Since I started MMO gaming shortly after the release of Ultima Online, I’ve been engaged in a variety of discussions regarding PvP (such as this exchange on Raph Koster’s blog last February). And as a result of my various postings, some people have come to the conclusion that I hate PvP – to the point that at one time, somebody actually went to the trouble of creating a entire web page devoted to insulting me (with the paradoxical effect that I was actually rather touched and honored).
Well, here’s the deal; beyond ducking into PvP zones time and again and rabbiting at the first hint of trouble, I haven’t done much PvP in MMORPGs since I left UO. And it actually kind of bothers me, because I’ve done quite a lot of PvP in games like Battlefield 1942 and Planetside, and been good enough at it to have been accused of using a bot/cheat (for the record, I didn’t — turns out I’ve got a knack for shooting moving vehicles from another moving vehicle).
So why not enjoy the thrills of PvP combat in my favorite MMORPGs? A number of factors, actually:
1) I’m one of those odd ducks that plays multiplayer games solo. My playtimes and interests don’t often align with those of a permanent group, and I don’t have enough interest to assemble and lead an effective pick-up group. I’d rather be playing than hanging out in the town square spamming for a party. That limits my effectiveness in any PvP environment that features the gank squad as the most common PvP unit, which is to say, most MMORPGs.
2) In most MMORPGs, PvP is the endgame. You level your character to maximum, then you jump into the fray. For me, that PvE content you level through is the meat of the game. I read the stories, I chuckle at the puns and inside jokes, I stop and gawk at the vistas that the visual artists sweated over. Since I don’t powerlevel and I don’t group up, I usually end up rolling an alt when the pace of advancement starts to bog down and switching between several characters. In general, maxxing out a character takes me years.
3) I restrict myself in ways that aren’t always enforced by game mechanics. If I’m playing a paladin, I try to do the honorable thing, even if dishonor is more lucrative. I don’t soak my blade in poison, even if it’s allowed, even if everybody else is doing it. If my contact asks me to blow up a spaceliner in order to take out a single target, I tell him to take a hike, even if I lose status. I don’t tell anybody else how to play the game, but I play it my way. And that really doesn’t fly well in PvP, where everybody is expected to be optimized to the hilt.
So when I talk about PvP in MMORPGs, I tend to think about it in terms of what I enjoy about Battlefield and Planetside, and what I don’t enjoy about most MMO systems. And it comes down to things like this;
1) If I’m in an open PvP environment where the focus of the game is player conflict, I want to do that right out of the gate. Dump me from the tutorial into the middle of the war. If that’s what I’m here for, then give me the skills and gear I need to make a real contribution and toss me in the deep end of the pool. Don’t make me put in 800 hours of dungeon delving to get basic PvP gear.
2) Related to number one; I want to be an actor, not a reactor. If my only function for the first 20 levels is to be easy target practice for maxxed-out players… sorry, not today. Give me a chance to grab the artillery piece and take out some of the enemy before I fall.
3) If the game map is split up between Super Uber Guild and Uber Super Guild, groups utterly indistinguishable from each other and both actively hostile or indifferent to new players… is there any possible reason I would want to stay past the free trial? If forced grouping is the only way to succeed, then your grouping tools had better work even for people who are shy or poor typists/speakers, and they need to facilitate quick team building.
4) Don’t make me fight or flee when all I want to do is mine. Don’t put all the best minerals in the PvP zones. I appreciate the attempt to make life more exciting for me. But really, I’m fine with just the mountain and ore. When I want to fight, I’ll call.
There’s a great deal more to be said on the issue, but that’s my basic perspective. I don’t hate PvP. But the state of the art in MMOs has a significant way to go before I actively like it.