PvP + PvM = PvPM

hunter render
Tank NPC Enemy; the Halo Hunter
I was chuckling a bit after reading BBspot and their report on the AI being dumped in Halo 3 for cheaper outsourced human intelligence.

However, it is an interesting possibility to have players partially take over the roles usually assigned purely to the AI – making the players Player Monsters as it were.

Currently there are really only two core setups for combat in all games (single and multiplayer):

  • Player vs. Monster (PvM).
  • Player vs. Player (PvP).

The first is the staple of all offline singleplayer games. All objects apart from the player are computer controlled, and fighting is against the games AI. This also occurs in many multiplayer games, especially massive multiplayer games, where fighting mobs of monsters is common for groups.

The second is used in many multiplayer games, and somewhat defines many of them. First person shooters like Counterstrike are built on it. Some massive multiplayer online games (MMOG’s) also use PvP combat infrequently. This is something that can annoy many and doesn’t seemingly fit when there is PvM combat available. On a personal level this has turned me off playing quite a few MMOG’s.

This is where I would have thought Player vs. Player Monster or PvPM would work best, or at least add an entirely new way to play.

Singleplayer experiences could have it as an optional mode – a difficult one to design, since many rely on the AI not being proactive in fighting the player(s), so it would play differently. Some players would highly enjoy playing as the enemies, as Halo 2 suggests with the Elites being playable in the singleplayer. I still think the Hunters (Top right) and other races from the Halo universe would be interesting to play as, defeating the cocky Spartan-armoured players with much more clever assaults and playstyles!

For multiplayer games, where players usually group up against AI-controlled monsters, the tactical nature is missing apart from preparation. This is because the AI is static, and has simple patterns to its attacks and movements. Obviously, CPU time is problematic and thinking time limited for the massive amount of monsters in every dungeon.

wow dragon
World of Warcraft
However, if in a well designed way players were able to take control of the enemies, or at least help command them, a whole new realm of complex thoughtful enemies are provided for challenging players. Rather then have players fight each other head on, they instead fight the (non-profiting) monsters controlled by players. If there was some kind of special setting to do this in, since an enclosed space would be needed or boundaries added so players controlling monsters (especially powerful ones) didn’t make it outside the allotted space, then there would be a good controlled environment for the battles to take place – such as the Dragon’s lair, left.

Add in monster objectives, such as killing a certain amount of enemies, or stopping them for a certain length of time, or defending a specific hidden object on one of the enemies (who can obviously retreat) for a time would allow the monsters to “win” while the players playing them would obliviously not be able to level up, gather loot or adventure, but be satisfied they can achieve something – as well as the benefit of playing an otherwise inaccessible character. I am sure many would love to become a huge dragon, or a space pirate, or a NPC henchman, especially if they can do special things.

On the normal player side, fighting a thinking objective-archiving enemy would be;

  • Strategic – since many players would know how to break combat strategies using the monsters they have, and monsters can sometimes be tough to kill when AI controlled
  • Safe – as much as monsters can kill them normally, they will not be killed to be looted or for the sake of being killed. Monsters are there to kill the unwary player anyway.
  • Satisfying – Beating dumb or predictable enemies and encounters usually gets tiresome. This would provide a rather large challenge for those who want it.

Since it would be likely much harder unless the player monsters are not terribly good, or purposely lose, then the objective system would probably provide a greater reward of whatever form the game would give – such as a powerful magic item, monetary rewards, a specific note that you defeated the monsters as player-controlled and so on.

call of duty2 germans
Germans in Call of Duty 2
For singleplayer, certainly in games where you are part of a team, playing levels previously which used AI-controlled squads for allies and enemies would mean defeating a set of people instead of the same AI enemies time and again. Providing objectives for the enemies (so they don’t just become player-controlled target dummies) would help. Some games rely on the AI not to notice things – quite often in FPS’s which allow players to bypass battles by stealth (such as the Thief series). Having mechanics for the player to “leap in” once the NPC notices something would likely work well, or having specific levels geared towards have the NPC’s expecting an attack – World War 2 games like Call of Duty (Right) might provide a good idea of a fair fight, but the German’s the players would take over would likely be not always fully expecting an attack. The players would be able to leap in and take over the Germans once they knew the enemy was there.

The most dangerous ground enemy in HL2, the StriderSome monsters would be very difficult to control with a basic set of controls, like the Half Life 2 Strider, which I think would be great just to aim with, or direct a general location to attack or height to be at. It’d be a great deal more difficult to take down a strider which actively found a normal player out (most times, a single player being Gordon would be accompanied by other NPC’s so perhaps the player’s cohorts would be player controlled too).

Hopefully, Player vs. Player Monster might be something that is developed in the future, for one I’d be sure to love playing as the “enemy” and ordering around what I used to be shooting at!

(PS: This is rather a test post to get my writing style and formatting done, and to test gallery)