Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Syncaine defines impact PvP

Syncaine from Hardcore Casual has a great article up defining impact PvP: "The greater the distance between winner and loser, the more "impact" your PvP has. When your guild is cornered and facing extinction (hi BoB), that is when you truly see epic displays of resolve, when guild pride really kicks in. Those situations create the type of memories and stories PvP fans rave about, and outsiders read and get encouraged by. Just remember that for every epic victory, someone was on the other end, suffering a crushing defeat, because without that defeat, there would be no victory."

I totally agree with Syncaine over that definition. You can measure the "impact" of PvP by looking what the winner gained and the loser lost from that fight. The "everybody wins" model of World of Warcraft leads to people AFKing in AV, or using a bot to play battlegrounds. I also agree that a crushing defeat can be as memorable, if not more so, than a glorious victory. Where the problem lies is in Syncaine's side-remark in the introduction: "PvP seems to be an idea that most people "think" they love in an MMO, but when you provided them with the details, it turns out they don't want to play along." I'm a typical example of a carebear, and my reaction to EVE is a typical carebear reaction: I played EVE from the start, but two weeks after release I got shot down and "podded", that is somebody went the extra mile to shoot down my escape pod to really, really hurt me, so I not only lost my ship and cargo, but also about a week's worth of skills. And I simply quit the game. The loss *was* memorable, but in a "I never want to experience that again" way.

Maybe one day one excellent PvP game will prove me wrong. But from the anecdotal evidence I have, for example the crowdedness of PvP-free Trammel compared to the emptiness of PvP mirror image Felucca, or the failure of impact PvP games like Lineage or Shadowrun in the western hemisphere, I believe that the average MMORPG player doesn't have the stomach for impact PvP. If WoW introduced even just a 1% chance per PvP death of one of your items being permanently destroyed, battlegrounds just would empty out completely. MMORPG players grow extremely attached to their virtual belongings, and they don't react well to any possibility that they could lose them. If Age of Conan or Warhammer Online turn out to have real impact PvP, with actual losers involved, and no way to stay safe, these games will tank horribly, whatever other qualities they might have. Even in EVE, the most successful impact PvP game in the West, 90% of players remain in safe space all the time and avoid all PvP. The number of people yearning for a MMORPG in which they could really lose is tiny. It's a carebear world.

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