Ganking, meaning, and playing as you are

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Feb 062007
 

Thomas Malaby has an interesting post on ganking over at terra Nova in which he suggests that ganking isn’t a game, because there’s no challenge, and that gankers are effectively “ducking the question” by not really participating in the game structures. (Ganking is defined as “someone powerful attacking someone weak.”) The article seems primarily influenced by the sort of ganking that occurs in World of Warcraft.

I’m speculating that ganking happens when a player who does not want to be challenged to play a game (i.e., encounters where the outcome is contingent), instead opts to do something where the outcome is a foregone conclusion: kill a player that is vastly lower in capabilities. If meaning is found at the meeting point of inherited systems of interpretation (cultural expectations) and the performative demands of singular circumstances (something I talked about here), then ganking is a denial of that meaning. It is a retreat from the demands of the new, and it signals a disposition that does not want to be performatively challenged. Ganking lower level players is, then, a somewhat pathetic attempt to feel, well, something.

The article goes on to discuss ganking in a few different contexts:

  • Ganking as an empty exercise of power, just a meaningless self-confirmation
  • Ganking as fitting within a context of a larger “cat and mouse” style game

I think it’s hard to discuss ganking without reference to UO, Shadowbane, Eve, and other similar titles which have open world characteristics. One of the great achievements of DAoC and WoW is making PvP palatable again after the debacle in UO. And the UO PKing debacle was heavily driven by ganking.

Thomas is right that ganking is generally not about challenge. By and large, you’re not playing the combat game when you gank. That said, I think there often are many people playing alternate games altogether when they gank. In UO, for example, we saw people gank randomly in order to boost the bounty posted on their heads — the bounty had effectively become a high score table for bad guys. Ganking was effectively bottomfeeding the self-designed challenge of climbing this high score table.

It’s really easy for players to develop orthogonal goals in a game that is more free form in structure. This results in pain points for the victims. A miner is trundling along trying to get ore to town for the purposes of building a commercial empire, while a PKer is there playing another game entirely — perhaps a game of prestige versus another ganker guild, or some such. The miner isn’t interested in playing the killcount game, and he’s merely a token in that game, not regarded as a person of any consequence, with any feelings.

Interestingly, the miner in our little example is perfectly capable of regarding the marauding PKer as equivalent to just another monster. Getting your ore back to town in the face of possible danger is in fact part of his game. If the PKer actually behaved more like a monster, the miner would likely feel less outrage. Instead, he’s angered more because he sees this monster as a player.

The feelings bit is very important in a gank scenario. The trash talking was actually the worst part of getting PKed in UO. The oft-repeated example of someone being killed then watching helplessly in ghost form as their pet was slaughtered, then carved up and cooked and eaten right in front of them is an example of the complete disregard for the feelings of the victim that gankers typically engaged in. This is only possible because the victim occupies an uncomfortable position midway between real person and score token. If they were a just a token, the ganker would not bother; if they were fully cognizant of the victim as another human being, they likewise wouldn’t engage in such behavior. There’s a middle ground there where they treat the victim in a manner reminiscent of all those dehumanizing psych experiments (Stanford Prison Experiment, the thing with the electric shocks, etc).

A big part of why the pain is lessened in the case of RvR combat is because it’s not quite possible for the goals to be orthogonal — players are placed in opposition to one another, and there’s an expectation there that you are there to do to them what they are doing to you. Even on the full PvP servers in WoW, where orthogonal goals can and do arise (“I want to go quest, and you came along and killed me!”) there’s still this overriding context of two teams going head to head. In a sense, it’s the questers in the full PvP server who are not playing “correctly.” Most importantly, DAoC and WoW both intentionally present the opponents as Other: you can’t talk to them. As much as possible, they are reduced all the way down to tokens, much like opponents in an FPS match.

This even makes systems that were decried as overly complicated, such as SWG’s Temporary Enemy Flags and UO’s Criminal Flags, seem simple and obvious in WoW’s context. WoW’s flagging system is basically identical to these in its core functionality: kill a “friend” of the opposing team (an NPC from the other faction) and you are temporarily vulnerable. But by constraining the possible interactions to this us vs them situation, the number of edge cases where you might engage in a helpful action are reduced just about to zero, and the aggressive actions are actually encouraged. So it’s again an issue of expectation. Compare it to a case where a third-party bystander heals someone in a worldy game, and gets inadvertantly sucked into a war.

In the end, I’d say that ganking is actually performed in a metacontext that does give it meaning. And it cuts to the heart of the challenges inherent in making worldier games: the difficulty of having orthogonal pursuits interact only in what we regard as positive ways, or at least not abusive ways.

Once upon a time, I toyed around with the idea of an MMO where you became what you behaved as. If you were a PvPer who always fought only the opposing side, you might become a paladin, a Roland-like hero. If you were a PKer who preyed on the weak, you’d find your avatar becoming that of an ugly troll. If you hoarded wealth in your house, you might find yourself waking up a dragon one day, scored based on how much stuff you accumulated — and required to periodically kidnap princesses and NOT kill them. Each archetypal role would have a ladder of achievement based on fulfilling that role well: the troll would advance precisely by killing in trollish ways (demanding tribute from those who cross bridges, perhaps), and the miner by mining.

In this same concept, I said that true gankers were rewarded by fading into nobodiness, unable to attack or eventually even interact. Blank-faced, and eventually incapable of interacting at all. Insignificant, unranked, not even recognizable. The thought was, if you ever actually did render ganking as meaningless as its victims call it, the gankers would fade away, snarks and boojums all.

  49 Responses to “Ganking, meaning, and playing as you are”

  1. articles about “ganking” just now. For those of you who don’t know, the term “gank” is an online gaming term meaning to attack and kill another player who has no means to effectively defend him/herself. Usually, the attacked player is much, much lower level the

  2. In this same concept, I said that true gankers were rewarded by fading into nobodiness, unable to attack or eventually even interact. Blank-faced, and eventually incapable of interacting at all.

    A SWG designer came up with something like this for SWG [his name escapes me now ;)]. As I recall a victim of ganking could remove the ability to kill other [non opposing] players, he could make the offender an ‘outcast’. Outcasts could then only ply their trade in a city where the government condoned that sort of thing, a true ‘hive of scum and villainy’. A shame it didn’t get implemented.

  3. Yeah, that was my Outcasting idea, which really was for a very different context overall too. 🙂 Outcasting was heavily driven by the notion of player governments being an important part of the fabric of the game.

  4. Wow, I gotta say that I’m totally digging the concept of the Avatar reflecting your play style. I think the big difference there between a system that merely picks your class based on which skills you use more is that the goals of your avatar will change in addition to your skills.

    Wow, that would be really fun to play 🙂

  5. Interestingly, the miner in our little example is perfectly capable of regarding the marauding PKer as equivalent to just another monster. . .If the PKer actually behaved more like a monster, the miner would likely feel less outrage. Instead, he’s angered more because he sees this monster as a player.

    (speaking as a former UO Miner though) It was impossible to see the PK as another monster because the PK’s abilities were so far beyond any NPC monster – if something randomly dangerous spawned on top of you, like a reaper or brigand spawn, you still at least had a decent chance to get away; not so with a PK.

    Thinking more about it. . .perhaps the root reason you couldn’t mentally dismiss the PK as ‘just another monster’ is you couldn’t gauge the risk/reward of mining with any degree of accuracy – sometimes you could mine for hours without seeing another soul; sometimes you’d be there just long enough to get a full pack before getting ganked.

    Sigh. . now you’re making me nostalgic. I think my house should still be standing, though I haven’t logged in in over a year. . maybe I’ll go mine tonight.

    Also – Huh. I like the concept of player conflict caused by playing different games, simple, but I’d never thought of it in those terms before. . .reminds me of Deborah Tannen’s books about male/female language styles 🙂

  6. Interesting read. You know I’d love to see some kind of research done on this kind of thing. Based on my grinding up on a PvP server, by theory is a lot of these folks are those who grinded up to lvl 60 (now 70), got into the BGs and end game instances and found out they were god-aweful players.

    Most of the people rolling around ganking those half their level fell into the following categories: Guildless rogues, in bad gear, with low ranks in the PvP system.

    Its just conjecture, but to me that means semi-outcasts who really have nothing else to do. Most have no idea how to play their class and would get rolled by almost any other 60 under the same circumstances.

    Some of these players could be found doing this for months. On my last character I had a rogue in Hillsbrad/Alterac consistently gank me. When I first went in there he got me a few times. When I went back a dozen or so levels later, he ganked me. And when I went back as a 60 he was still there.

  7. I liked the TEF system, and wish they had not removed it. It made me feel as if i was apart of the empire, as i was =)

  8. “In the end, I’d say that ganking is actually performed in a metacontext that does give it meaning. And it cuts to the heart of the challenges inherent in making worldier games: the difficulty of having orthogonal pursuits interact only in what we regard as positive ways, or at least not abusive ways.”

    I’d go with abusive, but it seems like “positive” is a loaded term, one players fun is another players gank.

    It seems to me that open combat systems inherantly (as a PVP’er) support MORE emergent game play and not less. Because it would seem they force social interactions, as long as players have a clear understanding of the ruleset.

    A lone miner moving ore to his boat, house or city in UO getting ganked….unless he blongs to an allied guild or the PK’er knowing that his/her life will be miserable after ganking a member of the guild.

    Or Imp alliances forming in player run cities on planets to prevent rebel forces from blowing up bases.

    Or EvE corporations taking over and sublimating smaller corporations in a section of space to wage a larger war

    Contrast this with DAOC and WOW where the opposing side is dehumanized by lack of communication, there can be no negotiated settlement or social interaction, because players dont “own” any facet of the game except thier gear and garthering/crafting professions. Relics can be taken, and Warsong Gulch can be Won (ad nauseum) but no social ramifacations are at stake, because there are no social transactions taking place. One side does not abandon thier city because an opposing faction has its town surrounded.

    So the ruleset does not support community, however it does facilitate the ganker…

    In a world with anon and dehumanized social tansactions where everyone is fundamentally the same, there is nothing to fear because there is nothing the “lose” there isnt even a stigma of a system like “dread lord” or outcasting much less a social stigma attached to ganking for those who want to participate with no cost to entry.

    I guess what I mean to say is systems that ensure a carebear gaming experiance facilitate worse ganking when PVP IS allowed than open combat where ramifacations are felt either in a social or economic context or both.

    OTOH designing a PVP/Combat system that takes all this into consideration sounds pretty duanting.

  9. if they were fully cognizant of the victim as another human being

    I think the distance between the players is important but I don’t think it completely explains the issue. I think that it IS very important to the ganker that the other opponent is a human and that, by killing them, they are exerting control over another. Even fast friends may ruthlessly gank and taunt each other in a game.

    To me the interesting part is recognizing ways in which games have value other than as patterns to learn. Even if you can find a characterization of ganking as a game (i.e. grinding bad-guy points) there is are important aspects of social recognition and affirmation to acts like ganking or griefing that have nothing to do with the underlying game structures.

    As always, it’s not one or the other — it’s both.

  10. Ganking reminds me much of sports. I think that’s the way the gankers see it too. It’s not “killing” the other player, it’s defeating them.
    You never see a Linebacker stop and wait for another defensive player to try to make the tackle first, and wait his turn in a “fair” challenge. Nope, he just ganks the guy. You don’t see basketball players lay off on defense so another team mate can go “one on one” when the opposition is driving to the basket.

    And trash talk has always been part of anything and everything. It depends on the individual, and in the old days it was frowned upon. It’s much more accepted these days, for some reason.

    But what I’m really getting at is the basic instinct. We’re predators at heart. Much like the lion that kills a fawn, or looks for the weekest of the herd, we do too. It’s part of our making. We want to win. The rest doesn’t really matter….unless we can afford it, or course, such as in the social rules we make for ourselves. Rules we wouldn’t follow if not for social awareness. But that’s getting off course.

    And the intimidation that comes with trash talking or other things of that kind, again, it’s nature at work. The lions will intimidate other predators in their territory, and so do we by natural instinct. Even those of us who follow social rules and don’t say anything can often think things like “serves him right” and “how do you like me now”. 🙂

    So, my point is that this all boils down to basic instinctive actions and reactions. In real life, due to social rules that can be enforced, people tend to be smarter than that basic instinct in lots of ways. In these games, they have either gone the way of no social enforcements or social restrictions to the point of keeping it friendly, i.e. it doesn’t matter who wins. Unless you’re keeping score, of course. Which seems to be, in these games of wide spread level bound power dispersements, quite lacking in any meaning worth noting.

  11. […] isn’t just “emergent play that some folk don’t like.”  Raph managed to post a very nice and rather lengthy response quickly… (I’m beginning to […]

  12. We’re predators at heart. Much like the lion that kills a fawn, or looks for the weekest of the herd, we do too. It’s part of our making. We want to win.

    Yeah, I actually saw this in action about an hour ago. I’m one of the few level 60’s in WOW Battlegrounds. I’m also a mage. So…I go down with one hit, and in the biggest melees, everybody charges for me first. If I see another level 60, I’ll go for him or her first. I don’t consider myself a ganker, but if ganking is required to win the fight, then I gank away.

    I suppose if I wanted to build up my murder count in UO, I’d be ganking there too. If all I wanted was a high murder count, I would never EVER try to find a challenging fight. That would be a poor tactic, if all one wanted was to make the murder count go up.

  13. Interestingly, the miner in our little example is perfectly capable of regarding the marauding PKer as equivalent to just another monster. Getting your ore back to town in the face of possible danger is in fact part of his game. If the PKer actually behaved more like a monster, the miner would likely feel less outrage. Instead, he’s angered more because he sees this monster as a player.

    I was that miner. It caused me to quit UO and not revisit PvP at all until SWG.

    I don’t mind contextual PvP – if there’s a reason for me and the other guy to be facing off, that both of us had agreed to…opposing factions, whatever, then that’s cool. But if I’m just out in the world for some other reason and some player walks up behind me and kills me “because I was there” – that’s not cool.

    I was a big proponent of outcasting and city militias in SWG and I was sad when those concepts didn’t make it in. I think it would have added a big dynamic to the game and done a lot to give player cities more meaning. On the one hand, you would have cities of law and peace, with strong militias to protect them. On the other, you’d have hives of scum and villainy, where the militias were little more than thugs, but a place where anyone (outcast or not) could thrive. Of course, at the time we were hoping that resource spawns would be more static, so that cities would be founded based on proximity to resources, which would spur trade between cities (and trade wars between militias). Alas, it never happened..

  14. Ganking is part of the game. But I’ve yet to really see a game with a decent response to ganking that isn’t actually desirable for the ganker.

    If it’s part of the game, make it into a game. Build in a mechanic by which the “gankee” has a chance of evasion. The actual nuts ‘n’ bolts of this would very much depend on your game. EVE, for example, has the micro warpdrive. It can be jammed, but it gives the player being ganked a chance of escape. How about the ability to beacon in a high-level guildie? Or a “last ditch” burst run that only works once a day, and only when your health is 10% or lower? Even cooler would be a chance of unforeseen retaliation somehow (see “high-level guildie” above). There was an item in a UT mod, a trinket that could be picked up which resulted in a thermonuclear blast if the holder was killed, killing everything within a certain radius of the blast.

    Be creative, all you devs. How would this sort of system be workable but not exploitable? Instead of somehow “fixing” ganking by trying to reduce or eliminate it (because you won’t!), how about turning it into something that’s fun? How do you level the ganking playing field?

    Thanks for reading 🙂

  15. Instead of somehow “fixing” ganking by trying to reduce or eliminate it (because you won’t!)

    On the contrary, it’s easy to eliminate – remove the ability for 1 player to attack another. Other forms of griefing certainly remain but that takes care of powerful players preying upon weak players. The developer may not want to lose the PvP segment but that’s a different story.

    how about turning it into something that’s fun?

    Good luck with that. If Raph has something in A Theory of Fun that can make being ganked fun I’m gonna run out and get the book so I can turn picking up dirty laundry into fun for my teenagers.

  16. Levelling the ganking playing field is a two pronged focus. But first, let me say that players who gank are doing it for a good reason in their thinking. They are, as I said, playing a sport. They are hunting, and this is according to mankinds more basic instincts. (This is to reinforce my statements earlier, as well as to answer to the original topic of discussion.)

    The first focus in comming to an answer to the question of how to balance the ability to gank, as in the freedom to make the choice at any time, centers around the social environment of the game. If a social environment isn’t built into a game, then it won’t be there generally speaking. In UO, players hardly never went to taverns, but in SWG the taverns were an interesting social hangout due to it’s inclusion in game design. Banks or trade centers also show how game code can add a social element to a game that wouldn’t be there otherwise.

    Games need to expand on this far enough to make social centers even more meaningful. The reason for this is to allow for players to come together in a focused social environment so that it becomes second nature to protect eachother, both against ganking and against PvE. Without this, players will revert to a single player mentality because it’s just easier.
    The trick is to make it a desire, something players actually want to do. Not in the sense of raids to get the best items (which are temporary goals, feels like being herded through the game, and leaves that “end game” feel). But in thee sense of belonging to something bigger, or being a part of a larger picture, and for mutual advancement, as well as felling like you “belong”. This is, again, a thing of human nature. So, where can you find a very natural example of this kind of focus? Cities. But not just a grouping of buildings. MMORPGs need to advance the idea of social groupings into cities that actually can do something besides just exist. Trade, construction, advancement, protection, harvesting of resources, it’s all been done by design or by accident. But none of it’s been done together in a wholesome atmosphere.

    The second focus to balance ganking is on the other end of the spectrum. There needs to be a way to stop the ganking. In UO, you couldn’t. You could kill the ganker, but he’d be right back at it again, most often right back in your face, again and again. There needs to be justice.

    We have charaters that don’t die, and mostly don’t even lose much of anything worth missing. There needs to be some form of justice to cause gankers to stop and think if it’s really worth it. This justice also serves to give the victims some reason to accept that they got ganked. They have a revenge factor, as well as a means to stop the “crime” against them. Justice can best be served through a social environment such as a guild, but better yet a city where the numbers allow for more surety and the glue is much stronger due to the features of building the city as well as lasting effects of it’s construction and growth.

    Now, I know that some form of level advancement or skill growth is desired by almost all of us. However, ask yourself this. Suppose that there was a game with absolutely no advancement for the character in such ways. Suppose this game instead focused on building something with others, through a social thing like a city. Suppose that there was freedom to make any choices you wanted, what you do, where you go, and who to fight. Suppose that, since this game has no character advancement, your character could die permanently if they make the wrong choices.

    In this game, you could point to your city, or your house within that city, or any of a number of public buildings and works, and say “I built that statue” or ‘I helped build that defensive wall”. Or you could say “I defended this city against the attack by the enemy” or “I fought off the raiders”. Or you could say “I helped build this temple, and I help run it now”. Or “I went out and found the knowledge to construct this tower”. You could also say “I have built a small fortune in trade” or in any form of play. Or you could say “I was part of the raid on another city, and we took three wagons full of silver” and “but then they raided our city in retaliation, so we either will make truce or go after more of their silver”.

    And then ask yourself two more questions.
    Would this be more fun than level grinds?
    And, where’s the end game?

    Now, imagine a game like this with some levelling or skill gain system in place. Even better. But such a game won’t work very well if the gains make players separate by levels, and thge game world too. A closer differencial in power from bottom to top would be much better in “glueing” players together in a strong social environment, and allow for this kind of game to play out.

  17. Shadowbane had a decent world. Sure…ganking was prevalent…but true “ganking” was very limited. Most combat that I experienced in the few years I played revolved around understood guild on guild or guild vs. the world. True ganking was limited to what I would expect from any open world.

    I never kept records, but I could count the times I was attacked by some “errant” individual or pair. Seems along the lines of less than 2% of deaths occured at the hands of unlawful or outlaw behavior. By far the vast majority of my deaths occured in opened combat by clearly opposing factions. Guilds we were KoS with…players who had known enemies and known alliances.

    That is to be understood. In an open world you are going to have outlaws. It happens. If the world is built well…they should gravitate to uncontrolled ares of operation. And if the world is designed right…there should be an avenue for criminal behavior. Outlaws should be allowed to exist. They should be hunted and prosecuted…but they should be allowed to try. The good ones…the ones who play well in that role…they will survive. The bad ones…they will remake other characters…

    But in the end…a well rounded world should have about a 2% criminal rate…as opposed to UO’s 80%. : )

    cl

  18. My point was that I cannot see how it can be eliminated while keeping open world PvP. Of course if you remove non-consensual PvP ganking will go away, I thought that was glaringly obvious enough that it did not need saying. And it could be fun — if the playing field between ganker and gankee was made more level somehow, also a major point of my post.

  19. “Once upon a time, I toyed around with the idea of an MMO where you became what you behaved as.”

    Now that idea I do like a whole lot! Ok maybe not to the point of spontanuously transforming into a dragon (that must ruin the whole wardrobe and it might be hard on a virutal marriage, hehe). The concept could even be taken a step further and expanded to player cities. A city could be configured to promote, tolerate or ban activities towards itelf or other cities. A player’s actions would therefore affect his character, his standing in his city (which might unlock content for him) and his standing in other cities.

    The results of every day actions could change the city as a whole: the state of buildings, intruding wild life (and surrounding areas), guard npcs or a few thieves roaming about. A truly decadent city (encouraging raiding of enemies and pking) could suddenly find its streets filled with garbage and npc thugs which will bully anyone without a high enough *thug* value.

    Heck, with such a system you could actually have smugglers in place (cities A and B are at war but a smuggler form city C trades items between the two bitter enemies).

  20. I like the idea of a city-state building virtual world. You join a city-state (or found one), help it grow, and defend it against outside threats. You engage in trade and diplomacy, and sometimes even warfare with other city-states. It’s the perfect backdrop for all sorts of activities commonly found in MMOs.

    To date the only game which has come close to this in my opinion is EVE online.

  21. “Good luck with that. If Raph has something in A Theory of Fun that can make being ganked fun I’m gonna run out and get the book so I can turn picking up dirty laundry into fun for my teenagers.”

    ROFLCOPTER…..

  22. Invariably in a contest between one or more participants one or more subjects will be the victor. As with God’s own creatures and so with MMORPGS. So you want to remove the fights you deem “unfair” because ganking tends to result in a victim-persecutor scenario. I understand your logic; one player is having fun at another’s expense. My major issue here is that strife and conflict are at the very heart of any MMORPG, if you take away those aspects it becomes a chat room. There will always be competition, it is the nature of games.

    In your miner example, what is to stop another miner or group of miners from mining all of the resource you are after, in effect griefing you just as badly and wasting just as much of your time? In truth, there is no griefing, there is only competition. Just because you believe a certain tactic is “unfair”, does not make it a game breaking issue that needs to be removed. As long as there is any aspect of competition there will always be some players who adopt cheap tactics and other players who feel very slighted by the fact the players are playing cheap.

    There are two sides of this street, there are the griefers and then there are the oversensative “bluebies” who shreik and complain whenever there is the slightest bit of unfair competition. Rather than accepting their bad luck, they assume the role of the victim (“HE DID THAT TO GRIEF ME GOD THAT PISSES ME OFF”), when sometimes they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Have you ever heard about how dogs can smell fear and that if you are afraid of a dog it will attack you? The same holds true with a griefer: if a griefer is griefing you, they will eventually stop if they do not believe you are getting griefed. They are after the panicky response most griefees muster after the event people might consider “griefing”.

    It basically comes down to this, there are two types of people in this world: people who compete, and people who lose. Griefers compete… people who get griefed lose.

  23. There are two sides of this street, there are the griefers and then there are the oversensative “bluebies” who shreik and complain whenever there is the slightest bit of unfair competition.

    Hopefully apologists for griefing are standing in the middle of the street with oncoming traffic in both directions.

  24. I think the ganking game is solvable if you include its aspects in the design of your game from the ground up. The entire combat system needs to be designed with the understanding that the second you open PvP to players they will use it to gank. There is no leveling the playing field by tweaking one aspect of the combat game without getting into an arms race with the gankers over who can find the best advantage. (Very much akin to todays Windows virus wars between Microsoft/Symantec/et. al. and the hackers. Humans seek out the best risk/reward scenario and ganking is a form of that behavior. As a playstyle, it is no less valid than the miner, the business owner or the raider.

    The single problem with ganking is that in 99.99% of MMOs on the market today, ganking carries with it, zero consequences. If ganking can’t be solved in the province of your combat game mechanics then where can it be solved? The social game mechanic can solve the problem of ganking. Ganking is non-consensual in nature and I think everyone in the MMO community has finally come to believe that consensual PvP is very healthy. (After UO in the early EQ days, the mainstream developer mindset was that ALL PvP was bad. We’ve grown as a genre to a better definition of PvP.) The social mechanic should be able to dramatically reduce non-consensual PvP and if taken far enough such as with SWG’s proposed outcast system and the system we’ve designed at Ages of Athiria, it can give recourse to the victim.

    Recourse is of course the primary problem in so much that it is related to consequence. There’s no consequence to one’s actions. No loss for failure and therefore no appreciation for what the character has currently achieved. The victim can often do nothing but run back to his corpse and hope he is not camped. Sure, he can call in the guildies and to gank the ganker but that results in nothing more than a meaningless waste of everyone’s time in a fruitless arms race. Nothing is resolved by the action. No consequence was realized.

    Cities, governments, militias and justice systems are where the ganking fix begins. Unfortuantely, the second you mention any of those you start talking about more advanced social game play. You’ve moved beyone the simple 6 – 8 command implementations of grouping many MMOs have. Cities, guilds and groups should be far more than a simple invite, kick, motd, promote and demote button. Taxes, electorates, government types, public works and more all need to be discussed to truly design a social game play mechanic that enables players to police out the ganking from their world using the social game mechanics implemented in your game.

    We’re never going to solve ganking by tweaking the combat game of any MMO. MUDs have tried it for over two decades and each has for the most part failed to achieve anything through combat system tweaks. Ganking is a behavioral system and social boundaries are the most effective way to influence behavior in any environment, not just MMOs.

  25. Bove, I think you are misunderstanding the situation. Compete? How does one compete when they are limited to a few hours a night with someone whom plays 10 hours a day? How does a character built for mining compete with a character built for combat….in combat?

    PKing is the easiest thing in the world to do. You run around and look for a weeker target, and gank them. What’s really funny is how some of you think this makes you more competative. What’s even funnier is how guys like you seem to think you are somehow tougher in RL to the player who’s complaining about the hopeless situation that affects them directly in the game.

  26. I always thought ganking was a group of 2 or more individuals killing one person ala UO. Then again, uo had a skill system whereas wow has a dull gridning level system.

  27. Kressilac said:
    The social mechanic should be able to dramatically reduce non-consensual PvP and if taken far enough such as with SWG’s proposed outcast system and the system we’ve designed at Ages of Athiria, it can give recourse to the victim.

    I’m not sure what this “outcast system” is, but if it’s simply making “murderers” KOS in cities or to other players, it won’t have much effect. Players can get around that, and a key ingredient to make a social justice system work is that they can’t work around the justice of their victims forever (or at least the possibility). There has to be the possibility of the games social groupings to actually carry out some form of “punishment”. And it has to be something that the “criminal” character is really hurt by. Token punishment won’t work.

    Ages of Athiria, on the other hand, has punishment with teeth. Perhaps a little too much bite, since it’s perma-death for “murderers” if that city chooses. But that’s only if someone actually catches up to them. The good thing about it is that all the players who would kill others only to loot them, or just for the fun of ganking others, simply won’t do it. It’s too much to give up for what reward they get (a very realistic approach), and definitely shifts the reward/risk onto the PKers shoulders instead of the rest of the player base. The beneficial side effect is that there will be two kinds of players, for the most part, who will play a murderer. Roleplayers and those who truelly do it for the challenge. In both cases, they will have to be willing to give up their character at some point when justice catches up with them. This makes it tolerable to most players, I believe.

    If a game can allow for ganking and other unsocial actions, and if it can be in a form that’s tolerable to the masses, then it opens up all kinds of interesting doors.
    Secret thieves guilds, evil worshippers of snake gods, evil masterminds, roadside bandits, assassins and spies, all this and more can actually be played out. No pre-fab stuff here, it can be played out in a realistic fashion. This can be very exciting for both sides.

    Most importantly, this changes the game play, the way players actually approach playing and how they see their game world. And it’s long overdue. There’s plenty of games for those who want to play level grind. There is a market for those who want a better simulation, and I suspect from the constant complaints that that market is very large.

  28. Invariably in a contest between one or more participants one or more subj……..

    I tend to agree with this sentiment, I think that in any pvp competition people can establish dominance in many ways from gear to character skills to actual player based skills. I think it’s unfair to cripple the standard in such a scenario down to bare bones playstyles to accomidate players who are clearly inferior, whatever the reason. Everyone does want to blame shortcomings on “fairness”. Who’s to say that ganking based on levels or player skills is any more or less fair then any other factor? Even people at my same level or character skill level in cases like UO can be easy targets simply because they dont know how to play. Nobody minds this “unfair” advantage.

    It’s the same in real life as it is in games, there’s always a winner who is dominant and there must also always be someone on the sidelines complaining of circumstance. To allow a player to mine for example with not threat of significant consequence (can still run from NPCs with a good chance to survive nearly every time, as highlighted above) is to not only cheat the player involved but also dumbs down a game into a boring grindfest. Just as with NPC’s you shouldnt be able to escape from every player, you need consequence you need deaths or the game becomes stale. Would you play DOOM on a level with no enimies? If not, why do you think that this completely voluntary approach to all combat is acceptable in the MMO or any other game?

    Ganking is not an endless wave of massacre it’s a challenge put into a game to keep things interesting and to present a new level of challenge monsters just cant fufill. Sometimes people have to die in a game or suffer some kind of strife because if you have no consequence and nothing to really worry about there can be no fun.

  29. I support any/all forms of USER-CREATED CONTENT: ganking, town-raiding, kill stealing, road patrol, corpse camping, MC Cliff Jumping, polymorph abuse, etc.

    It’s why singleplayer CRPGs no longer “do it for me.”

  30. Hopefully apologists for griefing are standing in the middle of the street with oncoming traffic in both directions.

    Funny how you choose to attack me personally rather than dispute even a single of my points.

  31. Bove, I think you are misunderstanding the situation. Compete? How does one compete when they are limited to a few hours a night with someone whom plays 10 hours a day? How does a character built for mining compete with a character built for combat….in combat?

    You are confusing the argument. You are arguing against time investment as a means of progress in a game, not ganking. You are also totally disregarding the fact that the miner CHOSE to be built for mining and the person who wanted to be built for combat CHOSE to be built for combat. You totally sidestep the notion of personal responsibility. The miner knew full well or would find out full well that being a miner with little to no combat ability would likely result in him or her losing in combat. Thus, if the miner stayed a miner and continued to get ganked you can argue that he is stupid. We should not design games to suit stupid people.

    PKing is the easiest thing in the world to do. You run around and look for a weeker target, and gank them. What’s really funny is how some of you think this makes you more competative. What’s even funnier is how guys like you seem to think you are somehow tougher in RL to the player who’s complaining about the hopeless situation that affects them directly in the game.

    I didn’t say anything about myself or gankers IRL. What you basically are saying here is that ganking is easy, my argument is funny, and getting ganked is a hopeless situation. In an MMO there is always going to be a player who is weaker or stronger than yourself, it is rare that two characters are equal, therefore there is absolutely NO situation that is fair and thus, following your logic, there should be no PvP combat in MMORPGs simply because fights will, the vast majority of the time, not be fair. Personally, I don’t have a problem with getting ganked, ganking, losing in an unfair fight, or anything else with an MMORPG that I am CHOOSING to play, these things are all part of the game that I tacitly agreed to by playing it, and therefore I deserve to get ganked if I do.

  32. The miner knew full well or would find out full well that being a miner with little to no combat ability would likely result in him or her losing in combat. Thus, if the miner stayed a miner and continued to get ganked you can argue that he is stupid. We should not design games to suit stupid people.

    The assumption you are making is that the combat is the primary mechanic and the mining is second-class. I think you would be singing a different tune if you found that a side effect of mining was to prevent combat within a large radius, or some other effect that disrupted your combat. Again, the issue is the orthogonality of the player interests and the systems. The problem isn’t that two players are playing different subgames, it’s that one subgame stomps another one with no recourse.

    Players objected to having to learn skills they didn’t want and play subgames they didn’t like in order to play the game they DID want to play, in SWG. Rightfully so. You cannot tell the miner “you have to be a hybrid with fighter” any more than you can tell the fighter “you have to be a basket weaver too in order to get anywhere as a fighter.”

  33. I dont think the assumption was miners are a secondary class, moreso that it’s just what they excel at. If a fighter needs armor he has to go to the miner or some type of artisan to get it crafted for him. That is the balance of things, the miner makes his money by crafting the armors the fighter needs, and the fighter makes money by killing. It is nesscessary because if the fighter could make his own armor or the miner could fight there would be no need for any sort of class distinction and the whole sitution is nullified. Any time there is a difference in ability there is an unfair advantage, one could argue it’s unfair to make the fighter take up mining to get the armor he needs or wants. Just because he is combat superior doesnt mean that he doesnt also have his downsides or choices he has to make as far as progression.

  34. Bove didn’t say the miner was 2nd class, he said he has no combat skills, so when it comes to combat he is going to lose. If for some reason there was a mining competition for a billion dollars, the PK would get his ass kicked and it would be perfectly fair because the PK knew he would have no mining skill when he chose a life of combat. What carebears and whiners don’t understand in games like UO is that its a free and open game. That means people are free to gank you, but what is stopping you from mining in relatively safe zones and making armor for a guild in return for protection? What is to stop your miners from picking up a little bit of magery and teaming up with 10-12 other miners to gank the couple PKs that come in? It’s about being smart. If you aren’t smart enough to stop letting people destroy you over and over then you should go play a World of Warcraft where PVP is completely voluntary (aka unrealistic and completely lacking in RP). Crafters don’t want to see the good side in these FFA full loot games. The price of crafted materials goes way up in these types of games since armor is at a high demand, and in the case of UO and SWG crafted items were actually valuable (unlike recent raiding games).

  35. Yes, Hatrix, but the issue is that playing the PvP game prevents the miner from playing the mining game; the mining game, however, does not prevent the PvP game. That’s what is pushing miners to be a secondary class, Daim; the one role pre-empts the other.

  36. Raph, i think its an issue of poor game design rather than griefing. The first thing that came to mind after reading your post is how are PvPers gonna kill the miners if they dont have weapons? The fact is games add quests, items that drop off monsters, and raiding which make crafting near worthless. This gives an advantage to the pvpers. Why buy from crafters when you can kill monsters and get better stuff then kill the crafters? Hell, in wow you can go to battlegrounds with no gear at all and in time come out with some of the best gear in the game. I think one game coming out (hopefully) soon, Darkfall, promises to make all, or close to all, the items in the game crafted. This is very neccesary since its an open ffa pvp game. The fact is they’ve designed it as an open game and while we don’t know yet if it will succeed, they have atleast accounted for some of the problems of griefing that other games haven’t.

  37. The assumption you are making is that the combat is the primary mechanic and the mining is second-class. I think you would be singing a different tune if you found that a side effect of mining was to prevent combat within a large radius, or some other effect that disrupted your combat. Again, the issue is the orthogonality of the player interests and the systems. The problem isn’t that two players are playing different subgames, it’s that one subgame stomps another one with no recourse.

    Players objected to having to learn skills they didn’t want and play subgames they didn’t like in order to play the game they DID want to play, in SWG. Rightfully so. You cannot tell the miner “you have to be a hybrid with fighter” any more than you can tell the fighter “you have to be a basket weaver too in order to get anywhere as a fighter.”

    Combat is the primary mechanic. I cannot think of a single successful MMORPG where combat was not the primary means of advancement or at least a major factor in the ability for a player to advance. Crafters depend on combatants for a market and harvesters depend on crafters for a market. Therefore, without combatants there would be no purpose for harvesters or crafters, call it the military industrial MMO complex, but the main purpose of crafters is to serve people who are combatants, and the main purpose of harvesters is to support crafters, so essentially harvesters are third class citizens, crafters are second class citizens, and combatants are first class citizens. If you think about the hierarchy in terms of a food chain; the combatants are the predators, the crafters are the herbavores, and the harvesters are the plants.

    This view is flawed in the sense that not every player can fall into category “crafter”, “harvester”, or “combatant”, and in fact most don’t. A good example of a class that doesnt is the lumberjacker from UO. Every skill is not a microcosm, it makes no sense at all that a miner will only get better at mining, they will also get stronger and probably better with weapons that are similar to mining tools, similarly, blacksmiths are seldom seen as a scrawny person (talking about the common perception here), but a brawny person. They did not get brawny from slaying rabbits over and over, but from tempering metal.

    “Harvesters” are third class citizens, but very few characters fall under this distinction. Ideally, each sphere should impact the other sphere in terms of abilities and power, so that there is synergy. A person who wants to craft may not be interested in combat until someone who wants to fight tries to fight them, so they should be able to gain combat abilities by harvesting. Although their abilities should not be as great as someone who gains those abilities actively, they should have some degree of combat skills. Just the same, a combatant should gain a better ability to harvest from fighting, but not as good as someone who gains their harvesting ability actively.

    This may lead to a certain homogenization of characters, but if there is enough variety and choices made in terms of style of combat and harvesting, it will bring harvesting in line as an equal path of advancement to combat. The only way to stop one sphere from trampling over another, is to forget about the idea of spheres and make characters less one dimensional.

  38. It seems to me that much of the ‘griefing’ in ‘ganking’ is an exercise of ill-gotten advantage. Games with a steep power-curve frequently give those with extra free-time an insurmountable leg-up on those who have less time for games. Thus the ‘ganker’ is more likely to have long since ‘won’ and become disinterested in the actual ‘game’, and the ‘victim’ is more likely to take the loss ‘harder’ than the average gamer as it eats more deeply into his more limited playtime.

    Granted, even without a power curve, open-pvp worlds would still have the capacity for ‘ganking’ – but if the outcome wasn’t a forgone conclusion it’d be far different encounter.

    Likewise, if loss and victory weren’t mutually exclusive, the dynamic would change. E.g. What if all PvP combat in WoW carried the risk of a ‘combat sickness’ debuff for the aggressor, proportional to ‘rez sickness’? One might gank and win, but still wind up far worse off than if they hadn’t fought at all.

    Still, so long as a miner can’t run around forcing killers into ad hoc winner-take-all mining competitions, mining will be a fair-weather skill* and miners forced into combat will consider it ‘ganking’. But that’s more a problem with game designs that use combat as their only means of conflict resolution.

    *(if the application of combat can prevent a skill from being practiced, it’s worse than ‘secondary’)

  39. I cannot think of a single successful MMORPG where combat was not the primary means of advancement or at least a major factor in the ability for a player to advance.

    I played one for over 2 years, it was called Star Wars Galaxies. The subscription numbers it reached were definately enough to be considered ‘successful’ before WoW changed everyone’s definition of it.

    the main purpose of crafters is to serve people who are combatants

    I’m sorry, I have to disagree with this sentiment. The main purpose of crafters is to craft goods. These goods can be weapons or armor for combatants, yes. Other markets could be clothing, housing, decorations, endless kinds of consumables, and more. Architects in SWG, for example, probably didn’t consider themselves there to ‘serve people who are combatants’.

    I’ve been a part of far too many combatant vs. non-combatant arguments and heard a lot of these statements made before, they don’t hold water. The core of the issue has been presented in several forms here, basically along the theme ‘the crafter cannot exert the same influence over the combatant that the combatant can over the crafter’. The warrior can camp me all day, and my recourse options involve other people dropping what they are doing to help, logging off, or making fruitless effort after effort to get away (oddly, I’ve found many would-be gankers have aborted their harrassment when I stop and do nothing). In any case, these take away time I could be spending making some progress. My blacklisting said warrior from my shop doesn’t put much dent in his gameplay at all. As far as risk/reward, crafters face higher risks (assuming that crafting focus takes away from combat-ability) by way of less combat competence, they forfeit the time to track down resources and then risk having it all taken away by a PKer who happened upon them (or this takes place at some kind of ‘known’ spawning ground for resources) and put arguably much less effort into getting what he wanted. This paradigm doesn’t apply to the way WoW is set up, as crafting has very little impact on combat ability (engineering has PvP oriented tricks, herb/alch can make potions, but these make little difference when a wide disparity in power is the case).

  40. I’m sorry, I have to disagree with this sentiment. The main purpose of crafters is to craft goods. These goods can be weapons or armor for combatants, yes. Other markets could be clothing, housing, decorations, endless kinds of consumables, and more. Architects in SWG, for example, probably didn’t consider themselves there to ’serve people who are combatants’

    How do you think the credits that paid for those goods entered the market in the first place? They sure as hell didn’t come from crafters or harvestors, they came from combatants doing missions. Without the credits from the combatants doing missions there would have been no economy and hence no purpose for houses and things like that. The economy was centered around people who killed things. That is just how MMOs are designed.

    SWG was as combat oriented as any other MMO; it has a more complex crafting and harvesting system than other MMOs, but in the end the crafter existed on the whim of the combatant because the crafter had no way to earn money simply by being a crafter, they had to sell goods to combatants because combatants had the only way of making money without relying on another player. The only crafting markets that was able to continually sell their goods at a steady rate were the crafting professions that directly support combat (chef, armorsmith and weaponsmith), architects, tailors, and droid engineers were largely useless since once you had the goods you bought from them you didnt need to buy them anymore. Regardless, the economy was very combat oriented.

    Your complaint that you cannot defeat a player in combat as a crafter makes little sense, what circumstance would you be fighting a player as a crafter? Certainly not while crafting, in every mmo I know of on the market
    crafters cannot be killed while crafting, so your point is moot.

  41. There should always be an area in which ganking carries no or next to no consequences in a game. Ganking is indistinguishable from proper combat on a meta-level. People argue endlessly about the fine gradient separating “honorable” combat from “dishonorable” ganking, and my only answer is to throw this the heck out. What do you call a fight in which a more powerful opponent is destroyed by a lesser one? It was also a “gank” but a failed one. Did it suddenly become “honorable” afterward? These are distinctions honestly not worth worrying about.

    If you wish there to be no ganking, create an area with little consequence and little reward in which anyone may avoid combat. Make it seemingly large enough to overwhelm the casual player, and everyone who complains about ganks will be satisfied. A good way to make this space important in a non-impact level is to make most of the in-game fiction center around it.

    Then, make the entire rest of the game a free-for-all where anything you build and work for may be gone, given time and inattention. All combat in this area is “honorable” since there is no a priori assumption on the part of either side that they are there for anything but combat, or making money in spite of combat. It is additionally beneficial to the game to provide great rewards in this area, to tempt people who do not play the combat game to enter it and gain rewards. They may choose never to give in to the temptation, but it absolutely must be there. Also, make products of the safe space similarly valuable to those in the dangerous badlands, so that cross-trade becomes important.

  42. If you wish there to be no ganking, create an area with little consequence and little reward in which anyone may avoid combat. Make it seemingly large enough to overwhelm the casual player, and everyone who complains about ganks will be satisfied. A good way to make this space important in a non-impact level is to make most of the in-game fiction center around it.

    Creating a ‘quarantine zone for the carebears’ is not the answer. Where is it written that if I want to have meaningful impact on the game world (community) I play in, I have to go outside this zone and open myself to griefers, gankers, and others who wish to engage in the very little effort/great reward system you’re trying to avoid.

    Where is it written that just becuase I don’t PvP (I do, playing devil’s advocate) that I want little consequence? Who ever said that PvP gameplay is deserving of greater rewards? You are basically describing segregation….of the ‘seperate and NOT equal’ kind. I enjoy both modes of play equally. I do not, however, enjoy someone coming along when I’m in PvE and one-shotting me. I’ve taken risk and faced the consquences to get what I wanted from my playtime; they took no risks, face no consequences for their actions, and got what they wanted.

    Power disparities are not the problem, wide power disparity in a (too) open setting with no consequences for (ab)using that power are the problem.

    I used to love FPS games because they were far more balanced. Yes, in Quake II getting your hands on the rail gun could make you a fragging machine, but you could still die just as easily, and the rail gun wasn’t any more difficult for you to get to than anyone else. In CS, the AWM/P was about the same in terms of power, anyone could run a few rounds with a pistol and get the money for it without much effort. In MMOs, likely more to create a massive 3-month time sink more than anything else, we grind….and grind….and grind, and the masses have bought the line that this justifies disparate levels of power. I stopped playing FPS games when cheaters became unavoidable. I may have to stop playing MMOs if the industry continues its trend towards creating ‘giant virtual pecking orders’.

  43. How do you think the credits that paid for those goods entered the market in the first place? They sure as hell didn’t come from crafters or harvestors, they came from combatants doing missions. Without the credits from the combatants doing missions there would have been no economy and hence no purpose for houses and things like that. The economy was centered around people who killed things. That is just how MMOs are designed.

    Continuing to call on previous examples of MMOs as claim that this is how it should always be is short-sighted. Crafters could run crafting missions, entertainers could run entertiner missions, there were explorer missions for anyone brave (foolish?) enough to do them. Their payouts were weak, that doesn’t mean the concept failed. If you want to bring risk/reward into the argument….sorry, having even a single combat profession (hell, even two branches filled out of 4) could net you a million credits in a session easily. Meanwhile the dancer could scramble through missions for the same 3 hours and come up with a few thousand, or buff at the tavern for a little more (or maybe even less….combat toons making millions couldn’t be bothered to part with 5k for the buff that allowed them to make all that money). Why is gameplay style A the one that is rewarded while gameplay style B is disregarded as ‘subservient to players of gamesyle A’?

    The focus of my disagreement here is ‘That is just how MMOs are designed’…which doesn’t preclude that they could be designed BETTER.

    SWG was as combat oriented as any other MMO; it has a more complex crafting and harvesting system than other MMOs, but in the end the crafter existed on the whim of the combatant because the crafter had no way to earn money simply by being a crafter, they had to sell goods to combatants because combatants had the only way of making money without relying on another player. The only crafting markets that was able to continually sell their goods at a steady rate were the crafting professions that directly support combat (chef, armorsmith and weaponsmith), architects, tailors, and droid engineers were largely useless since once you had the goods you bought from them you didnt need to buy them anymore. Regardless, the economy was very combat oriented.

    ‘The crafter existed on the whim of the combatant’?

    Again, I think the crafters might disagree with you. They are there to craft. The market they choose to make their wares available to is more of a social context than a purpose. As a member of , the now-long-gone elite entertainer troupe of StarSider, we had a number of crafters who found joy (not as alts, mind you) in creating outfits for our performances, decorating civic structures, guild structures, and were available to residents as well.

    The crafters tend to make goods for combatants because the combatants have the money. Create interesting ways for non-combatants to gain money (aside from selling things to combatants), and you’d find there would be more interest in creating non-combatant-centric goods.

    Your complaint that you cannot defeat a player in combat as a crafter makes little sense, what circumstance would you be fighting a player as a crafter? Certainly not while crafting, in every mmo I know of on the market crafters cannot be killed while crafting, so your point is moot.

    Well since the context of this conversation is ganking (defined as a hopelessly one-sided affair) I’d think that the circumstances are obvious, do you really need me to list them all for you to understand? Could we then quible over which ones are valid or not based on which ones most serve our differing points of view? Would this accomplish anything or is it off the point entirely?

    The point is not about who wins the combat, the point is about how much influence playstyle A has over playstyle B, while playstyle B has no such influence over playstyle A.

    Every MMO you’ve seen on the market places the crafter in a state of invincibility/unattackability when they craft?

    declaring my point moot based on your anectodal observations is probably the reason my responses come off a bit squared, please try and respect others positions and not outright dismiss them. Especially when taking the position ‘playstyle B is here to serve me’.

  44. […] Ganking, meaning, and playing as you are […]

  45. […] on the other hand, I think takes them a bit too simply. I get the impression he thinks of them as misguided children that might be shaped into useful […]

  46. […] not a result of player crying. They were a result of developer opinion. Most notably this guy. https://www.raphkoster.com/2007/02/06…ng-as-you-are/ I think you attribute to many changes to player concerns when in reality it’s uusally what the […]

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