Monday, December 26, 2011

World PvP: A Common Model

World PvP comes in many forms, yet there is a simple environment model that gets used over and over again. It can be seen in World of Warcraft, EVE, Darkfall, Dark Age of Camelot, and many other past and future games.
  1. Rewards for engaging in PvP.
  2. Risk associated with entering "PvP" areas.
  3. Non-PvP content/rewards in those areas.
This simple list describes Isle of Quel'Danas, Tol Barad, and world bosses in WoW; low-security space in EVE; dungeons in Darkfall; Passage of Conflict in DAoC; and any resource node or choke point in any MMORPG with PvP capabilities ever.

Rewards include crafting materials, mob access, safe passage, money, abstract currency (Honor), and loot. Note that territory control is not a reward in itself--owning land for the sake of owning land is meaningless and players will not value that "resource" unless it gives them an advantage or creates wealth/value, including vanity (player houses). Territory control is often an objective in competitive multiplayer games, but at the very least players win the game by claiming control--most MMORPGs are not "won". Compare the difference in activity between the Zangarmarsh control points in BC WoW (gaining a +5% experience boost in the zone), to the Spirit Towers around Auchindoun (allowing bosses to drop Spirit Shard currency). [TC rant over...]

Risk is "exposing (someone or something valued) to danger, harm, or loss". Something must be risked to have infectious PvP. It could be as minute as lost time on a corpse run, or as harsh as the entire net progress of your character (permadeath). The severity of the potential loss directly correlates to the emotions conjured during those risky situations. The more the player risks, and thus the greater the consequences, then the more intense the emotions associated with PvP events (fear, thrill, fiero, agony, anger). Adrenaline can be addictive and binds players to the game (or makes them run in terror). "What a rush!"

People are risk adverse and are afraid of losing value. But the beauty of MMORPGs is that none of it matters! It's all make-believe.

Make-believe squid-monster riding giant eagle-horse.

The Non-PvP content in the zone attracts "grazers": players that are not looking for a fight, and will be tackled by a tiger if they don't pay attention. These players serve as content for the hunters (and the hunters provide thrilling experiences for the grazers--hooray symbiosis!). If this hunter/hunted paradigm is used, it is a good idea to include tools that allow players to evade or to truly hunt other players (foot tracks, dead mobs, chat, scanners, etc.).

Do not think that grazers are innocent victims. Players will alternate between hunters and grazers rapidly depending on what their immediate goals are. Also, longer term grazers ("carebears") who engage in risky behavior to amass rewards at an accelerated rate are the ones trying to cut corners. ;)

Assuming players are frequenting zones that follow this model, it is likely that World PvP will foster. The combat itself has to be vaguely interesting in order to motivate players to use it, so dull combat can thwart any attempts to create this environment. World PvP is an emergent dynamic and a powerful aesthetic of combat, aggression rules, and scarce resources. The fundamental mechanics need to be solid first.


Green Armadillo said...

This was something that struck me as effective in Wintergrasp in less so in Tol Barad - the rewards were so good (honor which could immediately be cashed in for epic gear that was better than 5-man dungeons loot for the first year of the expansion) that it was worth grazing.

Eventually, this lured me over to the occasional hunting excursion, when I found myself one or two kills short of completing the kill quest. Ironically, I generally don't seek out PVP because I don't enjoy being killed and I don't derive enough satisfaction from inflicting that on someone else to make the victory worthwhile. In this context, though, I was fine with it - my victims were taking the same deal I was, and being farmed for someone else's kill quest was part of the bargain.

It's interesting that they went in a different direction in Tol Barad. None of the dailies require players to actually flag for PVP. Only the quest (weekly?) for winning the battle awards honor. It feels strangely like PVP is something that incidentally happens in the zone once every 2.5 hours, rather than the point of the zone.

motstandet said...

Oh. I had assumed Tol Barad flagged everyone for PvP regardless of realm type (I played on a PvP server). On a PvE realm, I'd agree with you: WG does a better job of getting people fighting.

I think it's very telling that you don't want to engage in PvP unless it is mutually beneficial. That is the fun, thrilling, and proper way to do world PvP. A large amount of the outdoor "PvP" that "happens" on a WoW PvP realm is griefing--it is of no benefit to anyone. It is no wonder that players shy away from these servers.