Wednesday, October 24, 2007

To Serve And Protect

What do you do to prevent ganking in an open PvP MMO? On the one hand, if you don't allow player PvP in the open world, your game ends up as a glorified single-player game; on the other hand, too much PvP with too few penalties lead to a world populated by player-killers. What's the right middle point?

Obviously, you'll want to have some level of PvP, but limit the capacity of malicious players to harm their fellow sentients; either of them is missing and you lose credibility as a MMORPG. There are things players can do to prevent being killed, of course, including staying in the main cities. If they never leave it, then they'll be safe; they just won't be adventurers. Many people want to be adventurers, however, and few of them want to deal with evil players.

One solution is to designate areas where PvP may happen. You'll want areas near your main cities to be safe, so that adventurers can get some good, clean fun bashing goblin skulls away. You might also want to protect areas where players may be weaker, such as when adventuring, so gankers don't use the fact that they're weakened to slaughter them. Finally, it's a good idea to be sure that wherever a new player can go is safe; they are the easiest targets, after all.

Another thing you can do is penalize griefing. Player killers can be declared criminals, and be pursued by armed forces whenever they try to enter lawful settlements; by making sure they aren't safe in most cities, you decrease their power, and make other players safer. Merchants can look down on people of low morals, and decide to charge more for their services. You can add some supernatural penalties as well; players with a negative Karma get penalties on many things, to a point that evil players will have to expend resources trying to negate these penalties. Finally, you can forgo any kind of excuses and just add meta-gaming penalties for player killers, such as harsher death penalties, limited skill usage and, in the most extreme cases, character deletion by the developers, if the player's action are against the out-of-game rules.

Griefers can be penalized by the players themselves, of course; many will not hesitate to pursue evil characters simply to rid the land of them; but you could also have the ruling NPCs pay bounties on criminals, such that they would never feel safe, even in cities that accept them. Players who decide to go hunting evil characters could also receive a bonus to their game Karma, improving their standing with certain factions, or possibly deities.

There may be other ways to protect the average player's game experience, for example by making death penalty almost non-existent, but more extreme cases need to be considered more thoroughly; you don't want your penalties or compensations to get exploited, after all. If you can't agree on a good way to prevent player killing, however, it might be better to take it out entirely. Better a fully cooperative game than a ganker paradise, after all.

No comments: