On non-consensual PvP in MMOs

The other day I was ganked for the first time in Black Desert Online.

The main quests had led me to Sausan Garrison, a popular grinding spot for leveling I had already read about.

Black Desert Sausan
More like Sausan Ruins I’d say…

I intended to kill just enough mobs for the quests I had and then be on my way again. Suddenly I took a whole lot of damage in a flurry of movement and effects, and before I had realized what was happening I lay dead on the ground.

Another player had obviously decided that I was contesting ‘his’ grinding spot and that losing a bunch of Karma was worth having it to himself again.

I respawned and, because I wanted to at least finish my quests in peace, switched to another channel (BDO has one huge server for each region, each with lots of seperate instances of the game world), which worked out just fine.

Was it a pleasant experience? Not exactly. But is the game worse for this even being possible? In my opinion, absolutely not!

I’ve talked about what my idea of a virtual world looks like. The more interaction between players and the environment as well as between players and other players a game allows the more alive and real the world feels to me. It also makes surprising and exciting things to happen more likely.

An example. When Lakisa, a friend of ours and I were about level 30 in ArcheAge our quests sent us to Cinderstone Moore, an area where PvP is allowed most of the time. The three of us as well as some other players in our level range were busy questing when a level 50 player ambushed and killed us all one by one. When we respawned and continued questing he did it again. Instead of giving up and leaving we teamed up with the other players and tried to take him down together. We didn’t actually manage to do so until another level 50 came in and helped us, but it was a really exciting game of one cat versus a bunch of very angry mice, and I had much more fun than mindlessly ticking off one quest after another would have brought me.

ArcheAge Balcony chilling
I have no screenshots of it, so here’s one of Lakisa and me chilling on my balcony.

Now, of course there have to be restrictions to and/or severe consequences for doing nothing but killing other players all day long, else a handful of sociopaths can and will ruin a game for everybody else. If these mechanics hit the sweet spot between leeway and punishment, between allowing to gank freely and prohibiting it outright, then, and only then, this can not only work, but be actually great.

In BDO Karma builds up slowly by killing mobs and falls rapidly by killing players outside of Guild PvP or Node Wars. Having negative Karma means everyone can attack you anywhere without losing Karma themselves (I think), and if you die not only normal PvE-death penalties apply, there’s also a chance that a piece of gear loses an enchantment level (which can be outrageously expensive to regain). As long as you have positive Karma you suffer no penalties whatsoever when killed in PvP.

The fact that I got to level 57 before being attacked by someone for the first time shows that ganking is discouraged enough to not be a common occurrence while not being completely ruled out. Seems like working as intended to me.

Black Desert Karma
Maximum Karma. Took me quite a while to get there. I hear you lose about 60k for one kill.

In ArcheAge a track record of your misconducts is kept, and once you’re past a certain threshold your next death teleports you straight to court where five more or less randomly chosen players put you to trial.

ArcheAge Court
My first time in the jury (second from left). I never stood in the dock myself.

The culprit’s criminal record is presented to the jury members who then get to choose a sentence, the minimum charge being Not Guilty, the maximum a certain duration of (online) jail time depending on the amount of transgressions.

My first trial was against a well known PK (player killer) named Kuroda. When there are ten pages of attacked and killed players to flip through you know someone’s been really naughty.

ArcheAge Kuroda1
240 minutes of jail time seemed like a quite appropriate punishment to me.

Because he was a repeat offender the other four jury members were obviously in favour of the maximum sentence though…

ArcheAge Kuroda2
Ouch! The highest sentence I ever saw.

The ‘RIP Kuroda’ chants in trial chat went on for quite some time, while he already lingered in the prison’s courtyard unable to harm anyone.

 

In EVE Online there’s the distinction between high security space (abbreviated ‘high sec’), low sec and null sec, each with it’s own rules and punishments (or in case of null sec, no punishments) for PvP engagements.

My punishment for having shot at a lot of people in low sec is that I can’t enter any high sec system anymore without being attacked by police NPCs, and other players can shoot me without any penalties whatsoever even in high sec. Which restricts me pretty severely in moving around, getting lost ships replaced etc. I can work around much of that with the help of alt characters of course, but it’s still enough deterrent for many players to not choose this path. It took more than ten years until I dared trying it myself.

EVE minus10
Once I did I tried pretty hard though.

I think these three games handle non-consensual PvP in ways that, while still not perfect, work quite well, and for my taste they would be much less worth playing if they didn’t allow it at all.

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