Monday, February 22, 2010

Why non-consensual PvP will remain niche

In the open Sunday thread there was a question why some people, and me in specific, don't like PvP. Well, I can give you my reasons, and some general considerations. And while I don't claim to speak for everybody, it has to be remarked that all non-consensual PvP games have done extremely badly in the history of MMORPGs. Ultima Online was in free fall, and was only saved by introducing a PvP-free mirror image Trammel. Shadowbane died. Darkfall stagnates since months at just 20k players. The only remotely successful PvP game is EVE, and even there you can't count all players a PvPers, as 90% of them remain is safe space and only play PvE.

Many people, especially those who like PvP, misrepresent the reasons why others don't like PvP. If you look beyond the narrow area of MMORPGs, you will find that playing against other players is usually the preferred form for many genres, if available as an option. Be it shooters or strategy games, people love to play those against other real humans, not just some stupid AI. But the same person who loves a nice game of Counterstrike might well hate PvP in MMORPGs. Because the fundamentals of PvP are not compatible with the fundamentals of MMORPGs.

PvP is best when it is "fair", which usually means somehow symetrical. Equal number of players on each side, with equal power. From Warcraft 3 to Team Fortress 2, that is the basic formula of success for multiplayer games which pit players against players. MMORPGs on the other hand are built on the basic principle of "character development", that is your character getting stronger all the time as reward for playing. Thus fair PvP is only possible within strong limitations, for example in instanced arenas and battlegrounds. Any open world PvP is almost automatically unfair, because by definition it is the attacker who initiates PvP, and in an open world environment he only does so when he is confident that he will win.

Thus my strong dislike of non-consensual PvP. It nearly always leads to the attacker being superior in numbers or in level beating down some victim who never had a chance to start with. Where is the fun in that? The advantage of a human opponent playing better than an AI only works if that human opponent is bound by strict rules, otherwise he'll use his superior intelligence to gank you when you are defenseless. Non-consensual PvP is like sitting down for a game of chess with a human opponent and finding that your opponent brought a .45 revolver to win the game.

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