Video Game Tuesday: PvE vs PvP, a Brief Primer

Michael Blaker
Game Industry News is running the best blog posts from people writing about the game industry. Articles here may originally appear on Michael's blog, Windborne's Story Eatery.
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This week on Video Game Tuesday, I’m continuing my deviation by talking about the differences between the PvE play style and the PvP play style, found most often in MMOs, like World of Warcraft, and sometimes found in other games, like Destiny.

What is PvE and PvP:

PvE stands for a couple of things that essentially all mean the same thing, it stands for either Player vs Environment or Player vs Enemies, but what it comes down to in the end is that the player isn’t facing off against other real people and is just playing against a computer character, sometimes termed an NPC or Non-Player Character.  A PvE play style in games like WoW forgoes any PvP in favor of improving their gear through end game content like high level dungeons or instances, a non MMO example would be the Strike Playlists in Destiny. Further end game progression is found by forming larger groups to complete even harder and often much more complex encounters in things like Raids, or World Events where an entire server takes part in an event that is only active for a short time (ranging from a few hours to a few weeks at the most). A good example of a World Event is the Opening of Ahn’Qiraj in World of Warcraft. Typical reasons a player will prefer PvE content over PvP content can be their lack of motivation to compete with other people, or their lack of skill etc… It often doesn’t matter to the PvE player what a PvPer might enjoy, in fact if something from the PvP side ends up affecting their play in PvE they will be upset at the change. I’m not immune to that frustration as I have complained many times that PvP players ruined my fun in PvE content because of what they perceived to be overpowered or imbalanced game mechanics. Other reasons why a player chooses PvE over PvP is that they prefer to work with people to complete content rather than compete against others, I myself fall into this category.

PvP stands for Player vs Player, and often involves an entirely separate game mode then solo or group play, this is most often found in FPS games like Halo or Call of Duty where the single player and multiplayer are in completely different menu trees. Destiny is a rare middle ground in that it takes very little effort on the players part to participate in PvP, entering the Crucible after completing a Strike takes no more than a few seconds. In MMO’s like World of Warcraft there are often two different types of servers that are usually set up for players to choose from, and while you’ll find that opinions vary on which is the best, they are usually classified as PvE servers and PvP servers. A PvP server has areas in the game, usually any zone after the initial 10 or so player levels, where players from opposing sides, often called factions in MMOs, are able to attack one another without either party’s consent. This can lead to forms of harassment called griefing, ranging from corpse camping(where a player is killed and the player(s) who killed that player stick close to the corpse so as to prevent their escape after reviving) to ganking (where a much higher level player(s) kill lower level player(s)).

Why do PvPers get upset at PvEers and vice-versa?: PvPers and PvEer’s are often notoriously critical of each other and while this usually leads to nothing than a few harsh words, it can escalate into full scale feuds on forums where everyone loses. There is also a form of elitism in that each side views the other as the lesser form of gameplay, a PvPer may see PvE content as nothing other than fighting brainlessly while PvP play is always changing. A PvEer may see PvP as pointlessly aggressive contests that get nothing accomplished except who gets bragging rights.

Which side is right?: Both and Neither, I think that PvE play is a more conducive form of play that will lead to longer lasting player bases compared to PvP play. One needs only look at the yearly release of Call of Duty to realize that nothing really changes between each installment, and the same can be said of single player game series like Assassin’s Creed, although you can pick up a game like Assassin’s Creed 2 ten years from now and enjoy it just as much as you would have on launch day because you don’t have to worry about multiplayer servers being up.  Games like World of Warcraft consistently see player bases rise and fall with each release of PvE content, where as the usually more vocal PvPers don’t change as much patch to patch (Despite their frequent claims otherwise).

I hope you enjoyed today’s Video Game Tuesday, and I may continue to do posts like this in the future.

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