What’s So Bad About Open World PvP?

archeage pirate ship

I think it’s pretty fair to say that PvP is PvE’s far less popular cousin in the overwhelming majority of (themepark) MMOs. Sure, most games offer some sort of instanced PvP, but it’s usually a sideshow to the ‘real’ game, and too much dev time being devoted to it is likely to cause consternation from the wider player base. And, what PvP is there is unlikely to be massively significant in terms of the rest of the game. Open world PvP is pretty uncommon these days, but the release of Archeage has brought it back into discussion with players who don’t normally opt for a playstyle often considered ‘hardcore’.

My own history with PvP is a little chequered. My first MMO was Guild Wars, but the first MMO I played with PvP was World of Warcraft. I rolled on a PvP server, and in fact open world PvP was the only kind that ever interested me. It felt organic, real, and far less contrived than battelgrounds. It was also much more welcoming to a complete PvP newcomer than the more hyper-competitive battlegrounds, where mistakes are not tolerated peacefully, noob or not. Sure, getting ganked is an inconvenience, but considering it’s almost entirely consequence free, it never bothered me to any great degree. I engaged in a little instanced PvP in Star Wars the Old Republic, but something about PvP for it’s own sake doesn’t really appeal to me. Also, there is only so much huttball you can play before you never want to hit that queue button again.

It wasn’t until I began my journey with Eve Online that I fully began to appreciate the beauty of open world PvP which takes place in an environment that provides palpable consequences for victory or defeat. More than anything though, it broke down that barrier that PvP is a hostile world full of nasty, evil people hoping to ruin your fun. Sure, someone may blow you up as you float through low sec, but speaking to them quickly dispels any notions of them being bad people, they are just playing the game their way. The thrill of your first few PvP encounters in Eve is a truly memorable thing. The shaking hands and heightened pulse, the sweaty palms and fumbled mouse clicks. It all feels so palpably ‘real’.


Shortly before Archeage release there was a lot of discussion, triggered in part by Syp over at Bio Break, about whether the game should run a PvE only server, in contrast to it’s current open world PvP setup. I must confess to being one of those firmly in the camp that believes that there are already a lot of games that offer PvE gameplay, and something different is what this genre really needs. But one thing this debate made me wonder is, what is so bad about open world PvP? I mean from what I can gather with a quick Google search, getting killed in a PvP encounter in Archeage offers no consequences for the loser unless they are on a trade run, in which case you lose your trade pack and the resources involved in obtaining that, and losing a boat to pirates whilst sailing effectively amounts to a repair bill.  This is in stark contrast to a game like Eve where every defeat means a lost ship and flying home in your pod. So, what exactly are people worried about with regard to Archeage? Having to walk from the respawn point?

I sometimes feel that what’s partly at play here is a sense that the people who kill you are doing so to spite you in some way. That you are the butt of someone else’s joke. A figure of fun for them. I may be totally off the mark here, but I sense that some seem to think that PvPers who gank people are not nice people, that they are people who are looking to ruin your evening. I genuinely believe that’s very rarely the case. Most times in a sandbox oriented game like Archeage, people are simply looking to achieve the goals that further enhance their own playstyle. I can understand why people may not want to partake in PvP if they simply aren’t interested in doing so, but if Archeage is a game that you’d like to play but the PvP aspect puts you off, does the possibility of getting ganked every now and again really completely outweigh any possible fun you might have the rest of the time you’re playing?

I’d really urge people who are on the fence about playing a game with open world PvP to give it a go. You might enjoy the thrill of real danger more than you expect. If that game is sandbox oriented like Eve or Archeage, maybe you’ll find yourself forming alliances and friendships to help protect you, or teach you to avoid danger. Maybe you’ll form groups of righteous vengeance to hunt down those who pray on the innocent. Maybe you’ll hire mercenaries or bounty hunters to bring a reckoning to those who’ve done you harm. Or maybe you’ll just end up liking PvP more than you thought. If not, that’s cool, but surely it’s worth a try?


21 thoughts on “What’s So Bad About Open World PvP?

  1. You’re preaching to the choir when it comes to those who enjoy PvP, but these arguments had all been brought up in the past and fell on deaf ears when it comes to the “carebear” type. Still, I see a lot of people who don’t normally play an open world PvP game playing ArcheAge, but that’s probably because there are safe spots and it doesn’t seem like you see much in the way of PvP for a long time (part of what I disliked about it).

    My main PvP experience was on a PvP server in a themepark game, and it still had the possibility of being ganked far earlier than AA does. That irritates me about AA. But I’m probably in the minority there, because seemingly everyone is dipping their toes in AA’s sand.


    • I’m really curious to see whether Archeage is able to change peoples perceptions of open world PvP for, or whether a lot of people will simply fall away as PvP becomes more of an intrusion on their gameplay.

      I’ll have to give the game a proper try one day, but my initial impressions in beta were not that positive. But, I’m well aware that I made a snap judgement long before I was in a position to judge the game, so I’ll try it again sometime.


      • Oh I did the same. I never made it to 30 as that’s the level where things begin to open up. That was the main thing that irritated me too, as I’d prefer the threat/challenge of PvP much earlier than over half of the level cap. I might play it sometime, if I’m desperate for something to do, but at this point I have plenty on my plate, gaming wise.


  2. I love PvP and enjoy the open world kind, but I don’t think it works all that well in Themeparks. These days, there’s not a whole lot to leveling, so people typically want to get through their grind fairly quickly, which almost always involves lots of microgoals to get there (x amount of quests in y zones). Sometimes, open PvP can really liven things up and make leveling feel interesting, but other times it can really interfere with what you set out to do.

    I prefer it more with Sandbox games since the point of those often involves player conflict or a sense of wandering around for action/an adventure. I liked it in Ultima Online because it wasn’t usually as cut and dry as a max level character running around and one-shotting you.


    • Yeah it works better in a sandbox game. Usually because there’s a sort of push and pull between hunter and hunted, and more of a definable reason to fight in the first place. And as you say, something with less level based combat also helps.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. So I posted this on Aywren’s blog but just in case you guys don’t see it… since it is a counter point to the whole “there is no loss” argument to PVP. There is totally a loss, of my time towards my goals.


    For me it has everything to do with that I don’t want to be inconvenienced by other players. When I play I generally have some mission in mind, I have a goal that I am working towards. When a player kills me, they have just derailed my goal for the night. I either wait for them to get bored and move on, try and retaliate and get drawn into a bigger waste of time, or log out and do something else. Those are my options, but in all of them they have interjected their say on my playtime, and forced me to deal with them slowly my progress towards whatever it is that my end goal is.

    I just don’t see PVP as a value added experience, nor more so than I see having my time wasted in any other facet of life. I don’t cherish the time I wait in line at the super market, or cherish the time I spend stuck in traffic because someone is rubbernecking an accident. I see PVP as an inconvenience, and someone else having their fun at my expense. This is why I tend to stray as far away from open world pvp as I can.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think that’s a pretty common response. If that’s how people feel then I can’t really argue with that.

      But I’d like to ask whether you feel the gain can outweigh the loss? So for example, I might have my intended plan ruined by a PvP intervention, but does gaining a living breathing world make that a price worth paying? I guess in the end it has to be a personal value judgement. I’m usually happy to sacrifice the odd ruined play session, for a larger whole, but that’s just me!

      Thanks for your thoughts!


      • For me – no. there is no “gain”. The world isn’t made living or breathing because some random murderhobo is running around killing people who can’t fight back because he’s bored.

        In a real world, that almost never happens. When it does, those people are psychopaths and they either get locked up or killed by police. There’s nothing making a realistic world in ganking, it’s as gamey as you can possibly get. All you really accomplish is waste my very limited gaming time in order to make yourself feel good by being a bully.

        A living and breathing world is one in which things interact and you get emergent results from all the player interactions. It’s not enhanced or improved in any way by ganking.

        That’s the whole problem with Open World PvP. If it worked like people want it to, then it can add a lot to a game. Unfortunately, it seldom actually works that way. What it really does is enable antisocial behavior like ganking.


      • For me it’s never worth it. I don’t get any enjoyment from any kind of non-consensual PvP, and the kind of “living world” it creates is something that detracts from any enjoyment I would usually get.

        The usual result of this strain of “living world” is forced socializing; players talking to each other and cooperating not because they want to or find enjoyment in doing it, but because if they don’t do it they can’t keep playing the game. That is something I hate in MMOs; while I like socializing, I only like it if done by choice. Anything that adds forced socializing is a net (and huge) negative for me, in any game.

        Besides, if I’m going to play on a game where everyone can attack me, it’s going to make me paranoic enough to avoid everyone else. If that is to be the case, I would rather play a single player sandbox game, of which there are many, often with very interesting mechanics that would be nearly impossible to implement in a MMO.

        Incidentally, ArcheAge is a game I would likely have a subscription to (or whichever the equivalent in their F2P offering is) if there was a pure PvE server. Without that I simply have no interest, at all, in playing.


  4. My own experience with open PvP consists mainly of being corpse-camped or being ganked while fighting other mobs, going so far as to using tricks to get me flagged for PvP in a PvE server. And of course then the killer goes on to /spit and teabag my corpse. That’s no proud defender of his faction, that’s an idiot feeling powerful for killing an opponent that didn’t fight back, and it ruins my immersion much more than two warriors from opposing groups acknowledging that in the wild, surrounded by dangerous beasts and enemies willing to destroy the world, they can put aside their differences for a while.


  5. One problem with PvP is competition : by playing a PvP game, you are in competition with other players – for ressource, time, money, XP, etc… Whereas in PvE only games, you cannot lose or win VS other players.

    One problem is when you are a low-time player : you cannot choose your opponents, and are not automatically put VS same level player. Thus you just end losing every times. And this is not fun ! Some people will take that as a motivation for becoming better, if they have the time/patience for it, and other will just leave. In a PvE only game, those low time player can still enjoy the game at their own tempo.

    That’s why I am waiting for a PvP game without level and power creep (Camelot Unchained ?) : at least, I could compete with my own low skill, and not be destroyed only because they have played more than me ! Finally I would be able to enjoy the lively world you described without suffering before for 6 months because not being at the end-game.


  6. In AA, i am fine with the concept that Freedich Island is a Free-For-All camped gankfest of an island with good rewards , but with an even greater chance of getting ganked by other players (equivalent of nullsec in EvE) . I, the one avoiding PvP, am in no way forced to go there, i can opt to stay in the safe zones and take slightly longer to get the reward and avoid PvP entirely.

    I can achieve my goals in AA without being interrupted by a PvP player , and that’s how i like it. However ironically THIS is what pisses PvP players off so much. Alot of the rants i read from AA bloggers lately are actually from people that WANTS TO PVP and finding that the game are giving the Carebears “too many ways to avoid being their grief-pet” .

    I wonder how many AA-Farmers/Merchants are REALLY complaining about getting PvPed in AA vs. PvPers not getting to gank PvE players anywhere they want ?

    Sure PvE Carebears will every now and then /rage on a forum about getting ganked and the topic will explode into a huge discussion every time as gankers/griefers pile on the hatred , but i seriously think someone should investigate what happens if a game is designed so that players have zero obligation to be someone’s punching bag and who is REALLY complaining the most….


    • That reminds me of all the whiners on the Eve forums who would complain about not being able to grief players in the newbie starter systems. Which just to clarify, is less than 10 systems out of about 7500.


  7. The word you are looking for is “prey” not “pray.” If you aspire to be a writer, then language is your tool. Use it correctly.


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