PvP vs PvE

So I’ve been pondering the PvP (or RvR, if you prefer) vs PvE question, as it applies to my own play styles. Specifically after others pointed out (accurately) that PvP requires player skill to do well at. For every PvP encounter, one human wins, one human loses. In RvR, one group of humans win, one group of humans lose, but assuming the encounters are balanced, 50% of the players are going to lose every encounter.

But what is player skill in this context? I think that’s where things start to rub me wrong. If I’m playing Team Fortress, my win/loss record depends almost entirely on player skill (the only other variable being lag). In an MMO there are other factors; namely your character and gear stats. So if what you’re looking for is a chance to prove that your skills are better than the next guy’s, why not play something that relies only on player skill?

Now, I’m the first to admit I’m a dinosaur. I had the “Chainmail” rule-set from which the first edition of D&D sprang. To me, these are still ROLE-PLAYING Games, and I embrace and enjoy the ‘spreadsheet’ factors involved in them. When I get into an RvR or PvP battle, and the opponent is “bunny hopping” around so I constantly get “You must be facing your target” or “Your target is out of range” over and over, I’ll happily admit he’s a better key-puncher than I am, but to me, that’s not why I play these games and frankly that’s not fun for me. When I read a fantasy novel, the opponents aren’t rapidly circle-strafing each other and leaping behind each other like frenzied crickets. They’re looking each other in the eye and using their sword-fighting skills and strength to try to overcome each other. Until an MMORPG can capture that feeling, I can’t see myself giving up PvE. Because yeah, a Mob is in my ways a puzzle to figure out, but at least fighting them feels more Arthur/Robin Hood/Conan/Arragorn-esque than spinning in place trying to keep an eye on an opponent with limitless energy. (I’d love to see an MMO give each character an energy level that drains constantly while fighting, and drains really quickly when jumping or running sideways {aka circle-strafing} during a fight. Heavier armor could make energy drain faster, so you could opt for light armor and be very nimble/mobile, or a real tank that basically has to stand there and trade blows.)

Or to look at things from a purely gameplay point of view, my roots are in turn-based strategy games. When I play single-player RPGs, I vastly prefer ones with turn-based combat systems. I take joy out of understanding my characters strengths and weaknesses, and his opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, and using my brain to win the encounter, not my eye-hand coordination (which, as I approach the half-century mark, grow weaker every year). I’ll happily grant the hypocrisy in that statement… stopping to think about what kind of attack to use next isn’t very Arthurian, either. Which is why MMO PvE battles are kind of the sweet spot. You know your character’s skills, and after a few encounters you understand what your enemies weak points are, and now you can use that knowledge to watch the flow of battle and quickly react, based on knowledge more than on how adeptly you can punch in commands.

Hmm, again, just kind of thinking out loud. I apologize if I send mixed signals in this blog, sometimes saying one thing, sometimes another. But I don’t compose these posts ahead of time. Writing them is my way of exploring my own thoughts on these topics, and sometimes it takes me a few tries to really understand why I react to things the way I do.