What is it about MMO developers and their inability to implement guards in their games in a rational manner. Going all the way back to the very first MMOs, we have seen paranoid developers either use guards to try and stop their players from running amok in their games, or for merely decorative purposes.
I was playing Warhammer Online recently in one of the scenarios when I became witness to a guard from the other team going berserk killing most of my team. I think what bothers me is not so much that the guards attacked us, but the fact that the guards are level 55 champions! I mean seriously, what the fuck are there level 55 guards for?! These bad boys are handing out 30,000 damage a hit to a level 40.
The scenario "Serpent's Passage" revolves around the idea of 2 boats crashed on the same island fighting over some salvage part to repair their ships and get off the island. That is all well and good, but if the task is that important and critical, why would you send out the level 40s to kill each other and not send the level 55 super hero guard?! Hell, I'll take it a step further! Why don't they send out this guy to single handedly win the entire war?! He hits for 30,000 damage a pop, which sure to be enough to bring most keep lords to their knees in a few hits, and probably decimate the enemy king.
What were they thinking? Developers are so paranoid that players might actually have some freedom or inconvenience the other team that they have to use this as a method to keep us contains from going out of bounds. It reminds me of people who play Dungeons and Dragons with a Dungeon Master who uses one of the box adventures instead of giving their players the freedom to make their own decision. Unfortunately this problem is not just limited to recent games.
As far back as Everquest 1 we have seen guards gone wild, but even worse were vendors! I remember when Everquest first came out that I would sometimes accidentally attack the baker selling rations by pressing the wrong button on the keyboard. The result was me getting obliterated for obscene amount of damage. This also made me wonder why this lady is selling bread and not out hunting dragons, and what she is doing with that loaf to cause so much damage.
Final Fantasy 11 took a different approach to guards as a PvE game. Their guards looked bad ass usually sporting some amazing looking armor. You would think if there was ever guard that should be doing massive damage it would be them. Unfortunately we will never know because they are merely decorative. I will never forget my first night in FFXI where a bunny rabbit crit me and chewed my face off while the nearby guard stood motionless as I clung to him for dear life. It's a good thing the police in real life didn't train at the Vana'diel police academy!
World of Warcraft took yet a different approach. Their guards did not do massive damage and were very much killable. The bad news is that there seemed to be more guards in the town then people whenever one is attacked. My guild used to attack Red Ridge when the game first came out, and more guards ran out of that place then there were people living there. They just magically seemed to appear out what must have been a mysterious portal that connected to the biggest barracks of all time.
Age of Conan gave us Funcom's take on the idea. The guards were not super high level and they did not hit terribly hard. The bad news is that you could not hit them back! We used to murder people in the Noble District on the FFA server, at which time the guards would usually chase us. I found it ironic that my character had the will to murder innocent players in the street, but did not have the will to defend himself from the town guard. Players were often left to finding ways hide from the guards, but sometimes this would result in Funcom handing out a suspension. Clearly the Funcom CSRs thought it as more important to prosecute people hiding from guards instead of those exploiting the raid content in the game, nice work there!
Can we please stop having developers try to box us in with guards? Let us have our freedom, these are RPGs after all. God forbid the players should do something the developers never thought imagined we would. God forbid another player might be inconvenienced by another on a free for all server. Look, there is nothing wrong with having guards in your game. I wouldn't expect to be able to kill someone in real life without them coming, but be sensible about it. If you are a pure PvE game, then at least have the guards lend a hand if I am coughing up blood on them. If you are making a PvP game, the guards should be killable and in limited supply. The use of guards in most MMO's so far has hurt immersion and has served as a virtual bitch slap by the devs to keep their players inside the box.
Co-Leader of Inquisition