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to clarify PVP means anything that negatively affects another player's
toon (death, theft, kidnap, etc.) and not the player themselves. Also, this was posted on /r/MMORPG but there's not a lot of decent answers to fight open PVP griefing so far
I've been stuck at home with nothing to do, and been binging a bunch of
MMO design content from Raph Koster, Nerdslayer, MassivelyOP, some MMO
and RPG-focused forums. What initially started from figuring out keeping
and growing an MMO community led to thinking about a hybrid between
action and tab-target combat (AA:U), and if a shooter-tab
target hybrid (The Repopulation or Tabula Rasa) could
work. Add in ability-queue (KotOR) and auto-battle (FFXII
Gambits) for good measure for people not physically able to do twitchy combat. Naturally, this led me to debate with myself
between vertical and horizontal progression, and landing on somewhere in
between being the best option for PVP and PVE without the need to
introduce stat normalization. Abilities and classes came up during the
"debate," of course (SWG's initial and early plans for the
Jedi are interesting, though. Might be a good way to balance magic,
melee, and ranged in a mixed progression game). Job-switching and initial profession archetypes seem to be a good answer (FFXIV/SWG-ish)
This incidentally led me back to sandboxes. Guild or Faction territory control? Region-based or global reputation? Trial and jury system? Should combat and reputation levels always be visible or only consensually between players? Player housing, BDO-style, or instanced housing? Trickle up or trickle down economics? Possible money sinks. How to retain a playerbase without releasing content every few months or every year. Are procedurally generated (which isn't the same as random) and player generated one-time quests good enough after the introductory and profession quests? Can worldbuilding occur without a main quest or NPC dialogue? Can a typical MMO layout (finite ground surrounded by infinite water and arbitrary boundaries) work in a seamless ground-to-space game? Open, zoned, or instanced PVP? Consensual or opt-in world PVP? Can a F2P game survive on a sandbox model without an optional subscription or cash shop?
All these questions led me to one big question that hasn't been solved yet as far as I know of. Can a Sandbox Open PVP MMO be accessible and welcoming enough to PVE and casual players? It can be accessible enough, but can it be welcoming? ArcheAge's criminal system (including trial and jury) is pretty fun as a roleplayer, bur as a casual? Eh, not really. I just lost my progress if I died or I'm wasting time if I get caught. As of right now, I think a majority of open PVP games are partial loot or full loot games, so that's not at all welcoming to a casual audience. However, some of the casual audience seems to be eating up survival games, maybe due to the non-persistent nature of these games? Server wipes and more servers to play on might be a factor. Games with persistency tend to not have heavy PVP elements in them, whatever heavy means to you. I thought about partial loot, but what about casuals who only want to run trade routes and not engage in combat? When they die, they lose all of their progress and have to run back to their caravan, not guaranteeing their goods' safety. Maybe an insurance system like Escape From Tarkov would help. When someone steals from a player-built house, what about the casual home-owner who kept their most-prized weapon at its minimum repair durability? They should have rented an apartment in one of the player-made or developer-made cities (mix of BDO and SWG).
Anyways, I thought that a more strict version of Ultima Online's blue-grey-red reputation system was a good starting point. Trying to solve the issue of griefers and PKers was my top priority here. Sorry pirates and thieves, but trying to bring back a sense of community is important right now. Well, for me anyways. Too many MMOs are glorified single-player RPGs. Don't know if it changed, but I'm always looking for a sandbox MMO to replace or blend the initial vision for Star Wars Galaxies and ArcheAge.
Players who commit a non-consensual action that negatively affects another player's toon lose all of their items upon death. Victims of these actions lose nothing unless they tag themselves as open PVP at a certain NPC or before they log in or something like that. Maybe victims of theft get their items back in the mail in a partial/full loot game when the aggressor dies. If the aggressor had nothing on them other than their equipment, then would losing stuff from their bank on death, losing experience and combat levels, or raising their tax rate on money sinks be an effective deterrent? They'd have to work hard to be where they were at before starting their PK shenanigans. Is that why open PVP games fail at retaining a casual audience? No strong enough repercussions for griefers or protections for victims?
tl;dr Would punishing non-consensual PVP aggressors through "tangible" losses and "rewarding" their victims be a solution to retain a PVE and casual audience while keeping the open PVP community happy? Just trying to solve griefing and PKs.