Fight or Kite: Griefing! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.

    
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Here we are at the very first Fight or Kite of the New Year and of the decade. With it, let’s discuss something that many gamers believe goes hand-in-hand with PvP: griefing.

Let me go out on a limb and remind any gamers who may have forgotten: Griefing is not the same as PvP. PvP is good. Griefing is straight-up trash, and you should feel bad if you make it a regular part of your gaming sessions. Don’t agree? Well, have at ya, brah!

What is griefing if it’s not PvP?

Let’s start off by making it clear exactly what griefing is and is not. Griefing is the act of intentionally and repeatedly annoying, harassing, or overall ruining another player’s game experience. It is not attacking someone because he is in a PvP zone. It isn’t even ganking, although ganking could lead to griefing if consistent and often enough.

Let me clarify that because I’m not a proponent of ganking either. But running through a lowbie zone to kill off easy targets may be annoying, but for me it doesn’t cross the threshold of griefing. However, following the same player through that lowbie zone just to kill her constantly so she can’t do anything else in that zone – yeah, that rises to the level of griefing.

There are so many, different, ways that players have come up with to grief others. And many of them aren’t even related to PvP at all. The common thread is that the goal is about ruining someone else’s game. It’s rarely done for rewards.

Issues with games that encourage griefing

Now, let’s not lay this all on the players. Game studios have made some very poor choices before when it comes to PvP and griefing that set the tone of the whole game.

Take a look at Worlds Adrift’s original approach to PvP and ganking. At first, the studio suggested victimized players needed to just “git gud.” The team clearly later regretted that decision as it walked back the initial free-for-all concept of the game by adding PvE servers. Then it finally realized that there is a difference between PvP and pure gank griefing. I love Bossa’s quote here as it expresses exactly my thoughts on PvP versus griefing:

“This pretty much exemplifies the difference between PvP and griefing; one is a fair fight between two similarly levelled players. The other, a completely unbalanced slaughter, whereby one player has little to no chance of defending themselves.”

There are even more recent examples of studios that (accidentally?) reward ganking, which can lead to an environment of griefing. ArcheAge Unchained’s ArchePass at one point included a “kill 100 hostile players” quest that did not have any level restrictions. Luckily someone with sense – possibly after enough backlash – realized how foolish this was and changed the quest to count only for characters within 4 levels of the killer.

Worlds Adrift

Reducing or combating griefing

For just about every studio that has encountered griefing in its game, there’s been some sort of attempt at countering that griefing. Let’s take a look at a few online titles that have addressed the problem in recent months.

Red Dead Online has taken at least two different shots at handling griefers. First, it developed a parley and feud system that lets players choose to either talk it out or have a duel to settle the score. After that, it made life a bit more difficult on the griefers by showing them more prominently on the maps and even having NPC bounty hunters come after their heads. (Bounty systems are super popular avenues for anti-grief mechanics.)

A “stress system” determines how much damage you take from PvP in Identity. Everyone begins at a low stress level. But, as the devs describe, if you were to run after someone who drew a gun on you, then you would have a high stress and would take more damage than if you simply gave up and chilled out. Strange approach if you ask me, but it’s interesting.

Sea of Thieves has attempted several types of griefing solutions. Rare increased the respawn distance so that players can’t constantly kill someone over and over. It even created a brig in game that a team could vote to put players in if they were acting badly. Of course, griefers just took that system over until it was fixed- as griefers always do.

See, the problem seems to be that studios tend to look for bandages to cover over their griefing issues when they really need to see it for what it is: a cancer that needs to be eliminated and removed. Immediately. If you don’t, it’ll be the end of you, or at least of your paying playerbase.

Players shouldn’t shun PvP games, but they should discourage griefing

Now, all that doom and gloom about griefing should paint a pretty obvious picture about how I feel about griefing. Yet I’m sure there are many of you out there that might not see how I could be such an adamant PvPer and yet also despise griefing.

There’s certainly a big misunderstanding from non-PvPers about griefing. MMO gamers who say they won’t touch a game the moment it mentions PvP? I’m talking about you. I know you say you don’t like PvP, but most likely what you really don’t like is the griefing. I completely understand that. I hate it too.

There are so many ways to engage in real PvP that doesn’t involve griefing, but you’ve been burned. You joined a game at some point that didn’t have its priorities set correctly and you were griefed. At that point you put a wall in your mind between PvP and PvE. It’s black and white to you. But honestly, PvP isn’t the enemy. There must be some moments when you played Mortal Kombat, Mario Party, or even Monopoly and you had fun. All those games are PvP games! You don’t hate PvP; you hate the griefing.

So what I’m really trying to close out with here is pretty simple: Griefing bad, PvP good. These two concepts have become rather unfortunately tied together in MMOs, yet they shouldn’t be. Part of the issue is that even developers don’t always understand the difference. They come down on the concept as an intentional game design, wolves and sheep.

Well, I’m sure everyone agrees with me 100%, right? PvP is about the thrill of the fight. Griefing is about ruining someone else’s day. Maybe you’d care to explain to me how your griefing isn’t that bad and you’re actually trying to improve the game? Maybe you think PvP’s very nature encourages griefers and that is why you don’t play PvP games. I’ll agree that it’s the simplest form, but certainly not the only one. Don’t write off a game because of PvP. But you should encourage developers to understand that griefing mechanics are not tolerable.

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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Sray

Seriously, a headline like that, nearly 50 comments and not one of them is “Good God, y’all!”

I am disapoint… y’all.

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FormlessOne

Yep, this is why I bowed out of the New World alpha, and why I’ve walked away from other games where non-consensual PvP is even a possibility. I’m OK with PvP in consensual, controlled, “fair” conditions.

One of the side issues related to griefing is forced PvP – that, to receive high-end items or abilities, one must PvP to do so. That’s not “consensual,” in that at the end of the day, you either PvP or relegate yourself to being a second-class citizen in the game.

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Steve Bond

You should take a new look at NW then. They just announced on Friday that PvP will be opt in now, so the gank-festing of the last alpha will no longer apply to the gameplay.

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PhoenixDfire

We have an issue with griefing in Elite: Dangerous and it’s one of the reasons that people used to give up within the few hours of the game. Normally, it’s high powered players who ‘off’ newbs (who are still in un-engineered ships) for the lols. So new players must be careful around the engineers and the more popular systems.

We call it seal clubbing and it got so bad that FDev put in a newbie area where starting players are relatively safe from these griefers. You can still get attacked by another player in the newbie area, but the attacking ship will be so basic; you’ll have at least a fighting chance.

People who get griefed either give up, continue to play the game in solo mode or move to a PVE Private group (like one called Mobius, which has over 20,000 members). FDev have tried to solve this with in-game mechanics but the latest Crime and Punishment changes, made in the beginning of the Beyond season, have missed the mark.

To give an idea of the problem, when Distant worlds 2 launched, Distant Ganks (which consisting of less than 100 players) gleefully claimed to take out 4000 ships (probably jealous of the attention that DW2 was getting), much to the grumbling of those who took part of DW2.

The only solution is to have ‘yet’ another pass at the Crime and punishment system, as a PVE/PVP flag doesn’t work as Piracy is a valid play style (Although technically you can pirate without firing a shot). You get some player groups like ‘The Code’ who roleplay pirate attacks but the majority of Griefers just go for the kill. So either victim either blocks that attacker (so they never appear in an instance with you again) or moves to one of the other game modes; all of which diminishes open mode and makes the game feel a lot emptier than it actually is.

So much so, that in an ironic twist, Griefers were complaining about how few other players there are in open and in several cases, infiltrated the Mobius PVE group and the Distant Worlds Group to prey on unsuspecting players.

I’m not saying that Griefing should be banned in Elite : Dangerous (at times it feels like avoiding Griefers is the only Dangerous thing in the game) but I do feel that, in the high/medium security systems at least, there should be serious deterrent and in-game consequences if you do. Low Security System should be a lot more lax and in the lawless anarchy systems, anything goes. i.e. if a unshielded T-9 turns up in the Anarchy System of ‘Murder McMurderFace’ then they really are just asking to be punished for their stupidity.

I mean correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t Jumpgate die because it got a reputation for Newbie Griefing?

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AceBandage

What game is pictured at the top of the article with the glowing pink bow?

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Robert Mann

Griefing, ganking, and other things that align with No-rules PvP is what we do not like.

I have no concern if PvP is off somewhere that I can at least generally avoid, if it doesn’t hold hostage all the good resources, and so on.

I even enjoy PvP when the exceedingly rare title has a decent balance, although that is even rarer with MMOs where gear/levels/progression tend to come into play.

I would argue that ganking is griefing. If somebody is just minding their business, with no intent for PvP, then attacking them is ruining what they were doing. Where there is indeed an argument for avoiding PvP based games there, there is also a distinct lack of PvE friendly titles with building, exploration, and social focus. Sadly, this tends to pull people who just want those parts of a game, without rough blockyness, into these MMOs. Without said people, these games would fail outright and die far quicker, and there would be no profit to inspire more of them.

Random MMO fan
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Random MMO fan

These things are being discussed wrongly – yes forcing griefing or ganking upon every player at every location is bad. However, it is acceptable where like-minded players enjoy this type of gameplay. And it would be much more interesting to discuss how to design the game where all kind of players can enjoy playing. For example, what if the game would have a system like EVE Online but with a difference where if you are marked as criminal – you cannot remove this status ever and will always be attacked by all NPC factions (unless they are a pirate faction in lawless space) where their guards are present. This way you will know that if someone blew up your ship in a peaceful system occupied by NPCs – it is highly unlikely that same person will do this again, especially if NPCs will also patrol resource gathering locations in peaceful systems. This would leave lawless systems to fight over for people who enjoy that, a systems with unique resources and ability to build huge stations which can be completely destroyed, but systems which are not a small battlegrounds like most lazy MMO developers add to their games. Maybe a different variation of this system, something to encourage game developers to build a huge and long-lasting MMO for people with all kind of preferences.

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Utakata

Couple of things here:

1) While griefing and PvP are separate things, and should not really be conflated…I do believe in a PvP environment there is more justification for griefing behavior. Where there is much more options for players to make others miserable. We’ve all heard the excuse “this happens because PvP”. And where it would be less acceptable in PvE environments to a degree. So one thing does seem to be fuel the other, as far as I am concerned and aware.

Or tl,dr: Toxic is as toxic does.

2) Respectfully disagreeing…

“It isn’t even ganking, although ganking could lead to griefing if consistent and often enough.”

…err, yes it is. Particularly to the person of receiving end of the gank. As it’s likely meant to demoralize the opponent from wanting PvP again. As well as making them vulnerable and helpless, however brief the encounter is. Hence, griefing.

Note: I understand this column is for PvP and PvP’ers. But I do not want this to be a place to ignore the related issues because it’s PvP. That’s just apologetics otherwise, IMO.

Ernost
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Ernost

I agree with you wholeheartedly. Ganking is by definition killing a weak or defenseless opponent. There is no way this is anything but griefing. A real PVPer looks for fights that will challenge them.

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Tanek

I tried a PvP server in WoW once. I got to a point where high level players would just come in and kill you whenever they could. It did not have to be the same player, it did not have to be spawn camping, it was just discouraging. I was told that was how things were on PvP and my only option was to have a high level come along to defend me.

That was the last time I tried a PvP server.

Also, Sam contradicts himself on this point. Says the lowbie killing is not necessarily griefing, but then agrees with the quote “the difference between PvP and griefing; one is a fair fight between two similarly levelled players. The other, a completely unbalanced slaughter” and says ArcheAge’s quest to kill 100 players needed a level restriction to avoid encouraging griefing.

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Zero_1_Zerum

Sorry, but I’ll keep avoiding games because they have non-consensual PVP. I don’t have the time, nor the reflexes, to “git gud” against other human players. PVE for life.

Grief me once, shame on you, won’t get griefed again. Same goes for ganking.

Random MMO fan
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Random MMO fan

You don’t have to be sorry – everyone has the different preference for gameplay type. That does not mean that any of them are bad. And they can absolutely coexist in a well-made game, sadly no company has ever bothered to do something where their game would accept all kind of players in a proper way.

MurderHobo
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MurderHobo

I’m certainly no Arktourus, but I’ve done a bit of virtual murder on occasion. The PVP shakes don’t sweat me, and in my ideal MMO there would be no arbitrary game mechanic that outright stopped me from being able to blast your face off with a shotgun if the situation required.

But that doesn’t mean I will ever play a game I perceive to be designed as a ‘gankbox’. Having PVP elements is a good thing, but when it’s central to the design of the MMO it forces crippling restraints on world design and cooperative PVE game mechanics.

The game I want to play is no carebear paradise, but it wouldn’t be anything a mainstream PVP enthusiast would want to deal with. Laws, punishments and persistence of reputation. The dream for me has always been an online world where the environmental challenges and game design encouraged players to form crowds around cooperative goals, with persistent penalties for predatory behavior.

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Robert Mann

And that would be cool with me. I believe, however, that until games require a tie to real identity to play that it is incomplete. For example, there were dozens of low level ArcheAge characters being created at launch to constantly go crime hopping on people, quickly mail anything gained, delete, start again. If that account got flagged, they made a new one.

It was only a small part of the drama there, but it was one where many players realized very quickly that simply having to spend a few bucks to grief would prevent nothing…

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Toy Clown

There are sooo many griefers in PvP-featured titles that I tend to opt-out of them unless the game has other features that make it engaging if I don’t want to partake in PvP. The only MMOs where I enjoyed PvP were in WoW with the battlegrounds and Age of Camelot where it was realm vs. realm. To a small extent I played and enjoyed GW2’s world vs. world.

I much prefer PvP to be inside of battlegrounds and fields rather than open-world PvP. That’s where griefers congregate and get off on ruining people’s fun. When I have been attracted to open-world PvP games, it’s usually due to other features and I learned how to get around griefers, such as learning where they hang out, the types of players they like to hit, etc.

BDO is the only open-world PvP game that I tend to have a bit of fun back with griefers. Occasionally, someone will attack me while I’m doing my thing and I enjoy harrying them. I’ll also go out of my way to help players trying to complete quests where griefers are keeping them from the quest giver.

In ArcheAge I don’t participate in PvP, but enjoy the other features of the game. I let those bozos go to town on each other and keep general chats off.

In a nutshell, sure, I enjoy games with open-world PvP but I sure detest the players who want to ruin people’s fun and sometimes I have to walk away from that aspect of a game in order to keep my blood pressure from rising. I hate bullies.

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Dean Dean

MMO’s these days mainly cater to whales, and this is especially true when it comes to PvP. Ever wonder why a game has such vague combat mechanics? Ever think a game has waaaay too many gear options? Ever feel like you’re obligated to play in a group, or that combat always feels lopsided?

Those are all mechanics designed to cater to players that spend a lot of time and money on games. Casual players don’t have the time or inclination to study spreadsheets or collect tons of data. They often don’t understand the importance of group coordination or how players can be manipulated.

Casual players are just entertainment for the elite. You’ll never be competitive, no matter how skilled you are. These games are designed to favor those that invest the most time, because those players tend to spend the most money.

Do yourself a favor and avoid any PvP game that feels even remotely confusing or unintuitive. Either the devs are terrible and don’t know what they’re doing, or they’re going to feed you to the whales.

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Joe Seabreeze

The ol’ sub2play mechanics. You’d think that it would change after all these years to be more skill based. It’s likely one of the reasons why the genre has been tanking (no pun).