I have been playing EvE Online for a little over two years now, and this I feel is somewhat appropriate to describe the PvP in this Open Sandbox MMO. Wonderfully so.
This is not a review, although I do invite fans of MMO's to get their hands dirty and download the trial. Love or hate it, how EvE Online does PvP different from World of Warcraft, as well as all of the other 'on the rails' Themepark MMO's, is a topic I find unique and interesting to tell.
So stay awhile and listen, but keep your goram eyes on Local chat.
I spent many, many hours playing World of Warcraft, and subscribed for nearly a decade. Like many MMO players I tried each of the other Theme-park MMO titles: Trion's Rift, Warhammer, both Guildwars, Star Wars the Old Republic and Elder Scolls Online to name-drop a few. Each has a very unique franchise, its own feel. However most have very similar game mechanics and this is very close when we look at how this genre approaches PvP game design. Theme-park MMO PvP and EvE Online, with it's focus on PvP, take very different avenues with PvP development.
Let us warp in to this, Ballistic Missiles deep.
Crimson Nirnroots is my name in New Eden, the universe of EvE. I am a manufacturer of Antimatter Rounds for Hybrid Charge Railguns and Blasters, and specialize in high tech and faction variants of the ammunition. I mine asteroids for the raw materials to create basic Antimatter Hybrid Charge rounds. I run simple Distribution missions to earn Loyalty Points to spend on upgrading the basic units of Antimatter Hybrid Charges I create. I also research Blue Prints for the Tech II variants. I sell small, medium and large versions of nearly all of it.
Coincidentally (maybe ironically) this particular ammunition is the favorite of High Sec Gankers, more on that below.
The above is referred to generously as participating in Industry, the vulgar argot being Carebear. I am a Carebear. I don't combat PvP, to the disdain of a great many of my New Eden peers. You see, EvE Online is a PvP oriented game, and PvP motivates and affects (very nearly) everything in New Eden. It's part and parcel of its economy, where only Players create what you need to fly and shoot in space, and players rapidly destroy what you fly and shoot in space.
I am a Carebear, and it's fine. I am aware and accept the dangers that lurk in every asteroid belt, and at every warp gate. I have lost ships to other players, learned some tips on how not to lose more, and learned a great deal about Ganker culture and methodology. I have also (embarrassingly) lost ships to NPC rats (term: Mobs equivalent), losses to make my mini-doxxie Sauron blush. There is simply no excuse, and I take my beatings gratefully to continue to fly the (my humble opinion here) a great space sim with other, much more talented players and their dogs.
I am a Carebear, and that does NOT exclude me from PvP. Everyone is fair game in New Eden, a simple rule but one of great significance.
I could be sitting in High Sec(urity Space), an area with the games all encompasing NPC Police force, known as Concord. I may be mining alone in an asteroid belt for the raw materials I need. Along may come another player with nefarious plans afoot. I could be one moment happily munching on Rocks like... well a Rockbiter. (Don't pretend you didn't' love that movie!), the next moment an explosion, and the cold empty void of space. Concord enters stage left, and responds to threats to player's safety after the fact. After the deed is done. Their reaction is swift and sure: destruction of the offending players wessles. No one can escape this justice. However, I am still game, my ship is still scrap-metal and Gankers are always on the prowl.
This is the High Sec I spend most of my time in, and it is perfect. No one should be safe in a PvP focused game. Every player should be at risk of losing their shirts when they have a careless moment, lose their attention, or generally play obliviously. I am a Carebear and I support this wholeheartedly.
The lower security areas of EvE have no Concord and offer increasing levels of excitement as the rewards and competition for them increase. At the very lowest levels, in the darkest, farthest reaches of New Eden, players compete head to head for the very sovereignty of star-systems. (How's that for player housing, eh.) Each new tier of risk has a new level of rewards attached to it, and players are encouraged to develop new strategies, form new alliances, betray old ones, and create emergent game-play to capture, lose and recapture sectors and objectives.
All of the items in EvE are destructible. Everything. This is a hard concept to grasp for many new players. It is best to think of the Ships (combat or otherwise) and all of the parts that go in them, from the Shields and Armour to Rail-guns and Lasers and everything in between, as Potions. Because you will use them, and you WILL lose them. Nothing is sacred, miners will have their Barges popped as fast as Faction War veterans go through Frigates. Beware, fly safe, and don't undock what you cannot afford to replace.
This is how EvE PvP differs so much from the Theme-park MMO's. Everyone on the field can lose. Numbers players experience and strategy have as much to do with winning as the in-game Skill system, the EvE progression mechanic. Every dog can literally have their day. As I spend most of my time in High Sec I will focus on the mechanics that keep the game in balance and how it related to my personal experience.
Shit this piece is long.
So I'm ejected from my recently melted and fragmented mining Barge. Instantly Concord warps onto the grid and locks down and destroys the ship of the player who popped me. This will be a very important distinction I will come back to, so hang in there.
Some other mechanics are now at work behind the scenes somewhat that affect the Ganking player. After a hostile action toward another player in High Sec, players will lose Security Status. After a certain level, each Races Faction Police (a much less powerful type) will engage on sight. Further loss of Status will result in that player being available by ALL players in High Sec to engage, with NO intervention by Concord. Furthermore, players who are victims receive 'Kill Rights' against offending players. Kill Rights are akin to Bounty Marks, giving the barer the right to take down the player in question. These are transferable, so can be given or sold to mercenaries in game. Lastly, ship cost ISK (the currency of New Eden). It might be prohibitively expensive to gank targets over and over.
Each decision has a consequence, each risk a reward. Fair.
That's not to say that some players continue to be victims over and over. You can lead a horse to water but you can't help him fit a Shield Extended and some Hardeners on his boat. What does not happen is out-leveled characters are farmed over and over, for what can be extended periods of time, with no recourse beyond logging off, switching characters, or taking a fucking nap. There are no consequences in those situations, no risk and no reward. Only imbalance and quotes from a decade old text book reading: PvP happened on a PvP Server.
Let's put a bow on this.
Risk vs. Reward, consequence based unsolicited PvP happens all the time in New Eden, the Antimatter laced icing on the Sandbox Space-sim cake that is EvE Online, a well baked change from the norm.