The developer of Amazon MMO New World has fundamentally changed the way player versus player works in the game after it struggled to find a solution for Player Killing.
In a post on the New World subreddit, a rep for Amazon Game Studios outlined concerns in the community about the impact of PvP on the player experience during alpha.
Previously, PvP was full loot and open world, with only outposts offering sanctuary. This meant everyone was vulnerable to attack at any time from players in the rest of the world. To attack, you flagged criminal intent. If you died as a criminal you'd lose all your gear and inventory. If you died to a criminal you'd lose all of your inventory but keep your equipped gear with durability damage taken.
It seems some players had their fun with this system, with high-level players killing low level players a lot - "sometimes exclusively", Amazon said.
"This often led to solo or group griefing scenarios that created a toxic environment for many players," the developer continued.
"To be clear, this behaviour was not shown by all PvP players, but enough to cause significant issues.
"We set out to build a compelling world full of danger and opportunity that begs to be explored. The intended design was never to allow a small group of players to bully other players. Based on what we saw, we realised that we needed to make fundamental changes and not just incremental fixes, (which we tried several times during the closed alpha)."
Amazon Game Studios said it's keeping PvP in the game, but it'll work differently. "To be specific, by PvP we mean, fair fights that are organised, skill based, and opted into by all participants," Amazon said. "Not PKing (Player Killing), which is a predatory behaviour that relies on exploiting another player's lack of experience, progress, readiness, or willingness."
The rep then admitted New World may not be the game for those who enjoyed PKing.
"So for those folks who desire that harsh PVP environment, New World may not be your favourite game, however, we do hope you enjoy the PVP we will offer."
PKing is almost as old as online gaming itself (I must have been ganked hundreds of times in World of Warcraft), and is a common issue faced by developers. While some games embrace it - and indeed revolve around it - others seek to limit PvP in the way New World is now doing.
When it comes to MMOs, once common solution for this problem is to offer PvP-only servers those who don't mind PKing can play in. But it sounds like this is not currently an option for New World.
"We are unlikely to provide PvP-only servers as it would divide our development resources and community," Amazon Game Studios said.
"We could investigate this again at a later date but it's not something we are going to support at launch. We believe that the changes and improvements we've made to the game since the closed alpha are far more compelling for the majority of players."
Now, in New World you have to opt into Faction conflicts and Wars for territory ownership. Amazon Game Studios said doing so will be extremely rewarding, with in-game bonuses and rewards up for grabs.
This new system is called PvP War, a 50 versus 50 PvP battle "by appointment". Here's how it works:
"Companies will declare War on territories they wish to take over, draft a roster of 50 combatants, and agree on timing for the battle. The War will take place on a protected battlefield, keeping anyone who isn't confirmed to participate, out. This helps ensure a fair fight, without distraction. During the battle there are two sides, attackers and defenders. Defenders will protect their claim flag which sits in the center of their Fort. The Fort is equipped with storage, crafting stations, and upgradeable wall defenses. The Attackers will earn points during battle to upgrade and build siege weapons and towers. The War ends if the Attackers are able to break through the gates and claim the flag, or if time expires."
The reaction to the news from New World's community has been mixed, with some saying they saw it coming, others lamenting the change in a game that seemed designed for PvP from the outset.
"The game literally provided a path for this behaviour with the ability to play a bandit / player criminal; complete with consequences," redditor MuhJordans said.
"The devs were actually very proud of this mechanic, they said over and over again on the forums that they were happy with it. They would joke about all the times 'x' person was criminal and how many people he killed. It was pretty cool, and they even provided metrics.
"Now they consider that predatory behavior? This is completely surreal. If loot loss was crushing, the obvious answer is to reduce it. If killing noobs drove too many people away, the obvious answer is to provide safer areas for them so they can grow to the point they are comfortable with the risk.
"Is this a knee jerk decision on part of management? Why spend 2 - 3 years making a 'open world survival sandbox' game with 'PvP as the spine of the game' to throw it all away in eight months?"
Redditor xhieron, however, praised the move, calling the previous system that enabled PKing "bad design".
"That model is toxic by design, because the PKer's fun comes directly at the expense of someone else's fun. It's not a zero-sum game, and it's not competitive. MOBAs are competitive. I can lose a game of League of Legends and still have fun (and believe me, I've lost a lot). We're not talking about that here. We're not even talking about the fabled PvP escalation from the so-called glory days of WOW: you know, the I-gank-you, you-log-on-your-main-and-gank-me, I-summon-my-guild, etc., stuff. Even that, notwithstanding the fact that the fun of my guildmates retaliating isn't really fun for me, among other issues, would be arguably somewhere between PK and PvP.
"But surprise, surprise, in the last round of testing, what was actually observed was griefing - targeted, malicious, repetitive - confirming all the worst fears of people who had looked hopefully on the talk of consequences and incentives and wondered if, again, they weren't just being baited into being sheep. What we're talking about isn't PvP. It's PK, and the article does a fantastic job concisely delineating the two. They're not the same thing, and catering to the latter is not and has never been a successful strategy for MMO development."
New World is due out 26th May. It's not long before we'll know if Amazon Game Studios made the right call.