Years after I had stopped playing Ultima Online, every now and again I would run into someone who would remember the "Blood & Glory" days. Getting ganked in Ultima Online was a harrowing experience where the stakes were higher as your bags could be looted entirely. In later games, I tried to explain this to people who hadn't played UO. They could barely wrap their heads around the idea of being killed and robbed. The fact that they couldn't fathom this heralded a new age in MMORPGs and in PVP.
Like a former mugging victim leaving their house, a certain level of paranoia became the norm in Ultima Online. You made sure never to leave a town with a full bag of anything important. Traveling alone was a liability. Looking like you had a lot of money was a liability. A lot of people got tired of being constantly paranoid. A lot of people enjoyed it. It was a different time back then.
There is this new on-going battle between the PVP server people in Age of Conan. The question is, "If you kill someone who is of much lower level than you, should you be penalized?" A hot topic as many have been temporarily banned for "harassing" people on PVP servers.
We have two camps on this debate, each whose beliefs I will present.
Free For All PVP - Felucca
By creating a character on a PVP server, you accept the following terms:
1. You will die. You will die a lot.
2. You will be killed by anyone and everyone, regardless of level or reason.
3. The GMs shouldn't/won't help you. Which reads simply: lawless PVP.
4. If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen and reroll on a PVE server.
Law and Order - Elder Scrolls
By creating a character on a PVP server, you accept the following terms:
1. It is unlawful to kill someone who is gray to you.
2. Ganking, corpse camping, and border camping should be prevented by GMs.
3. Even the most delicate of mindset shall be avenged through reporting "harassment" to the GMs.
4. To make complaints easier on the GMs, a passive jail and murderer system will be enacted.
There is no easy answer to "the Question." As someone who plays on a PVE server, you may be apt to agree with the Law and Order stance. As someone who regularly ganks people on a PVP server, you may be a die-hard supporter of the FFA PVP stance. One may poorly make references to other games as examples of systems that "have worked." What is most important to take into account here, is not what worked for other games, but what will work for Age of Conan.
What you may have come to expect from PVP in another game, won't be universal. WoW PVP is full of griefing, to the point where most people level two characters in tandem as corpse camping is the norm. EQ2 PVP, if someone above or below your level by no more than 8 kills you, you lose money and maybe an item off of your person. In non-PVP areas on normal shards, UO would mark you as a murderer, preventing you from going into towns and sometimes even guaranteeing you a permanent loss in stats.
Why do people kill other people?
To understand the rules of engagement, one must first understand what the reason to kill is. Once you understand why people kill others, you can build a system around that that passively forces people to kill people closer to their level and spend less time griefing others.
1. People kill because they like to kill. They like settling their disputes with fists instead of words. Someone farming your node? Kill them. Someone killing mobs you need for your quest? Kill them. Take what you want from the world and never apologise. (I personally fall under this category.)
2. People kill because they like being assholes. Like children with magnifying glasses burning a marching row of ants, people will create characters on PVP servers to generally make life difficult for people. You may argue that this stems from some deep-seeded mental issue, but who cares. These people exist and there's nothing you can do about it.
3. People kill because there's something in it for them. Be it honor points or a PK score or some sort of title. These people tend to be the most practical out of the lot. If it's easier to get item X by killing player A, then they may set aside their stand-offish playing routine to jump a player.
People who kill because they like to kill, may never change but they tend to be the less likely out of the bunch to grief low level players. They kill when they think someone is in their space. People who kill because there's something in it for them are opprotunists and can be lured away from harassing lower level characters by being given bigger, better rewards like PK/honor scores that only count people near their level that can be redeemed for items/titles.
But you will never, under any circumstance, be able to control or get rid of the people who kill because they're assholes. You may be quick to write these people off as a waste to the PVP community but anyone who has actually leveled on a PVP server understands that these people are the most necessary out of anyone on the list. They give you, the person on the PVP server, a reason to level up. You're so angry they keep on harassing you so all you dream of is revenge, or the ability to be high level and repay your anger by harassing other low level people. These "assholes" actually stir the shit of PVP servers, making it interesting and giving people reason far beyond or in lieu of material rewards. And the people who can't take the harassment or win the fight reroll onto PVE servers, keeping the PVP community strong.
Like in real life though, you can't please everyone. And the loudest voice sometimes in an MMO can change the way the game plays. Developers have to weigh these "suggestions" and find out what's best for their game and what's best for their players. If they waste money and resources creating a PVP system that a majority of quiet people dislike, but the loudest minority likes, they're going to have a tough decision. The biggest seller of games is PVP/multiplayer.
Felucca or Oblivion?
After all is said and done, what should be done with Age of Conan's PVP servers? Should they put in a jail/murder system? Should they continue to let people run around lawless? Should they include honorable kill incentives? Because right now, there is no real reason to kill anyone in Age of Conan, which is something the "asshole" PVP camp thrives on, but the other two groups care not much for.
You have to trust your subscribers. Give them the benefit of the doubt before you throw more than half your PVP server in jail. Set guidelines and rewards for killing those who are closer to your level. There will always be griefers, corpse campers, and even the more passive "training." Embrace your PVP community instead of sending it to bed early without supper.
Think about the lower level people too. If they're having a hard time, give them a buff after they're killed by someone who is much higher leveled than them. Put more graveyards in the game to solve the horrid "long run back" problem. Make the starter island impossible for higher level people to come to and kill people.
People will always complain. People will always die. These are two things we hold to be self-evident on a PVP server. What Funcom decides to develop for Age of Conan has yet to be seen. Give PVP a chance.