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BadSpock's Logical Conclusions.

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

Author: BadSpock

Ode To Free For All Player Versus Player Combat

Posted by BadSpock Wednesday November 7 2007 at 11:30AM
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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.

JB47394 writes:

heerobya, I don't bother with PvP in games that have the huge disparities in power across characters as is found in level-based games.  That's the fundamental flaw in PvP.  Unreal Tournament 2004 was buckets of fun for me.  I played Onslaught games, which had a goal as well as teams.  Just fun.

If you want good PvP in a fantasy setting, it has to be without a large character power range and it really needs some real-world checks and balances.  Things like line of sight, non-intersecting bodies, some basic physics and so on.  Those are the things that require tactics more sophisticated than zerging.

Imagine what combat would be like if we didn't use 'targeting'.  We'd have to use our manual dexterity (as with UT2004) to point our spells, bows and blades at the desired location.  If good guys are in the way, they're going to get hit.  That will drastically change the way combat operates.

If you want the high ground to be significant, then relative altitude must factor into the combat system.  If you want warriors to be able to resist a charge so as to protect whatever is behind them, then collision detection is needed.  If you want flanking or rear attacks to be significant, then something about the combat system must result in gain for those who attack there.

There's no value to a game to have new player characters being useless in PvP.  Imagine UT2004 with the notion of newbie characters.  They get a revolver to begin with.  And 10% of a maximum character's hit points.  The game would become the classic 'gankfest' for such a character, given all the firepower being thrown around.  It should suffice that a new player doesn't know the proper tactics for best effect in combat.

Wed Nov 07 2007 3:01PM Report
BadSpock writes:

See I hate the idea of FPS combat in a MMO.

To me, there is NOTHING MMORPG about FPS combat. It's about RPG combat : numbers and stats.

There can be much skill and tactics involved in that style if done right and properly balanced.

But I do agree that FFA PvP doesn't work in games with huge disparity between levels. Like we see in WoW.

FFA only "works" if everyone, at all times, is capable of defending themselves. From day one to years later. This isn't very RPG like, because RPGs are about advancing a character.

They are two systems that are fundamentally opposed to one another.

Wed Nov 07 2007 3:07PM Report
LuckyR writes:

So then make FFA PVP servers skill based instead of level based and have at it!

Wed Nov 07 2007 3:45PM Report
JB47394 writes:

"They are two systems that are fundamentally opposed to one another."

We agree on that much.  Consider the classic problems of group PvP:

1. Disparity in power between characters.

2. Disparity in numbers on opposing sides.

3. Trivial tactical considerations.

4. Trivial strategic goals.

The first two end up making things a walkover for one group or the other.  The second two have to do with inspiring players to be more inventive than simply zerging back and forth in an effort to get the maximum number of personal kills.

The first two are what we're talking about here.  Something needs to be done in order to either handicap the stronger character or group or to avoid letting unbalanced matchup ever take place to begin with.

The second two are my usual rants about physics, line of sight, collision detection and many more besides.  Without that stuff, so many standard (intuitive and entertaining) tactics are lost.  Also needed are more involved conditions for the decision-making that goes on.  Holding actions, feints, ambushes and so on all need to be available.

I wonder how much of the problem in that area is communications and how much is simpleminded players.

Wed Nov 07 2007 4:05PM Report
kteeri writes:

"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."

This is how PvP works in EVE online. In the most protected empire space players are 99% safe if they aren't in corporation or their corporation is not in war. Corporations can declare war against each other and  then fight anywhere, even in the most secure space. In outer regions it's totally free for all and players have created their own alliances that wage war.

I think it works very well.


Thu Nov 08 2007 12:56AM Report
BadSpock writes:

Yes but kteeri....

you don't have to be in a corp to attack someone or be attacked. You can be flying solo and get ganked by... anyone. True, in high spec space you are 99% safe... and I agree EVE is the one real "exception" to the rules (kind of) on FFA PvP...

but aren't the most rare and valuable ores and missions etc. found in low sec or free space? wouldn't this force non-PvP players who want to go after the most valuable missions / mining be subjected, unwillingly, to PvP?


Thu Nov 08 2007 9:09AM Report
vajuras writes:

no, why in god's green earth are they 'forced' into low sec? I'm not. They can 'trade' for ores from low sec. No one is ever forced into low security space EVER. People have made fortunes just sitting in a space station manipulating the market. I've been making a bundle in high sec myself.

I transport my consciousness to 0.0 when I want to engage in Alliance PVP

Thu Nov 08 2007 1:24PM Report
vajuras writes:

btw, the richest man in EVE was a guy they simply started a bank and made smart investments. He'd pay back the ISK to others WITH interest. EVE Online is very economical. There are many non-pvp skills you can learn for trading and marketing. They have a real economist there on their staff.

Thu Nov 08 2007 1:26PM Report
vajuras writes:

JB47394 you hit it on the nail! Exactly that is only way to have rich PVP. I wrote a blog you'd love: [Player Skill and Stopping Zergs]

Right on we talk bout this all the time on DFO forums

Thu Nov 08 2007 1:45PM Report
vajuras writes:

btw to be fair I'm not a LEvel 4 mission runner only Level 2 atm. So I cant speak for Level 4 missions perhaps they can be ganked in low sec. you would need to get clarification on eve online forums here.

but in regards to making ISK you dont have to hit low sec. and you can always do any Level mission you deem worthy. you can also turndown missions from an agent but i forget how this impacts yer rep with that agent

Thu Nov 08 2007 6:25PM Report
johndmes writes:

Heerobya -

To change the subject somewhat, I'd just liek to mention that the PvP system you talked about has been implemented in a MMO.  Specifically, Tabula Rasa.

There, POvP currently takes two forms:

Individual/squad-based "duels" with a time limit, where players choose to fight each other.

The other is "Clan Wars,", which is FFA PvP between warring "clans" (guilds) only.  The "wars" last one week, during which any member of the warring clan is fair game, anywhere, anytime.  Nobody else though, just the clan members.  It takes place int he same gameworld as the rest of the game,  and believe you me, griefing in that system does happen, mostly graveyard-camping, or ganking while in a CP battle when things are hectic.


Still, it goes a long way in allowing both FFA PvP with no consequences for those not wishing to participate - don't want to participate, don't joing a PvP clan.  Real easy.


Fri Nov 09 2007 8:24PM Report
Tmac47 writes:

If it's consensual it is neither FFA or open ended.  You ask for choices, but you only want those choices to be beneficial to you.  That's the problem with current MMO's.  It's all reward and no risk.  The reward is only as good as the risk you took in obtaining it.

"Give me choices, give me options..." Give me a /duel!  That's about as consensual as it gets.

Fri Jan 18 2008 6:51PM Report
Tmac47 writes:

On second thought, this post isn't even about FFA PvP, it's about you not wanting to be ganked or griefed.  Worst title ever.

Fri Jan 18 2008 6:52PM Report writes:
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