May 14, 2015

Posted by in Gaming | 4 Comments

The Enemy Is Us

I had a shower epiphiny this morning. For all the bluster around the division between PvE and PvP as the “core mechanic” for an MMO, many modern MMOs are PvP centric.

I don’t know how I got myself on the topic this morning…actually, yes I do. I was thinking about my progression in SWTOR. I dinged two levels last night thanks to two story missions and the 12x XP boost, and managed to complete the Tatooine story area (I still have a lot of side-missions, though). The 12x XP makes leveling really quick, making me equate my time in SWTOR with my luck in Star Trek Online and it’s duty officer passive XP system. This morning, I was realizing that I could take this character to the cap (or very close to it), which would leave me time to level another character. Maybe my Jedi. Maybe my Imperial Agent.

If I chose the Agent, however, I’d be outside of the guild since we don’t have an Imperial branch. I wondered if there was cross-faction chat. I wondered why we had the strict division between factions.

Factions. That was it. That was what lead me to think about other games with factions, and why they had factions. These divisions set up an “us versus them” division which ultimately allows conflict between players.

So even if I’ve never really done much PvP, those faction divides are constructs put in place to ensure that players who want to PvP will have some framework explaining why they’re vPing.

I thought it was kind of weird, since I’ve always thought of most MMOs as having been built around PvE, but the design foundation for faction-sporting games is actually PvP.

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  1. Even if you start really putting the players who play PvE under a microscope, the great majority of them could really care less about storyline. Even in PvE, people are playing because of other people. Yes, it’s nice that the games give us *reasons*, sometimes very weak, but I’m not sure we really need those reasons. In the longrun we just like interacting with others, whether we’re killing them or teaming with them. 🙂

    • Scopique says:

      “Other people” means different things to different people, but on a nebulous level I agree 100%. I used to be a die-hard soloist, but I still liked having real people to “flesh out” the world around me. I’m still not enamored with PUGs, but I do like playing with friends.

      I look at what happens when a game like Crowfall shows up, though, and the community it attracts. There’s so many “PvE focused” games out there that when there’s a PvP-centric title announced, PvP fans tend to get a bit zealous and defensive. I can see their position, though, since there’s not A LOT of PvP MMOs out there (in the West, at any rate).

      But when you step back and look at it, we’re conditioned to play PvP of a sort because the faction system exists mainly to foster the “us versus them” attitude. Sometimes it’s natural, like with Star Wars, Star Trek, or other IP which is well know and features excuses to kill one another. But since the early days of…I dunno if EQ has factions, but at LEAST DAoC, WoW, and others, factions have always been around to let people choose how they want to align themselves AGAINST other players.

  2. I don’t really see this at all. It seems to me more like a standard lore based mechanic most feel they need to put in. A standardised MMO idea that most don’t question enough to really think how it effects the game, they just do it because that’s what wow does.

    For PvP I actually think Factions make the experience far worse. For the arena instances it means longer queues and the open world fighting extremely unbalanced.

    My better pvp experiences have actually been in mmo’s that focus on player constructed guilds and groups being the warring parties… it works so much better

    • Scopique says:

      Cutting it to the bone, all of these games are designed around conflict mechanics, which is an easy mechanic to model compared to contrived social mechanics that are difficult to control, or “lower tier” mechanics that have been traditionally pushed to support or fluff roles (crafting, specialized mechanics like diplomacy in Vanguard, etc).

      I don’t know that I’d say that “factions as a lore mechanic” is entirely accurate; on the drawingboard, games are a set of mechanics first, and lore comes second, or the two are merged down the road, but my take is that factions exist in modern MMOs to prevent the “Trammel-Felucia Solution” that FFA PvP needs to negotiate in order to please PvE and PvPers. The traditional faction setup, then is explaining to you the mechanic of why you can’t attack someone at the crafting station next to you, but you CAN attack someone who hails from the other continent. In games that are mostly PvE, it protects PvErs, but pushes PvPers into a niche area of the game.

      I absolutely agree that a good way to get more people INTO PvP, though, is by removing the arbitrary restrictions that factions create. GW2’s server-vs-server is a great example: it’s using natural demarcations without any need for a real lore-based push, but I think that’s because there’s benefits of PvP beyond just the arena matches. EVE has factions, but that means bupkiss when you head into nullsec. As you move further down the spectrum, though, and remove in-game factions and replace it wholesale with player constructs, you’re no longer facing a PvE game, and are transitioning over to a primarily PvP game (EVE, Crowfall, etc).

What do you think?