Introduction

FFA is an abbreviation often mentioned around the MMO communities, especially so when it comes to Age of Conan. In this issue of Inside Hyboria I´ll dissect the many parts of the puzzle that is the beloved and hated Free-For-All server type and how it affects the AoC community.

To fully grasp the magnitude of the FFA we have to go way back so hang on to your mousecords kids, it´s time for a history lesson. (For notes, see bottom of article)


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History of the Player Vs. Player concept – Quick recap

Since Pong burst on the scene on the Atari in the early 1970s, the concept of being able to beat a human opponent on a computer screen has fascinated the masses and a single word summed up the growing popularity of computer gaming; purpose. Throughout the 80´s and the early 90´s, video and computer gaming really took the stage and became as mainstream and generally accepted as the television set was a few decades back. The term PvP was first mentioned in the original Neverwinter Nights back in 1991 where a bug was found that allowed players to damage other players. Other early MMORPGs, like Ultima Online (1997), also featured PvP combat and UO became one of the greatest MMO classics in our time. PvP re-gained momentum when Mythic released Dark Age of Camelot in 2001 which offered a whole new point of view on the PvP phenomenon with the Realm vs. Realm objectives as well as when the factional PvP was introduced in Sony Entertainment´s big 2003 release; Star Wars Galaxies and PvP took the front seat with NcSoft´s Guild Wars (2005) where you could fight in instanced Guild vs. Guild settings.

My first PvP experience came with Star Wars Galaxies. Though I don´t consider dueling to be real PvP at it´s core, I still have to count it as a first time as it awoke the same emotions in me as I feel whenever I stare into the eyes of a human opponent. I remember being a very experienced (and handsome) level 8 Trandoshan warrior ( strangely referred to as a “noob” by some bypassers. How dare they?) who just five levels earlier shouted something like “-Dude, you can sit?!” to a Human entertainer squatting at a street corner. Needless to say, I was new to the whole mmorpg thing back then and I was challenged to a duel by an unbelievably ugly, but very much higher-leveled Mon Calamarian who felt I took up too much space or something of the sort. About five seconds after saying “-Uhm, sure dude.” I found myself in the cloning booth some ways off, not really knowing what happened. More important, I felt the taste of digital, yet human blood. Even though it was more or less my own blood, a weird but exilerating surge of adrenaline shot through my veins as I hasted back to do it all over again. I learned two important lessons that day;


1. Never trust a Mon Calamarian
2. PvP is real purpose

I also learned that PvP is a widely different thing from killing Womprats out in the vast deserts of Tatooine, it requires skill and planning your character out correctly. To stand face to face against another man (or woman for that matter) and laying your reputation on the line is risking humiliation but chancing glory in the eyes of the community. The rabbit hole goes deep indeed.

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Ultima Online 1997.

Wikipedia.org:

“While some people enjoy this aspect of gameplay and won’t play without it, some do not and will avoid any game where PvP may be forced on them.”

FFA – Open PvP servers and The Noble Art of Player Killing

FFA means Free-For-All and in the MMO world it´s simply a server where a player can be attacked in the majority of the ingame world by other players. Simply put, maybe so, but the issue is nothing short of complex as all the parts make one big hypercube of a whole. There are several ways of implementing FFA rules, most popular being that you are able to perform pk:ing anywhere but maybe a few select zones like inns or taverns. Some games have level restrictions and brackets where you can only attack players within a certain level range of your own level, something we´ll see in Age of Conan as well. PvP will hold a great significance in Age of Conan as the official forums are booming with threads about FFA servers, Full Loot and Permadeath. One has to wonder though why it always boils down to flaming and retorts. It´s the age-old “Carebears vs. Gankers”-game all over again where both sides fling dirt from their own mound of creative insults.

My first Open PvP-game came in the form of The Matrix Online (MxO) where after reaching level 8 there where no safe zones at all, short of the inside of the mission areas. To some that might sound harsh but it really wasn´t that bad since the three factions usually had their populated zones. In itself it greatly promoted guilding and having good relations with other guilds as well when it came to server wide battles. The feeling of always having to look over your shoulder and really pay attention to all the sounds around you is a very immersing feeling. It also really teaches you about the mechanics and dynamics of PvP because you are often put in situations where you need to handle yourself in combat so a great knowledge of the game´s classes and skills is of the essence.

“-I can´t help but to chuckle when I hear WoW:ers talk about actual player skill in WoW PvP.”

My MxO days was an exciting time because the Open PvP environment constantly forced you to be on your toes and to join up in teams to be able to survive. It became clear that a team of just eight experienced and skilled players could easily beat twice as many unskilled players. It really taught me the that having knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of the classes is the key to victory. Today, I cant help but to chuckle when I hear WoW:ers talk about actual player skill in WoW PvP, because it doesn´t even come close to the complexity of MxO. In that I don´t mean it has to be hard to get into but it should be hard to master. WoW PvP to me is about running around like a necked chicken while clicking away at your cookie cutter character´s fivehundred spells in the right order and that doesn´t take much skill. I also don´t think having classes that are too similar is the way to go. Some might argue it´s good for balance having similar classes, sure, but I prefer being able to stand out in the crowd and I believe that any class can beat any other class if played well enough. Age of Conan will probably bring PvP to a new level with the swing-n-hit combat, especially on the FFA servers. Whether or not I´ll be joining one for Age of Conan though, remains to be seen.

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Star Wars Galaxies after the graphic upgrade in 2005.

Maelwydd, active AoC community member:

“-I personally could care less if people want that type of server as it means I will get my type and hopefully those undesireables will not come near me. But I can guarantee, even if there was a full loot, FFA PvP server, my choice of RP server would STILL get those types logging on to spoil MY fun on MY server.

Ganking, Full Looting and Permadeath – Sins of the MMO?

Ganking (or griefing) is another word mentioned in the same sentence as FFA. Ganking stems from the word gang-killing and is used to describe when a group of two or more players jump a single player and kill him/her. Often said to be harrasment or abusive behaviour by some players, others encourages it and engages in it on a daily basis. Ganking is also used by some to describe getting jumped by a much higher-leveled player, though this is incorrect according to the meaning of the actual word. Ganking is at the heart of the FFA issue as those who oppose of FFA servers calls them “ganker hangouts”. Personally, I have a hard time understanding those who are quick to abuse the word as you make a conscious choice when you step onto PvP grounds, accepting your´re really fair game. If you enter a Quake deathmatch, there´s no hesitation in that you will get shot at so why whould it be any different in a PvP zone? There´s no fairness or honor before a fight, there´s only fairness and honor AFTER the fight in whether or not you give respect to your opponent for performing well.

Closing in on the more hardcore PvP gamers, the term Full Looting comes to mind. It´s the concept where a player can actually steal some or all of the victims inventory items and/or currency. I´m really no fan of Full Looting myself and I don´t care that it would add to realism. Playing a fantasy game, how much “realism” is there for starters? On a more serious note, it´s just a hassle having someone steal your stuff just cause you got careless or didn´t have a chance to defend yourself. One might argue that I´m being hypocritical saying I´m for FFA but against Full Loot but it´s just my personal opinion that it would deter most people from engaging in PvP, including myself.

Widely disputed, Full Looting is only surpassed by it´s evil brother; Permadeath. In MMO games, permanent death is a term for a situation in games in which your ingame character die permanently and is removed from the game. Those in favour of permanent death desire the additional risk it gives their in-game actions. It´s compared to going “all-in” in a poker game, though doing so with every hand dealt; you either win or lose. There are of course many questions regarding the validity of the permadeath concept and it´s considered ludicrous by the general MMO public but still many hardcore MMO:ers persists in saying it´s “the only real way” of playing an online game. Those seeking to play with the permanent death option feel that the more realistic consequences heighten the sense of immersion they get from their character. The increased risk means that all actions within the game world are increasingly important; the player has risked a much larger investment of time. Permadeath is really at the far end of the scale for me, I´m really not a fan of it but I still understand the reasons why some consider it to be a valid style of play.

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The Author himself, endulging in some ganking back in The Matrix Online.
Not everyday behaviour, though at the time I just couldn´t resist.

In conclusion

Alright, we´ve covered most of the pieces of the FFA puzzle. Talking about MMO preference; on one side we have those who consider PvP to be detrimental to any kind of serious gameplay and on the other side we have the crowd that consider PvP a must to even have play an online game. PvP is a real skill in my opinion and as most of us might not fly a helicopter as a living or have the talent to hit a baseball out of the court, by Crom a PvP-kill is just as satisfactory!

´Til nex time, thanks for reading this issue of Inside Hyboria, have a great night!

Zealot08 of Twilight Dynasty:

“-Yes I do find challenge and enjoyment in being rewarded for winning, and punished for loosing. I don’t play videogames for a boost to my ego, I play them for the challenge. My goal may be to “feel like a winner,” but only if I actually have triumphed over enemies and have earned that right. Triumph without challenge is relatively meaningless to me. People who just want to feel like winners can play on a different type of server.”

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Lexion – Your momma´s worst nightmare


Sources:

Wikipedia.org
Official Forums
Google.com

Notes:

*1. Of course there´s alot more to which game had what sort of PvP and when it happened historically though unfortunately there´s not enough time to credit them all.

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