Fight or Kite: MMORPG PvP is about competition, not combat


Over the last month, Eliot has written a Daily Grind and Perfect Ten that really got me thinking about what PvP truly is. He mentions how PvP is so much more than just combat. It isn’t about slashing and smashing each other; it’s about the competition. It’s about you versus me.

From the dawn of time, people have craved competition. It’s built into our bones. The Romans had their coliseums and combat, but eventually the combat gave way to other less final methods of determining winners and losers. Today we have all manners of races, feats of strength, and games to compete in – not to mention the various forms of sportsball! Eliot touched on the many flavors of MMO PvP, so it’s only right that we reflect on the PvP meta of our genre here in Fight or Kite.

Racing and other minigames

Some of the most obvious non-combat PvP you’ll find in MMOs could be classified as minigames. In fact, I recently explained how Guild Wars 2’s best PvP is found in its minigames.

Races are plentiful in MMOs too, from chocobos to roller beetles and even Javelin racing. It’s so ubiquitous you might not even realize you are PvPing. Personally, I’ve never been a huge fan of racing of any kind. Probably because I still have nightmares of Coach Hines screaming at me from across the creek: “HUSTLE! Get the lead out!” I can still feel my sides cramping, legs turning to jelly, and I just want to lie down. No… not another lap – no! Awful.

Anyway, PvP. Some studios even attempt to build entire non-combat PvP systems disguising them as games. Take Guild Wars 2’s Adventures system. It is actually quite fun, despite the lack of a meaningful reason to play after getting a gold star. These more or less boil down to a race to determine the fastest time collecting mushrooms or some other exotic novelties, but I always appreciate innovation and studios trying something new. Plus, they aren’t traditional races where we line up to sprint head-to-head.

MMO studios have even put together great out-of-game competitive events. I remember when Warhammer Online launched The Land of the Dead update and included a contest where players were tasked with deciphering hieroglyphs around the internet. Of course I didn’t win the grand prize, but boy was it a blast trying to figure it out!

And I can’t forget costume contests. Cosmetics are such a key component of MMOs today that the systems in place for outfitting your characters are exceptionally robust. Who hasn’t spent hours in the character creator placing your eyes the exact width apart? Don’t forget the several hours after max level just trying out different armors and colors to look exactly how you want. You simply can’t go wrong with a costume contest. Well maybe you can, but that one’s the exception, not the rule!

PvE tournaments and challenges

Players love competing so much that even when the game doesn’t directly endorse or build a system for competition, players will find a way to make one. I’m of course thinking about raiding and dungeon clearing.

On its face, you wouldn’t necessarily think that PvE content wherein you grind out a mob and boss so many times that you can beat it with your eyes closed would lend itself to a competition. But people love to compete.

From the onset of a new raid or dungeon dropping in basically any game, you’ll have coordinated teams of players doing their best to be the “world’s first.” Not long after that, you’ll find guilds posting their times to clear. Once time to clear has been whittled away, you have competition over who can clear the content with the smallest number of members. Or all-Paladin clears. Or no-wipe clears. It goes on and on.

Eventually these can even come to a head as an actual hosted raiding tournament with prizes.

You’ll even find yourself competing in entirely PvE content

However, we really don’t have to look so far and deep at specific pieces of content to find the competitive nature of MMOs. Even when we are working together, we find ways to determine who the best is.

DPS meters and their kin are now a near-requirement of any regular raid party in core MMORPGs. While clearing mobs, even if you don’t vocalize it, you know that you are comparing your DPS (or soaked damage, or hitpoints restored, and so on) to that of your your mates. It’s just human nature. You think to yourself, “I don’t even have max gear and I still beat LegDayOlass!” I’d do it. And you know you do too!

But we don’t even have to be in a party to be adventuring and competing. When I’m simply completing quests and trying to level up a new class, I’m comparing myself to other players all around me. I might notice JacabWinz grabbing a quest at the same time as me. Can I get there before him? Yes! Oh, look how long it’s taking JacabWinz to kill that mob. Sad!

Playing the market or economies of “I own all the cherries”

The last bit of non-combat PvP I want to talk about involves the various ways you can compete in the game’s economy. There are two sides to this equation: the gathering and the crafting.

Gathering resources competitively can be quite nerve-wracking. However, if you can control the supply of goods into the auction house, then you can really enjoy some hefty profits. It might not even be gathered material; it could just be a resource that has such a small drop rate that if you are resourceful and quick enough, you can buy up and control the flow and price of the product. You probably never get to see your opponents, but when you show up at a spot you’ve been farming, and you consistently see it has been cleared out of the resource, then you know the fight is on!

Crafting goods is usually lucrative because players often want their merchandise quickly. If a game is has designed their crafting system properly and built up a strong economy around crafting, then players can compete in this arena. It runs almost parallel to the gathering side. However, I think it requires more research and planning.

Personally, I’ve been having a battle over resources in Archeage Unchained. At my level and net worth, it has certainly been a fool’s errand, but I can’t help myself! Archeage provides some fairly good in game information about how much product has been bought and sold over the last week and the price. My enemies are unknown in number, but that just makes me want to win even more. And what would be winning? Well, if I can own a large enough supply of product and then sell at it a much higher price than I bought it for, then I win. So far… let’s just say it hasn’t been going well.

Between Eliot’s coverage and mine, I hope we can all agree that PvP is about so much more than just swords clashing and steeping hot tea over your opponents. Almost every activity in an MMO is PvP on some level, and we should embrace that spectrum, whether we’re hardcore player-killers or self-described carebears.

So, after thinking about these non-combat PvP modes, would you be more inclined to call yourself a PvPer? What forms of PvP do you tend to participate in the most? Is it truly just combat-focused? Or do you find yourself competing for market dominance?

Every other week, Massively OP’s Sam Kash delivers Fight or Kite, our trip through the state of PvP across the MMORPG industry. Whether he’s sitting in a queue or rolling with the zerg, Sam’s all about the adrenaline rush of a good battle. Because when you boil it down, the whole reason we PvP (other than to pwn noobs) is to have fun fighting a new and unpredictable enemy!

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Castagere Shaikura

Why is it always with articles about PVP that they want to act like its honorable gameplay. It’s about slaughtering the other guy.

Jon Wax

If there’s no competition, it’s just babysitting. But it’s been about 2 generations of gamers raised on noncomp games so even if we got a good game, tiny minority would be able to actually play it. Gaming is dead, long live gaming!


Except it’s not a competition for a good portion of the PvPers. They use mechanics to their advantage to ‘win’…like spawn-camping (Someone who’s not ready to fight.), leveling systems (A PvPer who sits there and picks off noobs as they try and level up and actually become a competitor to them.), or goes around attempting to duel low level players (Because that’s really showing them ‘skillz’ right?!?), or someone who’s in a ‘prep’ window and not even looking as they are gearing up/looking at their skills, or some other example like that…they pick them off when they aren’t ready.

Yeah, there’s an occasional decent fight to be had…where class skills come into play and the people are pretty evenly matched…because their skills were built to be vs each-other. (Rogue/sneaky characters vs Hunters and their flares comes to mind…)

But personally, I haven’t seen much in the way of ‘evenly matched’/Sportsman-like PvP, I usually see ‘skilled’ people picking on the little guy…which is essentially another form of bullying. Yeah, maybe that person who’s bullied will come out of it with a desire for some revenge, and work for hours to get back at that person…(And isn’t that really what a lot of those trolling PvPers hope to do…get someone mad enough…)…which may even make them skilled enough to become the person able to compete…but for the most part, it just makes a lot of people leave instead. Like ‘Why bother with this?’

Factor in systems like ‘full loot’ in PvP, and even skilled people can ‘make a mistake’ and lose everything…and then they are just pissed too, they’ll often go back and try and retrieve their stuff, only to be given the treatment they’d give others…

The most fun I see is systems where people don’t lose anything and everyone can just spawn in as whatever they want to be for the specific round, with a rotating system that moves people who are ‘winning’ a lot to the ‘losers’ side…so it forces it to not be a constant loss for one side…making it so you can’t just cheat and make ‘premades’ to skill up/gear up. I had massive fun on GW2’s snowball PvP match event they had (Not sure if they still run it…I quit years ago.)…because it was done in this way.

As for taking things in PvE as PvP…like ‘winning the auctions’…I tend to be that person who has more TIME to invest on things like checking each auction to make sure I wasn’t under-bid/adjusting it/underbidding again…to the point where I leave rich/quit doing it because it’s not fun anymore because I’ve bought all the things (I cared to). Most games I play nowadays don’t even have an auction house because they are trying to force you to actually interact with people in their world and trade with actual people…because it’s depersonalized the whole aren’t ‘competing with someone else’ in that way either, you’re talking to a NPC who doesn’t give a crud what you’re doing.

I don’t really do races unless it’s ‘just for fun’, because I’m not trying to compete to win prizes. Most of my character creation is built around trying to make a character I can RELATE to, not about making them look the best to some other person.

I also tend to avoid most content that people do ‘gearscore’ or ‘DPS’ meters on (Even though back when I did do that type of content I was one of the top end DPS characters, simply because I knew how to play my build/do my rotation properly…and that’s really all that is…it’s not ‘winning’ anything…it’s knowing what skills/traits are most effective together/knowing your character/how best to use it.)

Personally, I find ‘competition’ to be bad for morale of people, and often just makes people frustrated and annoyed…so they drop what they are doing and leave and find something that is ‘fun’, and in PvP if you’re not ‘winning’ you’re ‘losing’…and in most scenarios of PvP someone is always losing…and losing isn’t ‘fun’. The whole belief that you NEED to ‘win’ against someone else, is part of the problem. Sure, competition may give some people something to strive for, but the person on the losing side of that is demoralized and what do they strive for? ‘To do better’? Why bother?


I play games to have fun, not compete. So, no, I’m not any sort of PVPer, and still hate all forms of PVP.


My relationship with open-world PVP has never changed. I try to stay on the civil side of compromise and de-escalation, but being a consumables-packrat with a script fetish I do love an opportunity to leverage an unfair advantage on some worthy asshole.

As for the whole ranked, match-based battlegrounds and arenas… that’s not real fighting. It’s entertainment. It’s fun as a sport, but it’s not real conflict. I’m a murderhobo, not a gladiator.

Oleg Chebeneev

Its like telling a man who enjoys fishing more than anything that fishing is about fish, and not the fun of catching it.

I played WoW for many years strictly for Battlegrounds PvP. And by far the biggest reason for me was exactly the combat. I enjoyed combat in WoW alot. How it feels, how classes interact, how you can outplay people, etc. Competition and ego of destroying noobs was there too, but combat was the top thing that kept me playing. So yeah, for me PvP IS about combat and combat system is one of the most important things for me in MMOs overal. Nothing turns me away faster than shitty combat system.

ps/ wrote after reading title. Then went scrolling through article after posting. Nice article but bad title that makes people think combat isnt important.


I like competition, it just tends to be the competitors that I don’t like.

Here’s my armchair psychologist take on it: there are two types of people who enjoy PvP. One is the kind that enjoys the thrill of winning against another person. The second also enjoys winning against another person, but they also need to make sure someone else loses. It’s the difference between someone who says “good fight” and the person who says “ha get wrecked you fucking noob. uninstall the game you suck so much” (add in the number of racial slurs you see fit) after winning.

It’s why I think the PvP community is mostly to be blamed for the lack of successful PvP sandbox MMOs. There’s no way to filter out the kind of people who think that in order to “win” they need to drive their competition to quit the game completely. And then they wonder why there’s no players left.

That’s why I like the kind of competition mentioned in the article. When you win a mini-game, or corner some market, you know it, but you’ve done very little to negatively impact someone else’s gameplay, and there’s nothing stopping them from coming back to try again.


I do not enjoy competition with other players. I’ve quit nearly every MMO where “DPS Meters” are mandatory. Not necessarily because of the DPS Meters, but it certainly would weigh in the decision to pick the game up again. In Star Trek Online, one of the only “proper” MMOs I still play, I actively avoid the Task Force missions where people use combat log parsers to try to create DPS meters. Because in a co-op mission against computer controlled NPCs, someone has to turn it into a competition. It doesn’t help that I feel that it also results in a lot of behaviors that boost raw DPS without actually helping the mission. (Such as abusing the ability to damage targets that are invincible, but can still register damage rather than throwing up a string of zeroes.)

I don’t engage with “market PVP” either. If I need something that only another player can sell I’ll buy it, but I’m not going to spend hours or days trying to get the best possible price. If I check for half an hour and no one is selling it for what feels like an acceptable price, I simply mentally mark the item as “unavailable and might as well not exist” and move on. I almost NEVER bother to sell items unless the game has an auction house where I can simply post the listing and move on. (I could probably make a couple thousand platinum in Warframe, but Trade Chat is a tedious spam-filled cesspool and completely not worth the massive effort required.) And yes, I’m one of those horrible “undercutters” who sells everything for 10% less than the “going rate.” Because I’m getting rid of something I’m already not using and I’d rather have half of something than all of the nothing I’d get for keeping it or selling it to an NPC.

I don’t participate in PVE races if other players are involved. I’ll run Q’s holiday event against the NPC, because that’s what it takes to unlock the event reward ship. It’s also not terribly difficult and is really nothing more than a time-wasting formality to get the event tokens once you’ve run it once or twice. But I’m not going to race against other players. Because PVP is PVP, and other players will cheat, glitch, exploit broken mechanics, and do whatever it takes to win even in a “just for fun” competition.

I’ve never played an MMO that had board game style minigames. Or I failed to notice them if I did. If I knew anyone who played computer games, I *might* play such a game with an actual friend, but I have less than zero interest against competing against random strangers. PVP is still PVP, and I’m not interested.


I do accumulate in-game costumes and cosmetics. It’s actually the main thing I’ll consider buying in a game. But I do so for my own personal amusement and not to somehow compete with other players. In Warframe my Operator does wear the “founders only” Grandmaster badge, but it’s because I happen to like the way it looks on the outfit I normally wear. I almost never equip it on any of my actual Warframes, which are what people are far more likely to notice and pay attention to.

The last time I participated in any kind of in-game costume contest was in City of Heroes, years before the game was shut down. I might attend a costume contest to see what other people have created, but I have less than zero interest in “winning.”


Oh, and for a specific example from the article, “quest PVP.” If I realize someone is trying to compete with me such as racing to finish a quest, directly competing for quest drops or resources? I’ll probably immediately stop doing anything and wait for them to go away. “You’re trying to turn mining ore into PVP? How sad. Go ahead, you ‘win.’ I think I suddenly remembered I need to spend an hour collecting fish, or just standing here while I watch Markiplier do something excessively silly on my iPad.”

Robert Mann

And almost every example here contains the thing that makes most competition a dead stop for some many… other people.

Yes, we thrive on competition and challenge. However, there’s also a few big differences in mentality that need to be considered for each variant thereof. The big one with competition is in communication and behavior.

In most of the competition, what we see is people treating others poorly, including trying to do so prior to that competition in the hopes of pushing mental changes upon their opponent(s). Where some people revel in this, others find it nothing short of disgusting. The insults, crudities, egotism, and so on doing nothing else so much as in separating players into groups. The end truth is that very good competitors otherwise will avoid the situation out of a desire to simply avoid the drama, regardless of whether their play will be impacted.

As a species, we have accepted the worst parts of competition almost across the board, and then wonder why displays of good sportsmanship are so rare. It’s not because people have become worse at sportsmanship, but because the people who are better at it are more likely to avoid the competitions when they must engage the other behaviors it may seem that way.

I’m a great fan of PvP… but not a fan of the way it tends to happen, and how people tend to act. Which means I’m also an opponent of PvP. I cannot change how people act in certain scenarios, but I can attempt to exclude myself from those scenarios. That tends to extend to competition across the board (even though I do very well, I don’t enjoy the time and results due to the other factors).