It's that time of year again, apparently, and we're seeing the resurrection of the FFA PvP controversy. The good news is that the FFA PvP crowd has taken to bumping dead threads rather than flooding the boards with the same old crap. The bad news is that the tone is still "elitist douche" cranked up to a volume of eleven.
For those of you that haven't been around the MMORPG boards for very long, FFA PvP stands for Free For All Player vs. Player. I can see that you may still be confused at this point so I'll break down the elements that define FFA PvP into a couple of bullet points.
- The ability to attack any player, any where, at any time, regardless of guild or faction affiliation. This means you can kill a person in your own faction, guild, party, whatever. More extreme advocates of FFA PvP don't believe that you should have any safe zones where you can be safe from attack either.
- Player looting. This is actually the key to the whole controversy. FFA PvP players want to be able to take everything from a player that they just killed. Random drops or losing everything that wasn't equipped is not good enough. FFA PvP demands that you be able to take everything that the person is carrying. It's bad taste to bring it up, but many FFA PvP players wouldn't mind the ability to butcher the body of the fallen for meat, leather and bone that they can use to fashion trophies from.
And that's pretty much it. People that advocate FFA PvP want to kill you on a whim and take all your stuff. This means that lvl 50 characters mowing down lvl 1s in the starting area is fair game. Corpse Camping is fair game. Team killing is fair game. Zerging is fair game. Any combination of the aforementioned is fair game. In fact, just about every activity that a normal person considers to be griefing, is fair game under this system.
Sounds like fun.... Doesn't it?....
In my own opinion, MMORPGs are horrible games for PvP of any kind. Whether you're using a skill based system or working with levels, it almost always comes down to who has the highest DPS and most HP. You can add buffs and pots in there, but the strategy is paper thin and can be worked out on a pocket calculator. It's very rare, so rare that I've never seen, someone display momentary genius by utilizing the game mechanics / elements in a novel way. To me this seems like the antithesis of competition.
PvP is best when you're on a level playing field, more or less.... I'm going to use Street Fighter 2 as an example since I believe that it holds a standard of competitive excellence that all PvP multiplayer games should aspire to. Each character in the game has specific strengths and weaknesses. Some characters are fast but weak (Vega), while others are very strong and slow (Zangief). Some combos are profoundly useless ( Chun Li's fireball), while others are an invitation cheapness (Guile's Flash Kick). The catch here is that all players have equal access to all the characters and the more skillful player will understand how to fully exploit their opponent's weaknesses while playing their own strengths. You see this kind of trade off in any good competitive multiplayer game. TF2, BF2, Rocket Arena, Starcraft, Red Alert 2, Advanced Wars, etc., they all boil down to game knowledge and clever, read: skillful, use of the resources given to a player.
MMORPGs on the other hand..... It's basically about who's toon has the highest stats and best gear. In GvG, it boils down to which side has the largest number of max'd out toons. In other games, skill isn't really something that you can calculate on a spreadsheet. If this were true, someone would have already made a mint off of sports gambling. With MMORPGs however, the game is just shy of actually being a spreadsheet.
So my stance is that I don't really take PvP in MMORPGs seriously because it has nothing to do with skill and everything to do with stacking the numbers MASSIVELY in your favor. FFA PvP takes this idea to the absolute extreme and is therefore even more of a joke. Why would you take a genre that's already horribly imbalanced for PvP and then handicap it IN FAVOR OF veteran players?
I'm not afraid of a fair fight, so I'll "PvP" in genres that were actually built for competition. Maybe once they make an MMORPG that has combat more like a fighting game, I'll actually check it out. BTW, AoC doesn't count since the combos are basically just placeholders for what would otherwise be hot buttons. The game actually walks you through combos during combat!!!
I'm making this a series of articles because there's usually a domino effect with this issue. You knock down one argument and then you have to beat the next dead horse in line and so on. I'm not really sure how many parts this is going to run so I'm just leaving it open until I'm satisfied that I've touched on all the bases and at least given a foundation to those that actually read this.
Next week I'll be discussing the common arguments in favor of FFA PvP and giving my own response to each one. Be warned: it's going to be a long post.