Five Reasons Why I Dislike PvP

First of all, notice I’m not using the “H” word — I don’t hate PvP in MMOs.  There are all types of players, some enjoy human vs. human competition, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  In fact, most social games that we play outside of MMOs are definitely PvP, from chess to lacrosse to Arguing With One’s Spouse About Whose Turn It Is To Change The Poopy Diaper (I excel in this last one, by the way).

It’s just that over the years, no matter how much I give it the college try, PvP is simply not for me.  I really tried hard with Warhammer to get into the whole RvR thing, but nope, and that’s pretty much where my interest in this form of play ended.

So why do I dislike PvP?  Five reasons off the top of my head:

1. It doesn’t allow you time to think

In our heads, I imagine that most of us think lofty thoughts of PvP akin to a grand battle of clashing armies where strategy and bravery and tenacity lead to victory.  In MMOs, there’s little if any time for strategy, because nobody has time to communicate (unless there’s a some preparation done ahead of time with a premade group and perhaps voice chat) and everyone on the field is doing one of two things: rushing at each other at top speed, or trying to be the first to get the Thing (whatever the Thing might be).

Granted, real battles are chaotic and require as much reflexes as they do forethought, but on occasion there’s time to look at the big picture, suss things out and develop strategies.  In most PvP scenarios I’ve played, not so much.  Speaking of which…

2. It almost always feels the same

PvP proponents usually talk a big game about how PvP is always changing, never the same, unpredictable, a shiny jewel in the morass of drudgery, etc.  I call “bull” on this — in my experience, PvP matches are usually identical to the previous 1,534 times you’ve gone into one.  There are two sides, a couple initial skirmishes, then everything degenerates into a big free-for-all muddled mess.

Once in a while you can pull out an interesting story or a unique victory that makes for good boasting, but I think this happens at about the same frequency of PvE dungeon running.  If you’re looking for terrific tales, “We stood in a huge group pressing against this other group until somebody won… or something… I couldn’t really tell” isn’t the way to go.

3. It’s dodgeball, all over again

By this I mean how dodgeball used to be when we’d play it in gym class — a thinly-disguised “sport” that was really an excuse for the bigger, stronger and faster kids to dominate the weaker ones.  Perhaps it’s fun if you’re on the winning side, but not so much when you’re the victims.

Again, because this is my personal list, these are just my feelings, and my feelings say that I really don’t like being put in a situation where I’m competing against other people and hoping that I’m not going to be dominated.  I don’t have a huge competitive drive against others; I’d rather be working with people against a situation.

4. It’s a button-mashing frenzy

This is my general PvP strategy: Front-load three skills that can be used quickly (instant ones are the best), stay with the pack, target one person and go on a suicide run to take them out.  I get tunnel vision bad, and because of the whole twitch-based frenzy thing going on, there’s not really time to sit back and contemplate which skills I should be using in this situation.  PvP is players hitting their keys fast and trying to burn down each other before they get burned down.  On a scale of video game evolution, it’s on par with 1962’s Spacewar.

If I wanted to pit my horrible reflexes against teenagers, I have a youth group full of them and an Xbox in our meeting room.  No need to pile that on in my spare time.

5. It lacks purpose

This was why I had huge hopes for WAR back in 2008 — that all of the testimony from DAoC players telling us of how RvR gave the game’s conflict real purpose would be copied into this new game.  We would struggle mightily for keeps, march against fortresses and burn down enemy cities.  It would be glorious, and we would be able to make a lasting footprint on the world!

Uh… not so much.  It ended up being a weaker version of tug-o-war where keeps were simply traded back and forth for points, fortress battles were just the gatekeeper to city invasions, and city invasions less-than-lasting.

I know a lot of you will quote EVE Online or any other PvP game that has made strides in this regard, and sure, that’s a decent counter to this point.  But for most of the games I do play, the PvP in it is as temporary and disposable as anything else, which leaves me wondering why I’m doing it.  At least with dungeons I know I’m running it for specific loot.  With PvP it seems like you do it simply because you like it, not because there’s anything greater behind it.

29 thoughts on “Five Reasons Why I Dislike PvP

  1. ravious January 13, 2011 / 11:00 am

    I know you own Guild Wars. Go watch some GvG battles. Best MMO PvP I have ever played which IMHO escapes all your “dislikes.” (There are other dislikes to GvG, I agree, to those that know of them.)

  2. Klepsacovic January 13, 2011 / 11:18 am

    The lack of communication may be the biggest problem for me. Can you imagine a real war in which no one ever gives any directions and if by chance someone does, no one ever listens? I mean sure, wars have had their fair share of battles where the soldiers would have been better off with “STFU noob” and ignoring the commander, but those tend to be the exception.

  3. Scott McMillin January 13, 2011 / 11:35 am

    You make a lot of great points, and I tend to agree with all of them. There are always exceptions (EVE, Darkfall maybe?), but for the most part you are describing PvP in most MMOs.

    Of course a lot of it comes down to personal preference. When you say: “At least with dungeons I know I’m running it for specific loot. With PvP it seems like you do it simply because you like it, not because there’s anything greater behind it” it does betray the fact that you seem to justify your time spent through the acquisition of items. Indeed one could argue that there’s really nothing “greater” behind the acquisition of loot either — in the end it’s all about fun and entertainment, and acquiring new items by doing dungeons is more fun for you. This is understandable because so much of MMO gameplay is specifically geared around maximizing that experience (and not PvP).

    I will say that the most fun I had last year was (by far) my 90 days spent in APB. For all its flaws and frustrations, when it was good, it was really good. And I think it overcame all of your listed reasons for why PvP is flawed in other MMOs. I have a suspicion that it was because it was a dedicated PvP game, while almost all other MMOs’ core gameplay is focused on PvE–while PvP gets short shrift.

  4. Genda January 13, 2011 / 11:39 am

    “It lacks purpose”

    QFT.

  5. Wilhelm2451 January 13, 2011 / 11:39 am

    Sort of an off-shoot of what Klep says, there is often a sense of being on the same side, but not on the same team. This is often personified by the guy telling the rest of the people on his side that they all suck, something always so very helpful in battle. I could do without that.

  6. motstandet January 13, 2011 / 11:40 am

    “By this I mean how dodgeball used to be when we’d play it in gym class — a thinly-disguised “sport” that was really an excuse for the bigger, stronger and faster kids to dominate the weaker ones.”

    Why is it so unethical for physical attributes to determine success in a physical education class? You didn’t make an argument about English class, and how it allows brighter, more literate students to dominate the weaker ESL kids.

    “With PvP it seems like you do it simply because you like it, not because there’s anything greater behind it.”

    Isn’t that the Holy Grail of gameplay: to have play be an ends in itself rather than a means to an ends? Although I doubt the vast majority of players engage in PvP because it is a good game. Friends I’ve spoke with–people who won’t touch an MMO unless it has PvP–have very clearly said that they enjoy PvP because it affords them the opportunity to show off. It is exactly the same thing as gaining a bunch of rare items and standing around in a city, displaying your PvE trophies to those that walk by. PvP and PvE in an Diku-style MMORPG are 2 sides of the same coin.

  7. Westen January 13, 2011 / 11:40 am

    Thank you for acknowledging EVE Online. I think the only item on your list that EVE is guilty of is #3. If you are truly “elite” in EVE, such as Pandemic Legion, you can fight outnumbered 2-1, but it is rare.

    The other issue that you I have with PVP in most MMO’s is the lack of “loss.” On WOW, you die and repair you losing some of your already meaningless gold. EVE is the only game that I have played where you actually feel the sting of defeat.

  8. pasmith January 13, 2011 / 12:15 pm

    “and my feelings say that I really don’t like being put in a situation where I’m competing against other people and hoping that I’m not going to be dominated. ”

    This is one of the big ones for me. Plus (for me) the flipside is that if I feel like I’m dominating someone else, it just makes me feel like a bully. So I don’t like losing or winning.

    In those rare moments when it’s a close-match and both sides give and take it can be fun, but those are rare.

    Plus (speaking in general terms) there’s no sportsmanship in MMO PvP, mostly because you generally can’t speak to the other side.

    I mean, unless you’re a total asshat if you’re playing tennis or darts and your opponent does something spectacular, you’ll acknowledge it with a “Nice shot” or something. At the least you’ll shake hands after the match.

    MMO PvP (generally speaking) prevents that by its very nature. Even if you’re a very sporting person, aside from a /salute there’s no way to compliment the other side.

    Good list! I concur!

  9. Gankalicious January 13, 2011 / 12:55 pm

    Am I being trolled? Is that was this is, a troll-blog 😉

    If you pve for gear because that’s what you enjoy, and that’s your reward great. As someone who likes pvp I absolutely agree with you- I do it only for the enjoyment of it. That’s my reward.

    /agree WAR has failed as a pvp game (though I have played since release).

    /agree Guild Wars PVP and especially GVG outclasses anything I’ve yet to encounter.

    Wow. That’s a lot of agreeing on my part with regards to a post I really disagree with in principle…reminder to self, toughen up, get mean! Play doge ball or whoop someone in chess!

  10. sente January 13, 2011 / 1:12 pm

    I am not really a PvP fan in MMOs, but I have to agree about Guild Wars GvG-type matches – that can be a lot of fun, although for me it was the most fun when we put different team within our guild against each other.

    Also, I do like the Zombie Apocalypse i Champions Online, which is nice for a quick game.

    For many other PvP approaches in MMOs I am pretty much in agreement with you.

  11. Rhyveth January 13, 2011 / 2:31 pm

    As someone who loves pvp I can tell you the number one problem with pvp is the behaviour of the pvpers. Whats hilarious is that just the simple change of being a decent, civil, helpful person could make more people willing to play.

    Currently pvp games are rare because it draws far to small a crowd. It is unbelievably ironic that pvpers insist on behaving in a way that drives even more people away thus making sure no company wants to make a pvp game.

    pasmith you say it’s a problem that 2 sides cannot communicate. The problem is in the earliest mmo’s developers quickly learned allowing pvpers to talk to each other was a bad idea. Trust me, when allowed to communicate with the other side few online pvpers will compliment the other side. Instead, it will be cursing, threats, and non stop harrasment.

    Think about it, the online community is so horrible that it actually makes people forget the real world dangers of identifying people online.

    PvP in mmo’s will continue to be a small insignificant niche until the pvp community learns to control itself. You cannot attract new pvpers by being an asshole.

    As for the substance of the article I would say you need to remember ‘It doesn’t matter who wins or loses but how you play the game’.

  12. Bhagpuss January 13, 2011 / 3:07 pm

    I’m very bad at PvP indeed, but even I don’t make such heavy weather of it as all that. Taking your points by number…

    1. It’s really not THAT fast. Stand back. Watch people. Assess the situation. Decide what you want to do, work out how to do it, make the attempt. In most of the PvP I’ve tried (EQ, DAOC, Warhammer, WoW BGs, and recently DCUO and Rift) having time to think and plan has rarely been a problem.

    2. This one I agree with, mostly. Of course the upside is that therefore if you liked it once you have a good chance of liking it most times.

    3. We didn’t have Dodgeball when I was at school so this analogy passes me by.

    4. Yes it is for me too, mostly. That’s because, as I said, I am bad at PvP. It’s apparent, however, that some of my opponents are very definitely not just mashing buttons but using a full range of skills and abilities quickly, efficiently and imaginatively. Very occasionally I manage to pull off something slightly better than button-mashing and it is incredibly satisfying, so I see that as aspirational.

    5. I really, really, REALLY don’t think it behoves anyone playing any kind of video-game as a hobby to bring up “lack of purpose” as a consideration. If anything we do in MMOs has any kind of “purpose” it can only be a purpose we have allocated to it. I PvP when I am in the mood. I think of it in the same light as “I fancy a coffee, I’ll go and make one”. Any more purpose than that would be surplus to requirements.

    All in all, I quite enjoy a modicum of PvP even though I never seem to get any better. I’d never want it to be the bread-and-butter of my MMO though. It’s just too unreliable.

  13. Ben January 13, 2011 / 3:08 pm

    You can’t play games with poorly designed PvP, and then say PvP sucks. That’s like saying PvE sucks because EVE implements it poorly. It’s just a bad argument.

    Games with bad PvP: Nearly every MMO.
    Games with good PvP: Darkfall, EVE, and Global Agenda (which is a quasi-MMO, really).

  14. Rer January 13, 2011 / 3:44 pm

    “(unless there’s a some preparation done ahead of time with a premade group and perhaps voice chat)”

    And there’s your problem. Just like playing an MMO in general, PvP is easily 1000x times better while playing with friends and over a voice program. To me it is essentially a requirement these days.

    There is nothing more satisfying than obtaining a glorious victory alongside your friends through the use of strategy, not just rolling your face across the keyboard and winning. It may fly in some games, but those game’s PvP tend to be poorly implemented as it is, or in the case of some bigger titles horribly imbalanced *Glares at WoW*

  15. Carson January 13, 2011 / 3:45 pm

    motstandet, the difference between dominating at dodgeball and dominating in English class is that the latter doesn’t leave the dominated players terrified and covered in bruises.

  16. Corwynn Maelstrom January 13, 2011 / 4:19 pm

    Sorry Syp, I love the PvPs.

    🙂

    In any case, there’s merit in some of what you have to say, certainly. And I will admit, that if you’re not inclined towards it, it can really seem to be all the same all the time.

    The one point I agree on is 5. All too often it isn’t worth anything. Which is why I enjoy games more where there are things that mean something. DAoC, EVE, and even to some extent WAR . . . for example.

  17. Tremayne January 13, 2011 / 4:38 pm

    The problem is the term “PvP” is used to cover s many things – from free-for-all free-roaming murder simulators which allow kids with emotional difficulties to work out their inadequacies on unwilling passers-by (sorry – I mean elite PvPers to pwn carebears) to battlegrounds (with their mix of PuGgers running around like brain-damaged sheep vs the evil pre-made teams using awesome leetsauce tactics like healing each other and actually going for the objectives) to RvR mass battles (which are either glorious epic clashes of arms, or “zerging” depending on your point of view).

    Lots of people enjoy one or more of these types of interaction without necessarily liking all of them. My own take on it is that PvP is like sex – it’s thoroughly enjoyable when both parties want to participate, even better when both are actually good at it, and very ugly when it’s non-consensual. I like to dip into a battleground or go to the Frontiers when the mood strikes me. I don’t particularly want to worry about Supahkillerouge jumping on me while I’m out gathering crafting materials, dry-humping my corpse and then spawn-camping me for two hours because all of the girls in 8th grade laughed at the size of his manhood.

  18. Dink January 13, 2011 / 6:31 pm

    I PvP to dominate others in the game. It works for me. The problem today is the amount of botting the Blizzard allows in their BG’s. That lets the air out of my sails. WoW is becoming only my PvE game, searching for a new PvP game.

  19. pkudude99 January 13, 2011 / 6:58 pm

    I don’t much care for pvp either, seeing it as a completely pointless exercise. My 1st MMO was SWG. I almost always remained “neutral” faction and never flagged myself for pvp and never had anything to worry about. Even when I did choose a side, I still never flagged for pvp.

    From there it was EQ2 which had no pvp at all for a long time, and I have always been fine with that. When they did release the pvp servers I never played on them nor wanted to. Even with the pvp zones they’ve got now, I’ve only tried them a couple of times. Didn’t care one way or the other about them really, and wasn’t willing to grind them repeatedly to gain enough tokens for gear either. I can find gear in dungeons easily enough without grinding tokens for it.

    I do play EVE and have been in a few fleets since I moved to nullsec, but never got targeted or anything myself, so it was mostly just listening to the FC call targets.

    Any of the other games I’ve played that had pvp I never chose to participate. There’s just no appeal to me.

  20. Zambos January 13, 2011 / 9:10 pm

    Ironically, I think many of those who enjoy WoW’s arena system (something that a lot of people hate, for some reason) do so because it manages to avoid most of these negative points – depending on how players approach it.

    My time doing arena on a serious level was relatively brief, but it was quite fun. It was small scale, and so avoided the problem of large groups. Strategizing was key, both during and after a match. Strategy was less prominent in WotLK than in BC, though, and it was throughout BC that I was most into arena.

    The purpose? Well, there was that feeling of constant improvement. And there was also arena ratings: 1600 was a milestone for us; hitting 1850 and getting the PvP weapon felt at least as good as killing a tough boss in PvE.

    And yes, the matches were always different. Even in instances that we’d be matched up against the same team, we’d approach each other in different ways.

    I say “ironically” because a subset of the WoW community seems to absolutely hate arena, call it “glorified duels,” but in my view it successfully avoids/minimizes many of the things you brought up.

  21. Wilhelm2451 January 13, 2011 / 9:26 pm

    I did want to point out that, at my school, when I was a kid, dodge ball was a lot of fun. I quite enjoyed it, more so than a lot of other games we played. And I was on the nerd/weakling end of the bracket.

    It was the horrible anxiety of “Duck, Duck, Goose” and the humiliation of the mush pot that most tortures me in my dreams.

  22. 32ndlaw January 13, 2011 / 10:02 pm

    Ha. People who don’t like PvP are the same who think dodgeball was a war crime. Suddenly it makes a lot more sense.

  23. Cedia January 13, 2011 / 10:16 pm

    “PvP is like sex – it’s thoroughly enjoyable when both parties want to participate, even better when both are actually good at it, and very ugly when it’s non-consensual.”

    My goodness. May I use that quote in my sig for the rest of my life? 😀

    I like PvP. Heck, I like it a lot. (OMG older female gamer who plays a tank and likes PvP, yes. 😛 ) What I don’t like is that so many people are sore losers. It’s a game — when it becomes a measure of one’s sense of self, well, that’s when I don’t like it.

    And, sadly, that is what most players are like these days. I’ve seen some very good friends turn into people I don’t even want to associate with anymore due to this phenomenon. 😦

  24. Dblade January 13, 2011 / 11:06 pm

    I kind of laugh at EVE being held up as a model of good PvP. I’ve had more fun in Champions Online’s PvP or Mabinogi’s than it. EVE PvP is pretty much Primary and hope they dont have RR or ECM. Usually the PvP lasts a lot longer on the forums.

    For me, I do it, but it’s just impossible to balance it to make it fun in many cases. Progression + PvP sucks.

  25. Tremayne January 14, 2011 / 1:41 am

    Cedia – permission granted 🙂

    I have a similar problem with a lot of the attitude around PvP. I’m an Englishman who went to what we call a ‘public school’ (that is a privately run, fee-paying school) and so came away with a strong sense of sportsmanship – that how honourably you play is more important than winning or losing, that you should be magnanimous in victory and gracious in defeat. In MMO terms – if a guy puts up a good fight then the right thing to do is /salute his corpse, and /spit has no place in any decent person’s keybinds. That is… not a popular philosophy in the PvP community, although some of the best PvPers I’ve known are very honourable people.

  26. Nazgum January 14, 2011 / 4:39 am

    I think your first 4 points could all be attributed to a lack of skill and experience with PvP…

    For the “Lacks Purpose” argument, I’ve always found myself saying the same thing with PvE… what’s the point of killing a dragon if it never stays dead, or clearing a dungeon when it was in an instance and didn’t really count for anything? why would I want to run the same instance 10+ times…

    but I suppose non-gamers would likely consider the entire MMO experience to be “without purpose”, so I suppose this is what you make of it; personally I find PvP to have more options and purpose, though I get there are others who feel the opposite; fortunately many MMOs aim to try and offer both options =)

  27. Lexfire January 14, 2011 / 10:44 am

    PVP with a purpose. Play world war 2 online (battleground europe). It is PVP, all the time, 24/7 with a purpose. An MMO that got it right since June 6, 2001 and still going.

    The ranking and progression aspect is taken out of the game. I have been playing WW2OL for 9 years now and as a riflemen I can as easily get killed by a 9 year vet as I can from a day 1 player. Patience and a plan goes into this PVP game.

  28. We Fly Spitfires January 14, 2011 / 11:52 am

    Great article 🙂

    I’d respond to a few points though:

    1. Agree that the time to think is reduced but I find that part of the appeal. It forces you to think and respond to situations faster which presents more of a challenge. Likewise there is a greater degree in variation possible attacks rather than boss fights which only have three or four standard attacks in a fixed rotation.

    2. Sometimes yeah. But then so does PVE 🙂

    3. Agreed! But then it’s no different from being in a raiding guild and getting turned down for a slot or being slagged off in a heroic for not having the right gear.

    4. It can be if you’re bad at at it hehe 😀

    5. I’d say the purpose is no more lacking than end game PVE. I mean, in WoW you do HCs and raid to progress you gear which is exactly the same as doing BGs or Arenas in PvP. No difference at all really just a different way of doing it!!

  29. parasoja January 18, 2011 / 4:01 am

    [offtopic]

    I think I will talk about eve, since it passes most of the points on your list.

    In eve, nullsec wars are purposeful, focus on meaningful objectives and can last for months. Everybody uses voice comms. A good fleet commander, good intel and good fleet composition often make a huge difference in the outcome of a battle, sometimes even allowing one to engage 2 to 3 times their numbers and win.

    They also builds memories, those unique situations you mention. Not every battle, of course, but much more than any other pvp game I’ve played. I’ll always remember the six hour capital fight against PL; the southern coalition siege of H-W, where I barely slept for four days and it was totally worth it; the first day of the MAX 2 campaign; the 3200 player fight (or, okay, slaughter) in LXQ; and many others. All these events helped shape the current geopolitical situation, are part of eve’s shared history and are remembered by hundreds or thousands of players.

    If you ever get the urge to try a different kind of pvp, you could do worse than eve. Hit me up and I’ll pay for your ships.

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