Are Dark Souls Players the Worst Thing About Dark Souls Remastered?

During the run-up to its highly anticipated release, there was a lot of debate surrounding whether or not Dark Souls Remastered was, well, enough of a remaster to be worth players’ time. Now that the game has been released for almost a month now, and whilst there are still those with valid criticisms of the overall quality of the game, the verdict is overall pretty positive; it is still very much Dark Souls – and there’s not much wrong about that.

Perhaps the best thing about traversing (and constantly dying) through the labyrinthian Lordran is the mass revival of the player base. You’ll encounter countless phantoms of players taking much needed rest at bonfires and pass by many more making the same journey as you, bloodstains and summon signs litter the ground, making Ornstein and Smough a little bit less of a nightmare. This beautifully bleak world is thriving, but like any nature documentary will tell you: when an area becomes rife with prey, predators are soon to follow.

One gameplay feature that many Dark Souls players will be very familiar with is the ability to invade other players (because it just wouldn’t be Dark Souls if you weren’t able to ruin somebody else’s day). For those who aren’t familiar with this concept, the ability to invade simply means that one player is allowed to enter another player’s game as an enemy for the other player to fight. Whilst this is popular among PvP devotees, it’s somewhat of a talking point amongst fans, and for good reason: in order to summon in other players for assistance to engage in some “jolly co-operation” players need to be “human”, but when human any other player is able to invade, even whilst assisting or being assisted by friendly players. What this means, then, is that players looking for help can have their progress hindered by unwanted intruders since a defeat would mean they would lose one item needed to become human alongside all their souls (points used as currency to purchase equipment and level up). If invaded and defeated enough times, it’s possible for struggling players to lose the ability to ask for assistance from those ready to help.

Whilst the practicality of the invasion mechanic can be debated from a gameplay perspective, the mechanic itself isn’t the focus of this article, but rather the players (or a small minority of players at least) who abuse this mechanic to torment others with exploits for their own amusement. Similar to any other ecosystem, when there are too many predators, their prey become more and more scarce. In other words, Dark Souls players could destroy the now-thriving player base.

In landmark study “Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who Suit MUDs“, Richard A. Bartle identified four distinctive player types: Killers, Achievers, Explorers, and Socialisers, each possessing their own goal and effect within the player base:

Killers: interfere with the functioning of the game world or the place experience of other players

Achievers: accumulate status tokens by beating the rules-based challenges of the game world

Explorers: discover the systems governing the operation of the game world

Socialisers: form relationships with other players by telling stories within the game world.

The above diagram (taken from Bart Stewart’s “Personality and Play Styles: A Unified Model“) illustrates the way in which each player type effects the gameworld. Whilst the extent to how each player type interacts with the world and each other is slightly more complex (something which Stewart delves deeper into in his article), the main point to highlight is here is that Killers are mainly interested in acting on players. Killers are those players hiding in corners in shooters, the hackers and exploiters, the ones who take the most pleasure from making the lives of others that little more difficult.

As expected, if a gameworld is populated with too many Killers, then that world becomes a lot less fun for the majority of those looking to co-operate. “PvP hotspots”, as they are known by the community, like Anor Londo and Darkroot Basin can become virtually unnavigable without being harassed by more experienced players who have the knowhow to create characters and utilise glitches for the sole purpose to mess with those with less or no experience of the game, an obstacle newcomers to the Dark Souls experience are unlikely to welcome with open arms.

To this argument, there may be some out there who will contest that this is all simply part of the gameplay experience of a notoriously difficult game, and, to an extent, that is true. Dark Souls is a video game founded on the ability to pick yourself up after a beating and eventually overcoming the odds that are stacked against you by honing your skills to “git gud”. However, the purpose of this article is to serve as a potential warning for what could happen if a small but prevalent group of players continue to populate a thriving online population. Dark Souls Remastered may be full of life now, but there is a chance that Lordran will become even more of a bleak world if Killers continue to roam untamed.

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