Mr. Jennings at Broken Toys, and Mr. Green of Psychochild’s blog have both penned recent blog entries reflecting on PvP playstyles, offering some evolving insight on what seems to work, what doesn’t, and go into a bit of brainstorming on what might be tried in the future to make something universally palatable.  The original forum conversation that prompted these learned reflection can be found here at F13 and asked the rhetorical question, “is there any difference between open PvP and gang warfare”.

I’ve started to write this post about 5 times so far.  It seems to be a difficult one to 1) keep relatively short, and 2) put my various thoughts into any significant order.  With that in mind, this will not be the most coherent post I’ve ever written, but I’ve decided to just go with the flow and get one done, by just making some comments on a piece-meal basis…

Why bother?

First thing that comes to mind: why bother?  Players that are actual open PvP enthusiasts don’t seem to really appreciate any attempt to move beyond a gang warfare meme anyway.

Different rules

Some of the suggested strategies for accomplishing this “open PvP that isn’t gang warfare” seem to boil down to “let’s do a far more detailed job of recreating the real world”.   However, there are two central aspects of “real world” warfare that never seem to make the list, no matter how lengthy or detailed the list is otherwise… permanent death, and lack of fantastic elements/attack forms/abilities.

Recreating the typically referenced “Braveheart” combat scene, for example.  If you had a game where everyone was some flavor of warrior, you -might- be able to pull it off.  However, when you have artillery in the form of “mages”, and “stealth bombers” in the form of rogue/thieves, and “no effectively equivalent substitute even in modern day warfare” in the form of healer/priests… it might be something, but it’s not going to be “Braveheart”.

You’re far more likely to recreate something that feels like a modern day aerial dogfight, or guerilla war, than the scene from “Braveheart”.  Capabilities drive tactics, not the other way around.

And remember the end of that favored scene from Braveheart?  Recall that there were a lot more corpses (or corpses-in-the-making) than actual ambulatory warriors?  I’m guessing most players do not see their characters in the former role… yet, without that, you don’t have the same combat.

You are going to be dang hard pressed to effectively recreate all the feelings and influences of real-world warfare if you cast aside death as a possible (and more importantly, permanent) outcome… it’s kind of central to the entire concept.

Carefree free-for-all

The goal of creating something that doesn’t “feel” like gang warfare seems a rather stillborn concept, actually, if you start with the usual arguments and usual suspects.  It feels like “gang warfare”, no matter the trappings, because it “feels” like gang warfare… many of the same emotions and assumptions drive the interaction in game as drive the interaction in gangs: there are obvious differences, too, but the similarities are striking.

In the popular view, at least, gang members are fighting over ephemeral slights and claimed “territory” that really isn’t theirs to claim.  Sounds familiar.

Most gang members are young, with all the youthful “nothing bad could happen to me” devil-may-care attitude (often along with a sizable depressing dose of “I’ve got nothing to lose”) that comes with that territory.  Hmm, seems similar, especially since, in games, it’s actually far closer to true.

Gee, negative much?

Yeah, all the above has a pretty negative tone to it, but the bottom line is that this seems to be largely a situation of people wanting their cake, and eating it too.  You could relatively easily create the type of combat people say they want, but they’d have to give up too many other things they desperately want to keep to get it.  Heck, it’s been done in some measure… Planetside, WW2 Online.

It’s the same old, same old… most everyone always wants to be the hero, the winner, last man standing.  But, almost by definition in this particular situation (open PvP), there can be only one (at most, a handful) of people in that role.  And there are precious few volunteers for continuously recreating the role of the “conquered masses”.

Could you do it with NPCs?  They don’t mind losing, and they’ll show up for any fight, no matter how hopeless, any time of the day or night.  Yep, you could… and you do.  There’s even an acronym for it already…. “PvE”.

Anyway, please feel free to comment and convince me that I’m completely delusional and desperately wrong.

Believe me… I’d really, really like to be proven wrong.