It doesn’t exist. I’d almost go as far as to say it cannot exist.
Long being held as a staple of “what makes PvP interesting”, this player remains purely in the realm of the mythical. Of course there is evidence arguing for its existence, but it’s purely anecdotical and cannot be reproduced.
Tonight on KTR Mythbusters we examine the elusive Unpredictable PvP Player. Its humble beginnings as a post-slaughter campfire tale, its rise to legendary status and its ultimate demise at the hands of science.
Almost all of us are familiar with this figure, this legendary being shrouded in secrecy and sewn with the very threads of gaming lore itself. It remains, right up there in the collective gaming consciousness, sharing the very apex of gaming’s collection of legends with other vague – but alluring – tales like Bugs From Beta Not Present in Live, Unpolluted Chat Channels and Grind-Free Gameplay.
For too long, the existence of this being has been maintained by many PvP enthusiasts, whom see in this legend the very embodiment of their style. It is, to them, as close to a divine PvP Avatar coming down from the heavens and into gaming land as it’s going to get; a veritable Rapture of ganking. It is, as they assert, the First Mover that gives PvP its nature, the mystical cause to the PvP effect, and its mere presence is the salt in carebears’ wounds everywhere. Some of them even go as far as to establish, without a shadow of a doubt, that PvP would not be PvP without it.
But what is it?. At the very core of the legend, and its nature, we find the answer because the answer itself is the main point of contention, the main article of difference between PvP and PvE. Unlike PvE, which is basically just a dogmatic series of immutable motions to be performed, all controlled and dispensed by a cold AI which understands nothing but a binary state of life in ones and zeroes, PvP replaces the AI with a human. If, as the believers maintain, humans truly are unpredictable, then it stands to reason how since humans are the coals powering the PvP machine, this PvP machine will also end up being an unpredictable construct.
PvE is to be learned, PvP is to adapt. So the age-old mantra goes. But is it really as cut and dried?
If doubt is truly the dark clouds in the horizons of faith, there is one such cloud in the horizons of these believers. One that is rarely contemplated and rarely talked about. Dismissed by some as merely a crack in the dogma, not to be seriously considered and a nuisance at the most. It’s a simple idea, but far-reaching in its consequences: PvP is still part of the over-arching game world and, as such, subject to many of the same rules of this game world.
Why is it that such a simple idea, almost inoffensive in its obvious quality, is a thorn on the side of the Unpredictable PvP Player? The answer is just as simple, and just as terrible: Because it strips the Unpredictable PvP Player of its very defining aspect – his unpredictability. In order for a PvP player to be truly unpredictable, in order for its opponents to have no notion whatsoever of his abilities and be unable to anticipate its actions, the PvP Player must not be bound by any game world rules, which is a physical impossibility. Or, to put it in another way, as long as the game world has rules and these rules cannot be exploited or broken, you can never have true or even complete unpredictability. The PvP player is ultimately bound to the same rules as everyone else. As long as the opponents know the rules, unpredictability dissipates like cold dew under the morning sun.
The common counter to this line of thinking is, aptly enough, with another counter. That even if the PvP Player is bound by rules, there still isn’t a way to predict or anticipate what he’ll do because, unlike a PvE AI that has been coded to behave in a set number of ways and never deviate from that behavior, a human player has a much superior array of options to choose from. This counter works, in theory, but rarely in practice and there’s two very powerful reasons for that:
One : Even if humans have a larger number of options to choose from when compared to the AI, this number of options is not infinite as per game world rules. Therefore, on a long enough timeline, all possible responses can be anticipated.
Two: The very nature of the PvP mindset is, in a way, the ultimate nail in the legend of unpredictability’s coffin – that is, competitiveness. In order to remain competitive, a PvP player must be at its best. He must have the best gear possible, because his opponents would do the same. He must know as much as he can of the opponent, because his opponent will similarly study him. And finally, he must have the best possible skills, or combination of skills into a build, because his opponents will be similarly prepared. And that is the downfall of the legend, for as long as there are a finite number of skill combinations and for as long as some builds are favored or perform better than others, the number of options available to any PvP player is reduced even more, taking him further and further away from the Holy Grail of True Unpredictability.
There are ways in which PvP can be rightfully considered to be a more interesting avenue of play than PvE, but the legend of unpredictability is not one of them. Even casual forays into PvP will yield the same common conclusions to the clever observer: Most, if not all warriors behave the same way. Most, if not all healers behave the same way, etc… and the number of options, far from drawing its threads from the universal tapestry of randomness as its proponents suggest, are really few when effectiveness comes into play. And make no mistake, PvP demands effectiveness as much as PvE. They are no different in that regard.
In their zeal, the most venomous of PvP proponents are actually missing a huge opportunity. They hang on to a legend that does not exist, when they’re missing something that’s much closer to earth and just as effective when it comes to furthering the ends of their playstyle. That is: Humans, while not unpredictable under the bounds of unbreakable game rules, are still creative in comparison to any AI.
Bound by rules that they cannot break, humans cannot create new rules or ways to break the existing ones, but they can still do something that no AI has ever done to this day, which is to improvise over existing rules and modify behaviors and results, in an effort to get close to that divine unpredictability. Even if the Holy and True Nirvana of Absolute Unpredictability can never be reached, there are lesser states of Unpredictability to be attained, still preserving the rules intact.
However, this is hardly ever mentioned. Just being “creative’ is not enough, when you can sell the illusion of being “unpredictable”. At any rate, that’s something for PvP pundits and proponents to deal with. From here, this humble pulpit of myth busting, all I can do is to decree the death of a legend. There are very good, very effective ways to ‘sell’ PvP. Unpredictability is not one of them, and never was.
Until the next time!