PvP For Dummies
I was having a conversation with some guildmates about some of the upcoming MMOs in 2011, and I began to ponder how PvP has been woven into most of the games coming. As a grizzled veteran of the genre, I have seen and been through a lot in over 13 years in MMOs. PvP-based MMOs and PvP servers have always enticed me as a feature for any game going all the way back to the original Everquest and Asheron's Call. I'm a firm believer that PvP as an added layer of gameplay adds longevity for me as well as helps add that element of rivalry that gives you something to do while developers work on new content in other forms.
In dealing with these PvP feuds that pop-up between players or guilds, it never ceases to amaze me just how many people choose to play in a PvP environment, yet have a hard time coping with the reality of what life is like there. Often times these sentiments are expressed in the form of rage vomit in your chat box after an encounter with another player. With a whole new batch of MMOs coming with PvP integrated and many already on the market, I wanted to put something together to help explain the reality of these PvP environments from the perspective of a guild leader and someone who has spent a lot of time surviving in them. While a lot of this might sound like common sense, it never ceases to amaze me how players go into these situations with unrealistic expectations.
The very first thing you need to do is check your honor at the door. PvP servers are not the place where honor and fairness will lead you to victory. Seldom does anyone remember or care about that nature of the battle, only the outcome. There are only two types of players in a PvP encounter, the winner and dead guy. Riding into a PvP environment on a white horse with your honor and morals is one of the fastest ways to be end up dead in a ditch on the side of the road. This becomes even more accented in games and servers where there is some sort of reward involved for winning, be it items or points rewards. Right about now someone has their torch out and ready to flame me for being some sort of degenerate scumbag or griefer, I would argue that I am a realist who speaks from extensive experience. To have honor and morals and expect that your enemy does as well is the sign of someone who is woefully naive.
Fair Fight Myth
The second thing you need to realize is that this is not the place for a fair fight. In fact, I always tell my guys going into these situations is that a fair fight is the result of poor planning on the side of the initiator. We are talking about MMORPGs here, there is no such thing as fairness. No matter what happens someone always has an advantage be it levels, skills, or gear. If your looking for fair fights in an online game, I recommend checking out Yahoo Checkers. Again depending on the reward, expect people to use any means necessary to achieve victory.
Manipulation of situational circumstances can be just as much a weapon than any sword or fireball, if not more so. The element of surprise can be a very powerful tool, especially since in most cases people tend to pick fights they think they can win. In many cases this can cause the person being jumped to have the initial reaction of trying to escape instead of fighting back. When it comes to rivalry with other guilds and players, nothing is off limits. In any game with a FFA PvP server, expect to be attacked when you talking to a quest NPC, in the middle of a fight with a tough mob, or AFK dropping a deuce.
The Numbers Game
To elaborate on this point one step further, there are a number of tactics that can and will be used to try to negate the advantages listed above in the pursuit of victory. Zerging and the tactic of outnumbering the other guy is one of the most used and frequently whined about.
Zerging as a tactic has always made me laugh from both points of view. Often times you have 2 types of guilds who run around, one being the small elite band of powerhouses and the other are the massive zerg guilds. Both of them achieve the same goal, but taking opposite routes having their own advantages and disadvantages. The small elite band of power players can truly be a site to fear in PvP environments because they are much easier to coordinate and often times being a tighter knit group, they will distribute loot and other assets for the betterment of the unit over individual greed. The downside of this approach is that these groups should not be surprised when their enemy tries to compensate by overwhelming them with numbers.
The zerg on the other hand while having vastly superior numbers, usually is much more difficult to maintain and control. Higher player count usually is derived from a lower recruitment standard that leaves them susceptible to being easily infiltrated. I think the most classic example I have seen of this in recent memory was in Darkfall during the World Wars. We saw huge zergs trying to dominate the map, and small elite groups holding their own against them. No matter who loses it always boils down to the small elites whining about being overrun, and the large zerg crying about getting their bank stolen and being filled with spies. The moral of the story is that if you lock yourself into a certain playstyle, don't cry about the fact that everyone else is not fighting on your terms and exploiting your weakness and stupidity.
One of the most important things people need to do for long term survival is for them to learn how to adapt to the dynamic environment. Realize that in any non-instanced PvP game, there will always be hotspots that will be frequently fought over. Expect to find trouble when you are going to the popular quest NPC, valuable monster spawn, dungeon entrances and bottlenecks, and near the infamous PvP "safe zone".
Ah yes, the safe zone! Probably one of the funniest myths in PvP environments. The safe zone provides a false sense of security and is a high traffic area where people like to gather. Nobody can spend all their time in the safe zone, and it is easy for troublemakers to wait inside or outside and follow you. It always cracks me up when people keep trying to go to the same death trap over and over again thinking that somehow this time it will be different. Be prepared for the fact that you may have to change your plans on any given day based on what is happening. Don't rage because you are determined to keep trying to put the square peg in the round hole over and over and it's not working.
Finally, a topic near and dear to my heart is the infamous rage tell. The most important thing to remember is that everyone dies at some point, but how we handle that defeat is very important. I have 2 guild policies when it comes to rage tells. Never send a rage tell when you lose, and always take a screenshot of rage tells when you get them. Remember, anyone can press print screen and take a picture of their chat box. You should never send a message to someone that would make you cringe if it were plastered all over the forum for the server you play on. The Inquisition archives are full of hilarious and tear-enducing pictures of people have psychotic episodes in chat boxes to the point where I could do a "Best of Ragetells" article here that would shatter any hope you had for humanity. Instead of crying, take it like a man, accept that it comes with the territory, and move on with your day. When someone sends me a rage tell, it only makes me want to kill them again to see what sort of crazy rage they will puke up next!
One final note on this topic that kind of surprised me. As I mentioned before, I've played in PvP environments ranging all the way back top Darktide in old Asheron's Call all the way to 2 tours of duty in Darkfall with a lot in between. From my experiences, the biggest group of ragers always are in games where the consequences from PvP death are minimal, which I find perplexing. You would think a game like Darkfall where the cost of death is literally all of your belongings would be much more rage-enducing then a death in game where nothing tangible is lost except for a few minutes of your time. Maybe it's that people going into harsher environments are more conditioned, but consider what you really lost before rage vomiting in someone's chat box. If I had to pick one, I'd say Age of Conan's FFA server had the biggest collection of ragers my guys have ever encountered.
Here's to Hoping...
As we look forward into 2011 and we see the next round of games coming, PvP is sure to continue playing a critical role in most of the upcoming titles being hyped right now. Here's to hoping 2011 brings us something nice to chew on with the new crop of games coming, and we can finally flush 2010 down the toilet with the rest of the crap that got churned out this year. Have a safe and happy new year!
***Special thanks to "Thenoob" comic for letting me borrow some graphical illustrations! Swing by and check it out sometime for some good MMO comic humor at http://www.thenoobcomic.com.***
Co-Leader of Inquisition