Consensual murder

Is killing someone in a FFA PvP MMO a malicious act? Eliot Lefebvre’s Daily Grind post today asks if FFA PvP is a dealbreak in an MMO for people, and not surprisingly for most it is, but that one line stood out to me.

On the one hand, isn’t killing someone in a game like EVE/DF basically, well, playing the game? To an extreme, it would be pretty silly for a Quake player to ask why someone just shot him, right? From the start such games make it very clear what they are all about, so can you really feel bad for someone being surprised that they just got attacked? “Bank often” and “only fly what you can afford” are popular saying in each game for a reason.

On the other hand, aimless FFA PvP is also somewhat out of place in a virtual world. In Quake, everyone logs in just to shoot people in the face. That’s all the game claims to be, and all it is. A FFA PvP MMO is still an MMO though, and things like community and player interaction should still factor in.

One of DarkFall’s earlier design problems was that it was always better to kill a random player than to work with him in terms of profit. Not surprisingly, whenever you came across someone in the wild, you either went in to kill them, or you ran away because you knew they were going to come kill you. It was a rare day that two players would pass each other without someone pulling out a weapon. While very “play to crush”, it’s not a good system even in a FFA PvP MMO.

The problem was (somewhat) fixed by retooling the alignment system, and today players do sometimes pass each other without incident, or even work together in a dungeon. This, IMO, is a large step forward for the game. PKs can still go out and kill players, but at least now they have a slightly more significant penalty for doing so, and, far more importantly, blue players actually try to stay blue rather than going red and then just farming an alt for a few minutes to get back to being blue. Combine this with the retooling of the wardec system, and suddenly not EVERYONE in the world is looking to put a knife in your back (just most).

Not that this is anything new of course. EVE has had a good system in place for years now, and UO PvP peaked during the Dreadlord days.

But going back to the original line, I don’t believe attacking someone in a FFA PvP MMO is indeed a malicious act. If I jump you at a creep spawn when you are at 10%, that’s a smart move. The golden rule of PvP is, after all, if the fights fair, you already lost. I would never fault another player for jumping me. I should have been more aware of the situation, or went out with a buddy, or countless other ways to mitigate the risk. Same goes for a group attacking a solo player. Unless the situation is a pre-agreed duel, 5v1 is what happens out in the world. Expecting those five not to jump in is pretty foolish, and if when you go out with your four buddies, you all take turns attacking people, you are doing it wrong.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
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11 Responses to Consensual murder

  1. Dril says:

    As I said in the article, I’m quite happy to go along with FFA PvP when it has purpose (i.e. nullsec, WH space, NBSI to get rid of any spies etc) but I find the idea of just being able to kill anyone, anywhere, “for the lulz” ridiculous.

    If there was a game world that was just like nullsec with no rules and only players policing it, I wouldn’t personally play that game. But, as it stands, so long as there is the option not to PvP (but be separated from those who are) I’m fine with it. If I go into nullsec to mine for some reason, and get jumped, I don’t consider that non-consensual, since I made the choice to go into an open PvP area.

    Also: “If I jump you at a creep spawn when you are at 10%, that’s a smart move.” I agree, but what irritates is me when people say they PvP for a challenge and then gank. Either accept it’s because you don’t mind profiting from other’s suffering/loss, or you should stop preaching bullshit about competition.

    • Shadow says:

      You’re not really safe anywhere in EVE though. It’s a matter of degrees of safety. All areas of EVE are PvP areas. Some you just face heavier consequences for initiating than others.

      It’s just as viable an argument that agreeing to just log-in a game FFA PvP, that you’re accepting that.

      As for the fair-fight motif, I’ve said it elsewhere (hell probably here), many of us PvPers play to our strengths, and expect our victims to do the same. Sure, we’ll try to gank for the sheer profit and shallow fun of it, but it will never be as interesting as when that supposed victim has a complete heal pot or some such, and we suddenly find a real fight on our hands.

      • Dril says:

        But the likelihood of being killed is, for most people, so negligible that it is, for all intents and purposes, safe. Unless you do something incredibly stupid and/or fly a high-value hauler, there’s not really a huge reason for anyone to try and kill you and (probably) lose a ship in the process.

        If your strength is in killing people who already have very little chance to fight back then fine for you, but, as I said, that’s not particularly skilful or competitive. So, either you’re simply killing them for profit rather than excitement or you’re doing fur teh lulz.

    • SynCaine says:

      100% agree on the whole competition thing. You don’t gank someone to show how great your PvP skills are. Win a pre-set tourney, ok. But world PvP when your 10 ran into 3 people farming? No, not skill there.

      That said, there is A skill involved in constantly being the ganker and not the one getting ganked, but that is a long ways away from being top dog on the server in terms of pure PvP combat skill.

      Who you respect more (the guy always ganking, or the guy able to beat anyone 1v1) is debatable.

  2. Shadow says:

    I play LoL to farm creeps.

  3. Lassie says:

    You are aware that farming an alt is no longer an option In DF? Plus there’s lawless areas now where everyone is grey, so no penalties?

  4. D506 says:

    I’m a really big fan of EVE’s system of degrees of safety. Still, even EVE there are those who rage and rage if you kill them when they’re at a disadvantage (either engaged in PVE content, outnumbered, whatever). It’s a bit silly.

    What people often forget is that the risk in being ganked is what makes PVE fun. It also adds actual, in game value to their labour since ganks and the threat of ganks drove up scarcity of whatever they’re farming/shooting/transporting. Some people just don’t understand that, if they were left to mine in peace, they’d actually make less money because everyone else would be doing the same; assuming they don’t get themselves killed too often. Even when I first started playing EVE what ‘PVP’ experience I got came in the form of running or getting killed. Still, that risk and planning for it was part of what made the game fun.

    Now I’m a full time pirate in EVE, and haven’t touched PVE content in literally years. Still, I find it a bit silly too, as others have said, when people talk about fair fights. Open world PVP will never be about that. The fun involved, as well as the skill and the challenge, is largely in finding those you can kill and avoiding those who will kill you. Fights are generally over before the shooting starts, but not always. Occasionally a surprise happens, situations change and a really ‘good fight’ breaks out.

  5. Adam says:

    I think the people that rage about getting ganked show a lot worse character than people doing the ganking.

    They come into games where that is clearly a big part of the game and then can’t handle someone else impinging on their little universe.

    The fun in a pvp mmo game comes from the risk involved and the possibility of losing something you care about.

    What would you say about someone that lost at quake or poker and cried “that wasn’t a fair fight”?

    Most of us would think they were pretty pathetic. We also might not be interested in hanging out with someone like that?

    Somehow there are large groups of people on blogs and forums that find it socially acceptable to cry about ganking in pvp (frequently in games they don’t even play) and don’t have a clue how cringeworthy and pathetic it is.

    Whining about dying in a videogame is one of the first things that will get you kicked from any of the clans/corps/guilds I’ve been in.

    Good riddance.

  6. bhagpuss says:

    I thought at first this post was going to represent the attitude i had to PvP when I first began playing MMOs. Back then, I believed that “killing” the character of another player in a video game was morally equivalent to killing another human being in real life. As a result I was, not surprisingly, deeply uncomfortable even with the passive acquiescence of playing in the same gamespace with pvpers, even while not participating myself.

    That sounds like a fairly extreme, possibly irrational, point of view, but it probably arises from having been brought up as a Quaker. I haven’t had any religious belief since I was a teenager, but the underpinning morality you grow up with stays with you for life.

    It wasn’t a unique perspective back then, either. I met several people in-game who felt the same way and it came up fairly often as an attitude expressed in forum discussions.

    After just a few weeks of playing, however, I began to come around to the more commonly-held belief that “killing” someone’s character in an MMO is more like catching someone in a game of tag, or at worst wrestling them to the ground in a game of British Bulldog (no idea what your version of that might be over the water…).

    My conversion to consensual PvP was completed when I played DAOC from launch. I was extremely nervous at first, but it turned out to be all good knockabout fun and since then I’ve done plenty of PvP in various MMOs, although I can’t offhand recall any that were fully FFA PvP.

    In the end, it comes down to the ruleset. These things are games, unfortunately. I wish they were worlds, but they pretty much never are, when it comes down to it. They are games and games have rules. If the rules of the game you signed up to permit killing anyone, anytime, anywhere then it is by definition consensual in that context.

    That doesn’t make it any less frustrating, upsetting or blood-pressure raising when it happens, but the rational solution is not to play games whose rules allow gameplay you don’t enjoy.

  7. Angry Gamer says:

    “In the end, it comes down to the ruleset. These things are games, unfortunately. I wish they were worlds, but they pretty much never are, when it comes down to it. They are games and games have rules. If the rules of the game you signed up to permit killing anyone, anytime, anywhere then it is by definition consensual in that context. ”

    This is very profound Bhag

    The reality created by the virtual world is dependent on the rules enforced by the game. Behavior of players is governed either directly or indirectly by these rules. (my assertion here)

    This is why I keep harping on game mechanics (e.g. wow ilvl gear scarcity) driving poor player behavior [leet asshats].

    I personally believe that game designers have FAR MORE influence on player to player interaction by the reality they create in virtual worlds.

    In wow ghostcrawler could simply rain down purples in major cities to all toons and then EVERYBODY would be geared to the teeth. They would steamroll content and a large section of the player base would be gleeful.

    But… another section would complain about nerf to carebare gaming and perhaps leave (dare I suggest that the cyber thugs leaving would be a positive?).

    Somewhere in that continuum of carebare to hardcore there has to be a way to maximize player civility. In government the leaders know that keeping essential services water, sanitation working is key to keeping the citizens from rioting. Why not carry that over to MMOs?

    Why not maximize player friendliness?

    • Straw Fellow says:

      “These things are games, unfortunately. I wish they were worlds, but they pretty much never are, when it comes down to it.”

      I’m gonna echo AG here in saying I like this statement.

      In my opinion, killing another person in a FFA MMO isn’t really a question of morals. The developers have made it a feature of the game, therefore, it is alright for it to happen.

      I think the point is what rewards or punishments are doled out because of that PvP. In a game, like Bhag said, then that sort of activity is defined in the rules. If so, it tends to have a reward for doing so. In Battlegrounds and in World PvP (lol wats world pvp) in WoW, killing another player gives you a reward. Other than flagging yourself for retaliation, you’re not going to be punished for that behavior.

      In a virtual world setting, you have rewards AND consequences. Sure, in Eve you can assault others in null-sec and salvage whatever they have, but do it often enough and you can’t go back to “civilization”.

      I can agree with AG again with their conclusion. Maximizing player friendliness is an important and interesting issue, as most online games tend to gloss over in-depth benefits of working as a group. Not just as a small group, but as a community.

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