Since we’re using cute names to pigeonhole various types of players online, I thought I’d note that yesterday Derek K said:
This is true. There are actually two very different types of PvP players. The good kind – who I respect even though I’m not interested in their particular flavor of gameplay – is the classic competitor. They want a “fair” fight, inasmuch as such a thing is possible in an MMO with looting, leveling, and lagging. They want to compete, to overcome, to see how far they can go. They have a certain code of sportsmanship, which varies but which generally promotes healthy and vigorous competition. They respect the rules of the gameworld and are there to enjoy the game.
The other kind of PvP player – the more notorious sort – are just the classic online brats. The basement-dwelling Donnys of the world. They fight weaker players, on purpose, as often as they can. They corpse-camp, grief, taunt, hassle and generally promote an atmosphere of angst and frustration. Donny ganks a kid twenty levels below him, who gets angry and kills someone twenty levels below him, who gets angry and hassles other players in some stupid but infuriating way. It’s a great circle of petty feuds, hurt feelings, and terrible English. Their unspoken motto is probably, “if you can stop the other guy from having fun, you’re winning.” They’re just bullies.
I gather that some servers have a different feel to them. I suspect the two types of PvP players avoid each other, and perhaps this leads to some servers having more of one type than another. I’d love to hear about life on other servers if anyone has the inclination to share. Just mention your server, the population level, and what you think of the natives.
I personally haven’t run into any Donny-class players, but I’m on a medium population roleplaying server with a good guild. I gather from anecdotes that being on a high-population PvP would present a very different in-game culture and a wildly divergent gaming experience. (And since so many people on the server are playing in the endgame, the low-level areas of the game are probably more like “low” population, even though the actual population count says “medium”.)
Others have observed the way people become more aggressive and insular as population density increases. This is easily observable in the real world. In a major city you keep your head down, mind your business, and don’t make eye contact. When driving you have to fight and swear and gesture rudely to get where you’re going. In a small town you smile and greet people as you pass them. Drivers are slower and more casual. People don’t have to push because there’s plenty of room for everyone.
Oddly enough it looks like this translates into the virtual world. In big cities you have people yelling, brawling, begging for money, running scams (Hi, I’m from Blizzard, give me your password) and shady deals (goldfarmers) in the streets. It’s noisy and crowded and hard to get around. My experience in the wilderness has always been that people are friendly and eager to help. Strangers buff each other as they pass, take turns or form temporary parties when dealing with bosses, and are happy to share in the unlikely event that they find themselves competing for a limited resource.
We waved hello and exchanged buffs. (Translation from MMO-speak: Our people cast magic boost spells on them that they didn’t have available, and they did the same for us. The result was that everyone walked away stronger, with bonuses that would last the next half hour or so.) I love friendly moments like this.
The difference between high and low populations is so striking that I wonder if you could improve the quality of an MMO game by simply making more servers (let’s ignore the cost for now) and re-calibrating what constitutes low, medium, and high populations so that players are more spread out.
I never saw the game in its heyday. (Although, it’s not like the game is a desolate wasteland now. It still enjoys a 60% market share, even “late” in life.) I never saw it, but I can tell the game must have looked very different in 2005. Populations were higher, and the skill and knowledge level of the average player was much lower. Today the worlds are filled with fully-developed level 70 characters, and the occasional low-level player you see is more than likely an alt of a level 70 character. True newcomers like myself most likely make up a very small portion of the population.
This has somewhat borked the economy in my favor. A lot of these low-level alts have access to thousands in gold from their main character. This has led to a lot of price inflation for low-end gear and materials. Sure, you can spend an hour running around gathering a bunch of crappy leather for your new leatherworking character, but it’s easier to pay a real newbie (like me) ten gold for that stuff, since you can make that money back in just a few minutes with your main.
The result seems like a win-win solution to me. Those alts get to focus on leveling, since they’re mostly old-timers who are just in a hurry to reach the endgame. They spend less time gathering. They can obtain the best possible gear for their level at the auction house to ease their climb to the top. I get to bring in decent money by simply gathering up resources and putting them up for sale. I’m not in a hurry to reach the endgame and so I’m not so pressed to have the best possible gear. (My friends have to keep reminding me to upgrade. I’ll frequently be running around wearing gear fifteen levels below me.) Ignoring the gold dropped on me by high-level friends, I managed to pull in over 100 gold by level 38. I’ve been told a sum like that would have been unheard of at that level three years ago.
I find this all interesting because it means that even aside from the constant patches and gameplay tweaks, the game is better now than it was at its start. The emergent changes in the economy and the natural population shift has resulted in a better experience for newcomers.
It does seem like Blizzard is focusing on the endgame content. The rebalancing they’ve done recently seems to have the goal of speeding players through the early game content. The upcoming expansion looks to be exclusively focused on high-level play, to the point where I think it would be pointless to get the thing until you’re level 70. This suggests Blizzard is content with the audience they have now. They’re happy to sell new expansions to existing players as opposed to looking for new ways to rope in newcomers like me. They don’t seem to be working on expanding. (I haven’t seen an actual WoW advertisement in ages. They used to be ubiquitous.) I guess after four years it’s safe to assume that nearly everyone who wants to try the game has already done so.
I imagine a lot of dormant players will come back when the expansion comes out, meaning the population will be even more saturated with high-level characters. A lot of existing active players will shelve their low-level alts and go back to playing their level 70 characters. The low and mid-level areas of the game might become empty enough that it will start to feel like a single player game. If I’m still playing it will be very interesting to see how that plays out.
WAY back in 2005, I wrote about a D&D campaign I was running. The campaign is still there, in the bottom-most strata of the archives.
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