Inspired by recent small-scale discussion in certain blogs on the subject of PVE servers in games centered and balanced around the idea of free-for-all PVP and player looting, I came to think of trying to put my finger on what makes a game of this type appeal to players who don’t do PVP combat at all – the carebears. The fact is, just about every game of the described type has those players who never fight it out with others – what is it that draws them to these games?
The economy game
Its well known there is a vocal group of people who are very strongly against any type of unconventional PVP in MMORPGs. I believe these people to be in the minority. Much like the PVP advocates who feel every game should be all about free-for-all PVP combat, I view this group as a niche. The majority of genre players probably fall somewhere in between the two extremes, as is usual with divisive features.
Just because a player does not want to engage in PVP does not mean they dislike it. EVE is a perfect example, as has been pointed out time and time again – warfare drives the economy, but participating in the economy in a very meaningful way does not require direct participation in combat against other players.
A meaningful, well balanced economy is interesting, and to a lot of people, reason enough to play an MMO. In the case of games where killing other players is possible and looting or partially destroying their stuff equally so, PVP helps to both drive the market forward and balance it, to the benefit of also the merchant who might not have an interest in direct conflict at all.
Ignoring the bad for the good
As gamers know all too well, the perfect game does not exist. Even our favorite games have their flaws which we look past because the rest of the game draws us in. Especially in the current market this is more true than ever, for the genre is not new anymore and people more or less know exactly what they want. Combine that with the fact in recent years the supply of MMORPGs has mainly consisted exclusively of the post-WoW themepark -subtype and we’re left with a situation where if one wants to play a new game, it is likely they’re going to have to look past a lot of features they personally dislike to get a piece of the good stuff.
ArcheAge is a very good recent example of this: a lot of FFA PVP-minded players are known to be playing it despite the game having many features they dislike and lacking others they would find suitable, simply because there is not much else for them to play out there in the current market.
Just like the free-for-all PVP crowd playing ArcheAge have to settle for “good enough”, so must many high sec EVE players. To a different extent of course, but in the end, FFA PVP is just a feature amongst others – just because it exists in a game doesn’t mean its the only thing to do.
Players will play a game the majority of which they like, even if they dislike some of it’s features. However, if some feature is especially offputting to a certain group of players, the features that group actually considers interesting should be of particularly high quality. Take Darkfall Online for example. A common argument to hear on why the game always had such a low population is that it features open world PVP and full looting. I would argue that this is only part of the problem – the real problem is that the game’s quality does not meet the expectations of players and the game lacks in just about all of it’s content. There just isn’t much else to do in the game but to endlessly murder others.
Just having a free-for-all PVP system doesn’t have to turn a game into a murder simulator. I feel a game with the feature can well be designed in such a way it is still interesting to the carebear. Its also important to note that a game of this sort could still well include quality PVE content. And lastly, balancing the economy of a sandbox title without PVP seems like a pretty tough nut to crack to say the least.