Seeing Red: A Palatable PK System Arrives in Wizardry Online
November 28, 2012
Learning from the past to build a better PK future
When the topic of Player Killers (PKs) comes up, the reaction is often split between “worst part of the game” and “OMG that was so awesome!” The division in reaction commonly rests on which side of red the player was on. In between, there’s another group of players. Those that weren’t necessarily PKs themselves, but found their presence to be an exciting part of their experience.
Wizardry Online caters to the middle and the murderous extreme, offering all the PVP and looting one could want if they’re willing to pay the price, while keeping systems in place to prevent the rampant PKing often exhibited in most other open-world PVP MMOs.
A really brief look at protection and PK penalties of past open-world PVP systems
Somewhere around the turn of the century, Ultima Online took a step in the right direction but went a bit too far. During one of the several attempts to curb the excessive PKing that was occurring at the time, the UO developers decided to give PKing extreme penalties in order to limit the activity to only those truly dedicated to being red. The solution during that pass was stat loss. On death, a PK could possibly lose up to 33% of both their stats and skills. It made continuing after death not only difficult but often impossible, effectively killing the entire PK scene.
This was soon reverted, however a change in the penalty could have both achieved their goals and kept PK and criminal acts viable forms of gameplay. Despite the premise being sound save for the extreme penalty, the outcome resulted in that approach being avoided both by the UO developers and every developer thereafter.
Meanwhile, far away, in the Land of Fire and Ice, a group of avid UO fans set out to create their own world. A universe, in fact. They enjoyed the dark side of gameplay and incorporated it into their own project. Their solution was tiered levels of safety in the game universe, from relative safety in high security areas of space to total lawlessness in nullsec, the massive region where zero security is guaranteed.
Many would argue that in the past ten years, the EVE Online universe has been one of the few MMOs to successfully deliver an open world PVP environment where there is some semblance of balance between players enjoying PK gameplay and the playstyles enjoyed by the rest of the game’s community.
Hard, not Hell: A new take on an old approach
Wizardry Online takes the lessons learned from the past and introduces what is probably the first MMO in almost a decade both to put reigns on open PVP without castrating it and to afford freedom to the PKs without burdening the rest of the playerbase with ceaseless murder sprees and endless ‘ganking’ of low level players.
- Penalties that slow progress, not sever it or negate it. The PK in Wizardry Online lives a harsher existence than other players. Guards, regular players and even some other PKs will be out to kill them. In a virtual world where permadeath is a looming possibility for all players, the PK may very well be rolling dice against the grim reaper more often, but he is not further penalized with stat lowering penalties. He just may find he’s in more situations where he might be facing that dice roll than others. ?
- PKs have (some) rights, too. Unlike Lineage 2, Ultima Online and most other MMOs, the PK life does not cause one to lose all rights under the law. Looting items from a fallen criminal (that weren’t originally your own, of course) will flag the looter a criminal. It may seem absurd on the surface that killing someone for their crimes is fine but stealing from them isn’t, but Wizardry Online is consistent in its approach of making a PK’s life more difficult by reducing accessibility, not by adding insult to injury and take away what they already have without some penalty for those seeking to do so.
Rampant PKing: How a playstyle can become its own worst enemy
Historically, when penalties for criminal behavior offer acceptable risk, PKing not only thrives, but becomes rampant, overrunning the game and tipping the play experience for others from exciting to simply frustrating. Wizardry Online puts in place mechanics to counter any rise in PK activity with a leap in consequence on both the individual and global levels.
— Individual Consequences
Bounties can be placed on criminals, however it isn’t the bounty itself that increases risk and punishment, but the change in penalty once a PK reaches a certain bounty count threshold. After five bounties, no other character on that soul can be played except the bountied character. If sent to jail with 5 or more bounties – and any death when you have 5+ bounties will send you to jail – the bail is doubled and the ‘escape route’ is no longer available to them. In the next section, we’ll explain why an extended jail stay is NOT desirable.
— Global Consequences
Being in jail alone is very different from being in jail with other criminals. The chance of one or more turning on the others is high, as there is little to do in there other than talk to a rat or try to bribe a guard. Talking to the rat to leave the jail before the time is up resets the timer, essentially resetting the timer to leave for everyone, as only one criminal can escape every three minutes. This is a good way to make enemies fast and, again, another increase in the likelihood of some hot PK on PK murder action.
Then there’s always the chest outside the jail. For a mere 6 gold, a white can blow up everyone in jail. The criminals take their chances with the RNG, resurrect and are still in jail, hoping the white players get bored very soon with blowing up a cell full of criminals and move on to other things.
Dearest readers, would YOU get bored doing that? ?
The Ebb and Flow of the Wave of PKing
While it is inevitable that there will be those that take up the mantle of Death Squad and roll through dungeons on killing sprees, such gameplay is countered by game mechanics and will be far less frequent than one might suspect, primarily due to it being an unsustainable form of gameplay if attempted with any level of regularity.
At this point, it’s up to the community
In the realm of MMOs, that’s a scary thing, but it seems like Wizardry Online has done a solid job of making the life of a PK challenging and fun for those looking to kick their difficulty level up a notch, while not making it too lenient or sustainable that the dungeons will be flooded with reds from top to bottom. From here on in, the community can take the ball and run with it. Will there be PK vs Anti-PK battles and patrolling PK hunters like we saw in UO? Will the various unions establish attack policies like the corps and alliances of EVE? The design of the game seems to indicate those are far more plausible outcomes than a ‘massive PK gankfest’ as the game is specifically designed to make the criminal lifestyle significantly harder before it gets out of hand on a player or server-wide level. Basically, the larger the PK activity and PK community grows, the faster it implodes, making the final weeks of a Malthusian rat experiment look like Sunday in the park in comparison.
Wizardry Online gives both sides a fighting chance, even if that chance is sometimes just the opportunity to see a bad situation coming and haul ass in the other direction or a 6-gold fee to fire off a feel-good nuke inside a room full of reds.