[MUD-Dev] Re: Marion's Tailor Problem

Koster Koster
Fri Oct 9 09:55:43 New Zealand Daylight Time 1998


Very interesting article on methods used to curb playerkilling, with a
comprehensive catalog of tactics developers have used:

http://www.eqvault.net/features/editorials/sayeed4.shtml

(text follows)
=======
Beyond PKilling: How to Sanitize Online
Murder 

Hailhail,

Special Thanks to Dirge (zep at mediaone.net), for his support and
insightful
comments.

A fantasy environment. Unknown World, Unknown Terrain. Walking
innocently
along a well-traveled dirt path, an eager fighter named Sir. Oft Mort
spots a figure
standing in the deep shadows of the trees ahead of him. Feeling curious,
and
every bit the hero, our young adventurer approaches with drawn sword and
wary
step, eyeing the mysterious individual. Predictably, however, Sir.
Mort's foot
finds the ubiquitous branch, which cracks with sadistic glee and sharp
report.
The stranger, actually a fierce Treeling, whirls around to face a
cringing Mort.
Shrieking incoherently, the offended foliage advances. Unfortunately for
our
would-be-hero, its intentions are less than honorable, and it only takes
a few
short moments (and animations) until Mort lies bleeding and lifeless on
the forest
floor. Online.

A sad tale? Perhaps, yet Online Role-Playing Game (ORPG) players expect
and
demand these climactic encounters in ORPGs, and when deprived of them go
off
to disturb the flora and fauna, and become paying customers, of other
enthusiastic gaming companies. Replace the Treeling with a specific type
of
Gamer, however, and an interesting thing happens. The effect reverses!
Instead
of looking forward to such encounters, players are apprehensive and
disgusted,
frequently abusing these Gamers when they happen to come across them.
Why
is there such a large difference between player reactions when the
intention of
both monster and player is the same? What makes monsters feared while
these
Gamers are despised? What changes would an effective solution have to
implement? The most slandered faction of ORPG players, Player Killers,
is the
focus of this article. 

To understand why Player Killers (PKs) are so vigorously detested on
ORPGs
where players look forward to being attacked by monsters, we must
compare
and contrast both character types, and analyze the four major problems
associated with Player Killers which emerge when we do so. To properly
conceive of a solution for this problem, we must examine many types of
solutions and how they deal with the four problem areas.

Author's Note: This essay is long and rather academic compared to others
I have
written. It is intended not to present a concrete solution, but to
foster thought on
the issue and to examine many of the elements which make it up. It is my
hope
that by such thought others may better be able to find a lasting and
more
effective solution than currently used in ORPGs.

FOUR IMPORTANT DIFFERENCES BETWEEN PLAYER KILLERS AND NPC
MONSTERS

The first and most important difference between NPC Monsters and Player
Killers is their Interactive Intelligence. The Interactive Intelligence
of Monsters
consists of the crude expletives voiced either when attacking, attacked,
wounded, in response to key words of Player Characters, or in response
to other
simplistic circumstances. The AI of more feral monsters limits their
Interactive
Intelligence to the animalistic clamor of non-sentient beasts. Player
Killers on
the other hand, controlled by Gamers, have a significantly more complex
Interactive Intelligence, exhibiting a wide range of emotions and
actions which an
artificial intelligence cannot, at this time, hope to simulate.

What fault could Players possibly find with real, complex, opponents
which
makes the shallow Interaction of NPCs more desirable? The fault relates,
as
many do, to In-context Playing, to Role-Playing. In many current ORPGs,
if
Player Killers choose to interact with their victims, their words are
generally
out-of-context, one-sided, and commonly offensive. The result of this
communication is often worse than if they had remained silent. Instead
of seeing
an intelligent and deadly foe, Role-Players see trigger happy Gamers who
have
no concept of Role-Playing and no intention of playing In-context.
Irritated and
disrupted, they are completely disgusted by the encounter and pray to
see less
PKs and more NPC Monsters on their journeys. NPC Monsters who, though
simplistic, will not break immersion with a "FuK U bEYaTCH!" Hardly
surprising
that ORPG Players feel resentful towards PKs. An out-of-context
Interactive
Intelligence combines with the three other problem areas to make Player
Killers
the most hated force in ORPGs.

Strategic Intelligence is another important difference between NPC
Monsters and
Player Killers in ORPGs. No matter the coding skill of the ORPG
developer, the
combat strategy of Player Killers will always eventually become more
effective
than that of simple AI controlled creatures. This, of course, has the
potential to
be a more challenging and interesting experience for Players, who must
now
learn to outsmart dynamic players, instead of simply repeating the
"solution" for
static AI creatures. Combine superior Strategic Intelligence with a lack
of
Interactive Intelligence, however, and there is a great potential for
calamity.

Rather than Role-Playing intelligent evil characters with depraved goals
and
motivations, Player Killers choose to simply go on homicidal sprees. And
go on
them again. And Again. Showing little engaging character traits, they
form large
bands which exult in mass murder and surprise ambushes. These attacks
are
frequent, coordinated, and repetitive, often targeting characters of
lesser levels or
in smaller groups. In these engagements, Role-Playing characters see
little of
Player Killers' personality, and when they do see character it is
generally in the
form of out-of-context gloating rather than any intelligent
Role-Playing. Therefore,
more players face humiliation and defeat at the hands of Player Killers,
their
deaths rendered meaningless by out-of-context play. This, the
overbearing
presence of an unusual multitude of "Serial Killers from Another World,"
consolidates the hatred felt for Player Killers.

An often over-looked concept related to the idea of Strategic
Intelligence is the
concept of Location. NPC Monsters are generally restricted to one
region, or
even one building, and rarely go off searching for prey. Even Monsters
who DO
search for prey will seldom journey out of their "assigned" area and
never out of
their region, a region which players note and remember as "high level"
or "low
level." (ie- The Wild Men of Aruykhan make their home in the South
Eastern
Jungles, Adventurers Beware!) Marked like this, players are given a
degree of
safety in a fantasy world, able to avoid places where the dangers would
far
outweigh their ability to deal with them. For Player Killers, however,
such
restrictions are very much reduced. Usually, the only limits which do
exist are
the immediate area of towns and cities which have accounted their
actions as
criminal. Not a terrible limitation, as they generally get all they need
from other,
friendly players, or if worse comes to worse, a "mule" character.
Lacking
significant restrictions, Player Killers are free to ambush and murder
in areas
where newbies and lower level characters travel. This is not
entertaining for the
doomed victims and just marginally profitable for the Player Killers.
Consequently, the entire world becomes a dangerous playground for Player
Killers, newbie and experienced areas alike, and weakened or lesser
level
players are safe nowhere. If this process is not stopped then
experienced
players and newbies grow resentful toward Player Killers, who profit at
the
expense of defenseless players.

Very important to the discussion of PKs vs. Monsters is the idea of
Looting.
Strictly controlled AI looting generally limits monsters in ORPGs to
looting only
what items their race generally desires, possibly leaving for a
resurrected player
(or his friends to keep for him) many items which will prevent death or
unconsciousness from being a complete material loss. Player Killers, on
the
other hand, are usually wholly ruthless in the items which they leave
behind for
victims to later recover. If a PK kill is made, then armor, weapons,
reagents,
gems, and any other items considered valuable in the fantasy world are
taken,
and thus long hours of a player's work will be rendered useless, as the
Player
Killer gains the benefit from it. The disparity between the loot taken
by a monster
and by a Player Killer is sometimes THE major reason that encounters
with PKs
are avoided while monsters are sought out.

IS THERE A SOLUTION?

To recap, the four major differences between Monsters and Player Killers
which
reflect badly on Player Killers are the following: Interactive
Intelligence, Strategic
Intelligence, Location Limitation, and Looting Habits. Therefore, any
comprehensive solution to make Player Killers as looked forward to as
NPC
Monsters would have to do the following: make sure Player Killers Role
Played a
diverse and interesting spectrum of character behavior, or at the very
least did
not act out-of-context, combine Interactive Intelligence with Strategic
Intelligence
rather than just allowing/encouraging Serial Killer tactics, insure that
certain
locations were relatively "safe," even outside of major population
centers, and
insure that Player Killers have the same limitations as Monsters in
regards to
looting.

Any measures to counteract the effects or cause of Player Killing can be
one of
two types, called here Discretionary and Automatic, as well as mixes of
the two.
Discretionary measures are those which create situations where Player
Killing
may be inconvenient, but is possible, while Automatic measures are
measures
programmed into the ORPGs game engine which directly affect Player
Killing.
Automatic measures may be subdivided further into Player Effected, Staff
Effected, or PC-Effected .

Examples

An example of a Player-Effected Automatic Measure would be the
PK-Switch.
Automatic because once turned on it functions automatically, Player
effected
because a Player must choose to turn it on by some method before it will
function. If enabling the PK-Switch requires the completion of an
arduous quest,
then that measure will be partially Discretionary (It is up to his
discretion whether
or not to risk death and attempt the quest). Often PK measures are a mix
of
Automatic and Discretionary. Alternatively, if once characters reach a
certain
level the ORPG developer could choose to grant them PK status or not,
then the
PK-Switch would be a Staff-Effected Automatic Measure. If the Computer
automatically changed a character's status to +pvp after he/she reached
a
certain level, then the method would be PC-Effected Automatic. A
Discretionary
measure might include setting guard routes on major roads, and leaving
it up to
a Player's discretion to weigh the benefits of Player Killing versus the
disadvantages of being caught by guards.

Whether Automatic, Discretionary, or a mix of both, most ORPG developers
devise systems which will neutralize the four major problems of Player
Killing,
attempting to make it a valuable asset to the game, (as Monsters are),
rather
than a hated phenomenon. Such systems could be a general solution
attempting
to cover more than one of the four problem areas, or a solution largely
focused
on one of them. By a focused solution, developers hope that the other
three
areas will be affected as well, because of their interrelated nature.
Such a
focused solution, however, has distinct advantages and disadvantages. 

ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGE OF FOCUSED AUTOMATIC
SOLUTIONS

Automatic Location Focused PK Measures and the PK-Switch

Location Focused Measures are a current trend of various online ORPGs.
Focused Location solutions to Player Killing limit the area(s) where
Player Killing
is possible by coding in the game engine to either neutralize damage
done, limit
who can attack or be attacked, or simply disallow PvP combat in Player
vs.
Player Combat ("-PvP") forbidden Locations. This allows "safe-havens" to
be
created, where players can adventure secure in the knowledge that their
surroundings will remain only as dangerous as they have mentally marked
it,
safe from PK's, and always suitable for particular levels of characters
to fight
against Monsters.

The "PK-Switch", a common Player Killing measure, is essentially a
Location
based solution, making the entire world (the Location) +PvP if it is
enabled, and
-PvP if it is disabled. Currently the PK Switch is seen by many as a
flawless
method for limiting PvP combat, and certainly it is very effective.
Unfortunately for
the gaming community, however, it exhibits the problems of most Location
based solutions, some of the faults of which can be understood by
examining
the PK Switch.

The hype for the "Perfect PK-Switch" is similar to this:

Those who do not want to be killed by players won't be, thus allowing
those who
want to play in a certain style of play do so without disruptions. 

This argument sounds very convincing until we ask ourselves a question.
Do
players really want to be killed by Monsters? No? So why not a Monster
Switch?
This solution, however, would prevent players from having bad
experiences with
Player Killers AND Monsters, yet it would not set realistic limits
within a fantasy
world, or provide the sense of challenge which makes accomplishment
exciting.
It is the Possibility of death which produces this sense of challenge.
So
ultimately the hype for the PK-Switch is altered, now reading as:

Those who don't want the POSSIBILTY of being killed by players won't
have it,
and those that do will have it, therefore allowing those who want to
play in a
certain style do so without disruptions.

Does the PK-Switch do this? Yes. Flawless now? No. One must consider
that
not all Player Killers are created equal. True some Player Killers are
immature
and heartless irritants, yet some are also Interactively Intelligent on
a
Role-Playing or at least an In-context level, and contribute greatly to
the
excitement and immersive quality of a game. Would any classical fantasy
novel
be complete without the corrupt and maniacal Super-Villain? Role Played
villains
have the potential to be the most interesting "opponents" in
Role-Playing games,
and few Role-Players would wish to completely disallow ALL combat with
Real
Opponents, only with the few who act out-of-context and immaturely.
Therefore,
the final, rendition of a Perfect PK-Switch would be the following:

Those who don't want the POSSIBILTY of being killed by some players
won't
have it, and those that do will have it, therefore allowing those who
want to play
in a certain style do so without disruptions.

If the PK-Switch fulfilled this requirement, then it would be perfect.
Unfortunately,
with the insertion of the "some" clause, the needs of a "perfect
PK-switch" go
beyond what the PK-Switch actually delivers, rendering it, although an
adequate
alternative, imperfect for the most enjoyable Role-Playing experience.
In a
Role-Playing Game, this is indeed a fault. 

There also exist a few other disadvantages to Location Focused PK
Measures.
In -PvP zones, for instance, where characters cannot attack each other,
the
most vile villain may taunt and verbally abuse other players, who are
powerless
to intervene or Role Play the "good citizen." In a PK-Switch
circumstance, this
becomes -PvPs taunting +PvPs, or perhaps -PvPs who are powerless to help
their +PvP friends defend against other +PvPs. The existence of these
zones
abutting battlefields also presents the potential for player abuse, not
something
to be taken lightly in ORPGs. The final issue of balance, where and how
much of
the world should be +PvP and how much should be -PvP, is a difficult
issue
which may take much balancing to decide, with proponents of both camps
constantly asking for more area.

Some Examples of Location Focused PK Measures

PK Switch- +PvP may attack and aid other +PvPs yet no combat is allowed
between -PvP and other players, except in a mutually agreed upon dual.
Characters are -PvP by default and must perform a quest to become +PvP.

Pure Location Solution- PvP combat may only take place within defined
regions
or in mutually agreed upon duels.

Limited Monster Solution- Characters may play various humanoid monsters
yet
may only ATTACK other players within a bounded region, though they may
be
attacked and defend in others. Monsters must act suitably like Monsters
or risk
losing monster status when snooping GMs see they are not fulfilling
their look. 

Automatic Loot Focused PK Measures

If one of the greatest problems of Player Killing is the material wealth
lost by
victims, then the answer would seem simple; limit looting. This requires
that
either the contents of a victim's body at death contain only a few,
valuable items,
with the rest remaining with the "spirit," or that a Player Killer is
allowed to loot
only a few items from a corpse (though the latter implementation
produces
recovery problems). The Loot Focused solution seems straightforward and
simple, with minimum interference, yet still has many problems. Some
would
claim that Loot Focused measures alone are not strong enough, for unless
other
controls are put in place, Player Killers who are discouraged by the
small loot of
PKing may be spurred by this to Kill MORE instead of less, to make up
lost
wealth. This also does not affect the Interactive Intelligence of PKs,
only their
incentive to PK, so while it MAY reduce the number of Player Killers, it
will not
affect how those that do Player Kill act. Also, much of a Player
Killer's impetus
is the pure joy of Player Killing rather than the wealth gained from it.
Therefore,
simple loot focused Player Killer solutions are extremely lacking.

Some Loot Focused PK Measures

Monster Loot Limitations- Add the same limitations which Monsters loot
under to Player Killers, so they can only deprive their victims of a FEW
treasures. (As most solutions, this can be implemented in several ways)
Possibly putting no limitation on the looting of Evil characters.
Another
implementation of this would be to provide incentives for characters to
stay in Groups (or code the engine to differentiate between groups) and
allow the attacking group/individual to only loot a number of items
while
the defender has the option to loot without limitation.

Level Loot Limitations- Prevent Player Killers from looting characters
of lower
levels than themselves.

Loot 'Fence' Solution- Mark PvP looted items as "stolen" unless taken in
an
engine supported war/duel, and have only a few NPC buyers in the ORPG
world
who will buy Stolen Items, and then only in specific amounts. 

Automatic Strategic Intelligence Focused PK Measures

Similar to Loot Focused solutions, Strategic Intelligence Focused
solutions may
be isolated in that they have little effect on the other three problem
areas except
by lowering the overall Player Killer population. By limiting the
Strategic Strength
of Player Killers, other players can be given a fighting chance, and if
it is much
harder to successfully Player Kill, then perhaps less Players will take
that route,
and the problem of "PK Mobs" will be solved (as there will be less PKs
to form
mobs). An example of a Strategic Intelligence Focused solution might be
limiting
the number of times a character can die in PvP combat per day. While
this
would not erase the Player Killer problem, it may be more realistic or
easily Role
Played than location based solutions, where Players cannot die at ALL in
some
areas. It would also prevent players from being continually killed by
other
players, somewhat reducing the Mass Murder problem.

Strategic Intelligence Focused PK Measures

Death Limitation- Limit the amount of times a character can be killed in
PvP
combat, unless in mutually agreed upon duels.

Player Death and Unconsciousness- Institute Player Death and
Unconsciousness. Player death being meted out only by very high level
monsters. Give Player Killers the option of causing death or
unconsciousness,
though provide severe penalty if she/he chooses death. (ie- Evil for
life, no shop
will deal with him, gets no experience and not allowed to loot, an
in-context-chance to die himself, guards will search for him and KILL
him on
sight, his location is tracked and published frequently on boards to
aspiring
heros, etc.)

Surprise Prevention- If a character with a "Bad Reputation" (in
whichever method
of reputation tracking the ORPG uses) is near to a player character,
provide an
in-context alert which prevents ALL encounters with PKs from being "over
in a
second" ambushes. IE- Your spine tingles and you know great evil is
nearby

Automatic Interactive Intelligence Focused PK Measures

Inherent in Role-Playing an evil character are realistic limits on how
much murder
takes place. There are only so many Serial Killers in any world, and so
if Players
decide to Role Play evil characters then in addition to making
encounters more
enjoyable for the player, this type of play will also curb all the other
3 Player
Killing problems. In other words, Role-Playing Villains might choose
challenging
fights and Role Play before they begin rather than going on Mass Ambush
Serial
Killing Sprees. Villains might also might be picky about what loot they
take, and
they will likely stick to their own "home" region. Thus, a solution
which affects
the Interactive Intelligence problem area has the potential to be a
highly effective
general solution. Unfortunately, though this type of solution is
seemingly the
most efficient, the problem here lies with Implementation.

Interactive Intelligence includes a wide range of Player Behavior, and
not only
language (which can be censored through filters), and therefore a pure
and
comprehensive Automatic Interactive Intelligence Focused PK Measure is
very
difficult to implement except through human intervention. As the issue
of bias
arises if this solution is Player-Effected, the only recourse is
generally
Staff-Effected Interactive Intelligence Solutions. (though
Player-Effected is
possible) Here is where the problems of Interactive Intelligence
solutions rise to
the surface.

The most publicly disputed problem with this method is the problem of
Manpower. With thousands of players online, the idea of differentiating
between
In-context and Out-of-context players to enact a Player Killing solution
may be
time consuming and expensive. Even if such a solution is limited (for
example
staff members only make judgements on whether players can attack other
players once the players reach higher levels) then with multitude of
players the
Manpower requirements are decreased but still significant. Combine this
with the
regular expense of hiring regular "GM's" to maintain, upgrade, and
oversee the
game, and we discover that only an extremely "tight" and considered
solution
will be economical for ORPG companies.

Another problem with Interactive Intelligence solutions has to do with
human
judgment management and perception of it. In Online Role-Playing Games,
response from consumers is fast and sometimes violent. Judgement Calls
by
ORPG Staff, therefore, will quickly produce an intense response from
those of
the Gaming Community who feel slighted by GM decisions in a
Staff-Effected
Interactive Intelligence solution. For example, the player who is not
allowed to
attack other players may go to a message board and accuse staff members
of
favoritism or misjudgment. This effect multiplied a number of times may
snowball
and create frustration and disappointment in the gaming community. This
resentment has the possibility of driving players to the ORPG's
competition,
something which no developer would appreciate. Finally, the management
of
flexible human judgment is a difficult concept. Who is to say that one
GM's
decision is not completely arbitrary and actually IS based on
favoritism? Is it
possible to create general standards to judge aberrant behavior by?
While this
can be done, it is again something which developers may have to take
great care
in doing properly.

Player-Effected solutions, such as allowing characters to flag
themselves Role
Player, non-Role Player, or both, and only showing them the text of
those who
are similarly flagged, may be another Interactive Intelligence Measure.
This
measure, however, deals with the Perception of the language of Player
Killers
(by possibly filtering out out-of-context speech) rather than any other
aspect.
Still, though a crude solution, there may be benefits in something like
this.

Some Examples of Interactive Intelligence Solutions

Monster Filtering- Allowing high/mid level players the privilege of
eventually
playing monsters or Player Killers, limited to a certain location, but
having
Staff-GMs check on those players now and then and turn them -PvP if they
do
not properly play Monsters. (In this solution playing Monsters or +PvP
characters is a privilege for those who can enhance the game experience,
not a
right, and carries with it certain responsibilities)

Name Filtering- Have GMs delete any names of characters they see which
are
blatantly out-of-context.

Text Filtering- Allow characters to tag themselves Role Player, Non-Role
Player,
or Both and only allow their character to see text from other players
similarly
flagged.

DISCRETIONARY SOLUTIONS

A less "brute force" method of limiting Player Killing in ORPGs is by
Discretionary Solutions. Such solutions are not necessarily large
additions to
the game code which forbid or limit Player Killing, but are instead
methods of
working in-context with a game engine to encourage would-be player
killers not
to take that road. This is done by providing clear incentives to stay
non-PK and
grave consequences if they choose to Player Kill.

A common example of such a method is town guards. Town guards may be
programmed to swarm any evil ranked (by the ORPG reputation system)
player
who comes into or close to the towns. Thus Player Killers must learn to
live
without the amenities of a good-aligned town, and such players may be
encouraged not to Player Kill because of the difficulties inherent in
doing so.

Discretionary solutions are effective in the way that they are generally
clearly
in-context, without using any wildly unbelievable magic or method, but
also may
be quite weak. Most player killers, using mules, "good-aligned" friends,
or a
variety of other methods, are enabled to avoid the penalties of town
guards, and
using various other techniques enable Player Killers to avoid many
different
discretionary methods or even abuse them to provide themselves with
advantages. Realism vs. Weakness is the issue. Discretionary solutions
alone
may not produce the desired situation, yet game developers often use
them in
combination with Automatic Solutions to solve the problem of Player
Killing.

Examples of Discretionary Solutions

Player Policing- Make it easy for Heroes to find players who go to
excess in
Player Killing, (ie- a reliable reports put Sir Jurnat the Evil, charged
with 50
murders, in the Red Wood forest) thus having the Players participating
in solving
the Player Killing problem.

Limiting Mass Transit- Simply hindering the escape means of Player
Killers, by
limiting Mass Transit methods by which they may easily escape justice
may
also help solve Player Killer problems.

Guard Forays- Have powerful guard patrols, along with NPC mage guards,
travel
the routes between towns, attacking evil players they find along the
way.

CONCLUSION

To conclude, from the four major problems caused by Player Killing, to
the
myriad of possible Automatic and Discretionary solutions to these
problems,
Player Killing and the solution to its disadvantages is an extremely
complex
issue. It involves looking at how it will affect not only the actions of
Player Killers,
but also how it will affect the environment, thoughts, and actions of
other players,
and what other problems may be encountered when implementing it. The
assertions that the PK-Switch is a "perfect" solution and that no
solution is
needed are false. The perfect solution, I am sure, is still possible.
This solution
will give ORPGs realism and balance, and will make the ORPG experience
extremely enjoyable for Players and Player Killers alike. It was the
intent of this
article to instigate deep thought on this issue, so that, at length,
some aspiring
Player or Developer will find the Ultimate Solution. When this happens,
it is my
sincere dream that Role-Players will appreciate Player Killers for the
benefits
they have the potential to give, and enjoy our experiences with them as
much as
we enjoy facing the evil NPC denizens of Online Worlds.

***

AUTHOR'S OPINIONS

I hope you enjoyed or learned something from this article, now let me
tell you
more of my opinions on Player Killing and the PK-Switch, which you have
probably already guessed. Keep in mind that this part of the editorial
may go off
on a tangent, and may not be quite as relevant to the topic as the rest
of the
article.

The intention of this article was to provoke thought. It has been rather
long and
relatively academic, and for any who have struggled through to the end,
I admire
your tenacity. As I stated before, I didn't set out to give a definite
solution, just to
show you the many problems and possible solutions, and hope that someone
starts picking from all of them, inventing his own, and finally
synthesizes the
Perfect Solution. Maybe it will be you, maybe it will be me, but only
with hard
work and conscientious testing will it be found. For us, the RPG
Community, I
hope it is found soon.

You may find it surprising, but personally I dislike intrusive solutions
to Player
Killing. True, I dislike even more a world where you cannot adventure
without
being killed, but I am fairly sure that well thought-out and powerful
Discretionary
measures, and perhaps a simple Automatic measure or two will get the job
done. Now all I have to do is invent it, and prove it, and I pray that
you beat me to
it! For any measure that is implemented, whether Automatic or
Discretionary, I
feel it is extremely important to involve the ORPG storyline in
justifying the
measure. I think the PK-Switch, if justified like this, should be
farther along its
way towards being the Perfect Solution. I feel the PK-switch is a
commendable
solution, yet not perfect. Whether modifying or replacing the PK-Switch,
or
replacing whichever solution precedes it, the Perfect Solution will
come, and we
will find it. 

As for In-context GM intrusion, I am ALL FOR IT. In ORPGs, in
pen'n'paper
RPGs (what else?!), in focused Chat Rooms and Message Boards, in PBEM
games, in MUDs, in everything RPG related. However, this is contingent
on the
fact that the GMs can be trusted. And, no matter how cynical I am and
have
been convinced to be (yes, I know of foul ORPG GMs), I am overall a
trusting
person, are you? I trust game companies, because if they intrude in
their game,
then they know that it is their financial future that may be affected by
it. I think
that GM Interactive Intelligence solutions in addition to Discretionary
solutions, if
implemented very "tightly" and efficiently, have the potential to make
our ORPG
experience a great one. Come to think of it, if the obscure deadfalls
associated
with most Focused PK Measures are avoided, they all have potential.
Personally
though, I'm going to look for the Perfect Solution in the area of
Discretionary
Measures. (and perhaps a little Staff- Effected Automatic I.I.)

What is the most powerful Discretionary measure? There are a countless
number of them, but the most "important" is one which deals with a
variety of
issues and a very important equation.

More Unique Challenge = Less Player Killers

This is practically self-explanatory. "Unique" challenges refers to a
variety of
quests/monsters in a variety of different environments, with at the
monsters
having at least acceptable AIs which cannot be exploited. Unique implies
that a
later upgrade to an ORPG intended to provide more challenges, yet which
simply
raises the Health of various monsters, or creates similar one with few
alterations,
will not be sufficient and will not provide a good Discretionary
solution for Player
Killing. Unique implies that if there is a method of game engine
manipulation
which allows players to deal with all challenges similarly, thus
negating the
"Unique" aspect of challenges, then players may become frustrated with a
lack
of challenge and begin to Player Kill. This of course only deals with
the group of
players which turn to Player Killing in response to a lack of unique
challenge in
the ORPG world, yet that is an important group. That group may or may
not
choose to Role-Play if they turn to PvP to provide themselves with
challenge,
and if not, the effect will be serious.

I like Role-Playing interactions with mature Evil Characters. I like the
thrill of
vying with them for victory. I like the excitement of dueling to the
death with
them. But I don't like being ambushed 10 times in a row and killed by 5
simultaneous spells every time I enter a dungeon. If that happens I like
there to
be in-context methods of retaliation, with the chance to succeed. I
think that
limiting Mass Transit Systems in ORPGs will go far towards this goal.
In-context
solutions to the problems of Player Killers must be developed. Solutions
which
have realistic limits, and allow those encounters and ambushes to not be
eliminated, but to be limited, not be punished, but to be put in-context
and to
good use, not be flamed by Victims, but to be Role Played by Villains.

In the end, the enjoyment we get out of a Role-Playing Game will be
decided by
how good are its Role-Playing Gamers, so let's ROLE PLAY! (I mean PKs
too.)

(What does RPG stand for again?)

'Til,

'Sayeed.

PS- Especially in this topic, comments, ideas for the Perfect Solution,
experiences with the PK-Switch, and other constructive criticisms and
observations are much appreciated.

Credits

Again, I'd like to thank Dirge (zep at mediaone.net) for his helpful
feedback which
guided me away from the major pitfalls with associated with this
article. 

I'd like to thank that guy who posted that Quake II should be bundled
with
ORPGs for people to relieve certain suppressed emotions, this all
started as a
response to that post.

I'd like to thank anyone who posts this, hopefully it will help, because
it's up to
us.

I'd like to thank the ORPG companies who are going through the arduous
task of
testing Pkilling Solutions.

I'd like to thank anyone who has the energy to think and discuss ORPGs,
in the
hope that by discussing them, she/he will help improve them... And
anyone who
I've forgotten...

======
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