ben Pielstick ScottRondeau 
Neither are MMOs.

mysecretid
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mysecretid

I’m interested in Crowfall and Camelot Unchained, but PvP just doesn’t hold my interest. I’m simply not competitive in that way.
While I think both games are intriguing, and of quality, without PvE story content, I get bored and wander away. So, no. No pure PvP games for me.

Archebius
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Archebius

anatheod I backed both, and plan on playing both. I feel like they’re pursuing PvP in very different ways. CU is going for a very old-school approach with some modern flare, and Crowfall seems to be pursuing a much more “arcade” style.

anatheod
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anatheod

YOU DAMN RIGHT I LL PLAY THEM! 
Since Warhammer closed down, i ve been longing for a RvR intense MMORPG which would incorporate traditional mmo ideas with new designs and sophistaced mechanics. I thought GW2 would bring that but WvW was a dissapointment. Its a good game but not what was i looking for.
I am keeping my eyes open on both crowfall and CU and i like watching this type of “contest” between the 2 of them. I believe that from the friction between them, the genre will be revitalized.

MonsoonGibby
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MonsoonGibby

Considering I hate PvP with the burning passion of a thousand suns, no I wouldn’t play an MMO that was PvP-only.

Serrenity
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Serrenity

Loopstah I wonder if that’s more indicative of PvP or of ineffective design decisions in PvP.  I think the same issue exists in PvE, but to your point, you generally are dependent on others to progress in the lion’s share of PvE

Mark Jacobs
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Mark Jacobs

Normally I would so do a –  https://youtu.be/-cDAqrywsHE

But we’re filming in a few hours, have a friend dropping by the studio so I can’t hang around here till later.

Serrenity
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Serrenity

FlyinDutchman And it would be amazing if that how it played out. But you have a not insignificant number of players who use PvP to ruin the fun of other players.  There’s a difference between knowingly braving the guantlet, and being out in the world minding your own business and repeatedly ganked by a foe (or foes) you can’t hope to win against.  And players in games generally don’t care about protecting weaker players – they care about getting more powerful.  If you complain about being ganked in games, the response you are mostly like to get is “L2P carebear” instead of someone saying, “ahh let me come out and roll some heads for you.”  Not to say that never happens, but I can only think of a few cases where I’ve personally seen it, and literally none in recent years. 
I’ve also said before that developers have an obnoxiously narrow view of what PvP constitutes and how 99.99% of inter-faction interaction happens at the end of various pointy sticks.  There’s virtually no other way to interact with other players other than text chat and stabbing them.  I think any discussion of PvP in this day in age should include more than just combat.  Granted, I also think that MMOs should have evolved to be something more sophisticated than genocide simulators (not that there’s anything wrong with combat, I just want combat plus more….)

Tandor Shadewalker
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Tandor Shadewalker

I have no interest in PvP and wouldn’t therefore play a PvP-only game unless there was something else to focus on such as crafting. I’m keeping an eye on CU for that reason, but despite the promises I doubt it will turn out to provide a viable alternative way of playing the game for those who don’t PvP. Dipping in and out of a game for something like crafting would be fine if it were B2P or F2P but the crafting would have to be pretty special to warrant a subscription just for that. However, I have a lot of time for Mark Jacobs and will continue to keep an eye on CU. I enjoyed the PvE very much in both DAoC and WAR so it’s a shame it isn’t being included in CU.

jwamburgey
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jwamburgey

FlyinDutchman I completely agree.  Well said.

Jigawatts
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Jigawatts

I prefer PVE, I like PVP in controlled environments, give me a fantasy SWG.

FlyinDutchman
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FlyinDutchman

I’ve always loved PvP games. I love mobs, I like FPS’s. But at heart I’m a RPG guy. That’s always been the draw for PvP MMO’s to me. I want to put myself in another world. One with it’s own peoples, it’s own lore, and it’s own problems. I want to struggle with and against other players within that world. Where who loses and who wins matters, where the games “content” is in politics, and social interaction rather than a few new quests tacked onto a static zone. Where the world is shaped not by the devs but by the people within the world. 

PLAYERS are what MMO’s have always been about. I never understood why so many people shun PvP and social interaction and MMO’s so they can experience “their story” the way they wish to. To me that’s not an MMO. Where’s the accomplishment of building a sandcastle when no-one is able to kick it over?

To me there is no better feeling in gaming than being out in the world, trying to complete some quest,  gather some material, craft some epic item and knowing there there are 10,000 other people who are out looking for you. People who would kill you, destroy your hard work, and leave your corpse to the crows. That feeling of looking over your shoulder hoping no-one spots you. Then rushing back into safety with your loot, knowing you’ve braved the gauntlet and won.

Samizdat
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Samizdat

Yes. Duh. Planetside 2 is my most-played MMO in the past few years.

Dreema
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Dreema

I avoid PVP-only games like the plague while grumbling and muttering and moaning about the fact that they don’t have a PVE version. I would have liked to play Archeage but while it’s PVP-only I’m not touching it with a bargepole. The only PVP-only game I’ve played has been Warhammer, which I bought before realising it didn’t have a PVE version. I didn’t play it for long, though, as it wasn’t much of a game.
So no, I’d never knowingly play a PVP MMO without PVE.

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