Articles - Froob For Life #3: Street Fighting 101 - Froob PvPPvP in Anarchy Online is an unbalanced and frightfully intimidating mess. It also is an exhilarating rush and carries practically no penalty now, even if you lose (you did save at an insurance terminal, right?). You can avoid it, but why would you want to? (Don't answer that, it's rhetorical) It can be a lot of fun! I wrote this article to provide a newbie/froobie first look at some of the basics of PvP. We all have to start somewhere, eh?
Street Fighting 101 - Froob PvP
Player versus player combat (or PvP) is a wonderful diversion from the usual grind of Anarchy Online combat. There is no better test of skill and resources than pitting your character against other characters. However, it is difficult for a froob to compete with subscribers with all of the expansions, especially since many subscribers have been playing the game for years.
In this article, I will attempt to provide a basic primer of PvP as it pertains to froobs. Note that much of this information is common knowledge among the veterans of the game, even those that do not participate in PvP. This article won't contain all of the tips and tricks nor will it contain the finer points of PvP or twinking for PvP. You are welcome to discuss this in the AO-Universe forums or discover this on your own. *grin*
The ability to PvP is restricted by the level of suppression gas in the area. In 100% Gas zones, there is no combat, even against Mobs (other than faction-aligned Guard NPCs). At 75% Gas, just like in 100% Gas, you cannot be attacked by other players. At 25% Gas (which, incidentally, is only found at Notum Wars tower zones), you can attack anyone in another faction (i.e. Omnis can attack Clan or Neutrals, but not other Omnis). At 5% Gas, you can attack anyone who isn't in your organization/clan. At 0% Gas, it's every man/woman/Trox for him/her/itself. "This is mayhem", as the game calls it.
You can also become "PvP-enabled", allowing you to be attacked even in non-combat Gas zones. To do this, you simply have to attack one of the faction city guards. A common trick is to start the attack against a guard, then zone, allowing you to keep the PvP-enabled "flag" without having to mess with killing the guard.
You will only be able to fight people who are approximately close to your level. This level range gets wider as you level up, allowing a level 150 character to be attacked by a level 200 character! Most people use the "level" command on an orgbot or helpbot to determine their level range (try "/tell helpbot level X", where X is your level). Note that this "PvP range" also determines who you can assist with buffs and nano-programs during PvP battles as well.
Damage is modified in PvP in two fundamental ways. First of all, all damage that you do is halved. Period. You'll simply do half the damage that you would expect to do against a monster. Secondly, you can only deal up to 30% of the target's maximum health with a single attack. This is often simply called the "PvP cap". This cap is not applied against absorb shields (which take full damage), and it prevents you from killing anyone with less than four attacks.
"Alphas" are short for "Alpha Strike", and it involves unloading all of the damaging option at your disposal in an attempt to finish off your opponent (whether or not they are at full health). Usually, this involves initiating an attack on someone and using all of the weapon specials available to them, tacking on nano-program damage or special weapons (like the Kizzermole Gumboil). Folks who use Martial Arts also activate their special martial arts attacks as well. Invariably, subscriber characters supplement their Alpha with perk attacks (which you won't have access to as a froob). Some folks use a weapon switch, starting off with a weapon with strong and varied special attacks, then swapping to a different weapon for a stronger auto-attack. Incidentally, this term predates MMORPGs and other video games by many years. The first use that I've heard for the term was in tabletop miniature wargames, and there is evidence that the military and even comic books have used the term since before World War II, although not necessarily for the same concept.
There used to be different penalties for PvP combat, such as losing any loot that you earned after you saved, collecting items from a Reclaim Terminal, etc. Now, the only thing that you can lose (other than your title) is experience points, and these go into your pool just like when you die in PvM. In other words, there are no permanent losses for participating in PvP. If you save frequently at an Insurance Terminal, you won't even lose experience!
Obtaining several "kills" in PvP is associated with various titles (not to be confused with title levels, which is a different concept). In general, to obtain the next title, you need to kill people who have your title or up to one title higher. You get more "points" for killing higher titled targets, but virtually no "points" for killing targets who are titled two ranks above or below you. Points are lost by being killed in PvP, and titles can be removed if you lose too many points. There currently is no way of seeing how close you are to the next title or how much "credit" you will get for a kill toward your next title. In general, as a froob, don't worry too much about titles. They are arbitrary at best, and most folks with titles have gone out of their way to farm them from unsuspecting victims.
= Title List =
* No Title
It's All About the (Outside) Buffs
When engaging in PvP, you will want as many buffs as possible to maximize your damage and your survival potential. While you'll run into the occasional duelist who wants to compete without buffs, this is seldom the case in most PvP venues.
You need as much NCU as possible to receive as many outside buffs as possible. If you are above level 25, you can receive an NCU buff from a fixer to raise this amount.
The most useful buffs include:
* the Adventurer damage shield line (for more damage).
* the Enforcer Essence line (for more Health).
* the Fixer Heal over Time (for healing), Damage Buff (for more damage), and Runspeed (for kiting).
* the Soldier Reflect Shield line (for damage mitigation).
In general, you'll meet other folks in PvP who are fully shielded (reflects, damage, and AC), with one or two HoTs running (the Fixer long HoT and a short HoT) and probably at least one health buff on top of that. Occasionally, you'll run into people who insist upon self-buffs only PvP. It is difficult to enforce this, and you won't run into these people regularly.
Debuffs: They Actually Work!
One of the most important elements of PvP are debuffs. While many of the debuffs in the game work in a limited fashion in PvM, debuffs can be used to full effect in PvP. This means that Trader Drains will draw off weapon skills and nano-skills, rather than just subtract Attack Rating. Metaphysicist debuffs (both from their nukes and single debuff lines) are quite deadly, virtually shutting down whole nano-lines. Blinds and evade debuffs work hand in hand to lower your opponent's attack rating and their evades.
Be careful, though. Some subscriber characters have a perk called "Notum Repulsor", which gives them enough Nano Resist to shrug off all but the most powerful debuffs. This perk starts at level 30.
There Is No Combat Without Movement
Runspeed buffs are valuable in PvP, as are roots and snares. Restricting movement is key for most ranged professions, as it allows you to take several shots at melee professions without retaliation. Melee professions can use roots effectively, too, by rooting down Ranged Attackers to land a killing alpha. With runspeed, you can often move out of attack range and heal up some damage with your HoTs.
The simple act of running allows you to lengthen the duration of the fight, which is often beneficial if you have a good HoT running. It takes much longer to die and rezz/rebuff than it does to simply run away, heal up and come back. Running away to heal up is more of a utility in combats that you cannot avoid, like tower defense.
A couple of valuable tools are the root-removing items from Temple of the Three Winds and Inner Sanctum. The Purifying Rod and Rod of Dismissal both remove Roots and Snares, and lock down the Nano Pool skill. While they have a rather lengthy lockdown time, they can remove a Root or Snare very quickly.
Squishies Are Still Squishy
No matter how much extra goodies an SLer has, the Squishy Nano-caster professions are still relatively fragile. For example, while Nano-Technicians will be able to cast higher absorbs and Nullity Sphere at an earlier point, they are still fairly easy to chop down with a good heavy alpha from a combat-oriented profession of similar level. In my personal experience from tower battles (which tend toward a chaotic mess of PvP-oriented and PvM-oriented characters), a fully-kitted froobie Enforcer PvP twink will kill most soft targets like NTs and Doctors and be killed by most hard targets like Soldiers. Your mileage, as usual, will vary.
Special Attacks Are Your Friend
All of your special attacks still work in PvP. Two special attacks in particular, though, are modified for PvP use. Aimed Shot and Sneak Attack both can be used in PvP without having to Conceal. Since they both automatically hit, regardless of the target's evades, they see plenty of use in PvP. Aimed Shot in particular is popular, due to the proliferation of high QL Targeting Scopes (which markedly increase damage and decrease recycle speed).
Because of the 30% damage cap, you can't rely on your auto-attack to finish people off in PvP. Even if you hit for capped damage each time, you would take a minimum of 6 seconds to kill someone (2 cycles of the fastest dual-wielded weapon), which is plenty of time for folks to heal, put up item-based defenses, and run away. You will want a weapon with several special attacks, dealing enough damage and attacks in a short span of time to kill your opponent.
You will also want to do enough damage to hit the cap with your specials. Aimed Shot is ideal for this purpose, as the damage dealt by an Aimed Shot increases linearly with Aimed Shot skill, and there are many ways to buff Aimed Shot (such as using a high QL Targeting Scope - Vision Enhancer). Full Auto and Burst also tend to deal high amounts of damage. Dimach can deal a lot of damage in a single hit, but it has a long cooldown, making it a one-shot weapon in most PvP engagements.
Sticky Gumboils of Doom
The Kizzermole Gumboil is an item that is found in packs of 5 off of the Kizzermoles in the Crypt of Home. It deals a significant amount of damage for a minor investment of IP in Sharp Object and Psychology (which can be implanted). It is like having a powerful "bonus" special attack. It is of special interest to low level PvP traders, as they can easily drain up to the Sharp Object skill needed to use these little bombs. Be careful when using it against Evade professions, as it does check against Dodge Ranged (albeit at 50%).
Another effective tool in PvP is the usage of Hacked Grafts (Boosted or Symbio Grafts). While the ability to use nanos from other professions is a bonus, the main appeal is the fact that they do NOT check for resists when they are used. Thus, the grafts that cast Roots, like Feet of Stone and Detain Suspect, have a high chance of landing. Note that targets that have innate root immunity (from equipment like Grid Armor and the Exarch Robe) may still evade your root attempt from a graft.
You do not need to have the graft equipped to use it in combat. Simply have it in your inventory and use it directly in your inventory or in a hotbar. You can also place it in a bag and have the bag open, using the item from there.
Let's face it. The Atrox breed has more health. They have approximately 33% more base health than a comparable Opifex or Solitus and twice as much base health than a comparable Nanomage. While this divide can be mitigated somewhat by equipment and implants, you'll find that the majority of PvPers, especially at the low end, are Atrox.
This doesn't mean that you cannot be a successful PvPer using another breed. But every advantage that you have counts, and the health advantage ranks a lot higher at lower levels than most of the other breed advantages.
The Lower, the Better
In general, the lower level you are, the more competitive you can be against other characters around you, since everyone starts off pretty much the same. The significant advantages that SLers enjoy are, by and large, level-dependent, and the closer you are to level 1, the less benefits your fellow subscribing players are likely to have.
For example, Symbiants are very powerful and are typically much better than implants. However, they are also level-locked, and at low levels, it is much better to twink into high QL implants than it is to rely on low symbiants. Thus, the average low level PvPer will have high QL implants, which puts froobs and subscribers on relatively even ground.
While it is handy to have one or two perks to augment abilities, these bonuses generally are only useful for twinking, and not inherently evil at low level PvP. Also, the lower the level, the less access the SLer has to powerful perk attacks and higher end perk specials.
The main advantage that the SLer has at low level PvP is Expansion-locked equipment. For example, powerful Perennium weapons become available to Agents, Soldiers, and Fixers with SL at an early level. These weapons are far superior to anything a froob can use. Other weapons include Mortiig weapons (Beaters, Blasters, and Beamers), Kyr'Ozch weapons from Alien Invasion, and Ofab weapons from Lost Eden. Fortunately, due to the 30% PvP cap, most of these weapons tend to be overkill.
In another example, a subscriber who has Alien Invasion can conceivably wear AI Combined Armors. Fortunately, these armors are both rare at low QLs and expensive at all QLs, and only the top PvPers are likely to have pieces of this armor. The bad news is that there is little, if any, way to compete with these folks. The good news is that the folks who have AI combined armor are few and far between, and they'd probably wipe the floor with most other SLers in PvP anyway, let alone froobs.
Know Your PvP Range
This goes beyond a simple "/tell helpbot level" command. You need to know the capabilities and equipment of both froobs and subscribers within the range that you can PvP. For example, level 21 and above PvPers tend to have some of the Temple of the Three Winds equipment like Exarch Robes. Level 60 tends to be a popular level for twinks of all kinds (PvP or PvM), and it is around this level that you find Mortiig Beater, Panther, and Howlet twinks. You also will want to know the demographics of your level range. Title Level 2 PvP is full of Agents, Enforcers, and Traders, for example.
Now that Froobs have Notum Wars (since the Fall of 2006), they can fully participate in tower battles. There are many good reasons to participate in tower battles, including personal tower benefits, org contracts, land control, a larger sided XP bonus, and the ability to grid to your organization's tower fields.
Each tower field cycles through periods of time when the suppression gas changes. For 19 Hours, the tower field is at 75% Gas and no one can attack. For 4 Hours after that, the Gas changes to 25% and the tower field can be attacked by other factions. For 1 Hour after that, the Gas changes to 5% and anyone outside the owner's organization/clan can attack. It cycles back to 75% Gas and repeats.
Often, when attacking towers, you will face groups of under-equipped PvM-oriented characters as the defending org musters a defense with the people available. You will have motley opposition, including professions that you might not see often in your level range. This is an advantage and a disadvantage. While the defenders may be ill-prepared, they may also be professions that are suited to kill your profession. For example, a froob Fixer in Grid Armor, you may run into a PvM NT who just happens to have the anti-GA nuke (game over!).
When defending your own towers, be sure to mobilize as many "buff-bots" as you can. Try to get friends with shields, reflects, HoTs, and other buffs to move to a convenient grid-terminal so they can load the defenders down with buffs before they teleport through the Grid to the tower field. In mass engagements, try to deploy your defenders as one large group rather than one at a time, or you may be picked off one by one by the attacking team.
Notum Wars tower battles are inherently designed to be dynamic. Tower fields are "easy-come, easy-go". You can gain and lose your tower fields literally overnight. This makes tower battles an ideal field for casual PvP. While the tower advantages make the stakes higher, overall you shouldn't sweat the loss of a tower field. You'll gain it back eventually.
The adjustments in Lost Eden to Notum Tower PvP make for some strong advantages in favor of SLers. The turrets and mechs in particular may present obstacles that block you from effective tower defense or assault. You may want to bring along some of your LE-enabled friends (you do have friends, right?) to help counter this. Also, orgs with cities are able to call in Orbital Strikes and Air strikes. There's very little defense against this other than getting out of the way when it happens.
Battlestations, a new feature of Lost Eden, are goal-oriented PvP maps with some unique properties. While froobs cannot benefit from Battlestations (they gain victory points, but cannot use them unless they subscribe someday), they can participate. With the flagging populations of BS at the lower levels, any person who wants to play is usually welcome.
When signing up for Battlestations, you are put in a "queue" that tells you when you are slated to enter the Battlestations and join a new game. Note that each "level range" has different sign-up terminals scattered throughout Rubi-Ka:
* Levels 20-49 Borealis (Main gate).
* Levels 50-74 Borealis (rear gate).
* Levels 75-99 Newland (near whompas).
* Levels 100-124 Newland (Near front gate).
* Levels 125-149 Outside Newland.
* Levels 150-174 Outside Newland.
* Levels 175-199 ICC.
* Levels 200-209 Unicorn Landing pad.
* Levels 210-220 Unicorn Landing pad.
The objective is to capture control points for your team. The first team to score 500 points wins. It gets a bit more complicated than that, but those are the essential elements. For more information about the gameplay elements specific to Battlestations, check out the guide here.
Remember that your SLer opponents/friends who have access to Lost Eden also have access to Anti-Personnel turrets. These tend to be quite deadly for any froob attacker, with no way to "mech up" and counter in kind. Your damage is reduced by 90% against these "hardened" targets! It would be wise to avoid turrets and mechs and let your expansion-enabled teammates deal with them.
My Two Cents
Hopefully, I've outlined all of the basics of PvP for enterprising froobs who want to dabble in it. In my opinion, PvP for froobs is rarely competitive. We have the curse of mediocrity by lacking expansions, but it is also a blessing. When you know that you'll never be "the best of the best", you are free to challenge the status quo and experiment with different ideas. You don't have to join the rat race of subscriber PvP, constantly trying to out-do each other with bigger and stronger equipment. And with tower battles, every extra gun and sword is welcome to the field, as there is no limit to how many people can participate and contribute to the cause. Treat PvP as a fun alternative to the usual grind, and laugh off any losses that you may have... there's always "the next battle".
Hahnsoo spends much of his time cowering in a corner at the Rome Blue Advanced shop, hoping that his orgmates won't come by and "gank" him. And no, he won't come by and try out his PvP twink against yours.