PVP risks and rewards

When I play World of Warcraft and think about the PVP in the game, I often think to myself why I don't feel the same adrenaline rush and excitement that I felt when I ganked(snuck up others and killed them) players in other games like Everquest.

Although I've been playing MMORPGs for 10 years now, I still think back to the old days when I played Everquest. I've not played many games, rather I played a few games for extended amounts of time, Everquest was one of them, for 5 years. I had played it since launch, all the way up to Gates of Discord. I played primarily on the Rallos Zek server. On this server, the reward for killing another player is being able to take one piece of equipment they are wearing, barring gear that is flagged for non-transferable. This made for some very adrenaline filled, exciting combat. Of course it sucked to be on the losing end of this combat, as that item that you spent hours camping, is now in the hands of some asshole who backstabbed you while you were in their group.

This aspect alone game that sense of panic whenever I would see a message pop up saying that another player has casted some kind of damage spell on me, or has swung at me with their weapon. When pvp'ing World of Warcraft I always feel that the lack of excitement could be attributed to that risk that I could lose something important to me. For many players, there isn't necessarily something missing as they may never had played a MMORPG with consequences as harsh as looting equipment, and I understand their hesitation to engage in combat with so much on the line. In games like WoW, where obtaining high end equipment is so time consuming, losing a few pieces is enough to make a player quit the game.

But I don't think full pvp looting should be discounted even in games like WoW. Blizzard could create a new server with pvp loot rules and balance that out by making gear more easily replaceable or restricting what type of gear can be looted, for example, only low to mid quality gear being lootable, although this would make low level and noob players the best targets, while they are also the weakest. Or making epic level items lootable. The specific mechanics of the pvp looting system isn't important, it's whether taking someone else's achievements, i.e. gear, is a good enough reward and whether the average player can handle losing it. There are many reasons why this is so attractive, but schadenfreude, the concept of enjoying the misery of others, and in this case enjoying inflicting misery on others is a big reason to enjoy it.

What is quite troubling is the impending sense that one day PVP may be phased out of MMORPGs in order to cater to all the carebears(people who prefer to play on servers where Player versus Player combat is either non-existant or restricted to specially designated areas like arenas). As MMO games become more and more mainstream, it becomes more inviting to casual players and people who didn't traditional play games. For these people, MMORPGs is more like playing a single player RPG combined with a instant messenger, allowing them to experience story lines while communicating with others. Sure, there is interaction with other players, but the driving force behind the goal of the multiplayer aspect, competitive gaming, is not utilized. I pray that the MMORPG market will, one day when it has reached that final fork in the road, choose the path that leads to PVP focused gameplay.

My experience with MMORPG games with PVP implemented;
World of Warcraft: Competitive but no real risk
City of Heroes: Poor PVP combat implementation, combat obviously not designed to handle PVP
Everquest: A PVE game which attempted PVP, but very high risk and reward on PVP server
Lineage: Decent PVP combat, extreme risk and rewards for PVP, but also punishments for griefing


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