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Classical game of Breakout - break through the wall by hitting it with the ball

Insights from the gaming industry

Player vs. Player

Player(s) versus player(s), better known as PvP, is a type of multiplayer interactive conflict within a game between two or more live participants. This is in contrast to games where players compete against computer-controlled opponents and/or players, which is referred to as player versus environment (PvE). The terms are most often used in games where both activities exist, particularly MMORPGs, MUDs, and other role-playing video games. PvP can be broadly used to describe any game, or aspect of a game, where players compete against each other. PvP is often controversial when used in role-playing games. In most cases, there are vast differences in abilities between experienced and novice players. PvP can even encourage experienced players to immediately attack and kill inexperienced players. PvP is sometimes called player killing.

PvP combat in CRPGs has its roots in various MUDs like Gemstone II and Avalon: The Legend Lives.. However, while the ability to kill another player existed in many MUDs, it was usually frowned upon because of general strict adherences and heavy influences from role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons. The term PvP originated in text based MUDs played on bulletin board systems like MajorMUD and Usurper. These games had open worlds where any player could attack any other player as long as they were not at a safe spot in town like the Bank. Player versus player was coined sometime in the late 1980s to refer to the combat between players that resulted in the loser being penalized in some way.

The first graphical MMORPG was Neverwinter Nights, which began development in 1989 and ran on AOL 1991-1997, and which included PvP. PvP was initially limited to magical attacks in the game. Later modifications expanded its use to limited areas so that players who wished to avoid it could do so. Much of the PvP activity was coordinated events by the game's guilds, which were the first such organized user groups in MMORPG's.

Genocide, an LPMud founded in 1992, was a pioneer in PvP conflict as the first "pure PK" MUD, removing all non-PvP gameplay and discarding the RPG-style character development normally found in MUDs in favor of placing characters on an even footing, with only player skill providing an advantage. Extremely popular, its ideas influenced the MUD world heavily.

Other early MMORPGs, including Meridian 59 (1996), Ultima Online (1997), and Tibia (1997) also had PvP combat as a feature. In Ultima Online, the goal was to allow players to police themselves in a "frontier justice" way. This system also exists in Tibia, where death includes significant penalty, and killing someone inflicts considerable harm to their character. In Meridian 59, the game tried to focus PvP by having different political factions for players to join. The later Eve Online (2003) refined Ultima Online's (original) approach of "PvP anywhere but in town" (where attacking another player is dangerous in and around towns due to interference from NPC "guards"). However, these games tended to be unfriendly to more casual players. With the popularity of EverQuest in 1999, primarily consisting of PvE elements (with the exception of limited PvP on one specific server), PvP became a negative for some newer/casual MMORPG players and developers looking to draw a larger crowd. In 2000, in response to complaints about malicious player-killers, Ultima Online controversially added an extra copy of the game world to each server in which open PvP was disabled.

In addition to this, not all PvP games feature a players' avatar experiencing death. An example of this type of PvP element can be found on MMOs such as Audition Online (2004) where while players are not directly killing each other's avatars as traditionally found in MMOs, they are still competing against each other during certain game modes in a Player versus Player setting.

PvP has been included in other games such as Asheron's Call in late 1999, Diablo II in 2000, Dark Age of Camelot and RuneScape in 2001, Asheron's Call 2 in 2002, Shadowbane in 2003, and Dragon Nest in 2011. While these games included PvP, they still contained large portions of prerequisite PvE, mostly to build characters.