Friday, December 23, 2011

World PvP Case Study: EVE Online

During my definition of World PvP, I explained that PvP in an MMORPG is inherently unfair, and World PvP is simply a mindset. It isn't knowing how to attack, but when, and for what purpose. World PvP is less restricted, and involves nudging a situation in your favor.

I expounded on this concept with a look at WoW's history to help illustrate that world PvP is much more of an emergent behavior, sitting on the Dynamics layer. WoW uses rewards in particular to guide players, perhaps accidentally, in one direction or another.

A very different game with very different architects is EVE Online. World PvP in EVE is so encompassing, so defining, that it is difficult to dissect. Put simply: there are safer locations, but nowhere is "safe"; and your ship is forfeit as soon as you undock. The most popular mantra (warning?) of EVE is, "Don't fly what you can't afford to lose."

(It is important to change the way one thinks of "possessions" in MMORPGs when playing EVE: ships, modules, buildings, and commodities are all tools for content. If one becomes attached to these virtual items, it is emotionally difficult to risk and lose them.)

EVE has significant information warfare. Knowing where, what, and how your opponent is flying is paramount to success. Players must capitalize on this knowledge while not showing their own hand. It is a game of buffing, baiting, taunting, misdirection, and downright dirty tactics where players let the enemy think they have the advantage, only to seize it away.

Baiting is the act of letting the enemy think there are fewer ships in the engagement. When the bait is taken, players are prevented from docking or changing solar systems for 60 seconds. In that window, friendly ships undock, enter the system, or warp into the fight.

Solo vessels can also employ bait tactics: if a ship has some form of health repair, they could artificially sit at low health trying to provoke a target into attacking a damaged hull. Once engaged, the ships are prevented from docking/jumping, thus the ship repairs his health and kills the target that preyed on the weak.

Hiding half a fleet, using cloak, and "hot dropping" capital ships are all within the realm of possibilities. Undocking in "High Security" space with an expensive ship or cargo could get you suicide ganked.

A less "honorable" form of PvP is "gate camping", where unsuspecting ships warp to a gate, only to be surrounded by hostile players with fast-locking ships or warp disruption fields. In these situations, as soon as the player made the decision to use the gate, they lost the fight. EVE provides maps and intelligence tools (solar system statistics, directional scanner, and proactive bookmarking). Failure or unwillingness to use these resources is as fatal a mistake as not turning on weapons.

It could even be said that the economy and marketplace of EVE is a form of PvP. Arbitrage, undercutting, speculation, and many inventive scams exemplify a player vs player system where knowledge brings riches and haste is punished.

World PvP in EVE involves significant preparation; many fights are not won on the battlefield. EVE also comes with the expectation of PvP everywhere: assume a fight is around the corner. Pick any Sun Tzu quote, and it applies to EVE.
All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.

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