The debate about whether survival MMO’s have become breeding grounds for bandits and player killers has always been a touchy subject. It’s a topic where there is no easy solution and I guess I just want to throw my two cents in on the matter.
Games such as DayZ, Rust, Aftermath, Nether and 7 Days to Die (and many more) all seem to have the same core principle: The end of the world kicks in whether it be radiation, aliens from outer space or the wrath almighty God bringing vile creatures and zombies into the world, with the remaining population scavenging and fighting for survival. Great concept, one that I’ve always wanted to see done ‘just right’. To my disappointment, none of the developers have created a world in which the apocalypse has been the main threat, making NPC enemies have the same scare factor as my daughter wearing a Pikachu onesie. There is just no atmosphere built in at all, just a few whacks with melee weapon, or a well placed shot to the brain usually does the trick, with very few deaths being a result of the game being ‘hard’, more of a case where the player just needs to keep focused to avoid walking into trees and finding themselves to be lunch whilst they wrestle with the keyboard to get free.
All of that being said, one thing I do admire is the PvP side of these games, where everyone is thrown into the apocalypse, with barely any equipment, having to build shelters, weapons and scavenge materials and supplies in order to get by, meaning players can become somewhat self sufficient. Whilst some players focus on survival by building up fortifications and planting food to keep them going, other players scavenge enough fire power to go on a killing spree, in which case they often do, resulting in the more friendly player being gunned down for anything and everything they own.
This element is where the debate starts, and where gamers of both sides argue over the core elements of the game. There are points to both sides which make the debate so compelling, which made me wonder: who is right? Is there a right answer? I suppose the only answer I could come up with would be similar to what other people have already called out for; making my input moot, but I would love for there to be a survival MMO where the developers have forced people to work together, rather than against one another. That would be changing point in the debate I feel, but then again, it wouldn’t root out the PvP gamers from killing people, as it’s in human nature to fight one another.
These games are more simulations than actual games on the basis that there is no narrative and the experience is based on players individual decisions, in my own experience I found myself running low on supplies so I was foraging around the outskirts of a town to get a few bits to keep going. Then I heard gunshots. Blood splatters all over my screen, I mash my keyboard in terror and I took cover. I spotted two guys shooting at me from across the road. One took up a high vantage point on top of a roof whilst the other started coming towards me, searching from car to car, trying to flush me out. I began panic firing at the sniper, and ran out of bullets quickly, so I pulled out my knife and took out the one searching for me as he came around the last car. Not having a chance to loot his corpse, I ran behind a hill hoping to escape, taking a shot in back which caused me to start bleeding out. I found cover behind a big rock, crafted myself a bandage and kept going.
An experience like that made me realise that whilst it is frustrating as hell to lose everything you have worked so hard to scavenge, running into other desperate survivors and them trying to steal what you’ve found is part and package of a true survival experience. It’s an integral part of the core mechanics which the game developers didn’t put into the game, but rather predicted the behaviour of players that were in the situation they created. It’s quite clever when you look at it from that point of view.
Some players call out for PvE servers, which detracts from the experience somewhat when the NPC enemies are so nonchalant. Other players call for punishments or debuffs to affect players that kill on sight, but again this would be incredibly difficult to manage and implement. My answer is to create an environment where players are forced to work together, or they will all die. Minecraft is a great example of a game that became popular because of its accessibility and its focus on teamwork and creativity. Maybe survival MMO’s could take a leaf from Mojang.
So – what do you think? Is there a way to please everyone? If so, I’d love to know! Pop your comments in below and see if we can make the future of gaming a better place.
Ryan Griffiths is a British gamer, known as a bit of a lone wolf. Retro games are his passion, with newer releases not living up to his expectations. Of course there are exceptions to the rule when it comes to Dynasty Warriors & Total War games.