Meaningful Faction in MMORPGs
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What would I like to see in an MMORPG?

A faction/reputation system that allows for PvP in a way that enhances immersion in the game. One that does not violate my suspension of disbelief in the experience. One that reacts to, rewards and punishes PvP action according to world/universe logic.

I have fond memories of running my ranger through the Qeynos Hills and Karana Plains of Everquest. The worst dangers weren’t wandering monsters, it was other players. After a few initial months on the player versus environment servers, my group switched to a player versus player server. It was a whole new game. The problem was, there was no rhythm or reason to the PvP. The only hindrance to slaughtering entire parties half your level was city guards. And those idiots attacked anyone and everyone fighting in their proximity.

Since those early days, many MMORPGs have come up with PvP systems involving faction and honor, artificial PvP and safe zones, rewarding players with buying privileges, NPC interaction or vague numbers/ranks that have no real game impact. Not enough for me. Primary appeals of MMORPGs are immersion, adventure and social interaction. Artificial or arbitrary systems and numbers hold little interest for me.

Infamy!

I’d like to see a PvP faction or reputation system that has logical, immersive, game-world consequences. Like what?

Imagine running through Stormwind or Goldshire and seeing a WANTED poster. A new quest? A dynamic quest? It wasn’t there before, this offer of 100 gold for the head of ORCZY, a human hunter. You continue your journey out to Westfall, when you hear a loud cry of, “Orczy, the murderer is loose in Westfall. 100 gold for his head!

What’s going on? Orczy, a player character, has gained enough INFAMY points (reputation/faction) by killing or ambushing other player characters that a bounty has been generated for his head in the towns/villages closest to his deeds.

How are these Infamy points acquired?

  • the greater the level difference between player characters in non-duel fights, the more Infamy points acquired
  • ambush player characters of any level as they exit a combat (weakened); infamy points are acquired
  • the closer to a town/village the killing happens, the more Infamy points acquired
  • the more witnesses to the deed (NPCs and PCs), the more Infamy points acquired

Orczy has gained enough Infamy points to become an OUTLAW. He lives outside the law. Anyone can kill Orczy without gaining Infamy points. Instead, an auto-generated reward is given based on his Infamy point total. A player character or party that kills Orczy loots his head upon his death. Turn in the head for a reward (and post pictures of Orczy’s severed head on your favorite game forum!).

Players begin to encounter wandering NPC BOUNTY HUNTERS (of sufficient level to deal with outlaws) in the zones where the misdeeds have been committed. The closer to a town/village, the more likelihood of meeting Boba ‘the hatchet’ Fett. Players can interact with these bounty hunters, hear odd gossip, share news, etc. Outlaws have a new wandering threat to worry about regardless of the zone they are in.

A Wretched Hive…

Imagine wandering the streets of Orgrimmar and suddenly finding yourself caught up in a chase through the city for a vicious troll outlaw. Guards, bounty hunters and miscellaneous player characters charging across rope bridges in pursuit of a troll shaman in ghost wolf form. Or you can ignore the whole thing and continue your own adventure.

With such a system, only the wild areas beyond the frontiers potentially become crazed PvP zones. The desolate places, where you kill with few or no witnesses. Of course, it may take some time, but even in the darkest wilderness, infamy will be acquired if a player is a murderous PvPer. How long before some hard-core posse (guild?) comes after the highest level Outlaw for the bounty no matter where they hide?

In this system, the truly ambitious infamous PvPer will aim to be wanted in every city/sector possible. Which means there needs to be a wretched hive of scum and villainy. A city outside the law (with somewhat limited resources) ruled by an outlaw overlord. What if a player character could kill the overlord and assume leadership of this vile city? Fun? Bragging rights? Ya think?

Player Generated Content

With such a system, you have all the fun of PvP, plus in-game consequences that generate their own adventures.

  • keep players immersed
  • add an unpredictable level of danger
  • dynamically create Player Generated Content as characters become quest objectives
  • customize the system for individual genres/game worlds

Naturally, this being an MMORPG, sooner or later some clever group of players are going to start running a THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY type scam. Tucco being the wanted outlaw and Angel Eyes claiming the bounty over and over again for the reward (gold farming). But if you can’t find a creative, in-game way to foil that, you don’t deserve your spurs as a game designer.

I’d like to see such a dynamic reputation system in a MMORPG. A system that turns obnoxious player misbehavior into a new type of adventure for all players in the game. An immersive PvP world with meaningful in-game comebacks for all behaviors.

Tony Graham


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