Dare I say it: PvP isn’t necessary

So much of the MMO commentary out there these days focuses on improving or coming up with new ideas for PvP.  For the past few days I’ve had this nagging thought on my mind about whether or not I even truly care about PvP being in a game or not.  Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy PvP, I have a lot to say on the subject, and I know what I like and I don’t like about it.  I just don’t think it’s mandatory at all.  I’m going to quickly get my thoughts out and see if they form into anything coherent.

I think a game designed solely around capturing people in the moment by creating a really rich PvE world is a something I can really enjoy.  What does that mean?  I guess I envision myself packing a bag full of resources, and setting off in a direction with friends to see what we can find.  I like the idea of not knowing what’s out there, or not knowing when I’ll be back to town because the game — the world — is letting me go off and truly make the “player vs. environment” a reality.   Danger, intrigue, exploration of the unknown, and enjoying how I interact with the world rather than enjoying what I get out of it are attributes I don’t experience or see emphasized enough.

Many of my fondest (and worst) memories from past MMOs are from PvP, but the best and most memorable are from PvE.  Something about playing a MMORPG sounds like going out to slay dragons.  I realize that’s completely personal to me; maybe adding the “RPG” to the end — role playing — is PvE’ish.  Gosh, I don’t want to open that can.  Let me just quickly backtrack and say “PvE” is really ambiguous to some people compared to PvP being quite literally fighting other players.  I won’t try and define PvE, but I will say it encompasses much more than just combat against AI mobs; so much more that maybe it’s overwhelming for a developer to even attempt at getting it right.  That danger of tweaking PvE could explain themeparks — modular, linear experiences are easier.

Maybe that’s why I wish PvP was seen as less of a requirement.  PvE has the ability to create a much better experience for me, and I wish those types of experiences would be developed further even with the risk.

Hopefully that made sense and resonates with at least a few of you.

  • No, PvP is not necessary *in an MMO*. To me, PvP does not even make sense *in an MMO*.

    Plenty of e-sports out there for the fans, something I’ve been saying for a long time.

  • It feels to me as if what really entices you about MMORPGs is the sense of a fantasy world to discover and explore and find your place in – in other words, instead of a “player versus environment,” more of a “player versus world” feeling. I think it is similar to the feeling when you start up a new world in Minecraft and start scavenging crafting materials while looking for a good place to set up and go “okay, this is where I’ll live.”

    I think, then, that the reason that so many players connect PvP to this sort of feeling is because other players truly are random in a sense that the game usually is not, and when you enter into conflict with someone else over wants or resources, or even better, when your group enters into conflict with another group, that creates a sense of belonging and connection that people like, but that you specifically don’t feel is necessary to your ideal experience.

    Admittedly, though, I think you’ll have problems experiencing that feeling. The truth of the matter is that no matter how enticing a fantasy world may be, it’s still a game, and it should always take a backseat to the real world that we live in. It is not that game developers don’t sometimes suffer from a lack of vision, but rather I think that, as the people making the games, they are permanently caught up in the realities of game-making and of creating a fun game experience that has to conform to a player’s real-life schedule, not the other way around.

  • We’re looking for the same thing. Not sure we’re going to find it. Best approximation comes when I just let my imagination roam – then almost any MMO works as a backdrop. That’s how I play much of the time.

    As for PvP, it’s fine but it’s a separate activity altogether. Mixing the two rarely improves the enjoyment of either.

  • PvE and PvP can be such different games in a themepark, I wouldn’t miss the PvP much in most games. It does make me wonder a bit about TESO because I think they’re emphasising PvP and I don’t see how that is going to really fit.

  • Some people prefer cooperation as opposed to conflict.
    I for one work better in a group cooperating with others than in a hierarchy competing with others (even so group play entails competition as well but the win or loss is for the whole group in every case).
    I just don’t like competition because it comes with the belief of ridicule in the case that one cannot stand up to the challenge, for that reason alone it stresses me even though i am exceptional in most cases.
    I quite honestly believe that most people prefer co-op play as well even if they haven’t given much though to it.

  • I would like to elaborate a bit on my latest comment with a RL example 😛
    Me and my wife build puzzles on some weekends together. (my wife does not play computer games obviously).
    We started out with 1000 piece puzzles and have gone to 3000 ( we actually can do better but it takes more than a Saturday so… ).
    The thing is that it takes us usually all day working TOGETHER on it and we get excited on every key piece we put in ( NO MATTER which one finds it ).
    We both feel bliss once we complete it NO MATTER who did the most of it.
    AND the thing is that it takes us all day.
    I really cannot think of a single one competitive game/activity that would make us have fun for that long time period ( can you really play backgammon for a whole day? ), never mind the fact that it would turn us against each other in some cases ( Imagine that!!!).

  • These days I am burnt out on games that try to be everything to everyone. I much rather prefer to have niche games that especially cater to their targeted audiences.

    Balancing issues between PvE and PvP can ruin both and results in dev resource competition.

    I was reading in the PoE forums a thread from someone who thought that the skill research web was far too complex and would result in the game dying as it would not have enough appeal to the larger mass of players. I took this as a representation of my aforementioned concerns, namely that every game of this type must have maximum accessibility in a Diablo 3 mold.

    My thoughts were that the game would do better to cater to a smaller and yet more dedicated base of players that might stick with the game past 3 months because they felt it uniquely met their needs.

    Perhaps this is the separate but equal answer to the PvE versus PvP gamer dilemma…

  • @Blargh: Heh, nah I’ve only been PK’d in UO a handful of times. Bothered by some attention whores plenty, though.

    @Bhagpuss: I agree that mixing the two rarely improves either if not hurting both. That’s one of the great aspects of DAoC; how the RvR was an entirely separate game.

    @Spinks: That’s my same thought process with TESO. I haven’t played a themepark that gets PvP right yet, and one that would emphasize it greatly… asking for trouble.

  • TLDR for the max accessibility audience:

    Don’t like the premise? Don’t try to change it and ruin it for everyone else.

  • So TESO is PvP emphasis? Someone more knowledgeable than me tell us how well that worked for AION?

    One thing that I have observed within the little weird pond that the MMO world is, is that “emphasis on PvP” usually means “can’t be bothered creating PvE content so lets just give em a couple sticks and let them bash each other”.

  • Not just isn’t neccessary but often(if not always) it destroy pve too..all this homogenization of the classes, all these restrictions to many fun skills have one and only reason, pvp. I remember when they nerfed mage blink for 0.5 sec in order to be on par with charge cooldown. This is just an example…of course 0.5 sec is not noticable to me, but the point is that many people emphasized on this which seems very ridiculous…

    imagine to play a RPG game with a huge virtual world and all you care is some numbers…not to mention about all the pvp drama on forums…because it is well known that when you lose is because something isn’t right about game balance but when you win is because you are god gifted player.

    I really want a full pve game where classes are very different and pvp does not exist, so the developers can create something fun and immersive rather something “balanced”

  • Forum drama is avoidable. /global trashtalk rather less so.

    @John: dare I suggest checking out Vanguard

  • My most memorable MMO memories are from vanilla wow open world pvp pre -bg and pre honor. But pvp in all mmos past that left me mostly cold , but so did most of pve. So I dunno….

  • I would find easier to define PvE than PvP. PvE is playing against thecomputer, eventually helped by other players (cooperation). PvP is playing “against” other players.
    But PvP in arena (FPS, RTS, etc…) is different from PVPing in world (Daoc, GW2,Planetsides2…) and different from allowing PK in MMO. Three sort of PvP… three different types of PvP. You can add other PvP approach : economy fighting ( EVE, Trading Post, …), ranking (best score, first kill, …) and domination (guild owning land, village, etc…)

    The interest of PvP s that the content is generated by other players not by dev.

    But I would clearly be thrilled by a MMO-Discover game, where the main part of the game is adventuring and discovering new landscapes, small hidden treasure, etc… One of my best adventure was exploring my first cave in Minecraft (Peacefull mode) and discovering my first lava and diamond ! Or in Lion’s Arch in GW2, exploring vista’s finding a nearby roof, doing some jump to find a small boy on the roof and being able to ask him “how did you get there ?” Exploration is wonderfull !

  • Not necessary in a themepark? Sure.

    In an non-themepark MMO? Not so sure, unless the NPCs simulate some of the benefits of PvP (sinks), and how that is accomplished might be very difficult. MMO players can be very, very risk-averse.

    There is a reason EVE ‘works’, while so many others fail.

  • PvP is the ONLY reason I play MMOs….but I see your point. I just wouldn’t purchase a game without it.

  • Let me rephrase by saying that I don’t ONLY PvP in an MMO, but I only enjoy the PvE aspects on a character that I know I can PvP with.

  • @SynCaine – I agree 100%. Themeparks don’t necessarily, NEED PvP. But I’d think they’d catch a lot of flak from players if they didn’t at least have some sort of battlegrounds system.

    I’m an extremely competitive gamer. I can play games like Dota all day working on becoming better so that I can take on and challenge even better players. Even when it comes to co-op, I’m competitive about winning the match while working together with friends. So yeah, any game I play is going to involve some form of challenge and that’s usually going to be PvP.

    More than anything that I want to see brought back into the genre for PvE or PvP. Is risk. Nowdays, when you die, you run back to your corpse, respawn, and go about doing what you were doing. There’s no thought into the consequences of actions you made. I was never really a fan of losing EXP. But full loot drop on death in my opinion is a must for any game that is truly going to hold my attention anymore. I think Eve’s system for handling death is great. Not only does that add risk and conscious decision making back into the genre, it also fosters an economy for crafters which is a profession that’s even more of an afterthought than PVP in most modern MMOs.

  • What’s with the recent PvP hate? What are you going to do when those houses are all decorated? Why take this (somewhat) influential voice you have and use it to all of a sudden throw PvP under the bus? Since when has PvP in an MMO been mandatory? Am I going to see you working for SWtOR next week? Nah, I know what it is, you’re…getting older.

    It’s never been about what MMOs need, it’s about what they can offer. I personally want story driven, contextual, goal oriented PvP AND PvE. If they don’t offer both then tell ’em they don’t need a questionairre to try and figure out why subs are down 90%, they should have expected as much.

    Just because you’ve been disappointed with the PvP in the last few launches doesn’t mean you need to alter your expectations. I’ve said before that the whole industry won’t look at SWtOR as a failure they’ll look at it as the player base refining what they want from an MMO. Lower expectations will be seen as a shift in desire and your making it happen!

    “well, if all these bloggers say it isn’t necessary then let’s not even put it in there,”

  • Keen, you should have know this’ll derail into a pvp-er vs pve-er shouting match 😛 so here goes:

    Question to the 2 posters above me — if I promise to keep my PvE out of your PvP, would you be kind enough to reciprocate and keep your PvP out of my PvE?

  • I think Keen’s premise is solid – it is correct that an MMO may not “need” PVP. However, in order to get away with no PVP, it has to compensate by delivering a compelling PvE experience. This can be done but hasn’t been done or may not be possible due to the technical problems associated with it or maybe it would be too much work to create a world that is so enthralling that you could care less about PVP.

    Good PVP does something to the longevity of the game play experience. When PVE becomes stale – you can always go back to the well implemented PVP. In order to not need PVP, your PVE experience must be awesome. I would envision a world where you can really build something for yourself. A dangerous, tough world with lots of unknowns and secrets – where going on an adventure means leaving your house…going towards the unknown…living and surviving off the land…on a journey to some weird destination that will be worth it to have reached but where the journey takes literally maybe weeks to complete and is full of dangers (like a Lord of the Rings journey). I can totally see something like this not needing PVP at all.

    Many games these days – effectively have no PVP. They do – but if it is PVP I dont enjoy or think is stupid and wont participate in then they effectively have none (Arena fighting, battlegrounds, reward less killing in WOW, etc.) These games can still be fun…I enjoyed RIFT, I enjoyed WOW at some point…but in the long run, they get stale because they dont have PVP I like and they dont have anything to compensate for that lack. Asheron’s Call had no real PVP on normal servers and I did enjoy that.

    I think it is totally reasonable to say that PVP isnt necessary but you better have something worthwhile instead of PVP to increase the longevity of an MMO.

  • I think we should clarify: MMORPGs don’t require PvP. But there are other genres of MMOs (e.g. Eve Online, Planetside) where PvP is certainly required and critical to the games’ success.

    However, although MMORPGs may not require PvP, I think they are generally spiced up quite a bit by allowing some form of PvP. Yeah, getting ganked in UO sucked, but it kept things a lot more interesting than they would have been otherwise. Ditto with PvP in other MMORPGs like WoW.

    Personally, I’d like to see PvP expanded into PvE. For example, why are the PvE mobs always AI controlled? (And typically with really lame AI.) I think it would be very interesting if players had the option to “possess” PvE mobs and control them. Experience earned would allow players to control more powerful mobs, to the point where a boss could actually be controlled. I’m thinking something like L4D’s versus mode. Or something along the lines of Dungeon Keeper 2, where players can actually reinforce and place mobs…

  • That reminds me – I did like the LOTRO concept of monster play and that seems like something that could be expanded quite a bit. I dont know how it ended up working in LOTRO but it seems like it could be a “substitute” for actual PVP. It might help to make the world less stale and more exciting but doesn’t rely on straight PVP. Can you imagine something like a DayZ experience with monster play…obviously you would have to be careful with this element but it could be a lot of fun (maybe that isnt something for this PVE focuses, PVP-less game)

  • @Blargh – My post wasn’t advocating PvP. Though I expressed how I’m a competitive gamer, I stated that I don’t think that a theme park particularly needs PvP.

    As for keeping them separate I think most games have been doing that fairly well now days with arenas, battlegrounds, faction combat lakes, etc.

    Personally, I see this as a detriment. Though, I’m not a griefer/ganker I think in games that have it to a manageable degree add more fun and risk/reward. For instance in Eve. As a miner, you can play it safe in the high security area where there’s almost no chance someone is going to gank you(if they do, they do it at a serious detriment to themselves and that’s even if they can kill you before the police blast them to bits). The minerals you get here aren’t very rare, but still let you turn a profit. However, if you want to get ballsy you could move to lower security space where the police aren’t around as much, but the minerals mined there could net ten times as much profit.

    That simple design right there allows players to make the content for other players. Do you want to take it slow and mine in the safe area? Or do you want to live fast, mine in dangerous territory and play games of cat and mouse with player pirates?

    My option right now as a combat pilot is fly through the lowsec zones taking distress calls from troubled miners and hunting pirates(for bounties placed on them by other players). That’s something I decided to do. Nothing in the game told me to do this. I get to be my idea of a heroic paladin with content that is emerges from the dynamic created between PvP and PvE players together.

    TL;DR: You can make a fun themebox game without PvP. However, if you want a deeper sandbox with an economy, a risk vs. reward dynamic, and other things like politics then you can’t possibly have one without the other.

  • keen i think you described minecraft version 2…more mobs, better graphics, better AI, character progression.. game done

  • There was this long discussion on the mmorpg forums once about sandbox games and if PVP should be included.

    I have to agree with the majority of the players in that topic.
    Namely: In a tru sandbox experience where everything is possible, players should be able to do things with or against other players as they please.

    Perhaps some limits and police like in Ultima Online in the town with guards.
    But if you take PVP our of a sandbox experience you get a world without taste.
    The player interaction is the salt that is needed to spice it up.

    Severe consequences for murder should also be included, with perhaps a way for players that specialize into finding clues as what happened to find out and post their findings to an npc sherifs office that then sentences the offending player for said crimes. (insert punishment here)

    In a remote area so no one will find any proof of your deeds before the corpse has deteriorated and eaten by animals? You got away with it.
    Or if no one takes the time to investigate…. You got away with it.

    Massive ganking in crowded areas would be avoided this way.

  • I am trying to think of am amazing PVE experience.. still trying.. Running from Qeynos to Freeport for the first time? Training enemy clan trying to xp with my Planeswalker in L2(but thats pvp by other means).. Doing a break of plane of Fear when it was only beginning to be done? I can not think about much else, I done some raiding in EQ, a lot in WoW. But unless you are really on the very top and doing stuff nobody or only few have done it is pretty meh. I can write pages of memorable PvP experiences, not to mention the most fun and close guilds I been with were all pvp, it just tends to bind people together. While with pve you have the whole DKP shit, attendance etc crap.

    DAOC had grat atmosphere, story and setting. But pve itself was just ok fun as a CC class, but thats about it

    I think a huge world with a great setting PvP really adds to it more then good PvE. For example in SB I used to RP more then I did in any game ever, I had a whole set of great phrases for when I killed the impure with my inquisitor 🙂 level of rage that generated in people, it was awesome. Same in DAOC really, there was something about killing those dirty hibs and feeling good about it, protecting the REALM and all.

    PvP is not necessary, but there is absolutely no chance I will ever play a game that does not have it.

    ps I played LOTRO to level 5, then made me an Orc and killed freeps for atleast 4-5 month in pure happiness and I love LOTR, read it probably 6-7 times since I was a kid.

  • Wont play a game that doesn’t have PvP. The rest around it is just fluff. I don’t think you’d be saying this Keen if the last 5+ years weren’t filled with such disappointing flavors of PvP. If they had been filled with rich PvP experiences I think you’d be singing a different toon.

  • @Zachdidit: My option right now as a combat pilot is fly through the lowsec zones taking distress calls from troubled miners and hunting pirates(for bounties placed on them by other players). That’s something I decided to do. Nothing in the game told me to do this. I get to be my idea of a heroic paladin with content that is emerges from the dynamic created between PvP and PvE players together.

    Awesome example and I couldn’t agree more that the two should be entwined (but obviously in the right way through good game design interdependencies). I like the sliding risk and reward scale as well. Whereby the further you get away from safe areas, the more risk and reward you get. This could just as easily be applied to a fantasy based game as it has been done to Eve Online.

  • @Thallis:

    I understand the desire to have a quality PvP experience in a MMO as I am primarily a PvP focused player (if my name didn’t already give that away).

    Nonetheless I find that the most dissension sowed in an MMO community is by PvP players (as judged by forum posters), usually who threaten to quit if their needs are not met. Even on this forum I would bet that some PvE focused players that would take exception that the game mechanics they value is “just fluff”.

    I remember numerous angry posts in the SWTOR forums after launch by PvP players complaining about the perceived discrepancy over exp rate between PvP and PvE play, class balancing, and the most ironic complaint, that PvP players had to spend too much time playing through story-driven elements, that is they were upset at the devs focus on RPG story lines in arguably the most ambitious story-driven MMORPG to date.

    My answer was always, don’t play a MMORPG if you only like PvP and not RPG. SWTOR felt like a RPG themepark with PvP minigames tacked on, and in retrospect I think it would have been better off to take the dev resources spent on PvP and instead apply them to include more SWG PvE features.

    Of course to admit that is also admitting that I changed my attitude from that prior to its launch as I would have felt disappointed if PvP wasn’t included. Throughout pre-launch I always wondered how they would seamlessly merge the different and potentially incompatible design elements of PvP and story-driven RPG, but I assumed they would just use some BioWare magic dust left over from previous RPG successes such as KOTOR and Jade Empire to make a this novel model work.

    Not so much…

    So perhaps the question is not whether PvP-focused players will play a MMO without PvP, so much as should we continue to try to force potentially incompatible PvP game mechanics on a primarily PvE focused game?

    This question naturally leads in Keen next post, as the desire to garner the most players possible at launch through ultimate accessibility can certainly run against retention of a player base that might stick around for greater than 3 months if they felt the game was specifically catering to their game play style.

    In the end merging PvP with PvE game mechanics results in many compromises, and a compromise is a situation where no one gets what they actually want.

  • Nicely worded, Keen.

    There are 3 parts of a game:

    1) The Story
    3) The Fun
    2) The Sport

    If you market your MMO as a competitive e-sport, then that is the audience you will attract. However, story usually suffers in a PvP environment (it actually tends to suffer regardless of which of the three the game is focused on).

    I believe that there are more people out there that are interested in a smash-hit personal story than there are in a perfectly balanced sport. I think it’s because stories (when done well, and in a non-MMO watered down fashion), connect with everyone on a human level.

    The problem is that of content… PvE/Rich Story takes far more human effort to create than a PvP arena that can be replayed over and over. So what do we do? I’ll let you know when I do 🙂

  • I’ve said for years that if an MMO was marketed without any pvp content whatsoever I’d be very, very interested in playing.
    It’s never without disruption in the pve content when you have a pvp group to cater to as well. Even when pvp is primarily intended for closed ares like battlegrounds, or special marked off areas in game, there’s always clamour for open world pvp.

    Additionally when you, as a developer spend a huge chunk of time developing content for a group of your player base, it’s only natural you are going to be bending over backwards to try to entice the rest of your population to go try out this pvp stuff you made: Achievements and special prizes, unlocks, specific gear looks etc etc all you have to do is go sit on your temper for hours in a toxic environment of hate, frustration and immature responses like “if you don’t like pvp it must be because you suck at it” and not because it’s an endlessly boring display of the worst behaviour our communities generally has to offer.
    By all means make some MMOs that have lots of pvp, Planetside 2 has lots right? Yeay for you. I would never want to take pvp away from everybody in MMOs everywhere. I would just really, really like a couple of options that have ZERO pvp. Greedy me, I know.