Friday, November 18, 2011

Defining World PvP

I am a huge fan competition in video games, both direct player vs player and cooperative competition. Competition creates efficiency; it catalyzes and motivates the exploration of a game system. It is through contention that games become e-sports, that dungeon crawls turn into speed runs, and players employ clever uses of game mechanics.

Player vs player conflict can also conjure immense emotions such as fiero and agony, which make lasting impressions in memory.

I consider Go, TF2, and Aion to all contain direct, explicit player competition. PvP is a broad category. However, there is clearly a distinction between Battlefield 3 matches and PvP in EVE. It boils down to fairness. Games of StarCraft begin and end; each player starts at a strategically balanced state; and it is through the game rules that deviations occur in power until one player succumbs and is defeated.

PvP in an MMO, specifically "world PvP", is inherently unfair. One or more players have an objective, quantifiable advantage over others. One side will have higher levels, better gear, or more participants. Any game with persistent character progression will have this imbalance manifest. A fair fight can occur coincidentally, but it is certainly not something to be expected.

MMO PvP happens within a larger context, thus world PvP transforms into more than a simple combat affair between two parties. PvP starts as soon as the player logs in. Events preceding the actual engagement ripple through the world and can affect fights. Actions that happen before, after, and during combat make world PvP an unbounded arena spatially and temporally. Without borders, players scout, hunt, run, hide, and most importantly are vulnerable before and after the actual combat.

A simple analogy: Fair PvP is a cock fight, and world PvP is the African Savannah.

World PvP requires players to be mindful of the environment. Not just navigable terrain, safe spots, and avenues of retreat, but also the entire possibility space of events. Does the enemy have backup? How many? How long until they arrive? What are my chances?

This is clearly an all-encompassing mindset of playing. It is more than action-oriented twitch combat, and more than efficient resource management; it is expecting the unexpected through planning and preparation. World PvP is an expectation in the minds of players.

Different mechanics can be layered on top of that expectation to change the level of risk and consequences, and thus the intensity of emotion the game provides. There are also many forms and implementations of world PvP.

I did a very brief and informal survey--"What is world pvp?". These were some of the answers:
unrestricted warfare
being able to pvp throughout the entire "game world"
you walking around and someone ganks you
using environment to your advantage
unknown, different factors you control, rather than just being fair
no rules
not worth my time
waiting until situation is in your advantage

What is world PvP to you?


Ahtchu said...

Definition: An initial buy-in with consent to engage in, and allow, conflict. As everyone has made this consent, every fight is a "fair fight". This is achieved through battle for real estate, pitting a party's location and activity against those of an opponent's.

Thoughts: THANK GOODNESS for world PvP (when it was alive in the genre). I want to be broken from a routine of farming herbs. I want to be jumped at half health by a mod of 3. I want to have odds stacked against me sometimes, for it makes things spontaneous and challenging. There is always opportunity for predictability and hand-me's.
Without world PvP, where is your story of underdog besting the win-expecting? Either it's PvE drudgedom, or PvP in which everyone is turned 'on' ~> the spontaneity is gone, as is a portion of the challenge.

Max said...

All great points but I think one crucial thing which is missing
is "ability to influence the world"

If a group of players trough their actions can leave a mark on the world.

This is part missing from "world pvp" of WoW. That was something present in Shadowbane, Darkfall and EvE

Whether the current implementations are adequate though is entirely another question

Paul said...

I'm quite young and new to the whole MMORPG genre, but here are my thoughts.

When I first started playing WoW, my whole concept of the game was Horde vs. Alliance, and the whole idea of the game was to get a group of your friends and go slaughter the opposing faction and occupy a town or city. To me, that is what warfare is. In war, I think it's safe to say that nothing is fair and balanced. If you get crushed by the opposing army, you did one or many things wrong (e.g. lack of intelligence, no or little training, inferior equipment, no or little communication, etc).

When I learned that there were such things as "instances", "battlegrounds" and "arena" and how they were segregated from this glorious world I just spent 6 days leveling in, I was a little heartbroken. I didn't mind getting roguelol'd. To me that was a sniper picking me off because I left myself vulnerable. I was only briefly and somewhat unthoroughly exposed to the epic Tarren Mill/Southshore battles. One thing always kept nagging me.. "Why isn't this OUR town now?" We destroyed them!"

To me, that is what world pvp is. Borders change or dissolved, towns and cities are occupied or destroyed, people die.. sometimes women and children.

Maybe that's too real for weekend warriors.

motstandet said...

I do think that "influencing the world" or better permanence in WoW would make its world PvP more consequential/emotional/memorable. However, it is not necessary in order to create world PvP situations.

What would it mean to influence WoW's world? Should players be allowed to take over towns? That was done with Halaa in Burning Crusade and Wintergrasp/Tol Barad. Should there be a continent dedicated to player-owned territory? Let Guilds upgrade that territory like EVE's Sovereignty system?

Paul said...

While I agree that it's not necessary to create world PvP situations, I do feel that there needs to be an incentive to engage in it (specifically on a large level). There are those that thrive off of the experience of spontaneous battles for little more than a small amount of honour and bragging rights (and of course, the thrill of winning or close game), but a lot of people see it as a bother and will do anything to avoid it. To me, I almost feel as if world PvP needs to be an integral part of the game, otherwise it will be neglected by the masses. That's why I play an MMORPG and not just an RPG.

What would it mean? It would mean that when you see "Orgrimmar is under attack!" you get your ass over to Org and defend it because it's important, damnit. I never got to experience Halaa but I was around for WG. The problem for me was that it turned into an instanced battleground anyway, and everything was supposed to be 'fair'. I know that my idea is not fleshed out in the slightest, but it's a dream.

There would be hotspots, for resources. These resources, like in any part of the world, are necessary and vital to the health and well being of the country. They could manifest themselves in things like the crafting/profession system. There could be a political system where you could vote out a leader who isn't getting the job done or is a little too reckless. Maybe even do away with a set two factions - each zone would be its own country and as a citizen of that country, it's your job to defend and fight for it. Countries could have allegiances to other countries.

I know it sounds like I'm trying to reinvent the wheel, but I am very fond of the idea of creating your own story, and not the dev's creating it for you. Give me a sandbox so I can build a sandcastle so you can knock it over.. or at least try.