Tipping the Balance: the dark side of PvP
Dec 17, 2007 18:09:35

scaleNot long ago in a New York Times Interview ("An online-gaming pioneer is back, and this time he's banking on sci-fi" November 2, 2007) Richard Garriott blasted World of Warcraft, calling it "a remake of Everquest". He went on to say that it had become "an inventory-management game", citing this as a "harbinger of failure."

I would be remiss as an author if I did not point out at some point in my articles that Richard Garriott should know about unbalanced game play in MMOs - he was one of the people who created it in the first place.

If you ask Mr. Garriott what is the most important thing you learned from your work on the "Ultima" series? - (and gamespy.com did) he will tell you the following:
"The importance and difficulty of innovation and how hard it is to balance scope and feature set with game play." - Richard Garriott, in "20 questions with Richard Garriott" on gamespy.com

When Richard Garriott and his Origin Systems first introduced Ultima Online (UO) it introduced a new concept in unbalanced gameplay - it introduced the world of the player killer. Those of you who have never played a game like Ultima Online, or have never played on a PVP server anywhere will not be aware of this sort of gameplay. Early in Ultima Online PVP was all the game had to offer. You were safe inside the cities but set one foot outside the city and it became like the Jets fighting the Sharks (two street gangs) in West Side Story. In order to play the game at all you had to band together in groups of players. While some players will tell you that players having to group together just to set foot outside the cities was great, what it was for most players was a giant sized pain in the posterior. This was a lesson I learned the hard way. The first time I ventured outside the city alone in "Ultima Online" on a PVP server I was PK'd (player killed). I went afk for a short while in the middle of the woods only to come back my ghost standing over my own corpse. When the same player later found out who I am in real life his reaction was worth it...

"Oh no! I killed a nun! I am going to hell"

And so "griefing" as a game mechanic was born. There was even a game mechanic called a murder system that introduced virtual sins at the same time. If your character said aloud "I must consider my sins" you were given your short term and long term murder counts. If your character virtually murdered enough players in a short enough period you could become a "red" (your character actually looked red) and loose access to the non-pvp part of the game permanently. UO even had a bounty system where players where allowed to put out a bounty on another player. Originally players who had killed other players were even allowed to cut up the bodies of their victims. In the end all this became too much. It even reached the point where players had enough and formed "Anti-PK" groups known as PKKs. Eventually, The developers of UO were forced to divide their game into two facets - a pvp side and a non-pvp side - with the release of the Renaissance expansion. It was at that point that the bulk of the players abandoned UO's virtual Jets and Sharks to their fate and departed for the non-pvp part of the game.

For me the height of non-consensual pvp reached its zenith in Eve Online - the virtual thief. I am not talking about the thief characters from UO who could pick players "pockets" on pvp shards and steal their items. What I am talking about is the practice of infiltrating corporations in Eve Online. (For those of you who may have not played Eve Online before, their equivalent of a guild is called a corporation). What happened to the corporation I was in, is the same thing that has happened to so many others. Players join corporation for the soul purpose of stealing from them. One player got to know everyone in the corporation, befriended them and even became an officer - only to turn around and rob the corporation blind. Sadly, the developers of Eve Online, CCP, merely considered this as "part of the game."

But not all in PVP is so grim - there is a brighter side of PvP in the world of MMOs. But that will have to wait until next time.

Until then,
See you online

- Julie Whitefeather

Submitted by Brent on Dec 17, 2007 18:09:35 CST (comments: 1)


'history' by Moorgard
Submitted on 2007-12-19 13:19:21 CST
Your article seems to posit that UO introduced the concept of the player killer, which of course isn't the case. The killer mindset is at the core of competition in video games and dates back to the simplest two-player contests. UO was hardly the first large-scale multiplayer game with PvP, though it did reach a larger scale than most.

I also don't see why you refer to UO's PvP as "unbalanced." If anything, skill-based systems like UO had offer what many see to be a more level playing field than class systems, simply because it is easier to switch your spec to favor whatever is currently seen as advantageous. In the early days of UO, you would literally retrain your skills to match the flavor of the day. If what you mean is that it was easier for experienced players to gank inexperienced ones, well, that doesn't really have anything to do with balance.

I'd also argue that PvP was far from the only thing UO offered, even in its early days. I have never been a PvP fan, but I felt the world had a ton of excitement to offer in those early days that didn't have anything to do with fighting other players.

To post comments, please login.

From the desk of Julie Whitefeather


RSS - Blog/Articles
RSS - News Feed
RSS - The Collective
Add MMO news to your site.

About VirginWorlds.com

VirginWorlds.com aims to condense everything about MMORPG / MMOG gaming within a single source via news links, blogging, and podcasting. By extending the link directory to the community, everyone will get the news, credit and exposure that is desired and deserved.

- virginworlds.com

Free 14 Day Eve Online
Trial from Virgin Worlds

VirginWorlds MMORPG News
Shut Up. We're Talking.
Massively Speaking
No Prisoners, No Mercy
Through the Aftermath
Brent's Other Podcast

1UP Yours
20 Minute Surrender
A Casual Stroll to Modor Podcast
A Life Well Wasted
Beneath Your Feet
Channel Massive
Fly Reckless
FYG Podcast
Games for Windows Radio
GWJ Conference Call
In a Perfect World Podcast
Killed in a Smiling Accident
Legendary Thread
Low Elo
Massively Online Gamer
Part Time Gamers
PC Gamer Podcast
SOE Official Podcast
SWG with Yivvits & MrBubble
The Big Freaks
The Instance
VirginWorlds MMO Podcast Collective
World of Warcast
Sites Updated Today
Eve Bloggers
Rock Paper Shotun
Sites Updated this Week
A Green Mushroom
Blue Kae
Sites Updated this Month
The Grouchy Gamer