Yesterday’s post was about the theory/dream of a persistent world with a reactive ecosystem, among other features. One of the very valid arguments against this setup is the possibility of the players themselves not playing nice and ruining everything. It’s a well established fact that if griefing is possible, it will happen. But there are different types of greifing, and even more opinions of what constitutes griefing versus what’s accepted behavior. And ultimately, a game has two basic options: set limits to all players, or create a player environment that creates those limits.
Let’s stereotype and assuming our griefer is a basement-dwelling 13yr old who’s mom never hugged him enough, and now he is in your MMO doing whatever he can do to get a reaction out of you for ‘the lulz’. He corpse camps you for hours for no personal gain, he spams chat channels with ‘big kid’ four letter words, and he has way more time to play than you do so he gets ahead and has a level/gear/time advantage.
One solution is to set rules that don’t allow said kid to do what he wants. Make it impossible to corpse camp, allow ignore to work in chat channels, and remove direct competition so his level/gear/time has zero impact on your game. You give up some things with all your other players, but you keep the world ‘safe’ and everyone protected.
The other solution is to design and encourage your players to play a certain way, one that makes life very difficult for the griefer. If the best content is limited to groups, community becomes a factor. If you are the pariah of the server, you get cut off, especially if you don’t allow for easy switching of servers, names, or reputation. Of course you walk the fine line here between encouraging a community and forced-grouping, but that’s why game devs make the big bucks, right?
The larger point however is that when designing any MMO, you either live in fear of your players, or you embrace and guide them. Fear is the ‘easy’ choice, because limiting options and setting hard and fast rules will yield expected, but limited, results. It’s far more difficult and risky to set rules to guide them, and hope that those rules are enough to establish the type of community you envisioned. The one bonus an MMO has is that the rules can change mid-game, but we have seen all too often dev teams being reluctant to make changes, especially ones that ultimately lead to the admission that a previous system was flawed or broken.