The Daily Grind: How would you define an MMO gankbox?

A couple of weeks ago, our own Justin wrote a Daily Grind wherein he suggested that EVE Online was a gankbox, earning him some argument from another blogger and sparking an interesting debate about just what a gankbox is.

I’m not sure who first used the term — maybe a commenter, maybe a writer — but it took off like wildfire in our columns and comments years ago and hasn’t died down. I’ve seen people use it to mean everything from any MMO with PvP to survival sandboxes and MOBAs, but in our tags, we’ve defined it thusly:

“Gankboxes are sandboxes that place such an emphasis on unrestricted free-for-all PvP that ganking comes to dominate the entire game, to the detriment of the rest of the world design.”

Personally, I’d probably amend that to be even more nuanced; it’s not just ganking but the threat of constant ganking should you drop your guard that really defines such a game. For example, the majority of my time in classic Ultima Online — definitely a gankbox — was not spent ganking or being ganked, but it was spent protecting myself in a ganker’s culture, whether that was by hiding my keys under a trapped reaggie box, using safe runes everywhere I went, or stockpiling extra equipment to get back on my feet in a hurry. Accordingly, an exorbitant amount of developer time also appeared to be devoted to balancing “freedom” and thwarting the gankers driving customers out of the game.

How would you prefer to see it defined — and which MMORPG do you think best typifies this style of game?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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72 Comments on "The Daily Grind: How would you define an MMO gankbox?"

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possum440 .
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possum440 .

This is exactly correct.

“Gankboxes are sandboxes that place such an emphasis on unrestricted free-for-all PvP that ganking comes to dominate the entire game, to the detriment of the rest of the world design.”

Nothing more need be said and there is no counter argument regardless. The only people that would be offended are the gankers and they try to smooth things over by using all sorts of explanations and theories on the how/why justification of ganking.

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mcsleaz

Worlds Adrift is the latest GankBox I’ve come across, real shame too, coulda been such a great game :(

wandris
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wandris

Eve is far from a gankbox. I would consider a gankbox a game which puts a near total emphasis on world PK’ing. Darkfall is a good example, perhaps at different stages of the game’s history the title would be debatable, but was not but towards the end. With the decline of players, groups, and guilds , it became individualistic and every man for himself PK’ing.

EvE though is a way different story. Yes PK’s are a thing but I would bet only accounts for a very small % of the overall PVP and asset destruction. Territory control, empire building, corporate wars, guild alliance/politics does not qualify as a gankbox.

Playing on any one sided PVP server in WoW is probably the best description of a true gankbox. Complete meaningless PVP. Completely one sided. Spend a few years getting ganked 3-5 times for every open world quest and I guarantee you will have a true sense of grief. In years of playing many open world PVP games, losing shit to PK, none of it was even a fraction of the level of harassment and grief I felt in WoW PVP. You really can’t point the finger at anyone but Blizzard for there shite and deliberate mismanagement of the faction population, the only real explanation is the millions in profit they no doubt have reaped from service fees.

hurbster
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hurbster

Any game that has non-consensual PvP is a gank box as far as I am concerned.

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thirtymil

Somewhere where newer players are considered disposable content for older players.

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Paul

I despise gankboxes (personal definition – any game that forces you into an open PvP mode to progress, and where ‘PvP’ becomes mostly about players randomly mugging other players, who are really not able to do anything meaningful to prevent it, for ‘lulz’)

I’ve played Eve on and off since 2004, a lot of my gametime having been PvP based. I don’t consider it to be a gankbox. Why ? Complex and I’m not sure there’s a straight up answer – combination of the fact that by playing intelligently you can defend yourself against the gankers (well tanked anti-gank ships etc – and its sweet watching would be gankers get concorded as your shields brim up :-P ), and so much of the PvP in that game has more of a context to it (territory control etc)

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Armsbend

A game set up so you can wait in a bush for hours until someone walks by and you can OHKO backstab them so your OHKO counter goes up by one.

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Reselect Name

A game where anyone can kill anyone at any time and any place with little to no penalty and it doesn’t tie into an overall mechanic of the game, just mindless random ganking.

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strangesands

I liken it to entering a warzone or a very bad neighborhood late at night. You go into it expecting trouble. The problem arises when the entire world is a warzone and a bad neighborhood late at night. Doesn’t really reflect reality.

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life_isnt_just_dank_memes

Gank boxes are just another hypocritical feature of the industry. i follow a lot of game devs on social media who I think are super talented and all of them use social media to talk about how they support generally great things. That’s why I follow them. They seem like genuinely kind people.

The hypocritical stuff about it is the games they work on aren’t that. Women are objectified. A lot of the games have questionable business practices or are the afforementioned gank boxes. Gank boxes promote bullying. People that are in to open world PvP aren’t about going after people that are similarly geared for a competitive brawl. They are after attacking people that have no chance to fight them.

Please industry stop being hypocrites and get rid of the base tribal game design that caters to the lowest common denominator of neanderthal on the internet. bring back flagged PvP please.

Also, can the devs on twitter start practicing what they preach and stop designing plate mail armor that has boob physics. Letting me design a female character that is heavy set doesnt let you off the hook.

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squidgod2000

Gank boxes promote bullying.

Sums it up pretty well. Ganking is about bullying and griefing. Gankboxes are games where such things are encouraged, tolerated, or not harshly penalized.

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Paul

Pretty much nailed it. Not the kind of way I want to spend my evenings gaming

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Wilhelm Arcturus

Reading through the comments, and the post itself, I think one might have to take a step back and define ganking. I don’t think non-consensual PvP is automatically a gank, nor is a disparity of skill or equipment.

In EVE, if I am in a transport ship trying to sneak through dangerous space to bring some supplies to our null sec staging citadel and I get caught on a gate and destroyed by a hostile in a cruiser, was I ganked? There was a disparity of power and I was not seeking combat. That seems a pretty solid argument in favor of gank given what I have read here.

Does my knowing the danger mitigate that in any way? If you tread into danger knowingly, is that any different than doing so through ignorance, willful or otherwise? If my ship was a blockade runner, which has some stealth capabilities making me much harder to catch, is it still a gank if I got caught? Does having formidable defense and escape powers change whether it was a gank or not if you get blown up anyway?

What if I went through a constellation where an incursion was in place. That brings out NPCs that are aggressive and formidable. If I got caught on the same gate and killed by an NPC, was that a gank? Can NPCs gank me?

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Sally Bowls

For me, the definition of a gank or grief is where someone does something they would not do against a NPC.

If a NPC came by in a newbie frigate with 1B in PLEX, everyone would suicide them.
If a NPC came by in a newbie frigate with no loot, assuming it is not restricted airspace, almost no one would suicide them.

So the latter but not the former is a gank.

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Schmidt.Capela

The definition I use for gank is different.

Whenever the attackers bring overbearing force, enough to deprive the target of a fighting chance, I consider it a gank; nothing else matters, not the motivation, not the potential rewards for the attacker, not the potential loss for the target. But I don’t consider ganks to be necessarily bad; they are a perfectly valid tactic in various scenarios.

On the other hand, ganks tend to be far more frustrating to the target than a fair fight, and games that don’t enforce fair fights tend to devolve before long into nearly all fights becoming ganks. Also, PvP-based griefing tend to be almost exclusively done by ganking.

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Rheem Octuris

All I know is I know it when I see it, and the last time I saw it was Das Tal / The Exiled. And you saw how that went.

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mcsleaz

Yep, Das Tal is a major GankBox, but someone who works here is a fan of it so they removed the Gankbox title from it (that was on it when they first covered it) and won’t put it back,lol.

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Melissa McDonald

I sincerely hope the game devs read articles like this. I think they will find there is less support for this type of gaming than they might have imagined, at least, judging from the games of 2015-2017 and their design and features, perhaps it’s high time to walk it back. Whatever happened to consensual dueling? Nobody has a problem with that.

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Arktouros

Actually the opposite tends to be true these days.

While the PvE majority dominated the MMO space for a long time we’ve come full circle in that much of the MMO player base is a multi-game community. People who enjoy MMOs are the same who enjoy purely competitive titles like LOL or PUBG. There’s a desire there to develop the unrestricted PvP systems that we used to see when MMOs first came out that have been largely absent past 2002 which started the “Zero-Consequence” PvP days of Asheron’s Call 2 and reinforced by WOW and all the games that tried to emulate WOW.

More over I wouldn’t use the commenters of MOP as a barometer of anything. For example Black Desert continues to have smashing and resounding success but here it’s something that basically sees press-release treatment otherwise is largely ignored by people around here. From what I’ve seen MOP tends to be very “carebear” PvE oriented so these kinds of responses are kinda to be expected but not exactly representative of the MMO playerbase as a whole.

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kgptzac

I think if we’re talking about something being “representative”, then you’d be looking away from the newest releases, because most MMO players are playing on older games. If you want to hazard a guess on what’s the “average” MMO player, whom I predict is more casual oriented, I think it would be safer to bet on him being more of a PvE player than a PvP player.

mop may be averse to Black Desert, but it’s not an aversion to PvP in general. If “gankbox” really is the new trend, how successful will they be is still a verdict a few years away from now. Meanwhile it’s worth to remember that in this genre, there are many legitimate reasons not to chase the newest and shiniest fad.

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cista2bpo

yea Black Desert – Game of the Year, but no dedicated MOP column, quite odd.

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squidgod2000

Definitely seen a lot of long-time PVE buddies become hardcore PvPers, gankers, griefers, and just general assholes as they’ve aged within the genre over the past decade+. Those who didn’t change have mostly drifted off to RL or been driven away.

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Utakata

“Gankboxes are sandboxes that place such an emphasis on unrestricted free-for-all PvP that ganking comes to dominate the entire game, to the detriment of the rest of the world design.”

Pretty much that. My only caveat would be for folks who are into that stuff, the more power to them I guess. As long as they stay away from the MMO’s I play, because they have place to go to gank away.

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Utakata

Edit/PS: I will freely admit this position is very uncomfortable for me, because there’s a lot around greifing and ganking that amounts to flat out bullying and harassment. And I am not sure cordoning off MMO’s as designated gank parks is really addressing that appropriately. Let alone encouraging behavior that most of us likely and reasonably don’t want to see anyone do. So my pigtails are really torn about this. /sigh

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Byórðæįr

really there are games that cater to griefer, but most fail shortly after launch. Usually it is players who are level eighty farming nubs who may not even be level ten yet.

Shadow bane was one of the worst, where they encouraged players to want to loot the people they were working with instead of an enemy or npc. Note it more famous for people looting the guild banks and running away then the graphics or story. PVP is about fighting something that thinks smarter than a computer not another npc with better gear. If I want to fight a ten story tall enemy with better gear going through a dungeon is far more interesting.

utlima online if you logged in they were quite clear that higher level players would take your stuff and laugh at you. I logged in a couple of times to watch those players face the end of the world, when server events happened. Garrat took nintendo graphics and made a game of it that was fun for a lot of people but no one treasured gear in that game, you did not want the sword of lost light or a wow legendary you wanted cheap thrills of a haunted house or laser tag. Most of the later gank boxes were games that tried to make people mean and petty to steal each other loot instead of defeating a player opponent instead of an npc opponent. I don’t remember which game it was that came up with the idea of loot tables for players but that really was the best step forward. Someone annoyed you, and you could attack them but it never got personal unless a griefer made it personal. There was a light hearted nature to it. Basically one one side you have bunch of griefers who lives suck so bad that their only find is finding someone fun to wreck and on the other side you have healthy competition. Games simply need to find a way to either list themselves as gankboxes and griefer festivals or list themselves as best of the best facing the best of the best. Of course the gank boxes likely are made by griefers so likely last until the money runs out and call themselves the same as the actual fun games.

I think if people though of them as laser tag and it was more like carring around power ups in game were you collect coins pac man style or some other meaning less thing people would treat it like a fps but I really don’t think that is the point of griefers. They are cancer on society not the design most of the time.

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David Blair

Unrestricted PVP – “Ahh geez. I got killed twice during character creation and once during the login screen…”

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Robert Mann

I believe it can simply be defined as “A game where there is unrestricted, or nearly unrestricted, PvP. There are at best minimal rules, and minimal penalties for attacking other player characters.”

Because, to be honest, if that is a ‘feature’ of the game, it will be a gankbox. There’s enough jerks and trolls out there, that nothing else can be expected.

capt_north
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capt_north

For me, “gankbox” is evocative of a specific player/developer attitude rather than mechanics, and therefore resists precise definition.

EVE is an interesting case, because the devs celebrate the gankbox mentality to ridiculous extremes, but the player community itself exhibits far fewer symptoms of testosterone poisoning.

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Alex Malone

I’m pretty happy with the OP’s definition (though, I have never and would never use the term “gankbox”). It really is any game where ganking comes to dominate the gameplay.

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Bryan Turner

Any game where you have no choice but be flagged for PVP is a Gank Box in my opinion.

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Michael18

“Gankboxes are sandboxes that place such an emphasis on unrestricted free-for-all PvP that ganking comes to dominate the entire game, to the detriment of the rest of the world design.”

I believe the definition cited in the article is very apt.

However, I’d drop the last part following the comma because it is superfluous and biased. For people who like ffa PVP together with the strategies and hide-and-seek game play it entails, such game design isn’t a bad thing, so the negativity should be left out of the definition.

As for examples: I think Mortal Online and Darkfall are representative. EVE Online only to a lesser degree, considering the extensive high sec content (you can easily play for many months without being ganked).

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Arktouros

It’s pretty simple to me: A gankbox is a game where the bulk of what you have to do is either PvP or prepare (as in you lose resources and need to replace them) solely for PvP.

A great example of what I’m talking about is Black Desert. A lot of people would call it a gankbox. However, if you really break down what you do in Black Desert it’s around 80-90% PvE with only around 10-20% PvP depending on your play hours and desire to kill players. It’s really tough to call a game where you PvE the majority of time a gankbox and realistically there’s no mandatory PvP. While, certainly, ganking can occur in that game there’s really no loss for PvP so there’s nothing to prepare for and so the bulk of what you’re actually doing is PvE so it’s not really a gankbox.

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Ravven

I’ll generally call an MMO a gankbox (or catbox, as it’s full of little sh*ts) when there is no ability to play the game after a certain point without being forced into non-consensual pvp. I wouldn’t consider EVE to be a gankbox, for instance, as you can play for years in hi-sec space and never risk getting podded as long as you’re careful when gating. I’m fine with having bigger risk for bigger reward and consider that to be a factor of good design.

If the pvp is well-designed I think the majority of players would enjoy it now and then. But I am one of those who never even for a moment considered playing Darkfall, where other players could kill you, loot you, kill your mount, etc., (as I understand it). Ugh. But I enjoyed nulsec/lowsec stuff in EVE and even belonged to a pirate corp…so it all depends on how well that system is designed.

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cista2bpo

The second iteration DarkFall in fact had quite large safe zones in it. Not nearly as large as EVE though, and still on the gankbox side of the fence all in all.

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BalsBigBrother

Have a like for the catbox definition, that made me smile and is very apt for a lot of games :-)

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Ravven

Yeah, it always tickled the really immature side of me. :D

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Melissa McDonald

Any game with non-consensual PvP becomes that. The community sees to it.

“In Hell, you either bring food, or become food.” – C.S. Lewis, “The Screwtape Letters”

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cista2bpo

Actually most PvP games, if they are proper MMOs, have safe zones. EVE is the prime example, but any game with PvP will do. For example, WoW would be a gankbox if every zone on every server was a PvP zone. But it’s not… there is still non-consensual PvP in the game though.

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Sally Bowls

While there are WoW PvP servers, there are WoW servers where there is no non-consensual PvP on them. Blizzard literally calls them normal servers. They are the majority.

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Shiro Madoushi

((Deleted by mod. Try again without the trolling and insults.))

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Bryan Turner

Wait so we’re just supposed to be willing to play games where a player can just harass us and destroy our immersion by fucking with our experience, oh so sorry to not want to be part of your bull shit food chain in your Gank Boxes.

It’s not a stupid term, I think it succinctly describes the shallow game play that these games resort to because they can’t afford to develop a real game with actual content, as well as the Serial Killer wannabes that max out their Credit Cards to make twinks so they can kill every one in sight while feeling better about their powerless real lives.

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Utakata

“Wait so we’re just supposed to be willing to play games where a player can just harass us and destroy our immersion by fucking with our experience, oh so sorry to not want to be part of your bull shit food chain in your Gank Boxes.”

It’s suppose to put hair on your chest!

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Skoryy

A term I believe I remember hearing some time back was ‘sociopath simulator’. Which I think kinda fits what we’re looking for to define gankboxes.

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Tithian

Bree, I think your idea on what a gankbox is is pretty spot on. It’s why I don’t consider BDO a gankbox, even though I’ve seen a lot more PvP and Ganking in it than, say, EVE Online.

If it’s got FFA PvP + Loot (or other serious Death penalties), then it’s a gankbox.

Other people will be inclined to include any sort of Open World PVP, even in games where the only consequense is to do the ‘walk of shame’ back to your corpse, simply because “not initiating PvP = ganking” in their eyes.

Minimalistway
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Minimalistway

I can’t answer this question, by nature i avoid competing with other people, so i avoid any PVP of any kind, the world itself as a challenge is what i’m looking for.

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strangesands

Pathfinder Online.

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Tiresias

There is a pretty simple set of criteria for this question. This isn’t my original work; an MMO developer posted this a long time ago. I want to say it was from ArenaNet, defending their decision to have NO open-world PvP outside of WvW — an excellent decision, in my opinion.

1. There are no significant penalties for attacking another player in an unprovoked manner. This can range from “no penalties at all” to “penalties that aren’t going to actually act as a deterrent”. EVE Online is a good example of both of these clauses: in null spec space there are no penalties whatsoever and in high spec space you lose your ship, but a lot of times that consequence isn’t serious (thus suicide ganking of valuable targets).

2. The rewards for attacking another player in an unprovoked manner are significant. At its most basic level, this means that you get to take their stuff (full-loot PvP). It can also mean that you simply inflict pain on the player themselves by causing the ganked character to lose experience, currency, or significant amounts of time. The general theme is that ganking someone results in significant, measurable harm to them.

3. The main goal of the game is not focused on PvP. You could argue that this actually disqualifies EVE Online, since the game is obviously focused on territory control and a fight for resources. A good example would be World of Warcraft in its early days, where you are sent out into the world to perform PvE-related tasks with little to no direction to engage the opposing faction — you are obviously there to complete quests to gain experience and resources.

In summary:

A game that isn’t primarily focused on PvP but that rewards gankers without punishing them. Ultima Online is definitely a fantastic example. EVE Online is likely a fence-sitter, since it’s specifically structured to encourage PvP conflict and doesn’t have any other clearly defined goals.

Note that you really have to meet all three criteria. WoW doesn’t meet #2: the reward for ganking someone is making them walk back to their body, which usually takes 30 seconds or less. It can be annoying, but it really isn’t significant.

Of course, just because a game isn’t a “gankbox” doesn’t mean that its PvP implementation is well-executed. The early days of WoW’s open-world PvP, where there was no honor system and no battlegrounds, was TERRIBLE. Black Desert’s PvP system feels tacked on, with little thought to actual class performance versus other players.

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cista2bpo

I would say EVE is not on the fence – it is definitely not a gankbox. Noone in high sec EVE ever attacks anyone else unless they expect a significant economic gain (or if the players have entered “guild” wars or faction warfare). The punishment for attacking someone is instant termination.
This means I can fly around safely in any normal ship, cruising among the PvP sharks, and they cannot attack me lest they want to lose their own ship for nothing. You can go around doing your missions (quests) and you will never be attacked. You can fly to a planet or station somewhere, go afk a few hours, and your ship will still be there, although dozens of players passed you by. That is not a gankbox.

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MesaSage

I think of gankboxes as places where ‘players’ team up for the sole purpose of ruining another’s enjoyment by killing them. Repeatedly.

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Ravven

I guess that something that I’ll never understand…why is that enjoyable? There are players who seem to want to force everyone else out by killing their enjoyment and their ability to actually play. I just don’t get it. :/

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Veldan

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CthulhuDawg

“Gank boxes” as it were are not for those type of players. If you get butthurt about being ganked and weren’t prepared to lose your stuff why did you ever sign up in the first place? It’s not like these games start off as consensual PVP games and then all of a sudden it’s gank city.

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Veldan

Because games encourage other people to join too, because they very well know that they can’t survive on gankers alone. The typical ganker is not someone who enjoys or expects a fair fight. They want easy targets. When those are all gone, the ganker has no more fun and leaves too.

Therefore, no game will ever say “we’re a ganking game, don’t join if you don’t want to get killed by overpowering force while doing some random activity!”. Instead, they try to lure players in with PvE, crafting, economy stuff, housing, etc, so that the world is filled with players and malcontents can have their victims.

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CthulhuDawg

Not every game has to appeal to every player, full stop. Also the whole mentality of people on this site that if you enjoy open pvp you’re a bad person irl is disgusting. Grow up.

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Veldan

Open world PvP =/= ganking. My view on this:

Ganking is when someone is fighting a mob and you backstab them just to ruin their quest. Ganking is when someone is gathering or mining in ArcheAge and you turn on bloodlust and kill them so you can gather the node for yourself next to their corpse. Ganking is when you go to the enemy low level zone in a faction based game to kill the newbies with your max level character.

It typically revolves around attacking someone who wasn’t expecting you, mostly while also having the better gear or level to reduce risk even further. Gankers seek to avoid fair fights. They don’t want PvP, they want to kill.

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Castagere Shaikura

Any mmo with open world pvp.

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Tia Nadiezja

A game whose primary draw is open-world unregulated or lightly regulated PvP.

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Modrain

I’d define it by the way it’s used, as I usually understand it: a derogatory term used to describe a game with PvP designed so that non consensual fights happen with little to no countermeasures, and as such passively encourage ganking behaviours. To put it more crudely, a game where assholes are free-roaming.

I understand that some people use the term neutrally (starting with MOP’s writers), but it rarely feels like it, unfortunately. The majority of the time, it’s used in a negative way by people wanting to hurt a game’s reputation, and not a descriptive one. That’s why I consider the term derogatory. As a PvPer, I certainly feel insulted when I see a game I enjoy to be qualified of “gankbox”. It’s also why I’ll never use that term, and put it alongside “carebear” and such.

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camren_rooke

Free-roaming assholes kind of sounds like the internet and social media.

It also sounds like a great name for a punk band.

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CthulhuDawg

“…non consensual fights happen with little to no countermeasures…” Your consent was being on the server, your counter-measure is being aware of your surroundings and the skills you have at your disposal to turn the tide.

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Modrain

Indeed, that’s how it could (should?) be expected to work, but some games selling themselves as dual PvE/PvP experiences have variably powerful mechanics against ganking (such as Aion or ArcheAge, for example).

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

True true.

Which is why I don’t go to places like that.

Put OWPVP on a mmo and I’m pretty much done since I know I’m just a sheep for the wolves to haggle over.

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Sorenthaz

When PvP dominates the game in such a way to where you’re constantly having to worry about the fact that you could be ganked at any moment, that’s a gankbox. When the game is so designed to where you could be attacked at any moment or attack others at any moment, with little/no consequence (at least nothing that hampers a ganker’s enjoyment of the game)… yeah that’s a gankbox because PvP becomes the dominant factor.

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Jeremy

Gankbox = Open world PVP of any kind

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pepperzine

I don’t call games gankboxes, I see it as a derogatory way of describing a game that doesn’t suit a particular person’s interests. Its much better to just label it as a pvp sandbox or pvp focused game. In the same regards, I don’t call people carebears. Why not instead use PvE-er or PvE player? Both are negative terms people use to try to attack a game or a person that differs from what they enjoy.

I think I take this stance because I am someone who enjoys both PvP oriented mmos and PvE oriented mmos.

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Modrain

Oh well, I basically wrote the comment in a different manner. I could have aswell actualized before posting and just liked this!

I didn’t notice it until you pointed it out, but being someone who enjoys both PvP and PvE might indeed be part of why the term is perceived negatively. Often feels like being in the middle of the “carebears” vs “gankers” war.

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Veldan

I enjoy PvP too, more than PvE, but I still think it’s an appropriate term, because much of this behaviour (ganking / griefing) is determined by game design. Open world PvP, FFA or not, doesn’t mean it has to be “anything goes” without any kind of rules or discouraging bad behaviour. That’s the lazy way to do it, and if a studio can’t be bothered to make their PvP environment any better than that, their game deserves the gankbox label.

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CthulhuDawg

The deep end.

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Veldan

I think MOP posted the best example of what a gankbox is:

gankbox.png
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starbuck1771

A gankbox is any game where you can be targeted and attacked by every other player in the game.

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