Free For All PVP (aka Deathmatch) is one of the most controversal subjects you can ever discuss. Depending upon the view of a gamer on this subject you can normally determine everything else about them. Many that like FFA PVP (at least in theory) also usually like the idea of a Sandbox game, no Levels, no Classes, and other extremes.
In order to determine it’s popularity amongst devoted PVP fans I’d suggest loading up Call of Duty 4 and checking out server activity. This is no where near fully accurate but it at least gives us some clue what many prefer. Team Deathmatch appears to be vastly more popular amongst PVP types (hence the popularity on Team Fortress 2, Counterstrike, and Battlefield series).
So then, at least amongst FPS gamers Team based PVP is in the lead. However, there is one flaw- most leading FPS games include friendly fire. Friendly Fire adds a nice dimension of realism- many times causing the death of an undisciplined force of players that lob around grenades and such. This concept is fairly foreign to MMORPGs which is a shame it’s a very nice anti-zerg feature. Would be very nice if we could at least get the concept of friendly fire into MMORPGs.
Next, I see a lot of posts whereas players label FFA PVP as ‘meaningless PVP’. Perhaps this may seem that way to them because they are accustomed to game developers leading them by the hand- giving them quests and rewards (whether they win or lose). No, FFA PVP is rather a sandbox element of sorts whereas players have the freedom to engage in PVP whereever/whenever they see fit. Here are a few reasons why FFA PVP can have meaning:
- Gives players the freedom to fight against enemy Guilds
- Gives players the freedom to help self regulate the server. Imagine if FFA PVP was in play and you see an Asian farmer harvesting/grinding. Well now you have the freedom to kill the farmer and if looting is in effect you can take his items. Self regulation.
- Gives players the power to discipline griefers, ninja looters, and exploiters. In World of Warcraft if someone steals your epix there is really nothing you can do about it. If FFA PVP was in play, you could take back what is yours.
- Gives players the freedom to fix Race vs Race imbalances. For instance, in City of Heroes- Hero vs Villain PVP is very imbalanced. It was desirable for the developers to provide FFA zones to allow players to fix game imbalances.
Of course, along with FFA PVP comes a bucket of potential problems like how to deal with griefing, etc. I’ve seen some really great blogs on integration of Justice systems and so forth. Now, there are other systems that can get us fairly close to FFA PVP such as a well done Factions system that allows players to run it (something akin to Guilds but on a more organized level). This could almost get us there and at the sametime- give players the freedom to self regulate.
One of the main problems with FFA PVP is that it is hostile to Casual audiences that do not want to group up. Additionally, it is obviously unkind to the less skilled. Lastly, there are a handful of gamers from Ultima Online that have a knee-jerk reaction at the very mention of the word even though there are FFA PVP systems out there (like EVE Online) that has provided such a great atmosphere the EVE community reacts very violently to the thought of a 100% PVE centric server. It’s simply unneeded. Right now one of the best FFA PVP games out there that I’ve seen is EVE Online.