The future of online worlds is “pvp”

I made the radical statement that the future of online worlds is “pvp.” I should have know I was letting myself in for a firestorm!
Basically, though, this goes to illustrate what I am calling “the online world dilemma,” which I am currently wrestling with as possibly the biggest issue facing online worlds today. Players want to affect the world, but they don’t want anyone to be able to affect them. Think about it–it’ll drive you mad.

The future of MMOs is “pvp” in the sense that we cannot eradicate conflict, and in fact need avenues to express it, and the richer gameplay everyone wants can only be brought about by adding conflict. Dynamic environment? Player governments and politics? Rich game economies? Grand epics? These all basically start requiring player vs player conflict of various types in order to reach their fulfillment in online worlds. It’s an online world, the point is the other people, and you need scope for the other people to provide that conflict. I can’t give you the experience of, say, working your way up to become a baron and castle owner is a faraway distant fantasy land, lording over serfs and keeping court in your great hall and fighting off invaders and worrying about how to maintain good relations with your traditional rival, Count Goober across the river (whose daughter just married into the royal family, curse his luck!) without some form of PvP. Probably all forms of PvP.

Now, this doesn’t mean combat, necessarily, it doesn’t mean gankage, it might mean price competition in shops or whatever. It’s all about where the lines of consent are drawn and how we make players feel comfortable with them. In the above scenario, if Count Goober’s firebrand son crosses the river in the dead of night and sets fire to a barn with your prize cow, just to make you look bad, that’s cool gameplay, neat roleplay. It’s also griefing. The line is not clear, and mechanically, there’s little difference between that scenario and a gang of five PKers jumping out from behind a tree and r0xx0ring your ass.

Taken from Usenet posts in early 2002.