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Player killers and PVP

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  • Player killers and PVP

    Player killers and PVP

    Here are a few insights and quotes from UO Game Designer Raph Koster:

    Easily the most amusing – and horrifyingly frustrating – chapters of Koster’s Ultima Online reminiscing revolve around the game’s infamous early PvP mechanics. It’s clear the Origin team struggled with a naive sort of libertarian mindset when developing – or more accurately, not developing – the PvP at launch. As Koster’s now-ancient blog posts relate, the developers truly believed that their laissez faire “let the community police itself” philosophy was the best approach. You don’t even need to read Koster’s account; you can hear it repeated in the plaintive appeals of FFA PvP players even here in 2018, as the wolves desperately try to convince the sheep to come play victim in the service of the simulation.

    “We must have playerkillers in UO because the world would suffer if we did not have them,” he once wrote. “But they also must be channeled so that their effect is beneficial and not detrimental. […] We don’t want to exterminate them completely anymore than we want to make rattlesnakes, black widow spiders, and sharks extinct because they fill a valuable role in the virtual ecology.”

    Of course, we all know the story of how the rattlesnakes, black widow spiders, and sharks played out in practice: Rampant ganking and griefing and PKing drove players out of the 1997 sandbox by the thousands – “a truly distressing number of our new player acquisitions,” Koster laments – until the developers engineered countermeasures

    ...many of the countermeasures failed miserably...

    They tried flagging. They tried a notoriety system. They tried reputation. They tried bounties. They tried a faction system. They tried guild wars. They tried newbie protection mechanics. But for every attempt to curb the PKs the devs put in, the reds invented some fresh hell for their victims, exploiting every ruleset change. It’s hard not to chuckle as Koster rattles off each new idea and how the players thwarted it.

    ...and that’s a theme Koster riffs on over and over – that “no matter what you do, players will decode every formula, statistic, and algorithm in your world via experimentation.” In fact, he argues, you don’t even need combat in your game for griefplay to be present.

    ...players wasted no time in telling me bluntly that I had been drastically and painfully wrong. In the name of player freedoms, I had put them through the slow-drip torture of two years of experiments with slowly tightening behavior rules, trying to save the emergence while tamping down the bad behavior. The cost was the loss of many hundreds of thousands of players. "Ultima Online had churned through more than twice as many players who quit than EverQuest even got as subscribers that year.”

    The griefer environment may not have been realistic, but it did create “endless stories and excitement, the stories that people tell and retell to this day,” as players were forced to work together to overcome the true evil in the game: the PK players themselves.

    “I like safe and wild zoning now. I really, really didn’t,” he pens. “I used to think that you could reform bad apples, and argue with hard cases. I’m more cynical these days. […] I used to think that people were willing to act communally for the good of the community. Now I know more about the Tragedy of the Commons and the Prisoner’s Dilemma and think that people are mostly selfish. This isn’t Ivory Tower theory gone looking for empirical evidence. It’s experience gone looking for explanation.”
    UO Evolution "The Game Has Evolved"

  • #2
    Heroes & Villains

    "Without villains, there can be no heroes.” A game, or any entertainment medium, is flat, predictable, and utterly lacking in conflict, tension, and suspense without a worthy intelligent villain. “The villain is the main source of conflict and tension and suspense -- those necessary qualities in all of literature. Without a worthy villain, there cannot be a worthy hero. Whether the hero wants to win back the love of a woman, escape from prison, rescue a child, catch a serial killer, or save the world, his quest must be difficult and its outcome uncertain if we are to keep interested. That’s the job of the antagonist. “The function of the villain in drama is to challenge the hero and give him a worthy opponent in the struggle.”

    An online world is no different, if there are no worthy villains, then there are no worthy heroes; the game lacks conflict, tension and suspense and our interest in participating in such a game is much more easily lost. When Ultima Online was a virtual world full of villain players there was always a large portion of the player base actively playing the game, even into the wee hours of the night. It was the conflict that drove the game. The game was exciting enough to play that it was always highly populated with active players.
    UO Evolution "The Game Has Evolved"