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.