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FFA PVP Debates

Posted by vajuras Friday February 15 2008 at 12:42AM
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I really love this site and this recent debate on FFA PVP has sparked this veteran to blog again.

Those that know me well or have read my posts know I'm all for sandbox or games that have loosely defined game rules. I believe 'artifical restrictions' produce unnatural behavior in gamers. Let's take a look at games like World of Warcraft where you can be ninja-looted, cursed out by someone in your faction, spat on by someone in your faction, and griefed by 'farmers' having to endure their endless spam. There you are, helpless. Boy I kid to you not- all my worst enemies were always apart of my OWN faction. Trust me, go to World of Warcraft forums right now. Go to Server forums. See which Guilds hate each other the most. Yep, yep. This occurs due to competition for resources (like healers), people leaving guilds to form others, politics, blah blah you feel me

Anyway no sir, that is not what I personally care for. I always sign up for the most open pvp server options normally. Not because I'm a hardcore PKer- no, I get pwned left & right. But because I believe in having freedom and having the right to defend myself from being griefed (too me griefing only occurs when I have NO way to retailate so no- this cannot happen on an open pvp server by my definition). Now if you can figure out how to make a Race vs Race game and allow me this freedom I'm all ears. Hell, I'll play a pure Race vs Race mmorpg even though it always ends up the same for me. I exaggerate to you not- I can understand why people in another Faction is mean but my own flesh and blood (ingame terms)?



Now let's debunk a common scenario. 5 versus 1. Is this a fair fight? No way a guy can win against these odds? Wrong. I've accomplished this feat in mmorpgs and started a thread (poll) here to gather opinions. I got crazy responses from pvpers that they've overcome the worst odds. Is it no wonder the average World of Warcraft films will feature someone owning multiple players? It's the norm now I believe. Put up a film just owning 1 versus 1 you better have a good storyline, music, and super skilled opponents. One guy that became heroic for putting up 1 versus 1 was a rogue that fought butt naked. That's the kind of stuff that's popular- winning against all odds.

So what does Solo vs Many net us? It's Rambo mentality of a sorts.

Level Based games. FFA PVP sucks for those right? Well it depends. We are never equal ever in mmorpgs these days anyway. So what if a Level 60 jumps my Level 40? Sure I'll get mad. But it makes the game 10x more fun for me once I get sweet revenge when my guild arrives. Boy, those types of films are great too- when the author shows himself getting beatdown by high levels in the begining but then affirms himself once he hits max level and claims revenge. Those are my favorites.

Pointless PVP? Yep, FFA PVP can be pointless in absence of Victory Conditions. We need Victory Conditions let taking over a city or a little more harsh death penalty. In EVE Online we get this via the long travel times. So if you are in another Corp's terriority you might have to spend 1 hour to get back. Harsh? I dont think so. You are tresspassing on enemy lands. You need to be dealt a harsh blow to be kept from harassing others constantly. You can also get good Victory Conditions by taking notes from FPS and RTS. Most mmorpgs will surely push pvpers into Instances. This can be okay but ideally, perhaps when technology improves hopefully we'll see much better emphasis on massive wars.

Lone wolf- not fun to not have a Guild right? Well it depends. Is this mmorpg for casual audiences? If so, then fine, dont include FFA PVP. But if you have a large majority of fans on your site screaming for it- then perhaps your audience is not fully casual. MMORPGs are about the "community" (at least some, not all I'm not Idealistic). So if you want to give a reason for gamers to group up then FFA PVP is your anwser. Trust me, on an FFA PVP server people will group up all the time. If I stepped out alone in EVE Online in low security space trust me I'm flying a junk ship I dont mind losing. Once I get to my Corp station I will get loans and hussle up some funds to get myself a much better ship. Then fly it when I got backup.

Zergs. Unfair for 40 vs 10 right? Wrong. In FPS we have FFA PVP even in Team vs Team games- its called "friendly fire". Guess what tears up zergs? Grenades, lack of discipline, and unorganization. Nothing destroys an uncoordinated team faster then friendly fire (along with death penalty as well I might add). From Rainbow 6 to Halo 3 to Call of Duty to Unreal Tournament we have FFA / friendly fire. Guess what in FPS we have uneven teams all the time. Bottlenecks, use of terrain, knowledge of terrain, and tactics all factor into victory. Sure, perhaps 100 versus 10 won't win but then I think about all the articles and journals that document historic battles where the little guys WON. Often, they used terrain to their advantage, bottlenecks, etc.

Even if you make teams "even" that is the biggest lie I ever heard of. Players vary in player skill levels, Levels, Items, and ability to coordinate properly. You can have even numbers in MMORPGs and guess what I see "PUGs" get destroyed utterly all the time. I have never seen a PUG ever in my life beat a couple of players on Ventrillo. What's uneven too me? When there is a PUG fighting a coordinated force.

Let's hit it again. Why is 100 versus 10 fun? For most it probably isnt- that is until you get reinforcements. See, in real life battles are never even ever. Some of the best battles I've been apart of started out uneven, we got slaughtered. But once the numbers evened up, it got really fun.  Sometimes we would kill the little guys just to get the real fish to come. Yep, I've slayed newbies but took no joy in the act (unless I was testing out a new skill and just wanted to see if I could insta-kill someone with it but that gets boring after 1-2 insta-kills).

Gold Farmers. There is no way to stop these guys I'm not stupid. I've killed farmers over and over yet- they still treated me nice and helped me kill my mobs. They're no fun to kill at all in most cases and if you're crazy enough to FRAPs this act plan on getting clowned. But if player looting is in play, well now- this is interesting they can actually help the game a bit more. They will still come if they can turn a profit true. But now they at least provide a bit more entertainment.


Balance. In Race vs Race games that have different Classes there is no way to be perfectly balanced unless both sides are exact same. Granted, it can still be fun to have Race vs Race I'm not going to toss salt at games that have it (I love myself some Savage 2 with is Race vs Race). But anyway, in City of Heroes we begged the devs for FFA PVP zones to help even up balance issues. Was very nice we had it for a bit but they dropped the ball for a Level 50 FFA zone (which killed PVP once and for all for many because the balance was awful for us). Still a fun game to tryout though btw I hate that game, but still have good memories on other hand.


Level 60 versus Level 40. Yep, its no fun being pimped by a higher level. If I got mad enough, I'd call in my Guild to help me deal with them. PVPers really dont care much for Levels unless they just simply don't mean anything (like in FPS games if you follow). However, Levels still accomplish some good. For one, ideally, it creates a dependency relationship. Sometimes newbies are a little safer in packs. Also, it helps newbies to rely more on veterans. In World of Warcraft, I would help our newbies in distress and perhaps I felt 'heroic' for helping rescuing the victims. Also, it would inspire players to hire higher levels to protect them (ideally).


The BAD:

- Well, FFA PVP can be totally brutal to new players not familiar with PVP. In mmorpg space, there is about 90%+ of unskilled players out there. And thats me being optimistic. Assume your gamers have no skill to reach critical mass. So how to insure our players are not too negatively impacted by FFA PVP? Well you must solve that for yourself.

- The Wife problem. Most gamers have this twisted idea to play an mmorpg with friends. Sometimes wives get curious and want to try. Who wants to see their wife get ganked and spat on? Yeah, even if you offer different server options we might risk losing that extra account from wife and kids. Ouch. I dont know about you but I want every dime I can get. This is why I think CCP/EVE guys are so smart. They included geographical PVP zones in their title

- Newbies. Assume every player is a newbie when they start a game. If your game has "vertical" progression then yes we have a problem. Newbies will get absolutely stomped by vets in PVP. Its not so bad in games based on "player skill" but in RPG space yeah, we do have a problem.

- Griefers. My personal definition is being done wrong by someone and lack the freedom to retailate. Only in restricted PVP games do I feel 'griefed'.

- Losing. This is another thing I'm not too familiar with. If I lose a fight well chances are I FRAPSed it. As much as it hurts, I will review the footage, go on the forums to get build advice, and min.max. Hell yeah if it means winning I will optimize all the way. However, this doesnt mean embracing cookie cutter but rather, research tactics no one expects. You will read many so-called experts on PVP speak about "Tactical Transparency" and how much its needed. They are right perhaps- to an extent. However, it is "Hidden Information" that allows PVPers to net a win. Anyway, we will cover that later one day I hope. For now, let's just conclude I'm not too familiar with "losing" all the time. I will practice and practice to get better.

But let's assume over 90% of our audience might quit if all they do is lose. Now, we are getting somewhere. This is why PVE can be good. We can make everyone a winner. AI (Artifical Intelligence)- we can program those guys to lose all the time and make players feel like Heroes. Its a win-win.

So hell yeah I'd add PVE if possible. There are some really imaginative ways I can see developers arrive at this. You can possibly create an FFA PVP environment in which all can thrive (maybe not all cause different flocks collide in mmorpgs but close)


Is FFA PVP dead? I dont think so. It's mainstream in other genres. But it will take time to see really solid implementations. EVE Online is pretty much the most widespread application. Well there is also Lineage 2, UO, and basically Asian MMOs where there market is so oversaturated you see them try almost anything from Habbo Hotel to ZT Online

Do I think FFA PVP will ever be mainstream in mmorpgs? To be honest what I care about these days is not really FFA PVP. I'm more concerned about seeing more complete Sandbox mmorpgs come out. Perhaps I'll cover this later in more detail. I'll give you a hint- I look forward to more titles in the vein of Second Life. I'll leave you with that tidbit to ponder on.