Jonathan Steinhauer's MMO ColumnSteinhauer's Opinion: The PvP Debate, Part 3Jonathan Steinhauer's MMO Column - RSS 2.0
In the past two articles we've delved into the highly debated world of PvP with the conversation focused on whether it is possible for PK and NPK gamers to coexist on the same server under the same rules systems with both types being happy. In the first installment, we looked at the evolution of PvP in gaming from Ultima Online to the present popular Realms systems. Last week, we talked about how the current systems are unable to keep PKers from turning a game world into a slaughterhouse unless PvP is arbitrarily limited by such measures as Realm on Realm play. But in the absence of arbitrary rules, I believe the key to striking that balance lies in a system of repercussions built primarily on reputation because that puts power in the hands of the players. This installment, we'll look at how this can be done.
The reputation system needs to be built on four parts: account treatment, its basic structure, player reaction, and NPC reaction. The first part is the simplest. Basically, reputation must be account based, not player character based. This will ensure that a heavy PKer can't hide by jumping to another more "innocent" character. Nor will he be able to use an "innocent" character to gain access to resources not available to his characters with diminished reputations. Some people argue that there should be only one character on an account and, while this would successful solve the same problem, there are many gamers (myself included) who enjoy playing more than one class, race, etc.
But what are the basics? When a player enters the game with a new character, they begin with an unsullied but unimpressively neutral reputation. Then, as they adventure in the world, their behavior will drive that reputation up or down. This status should be based solely upon PvP interactions, not on the completion of quests, in-game financial purchases, or any other source. Tying it to anything besides PvP behavior would allow heavy PKers to artificially bolster their reputation in order to avoid repercussions which is exactly what we are striving to avoid.
The way a reputation drops should be obvious, but improving it is more complex. When a player is attacked by another player of lower reputation and wins, their rating would go up a small amount. When they defend another player who is attacked (provided that the attacker has a lower reputation than the victim), their reputation goes up a larger amount, especially if the victim survives the encounter. Basically, any instance of aiding neutral or good reputation characters in PvP generates an increase in reputation. Finally, if a player has a low enough rating relative to their own, they become Kill-on-Sight, and good players who kill them will actually improve their reputation.
As I alluded to last article, there should be no "safe zones." However, it is natural for the magnitude of a reputation shift to differ based upon the location of the incident. Someone who kills another player in the wild is acting far away from the arm of the law and it is realistic for such an incident to gain less notice. On the other hand, if a player kills another player on the street of a major town, he is acting under the eyes of nearby players and NPCs. The reputation shift would be more severe.
Reputation itself also needs to be readily obvious to everyone in order for notoriety to gain its full affect. On a basic level, a player should be able to instantly identify what another character's reputation is relative to their own. Much like LOTRO uses color coding to differentiate quest difficulties, an easy way to show this would be with color banding of character names. In other words, a character with a rating 10% below my own, might have their name in blue while one 20% below shows orange. When another character band is low enough (provided it is below neutral to begin with) then they can be Killed-on-Sight without repercussion, for example.