PvP – My Take on It – Redux

A solid comment on my previous PvP post from Duke of O, was a rather long one with quite a few good elements in it.  Rather than bury it in a comment section, I would like to take the time to respond appropriately.  I’ll split up the comment here for readability but the entire content will be present.  You can always check the previous post for an unbroken version.  I’ll be using the royal version of I, You and We, unless noted otherwise.

As a long time PvPer, of both the discrete, balanced and instanced variety as well the persistent world variant, I find it interesting that the reasons why you dislike OWPvP games are the reasons why I like them. I like the chaos and the anarchy, and the feeling (albeit simulated) of living in a frontier world without laws or structure. I don’t mind the low standard of behaviour, as I already have a dim view of human nature, and all the adolescent posturing I see in these games just confirm what I already know about people interacting in anonymous environments without accountability. You don’t need OWPvP to see people behaving badly on the Internet – the more extreme polemic elements on both sides of the Gamergate debate are proof enough of that.

This is a rather fatalist view of the world and part of the core issue with the lack of progress.  A silent partner is as guilty as an active partner.  I personally expect more from people, you (specifically Duke) don’t share that view.  That doesn’t invalidate either argument, it just provides context on the entire comment.

I find it somewhat contradictory that you call these type of games anti-social, and then start talking about how common it is for players in these games to form what you call “gangs”. I don’t know why a PvE group banded together to achieve a mutual goal is called a raid group, while a OWPvP group doing the same thing becomes a “gang”, unless it is just your personal biases colouring your language.

This one is complicated due to my word use.  Raid is a military term, defining a quick attack and quick retreat before the enemy has a chance to know what’s going on.  Blitzkrieg is very close (and still used in US football).  The first time I saw the use of the word was in UO pre-Trammel and it was applied as per the definition.  It was used in EQ, again as per the definition (though you’ve likely also herd the term zerg which is similar).  It really took hold in WoW, where the events themselves were called raids and the meaning changed to one of strategy rather than guerrilla tactics.  A gang is a social construct that engages in illegal behavior.  I am selecting that term because that’s how I see it apply to OWPvP.  There is a difference between a gang and vigilantes, the latter of which is trying to enforce the law.  There are many more gangs than vigilantes and sometimes the line between them is very small.

And for anti-social, it’s how it applies to the general society and those not within your gang.  If you treat people outside your gang as you would treat people within, then you’re pro-society.  If you have a separate set of rules, then you’re anti-social.  If your goal is to destroy the enemy, rather than work cooperatively for a common goal, that’s anti-social.  If your goal is to inhibit your enemy for no tangible benefit (e.g. for the lulz) that’s anti-social.  If you use illegal or unethical methods to reach your goals, that’s anti-social.  Saying you made a friend or bonded is a drop in the bucket – if your enemy list is longer than your friend list…

Grouping together for the purposes of mutual gain, security or shared cultural identity seems to me to be the very essence of sociality, and speaking from personal experience I have found that the tightest bonds I have made in online spaces are in these types of games. Shared enemies and shared danger make for one hell of a bonding experience. Of course we treat the enemy with no quarter, but again this is what I expect from these anarchic and volatile environments, and I would like to think my opponents are aware of this.

This is the basis of my argument of consent.  If they are aware and agree, go nuts.  The argument that it builds social bonds is valid, just like a gang does.  Unless your group has some moral/ethical/legal code and actively defends that code, then you’re not a benefit to society, you’re a benefit to each other.

I do not disagree on the bonding aspect.  Our military brethren go through the same thing (ignoring the long-term effects of real-world combat for this argument).  If you share values with these people, as I assume you do, then it makes sense to build a stronger bond with them.  PvE builds similar bonds, assuming the values are shared.  Facing adversity, trusting that your team has your back and you are all working for the same goal will certainly build bonds.  Long-term trust.

I recall reading your comment on J3w3l’s blog, which says this about OWPvP – “honestly, it’s like seeing my history books in gaming.” That’s exactly why I love these type of games! If human history is the account of humanity’s rise from individualism to tribalism to nationalism to globalism via conflict and cooperation, then these type of games give us the opportunity to simulate them in a virtual environment, and to take part in them.

Agreed.  People want to simulate these events.  No different that war enactments or LARPing.  All the parties present consent and there are rules to the events.

The tale of the CFC’s rise to domination in null sec in EVE is like watching the pacification of the Wild West. From a frontier space filled with hundreds of self-serving, ruthless and selfish “gangs” the CFC has managed to create the biggest player association in MMO history, with over thousands of members, a feat no other player association in any other MMO has succeeded in or come close to doing. According to a long time writer on EVE politics (James315) the very reason why the CFC succeeded in bringing peace to null sec is because they treat their coalition members with respect, they honour their agreements and contracts, they are diplomatically astute and have a well-developed logistics and intelligence network, and when push comes to shove they can muster massive fleets in war.

CFC has done tremendously well through some of the most shady backdoor deals I have ever seen.  Governments would be proud of what this group has done in name of “the greater good”.  The amount of spying, ISK scams, backstabbing, murder, bribery, meta-PvP, and other assorted methods would astound anyone who paid attention.  Burn Jita helps the game how exactly?  What does CFC do to benefit the game, rather than benefit CFC?  It really is something to watch.  There is no game to compare to EvE where territorial control is similar.  But groups that have a similar social structure and larger overall impact?  Syndicate probably takes the cake on that one.

These are not attributes one immediately associates with “gangs”, although I do have to admit that there are plenty of player associations which fit that description in OWPvP MMOs. But it is equally possible for OWPvP worlds to have groups which conduct themselves with honour, integrity and trustworthiness.

I agree that there are people who conduct themselves with those values.  I remember the various towns that sprung up in UO, rune libraries and food dispensaries.  I have never seen an ounce of it in WoW.  AA has some, in particular the armadas.  EvE University is (mostly) a good example.

I would even contend that groups that succeed in dominating the meta-game in OWPvP games are groups which have the virtues of being able to work together internally and in partnership with other associations, and are competent and skilled in their chosen fields. I accept and respect the fact that they are not for everyone, and if anything, the fact that the reasons why I like them are the reasons why you hate them leads me to believe that these two viewpoints are probably irreconcilable.

I agree that they are both skilled and competent.  I think that their methods are abhorrent and provide no tangible benefit to anyone outside of the game.  Someone could be the best scam artist and make a mint in EvE (you see one every year or so) but you’ve screwed over a large group of people who placed trust.  So ya, they might find that they can smooth talk their way but now you have all those people who no longer want to trust anyone.  If that person scams someone outside of the group, it’s ok but if they were to scam someone in the group, it’s not.  The most notorious sociopaths are also extremely well skilled.  These arguments are not exclusionary.

I don’t think our points are irreconcilable because I don’t think we’re arguing the same thing.  My argument is that it requires consent and the majority of the actions in OWPvP are anti-social.  Your argument is that it’s fun, builds bonds between people, and requires skill and dedication.  They can both be true.

I truly do understand why people do it, in particular when there are no real world consequences of the actions (outside of meta-PvP).  It’s just not possible to argue that the actions support a progress of society as a whole, rather than subsets of individuals.  There are hundreds of reasons we don’t have tribal warfare anymore, that we have large partnerships across countries, that civilization has progressed more through cooperation than conflict.  OWPvP argues against all of that.

15 thoughts on “PvP – My Take on It – Redux

    • So you’re saying that the EULA covers events like the bonus room and real-world death threats? Or that ISK scams are ok but account hacking is not? And that new players have even the remotest understanding of what they are signing up for?

      My point is that consenting to OWPvP is not a blind statement to accept any and all activities. And CCP’s track record on what’s ok and what isn’t, is about as clear as mud.

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      • The bonus room and RL death threats are bannable offenses covered by the EULA, yup, so not sure why you are confused on CCPs stance with that. Plus naming two activities most would associate with griefing and calling them OWPvP is a bit odd to me.

        And yes, I think most people understand that when they sign up for EVE, they are signing up for a virtual world that includes OWPvP. There is a reason the game is flooded with new accounts after an OWPvP event like BR. Do they come in knowing the full history of MoO, no, but I’d have a hard time believe most just stumble into the game expecting WoW in space.

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      • The point is that the OWPvP in EvE allows and condones greifing, to a point. The bonus room (or any ISK doubling scam) doesn’t get action until it blows up in the news. I’m sure new players get the PvP aspect and they are not expecting WoW in space. To stretch that argument to lump in knowledge griefing/scamming, with no recourse, is another matter.

        Which is a really odd argument coming from someone who, to my knowledge, doesn’t grief. I’ve read the majority of your posts on DF, AA and EvE (even CoC) and you clearly enjoy the OWPvP aspect with some level of rules around it, a system of some level of control. The concept of empire building and combat, I’m on board. The ass-hattery though… it benefits no one but rarely has a system to control it.

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  1. Again though griefing and OWPvP are two different things, and they aren’t directly linked.

    The bonus room, to some extent, could exist in WoW too. A top-tier raiding guild could trick people into singing, giving all gold, mailing items, or whatever to join the raid, only to never let them join. The reason it was made famous in EVE is because item value means more in EVE than in most games, and the player base pushes ‘player freedom’ further than most. CCP can’t look into the future and predict what some players will come up with next to grief, but unlike a lot of other studios, once they looked into the bonus room, they acted.

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    • They are separate but certainly linked. There is no single platform that allows,and often encourages, griefing more than OWPvP. We have 15 years of games that prove that. Even WoW’s complete massive scale playerbase doesn’t have a fraction of the greifing that EvE does, or even AA.

      I get that it could happen in WoW. We both know that would result in bans after a single report. EvE has daily scams and griefing. All in the name of pushing “player freedom”.

      But I’m not arguing that EvE shouldn’t exist, simply that it supports anti-social activities. It’s wild west, as the Duke put it, and that’s fine.

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      • It’s not apples to apples since by comparison, nothing in WoW ‘matters’, but back in the original version of Alterac Vally, on our server we had a few people who would intentionally screw us over to cause our side to lose, or at least win a lot slower. They were reported, GM said they couldn’t do anything since technically “they were playing the game”, even though here ‘playing the game’ was intentionally ruining the experience for others just to be dicks, going so far as to taunt everyone in chat about it.

        Now again, because nothing in WoW really ‘matters’, and because of servers vs one world, etc etc, something like that doesn’t make news like the bonus room.

        Another very easy example; guilds would raid lower level towns and kill the flight master, quest givers, and every other NPC to prevent that functionality. The reason? To grief, since it literally earned you NOTHING but the anguish of the other side. And how long did it take Blizzard to remove that possibility?

        Putting a huge mount on a flight master?

        I think you are trying to put something against the EULA like the bonus room in the same sentence as something like Corp infiltration to make a point, and take those two very different examples and then further link them to the fact that EVE has OWPvP. EVE gets the headlines about that stuff, yes, because like so many other things in EVE, it does it better/bigger than other games, but just as much if not more griefing occurs in games like WoW; you just don’t hear about them or care as much since it ultimately doesn’t ‘matter’.

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      • This is true, the value of the impact on WoW is barely a dimple compared to others with a “long game”. There are greifers in whatever model you want to play, though as you clearly point out greifing in PvE is near-pointless. The value of the grief certainly has an impact. Verbal harassment has the same impact regardless of model. Theft does not. And so on.

        I am not sure how the argument against PvP being a shield/excuse for asshats somehow became a rail against OWPvP. Consentual, goal-based PvP, with a set of ground rules is fine. It’s part of what made DAoC work. If Corp-based infiltration is acceptable in EvE, then hey, write it down in the EULA. There’s a rather long continuum of PvP activties right? Just list the ones your game permits when you log on. I am having trouble seeing the distinction between that and listing the features in a themepark (raids, dungeons, housing, cross-realm battles, etc….) Is it just too much effort to list those types of activities or is the list too “grey”?

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  2. I’m sorry but your argument and analogy here is irredeemable flawed. Your dismissal of others points of view to push this flawed agenda is also rather troubling. All you seem to see are some black and white situations. Your either for the absolute worst owpvp can create and are asshole within a gang or you’re against pvp entirely and championing for the good of mankind. I just don’t get that.

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    • The other’s point of view is that acts of debauchery are justified if you make friends. Yeah, I’m going to take issue with that every time.

      If the argument that consensual fantasy goal based OWPVP is good, then I agree. That’s pretty much how DAOC worked.

      Trying to defend theft (as the most basic example) as some sort of good thing or an act that you’d actually perpetrate outside of game is a flawed argument. It’s no different than murder simulator 3000. It’s a game. Why the heck would I ever want to play a game where that’s part of the ruleset? Maybe other people do, and that’s fine because they are consenting.

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    1. Comparing EvE and WoW will never work, as one was designed as OWPvP and the other was not.
    2. It doesn’t matter what you put in the EULA. Do you read the EULA of every game you play? No one reads the EULA. It’s generally known that exploits and extreme cases of griefing will be punished. I could put “If you don’t fuck sheep, you’re banned” in the EULA and no one would notice.
    3. Games with OWPvP are designed with the attacking and killing of opposing factions’ players in mind. If you can’t stomach that, then you shouldn’t be playing. It sounds like you already aren’t playing, so why do you care in the first place? If you are arguing for a set of rules that you can enjoy that include OWPvP, but don’t like any of the available options, it sounds like you’re going to have to wait or create the game for yourself. Personally, I don’t waste my time arguing for changes that I know aren’t going to happen. I just don’t play games I don’t like.

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      1. Agreed. WoW today has no OWPvP. It did in vanilla and was lost with flight in BC. Not really trying to compare them. Syncaine was pointing out that griefing existed in PvE using WoW as an example, not that we were looking apples to apples.
      2. I do read it actually, but that’s based on past experience not reading T&Cs and getting burned on it. Put it somewhere else if you want it more evident.
      3. I am not sure what you’re arguing here. I’m not asking for changes to the gameplay. I’ve also said I won’t play the games out there given their rulesets (I did enjoy DAoC’s). In fact, I’m saying the opposite, that they should exist only that people who are playing should understand the terms of it in able to consent.

      It’s a good question about why I care. I am interested in all types of games and try to understand the mentality behind the design and the gamers. It’s a sad joke really, that I’ve posted hundreds of blogs on the issues with PvE and the single most popular article is some of the design issues with PvP. So I guess PvP in every game is perfect and there’s no need to change anything, that everyone else is 100% correct and everything I wrote is wrong. Which is actually quite hilarious.

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  3. The issue of consent has always been straightforward for me. I’m aware that there are other people who have more convoluted definitions of consent, but for me the act of signing into a game or a server which is openly PvP-orientated constitutes enough of a waiver for people to go at it within these spaces. I agree with you that consent to take part in OWPvP is not carte blanche to be humiliated, abused or be taken advantage of, but if you are going into worlds which have a reputation for these excesses you better go in with both eyes open. You always have the incontrovertible right possessed by all gamers to fall back on – namely, the right not to play these types of games. In this respect I believe our thoughts regarding consent are actually quite similar, regardless of earlier misgivings about irreconcilable differences.

    If I’m reading you correctly you have no problem with consensual OWPvP but argue that this type of gameplay enables a lot of anti-social or abhorrent behaviour. If this is the case I have to agree with you – I’ve seen too much asshattery in many of the worlds I have inhabited to deny this. I can’t argue that stealing or killing aren’t anti-social activities, either, because in the context of real world relations they are. In virtual spaces, however, especially once consent is given, I believe it is largely contextual. If the game’s core mechanics revolve around killing or stealing then it is simply a case of players playing the game as intended. Extra-curricular activities that go above and beyond the core mechanics and impinge into real life, however, can be anti-social in the true sense of the word, so I believe we have common ground here as well.

    For me player freedom is one of the single most important characteristics in evaluating the worth of a game, because the option to be good or bad allows for a spectrum of simulated moral possibilities. Game designers COULD make games which only allow “good” behaviour, much like the society envisioned by Anthony Burgess in A Clockwork Orange. “Rehabilitated” felons in this world have no choice but to be good – their ability to act has been curtailed by negative conditioning. If I don’t have the freedom to be bad, however, what value does a good act have? This is another reason why I like the chaos and anarchy of OWPvP environments, and why I value good people I meet in these spaces. The fact that people can be “bad” in these environments doesn’t surprise me – the fact that people can be “good” despite of them is astonishing.

    I’d like to think that I am more realistic than fatalistic in my world view, because despite our shortcomings as a species I am optimistic that humans will find a way to survive and prosper. When drafting legislation or engineering social policies, however, it is better to have an unvarnished view of human nature rather than relying on the dangerous utopian ideal that people will always act in the best interests of society. That’s the bedrock of democracy, isn’t it – the concept that humans are fallible creatures, and therefore governments require a system of checks and balances to ameliorate our selfish tendencies. The separation of powers, habeas corpus, human rights and representative government are all devices designed to curb the abuse of power, and the core assumption behind these mechanisms is that people are corruptible.

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    • Thank you for the reply. You’ve represented the other side of the coin quite appropriately with this. And to your point:

      In virtual spaces, however, especially once consent is given, I believe it is largely contextual.

      That’s the core of the argument.

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