For today's Dev Blog post I'd like to dive into the concept of PvP as it currently is planned for the game. Note that although I will be discussing some specific mechanics as we currently envision them (for example, the way that you become a "Bandit" for attacking players), none of these are set in stone. Instead, I will mostly discuss our overall design goals for what we want the experience of the game to be, and we'll continue to tweak the specific mechanics in the game until we achieve those goals throughout the Alpha and Beta process.
Soulbound vs Tradable Items
Why provide PvP in the game at all outside of arenas or battleground games? The primary reason is because we want to have a player-driven economy. Rather than having NPCs which sell everything you need to get in the game, we want players to play a key role in providing goods and services to each other that are necessary for the whole community to advance the game. However, part of a player-driven economy must include competition for resources.
In a game with only PvE, competition for resources naturally devolves into "whoever plays the game the most has the most" -- since all that's needed to get what you want is a willingness to grind mindlessly until you acquire a lot of it. That's one of the primary reasons why bots and the like are so prevalent in these MMOs -- there's no actual competition between players so any mindless automaton can achieve what needs to be done.
In OrbusVR, every item in the game has one of two states: soulbound or tradable. Most items in the game are soulbound as soon as you acquire them. That includes all gear from dungeon instances, quest rewards, and many drops from monsters. These items can never be traded to another player (or sold), and therefore do not affect the economy. They also can never be lost once acquired. So you never have to worry about losing that awesome new sword you just got while running a dungeon or a raid.
However, some items are tradable. Nearly everything that crafters in the game produce are tradable. Many crafting ingredients are tradable. A very small portion of loot from open world bosses is tradable (but not primary gear drops). Basically, if it would make sense that you would sell it to another player, or use it to make something to sell, then it's tradable. All tradable items drop from shared, open-world content, such as killing groups of monsters or gathering resources in the Wilds zones. And if you die, your tradable items will be dropped for others to loot.
Where PvP Happens and Where It Doesn't
Another facet of this system that's important to us is that you know what you're getting yourself into. We don't want people sitting right outside of town "griefing" other players who are just trying to level up from 4 to 5 on their first character.
Inspired by games such as EVE Online, every zone in the game has a "safety rating." For example, the first starting zone is a Sanctuary, meaning no PvP is allowed at all. As you play through the game, the next set of zones you'll encounter will be Secure. These are the zones you'll play in while leveling from 1-20 (the max level at launch). In these areas, the Order and the Guild have a vested interest in keeping the roads clear of bandits, and so guards are plentiful, and attacking another player is going to get you killed very quickly. It would really only be worth it to attack someone if you see a high-level merchant walking through with a heavy pack on their back and no protection. And even then it's a toss-up :-). The last set of zones are the Wilds, which are Unsafe. These are lawless lands far away from the cities and villages of the realm. In these zones, you can be attacked at any time, but if you are attacked by someone else that person will become a bandit (more on that later). These are max-level zones which feature the most powerful crafting ingredients, the entrances to the max-level dungeons, etc. The goal is for 99% of the PvP to be happening in these Unsafe areas.
If you acquire a tradable item in the Wilds (such as a rare flower for brewing a potion), your mission is to get it back to town without losing it. It's up to you if you want to risk sticking around gathering a lot, if you want to go in solo or take a group, etc. Once you've gotten back to town with it, it's safely stored in your personal chest where you can access it later to use it or take it to sell at the market.
In addition to all of this open-world PvP, we will also have organized PvP for "sport" available (although that may come in a post-launch update). In particular we have an idea we're calling the "Grand Tournament" which is basically like the Hunger Games; we'll discuss that more in a future post.
Life on the Wrong Side of the Law
Okay, so we've established that there is competition for resources, and where that competition will take place. The last question to answer is: what happens to the bad guys?
By default, everyone in the game starts with their "PK Safety" on. This means that you can't accidentally attack another player who just happens to walk between yourself and a monster you're killing. In addition to that, players in the same party can never attack each other. If you turn your PK Saftey off, then you can attack other players in the game (as long as you're not in a Sanctuary).
Attacking another player for any reason instantly makes you a Bandit. While you are a Bandit, other players in the area can see your location and can attack you (even if their PK Safety is on) without penalty. Other players cannot aid you unless they are in your party. A bounty is also assigned to you, which can be collected by the player which kills you. After a time, this bounty will expire and your Bandit status will clear. It will also clear if you are killed. All guards in the game (prevalent in Secure areas but uncommon in Unsafe areas) will also kill you on sight. This means you can't just take any loot the person you killed just dropped and run back to town with it, as you'll never make it past the guards there -- instead you have to wait in the Wilds as a bandit until your bounty expires.
If you continue to kill other players, the bounty will grow larger and the time it takes for the bounty to clear will continue to increase. When you die, rather than respawning at the closest graveyard in the zone, you will instead respawn at the Jail, which is located all the way back in the first zone. In addition to that, it's very unlikely you'll be able to make your way back to your body before your tombstone expires, which means you just took a very expensive loss to the durability of your gear.
These penalties are designed around one central idea: bandits should exist in the game to provide competition for resources, not to grief other players. If you get a small group together and go into the Wilds looking for PvP, we want you targeting people who have "chosen" to participate in the challenge by carrying around tradable (and therefore droppable) loot. If you instead choose to kill people who are just walking around, you've likely just given up a lot (in durability and in your own time playing the game) in exchange for nothing. In addition to that, it should be harder to gain resources by being a bandit than it is to gain resources by harvesting them yourself. We will tweak these penalties to find the right balance. Because if you are a skilled group and you come across another group of players who have valuable items, we want you to go for it. We want to have that competition. But we don't want people running around ruining everyone else's day for no reason other than to make other people suffer.
In addition to the above, there are advanced mechanics associated with this, such as becoming so infamous that a Wanted Poster is issued for you with a large bounty on your head that can be collected by players who have the quest even Secure areas. There are also rumors of a secret cult you can make an offering to who will assassinate particularly troublesome players for the right price...
How We See This Working In Practice
Let's look at a couple of practical examples of common gameplay and see how we anticipate this working in practice.
You need a gear upgrade. Gear drops from dungeon instances. These items will be soulbound as soon as you get them, and instances are not PvP zones (since everyone in the instance is in the same party). Once you get your new sword, you can equip it safely and not worry about losing it. However, nothing that drops during your dungeon run can be sold to anyone else, so it's really just about improving yourself personally.
You go into the Wilds to collect ingredients to make a powerful potion that is sought after by high-end players for combat. You should definitely bring a bodyguard or two, because if you acquire what you want you have to get it from the Wilds back to town without someone taking it from you. Once you've got it safely back to town, you can store it in your personal chest as long as you'd like where it's totally safe. Then you can choose to use it yourself if you're an Alchemist, or you can sell it to someone else so they can make a potion with it.
You're an Alchemist, and you brew up a powerful potion. The potion is tradable and you want to sell it. You can choose to either stay in your current town (where no PvP is allowed) and get buyers to come to you, or you can make a trek to a far away town closer to the high-end dungeons where players may be more willing to buy it for a higher price, but on the way there you have to protect your goods.
You go into the Wilds on the way to a dungeon. You have no interest in acquiring trade goods to sell to anyone else. Someone could still attack you, but since there would be no reward for doing so (since they can clearly see you're not carrying anything that could drop), and since the penalty of dying while a bandit is high, you should be relatively safe. On the other hand, you may see someone attack someone else and become a bandit while walking by, and then you can take justice into your own hands by helping bring them down.
I hope that provides some insight into the system and how we see it functioning. You can discuss this post on our forums here: https://community.orbusvr.com/t/dev-blog-design-doc-dungeons-and-instancing-pvp-and-the-wilds/617