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MMO Money Magazine

Writings on the business of fun: Virtual Worlds and Real Money Makes Online Gaming a Big Business. My economic view on the world of online games - without the hype.

Author: Inktomi

The High Price of PVP

Posted by Inktomi Tuesday July 21 2009 at 11:51PM
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 Ultima Online, Darkfall, EVE Online and the upcoming pvp-base MMO: Mortal Online that is about to enter closed beta testing. What do these games have in common? They all have severe penalties for PvP losses. Free for all looting is slowly creeping back into the MMO scene that had been phased out in recent years, it was the main attraction for Darkfall Online. World of Warcraft pvp penalties were a joke and so is Warhammer’s, but the rewards were very high which made pvp attractive. When I played FFXI PvP is almost non-existent and most other games had either sanctioned pvp or open pk with no real downside.

I like the risk you take when you venture where you’re not supposed to be and there is a possibility of being wtfpwned by the opposing faction. It adds excitement and a sense of accomplishment to the game. Darkfall seems to be taking it to the extreme case and the new Mortal Online might follow suit. Regardless of what you read about Darkfall, love it or hate it; it brought back the risk that Ultima Online had when it was popular. You might be able to switch to your skivvies in time if you get ganked, why would you want to lose equipment or items to someone who just lives to kill people. That’s the price you pay when you decide to reside on a pvp server or a pvp focused game.

I didn’t realize that EVE Online’s pvp was so steep, there is no consensual pvp. If you are not involved with factional warfare, intercrop warfare or if you are caught in a gate camp or stealthganked you will lose all. There is no macro-switching to take of equipment or take out implants, just take it as a man and recoup your losses. I am saying this from experience, being a rookie EVE player I have learned some harsh lessons. But I just suck it up as a learning curve and move on.

Being the adventurous entrepreneur I decided that High-Security systems just weren’t for me, not profitable enough. I found my new home and corporation in a mid-sec sector 0.5 amongst lower-sec surroundings. So I decide to run a trade route out in a low-sec area, I promptly run into my first gate camp with an empty can and find myself being podded (killed). I didn’t cry; I just learned some lessons. Going into a low-sec area is a gamble and like every time you gamble be prepared to lose, and lose everything. That’s is rule number one for anyone stepping into vegas with a pocketful of cash looking for a payoff, try you best to win but be prepared to lose.

But it didn’t stop me, I found myself another time being chased by some pirate in a way stronger ship than I had while mining in a low-sec area. He was relentless, I managed 5 warp jumps until he finally caught up with me and eventually killed me; my warp stabs had just run outta room. I just sat there while this guy pounded my low end, unequipped mining ship. I said to myself, “wow, he must be enjoying this.” After I returned in my clone I promptly bought another clone and another low-end miner. All in all, his tirade cost me about 1 million isk. It takes time to build up this type of money and time is money in my real world, everything accounted for.

Now that doesn’t seem like a lot, but as you ramp it up to more expensive ships and equipment you are looking into the hundred million isk range. That is a staggering amount of money for me RIGHT NOW; it might change as I grow in status and financial position. This got me to think, he didn’t ask for money, didn’t get any good equipment from killing me; what was his payoff to killing me? Satisfaction was the only one I could think of.

In my humble opinion satisfaction is the ultimate payoff for all pvp. I’ve read numerous stories of the “revenge gank” or the guild war to redeem someone from getting corpse-camped. That is all about the satisfaction of retribution.  At the end of the day, people enjoy 1-upping a fellow man and get a great deal of satisfaction out of “melting someone’s face”.

Face-melting is an art-form, I know many players that forego any and all pve content to gear themselves solely for the sake of blasting another human being. You’re going to win some and lose some, which is the price they pay. And I have to say, it is fun as heck to go up against someone better than you are and win. Winning always feels better than losing, but losing is inevitable. Is it possible to win 100% of the time? That would become no challenge and the challenge is what makes pvp fun, consistent winning is good but eventually that gets played out.

Losing is the worst price to pay during pvp’ing. Admit it, when you compete against someone and come close to winning until something happens and you see your character dead on the floor. Two things just happened there, one person was made to feel the pain of loss and one got bragging rights over the loser. Cha-ching, the tradeoff. That is a personal price to pay in any competition, someone looking at you and in your head they are saying, “he sucks, I pwned his arse.” Not fun, but its part of the price of trying your luck at building your ego.

I fell in love with pvp in video games during my first few matches of Quake multiplayer. Sure other players had mods for rocket launchers and grappling hooks, but the occasional newbie like myself that felt the wrath of my shotgun go booyah gave me some redemption. It was at that point that I decided that online games were for me, and it’s been that way ever since. I will play the occasional single player RPG, but I always try to stay online with other human beings. Not only for the camaraderie but also the competition as well, even gear based pvp is fun.

What is gear based pvp? It is simply, the competitiveness of having more material (or in this case virtual) gains than the next person. I know of alot of materialistic players, there are even games solely comprised of the materialism mechanic; this is where life imitates art. Has anyone ever come up to you, checked out your equipment and made some snarky comment? Happens to the best of us; you brush it them off as being a jerk but silently brood over your lack of whatever it was you were missing. Making a secret pact to yourself to improve your gear and rub it is their face next time. Maybe I’m going a little overboard here, but this is what I have witnessed in my travels in the Virtua-verse; the virtual world is not far removed from the habits of the real.

Any game you play has a competitive element, it’s what makes your play meaningful and creating the sense of enjoyment when the reward button is pressed. Whether your layeth the smacketh down on another human being, or being the first one to drop a new boss or even find that new area while exploring being the first of anything provides a sense of accomplishment and competition. MMORPG’s are set up that any thing you do in game will create a sense of meaning and release some brain-chemical to keep you coming back to this particular game. And having other players regard you with a sense of respect is one of the meaningful elements that all mmorpg’s are based off of. Without the human element, we are all just playing a single player game. That is a different scenario entirely but is changing in the format of XBLA cooperative game content.

I realize that some have called for deeper penalties for pvp losses, some from those that don’t value pvp at all. If you don't care about losing in pvp then there is no meaning for you.  Whether or not deeper experience point penalties are put in place will not make pvp any more or less meaningful. If it comes to losing money in equipment, ships, political influence or a status title during pvp that provides meaning but is not the only penatly. When we lose we lose, it creates a negative feeling and takes away some of the meaning of our efforts; it’s the risk we take for a chance at the reward of winning.

That is what makes winning all the sweeter.

Have fun, play safe and melt a face today.


t0nyd writes:

 Nice read...

Wed Jul 22 2009 2:22AM Report
Hammertime1 writes:

I still am constantly amazed that a pvp article can go on about increasing the risks for pvp but not mention permadeath.

If players really want to feel true risk during a pvp encounter, they should be demanding permadeath in a game, yet I never see this.

Wed Jul 22 2009 3:00PM Report
Kalafax writes:

Honoestly, the fact that so many MMOs these days are focusing so much on PVP is amazingly sad. Its supposed to be a game world that allows you to pvp, not a pvp world that allows you to do a little gaming.

PvP is supposed to fun, engaging, and very risky. These days they have basicly no penalty so that it appeals to the "casual players" and they focus whole aspects of gameplay around pvp gear, pvp awards, and places to pvp, the devs being so afraid to not have large amounts of PVP in their game for fear that they wont attract the "Ganker Children" that populate the majority of these games.

If your gonna have PVP do it right, I havent seen PVP correct since SWGs faction wars, the fact that such an older game could have gotten it right yet no games developed since then has shows where the gaming industry is going.

They want to focus on our innante competitiveness, adrenaline, and greed instead of our Imagination, Curiosity, and ability to overcome great obstacles.

Wed Jul 22 2009 3:22PM Report
Inktomi writes:

 yo ho hammer! Permadeath would be an option, it would be the steepest form of penalty in ANY game right now. It would create a unique last man standing ladder system; Thats means there can be only one...

@ Dalgor: I agree that the casual carebear has taken precidence in the eyes of mmo programming devs, but it's much harder for them to remain competitive against REAL pvp players. People who focus on pvp usually get the best pvp rewards and eventually wash right over casuals. You also used 3 words: Imagination, curiosity and ability. All three can be applied to pvp and pve. Wether your imagining your the large scale general or the lone explorer, you get an adreniline rush during both, am I right?

Wed Jul 22 2009 5:29PM Report
Kalafax writes:

As for Permadeath, I've always been a fan in games that included it. Diablo 2 had hardcore servers and SWG had permadeath for Jedi which brought a whole new aspect of gameplay for everyone.

I see where your going Ink, and I do agree, it just seems to me these days the Devs take alot of those aspects out of PvP by setting up Arenas, and Battlegrounds. I'm waiting for the comback of world PvP when players accualy organized and cordinated their own attacks all over the game world.

I guess my main problem with PvP is that everyone trys to seperate it from the rest of the world, this just ends up leaving world PvP purely to stealth characters or those who are decked in PvP gear without the slightest worry from anyone not in up to date PvP gear aswell.

Wed Jul 22 2009 6:10PM Report
Robbgobb writes:

I think that Permadeath is one thing that would add greatly to making PvP deadly. I do believe though that one should have a timer for how long before a rez is needed to keep from being gone permanently.

A couple of things that I think would be cool for Permadeath would be able to flag your character for revival that could be done at a temple if someone retrieved your bones while costing a ton of money for the temple to perform the rites. Another would be that death from PvP could only be done so many times per hour or day so that someone did not dual box a healer to log in just long enough to rez original character.

Thu Jul 23 2009 1:04AM Report
just1opinion writes:

I find all the comments about "doing PvP RIGHT" in a game, to frankly be a bit arrogant.  Doing it "right" simply means doing it the way YOU want it done. Not everyone likes PvP done the same way. I absolutely believe that there should be games with permadeath, and PvP "your way," BUT.....that doesn't mean that any other ways are wrong. It just means that there are multiple millions of gamers that all have different desires in how they want PvP in a game and even IF they want it in a game. It certainly doesn't mean that all games should be one particular way. 

Thu Jul 23 2009 1:18AM Report
cwRiis writes:

PvP in EvE is harsh, but not as harsh as indicated.  Players can buy "insurance" for their ships.  A payment of about 5-10% of the ships value will recoup it's entire value (and sometimes more) if you're flying a Tech 1 ship hull with basic fittings.  By the time you're flying the higher end ships insurance doesn't really pay even close to the full value with fitted gear.  But you're likely making enough in-game money to afford the loss by then.

But the author is right about the Vegas rule.  Number one rule in EVE is don't fly a ship you aren't prepared to lose and lose fast.

And the Kill Board statistics are everything for a EVE PvPer.  That is probably why a sole pilot will chase another sole pilot across five systems for the kill.

Thu Jul 23 2009 2:04AM Report
Liddokun writes:

Most people don't like to lose. And let's face it in an online game you can lose too easily to lag, disconnections, etc. If the pvp penalty is too steep only a specific mind-set type of player are willing to play it. And it doesn't make good economic sense to cater to only 1 type of player. Like it or not most MMO players have a PvE mindset where PvP with little or nothing to lose is preferrable to losing it all. It's like non-alchoholic beer, you get the taste without getting drunk.

Thu Jul 23 2009 3:56AM Report
brenth writes:

PVP is the lazy developers way out of making fun immersive content  and catering to  the PVP crowd which have rather low and narrow standards when it comes to  "MMORPG"  EVE is one of the worst as non-PVPers are a tormented, second class cicizen in EVE   either you stay in highsec where its relativly safe and boring(unless your war declared) or you  try to do trade, mine, and haul in  vulnerable, unarmed ships   after you replace your ship about 6-7 times and have run out of isk   only a truely dense person wouldnt  leave such a hostile and visseral environment, ,, and when you complain on the forums,, the pvpers say "fight back!  but this is NOT how I want to enjoy eve    I just dont think free for all PVP  is good game play  I only have so much time to play,, and I dont want to spend it mining crap rock to replace a hauler because someone in a tier 3 battle cruiser decited  for some target practice   I actually think  that there should be major negative penalties for  killing these kind of ships  like being kill on sight in high sec   at the very least..... what I would most want to sugest is an indipendant non-pvp faction  that players could join  this would allow them  access to most of the universe except where  owning clans have baned access to their regon ( in case of spying)

This is why me and many EVE refugees are waiting for  star trek online  to  explore and craft and do trade  in relative peace.

Thu Jul 23 2009 4:36AM Report
brenth writes:

i look for other things in PVP   mostly the risk vs reward aspect   I dont see the point in needlessly head bashing for no good pourpose  and no MMO has the depth or immersion  to make me want to fight to defend a city  for instance.    and past this  the combat is usually prety lake  WAM BAM your dead!   or in EVE terms  you travel 15 jumps only to get blown away in one shot by a ship that is 25x outside your range    you dont even live long enough to enjoy a good death! 

anchient art of war states if you know you cant win,, dont fight!  win by other methods,, and if that game has no other methods,,cancel your subscription!

if I made a game  true death in game would be rare   but you could beat someone to a bloody pulp and take quite a while and expence to get patched up

Thu Jul 23 2009 4:46AM Report
eccoton writes:

I have been playing online games for over a decade now. I never understood the mentality that huge penalties make pvp more rewarding and fun. I am all for big rewards for success but small penalties for losing. Get up, dust off, and try again.

The face of mmos have changed. Games like WoW have brought many new types of players to mmos. There are many casual but serious players now. Many have very full lives outside the game world and less game time. Not many would want to lose a month of hard work to a ganker. If they do, I sure do not understand why. I have played a few of these games and the huge penalties do not make pvp more fun or rewarding for me. It simply makes it pvp frustrating.

WAR was the first pvp focused game that I actually enjoyed. Lots of options for different pvp play. No big penalties for failure. I played L2 when it first came out, UO, and Eve a couple years ago. However, I do not have time for games with big penalties anymore. There is an audience for these types of games but I argue, especially in the US a small audience. I for one will not be playing and pvp game that has huge penalties. I simply do not have the time anymore. I have no problem with developers making these games and player who like this stuff. Just not for me.

Thu Jul 23 2009 6:37AM Report
markoraos writes:

Imo the trend for harsher death penalties is deeply flawed. PvP in mmos will never get truly popular until the devs realize that in PvP you have to make even loosing rewarding in some way.

You can have harsh death penalties in PvE where you happen to die rarely and due exclusively to your own ability. However in PvP "punishing" players for death actually equals punishing them for engaging in PvP at all.

Face it: kill/death ratio in PvP is exactly 1:1 for the average player while in PvE it can be up to 100:1. Harsh death penalties severely detract from PvP - the OP even gave his EVE online example... which just shows how rarely PvP happens in games with harsh penalties and that the majority of his time there is actually spent on PvE-ing so he can pay off his death.

Thu Jul 23 2009 7:46AM Report
nekollx writes:

 I hate forced PvP hate it with a frothing blinding fury. If a game has forced PvP like UO did (where you can be ganked for just lumberjacking a few feet outside town) they loose a costomer. If i'm going to PVP i want it to be option not "oh well your playing so that means your pvpin"

Thu Jul 23 2009 9:52AM Report
cwRiis writes:

It seems to me it doesn't have to be a 1 or 0 solution folks.  The best games to me are the ones you can with ease go from PvE to PVP and back.

SWG has their formula that works quite well to mix PVPer with PVEer anywhere in their universe. 

And I think the EVE bashing here is shallow.   You can get one-shotted.  You can also wind up in combats that take 5-10 minutes in a 1v3 battle  even.  If you're one-shotted it's because you were extremely unfortunate, or more likely because you lacked intelligence (not smarts, but information on enemy concentratons).  Sun Tzu had EVE in mind when he wrote "The are of war".

EVE demands a player learn a lot of in-game tools and really know your own capabilities and those of your enemies and where they are at.  It's often called "Spreadsheets in space" and there is truth to that.  Ultimately, if you know the 6-Ps rule you will do fine carebaring it around or PVPing in low security or no-security space.   Heck, I find it fun to fly a Transport through a gate camp just to piss off that guy in the Tier 3 Battlecruiser (Command ship it's called).  You can do it with the right transport ship and the right cloaking high-speed maneuvering fit.

Thu Jul 23 2009 9:57AM Report
Inktomi writes:

 I think you might have me wrong, I love EVE, it's a great game. I like pvp in the way of giving me an outlet to have some differenent type of fun. I do both pvp and pve equally, I think they are both fun "in moderation". I never said who or how to pvp, just that it's there and what's the driving force is.

I don't think a perma-death penalty would work in an mmo, too much time invested would turn mass players away, leaving only a few strong at the top of the food chain. It would create an imbalance and that what mmo devs are always looking to establish.

I appreciate all the comments but I don't think I warrant all the buries. I am always trying to stay as open, honest and non-judgemental I hope my readers can do the same.

. Sun tzu also said, "one who, fully prepared, awaits the unprepared will be victorious." So someone that pvp fulls stop WILL have an advantage over someone who doesn't.  Meaning that if you don't pvp, not prepared and don't have the gear for it. The day you do try it and get owned you can't blame the players, the devs or the game. Just understand you weren't prepared for it.

And yes, I do take insurance, but it will not cover a full load of shipments or sometimes higher level equips. I am into cruisers now, the stakes just got a little higher for me. I am just trying to ready myself for some pvp.



Thu Jul 23 2009 2:39PM Report
cwRiis writes:

Inktomi, your last post I find myself in complete agreement with.

Thu Jul 23 2009 8:36PM Report writes:
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