Nils has been running with the question of why we automatically need PvP in a sandbox world with an interesting series of posts. The latest post and discussion is based around a comment he received on his blog. As if I’d give my own commentators such exposure – bah! Let them eat cake!
Anyhoo, a lot of discussion comes down to the fact that we can easily divide players into two groups – builders and destroyers. Builders are those who revel in the act of acquiring resources and carving a name for themselves through stint of their own efforts. Destroyers are those who revel in kicking your sandcastle in your face and building a name for themselves through fear and outright terror. The question is how to accomodate both types of player in an online sandbox universe. Not allowing any form of PvP in such a game would detract from the value of what you are building – how valuable is something that you can never lose? I remember once playing an early game of Civilization where I went up solo against the AI on an enormous map. Obviously I never saw my opponent and I was allowed to build and dally to my hearts content. Quite boring it was.
But having your careful creation smashed to pieces by someone much more powerful than you for no other reason than he can is enough to make many builder-type players quit the game in disgust. My solution to the problem would be to have such altercations heavily reliant on player level. To whit, a level 50 player can attack any player construction of similar level or higher with no restrictions. But as soon as he attacks a player of lower level then he begins to hit a wall of artificial restrictions. These could take one of two forms; a debuff to the players stats to bring him into line with the person he is attacking, or a series of game consequences heavy enough to make him have to really ask the question of whether or not this act of destruction is worth the longer term pain.
And this is the key point; the destroyer-type player never sees any real long term consequences for their actions. The key is not to make it impossible to be a destoyer, but to make it such that you would really have to think and plan how to carry out your attacks, and how to live with the consequences later. A player who carves a niche for himself as a bandit would not be able to waltz into town and pick up some supplies. And the bandit would need somewhere to store his ill-gotten gains, leaving himself open to attack and plunder by builder players who have finally had enough of his antics. Public execution would not be possible if he were captured, but banishment to another part of the would could be, as could the stripping of all his assets to be divided up amongst his victims.
There is one more key point to how this would work. If player buildings are to withstand attacks then they have to be strong, but it should take time and effort to construct them. This makes sense when you consider that builders are more likely to invest time in building. The more time that you invest the harder it is for destoyers to waltz along and knock it down. But is the time investment real time or game time? EVE online uses a real time investment process which requires players to log on once a day, set their training, and then leave. The advantage of this is that players who don’t have much time to play the game are not at a disadvantage to those who are able to devote countless hours per week to their hobby. The disadvantage to the EVE system is that it’s not much fun; click a few buttons and then log off. If you can combine this system with actually making the building process a joy to partake in then you would encourage players to be online more often, thus making it more probable that they are around when someone comes by who wants to kick sand in their face.