Stick and Rudder: OK, so Star Citizen might be a PvP game

Stick and Rudder - Star Citizen cockpit
A few weeks ago I outlined why I think Star Citizen is more a PvE title than a PvP title. I'm sure most of you disagreed, so this week I'd like to examine the other side of the debate.


See, I still think SC is mostly for PvE types, given Chris Roberts' design sensibilities, but I also went back and studied the Roberts PvP quote highlighted in the previous piece as well as the full wall o' text that surrounded it. Roberts, according to that interview, believes that SC will be both a PvE and a PvP game. Fair enough. We often hear devs speaking grandly in the pre-alpha stages of a project and swearing up and down that it's going to make everyone happy.

Can it really, though?

Star Citizen Banu concept art
As I've said in previous PvP rants, the problem with PvP is not PvP itself. It's of course necessary in spots for any serious sandbox MMO. Unfortunately most of them vastly overemphasize its importance to their financial detriment. So if the problem isn't PvP, what is it? In short, the problem is people, or more specifically, people who are ill-equipped to behave responsibly when given a taste of freedom.

Star Citizen concept artPeople are generally greedy, selfish, and altogether bastardly. Most of us suppress these baser urges in public, though, if not because it's the right thing to do then because there are laws and life-changing consequences for breaking them. This is all out the window in an open PvP MMO, which is nothing more than a disposable combat-lobby game played out in a virtual bad behavior Petri dish.

Bleepheads aren't the only ones joining the parade of bleephead antisocial online behavior, either. Take my dad, for example. He's retired now after a lifetime of public service that spanned two decorated careers. He's also the nicest guy you'll ever meet and would give a stranger the shirt off his back without a second thought. I know, I can't believe we're related, either!

A number of years ago, though, I introduced my dad to online multiplayer gaming via Microsoft's original Combat Flight Simulator. We logged on and flew around a bit so he could get his bearings, and then we joined one of those public multiplayer servers on Gamespy or whatever that old built-in lobby system was called.

So my dad immediately falls into formation behind this player aircraft that's trailing smoke and hellfire and is quite obviously making for the nearest airfield in order to attempt an emergency landing. This is a friendly player, mind you, and not one of the Axis-aligned pilots buzzing around the server. My dad doesn't care; he promptly shoots the poor guy's ass off, looking sidelong at me with a grin on his face that was both funny and mildly disturbing.

We laughed about it afterward, and hey, maybe the victimized virtual pilot did too -- who knows? But my point is that if the best of us turns into a for-the-lulz griefer within moments of logging into his first online game, what does that say about our collective ability to use PvP privileges to do anything other than be meaningless asshats to one another in perpetuity?

Star Citizen Moscow concept art
Open PvP and sandbox PvP can be immersive, just as they can be a crucial part of a top-notch Star Citizen sim-style experience. But they won't be because most people haven't evolved far enough beyond their inner 12-year-old to use the systems responsibly. Yeah, "responsibly" may be a lofty word when it comes to MMO discourse, but it's the only one that comes to mind after playing these games for 20-odd years and witnessing first hand all of the lame excuses for antisocial bleephead behavior like "it's just a game" and "you shouldn't be in-game if you don't want to be killed."

That last one is particularly problematic in a title like Star Citizen that, for now at least, is content to keep its true nature obscured behind layers of PR and malleable design talk. Is it a PvE game? Or is it a PvP game? It depends on what sort of backer you ask, and as I mentioned, Roberts himself wants to have it both ways. As for the "it's just a game" crowd, sure it's a game. But there are people on the other end of those in-game avatars, and if you look around at the world we live in, the only logical conclusion you can come to is that we should make every attempt to be nicer to one another.

Call that carebearism or what have you. That's fine because you're supposed to be a carebear. That's how it's done, and if you're not doing it that way, you are in fact doing it wrong. Carebears are the ideal. The term itself is an honorific rather than an insult because who wants to live in a world -- virtual or otherwise -- that is overrun by selfish bleepheads? It simply doesn't work, as both video game and real-world history have proven time and again.

And look, I get the part about blowing off steam. We all need that. That's why there are kick-ass PvP-only games like League of Legends, PlanetSide 2, and thousands of others. MMOs, though, particularly those that style themselves as virtual worlds or simulations like Star Citizen, are not PvP-only games. And players who insist on trying to retcon them into such are in for a disappointing post-launch experience.

PvP, by definition, is having fun at someone else's expense. PvE can occasionally involve the same mindset (kill-stealing or spawn-camping, etc.), but more often than not it's a laid-back arrangement where everyone's happy instead of a select few. There are degrees of unhappiness, of course, and plenty of people shrug off PvP defeats and get right back into the action. Some don't, though, because they simply don't enjoy it. The easy answer then, is for these people to avoid PvP games. But again, that may prove to be problematic with Star Citizen depending on how Roberts' design works outside the theoretical realm.

Whether it's interviews with Chris Roberts and the Cloud Imperium team or tips and guides for pushing your ship's performance envelope, Stick and Rudder is your inside source for news and commentary on the world of Star Citizen. Join Jef Reahard every other week during the run-up to alpha, beta, and beyond.
This article was originally published on Massively.