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As you probably know pvp ffa has its flaws. It sounds fun on paper, but if anyone can be attacked by anyone on anytime, you will end up with a fraction of players who do just that: do nothing but ganking all the time. And there will almost never be fair fights but they will always ambush weaker players.
If there is something undesired happening in a game, it is always a good solution to investigate why this does not happen in the real world. Well, in this case, because no sane human does that. Only psychopathic mass murderers act like that.
So what you need to do is to hardcode something like a moral compass into your game. There need to be rules for when you may attack other players and when not. Technical this is no pvp ffa anymore but pvp with full loot and rules, or something like that.
I have some ideas on how PvP could work on differed occasions:
If you kill another player in combat you and you party members may loot him. And you always can fight back when you or one of your party members is attacked. I’m not sure about the exact time scales, so I left them out.
1. Challenge to a duel (d’Artagnan style):
You can only challenge or be challenged to a duel x times a day. The duel will then take place on a duelling site after some minutes. The challenged player may also choose one of his friends to fight in his place, and there are also 2v2 and 5v5 duels.
If one of the duellists does not show up on time, he can be attacked and looted one time by the other player for x days. If nobody comes to the duel nothing happens.
2. Robbery (Robin Hood style):
A player may threaten another player next to him and keep him from running away (only works on short distance). He may then loot up to x items from the robbed player. The robber can be attacked by everyone as long as he threatens somebody and 1 minute afterwards.
The stolen are then flagged as stolen for x days. They can’t be stored in the bank and everyone who has them (or something made out of them) on him can be attacked by the original owner and his party members. Someone who has robbed someone is shown as robber for x days.
3. Guild battles:
A Guild can challenge or be challenged to a battle x times a week. Battles are always fought over certain properties (guild keeps, land / town ownership, whatever there is in the game). The battle starts after x minutes, so both sides can gather their troops. Other guilds can be called in as allies. Players killed in the battle can’t be looted expect for guild specific items (banners and tunics). The battle then lasts for x minutes. If the attacker does not achieve his goal he must pay reparation. If he can’t or refuses all members of the loosing guild can be attacked and looted for x minutes.
A battle can also be fought for driving another guild out of an area. Members of the losing guild can then be attacked by the winning guild for x days when entering the set area.
I don’t claim that this is the best way to handle pvp ffa, but I think this would make a fun gameplay. Don’t nail me down to the details. I guess there are also a lot of other situations for pvp that did not come to my mind. Are there games that already have something like this implemented?