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BadSpock's Logical Conclusions.

My random thoughts about MMORPGs. A bit of critique, suggestion, debate, and insanity. Enjoy.

Author: BadSpock

Blame the player, not the game?

Posted by BadSpock Thursday November 29 2007 at 11:52AM
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First of all, I'd like to point out that "linear" has become just a forum "buzz word" just like terms such as "grind," "hardcore," and my favorite, "vaporware."

The real meaning behind the word has been lost, people have a vague understanding of what the word is suppose to mean and the proper context in which to use it in this forum environment, but they don't really understand what it really means.

In MMORPG lingo, linear best falls into the definition of "extended or arranged in a line: a linear series." What this means, is that the player character follows a straight line from point to point to point as they progress their character. There is very little room for deviation or exploration, or simply that there are very few, if any, alternative paths to advancement.

You go from the Level 1-10 zone to the 10-20 zone then to the 20-30 zone etc. You go from this quest to the quest after it, and that takes you to the next quest, and so on.

This is best characterized by the standard MMORPG question for general chat, "I'm level XX, what zone is best for me to level in?"

I think many at see the word "linear" and think "classes, levels, quests, raiding" and they are only partially right.

The only difference between modern, quest based games and the sand-box games of old is that the quest-based titles provide direction. Before, /con systems where the only way to tell if an enemy was too powerful for you to fight, so you'd stick to areas where things were more "at your level" until you became strong enough to /con the tougher stuff and be capable of handling it. UO didn't have anything other then trial and error. Is this really any more or less linear?

I don't think so. It's still a progression system based off of your relative power in comparison to the game world. Even in a sandbox game, you could go to a new area and find the mobs way too challenging for you. The only difference is, in a quest based title, one that many here would call "linear," you are guided to content appropriate for your level.

So does this mean that the title is really more "linear" or simply that it provides more direction?

Or.. you could have a system where you gain xp in different skills as you use them... no matter if it's against mobs or players or crafting or social skills or...

that way, you are rewarded for doing the things that you want to do, and you get better at those things AT THE SAME TIME.

Wait, isn't that a "skill based advancement system?"

Didn't old SWG have that? I think it did....

Problem is, it still becomes a "grind" because people end up only doing one or two things. They want to be good at killing stuff, so all they do is "grind" up their combat skills...

The only alternative is providing players with... wait for it... CONTENT!

And in order for content to be successful, to properly hide the grind underneath a little thing called "fun," the player has to care about the content.

A quest to kill 30 rats for the sake of killing 30 rats is not content, it is a grind. A quest to kill 30 rats because the Queen of Cheeseville is having a crisis trying to get ready for the anual Cheese Ball and is in desperate need of help to clear out the pesky creatures so that...

Just an example.

There will always be a "grind" in MMORPG games. Fact.

The ONLY thing you can do, is provide fun, operational game systems with depth and variety, as well as content that is interesting, varied, and entertaining in order to HIDE the grind underneath a little thing called "entertainment value."

This is, of course, EXTREMELY subjective. As in, all about your personal opinion. If you enjoy the content, and are having fun, it won't "feel" like a grind. No matter if it's a so-called "linear" game or "sandbox" game.

If you are doing something JUST to get to some end goal some where down the road, you are probably grinding.

If you are doing something because you enjoy it, and it's fun and interesting to you, you'll reach that end goal and it won't feel like grinding.

Point is,

It's only a grind if YOU make it a grind.

Unless it's a Asian game with NO content except killing monsters over..and over... and over... for no purpose other then watching your XP bar slowly inch up... that's a grind no matter what you do.

Here's a thought. HIDE you XP bar, and just enjoy the game for what it is. READ the quest text, explore the game world, take TIME off from questing/killing to socialize, dance, play music, craft....

Yes, I just copy/pasted this from some forum posts I made, but I thought it was enough to bring together into a new blog entry.

I guess the overall sumerization is that a game is what you make it. Instead of always blaming the game or the developers, perhaps you should take a step back and ask yourself "how am I approaching this game? What can I do to make this experience more fun/challenging?"

If you can't find an answer, maybe you're playing the wrong game, or the wrong genre.

WoW and skill

Posted by BadSpock Tuesday November 27 2007 at 2:32PM
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I always hear the argument that WoW doesn't take any skill to play, that a idiotic child with half a brain could do anything in the game etc. etc. etc.

Let me say, for the record, that WoW is a game that is easy to learn, but difficult to master. The following will be examples and personal experiences I've had in my long history with WoW that prove my point, however I will also try to predict the arguments against my position and counter them. Please, join in the discussion in a civil and intelligent manner using the comments.

*Note* I no longer play because I got burned out in the 4 days a week 4-6 hours a day raid schedule

First off, let's talk the basics. End-game versus standard play. Standard play, and by this I mean the quests and activities you go through as you level your character to maximum. Yes, this is easy. Leveling your toon from 1 to 70 is fairly fast, fun, and easy. It's 95% solo content, and there are very few real challenges other then following directions, exploring, and managing your character and combat situations effectively. If you play smart, never bite off more then you can chew, and level through questing the game is fairly easy. I will not argue that point.

End game is entirely different. I won't go into the difficulty of PvP too much, as the experience is entirely subjective. It all depends on your class and your skill at using that class in combat with other players, and how good the opponent is, etc. It's entirely too subjective to be discussed logically without simply going into this opinion or that.

End game Pve content is not easy, despite what forum trolls want you to believe. If it were, 90%+ of the players would be going through the high end raids like Naxxaramus (pre-BC) and Black Temple. This is simply not the case. Most Wow players have experienced the pre-BC 10 man raids, and Kharazan post-BC. And that is it. It's just as much about skill in organizing and leading a guild/raiding party as it is knowing your character and how to use their abilities effectively in the raid environment.

Many will argue that it's simply "learning the script and doing the same exact thing every time." To some extent, this is true. But every raid requires all the people in your group to know their role, be able to respond to changing situations, and adapt accordingly. All of which, of course following the rules governed by the encounter's script,  but this is not as easy of a process as some would like for you to believe. As I stated before, in an environment where one person not doing the right thing can cause your group to fail, coordination, teamwork, and communication are just as important as the player skill required to actually complete the game-system related tasks.

This is where the real challenge of end-game PvE raiding comes from. Leadership. You may be an uber gamer, MMO vet and a highly skilled player, but your individual contributions only matter as much as they effect the overall outcome of the group's efforts. Can one great player overcome the hinderance added by having a bad player in the group? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

So why is it this way? MMORPGs are social games. In order to achieve the greatest success in the Pve end-game, you have to be able to succeed in the social structure the game creates. This is on purpose.

Next. Gear vs. player skill vs. talent spec. I played a Warrior for ages, so I'll start their.

Gear: 25% of how effective your character is. WoW is at it's core an EQ clone, so gear is very important.

Talent Spec: 25% of how effective your character is. If you want to tank end-game content as a Warrior, you are going to need to be Protection spec. Same with any other class, to do end-game PvE content, you'll need to be an effective PvE talent spec. This was done on purpose and is "as designed."

Player skill: 50% of how effective your character is. Knowing what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. When to use what skill, on what target, your positioning (extremely important), your group composition, and so many more.

In order to get the best gear, you need to be skilled. In order to be skilled, you have to know how to build your talents in a way that makes you effective, in order to build your talents you need to know what gear choices to make, what areas to focus on, etc. It's all connected in a circle.

If you simply get what you think is the "best" gear and use any old talent spec, you will not be as effective. If you download the supposed "best" talent spec, but don't have the gear to match the talents, you won't be as effective, and even if you get the best gear and best talents working together, if you don't know how to play the character you will not be effective.

For instance -

Say I want to do PvE as a Warrior doing DPS. Ok, I'll probably put my talent points into the Fury tree, and I'll focus my gear on +Attack power and +chance to hit. Why? Because a Fury Warrior is all about hitting a lot, very quickly, not hitting for very large numbers sparingly. The biggest point of player skill is monitoring your Threat generation so you don't pull Aggro off the Tank while still maintaining high DPS.

Say I want to do PvP as a Warrior. Ok, I'll probably put my talents into the Arms tree. But do I specialize in Axes for improved critical strike chance? Maces for a chance to stun my opponent (usual PvP Warrior pick) or Swords for a chance to double strike? How will I set up my gear? Well for PvP I need Resilience and high stamina, and if I've chosen to use two-handed axes I want to maximize my critical strike chance. Player skill in engaging in PvP combat as a Warrior is a matter of practice and experimentation, you have to learn strategies to use against different classes and in different situations. No two battles are ever the same.

For tanking, how do I want to set my character up? Maximizing my Threat generation is a definite yes, and maximize my survivability is paramount to my success as a tank. But how do I do that? Well if the boss hits very, very hard I should focus on having as much stamina as possible, but also increasing my dodge and parry rates as much as possible to avoid taking damage. One of the biggest factors when tanking is rage generation, so I have to make sure I take enough damage to generate rage so that I can build enough threat to stay above the other 24 people in my raid, but not take so much damage as to where my healers run out of mana keeping my alive before the DPS can pump out enough damage to kill the target....


This is just a sample.

The point is, WoW, at the end-game, be it PvP or PvE is not "total carebear uber easy noob mode anyone with half a brain and a couple of fingers can do it crap" like many forum trolls on will tell you it is.

My guess? 99% of them found the standard game of leveling and doing quests to be too linear or simply not as much fun as everyone else told them it was, and they quit before ever reaching end game.

Either that, or they were lucky enough to get into a Guild with some REALLY talent players that walked them through every encounter and spoon fed them gear upgrades.

They never had to take a rag-tag Guild full of inexperienced raiders and work with them, over the course of months, into raiding condition so that they could clear content and advance. They never had to be a leader. They never had to resolve social disputes and manage an entire Guild full of people that, despite their redeeming and wonderful qualities, in the end wanted new shiny Gear just as much as the next guy/gal.

So please, stop calling World of Warcraft a total carebear game, and please stop saying that it doesn't require any skill at all to play.

Unless you can post pictures of your toon standing over the corpses of the final bosses of major end-game raids, and can honestly say that you got to that point with very little work at all, or can prove you are on a topped ranked PvP Arena team (with over 75% games played) then you have absolutely zero room to talk.

Just because the game is effortless to get into (accessability), not terribly complicated to figure out, isn't full of tedius and wasteful time sinks, and packed with unneccessary complications doesn't mean that it is easy.

It means it is well made.

The "Grind"

Posted by BadSpock Monday November 26 2007 at 3:13PM
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A game with levels and with gear that becomes stronger the higher level you are (i.e. any real RPG) is always going to be considered, by some, to be a "grind fest." Any skill based game where you advance your skills through using them, i.e. a progression system, will be considered by some to be a "grind."

It is unavoidable.

Story telling, environment, and varied game play will do much to destract players from "the grind," but in the end it's a matter of personal preference.

I would say that any person looking for a 100% "grind free" game should not be playing MMORPGs.

Having any sort of advancement system, be it skills or classes and levels, will contain elements many will call "a grind." The only solution is a character advancement free system. But then is it truly a RPG?

RPG's since the days of tabletop have nearly always included levels, stat tweaking, gear, etc. To remove these it to remove the elements that makes a game a RPG.

Even many modern FPS games like Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4 contain elements of a "grind."

In fact, the "grind" is defined by many as "repetitive content." What game does NOT have repetitive content? It is a COMPLETELY subjective measure, and as such, the "grind" is masked by other completely subjective means.

Meaning: What can you do to mask the repetitive nature of the game? There are many answers to this, but it boils down to "varied and different" content.

The same is true for real life. Those who work 8-5 know what I'm talking about. School is th same, college is generally more varied, but you are still performing repetitive tasks. Anything on a "schedule" can be considered repetitve by definition alone.

These things will never change.

The KEY factor is entertainment. Why can you do, both in your virtual life and real life, to distract yourself from "the grind?"

Many of us here at choose to play video games (obviously) to mask the grind of our normal, daily lives.

That being said...

The only way to completely remove the "grind" in a game is 100% player to player interaction. No skills other then what the controls allow you to do. Some might call this "twich based" but they are thinking too linear. It's not hand eye coordination per say, but instead no hidden dice rolls or statistical calculations, what you do with the control you have (keyboard and mouse, joystick, game pad etc.) is what you get.

No NPCs, no quests or objectives, no mobs, nothing. Just a world full of players, and the actions they choose dictated by the limitations of the control scheme and rule structure.

NO GAME. NONE. Not even EVE nor DF can claim this, so don't even say it.

Why? Because this type of "game" is not a game at all, it's a simulation. A social simulation. Some people want that, obviously from reading sales statistics, more people play games because they want a "game."

You want a game with zero grind? You have to create one with an empty expanse of land, a control scheme that lets you manipulate anything in the game in nearly any possible way (based on rules), and no A.I. controlled anything (unless of course the AI is self aware which is currently impossible.)

It's simple, you see an object in the world, and you can interact with it in any way you choose to, as long as you obey the rules governing your actions. For example, you see a rock on the ground. You can pick it up and put it in your pocket, or throw it. If you throw it, the rules of gravity and mass, acceleration, trajectory etc. are put into effect. Or you could ignore the rock.

Modern game A.I. is becoming advanced enough to allow us many options for approaching a situation, or many possibilities to how the A.I. reacts to our inputs, but NO A.I. that isn't self aware and capable of expanding it's programming on it's own will ever give the dynamic range of options available to us in real life.

And even THEN! Players will probably still complete the same repetitive tasks over and over and over again. Thus, creating a "grind."

So, ask not for a game without a "grind."

Instead, ask for a game with fun and varied systems, capable of dynamic interaction and effective choice making proceedures that have a lasting impact on your character and the world around you. Ask for a game that is entertaining. Those trying to ask for anything more, need to simply do a reality check.

The Effect is Massive

Posted by BadSpock Saturday November 24 2007 at 7:27PM
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Any fan of MMORPG games

Any fan of RPG games

Any fan of Action games

Any fan of ANY game!

Go buy Mass Effect.

Yes, it's that good.


I am now 100000% confident in whatever MMO Bioware secretly has in production. Even if it is only 1/10th as good as Mass Effect, it will be the best MMORPG ever released.

Now that Mass Effect has been released, and has sufficiently wowed and amazed anyone who has seen/played it...

I expect Bioware's announcement of their MMORPG to happen soon.


Once I spend some more time playing Mass Effect, and have more time to collect my thoughts, I'll do a posting on some of the great ideas they have in the game that could (and hopefully will be) implemented into the future MMO.

Anyone who has seen my signature on this site knows I was hoping for a Knights of the Old Republic MMO from Bioware..

Scratch that.

The universe they created for Mass Effect... the technology, the story, the environments, the worlds, the races... everything...

I pray for a Mass Effect MMORPG.


Looking for a "complicated" MMO? Really?

Posted by BadSpock Thursday November 8 2007 at 4:51PM
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I've never quite understood the notion that complicated = fun.

To me, complicated = frustrating.

Say things like:

looking for a "challenging" MMO or a MMO with "depth" instead of "complicated."

But asking for a complicated MMO to me means asking for a MMO that is:

1. tedius
2. not user-friendly / accessable
3. not well designed

To me "complicated" means advanced mathmatics... not fun.

Having depth and being challenging? That's fun.

The challenge and depth should be in the fun and the gameplay, not in the accessibility, user-friendliness, and tedium.

Things people say make a MMO "hardcore" or "complicated" that I personally feel are actually just tedius and made to further your subscription time:

1. Harsh death penalties
2. Longer travel times
3. Slow leveling rates

To me, a challenging game would be easy to learn and difficult to master. But what does that mean?

Crafting that requires a massive investment of time and resources is not more skillful, it's more tedius. Give crafting mini-games! I'm REALLY surprised no one has done this yet. Yes, I've played EQ2 and old SWG, I know what that crafting is like. I hear Vanguard is similar... but seriously, mini-games that require skill make crafting more challenging, don't just add more complication and call it "challenge."

I'd say a crafting system where you had only 1 easy to find ingrediant for EVERYTHING you could craft, but a difficult mini-game system for the actual crafting would be more challenging and "hardcore" then simply piling on the time and resource requirements.

Depth does NOT equal adding more resource / time requirements. To me, depth means radial expansion rather then linear. Don't make crafting a table cost 45,000 units of 10,000 different resources, but give me 10,000 different styles of tables to craft. THAT is depth.

Combat that is multi-layered and dependant upon various triggers and situations, not piling on numbers and adding 10,000 different abilities you couldn't possible manage. Give me stances and states and counters and triggers and procs and timing, not +10,000 spell damage.

Slow travel times? What does that add? It's a time sink, that's about it. Spend less time playing and having fun, more time waiting. It's like driving to an amusement park. Would you say that the further you have to drive to get there the more hardcore the experience is going to be? No, it's the same park. Why not get their faster, have more time for fun instead of wasting your whole day in the car?

High death penalties? This is a touchy issue. I know I personally get pissed off when I die, and I get pissed off having to do long corpse runs, so even if I lose nothing, no experience or items or anything, isn't that death punishment enough for me? Throw in item decay / damage from death and that's enough of a death penalty for me.

In MMORPGs, we are paying for time. To put it simply. Any time we spend not enjoying ourselves, is time we are paying to not enjoy ourselves. That is motivation enough for me to want to really stay alive as much as possible.

Slower leveling rates? Another tricky issue. If you can provide enough content to keep me busy while still slowing doing the rate of progression? Awesome, I'm all for it.

Make the progression slower but don't offer any more content then any other game? Welcome to what we like to call "the grind."

Depth and challenge do NOT equal complication and tedium. There is nothing hardcore about waiting and/or being frustrated.

If anything it shows you have patience. Which, is indeed a virtue.

A fresh start. A clean slate.

Posted by BadSpock Thursday November 8 2007 at 11:00AM
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Yes, I'm talking about Tabula Rasa.

I played in closed beta for a few hours and was not impressed. At all. Very, very buggy.

Play again in open beta, actually really enjoyed it, but didn't really have the time to explore past level 5. I was playing a lot of Halo 3 at the time...

I tell ya, I've tried everything, every MMO. Every trial and demo, every F2P I could get my hands on through Fileplanet...

I took the plunge and bought Tabula Rasa last night. Got home, updated my software to the most recent version (still had beta client installed) and activated my account...

Then played for the next 5 hours straight, making it up to level 8. And now, my impression.

First and foremost, I have to say that this game is fun. I've always been a big fan of sci-fi games, Earth and Beyond and Star Wars Galaxies were two of my favorite all time MMORPGs, and I've always loved sci-fi games like the Halo series, anything Star Wars, and many others. I enjoy watching Dune and Stargate (and even Star Trek sometimes) when I head back to my parents house... my dad has a lot of DVDs and Tivo.

Point is, if you are a fan of the sci-fi genre, and a fan of MMORPGs, you need to check out Tabula Rasa.

The combat is fast and fun, you actually have to think about your range to your target, you stance, finding and using cover, what weapon works best... and throw in Logos abilities and grenades, and it's a very, very fun combat experience. The Bane tend to come in groups, sometimes large ones, and it's sooo great to plow through an entire Bane formation.

The quests are very standard fair MMORPG, however, a have so far seen two that offer a choice. One asked if I would rather bring back a defecting soldier or letting him go free, and another asked to help sell drugs for lots of cash or turn in the dealer to my commander. Very cool, and a very good idea, however, I have no idea if the choices actually matter. If by doing one or the other I open or close different doors? There is no reputation system that I've seen, so I have no idea what the consequences of my choics were, if there even were any.

Character advancement is interesting. Everyone starts as a recruit, and at level 5, 15, and 30 you get to choose different career paths to take in a branching tree system. Each class has signiture abilities and weapons, however I've only had to make one choice so far so I can't comment on how different the classes really feel. I know that I really don't like my soldier's chaingun, so I've been putting most of my points (get training points when you level) into my skill with basic firearms - pistols, rifles, and shotguns.

The Logos abilities require that you: 1. are the right class and 2. that you go throughout the game world and find the Logos Shrines associated with that ability. For instance, my rage ability (which increase damage for a period of time) required me to find the "Attack" and... I think "Enhance" Logos.

It's a very interesting system and rewards exploration.

Oh, like in LOTOR, sometimes just doing something random will reward you with a quest. Kill a shield drone randomly, and all of a sudden you have a quest to kill 30 of them! These quests I believe grant you titles. I've only completed one of them, kill 40 of these floating squid thingies... but it gave me a Title.

The base defense is amazing and fun. The Bane will attack outposts to try and capture them. So far, I've only participated in one base defense, and it was a LOT of fun. Just slaughtering hordes and hordes of Bane as they assaulted the base. I haven't yet seen a base fall into Bane hands, but there are a lot of players running around the low levels areas, so we mounted quite the defense. I cannot wait to try and capture a Bane controlled outpost.

If they expand on the outpost control system, it may be the best "end-game" content that has ever been available in a MMORPG.  

That's all I've got for now. I'm sure I'll be commenting on Tabula Rasa further as I continue to play. So far, I'm glad I spent the 50 bucks on the game, we'll see in a month if I want to pay for a subscription or not.

Have you played Tabula Rasa? Do you currently play? Have any advice for this noob?

Ode To Free For All Player Versus Player Combat

Posted by BadSpock Wednesday November 7 2007 at 12:30PM
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Been doing a lot of discussion on the MMORPG forums about FFA PvP recently.

Thought I'd stop scattering my voice and message across multiple threads and forum groups, and instead focus my attention to writing a blog post.

Enjoy. I know this invited discussion and controversy, so PLEASE, PLEASE think before you comment, be civil, and let's have ourselves a nice little conversation.

So what is FFA PvP?

To me, this is defined as "I can fight with who ever I want to, whenever I want to, where ever I want to."

No rules, no limits, totally open and free.

So what problems does this create?

I'll start with my two favorites... Griefing and ganking.

I define griefing as "intentionally ruining the game play experience of another player." Things like corpse camping, movement / target blocking, train pulling (pull massive numbers of agressive mobs to unsuspecting players), verbal harrassment,  kill stealing, etc.

I define ganking as "killing other players who have absolutely no chance of defeating you." Like level 70 characters in World of Warcraft visiting low level zones (like 20-40+ levels lower) and killing random players.

Why do I dislike these so much? Griefing is simpy a player being an as$hole. Intentionaly trying to piss off another player. It's just stupid. Am I guilty of doing it? Of course. I used to go kill quest givers and flight masters in Alliance zones just to F with people in WoW. It was Blizzards fault when they removed the dishonorable kills. Dishonorable kills were the only thing preventing griefing in that game, and they go rid of it. No idea why.

Griefing is fun for the player doing the griefing, and not so fun at all for the player getting griefed. I fully, 11000% support any system in place to prevent Griefing. Blizzard was stupid for removing dishonorable kills.

Ganking is just stupid. It's sadistic and uncalled for. I really enjoy PvP because of the competition. There is NO competition in killing another player that has absolutely no chance against you. I have never, ever ganked someone in a game. Now, I have been asked by a group of lower level players to help them to kill another group of lower level players that were harassing them. Is that truly ganking? I was a Hero to those players. What's the difference? Ganking is killing lowbies just for fun. What I did was kill some lowbies in order to help some lowbies of my faction that were getting their butts whooped. I killed them once, then went about my business. They whispered my later saying that they wanted more help, and I told them that unless they were being ganked by high levels they were on their own. 

Now, the arguments. People say that ganking and griefing create the opportunity for other players to become Heroes. This is true. I myself have done this once as described above. It does feel good to be the Hero. But, I'd much, much, MUCH rather those three players not become victims so that one player can become a hero. I'm positive those three victims would rather not be victims then have to rely on the kindness of a Hero.

What I think people REALLY want is choice. They want to band together and become evil, doing evil deeds, or become good and battle evil. They want to choose their alliances and their enemies. They don't want to be told "you are a part of this faction/race and you are good/evil." They want to make those choices for themselves.

Those are the real positives of FFA PvP, that you can forge your own alliances and enemies, your own factions and create your own wars with your own rules. I've experienced this first hand on UO Siege Perilous shard. Some of the greatest PvP moments of my MMORPG life there.

But can you have that kind of FFA PvP freedom w/out having to worry about gankers and griefers?

So far, throughout the history of FFA PvP MMOs, the answer has been no. The players who do not belong to a massive guild or corporation become the victims of the established groups. The groups face no reprisal from a single noob. They can act however they wish. The 'social justice' of FFA PvP only extends to those who become part of the system, those who join and choose a side. This is VERY difficult for new players to get into established groups or for outsiders to participate without simply becoming fodder for the major organizations.

Of course, there are exceptions and I really don't want to hear personal stories about "well I was invited to Xx after Xx in X game" because I'm talking about generalities not specifics.

Me, I'm all about choice. Give players the choice, don't let the developers tell you want to do.

Create seperate server types for those who want FFA PvP, for those who want to deal with ganking and griefing.. go ahead, have fun you psychos! :) 

For the rest of us, for the "mainstream" give us the protection of factions and rules, karma systems and limitations. Make it our choice when we wish to participate in PvP. But DO NOT force us to follow a certain path. Let us choose our alliances and enemies, let us choose our battle grounds...

I believe you can have FFA PvP that has rules. As contridicting as that sounds, listen. Make fighting only between guilds/clans/corps etc. that declare war on each other. Make alliances only between those who choose to allign. Create your own factions, your own wars. That way, you choose when you participate and who with and against. Don't let players randomly attack whoever they wish, but let players choose who they wish to ally with and who the fight for enemies.

The noob walking around alone should not have to fear being ganked/griefed, but should instead see the conflicts and different groups battling each other, and then be able to chose which side to take. You can still have all the dynamics and options and politics and betrayels and heroes and villians etc. that you get with a completely open FFA PvP system, but WITHOUT the mindless griefing and ganking inherent to our darker human natures. You can still be ganked but only because you chose to join Faction/Guild X which is at war with Faction/Guild Y.

Get what I'm saying? So I guess it's not really FFA PvP, instead I'll call it "OGvGFvF" PvP.

Open Guild vs. Guild / Faction vs. Faction Player vs. Player.

Give me choices. Give me options. Give me consentual open ended PvP.