Sandboxes and Sheep

Defense of Open World

While I might dip my toes in the water of player versus player every so often just to see if I still don’t enjoy it… at my core I am very much a Carebear.  I’ve always assumed I simply lack the competitive streak needed to make the dance of “you kill me I hunt you down and kill you” enjoyable.  Even in the hallowed days of Doom multiplayer, I greatly preferred playing co-operatively with friends rather than playing a Deathmatch.  Generally speaking this wouldn’t effect me because I never willfully choose to expose myself to a PVP environment or mentality, however for some reason folks keep seeming to get hung up on requiring it to play in their sandbox.  I like the concept of a sandbox world where I can go anywhere and do anything…  but for a certain stripe of player that means that they can also grief and gank anyone as a result.

Yesterday there was a really good article talking about the psychology of a Carebear by Aywren that tries to delve into the reasons for not wanting open world PVP.  This article references several other really good articles, the first of which being “What’s So Bad About Open World PVP” over on Gaming Conjecture.  Later on during the article another post is referenced on Endgame Viable that takes a very similar stance.  Essentially the argument sums up to that in ArcheAge the game in question, there aren’t any real lasting consequences of PVP combat, so why should anyone have a problem with it.  I guess from a certain standpoint that is true, there are no lasting mechanical consequences to my character…  but that standpoint relies on someone actually seeing player versus player as a meaningful experience.

Wasting My Time

When I sit down to play any game, be it online or offline I generally have some broad overarching goals in mind, things that I want to accomplish for that night to feel like I actually did something.  Granted I allow myself to get side tracked all of the time, but that is generally tracing down various shiny bits that I happen across along the way.  These rabbit trails are entirely my choice and I allow myself to indulge them as I move around the world.  My key problem with open player versus player combat is the fact that someone is imposing their enjoyment on my playtime.  I am all about folks enjoying their game play until that enjoyment comes at my expense.  I am never going to be the type of player that attacks first, it is just not in my nature and I have waved and hugged countless “flagged” players during my time in World of Warcraft.  So if I get attacked and killed it will be done and over 90% of the time before I even get a shot in…  because I am not looking to fight other players.

What happens then is a series of things that take me out of the place where I was enjoying the game and force me to deal with the whims of another player.  Either I wait until the player gives up and stops camping my corpse, which could be any length of time.  I could allow myself to get drawn into a conflict and start trying to kill trade with that player until either of us gets bored.  More likely I just log out of the game and go find something else to do, because the groove that I was in is now lost thanks to someone interjecting themselves into my game play session.  Now the fans of PVP will talk about how much it enriches their game play experience, how much they enjoy the constant sense of fear of getting attacked.  For me I just view it as a waste of my time, and I don’t cherish or enjoy it any more than any other waste of time.  I don’t look longingly at waiting in a long line at the super market, nor do I think fondly of waiting in traffic because someone is gawking at an accident.  That thing you enjoy about the game, the pvp aspect…  I consider it about as meaningful as both of those things.

Sandboxes and Sheep

The biggest problem I have with the current generation of Sandbox games is that they attract two completely different types of players.  For me at least I love the intricate systems of the game and the fact that you can craft anything you can imagine and run huge trade cartels if you so choose.  I like that there are housing that are meaningful in the world and give you a physical foothold.  I like the fact that you can choose from a large number of combat classes and each mix and match of them offers meaningful gameplay results.  I like that there are interesting places in the world to explore, bosses to take down and events to conquer.  I am very much there to consume all the PVE goodness that the world can offer and experience the epic journey that it has to offer.  I feel like a lot of players want all of those things and more or less try to ignore the player versus player aspect.  We in essense are the sheep, and the fact that we are plays a necessary role for another type of players enjoyment.

In order for a ganker to have fun, they have to have someone to gank.  The ganker mentality doesn’t seek out a challenge, they seek out  the weakest link in the chain so they can exploit it and get their enjoyment out of making someone else feel weak.  It is going to be us sheep that get drawn into their power games, and us sheep that are inconvenienced by it.  Granted that is not to say that all PVPers are gankers and griefers, because that is very much not the case.  There are noble defenders that are there to engage in epic battles between factions for control of sections of the map.  These players aren’t the ones inconveniencing me, because chances are if I ignore them they will also ignore me.  They too are engaged in goal based play, and their goal is to seek out the competition and conquer it.  The folks that will find me, when I least expect it, when I am getting the most enjoyment out of the game are the folks who just want to ruin my night.

Living Breathing World

Yesterday I posted a very truncated version of this statement over on the Gaming Conjecture website.  I condensed the bulk of everything I wanted to say into two paragraphs, and for the most part folks seem to accept what I said at face value.  There was one response however.

But I’d like to ask whether you feel the gain can outweigh the loss? So for example, I might have my intended plan ruined by a PvP intervention, but does gaining a living breathing world make that a price worth paying?

Once again I think this question comes from a mindset of someone who feels that player versus player combat enriches their experience.  For me at least the fact that I can attack other players does not make it a living breathing world.  The fact that the world is populated with lots of things that I can interact with, harvest, plant, and build makes it a living breathing world.  What would make it MORE of a living world is if players were less focused on trying to kill each other, and somehow screw over each other… and more focused on collaborating on massive scale public works projects.  Once upon a time there was a game called Horizon.. that later on got rebranded as Istaria.  Unfortunately the current version is a mere shadow of what the original was like to play, and has mostly become a game for folks who desperately want to role-play a dragon.

That game was a sandbox environment before I even knew to call it a sandbox.  It had a rich crafting system, and an equally rich multi-classing combat system.  In truth it is everything that ArcheAge is, but a decade earlier.  What make the game so compelling to me is that on Dawn the role-playing server we had massive crafters unions that worked together on big projects.  The  game set these obstacles in our path that could only be solved by devoting both crafting and combat resources to them.  For example in order to access a brand new continent we had to build a bridge, and the construction of it was a month long project of crafters constantly applying materials to its construction.  The problem being that the nearest quarry was a considerable amount of distance away from the bridge, and the entire path was lined with enemies that could easily kill the players wearing their crafting gear.

As a result being primarily combat focused, I along with lots of other players took up the role of guarding players as they applied materials to the construction.  These huge public works projects, and entire player built communities gave the world a living breathing feel… and there was not a single amount of player versus player combat in that game.  I guess what I am saying is I don’t feel it adds anything to my experience, and doesn’t make a world any more real than anything else does.  My world is about collaborating with other players to do interesting things, not tearing down others so I can feel stronger.  That might be a dangerous oversimplification, but that is how I view forced PVP in an otherwise PVE rich setting.  I view it as a few players forcing themselves upon me so they can get their enjoyment at my expense.

#ArcheAge #PVP #Carebear

16 thoughts on “Sandboxes and Sheep

  1. “For me at least the fact that I can attack other players does not make it a living breathing world. The fact that the world is populated with lots of things that I can interact with, harvest, plant, and build makes it a living breathing world.”

    The living, breathing world is a reference to how the entire playing community changes and shifts as new game play opportunities emerge and when the game environment changes.

    A community of carebears in EVE might find a ganker amongst them. When that happens, the carebears can adapt or they can die. Adaptation includes using intel channels, scanning for threats, working as a team (safety in numbers), changing the way they fit their ships and which ships they fly, which professions they choose, moving to a new home, whether or not they fight back or simply pay someone to protect them.

    As these events unfold, the community as a whole, shifts. Players that had no clue how to defend themselves or had troubles getting camped into stations find they can exploit their enemy’s weaknesses and start using tactical bookmarks. As people shift from one profession to another, because they can’t make an acceptable profit from it, other players that have leartn how to make a good profit can move in to replace them.

    The world in EVE is organic, as players change their behaviours and react to changes around them. Where a player ends up and what professions he may pursue can be influenced by the game and he in turn can influence the game.

    That, right there is a living, breathing game.

    When you mention a PvE oriented sandbox MMO, you’re missing out a vital aspect of that living, breathing game experience: Security. Being able to *safely* operate in a game like EVE has a huge impact on whether or not players pursue a profession over another, whether they choose a specific contract, how much profit they want to make for the jobs they undertake.

    Take away the threats and money making is reduced to “turn on lasers, go AFK” or “enable autopilot, go AFK” etc. There’s no Darwinism in play, the weak don’t fail and die, the strong don’t prosper. Everyone simply goes through the same mind-numbing grind.

    Honestly, I can’t see a sanbox MMO that doesn’t revolve around PvP.

  2. @Izlain: “If you don’t like PvP, why play a game like ArcheAge that was designed from the core to be PvP-centric?” Because there aren’t any decent PVE centric sandbox games on the market. Pretty simple answer, eh? “But the thought that PvP shouldn’t exist because half (or more) of the population doesn’t like it is just silly.” yes, that it silly, but that is an irrelevant straw man argument. No one is arguing that all PvP games be removed from the market. We would just like *1* decent sandbox MMO without PvP-centric design.

  3. @Belghast: ” I guess what I am saying is I don’t feel it adds anything to my experience, and doesn’t make a world any more real than anything else does. ” Realistic PvP adds to the realism of a virtual world; but unrealistic PvP can detract from the realism. That said, I think bringing up realism in that sense is a bit of a red herring. There should be both Pvp and Pve sandboxes on the market, to maximize utility for both players and game companies; debating which is more realistic is not relevant.

  4. I’m going to take a slightly different direction from Izlain, and reiterate what I said on Aywren’s post:
    I don’t buy the time- or mood- wasting argument as a fault of PvP rulesets. You are more likely, imnsho, to have your time wasted by someone in an LFG/LFR than to be ganked in a decent OWPvP game. I say ‘decent’ because I’m not talking about things like Darkfall or Mortal Online, where the point of the game is hardcore PvP combat. I avoid those cesspits too. I’ve been harassed into logging off or abandoning my goals for the night, when questing or farming in WoW on a PvE server several times. Hunters who think it’s great fun to try and lure mobs onto you. People following you around trying to get you to flag by clicking on them, or spamming /spit emotes because you beat them to a node.

    I will grant that the addition of OWPvP does mean an increase in possible incidents that make you lose your groove. But I would contend that it’s a small increase at worst. So I come back to seanxxp’s question: is it not worth the small increase in risk to be able to play something that is currently not on offer elsewhere (except for EVE, I guess)? And I would add: what is it about PvP that makes you draw the line there? Are you already close to your tolerance limit and it is just the proverbial last straw, or is it something else?

    The counterargument I can expect is that you don’t play group content in PvE games either, for the same reasons. If that is the case, if you don’t do LFG/LFR because of the potential for having your time wasted by strangers, then all I can say is that you’re very consistent and I will have to patiently wait alongside you, for someone to make the PvE co-op-centric game that you desire. Hopefully EQNext will fill that void somewhat.

  5. My problem with this argument is that some games cater to PvP-minded players, and others cater to PvE minded players. If you don’t like PvP, why play a game like ArcheAge that was designed from the core to be PvP-centric? That goes back to Syp’s argument that there should be PvE-only servers for the game when it was clearly designed with PvP in all of its systems. All of the other games that you write about are PvE-centric, so play those. Not every game has to cater to all types. That is the definition of entitlement.

    Funny part is that I’m not even playing AA. It’s still not the open-world PvP experience I’m looking for. But the thought that PvP shouldn’t exist because half (or more) of the population doesn’t like it is just silly. That’s like me demanding that all tradeskill and harvesting bullshit is removed from games altogether because I don’t like it. It takes away from my adventuring time.

  6. From this post, it sounds like we are kindred spirits on the whole pvp thing. I find it to be a complete waste of time, adding nothing to a game and only subtracting from it.

  7. Ah! Another Horizon’s player! No wonder we agree on many things! 😀

    I was there near Horizon’s launch, though I was never high enough leveled to help with all the huge building projects. I could only read about them and see the screenshots. But I bet THAT was an epic event to participate in.

    When things started going downhill, I left the game for a while. I did return a few years back, after it was renamed, and finally finished my Dragon’s RoP — flight in that game was so wonderful! I helped build up guild plots and lairs, and while that was no where on the same scale, it was an undertaking that brought people together, rather than pit them against each other.

    It makes me sad that no one has attempted anything like this since. I can only image how great a modern-tech, modern-graphics Horizons with fully functioning blight anchors, invasions and monthly events could be. *sigh*

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