As a self-described Professional Hug Ninja, I don’t often focus on the competitive nature of gaming. I barely play fighting games, I have only succeeded in bringing my team down in online shooting matches, and I have had some marginal prowess in online battles in MechWarrior 3 and 4…and that was because of the handicap that was playing other people online over a 25k internet connection.
MMO’s, then, were something that I was most looking forward to. Online gaming, up to this point, was all about turning the other person into a variety of polygonal chunks the fastest. Here there was a chance to team up with other people, to create bands of adventurers and to take down immense challenges.
…however, game designers still feel that the most fun possible is turning the other guy into polygonal chunks.
I never actually experienced the hell of Ultima Online, but it sounds like hell to me–an MMO wasteland where the simple act of logging in as a new person was a crime punishable by repeated death and inference about the sexual performance of yourself or your parentage. And if people teamed together to defend themselves, then the murderwolf would band together with others to create a pack of murderwolves larger than your pack and continue to steamroll as a result of having a Chestpiece of Indiscriminate Hate-Stabbing which was nothing compared to your Peasant Burlap Sack. If Ultima Online were a social experiment created by Uatu the Watcher, he’d have Earth vaporized within the first three hours.
Part of the problem with PvP is design, but I will also largely admit that part of the problem is with myself as well. I am actually a very competitive person who wants to do right and offer genuine aid to the folks I play alongside, and being terrible at PvP is something that I do take personally, no matter how completely idiotic that sounds.
So that got me thinking…what sort of PvP game would I enjoy? What kind of design would I find engaged in even though I’m a “carebear bad lern to play” as the kids might call me?
I’ve tried a couple of different PvP modes recently. The first was Guild Wars 2’s World vs. World mode. This was perhaps the busiest PvP experience I’ve ever had, and also the most confusing. There were large groups of people running around and doing stuff, and joining them was a simple matter of running alongside said group like a horde of bloodthirsty zebra. However, unlike those majestic, sweeping shots of herd animals moving forward in unison with a single purpose, there was no actual communication, and so it largely ended up with me joining groups that crashed into walls or crashed into other groups and see which one had more people standing.
The next PvP attempt was in Final Fantasy XIV, and I wasn’t really sure doing this would be a great idea. It has always been my experience with the online variant of the Final Fantasy series that PvP was as much of an afterthought as crafting is to almost every other MMO developer ever. Still, I decided to queue in because, hey, there’s daily rewards for entering the Frontlines. Why not?
Well, I apparently was almost alone in my thinking, and the prevailing attitude of most in this game must be “Yoshi don’t like PvP”. The majority of the time I spent was waiting for PvP to queue…and when the alert screen did pop, suddenly someone would change their mind and drop out, forcing everyone else who was waiting to get back in line. It was the stuff of legends, if legends were written and sung by skalds who were bad at their job.
Ultimately, these both had team dynamics, which allow me to hide the fact that I am a carebear bad lern to play, but there was one thing missing from these “team” experiences: actual fucking teamwork. A unified purpose and singular goal. Sure, people wanted the win, but there wasn’t really any sort of specific plan or unity or cohesion to achieve that goal. And, ultimately, the fact that “get the winz” was the only goal meant there weren’t really any stakes or any reason for people to coalesce. It was like a pick-up game of basketball, but with less athleticism and more shit-talking.
Ultima Online has people teaming up for the sake of mere survival, but then the lack of restrictions makes that pretty much an endless Ouroboros of bullshit. People in videogaming need to be put into rulesets because nothing works faster than the mind of an online MMO gamer to find chinks in the armor or ways to benefit themselves despite the collateral damage. There needs to be more than a win condition. There needs to be a whole large swath of peoples under common banners working for mutual benefit and survival.
Enter Camelot Unchained.
Realm versus Realm is a form of PvP that I completely missed out on due to Dark Age of Camelot not being on my radar, and Warhammer Online being a completely boring PvE experience for the few levels I suffered through. However, the stuff coming out of Mark Jacobs and City State Entertainment has me thinking that this sort of PvP is my kind of game–a PvP game that has teams that are made to cohere because there’s limitations and demands and rules.
First off, there’s interdependency amongst the people in each faction. Player roles all lock together, so there’s immediate teamwork and sense of direction. Second, survival demands that teamwork happens. This battlefield is continual. Perpetual. The win condition isn’t a win, it’s still being allowed to log in. Thirdly, and perhaps my most personally important note, those of us who are carebear bad lern to plays have what sounds like a deep, involved, extensive and fun crafting game to look forward to….so if I can’t gain glory on the field, I can gain money by making weapons for meatheads to bonk each other with.
I don’t like hinging all of my hopes on one game’s release, especially when the game itself isn’t really completely finished yet. Still, progress has looked good, and the design document that Mark Jacobs has lined out sounds like this could be a form of PvP that I could stomach…because , like almost other things in my MMO experience, I’d like to broaden my scope of experience and get just what the hell people love about certain playstyles. Even if I end up hating the game and myself for buying it, there’s certainly no fault in the trying.