Editor’s Note: This is part three of a three part series. For the whole series, first check out part one and part two.

In the past two articles we’ve delved into the highly debated world of PvP with the conversation focused on whether it is possible for PK and NPK gamers to coexist on the same server under the same rules systems with both types being happy. In the first installment, we looked at the evolution of PvP in gaming from Ultima Online to the present popular Realms systems. Last week, we talked about how the current systems are unable to keep PKers from turning a game world into a slaughterhouse unless PvP is arbitrarily limited by such measures as Realm on Realm play. But in the absence of arbitrary rules, I believe the key to striking that balance lies in a system of repercussions built primarily on reputation because that puts power in the hands of the players. This installment, we’ll look at how this can be done.

The reputation system needs to be built on four parts: account treatment, its basic structure, player reaction, and NPC reaction. The first part is the simplest. Basically, reputation must be account based, not player character based. This will ensure that a heavy PKer can’t hide by jumping to another more “innocent” character. Nor will he be able to use an “innocent” character to gain access to resources not available to his characters with diminished reputations. Some people argue that there should be only one character on an account and, while this would successful solve the same problem, there are many gamers (myself included) who enjoy playing more than one class, race, etc.

But what are the basics? When a player enters the game with a new character, they begin with an unsullied but unimpressively neutral reputation. Then, as they adventure in the world, their behavior will drive that reputation up or down. This status should be based solely upon PvP interactions, not on the completion of quests, in-game financial purchases, or any other source. Tying it to anything besides PvP behavior would allow heavy PKers to artificially bolster their reputation in order to avoid repercussions which is exactly what we are striving to avoid.

The way a reputation drops should be obvious, but improving it is more complex. When a player is attacked by another player of lower reputation and wins, their rating would go up a small amount. When they defend another player who is attacked (provided that the attacker has a lower reputation than the victim), their reputation goes up a larger amount, especially if the victim survives the encounter. Basically, any instance of aiding neutral or good reputation characters in PvP generates an increase in reputation. Finally, if a player has a low enough rating relative to their own, they become Kill-on-Sight, and good players who kill them will actually improve their reputation.

As I alluded to last article, there should be no “safe zones.” However, it is natural for the magnitude of a reputation shift to differ based upon the location of the incident. Someone who kills another player in the wild is acting far away from the arm of the law and it is realistic for such an incident to gain less notice. On the other hand, if a player kills another player on the street of a major town, he is acting under the eyes of nearby players and NPCs. The reputation shift would be more severe.

Reputation itself also needs to be readily obvious to everyone in order for notoriety to gain its full affect. On a basic level, a player should be able to instantly identify what another character’s reputation is relative to their own. Much like LOTRO uses color coding to differentiate quest difficulties, an easy way to show this would be with color banding of character names. In other words, a character with a rating 10% below my own, might have their name in blue while one 20% below shows orange. When another character band is low enough (provided it is below neutral to begin with) then they can be Killed-on-Sight without repercussion, for example.

Reputation, however, needs to be guild based as well. This allows for a second level of responsibility: that of guilds policing themselves. Guilds have reputations, just like players do, that are based upon the sum of its members. The reputation of each guild member is also affected by the reputation of their guild. Thus when an upstanding guild allows a new member with a poor reputation to join, the guild’s reputation (and therefore all of its members) suffers. A guild which kicks out a player with low reputation would redeem some of its own lost reputation, but not all. This encourages guilds to only offer membership to players with similar gaming philosophies. Defender guilds will emerge as well as Brigand ones. What need is there for the more arbitrary delineations given in Realm on Realm when such divisions can emerge more naturally?

The last area of impact is with NPCs. Some cities in the world will be very law abiding where players of below neutral reputation will find that items cost more and some quests are unavailable. If their reputation is too low, they become KOS even to the NCP guards. Other towns will have neutral leanings where only the most extreme element is shunned. In the wilds, there would be still other villages and bandit camps that are oriented toward the evil factions. Players that are scions of virtue find themselves unwelcome in such places.

So now let’s go back to the cost-benefit analysis of the last article and apply it to this proposed system:

To PvP:

  • I will gain experience if I’m successful in the kill
  • I will get to steal some loot if I’m successful in the kill
  • Whether I succeed or not, I’ll gain notorious fame that all will see
  • And regardless, there is the thrill of the hunt

Or not to PvP:

  • I may become KOS to “virtuous” players
  • I may be charged more by NPC vendors, denied some quests, and even attacked by NPC guards in some towns
  • If I’m in a “virtuous” guild, I may be ousted for the betterment of the guild
  • I might be killed by the target

So the benefits remained as strong as before, but the costs rise to provide a balance. Of course, some clever players who enjoy PK may strive toward the virtuous side and take on the role of a vigilante who hunts other PK thus gaining the best of both worlds while, protecting NPKers! Ultimately, what occurs is a society where PKers can go about their nefarious deeds while NPKers are better able to identify threats and respond to them. Unlike Realms, which has arbitrary nations assigned to war against each other, guilds will naturally move to positions of good and evil and it will be the role of their members to decide what wars to fight, and what to avoid.

The above idea is obviously proposed in the absence of an actual overall gaming system so many of the finer details of such a complex topic are naturally not addressed, nor the specifics of what constitutes threshold levels in reputations. However, the core is a sound building block. Naturally, those NPKers who want to play no risk games will avoid a PK game regardless, but if a strong balance gained PKers, neutrals, and antis will all find a game world they can enjoy.

Next time: Gold Farming!

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