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Posted: Jan 4th 2011 12:11PM Jef Reahard said

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A good read Bree, but I feel the need to clarify a couple of points regarding what I wrote.

"In it, he argued that open PvP was a natural and necessary part of any solid sandbox MMO"

Respectfully, this is incorrect. Nowhere in the article or the comments did I argue that or even imply it, nor do I believe it to be the case. What I did say was that the majority of sandbox mmos out (and coming out) feature ffa pvp, and therefore people that call themselves sandbox fans have the choice to either a) deal with the pvp, or b) continue funding themepark devs and driving more nails into the sandbox coffin. If there was a great PvE-only sandbox out right now, I'd be first in line to support it.

"He also made waves by suggesting that FFA PvP is crucial to the roleplaying experience"

Did I really suggest that? Looking back, I'm hard-pressed to see where. What I did say is that ffa is unavoidable if you want to support current sandbox games, but I didn't go so far as to posit that it is crucial to roleplaying. That's a pretty wacky notion given the depth of my roleplay experience in SWG, AoC, and other consensual PvP games. I did suggest that ffa doesn't render roleplaying impossible as many would have you believe, and I also suggested people give ffa a real try before dismissing it out of hand. The constant gankage is a myth judging by my very recent and very lengthy Darkfall experience.

"And that's why I take issue with Jef's claim that in "Darkfall, EVE, and their ilk, your character is living in a world with a whole range of choices (and consequences) . . . a world that you can actually affect in certain ways." In fact, these are attributes of all sandbox games and many hybrid sandpark games, not just PvP sandbox games."

That was never my argument though (that choice and consequence only happen in FFA). My argument was that they happen in all sandboxes (including FFA) far more often than they do in themeparks due to the latter's straight-jacketed design principles.

For some reason, people insist on twisting what I wrote into "ffa sandboxes vs. pve sandboxes." What I actually wrote was "ffa sandboxes vs. themeparks."

I do agree that FFA PvP in a sandbox is lazy game design. Where I apparently differ from you and the majority of last week's commenters is that I'm willing to put up with it when there's no other modern sandbox alternative. Imo, the crappiest FFA sandbox is still orders of magnitude more immersive than the highest quality themepark due to the various mechanical limitations that I touched on.

Finally, if grin and bear it isn't the answer, what is the answer? Keep rewarding developers that iterate on EQ/WoW when what we really want is UO2/SWG2? Well OK, I really want those. Perhaps everyone else has grown comfortable with the themepark status quo after paying their UO dues all those years ago?

Posted: Jan 4th 2011 12:54PM Irem said

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@Jef Reahard

"Finally, if grin and bear it isn't the answer, what is the answer? Keep rewarding developers that iterate on EQ/WoW when what we really want is UO2/SWG2? Well OK, I really want those. Perhaps everyone else has grown comfortable with the themepark status quo after paying their UO dues all those years ago?"

The problem is that I don't particularly want to reward developers who are, at the core, developing for the playstyle I need to work around in order to enjoy a particular game. I'm currently trying Darkfall and I can see why you love it so much, but a large part of the game experience is designed specifically for people who like something I'll probably spend most of my time avoiding. I used to roll my eyes at people in FFXI who would complain nonstop about the game having no PvP whatsoever beyond competitive sports, because the game was not designed for their preferred playstyle and they would have been happier elsewhere. Similarly, if I would be perfectly happy never killing another player in Darkfall and I just want to be left alone to boggle at the scenery and RP, the game is probably not for me, and I would be deliberately kicking myself in the ass by paying for something I can't enjoy fully.

Themeparks are not inherently bad, nor are they necessarily bad for RPers. I agree with you that a good sandbox is better in general, but if an RPer finds an element of gameplay in that sandbox so off-putting that they're having to grit their teeth in frustration to get past it, the themepark they're already enjoying (and presumably roleplaying in) is likely better for them. We're in a period, too, where MMOs seem poised to start evolving again. The past few years have been pretty bad, with everyone and their dog either trying to clone their way to success or banking on "innovation" to carry them past bad support, marketing, or core gameplay. That couldn't go on forever, though, and the upcoming crop of games looks really, really promising. More and more developers seem to be mixing new ideas with the best of what already works, especially since "WoW clone" has become shorthand for "Don't even bother picking this up--just play WoW."

I don't know what the answer is, other than to say that I think the market's grown big enough now that we're going to see games tailored toward niches that otherwise might not have been targeted. I've also seen a slight uptick in developers saying their games are "made with roleplayers in mind," and while they may not have gotten it quite right yet, we're at least a big enough contingent to be acknowledged. ArenaNet in particular is going out of their way to make GW2 feel immersive. CCP's World of Darkness MMO is supposed to revolve around "social interaction," and it's based on a tabletop/live action roleplaying game. There are people developing for us.

In the meantime, I don't really feel like trying to huddle in the corner of a sandbox where the other people in it are playing a game I don't want to join in on.
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Posted: Jan 4th 2011 12:56PM Brianna Royce said

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But Jef, there are PvE sandboxes and hybrids too -- SWG and UO among them. You discount them entirely as sandboxes, and I continue to dispute that. Because you discount them, you imply that there is no middle ground between PvP sandbox and themepark -- in other words, that a sandbox is defined in some way by its PvP. So I definitely don't think that you were arguing FFA sandboxes vs. PvE sandboxes -- I'm complaining that you left PvE sandboxes out entirely when they would have made a much sharper comparison. Their existence undermines the fabled potency of FFA sandboxes and shows how very little FFA PvP *currently* adds to offer the sandbox genre.

Similarly, the choice-and-consequence argument is a direct quote from your article. You propose that FFA PvP sandboxes are rife with choices, then contrast that to PvE themepark games in which that is not true (also debatable, but not the focus of my piece). If you had meant more general sandboxes, you would likely not have listed two FFA PvP sandboxes as your examples, right, nor embedded it in an article discussing the merits of FFA PvP?

I scoured the comments of your article for additional insight as to your perspective, so some of what I saw you arguing was not in the article proper but in your responses. But even in the article, you suggested FFA is good for RP, for example: "(P)utting up with PvP instead of avoiding it altogether could do wonders both for your personal immersion goals" or ""The other point is to get some of the sandbox fans in the audience to realize that the world will not end if they get PK'd. In fact, it might even expand." And in the comments: "Few if any of them touch on the positives that could occur if they made the effort to roleplay, and encourage roleplay, in a game that supports player freedom" or "people that are averse to the occasional gank, yet still claim to be sandbox/roleplay fans, are doing more to hurt the genre than to help it." (There you even equated sandboxes and RPers!) Best of all: "I was specifically referring to the comment that roleplay fostering in FFA games is, as the poster put it, 'rubbish.' In fact, it isn't rubbish because I've seen it happen on a daily basis." That half of the article is specifically meant to convince RPers that FFA's freedom enhances their roleplay. I see no other way to read it.

I'm certainly not "comfortable" with the "themepark status quo" (witness my argument for meaningful, consequence-laden sandboxes!) but I have to admit I still have much more fun in some of the wackier sandparks than in a FFA gankfest. But generally, I'm of a mind that if someone's trying to sell me something I don't want, I don't buy it (or I stop subbing to it) -- even if that means I'm MMOless for a while.

I really am your fangirl most days, Jef, and I appreciate that you've let me use your article as a springboard for a different take on the sandbox issue. :) Mad props to you for striking up such a neat debate in the first place!
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Posted: Jan 4th 2011 2:32PM Greyhame said

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@Jef Reahard

If that was the actual point of your article, then you have a very poor way of explaining yourself. Because I read the previous article, and all the comments, and it comes off pretty much being exactly what you said it was not. So does this one still.

"Finally, if grin and bear it isn't the answer, what is the answer? Keep rewarding developers that iterate on EQ/WoW when what we really want is UO2/SWG2? Well OK, I really want those. Perhaps everyone else has grown comfortable with the themepark status quo after paying their UO dues all those years ago? "

If those games are doing well, then the market is dictacting that people wnat to play those games. There will only be so many of those games that can get off the ground though and the market is probably saturated at this point for that style of game. But saying that the best way to get more sandbox games is to "grin and bear it" with FFA PvP is rather, to be perfectly blunt, idiotic. If the market is not that for that kind of MMO, then it should not be propped up because you like sandboxes more than themeparks.

In fact, it shows a perfect market for games to try and get themselves into. There's just no one willing to go into that market.
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Posted: Jan 4th 2011 3:46PM Brianna Royce said

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Guys, don't vote people down for petty reasons. Let him say his piece -- I did just address a big chunk of a column to him. He deserves to be able to stick up for himself... show some class!
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Posted: Jan 4th 2011 4:11PM VikingGamer said

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@Jef Reahard
"If there was a great PvE-only sandbox out right now, I'd be first in line to support it."

A Tail in the Desert
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Posted: Jan 4th 2011 9:45PM Sean D said

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@Jef Reahard

I'm an advocate of inter-Massively-contributing-writer debating. I hope to see more.

The answer, Jef, will come when developers do as Brianna suggests and implement more mechanisms (such as a working bounty system) to support other motivations (and consequences) for PvP other than seemingly anarchical motivations, or to make motivations more transparent.

Without communication between the ganker and the ganked, there is no way for the ganked to understand the motivations of the ganker to answer the question, "Why did you gank me?" and it will always appear to the ganked that the ganker's motivation was chaotic and unjustified.

It's laughable to suggest that gankers should open dialogue with their prospective victims prior to attacking them (although I think it would be admirable should a ganker choose to do so) and explain their intentions and motivations. It's laughable not because I don't advocate such behavior (I do), but rather, because I believe that most players that we could qualify as gankers simply don't have any other motivation than self-advancement and/or the disappointment of their victim. Once again, I agree with Brianna here.

As I said in your article, Jef, consequence to action is imperative. I agree with both of you that FFA PvP is 'rudimentary' and 'lazy'. Developers (I'm primarily thinking of EvE here) have successfully avoided taking any real responsibility for what happens in PvP (other than easy, minimal safe-zone, unsafe-zone type distinctions and minor faction adjustments) by allowing it to occur in a generally FFA manner. I believe they have done so because integrating in-game mechanics to support other motivations for or against PvP (or to curb wanton ganking/make player motivations more knowable/promote RP) is very close to (if not the same as) applying moral judgments to the actions of players when player motivations aren't clearly known, and no doubt such systems would undoubtedly be exploited to the fullest by particularly unscrupulous players. I'm sure there are other reasons, but these at least seem valid to me. In other words, until that percentage (I don't know if it's large or small) of the player-base that aims to exploit the game and its player-base for selfish purposes (as opposed to playing the game as it was intended to be played and allowing others to do the same) is sufficiently diminished or goes away, we're not likely to see a developer stand up and declare/implement real consequences (such as capital punishment for a murderer) to PvP when doing so would hurt their bottom line. Personally, I think they should and that it's cowardly that they don't. I mean, what are they saying by NOT doing so?

This conversation could be tied to the idea that game systems should be designed to support game lores, and not vice versa, but that's another conversation.

Sean
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Posted: Jan 5th 2011 11:54AM Jef Reahard said

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@Brianna Royce

Eh, I still don't see where I implied that a sandbox is defined by PvP, especially since I don't feel that way at all, lol. That's fair enough though, my failing as a writer on that one.

In any event it's been an interesting couple of weeks and I'm glad to get this discussion out there.

/tiphat
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Posted: Jan 5th 2011 11:57AM Jef Reahard said

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@VikingGamer

I specifically mentioned ATITD and Wurm in last week's article. I've played them both extensively and they're not what I consider AAA (which is what I'm arguing for, a AAA sandbox).

Not to disparage the work of those devs, they've made fun games on very tight budgets, but with all the money being thrown around in this space, I'd like to see some of it go towards a game that isn't linear.
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Posted: Jan 4th 2011 12:29PM Bri said

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Themepark MMO's take a long time and a lot of effort to build. Sandbox PvP games? Much quicker and easier, the players are the content so the devs don't need to make any. That doesn't have to be the case, but sadly often is. My hat is off to Adventurine, though, who's proven a small indie team can make a good and meaningful PvP MMO.

It's dollars that decide which games get published, and those dollars are controlled by investors who often insist on comparison with WoW and the other big-hitters, hence all the themepark MMO's. It's a proven formula, and when you're risking millions, only proven formulae are acceptable.

It's only in the last few years that AAA-quality tools have come within the financial reach of the indie developer, engines like Unity3D. You're going to see more indie MMO's like Love, I'll guarantee you. It just takes a lot of time for a small team to produce content.

Posted: Jan 4th 2011 12:33PM Issmir said

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@Tersion

Your grammar might be worse than both the points you're reacting to.

Yeesh.

Posted: Jan 4th 2011 12:42PM J Brad Hicks said

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THANK YOU. Thank you especially for making the point that there is nothing immersive or realistic about a world in which the only penalty for murder is to be in danger of some minor inconvenience, occasionally, at the hands of our fellow murderers. I am absolutely willing to do my gaming in a world with open PvP, harsh consequences open PvP, even open PvP with perma-death -- if, and ONLY IF, someone who chooses that route becomes automatically the enemy of every law-enforcement non-player character in the game world, if in addition to becoming my enemy (if I live) and the enemy of my friends, they then have to spend the rest of their character's life looking over their shoulder, worrying that the (increasingly heavily armed, armored, and prepared) NPC cops are finally there to jail or kill them.

The original Neocron cyberpunk MMO promised a system like that, but it had a combat system that allowed friendly fire, and had no game mechanism for determining which player kills were murder and which were accidental. So they ended up watering down the consequences of PKing patch after patch after patch until it became a harsh-consequences all-versus-all open PvP game. And I don't think it's a coincidence that it was right around that time that subscriptions plummeted.

It is long past time for the people who like these total anarchy games to get it through their fat heads that there just aren't enough people like them to justify the cost to develop and maintain an MMO, and thus they're not doing themselves or the industry any favors when they show up, try to dominate the forums and chat channels for MMOs that weren't designed with them in mind, and insist on steering every conversation towards how every MMO "needs" to be re-tailored to their narrow, unpopular niche market.

Posted: Jan 4th 2011 12:42PM missingpiece said

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Wow, quite a speech. I love it. Now I need to go back to that earlier soapbox and read what got her so enraged. But even without the read I can fully relate to the inhibitive nature of PvP to RP, being an EVE spacizen since 2003.

And it is kind of sad to read the call for more refined mechanics ( Kidnapping? Torture? Imprisonment? Trials? Fines?... ) cause it is so true; it does not happen. An economist they have, but we have been trying years in vain to make CCP implement at least a working bounty system.

Posted: Jan 4th 2011 12:43PM indigoblade said

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Good article here Brianna, however you're hurting your case with a conflicting introduction and conclusion!

Intro: "I'm a sandbox gamer and a PvPer at heart."

Conclusion: "I'm all for a fresh take on a PvP sandbox, but FFA PvP is just another cop-out. When I need an adrenaline rush, there are far better places to get it than jockeying with the player warlords of the two or three tiny open-PvP sandboxes still in operation. And you know what? I'm glad those games still exist. They remind me how much less fun I could be having."

Which are you?

After reading your article, it sounds to me like you enjoy RP'ing and that FFA PvP'ing and RP'ing can't mix. That's too bad, because I've experienced them mixing into a lot of fun for the last ten years playing AC, WoW, EVE and others.

Best of luck to you!

Posted: Jan 4th 2011 12:56PM Irem said

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@indigoblade

There are other points in the article which explain why she's not contradicting herself. She's saying that she loves both sandboxes and PvP, but she's uninterested in seeing the same take on it over and over when there are ways in which it could be done better.
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Posted: Jan 4th 2011 12:53PM Sente said

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Jef said:
If there was a great PvE-only sandbox out right now, I'd be first in line to support it.

A Tale in the Desert? Wurm Online non-PvP server?

Building a sandbox MMO that does not rely heavily on PvP is more difficult than one with PvP, since all the other virtual world pieces get more focusand require more effort to make interesting.

Posted: Jan 4th 2011 1:00PM Eric Francis said

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"PvP sandboxes merely add one more option to the mix, and it's not a particularly interesting one."

You see, some people actually enjoy the competition and fun of going head to head with a gamer. It harkens all the way back to the atari 2600 game combat. My only conclusion is that you never found these kind of options interesting or else you wouldnt be framing PVP in this way.

Starting the article by saying youve played pvp games and then saying "PvP sandboxes merely add one more option to the mix, and it's not a particularly interesting one." is like pre-facing a tirade on black people with "Make no mistake, i have one black friend".

Posted: Jan 4th 2011 1:11PM Brianna Royce said

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@Eric Francis I think I made clear the distinction between PvP and FFA PvP and why I preferred the former to the modern, lazy take on the latter. The point you quote out of context was meant to objectively look at FFA PvP as merely one MORE choice in the sandbox's toolbelt, akin to a crafting system or housing, rather than as a defining or necessary or fundamental quality of sandboxes altogether. I then went on to point out that FFA PvP is, by its nature, a fairly rudimentary and empty system that could be made much more interesting for everyone involved with some actual design effort on the part of the devs. I say this because I like PvP and want it to be more interesting, not because I don't.
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Posted: Jan 4th 2011 1:21PM Irem said

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@Eric Francis

"PvP sandboxes merely add one more option to the mix, and it's not a particularly interesting one." is like pre-facing a tirade on black people with "Make no mistake, i have one black friend.'"

Dude, did you seriously just make that comparison?
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Posted: Jan 4th 2011 1:54PM Brianna Royce said

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@Irem It's OK Irem. At some point, someone's going to point out that a girl can't possibly know anything about PvP, and then the comments will be complete. :D
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