Tag Archives: PVP

Winning at all costs…and the death of honour

Anger, hatred and violence have always been a part of human DNA. That’s why every society has a system of justice and mechanisms for punishing those who transgress against the laws of society.

Those laws are the ‘big sticks’ that make it possible for so many aggressive humans to live in close proximity to each other, but there are cultural laws as well. Concepts of equality, honour and fair play are the ‘soft’ laws that make us want to obey the big stick laws because failure to do so means that we risk being ostracized by our peers.

Or it did when I was a kid.

I remember playing some kind of make believe conflict with the neighbour’s kids. There were four of us in total. Joseph was about my age – eight – while his sister and brother were a couple of years younger.

Joseph was a bit bossy and he made me want to beat him, just because. So I came up with a brilliant plan whereby I would trick Joseph into thinking that I was on his side against the two younger kids. In reality, I’d set myself up as the ‘leader’ of the younger kids. I guess they were a bit sick of their older brother too.

We carried out my plan and the plan worked. We won, but I will never forget the look of contempt and betrayal I saw in Joseph’s eyes.

Triumph evaporated, and I stuttered something stupid like “but it’s just a game!” Only it wasn’t just a game, and Joseph knew it; lying and cheating are lying and cheating no matter what the reason.

I learned a life changing lesson that day, and it boiled down to one thing – the end never justifies the means.

That concept was taught at the Catholic primary school we all attended, but it was not until that awful day that I realised why the end doesn’t justify the means. It’s because of what it says about us, and what it does to us.

If you believe that certain, reprehensible actions or even illegal actions are ok because of X, you will eventually come to believe that winning justifies anything and everything. Winning means power, and power trumps honour any day because honourable people rarely win.

It’s a circular argument that has gained more and more adherents as neo-liberalism has taken hold all over the world. Money means power, and power is now the greatest ‘good’, so anything is justified so long as it makes money. Here in Australia, the Banking Royal Commission revealed just how much our financial institutions have taken that concept to heart:

‘Declaring that “choices must now be made”, Justice Hayne also referred some of the nation’s biggest company names to regulators for possible criminal or civil action for the way they treated their customers.’

https://www.smh.com.au/business/banking-and-finance/the-banking-royal-commission-final-report-at-a-glance-20190203-p50vg2.html

And while expediency gradually became the greatest good, honour devolved into a pathetic concept fit only for ‘Care Bears’.

Remember them? The cute little cartoon bears who solved problems by doing good things?

I watched a lot of Care Bears videos when the Offspring was little, but these days, the name has become a perjorative, especially in the gaming community. Care Bears are seen as weak players who can be bullied without consequence.

Is that an ethical shift brought about by the games being played? Or do those games reflect a society that no longer values compassion and honour?

I’ve never seen myself as a Care Bear because I will always fight back if attacked, but I won’t cheat. Ever. If I can’t win by honourable means, I’d rather lose.

And this brings me to the anger that prompted this post. Yesterday, I discovered that ESO [Elder Scrolls Online], a game I have loved for a couple of years now, actively encourages something that I can only describe as ‘suicide bombing’.

No, not the real world kind of bombing, the PVP equivalent. PVP stands for ‘Player vs Player’, and as the name suggests, players get to fight each other instead of fighting computer generated monsters.

Back when I started playing MMOs, roughly 20 years ago, PVP was supposed to be the only real test of a player’s skill. In some games, it probably was. In others, especially those that allowed ‘open world pvp’, it became a way for players to gang up and terrorize lone players. This kind of behaviour even has a name: ganking.

Yesterday, I learned from a fellow Guildie [member of a guild of players] that in ESO PVP there are a couple of built-in skills – i.e. deliberately created by the developers, not just ‘exploits’ created by the players – that allow players go invisible, sneak into a group of opposing players and…detonate their armour, ‘killing’ a lot of players at once. This is, apparently, a winning strategy.

I was shaken at what this said about ESO and the players who used this strategy to win. Being kind of naive, I assumed that all of my Guildies would feel just as shocked. Some were, and piped up in agreement. Others said things like ‘you don’t have to use it’ [meaning the suicide bomber tactic]. Others must have felt a little shame because they came back with the old ‘its just a game’ response, or, ‘just because I kill people in game doesn’t mean I kill them in RL’ [Real Life].

That last comment made me see red and I said something about how normalizing such attitudes can have real life consequences. The example I gave was the pathetic excuse for a human being who planned and carried out the New Zealand massacres not long ago.

Someone piped up with “surely you don’t believe video games turn people into killers?”

The one that really threw me though, was a dismissive, “oh is that all? We have incidents like that every day”.

I’ve never believed that video games turn kids into homicidal monsters, but the normalization of violence in real life, and the need to win at any cost, which is reinforced by many of these games, is a form of conditioning. It validates the individual’s wants, right or wrong.

That lack of empathy or care for others was demonstrated in a newspaper article back in April or May in which the writer basically said that his grandfather was in his eighties and wouldn’t mind popping off to save the economy…

Politicians here, and in other Western countries, have not been quite as blatant, but the emphasis on the economy at the cost of lives has been clear. And no one from the mainstream media has connected up the dots and said “hang on, so you don’t care if the elderly die?”

What continues to shock me is not that politicians can be so callous, but that we, the public, don’t rise up in protest. We accept it as a valid argument.

When did we lose sight of fair play, and justice, and compassion for the weak?

When did we forget what being honourable actually means?

When did we stop caring?

Meeks


Virtual gaming worlds of the future

FFXIV emotes - Meeka is shockedI just went back to Final Fantasy XIV, A Realm Reborn, so it’s not surprising that I dreamt about gaming last night. However what did surprise me was the logic of the dream. I leapt out of bed and immediately wrote it all down, before even putting the kettle on. If you know me you know I can NOT survive without my caffeine hit.

Anyway, before I tell you what my dream was about, let me give you some background on MMOGs of the present. MMOGs – Massively Multiplayer Online Games – come in all shapes and sizes but they all have two things in common:

– the worlds are persistent, – i.e. they continue to exist even if you, the player, are not there to see it, and

– thousands of real people play in them.

These two elements give MMOG worlds a semblance of reality that is very addictive. Unfortunately, the semblance is paper thin. In the real world we have to do things to survive. In the current gaming worlds, survival is a given, and the purpose of ‘doing things’ is to either :

– gain levels

– or gain better gear

Once gamers have achieved the maximum levels and gear the game will allow, they struggle to find exciting things to do.

As someone who loves crafting, I have an added layer of purpose in FFXIV because of the player housing. Crafting things for our group house, and making it look warm and welcoming give me something to do most days. Unfortunately, most of the other endgame activities bore me to tears. Eventually I, and other players like me always leave to find a new gaming world to discover.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. Just as we find a purpose for ourselves in the real world, we could also create a purpose for ourselves in the gaming world …if we were the ones in control instead of the devs [developers].

It can be done because different types of MMOGs are already doing elements of what’s needed. Unfortunately none of them are putting it all together into one coherent whole. In my dream, however, I did.

Part of the plot of Innerscape [the human-centric sci-fi novel I’m working on] takes place in a gaming world of the future. That world will behave something like this :

Meeka’s dream gaming world

The gaming worlds of Innerscape won’t charge a subscription fee. They won’t even charge to download the gaming software [or whatever performs that function by 2100]. But they will charge for in-game necessities such as housing.

Essentially, everyone will pay ‘rent’, and the rent will be on a sliding scale from a few credits a month to hundreds, perhaps even thousands.

Rental of two credits a month will pay for bed and breakfast at a common Inn, or whatever the cheapest form of accommodation is in that world.

For that basic rental, the player will get enough ‘sleep’ and ‘food’ to get them through one gaming day. In fighting worlds, this will mean that players will have a 50/50 chance of winning against non-player foes at their level. Now a 50/50 chance of winning is no better than random chance, so the aim for most players will be to increase that chance of winning as quickly as possible.

How a player increases his or her chances of winning depends on the type of game they are playing, but generally, the process will mimic real life in that there will be two major streams to follow – the hero stream or the villain stream. Or something in between.

Heroes are good guys who earn the respect of the non-player characters [npc] in every city, town and village. This respect translates into increased strength, endurance, agility etc when the hero is fighting a villain in the city, town or village. Not surprisingly, the opposite happens with villains. They lose the respect of the npcs in the city, town or village, which in turn, weakens them in all the important attributes.

As an example, let’s use some numbers to explain the effect of respect. A hero player may have combined attributes worth 100 points. However when this hero enters a city, town or village, the respect factor boosts their combined attributes by a maximum of 50% – e.g. the hero’s attributes go from 100 to 150.

Now lets look at what happens to a villain when he/she enters a town. Out in the wildlands, the villain’s attributes are worth 100. Inside the city, town or village, however, their attributes plummet by 50%, i.e. they drop to 50.

A hero with attributes of 150 can easily beat a villain with attributes of 50, so it makes sense for heroes to gain respect, and for villains to stay away from areas where they are weakened.

Of course gaming is never that straight forward. If a very powerful villain [say one with attributes worth 400], enters a town, his/her attributes will only drop to 200 – i.e. 50% of 400 = 200. 400 – 200 = 200. 200 will beat the local hero who is only at 150.

But what if there are two local heroes in the town when the villain attacks, and they both fight back. The chances are their combined stats will be more than high enough to beat off even a very powerful villain.

Clearly then, towns favour heroes. But what if a group of villains attack? Again, the result will depend on numbers; 3 villains at 50 would have the same ‘power’ as one hero at 150. However if you add one more villain, the balance suddenly changes in their favour – i.e. 4 x 50 = 200 vs the 150 of the hero.

As with all things mathematical, two heroes would again easily beat four villains [of the same level] so the balance of power is constantly in flux and makes for interesting, player initiated events.

One such event will be the capture of a city, town or village. If a large enough group of villains capture a stronghold, and can hold it against the heroes for one week, the npcs in that stronghold will turn neutral. If the villains make an effort not to antagonize the npcs, their ability to hold on to their captured territory becomes easier. If they are ‘cruel’ to the captured npcs, they risk turning the npcs towards the heroes again. And that could lead to the loss of the stronghold when the heroes launch a counter offensive.

But why would the heroes do that? Because their homes and businesses are in the captured stronghold, and while the villains are in control, the heroes can’t access any of their gear. They will literally have nothing but what they stand up in, and carry in their personal inventory. Thus the motivation to recapture a stronghold will be core to the game.

To recapture a stronghold, the heroes will have to begin by winning over the npcs on the outer perimeter of the stronghold. This is effectively like being Robin Hood.

Once enough npcs have been won over, the dispossessed heroes have to form an alliance and then, when their combined respect is high enough, they must launch an attack against the villains holding the stronghold.

Given the tendency of npcs to side with heroes not villains, villains have to expend a lot of energy to take a stronghold, and even more to hold it. This gives the advantage to the heroes, but only in the places where some form of order reigns. Out in the wild lands, both villains and heroes are dependent on their own prowess. Or on their ability to create and hold groups.

Groups of Heroes can tame sections of the wildlands, but here they will suffer the same difficulties as villains do in cities – the terrain is against them, and they must fight twice as hard to achieve anything at all.

Once a slice of the wildlands is captured and held for one week, however, crafter and builder classes can move in to consolidate the taming of the wild. Players can come in and create farms, and lay the foundations for a new village. These players contribute to the well-being of the battling classes that protect them, making them more effective. Sound familiar?

Once the heroes have carved out a certain level of ‘safety’ for the village, npcs will migrate to the village and help make it stronger still. If the heroes can keep the village going for one month, they will gain the respect of their npcs and after that, fighting off the villains will become much easier.

The internal structure of these gaming worlds will go much deeper than simple wars to gain territory. When heroes are not out fighting off villains and imposing order on the wildlands, they can go in search of treasure. Often the treasure will be nothing more than money, [after all, even heroes have to eat]. However, sometimes the heroes will find recipes that crafters can learn.

As everything in the gaming worlds has to be created by the players, such recipes are worth more than gold as they allow new techniques and new gear to enter the economy. This gives heroes an advantage over villains who generally do not craft, and must enter strongholds to buy the gear they need. Or steal it if they believe they are strong enough.

These recipes also give crafters a degree of power and influence they would not otherwise have, making it more logical for heroes of all stripes to work together so everyone can prosper. Those heroes who prove to be overly greedy will slowly lose their respect levels and that will make them more vulnerable when the next villain attack occurs.

Basically, then, the gaming worlds will have in-built structures to act as checks and balances, but how the worlds actually develop will depend largely on the players themselves. They will be the ones who create the society in which they live.

Of course in any world, there has to be some wiggle room for those players who hate to conform in any manner, shape or form. So each world will have the potential for players who fit the nomad category. These players will pay no ‘rent’ and will function as hunter gatherers. They will live  rough, eating only what they can capture/harvest in their weakened state.

Progress for these nomads will depend on how effective they are at surviving in a hostile environment. If they can find enough to eat they can build a humpy [a small shelter made of branches and leaves]. In time they can trade furs or other natural ‘ingredients’ they have gathered to the villagers for money.

That money can then be used to buy a tent and perhaps some cooking implements. In time, such successful nomads might join together to form tribes of hunter gatherers. Of course, whilst living in a tribe would have distinct survival benefits, it would also create its own unique problems, and players would have to create rules that balanced co-operation with freedom.

If you’re still reading this long brain fart, you will have noticed that in my ideal gaming world, every action has consequences. You may also have noticed that the world combines virtually every type of MMOG currently in existence – PVP, PVE, strategy, conquest, social reality, you name it, it’s there because that’s exactly what we have in the real world.

I can’t see such an all encompassing world arriving any time soon, but as a writer I can make the future into anything I want, and this is what I would like to see in the MMOGs I play. If you’d like to see something different, don’t be afraid to say so in comments. I only bite trolls. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


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