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Death of the The Player Killer

By Denise Harrison
One of the questions developers have to ask anymore is whether or a new game should include player killing. PKing is why co-workers who used to bolt from the office toward happy hours instead began to stick around the office for a friendly game of Doom over the company network. Gunning down co-workers, or buddies on your home network, was a successful formula that has been carried out on other games as well. And on others, player killing was the very demise of the game.

It's one thing when folks who know each other agree to a life or death match among their characters. Everyone playing is down with the challenge and everyone has the same goals of offing each other in 3D. And it's all done in good spirits. It's quite another thing when it's included in massive RPGs of thousands of players on a server who don't know each other and have no reason to be sporting with each other.

Other than the networks such as Sierra Online, or MUDs, the first massive RPG that I remember was Meridian 59, a totally awesome game for its time. It debuted in the mid '90s and was all but gone just a few years later. You could argue that the development engine was too old to update or the game simply ran its course. But I would argue differently and say PKing was the death of Meridian 59.

The majority of the players were online to team up with friends, to slay beasts promising riches in loot, to advance their characters and to steer their own adventures. Then there were a handful of those who decided that stabbing any vulnerable back in their paths, stealing whatever could be stolen from the corpse and causing the player to lose hard-earned experience, was all in a day's fun despite the protests otherwise from the victims. Or, more accurately, because of them.

A couple of years later. Ultima Online, The Realm and a number of other competitors entered beta testing and you could practically hear the vacuum caused by the exodus.

Ultima Online was definitely next-generation in its design and graphics. But Ultima Online also featured PKing. Not good-spirited PKing such as Doom provided, but the same mean-spirited PKing that ruined Meridian 59. Did it work on UO? Nope... it did not. Proof of this is that UO eventually began a series of changes designed to make PKing penalties greater, complicated changes that just confused the game play.

Eventually, they did what Meridian 59 and UO should have done in the first place - make it an option. From UO's current Website: "Whether you want to engage in combat with other players is up to you. A new land-mass that equals the size of the original Britannia has been added for those who want to develop their virtual life in peace. With this new area comes a major increase in the space available fo building your dream castle."

When the EverQuest Website went up, way before any beta testing, most players called it vaporware? it sounded way too good to be true in all it promised. But it was real and pretty much lived up to its promises. That included PKing as an option, not a feature.

Today, EverQuest has 40 some servers, each with a couple thousand players online at any given time. Four of those servers are player vs. player and at noon Monday, the lowest three servers in population are the PVP servers.

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Related Keywords:Meridian 59, Ultima Online


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