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Wings Over Atreia: In defense of PvP -- a carebear's conversion

MJ Guthrie
MJ Guthrie|December 5, 2011 1:00 PM
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Squealing in delight, the gamer continues down the list, eyes feasting on line after line of the perfect features. Everything ever wanted, dreamed of, right here. Could it be? Could this be The One? Visions of gaming nirvana dance about the gamer's mind. Oh the fun that shall be had! Almost quivering, unable to contain the excitement, eyes finally chance upon the line... wait, what's this? PvP? Window closed/box tossed back on the shelf. What a piece of garbage.

Sound familiar? How many times have we heard the phrase "It would have been perfect without PvP" or see gamers just pass over a title that fit their wants and needs almost to a "T" just because of that one feature without even giving it a chance? How many people have been captivated by the beauty and promise of Aion but refrained from trying it because of two little words: "open PvP"? Plenty. Even among my own circle of friends I have heard that refrain many a time. To that I say: It's your loss.

In fact, I propose that PvP can be not only tolerated but actually enjoyed by almost everyone. And this week's Wings Over Atreia is dedicated to showing you how. Poppycock! you say? Now, before you dismiss me out of hand, please consider where this declaration is coming from. No one can (accurately) accuse me of being a PvPer. In fact, I more fully fall into the quintessential carebear category than anywhere else -- I am a casual-ish player and a roleplayer. Even so, I can now make the following (qualified) statement:

My name is MJ. And I like PvP.*

Don't believe that you, too, can make this statement? Take the leap past the break for a look at some tips on how to come to enjoy this integral feature more and not let fear keep you away from Aion.

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*Qualified statement

What? A carebear who likes PvP? Before your mind pops trying to reconcile those supposedly diametrically opposed ideals, let me give you a bit of background on myself. In my first MMO I was a purely social class and didn't participate in combat of any form for the first year or so; after that, it was my kittens who mauled things, not me. I raised no weapon and took no part in the faction war, remaining neutral. That's just my style. I could be defined as a carebear because I didn't fight. Even now, I don't have any pressing need to fight; if I come across an opponent in the PvP arenas who won't fight back, 90% of the time I will just hang and emote with them (admittedly, the rest of the time I will first finish my kill quest and then hang out).

Aion screenshotHowever, few -- if any -- games have social classes now, and as I broaden my gaming repertoire and move along into other titles, I run into more PvP. So what to do? Do I restrict my choice of games based on this, or do I jump in and enjoy the game for what it has on my own terms? When Aion first came out, open PvP gave me pause -- mainly because I really suck at it. And when I say suck at it, I mean fighting me will make anyone feel uber in the battlefield! But I took the plunge and I haven't regretted it. If it can happen for me, I know it can happen for others.

I think once more people get past the stigmas, hang-ups, and even fear of PvP, they will find that they, too, can enjoy a wider variety of games, especially Aion. And even PvP. How? You can mitigate the negative aspects of PvP in a few ways; adjusting expectations and attitudes along with so me planning goes a long way toward making a better experience.

PvP can be fun

Gasp!!! Can it be true? A casual roleplayer-type is saying that player vs. player combat can be fun?! OMG what is the world coming to? Breathe into the bag... yes people, it really can be. Here are my hints for making the experience more fun.

Aion screenshotPlay on your own terms

First and foremost, take responsibility for your own game time. If you really just don't feel like PvP, choose an activity or place to play that won't allow it. There are places in game you can adventure without being at risk (such as instances and closed lands), not to mention other activities such as crafting or mentoring. Plenty of places cater to different playstyles. And don't whine that what you want to do most is smack dab in the middle of a PvP open area and that you have a right to not engage in PvP. You can't have it both ways. If you insist on questing in an PvP open area then you are agreeing to the chance of PvP (which, by the way, is not constant, just a chance!). I have no sympathy for the people who demand the game cater to their exact wishes all the time, no matter which crowd they belong to.

Practice makes perfect

Tired of always being beaten on the battlefield? Well the only way to get better is to actually participate. Two of the quickest ways to death and defeat when in a fight are freezing up and not reacting quickly enough or panicking and hitting the wrong skills. Trust me, I know. Getting more comfortable on the battlefield will in turn make you better on the battlefield.

You don't even have to throw yourself into open PvP lands and hope you come upon a fight anymore -- you can chose the when and where and ease into PvP in short bursts. NCsoft has given us the Dredgions and the arenas to help hone our skills. The best part of the arenas is that they are extremely short! Even if you are doing badly, it will be over in 15 minutes or less. You can survive anything for 15 minutes! True, sometimes you get opponents whom you can't "practice" on because they are simply too over-powered for you. However, when worse comes to worst, you can always just close your eyes, tab out, and wait for it to be over. Hey, I am not ashamed to admit I have done that to my share of +15 elite geared folks! As a bonus, players who are practicing here have the chance to get some respectable PvP gear to help them be even better prepared. And yes, we all know gear does make a difference.

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Safety in numbers

Simply put, PvP in a group. Even though I play an Assassin, I hate solo play, including PvP. However, I have found that I have a lot more fun going with a group of friends. Not only is it more fun to just be chatting while strategizing and hunting, but the strengths of your companions can help make up for some of your apprehension and inexperience. A couple in the group are really good and the rest of us are decent to mediocre. We even take beginners along. Tactics for groups are of course different than for solo, but the confidence gained with group success will carry over into individual encounters as well.

Along those lines, go with mellow people. The biggest difference for me has been hunting with people who do not blow a gasket when I make a mistake. In fact, the calmer they are, the better I do because I am not freezing up. Also, don't be afraid to ask some PvP savvy friends for pointers.

Aion screenshotWin some, lose some

Face it, folks, no one is going to win all the time. No one is perfect. You are an earthling (or Atreian), and with that comes the undeniable fact that you are imperfect and flawed. So one major adjustment to thinking must be made: that worth is predicated on never failing. Failure is not only an option; it's an inevitability. So remove the stigma from it and live, learn, and move on. If you get too frustrated, then just bow out of PvP and go do something else. I will tell you, even though I lose a great number of my 1v1 Arena of Discipline battles, it makes the victories all that much sweeter. Oh, how exhilarating those are! Like that semi-geared Glad I toasted on my Cleric recently (yah, totally surprised me too) or the Templar my Sin was able to trounce in the final two rounds. Accept failure, but then be proud of your success. And revel in it. Just don't teabag and gloat. And on that note...

Jerks are jerks

Let's be fair: All subsets of players -- casuals, roleplayers, hard-core PvEers, etc. -- have their own collection of jerks who kill steal, ninja loot, meta game, force their playstyle on others, and generally try to make others miserable for their own personal amusement. So why do the jerks who PvP define that entire group? Point blank, they shouldn't. Yes, there are PvPers out there whose only delight is smashing in the faces of others with reckless abandon and who will take every opportunity to thoroughly decimate others and gloat about it, those who appear to derive all of their self-worth from how much they can dominate and humiliate others. But there are also many others who are just out for a good fight. They don't torment, grief, or harass others, or even need to boast. Are these bad players? No, in fact, some of the best PvPers, nay players, I know belong to this group, not the blankety-blank one. If you are avoiding games with PvP just to avoid the jerks, well, you best just plain avoid games because they are everywhere, in every genre, and in every sub-group of players.

In my opinion, the good people would outnumber the idiots if said good people wouldn't be so downright chicken when it comes to PvP. PvP isn't the plague. And I say this as a non-PvPer who can't PvP well. I ventured out of my comfort zone and just decided I was going to experience it for myself on my own terms, realizing that I can't control how others play, just how I react. PvP has a bad rap that comes from the above-mentioned jerks, but if the decent folk would jump into the fray, we'd be able to turn the tides of perception and have a better experience overall. Who knows, if you come up against me, at least you know you have an easy win!

Soaring through the Aionosphere, MJ Guthrie touches down weekly to bring you Wings Over Atreia. Featuring tips, guides, and general snippets of life in Aion, the column is better than Tutty-on-a-stick, ackackackackackack! Have a suggestion to share? No need to bribe a Shugo -- just send mail to mj@massively.com.