Why the social penalty for open PVP in MMOs never works (From: MassivelyOP.com)

    • Why the social penalty for open PVP in MMOs never works (From: MassivelyOP.com)

      Link: massivelyop.com/2019/02/07/vag…-pvp-in-mmos-never-works/

      Eliot Lefebvre wrote:

      Vague Patch Notes: Why the social penalty for open PvP in MMOs never works
      By Eliot Lefebvre

      February 7, 2019 12:00 PM




      One of the most important things to have when you’re thinking about games and their design is reference material. It’s one of the things that the Vague Patch Notes column in particular is meant to provide, an anchoring point where important issues can be brought up and memorialized so that in a year’s time I can ask myself “didn’t I talk about that before” and then just link back. It seems useful to me.

      Thus, the genesis of this particular article, which is about a discussion MOP’s Bree and I have had several dozen times by now without ever actually writing down in a format that can be used for callbacks.

      There’s a consistent attitude and acceptance of the idea that games with open PvP attempting to use the social penalty system aren’t really addressing the fundamental problems that open PvP brings to the table. However, I don’t think we’ve ever actually put forth the reasons why the social penalty system doesn’t work; it’s just something that’s stated as an a priori failing without explanation. So let’s spend the day explaining why this penalty system just doesn’t work.



      First of all, we should be clear by what is meant by the “social penalty” because lots of games use different variants on the same core concepts or turn the dials in different ways. Let’s outline exactly what we mean by the social penalty for open PvP, in convenient list form. The social penalty system is defined as a system wherein all of the following are true:
      1. The game is mandatory open PvP, with any “safe zones” enforced by NPC guards or player consensus rather than by actual mechanical exclusion from being attacked.
      2. Killing another player causes an immediate impact upon the killed player, usually the loss of items, or maybe everything in the player’s inventory will become available for the taking.
      3. The penalties in place are meant to shield players not actively engaged in combat and/or incapable of facing off against their attackers.
      4. Killers in these scenarios will be penalized via hostile reactions by NPCs and/or lessened penalties for other players attacking them unprovoked, with the intent being that this creates a risk-reward scenario, i.e., is it worth killing this miner and taking his minerals if I’m going to be unable to sell them at a larger town.
      All of these conditions have to be fulfilled for the social penalty system to really be in effect here. If you can opt out of PvP entirely, for example, the only reason you’d be at risk of being attacked is if you opted in; thus, you don’t need to be defended against people attacking you for sheer greed or boredom. You’ll also note that this isn’t concerned with the specifics of what the penalty may be, whether it be declaring open season on the killer, hostile NPC reactions, the opportunity to take part in a justice system in-game, or all of the above and more.

      That’s because none of that matters – the system is failing right from the start for the player who got killed.



      Let’s say Mark is out in the woods in Chronicles of Elyria harvesting plenty of lumber. Sasha, meanwhile, has been stalking along behind Mark for some time. When he’s laden with lumber, Sasha jumps out of the shadow and hits Mark directly in the face with a dozen arrows, leaving her free to take all of that lumber off of Mark’s body.

      Forget about what happens to Sasha in this scenario. What happens to Mark? Mark has just seen all of his work go up in smoke because Sasha felt like it. Knowing that Sasha is going to have to face repercussions later doesn’t do anything to help Mark now. In all likelihood, it’s never going to help Mark in any way. Even if a player-organized trial is convened and Sasha is convicted and penalized, Mark is unlikely to get all of his lumber back.
      In other words, Mark’s going to immediately ask himself whether the game is worth continuing to play because however much fun he was having, he’s now been reminded that all of his stuff can be taken away whenever someone wants to take it away. It’d be like clearing a very difficult level in a single-player game and then just having the game decide “nope, do that again because we said so.”

      “Ah,” you say, “but Sasha is going to face justice!” Except, uh… maybe not so much. See, by making the penalties social rather than mechanical, it’s very possible that Sasha is actually happier to have a higher wanted level or outlaw level or whatever. All of those penalties rely on either going back into contact with NPCs or in other players making use of the social systems.

      The plural of “anecdote” isn’t “data,” but I do think there’s an anecdote from my time in Lineage II that perfectly illustrates this without the need for more examples. After reaching the first major city in the game, I headed out a gate into the wilderness… and was promptly ventilated by an arrow. Respawn back in the city, head back out the gate, get another arrow in the throat. Respawn a third time, and this time hang back… and watch as the same player slaughters a few more new players, avoiding me only because I wasn’t in range for him.

      See, he knew exactly how far away from the NPC guards he could stand while being safe. He also knew that any high-level player could come along and kill him freely… but he had his own friends alongside him laughing, and almost all of the players coming out of the city were new players, meaning they both lacked high-level friends and couldn’t hurt him anyhow. This wasn’t being penalized; this was the point of the game for him.



      You can argue that this player was uniquely awful, the lone sociopathic and cruel MMO player in the history of the genre. And sure, all right, let’s go with that. But that doesn’t change the fact that the game’s social penalties had no way to cope with this kind of player. The game was not designed to account for “what happens if there’s no one around to help and someone just likes ruining the day of others?”

      This isn’t meant to examine the merits of open PvP as a design choice or even ask whether or not this is something that should be fixed. Rather, it’s meant to explain why these penalties don’t make the game any more welcoming to people who dislike open PvP. It’s highlighting the fact that these penalties are really not a deterrent and don’t actually address the core problem, the feature that makes most MMO players leery of games as soon as they’re told that open PvP is a major feature.

      You can argue that this isn’t what these systems are meant to accomplish in the first place, of course, but they’re usually touted by designers as “solving” the open PvP problem. It’s the promise that this time it’ll be fair and players will enjoy the added excitement of an open PvP environment without having to deal with players acting in bad faith. And so long as your penalties are going to center around these social consequences, you’re going to have the same problems that plague every open PvP title.

      Is there a way to allow open PvP with penalties that actually encourage non-PvP players to enjoy the game? Is it desirable? Is that worth the effort? That’s all for another day. But now you’ve got some reference for why this approach keeps falling flat.


      Sometimes you know exactly what’s going on with the MMO genre, and sometimes all you have are Vague Patch Notes informing you that something, somewhere, has probably been changed. Senior Reporter Eliot Lefebvre enjoys analyzing these sorts of notes and also vague elements of the genre as a whole. The potency of this analysis may be adjusted under certain circumstances.
    • I was looking forward to author's analysis of this issue and possible solutions but after reading the whole article it feels like it all basically came down to players questioning game design and PvP system because of a single death and its consequences in a PvP focused mmorpg. The main argument that "social penalty" never works while designers claim it "solves" open PvP problems wasn't even supported by any evidence. I cannot recall any PvP mmorpg where "social penalty" would be the only countermeasure, and especially any developers that would claim they solved PvP problems or ensured even-playing field in PvP. Any solution we could come up here would simply turn a PvP mmorpg upside down, making PvP consensual-only, ruining risk vs reward and player-driven economy. Yet based on the examples in article, we're talking about non-PvP players or very inexperience players joining hardcore PvP games, which author didn't explain why he focused on.
    • Agreed @Dagother and @MEATCUP. What also caught my attention was, they featured a concept art of Albion Online in the article. So I assumed they were indirectly referring to the game's PVP mechanics. The author mentioned why Social penalties are not working in PVP MMOs but he didn't offer any alternatives or solutions.

      I also found the comments in the article a good read. Particularly these:

      Isarii wrote:


      I’m going to disagree somewhat, because even though those games have been very rare, there have been games where the social penalty did work. Willfully ignoring them to write this article (which still makes mostly correctly points, to be fair) may be the easy way out, but I think a more interesting take would be to look at the difference between those few games that have pulled it off and the vast number that turned into a massive murderhole.

      If I were a betting man (who’s taking the easy way out now, haha), I’d wager that it takes more than just a perceived social penalty – that the game has to be fundamentally structured around working together with not just a group, but large numbers of other players.

      Labeling a player an Outlaw for a few minutes and making them drop a few items on death isn’t going to alter a lot of behavior. But if they truly need other players, and those social penalties are persistent and don’t simply wear off after a single play session, I believe you absolutely can strike a good balance.

      Jaif13 wrote:


      Eve works with its rules.

      I tried out space truckin’ for a time, and eventually found profit moving cargo to low-sec space. I got popped once, but overall I made money.

      Is there a risk? Yes. Is there a reward? Yes. Does the system work to make my PvE choice viable in a PvP environment? Yes.
      -Jeff

      P.S. I’ve never been good at PvP, but I find the constant complaining and ‘splaining to be silly. If the game has PvP rules, either deal with it or move on. There are plenty of games for people who just want to PvE.

      Chris Ochs wrote:


      I think the premise is flawed here. Rewards and punishment do work.

      The punishment has to fit the crime. You can’t take something that has a high perceived value to players, and punish it using something of lower perceived value. That never even had a chance of working.

      I’m not saying it’s an easy problem. But taking games that had rules where just at face value it’s obvious it wouldn’t work, does not make the case that you can’t make it work.

      The biggest challenge is getting past the issue of you are going to lose some players if you do it right. At the end of the day if the punishment is to fit the crime, those that insist on the worst behavior will find their gameplay becoming limited.

      There are also a number of ways to remove the sting of being killed. Making it less personal, adding a layer of indirection, or mechanics that make the victim whole in some way. The point being harsh punishments are not the only tool you have.

      But regardless of what you do, a percentage of players will always degenerate into the worst behavior allowed. So you have to be willing to see those players leave the game if you want a system like this to work. So far games haven’t been willing to take any risks in that area.

      PaulB wrote:


      The part that is missed here is, the new carebear MMO’s are BORING.

      In the old days of UO and EQ, stepping outside your door was exciting, danger lurked around every corner. A mistake on your part could be costly, even if that mistake was as simple as walking out that door.

      These modern MMO games have none of that excitement. Instead they offer a different sort of aggravation. You will never lose a thing in WoW. It is safe and static and boring. You may pound your head up against difficult content, dying to that same boss over and over, which is the same waste of time as being bested by another player. Except your feelings aren’t hurt. You are being beat by stupid set of subroutines but at least another player is’t rummaging through your bags.

      Many people just can’t see how much better the older games did some things, because they never gave them a chance. Spoiled by WoW.

      It took me all of about a week to figure out I would need multiple sets of gear for UO because I would inevitably be losing them often. The funny thing is I really didn’t get jumped that often, and I had the best guild experiences during those games. I was able to attain wealth and losing a dungeon set of gear was just the cost of doing business some days.

      I guess longer term planning than jump in and win a lockbox doesn’t appeal to most people these days. I can’t wait for Crowfall and Camelot Unchained ! Bring back some real strategy and difficulty to MMO’s.

      Michael Lehner wrote:


      What you write here reminds me on an incident about 20 years ago.

      I was playing in a MUD. A very RP oriented one, and for the sake of realistic RP, it also had PvP permanently enabled. So, no PvP-wanted or anything like that, but PvP possible when RP demanded it. (And death came with severe XP loss. A single death could easily cost you a month or more of progress. ) Then there was a group of “evil” people, who all were from the same university i studied at and thus from our gamer group. Our group had a long-standing tradition of gaming at the university computer pools on Friday evenings, then going out for some drinks together.

      Now, at some time (just before the exam period started) the evil guys decided to do a “Chaos week”. During the week, many people just played shortly, often alone. (After all, most people during that time also studied. Unlike the tough bad guys. ) So they were easy picks. The oh-so-tough “evil” players took on them. When asked about it, their answer was just the same: “they entered the game, they knew the risk” and “it’s just a game, they should man up” and the likes. With that justification, they set some players progress back by several months.

      So, during the week, us “regular” students were too busy to organize. But on Friday afternoon, unknown to them, we organized defense. We knew when and where they probably were coming and prepared for them. So our group, among them people who got killed three or four times times over the week and who lost several months of progress, stood up, faced them and only took them down once.

      The result was drastic. The same guys, who all the time were “they entered the game, they knew the risk” and “they have to man up” merely minutes after being taken down left the computer pool. Glum faces, like kids who just got their candies taken away, seemingly close to tears. They missed both the gaming evening and the time at the bar. So apparently they had to spend time “toughening up”.

      And that’s how i by now see all those “you have to toughen up” people. Loosers in RL, who need to hurt people in a computer game to compensate for their own issues.
    • Unfortunately the article has a lot of truth in it. Full loot games always bleed in population quickly as sheep move on to other games after being killed by the wolves to often. Albion has done a nice job in making basic regearing easy/cheap to avoid some of the pain for those who for some reason struggle accepting death.
    • This is all a matter of how confortable is a person with risk. If you like risk, then playing a full loot mmo is more rewarding, as a simple thing such as gathering becomes exciting. If you dont like risk then you probably wont enjoy a full loot pvp game. After playing albion I dont see myself back gathering in a wow-style mmo
      ¡Santiago y cierra, España!
    • I remember reading about this long ago, i also have something related to this i think, 2015..

      Eva if you been here since the 2018 of april 18, if you look into the past you might have maybe heard about the carebear and pvp debate..

      where the carebear [which i was one of them but i never ask for anything or cried about pvp, i just stayed in my yellow zone and made a guide for the care bears, forum.albiononline.com/index.p…ate%2Bdireboar#post695710 ] would have big debate about the pvp player and the pvp player would fight back with toxicity...

      the whole long story about that debate relied into a phew key factor..

      pvp player love to kill gatherer carebear who want nothing to do with pvp, , carebear said "without us you are left with only a phew pvp players because hardly they fight each other" which was kinda of the case back in 2017, things has changed however as everything and prices has gone alittle different than what we have now.... Both side fighted each other saying you need me without me you are nothing.. [without carebear you cant kill effectivily and you will have to gather all those material yourself for your gear] [without us ganker you wouldnt have content and your gear would be nothing because no one would buy them]...

      this all happen in 2017 and it was a huge debate.......

      forum.albiononline.com/index.p…light=carebear#post465428 please press ctrl F and type carebear to highlight those

      forum.albiononline.com/index.p…light=carebear#post465164 back then you had to wear the gear tier to level it up. so if you was t4 you would level up to t5 and t5 to t6 and t6 to t7, except now a person can wear t4 and slowly go up to t8. some player hated this

      forum.albiononline.com/index.p…light=carebear#post464187 if you was anythign close to a carebear or say anything carebear like you would get hated.

      forum.albiononline.com/index.p…light=carebear#post463539

      forum.albiononline.com/index.p…light=carebear#post520784

      forum.albiononline.com/index.p…o-the-community/?pageNo=1




      A long time ago in 2015 when i tried this game, i stayed majority time in carebearland providing small resources to everyone, in 2017 i did the same but in yellow, i never cried about it, i know this game is full loot pvp oriented game, i know what i got myself into this game but i knew i can make it work. i never asked for carebear perks like everyone else did, infact i really wished this was literally all pvp except maybe 1 or 2 zone where i can provide for the pvp player based.... oh well..

      The post you posted was a great read, i remember reddit.com/r/MMORPG/comments/9…_pvp_doesnt_work_in_mmos/ this one and all the comment below.

      thanks for posting Eva




      #2 Not only Care Bear vs Hardcore PVP Guy
      When talking about the diversity of the community a lot of people only see the two extremes of the Care Bear who is afraid of PVP on the one hand and the Hardcore PVP guy who wants to gank innocent people all day long. But even among the hardcore players (short definition: people wo play a lot and are not afraid of pvp) you have a HUGE diversity.

      rip Bercilak

      forum.albiononline.com/index.p…light=carebear#post528792 and so they have it is pvp full loot.

      I can actually post all of them but i think it's going to be a waste, if you are bored with the above post allow me to post one from gordon walton 2015

      community.crowfall.com/topic/1…tab=comments#comment-1610

      small quote :The good: After the change which broke the game space into PvP and PvE worlds, the player base and income nearly doubled (we went from 125k to 245k subs). So from a fiscal responsibility standpoint it was a totally winning move.
      The bad: Without the "sheep to shear" the hard core PvP'ers were disenfranchised. They didn't like preying on each other (hard targets versus soft targets), and they became a smaller minority in the overall game. The real bad though was that the intensity and "realness" of the game for all players was diminished. This was the major unintended consequence.

      the bad part was true, this is where debate of carebear and pvpelitist woudl clash carebear: [without me you have no gear and will have to boring gather all day] pvpelitist[ without us your gathering is uselss, who is going to buy it?]

      there were many changes like changing on both side, yellow zone to red, yellow hellgate to pvpfullloot, 5 second dismount, decrease horse speed . i can go on forever, balacing a mmo with theme park player is extremely hard to do.....
      goo.gl/xPMhXU
      goo.gl/GK4CMs
      Random dungeon https://bit.ly/2L5TxnS
      Outnumber https://bit.ly/2YEU56n
      Arena https://bit.ly/2ZKD3or
      Hudini: https://bit.ly/2XTonBI
      HGguidance https://bit.ly/2Ymu1gs
    • Equartus wrote:

      vitalsign wrote:

      lineage2 had a fantastic pk / pvp system setup. Pker's were definitely penalized.
      In Old Chronicles yes , i would say till Interlude . After, it become horrible and casual.
      Lineage2 is not even comparable to Albion. The items were very hard to acquire and expensive (imagine 10m for 6.0 and 160m for 8.1 on relics), the pvp was not full loot, but instead you had a small chance to drop something when you died and this chance would go up the more karma you had. The flag system was completely different - a red with expensive shit could start a clan war. All in all, it's a lot easier to go broke if you are stupid in Albion than it was in Lineage, but it's also way easier to recover from that.

      The post was edited 1 time, last by Dacunetc ().