A while back we talked about conflict between players and what sort of a role that it can play in a game and for communities. During this, it was noted that player competition can be implemented in numerous different ways. This week, I would like to revisit this discussion and talk about one of those particular methods: the open PvP world.
Open PvP is one of the more controversial topics in MMO circles and plenty of people have fairly strong opinions one way or the other on the subject. That said, I would like to explore both the positive impacts and negative ones on the player community. Open PvP has the potential to help bond a community fairly tightly, but it also has the potential to truly tear it apart as well.
Politics, Intrigue, and Bonds
I believe it would be a fair statement that numerous MMO players have pretty firm positions on open PvP in their online games. A very large chunk of those people also seem to have a fairly negative view of such a system. That is not to say, however, that open PvP doesn't have its own merits. For the purpose of this column, we will need to take a brief look at some of those potential benefits to an online community that something like open PvP can bring.
Open PvP has a tendency to open up certain types of gameplay that usually cannot exist otherwise - usually emergent forms of gameplay at that. Open PvP, by its nature, gives players a huge amount of power. Since anyone has the capabilities of engaging any other player at will, we see various play styles and player roles arise that generally do not exist in other games.
Of course, one of those particular types of play types is a double-edge sword: the 'criminal' type of player - often what will be referred to as a griefer. This is the player that spends a fair amount of their time attacking their fellow players. This is often regarded as a very negative thing - and probably with good reason. That said, the existence of this player does provide certain benefits as well. This player provides a certain amount of excitement for people as they travel through the world. This player encourages people to band together to fend off these types of people. It allows other players to offer their services as guards for other players. It also allows for groups of vigilante-like players to arise to seek out these types of players.
Grouping together is often a pretty major aspect to such systems. In a world with escalated danger, people are generally more inclined to stick together with other like-minded people, and rather strong bonds can be formed - such bonds which can be seen in games currently on the market, such as EVE Online.
EVE is such a nice example for this (in the sense that I've actually played it a fair amount and it is open PvP). Players group together to help fend off other players, or even to attack others - and for numerous other reasons as well. Politics is very present both inside of corporations (guilds) and alliances, with power shifts, backstabing, and intrigue unseen in other styles of games. Player-created factions (as mentioned before) also effectively requires open PvP.
This might sound somewhat daunting for many people - and it really probably is. However, games like this can draw players in who become rather strongly attached to the game because of these systems. People form bonds with each other in the game and experience a more dynamic gameplay experience. It also appeals to the competitive players as well. This at least partly explains why open PvP has a fairly loyal following of players - that said, this following is also quite small.