Mailvaltar recently wrote about the cool stuff that just doesn’t happen in ‘safe’ MMORPGs and it got me to thinking about days gone by when I was really into open-world PvP MMOs myself. It seems like so long ago. And I suppose that’s because it is so long ago. I wrote a little while ago about my evolving preferences in games and losing the spark for full-PvP. I don’t precisely know when it happened, but I can tell you that the last MMO of this nature I tried was Darkfall. And that, apparently, released back in 2009.

And even though I played Darkfall and Shadowbane before that — I’d still say that the last time I truly and unquestionably embraced PvP in an MMORPG was in Asheron’s Call. So we’re talking minimum 14 years since I was last in my ‘PvP evangelist’ phase.

Oh I played and loved the ever loving heck out of EVE Online for quite some time too. And I think I might’ve even convinced myself from time to time I was there for the PvP. I engaged in Corp wars, after all. I was there on the front-lines. … But for the most part I lived in high security space. I operated with my clan a Player owned Station, but even that was in low-sec rather than null-sec.

By far I enjoyed the aspects of trade, crafting and PvE camaraderie more than the no holds barred warfare of null-sec. My adventures into null-sec were limited in nature to a well fitted Myrmidon capable of ratting out there but no real skin off my nose should it be destroyed.

OK, so you don’t like PvP any more?

I also used to roll on PvP Realms in WoW, does that count?

Well… No, not as much as I once did, at least.

I feel like there is no winning with me at the moment though when it comes to PvP in the MMORPG space. I don’t enjoy Battlegrounds or the more frivolous implementations of PvP. At least not for extended periods of time.

But I also don’t much care for the full, no holds barred style that I was once such an advocate of.

And I think the cause has the same roots in the transition of once being quite a social gamer and becoming more solo orientated.

Because — and here we go, I’m approaching something resembling a point I swear — I agree with Mailvaltar saying:

…the most elaborate quest, the trickiest of puzzles, the most complicated boss-mechanic – none of this could ever be as unpredictable, exciting and memorable as interactions between human beings in an open, unscripted environment.

Mailvaltar (2020), ‘Cool stuff that just doesn’t happen in ‘safe’ MMORPGs

He goes on to stress the point about interactions being key. And when I cast my mind back to the absolutely best bits of my time as a PvPer it is all about the people and the interactions that the freedom of interaction styles allowed by the open PvP environment.

It’s not something I can likely do adequate justice to now. I don’t know that I could at the time as even despite trying to take a mostly conciliatory tone and attempting to join the understanding of the ‘Carebears’ and the ‘Hardcore PvPers’ I’m not sure that I ever quite managed to bridge that gap for anyone. That might also be because it is a nigh impossible gap to bridge though.

Not a PvP server in this case. But if it had been I probably would’ve been zoomed out more and near constantly rotating the camera.

Nonetheless; just thinking about the people of the time — many of which I’ve sadly now lost contact with — I still get that swell of… Joy? Maybe even a bit of pride? I don’t know that I can properly identify the emotion now, but something positive.

I have memories of times where we — as the Anti-RPK force — on the server were called in to protect our hometown from an RPK raid. The moments of gathering at least small party together, the camaraderie that came in the chat (all text at the time) of knowing you were about to go into battle together for something that mattered. To protect those that weren’t yet of a level to protect themselves against the raiding force.

Or if not a fight for hometown territory, it might be for leveling grounds. In some ways even more critical to protect. There was always that balance between finding new fertile grounds for people to use and protecting what you had.

And while these examples relate fairly directly to combat, to engaging in battle… That was really only part of it. An exhilarating part to be sure, but not the most important.

The relationships and bonds formed didn’t even end with your allies, either. Because the Time to Kill (TTK) could be really quite high in Asheron’s Call — especially in the case of Melee vs. Melee where the loser was the first one to run out of Stamina (and Stamina potions) — there was time to chat (again, all in text I remind you) while in combat.

Sometimes this opportunity presented you with people you’d grow to love to hate. Other times? Entirely respectful rivalries. You were playing your version of the game by your rules and they were playing theirs. And sure, this put you at odds. They wanted to take what you had and by extension the opposite became true. But as people behind the keyboard, you could connect and joke, or choose to fight with honour respecting the rules of a duel.

Essentially there was a people power aspect there that just cannot ever be present without players occupying both sides of the battle. Co-operative multiplayer is what I play the most of these days. It’s the play style I’m actively drawn to. I don’t think I can quite stand up to the demands of a full PvP game these days. But even so — I say this knowing there is an aspect to play that I’ll never recover while it remains true.

Perhaps Crowfall or the new Camelot game, if they ever see the light of day, will re-open this for me.