Jonathan Steinhauer's MMO ColumnSteinhauer's Opinion: The PvP Debate, Part 2Jonathan Steinhauer's MMO Column - RSS 2.0
The current PvP systems are almost completely lacking in any real repercussions. This is ironic considering cost-benefit analysis is rampant in just about every other facet of gaming. Should I train this skill which will help me survive, or that skill which will enable me do more damage? Should I hunt in high level areas where I will level quicker, yet die more often, or should I hunt in low level areas which are safer but slower? Should I sacrifice a measure of time and independence in order to hunt in a group, or solo and be restricted to lower level monsters and quests? Or more simply, should I be a fighter, an archer, or a mage? In contrast, let's look at the cost-benefit analysis a PKer might go through when they consider whether to attack a potential mark:
- I will gain experience if I'm successful in the kill
- I will get to steal some loot if I'm successful in the kill
- Whether I succeed or not, I'll gain a bit of mild notoriety and fame by word of mouth
- And regardless, there is the thrill of the hunt
- I might gain some notoriety by word of mouth which may mean I'll get attacked or shunned by the target's friends in the future
- I might be killed by the target
Compare this with real life. A person who kills and escapes will live a life on the run. If they're arrested, they'll end up incarcerated for a long period of time or perhaps even get the death penalty. Their notoriety is widespread due to newspapers, television, and the internet. After serving their sentence, they may be shunned from employment, refused membership in various organizations, or denied some privileges (such as voting). In a more primitive society, they may even face a blood debt or end up getting strung up by an enraged posse.
So how does this fit into an MMO? Incarceration and permanent character death would ruin the fun for PKers (except perhaps a few extreme players), so we'll toss those out since realism carried too far destroys the fun of the game. And what about posses? They certainly exist in MMOs; I've been a part of one or two. But in real life, a killer can't escape by logging off, and that is just what gamers do to escape the heat. They jump to another character or leave the game for a while until the posse breaks up. Gamers (at least most gamers) have real lives outside of the MMO so they can't keep a posse together for more than a few hours at best. Furthermore, PKers, by their very philosophy, are inclined towards raid organizations, escaping posses, and life on the run, while non-PKers tend towards group hunts, quests, and exploration. Only the first of these is useful for counter-PK action and that only marginally. A beast run by computer AI behaves a lot different from another player character. Thus in current MMOs, a PKer considering whether to attack another player character can expect great benefit with minimal cost.
So how can MMOs build in repercussions to protect non-PKers without ruining the fun for PKers?
I believe the key is to build an MMO society grounded on reputation, and, since I'm out of space this week, I'll tell you how and why next time.