The Ostriches Are Hostile and So Are the Players: Game Mechanics and Player Environments in MMORPGs

Fair warnings for this post:

  • I don’t think any and all behaviour towards other players is acceptable so if you’re the type of person to use care bear to mean something other than this guy and his friends, this post is not for you
Grumpy Bear says it's okay to be down or frustrated sometimes. It's just not okay to be a jerk.

Well, ‘actually’ … consent is an important part of PvP mechanics in MMORPGs and toxic player interactions are not an inherent or necessary part of gaming.

  • I will not actually be naming the game I’m going to talk about (because its community gets virulently angry at anyone talking about problems with the game community and the game mechanics that both allow and encourage toxic behaviour and environments), so any pictures or gifs will be off-topic ones. Probably/possibly Transformers related because that’s what I have on hand. That or Catwoman comic pages from the 1990s.
Granted, there are less knives and more marriage proposals.

I will admit this panel is a good description of what happens in world chat when they realize another player is female though.

Now, head below the cut for my discussion of some previous high and low points of other MMORPGs, player behaviour, and how I honestly did not think I’d have to add checking the PvP set-up of a game onto my list of criteria for finding a game to try.

I imagine Nautica was going for a heavy book learning/book lore angle with her power sets and crafting focuses. Megatron probably went for a heavy healing and crowd-control focus to fit with his attempted reformation.

Megatron thought it would be lackluster storytelling or a lack of replayability or a frustrating push to throw large amounts of money into the game that would lead him to move on. He never thought he wouldn’t even be able to turn in and pick up quests and get his armour repaired because of other players. And Nautica’s character just died trying to walk to the bottom of the hill from town to pick up the next bunch of quests.

I like games. I like MMORPGs. I like, evil of all great evils (at least ‘partly’ kidding with that), free to play MMORPGs and the chances they give me to genre hop, play things I’d otherwise not be able to play due to finances, and to test out how accessible and enjoyable a game is for me before deciding (or not) to invest money in it (which I do do when I am able).

That is the basis I am coming from and, honestly, the game that shall not be named really had some things going for it. There was ‘some’ vexing push to subscribe (and I do specifically mean subscribe, not another form of investing money into the game), but not to the level of other games I’ve played and it didn’t impede game play too much. The quality of the story content and the replayability might have resulted in it being an “okay but not going to replay” game in my book if I had been able to get to the point of reaching the level cap, but I never got to that point.

I love the colouring on these comic panels. It's gorgeous. And very easy for me to read.

You think it was just a one-off thing, you have a new day of game play, get complimented by another player on your teamwork and how rare and nice it is to see … and then get killed so often in town you have to quit for the night because you can’t make any quest progress. Don’t jinx yourself, Tailgate, don’t jinx yourself.

I have never quit a game over player behaviour before. I’ve petered out because I reached level cap, did what I could do playing as a duo (and potentially encountered some poorly designed quests) and stopped because there was no more game to play, stopped because there wasn’t sufficient story content to the amount of grind required to move level to level, had things come up to where I stop gaming for a while, and, in one case, quit a game very early on because it just was not enjoyable/not a good match for me.

This doesn’t mean I haven’t encountered poor to toxic player behaviour before, or variations in how fun and enjoyable it is to temporarily group up with other players (or casually help each other out without formally joining up groups), and I have literally had to pop into a private instanced dungeon to try to shake someone before.

You should never have to hide in a cave with killer gnomes. Never. Also, I love Nautica's alt mode.

Sometimes you just want to escape into space when that player with the graphically misogynistic character and guild names won’t stop following you in-game.

However, there is no amount of teeth gritting, popping into private instances, filtering off world/general chat (or switching tabs if there isn’t a filter or off option), and trying to ignore people who spam requests and follow you around in game you can do when other players in game, often many levels above you (and with added benefits from grinding end game content and being subscribers), can kill you indiscriminately and park not only by quest pick up/turn in NPCs and service providers but also by where you resurrect, effectively preventing you from doing anything in game.

In this game you can pop open a travel portal (provided you have sufficient materials for it) but all that does is get you away from that particular player or group of players. You can’t go back to the quests and quest chains you were doing because those players are still there (or others will likely show up) and it is not that fun sitting in a lower level area twiddling your thumbs because there is nothing for you to do except perhaps craft and hope that no one in ‘that’ area decides to kill you either. And, no, crafting to level up, even if it is manageable for you (and probably is more so for subscribers), is not an acceptable substitute to actually getting to play story content and do PvE and experience the game in the way that you want to experience it. Especially because a) that’s kind of the point of playing a sandbox or sandbox hybrid game b) the only possible point to doing crafting (and only crafting – someone seriously said this) to level grind is if you’re only interested in reaching the level cap, likely for PvP and PvP gear reasons, and not in story content, exploration, and other elements.

I feel like Nautica would find a way to play as a science mage. Or play a mage and then add in science-y character bits in her head. Megatron probably tanks and Nightbeat is a lighter armour class and somehow a detective.

Crafting can be fun, but having a stack of wrenches is no fun if you never get to use them.

Some level of stress in gaming is expected, but there’s a vast difference between taking on or watching out for a tough mob in the landscape (or doing a tough instance. or taking on something underlevel or with a non-standard group makeup. or accidentally summoning a world boss on your head by investigating an inscription in a ruin. or being in the wrong spot when a similar type of NPC hits their respawn time and respawns in a random location that just happens to match yours) and being constantly on edge and in danger and even incapable of continuing game play because of your fellow players. Consensual PvP is another matter, whether an (accepted) invite to duel or fight to the death or by entering a PvP-only zone in whatever form it takes in game.

Chromia just takes it as further proof that they need to get off Cybertron.

Windblade was quite startled at Starscream’s level of joy at Wheeljack coming back from a quest turn in. Little did she know that on Cybertron it is easier to take on a signature mob than it is to try to turn in or pick up a quest.

That isn’t what this game has though and I did not realize it even has a PvP flag toggle because, with the mechanics of the game, it doesn’t matter. There are benefits (in terms of specific types of points) in game to killing other players, especially in war time, and there is nothing to prevent or discourage PvP-ers from engaging and killing players who are not interested in PvP and/or are vastly under-leveled compared to them. There are no areas, aside from directly inside resurrection circles, where combat abilities are turned off, there is a PvP flag with toggle but it’s functionally meaningless, and there are no PvP arenas or specifically PvP-only map areas (or PvP only servers).

The game is not PvP only. I would not have been trying it if that was the case. It’s a sandbox/sandbox hybrid game that is supposed to have good offerings for people who like to PvP but it also offers a PvE experience and a lot of customizability in terms of combining power sets and within the power sets themselves (plus also offers a wide array of crafting and gathering professions and choice in which to specialize in and when. and offers multiple mounts+pets and mount+pet types even to non-subscribers). All of its selling points are wasted though because once you start hitting the thirties (when the current level cap is nearing sixty) you, at best, have to do a safety check of every place with NPCs, ‘especially’ towns, for other players before trying to go and turn in and pick up quests or do other game activities.

Somehow I get the feeling that Starscream is not a nice gamer.

But they are Blurr, but they are. Everyone gets jumpy and defensive in this kind of environment.

It is not fun having that type of game experience and worse when it turns into being killed by one or more players who then wait in the vicinity of the resurrection circle for you to try and leave and go back to game play so they can kill you again (and who stand in your face and yell at you if you try to wait them out).

There really isn’t a specific point to this post other than belatedly (I’ve since quit and returned to a previous game that had a few issues but is overall enjoyable and, importantly, has multiple mechanics in place regarding PvP) processing and sharing my feelings. And sharing the realization that a) I shouldn’t be as used to some level of toxicity in gaming as I am b) it’s really darn easy to help alleviate that toxicity somewhat and, conversely, it’s also really easy to encourage and allow toxic player behaviour, especially if a game is trying for what it thinks are easy money grabs and doesn’t care about what kind of player environment it’s establishing. Which I think is likely going on with this game. It shouldn’t be that hard to at least put in a functional, ‘meaningful’ flag toggle so that players who want to PvP can go after whomever they want (among consenting targets) and those who don’t can still enjoy and progress the game too, but the game also has to ‘want’ to make it safer and more enjoyable for everyone. And I don’t think this game wants to do that.

Nautica enjoys the occasional spot of PvP and thinks everyone should be able to enjoy the game in their own way. She also tends to PvP with Brainstorm, who wants to see how awesome the weapons he crafted are.

Brainstorm is an awesome crafting buddy in game but when it comes to game design he gets caught up in how awesome the game mechanics he creates are and kind of forgets about fostering a safe and enjoyable player environment.

As always, all images belong to their respective copyright holders and, well, if I had the Transformers copyright I’d be very financially secure indeed. Same with the Care Bears honestly, even though the property is comparatively smaller at this point. Also, I was originally going to mention other games and high and low points of playing them but this post just didn’t work out that way.

Leave a Reply