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In video gaming, camping is a tactic where a player obtains a static strategic position of advantage, often providing a clear field of view over a choke point or position of tactical interest whilst retaining cover for the camper. This tactic allows one player to easily pick off any opponent that comes into sight without giving them any indicator of his/her presence in the area. It differs from holding a strategic position by its requisite static nature and intensive cover.
In most games, camping is a legitimate strategy. It often proves frustrating, particularly to newer players, as it rewards those who invest a considerable amount of time in the game (which allows them to know the layout of the maps and the best defensive positions); as well as those with accurate aim. Among many players, camping is considered tantamount to cheating, especially in deathmatch-type games. The most common reason for this is that if every player camps, there will be no opportunities for players to come into conflict, and thus there will be no game at all.
In most deathmatch-type games that have both a time limit and a kill limit, camping can be used to take advantage of the time limit rather than the kill limit. Capture the flag and its variants provide an incentive to invade enemy territory, regardless of the risk, since scoring flags is more important than scoring by killing the opposing team's players; conversely, this mode also encourages players to camp their own vulnerable flag to defend against the anticipated stream of attackers. However, even in such games, some players may choose to camp to give covering fire for other team members attempting to grab the flag and run back with it. It is comparable to turtling.
Camping in first-person shooters
Camping is most common in first-person shooters when a player hides in a single location which serves as a tactical advantage over the opposing player(s) for long periods of time. The position chosen is normally secluded from casual view and maybe partially secured at least on one side by any object. The location is then used to ambush or carry out sniper attacks on opposing players. The period of time a camping player spends in the specific location may vary as the player reacts to game conditions. Some games will discourage camping by nagging players who remain stationary for a time to move on, or applying harsher penalties to alleged campers such as small amounts of periodic damage (which, if ignored, will eventually kill the player and force him to respawn elsewhere).
Spawn camping involves camping or guarding the position of the enemy spawn on the map. Although usually not expressly against the rules, spawn camping is frequently considered poor form and some servers will officially enforce a no-spawn-camping rule. In some cases however, it is unavoidable and players simply have to adapt their strategy to survive the spawn campers. Exceptions may include pursuing a player who is carrying a critical objective into their own spawn for support, as may occur during Capture the Flag games.
Some games have spawn protection systems, giving newly spawned players invulnerability, or respawning them in an area close to the spawn. Another mechanism employed in games is 'point spawning', in which a player is spawned near a teammate and not at a specific location. The Battlefield series uses such a scheme. This scheme is not without its disadvantages however because spawning next to a teammate who is in the middle of combat can be problematic.
Some objective-based games use fixed spawns defended by (e.g. automated turrets) to help spawn camping. Sometimes players camp at spawn points just to kill the players who run by there, this is known as 'spawnkilling' and is particularly performed against new and inexperienced players. Players who do this are likely to be targeted by the players who killed them.
Another form of camping, typically found in large-scale deathmatch games with large open maps such as Halo and Battlefield, is called sniping. A player or group of players each acquire a high-powered, long-range weapon with a scope such as a sniper rifle. The sniper(s) then proceed to a safe area to snipe. Depending on the spot, the sniper will have view of a portion of the game field, as well as ample cover against opposing players.
Game balance can be preserved using a variety of methods specific to snipers.
- In the Halo series, a shot from the sniper rifle leaves a thick white contrail emanating from the Rifle's barrel that streaks its path through the air, making it easy to see where the shot came from. Alien equivalents are even more visible, either having a brighter contrail or a bright continuous beam.
- The Unreal Tournament 2003/2004 Lightning Gun's high-voltage electric arc is clearly visible, and its long reload time further balances its high power.
- The Unreal Tournament 2003/2004 Sniper Rifle emits a cloud of smoke with each shot, obscuring vision and revealing the sniper's position.
- In the Call of Duty series, snipers must hold their breath to shoot accurately, and if done for too long, the aim shoots wildly for a couple of seconds.
- In Team Fortress 2, the sniper rifle must be allowed to "charge" by staying in the scope view for a few seconds before the shot does full damage. Additionally, when in scope view, a visible laser dot can be seen where the sniper is aiming. When a player is killed, a "kill cam" also shows the location of the killer. The Huntsman bow doesn't have a laser dot, but the fired arrow leaves behind a team-coloured streak. The Machina sniper rifle leaves behind a team coloured streak and has a unique firing sound.
- Some games require snipers to leave the scope to cycle the bolt (thus losing the target, preventing the sniper from simply waiting in-scope to fire on his victim again if a kill is not attained). Semi-auto snipers are intentionally slightly underpowered compared to bolt-action and have firecap to compensate for this.
- In Battlefield 3, if the sniper is using a scope with a magnification higher than 4x, the scope will glint, enabling the enemy to pinpoint the sniper.
Some use game mechanics:
- In some first-person shooters, when a sniper is damaged they lose the zoom or stability from the rifle.
- Some first-person shooters include a "killcam" that shows either the position of the camper or the kill from his/her perspective.
- Careful map design is often undertaken to ensure that sniping positions - and even the ammunition - are not too plentiful.
- In Call of Duty and other games, the players will have a mini-map of the field. When an opposing player fires, they will appear on the map as a small dot for several seconds, thus giving away their position. Players can sometimes use suppressors on their weapons to prevent this, although the suppressor will reduce the weapon's effective range.
- Games which offer destructible environments enable players to either flush camping snipers out of their position or to destroy their cover completely, exposing them to enemy fire.
The term base camping refers to camping at the (spawning area or starting area) of one's offending team in Capture the Flag, Team Deathmatch and other types of games, a form of defensive "turtling". One would sit outside one's team base and lie in wait for members of the opposing team. Though hiding or defending key areas of the map, especially if done by a large group, makes it easier to survive enemy attacks, it is sometimes criticized. The general acceptance of Base Camping mainly depends on the map, the kind of game played and the rules set by owners of the server. Games in which one team is to defend its base naturally encourages spawn camping. In situations where the primary of objectives of both teams is to kill enemy players, Base Camping is less well accepted. Sometimes Base Camping is also referred to as Spawn Camping, but this term usually implies camping at the opponent's spawn points. However, the rare occasion where the camper is compromised (e.g., a teammate or enemy takes their camping spot regardless of the camper noting otherwise previously) will throw the camper into killing him/herself willingly, possibly with the intention of killing and/or teamkilling the other player.
One situation in last man standing types of games where camping is often used is when one team has a single player remaining while the other team has two or more players still alive. The single player will often camp for periods of play in a location that is easy to defend or has only one entry way, because this enhances their survivability when faced with superior opposition numbers. The other team will usually go into active hunting mode, expecting the single player to be hiding somewhere on the map. This type of camping is more accepted by gamers, because there is a valid reason for the outnumbered player to camp. By convention, when both teams are down to single players only, continued camping is frowned upon and both players are expected to come out and confront each other. To encourage this, some games such as the Battlefield (series) allow dead players to see the positions of remaining players on the map as well as allow dead players to speak. Thus when a team is down to a single player and the single player camps, team members may announce his location to the opposing team.
First-person shooters may experience other forms of camping, such as "vehicle camping", "armor camping", or "weapon camping". In many such games, the rarity of particularly valuable equipment (such as tanks, aircraft, or especially powerful guns) is enforced by the game engine imposing a time delay between the time which such an item is taken or used, and the time at which it reappears for other players to use. Campers wait at places where such an item is due to spawn in order to guarantee that they, rather than some other players, are the ones who get to make use of it. This causes a problem because, while they are waiting, they are not participating in the rest of the game, thus making it harder for other players to find conflicts or - in a team-based game such as Battlefield 1942 - disadvantaging their team. It can also cause conflicts between players on the same team. For example, if two players are waiting for a vehicle to spawn, one will miss out on at least the main 'driving seat', and may decide to team kill the vehicle or player with weapons to destroy and deny the other player the chance to use the vehicle, or to get rid of the player from the vehicle. An example of this is that jets and helicopter cockpits in Battlefield 2 are able to be penetrated by the 50 cal Sniper Rifle, and will cause a team kill if shot with them. This is a form of Griefing.
In non-team based games, item campers may camp with the intent of denying any other players access to the item, enabling them to use its unique properties to gain an advantage over other players. There is also a type of camping known as "body camping", whereby a player will try to hide themselves inside or behind a dead body, in the hope opponents will mistake them for part of the dead body. This is one form of camping that seems to be frowned upon by nearly every player, and is actually banned in the Call of Duty 2 ClanBase ladders. However, in many games a floating name tag above the player will reveal their real identity.
Another activity that goes by the same name, which is particularly common in Halo, is to hoard vehicles and then drive large numbers to a chokepoint, or the exterior of the enemy spawn, and abandon the vehicles there. If enough vehicles are used, it is nearly impossible to break out until they are blasted away or removed. Meanwhile, the other team will exploit this by using the vehicles as cover or manning mounted weapons to enhance the blocking effect and increase the time before the vehicles return to their spawn points.
In some more realistic games, such as Red Orchestra: Ostfront 41-45 and Operation Flashpoint, camping is sometimes considered to be a part of the game itself. Some players also argue that camping is a premise of war - such as a sniper waiting for a target - and is thus essential in order to survive or defeat the opposite team. Spawn camping, however, is generally not regarded as acceptable in informal or public matches as it renders the game unplayable for some who do not take lightly being killed the instant they respawn; in Call of Duty 4, the game engine, in Team Death Match mode, respawns recently killed players far away from enemy players where possible, so there are no fixed spawn points to be camped on. This is in contrast with some tournament play where it is viewed as part of the game—a consequence of the domination of the losing side. Camping certain locations also applies to games such as America's Army and other tactical shooters where a critical objective or terrain must be guarded.
Certain games such as the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 are heavily based around "killstreak rewards" which are abilities that grant the player a tactical advantage in the form of high powered support weaponry such as pavelow helicopters or predator missiles. In order to receive these rewards players must accumulate kills without dying themselves. This encourages careful playing styles which can result in the use of camping techniques.
In round-based games such as Counter-Strike or Call of Duty 2 there has been much debate on what is defending and what is camping. Some players argue that overlooking an area for more than 30 seconds is regarded as camping, while others claim that only the defending team are allowed to stay put as that is regarded as defending and not camping (see base camping, above).
Some class-based games encourage camping; for instance, in Team Fortress Classic and Team Fortress 2, the Engineer (who builds and tends automated, immobile sentry turrets) is suited to fighting from a fixed position. However, a second class, the Spy, has a weapon that exists solely to disable the engineer's buildings; other attacking players will still harass them (if only to clear out the defense they present); and both classes can be used for offensive purposes by canny players (who instead camp in enemy territory). Another class, the Pyro, uses a relatively short range flamethrower than can damage enemies over time with burn damage, and can stack damage due to the nature of the flame. Due to this, the Pyro is best suited as an ambush character, and is best used when hiding behind a corner or some cover where the enemy is likely to pass, flamethrower at the ready.
In Battlefield 2142, camping is more acceptable, as a "Networked Battlefield" system exists that allows other players to "spot" enemies, highlighting their location on the minimap so that they can be flanked; it also features a range of portable and deployable sensors that likewise locate enemies.
In Unreal Tournament there are several clans dedicated to camping. There are other rules in most (Team) Deathmatch-based games like no closekilling, no revenge and strict Camping behavior (the last enforced by useful No-Run-Mods which subtract an amount of health from the runner).
Although camping can give players a tactical advantage especially against less experienced players, they are left vulnerable if they consistently stay in one spot. Because most first person shooters utilize a respawn system, players who fall victim to a camper will have the opportunity to locate the camping spot, either visually or through the use of in game radar, and take the appropriate action to kill the player who is camping. This is commonly done through either approaching the camping player from a different angle which no longer gives them a tactical advantage, or through the use of more indirect weaponry such as grenades which can be used without being directly in view of the camping player. Players can also use their knowledge of the camping player's location to simply execute a swift and precise attack; utilizing the element of surprise and conventional weaponry to eliminate the camping player.
This type of gameplay is sometimes seen as one of the core components of Attack/Defend matches as both teams seek to set up or destroy prepared defensive positions. However, these maps are usually under a time or "casualty" limit to passively encourage or discourage camping behaviors and designers must take great care in designing maps to prevent the creation of essentially unassailable camping spots.
Some shooters include settings that kill the player if he or she stays in one location, not moving, for a certain amount of time.
Online role-playing games
In massively multiplayer online role-playing games and MUDs, camping is commonly the practice where the camper stays in a location near where non-player characters or monsters spawn or otherwise enter the game world. In some games, these positions are easy to spot and once a player or group of players is capable of establishing their camp, they can gain more rewards with less risk to their player characters. Generally, it is accepted that camping enemies is just the way some games are, and by convention this is respected. There is no official rule granting players exclusive rights to a camp.
As with valuable items in non-MMO games, often particularly significant monsters will be made "rare" via the game engine allowing a long period of time to pass between the monster being defeated by one group of players and it reappearing for another group to fight. Many players, rather than repeatedly returning to an area in the hope of meeting the monster, chose instead to wait in the monster's lair for it to respawn. Because of the long periods of time involved - frequently hours or days - this can give rise to absurd situations in which long queues of adventuring parties wait outside a monster's lair for the monster to respawn so they can kill it. Players can utilize the information gathered from various Internet sites to identify and wait around the areas of these spawns. Sometimes players sit on these camps for days, waiting for the monster or NPC of interest.
The MMORPG EverQuest was the first game to truly make camping a common and widely accepted part of advancement in online RPGs. When first released, advancement through the game was painstakingly slow for most, requiring many hours of slaying NPCs to advance in level. As a result, players quickly realized that camping in one spot and having a single player, referred to as a "puller" because he or she would leave the group to "pull" a mob back to the group, was the most efficient way to gain experience. In fact, the prevalence of camping became so strong in EverQuest that some of the game's playerbase and critics jokingly refer to the game as "EverCamp".
The practice of camping in MMORPGs is distasteful to many. While camping is still possible in this game, much more experience and rewards can be had by performing quests, allowing the player to focus on something other than what some consider to be the monotony of camping.
Critics of this system say that it is the long, drawn out camping sessions that have helped build such a strong community in games like EverQuest. With so much idle time, it is surmised that most players will strike up conversations with fellow group and guild members as a way to pass the time, a practice that helps develop bonds.
In some MMORPGs which have PVP (Player-versus-player) elements (such as Diablo II and World of Warcraft), "corpse camping" is used to refer to a practice by an enemy player character (PC) kills another PC in player versus player combat and then loiters in the area of the dead player's corpse. The mechanics for recovering one's body differ per game, but generally a PC must return to the area where he died to recover his body or face severe penalties. Those who corpse camp take advantage of these rules by waiting for the dead character to return to life, usually in a weakened state, and then killing him again when his defenses, mana and hit points are not at full capacity.
Lineage II force groups of extremely experienced players in well known and often top ranked and sometimes disciplined (semi-military like) alliances to wait for long periods of time at an epic boss' lair while having to defeat all rivaling groups that have come for the same purpose in open PVP. For lower level epics, these groups use alternate characters maintained at the boss' level to wait and kill the boss while other members of the group stay on their mains to defend the lower level character. Camping such bosses using level one characters called cams summoned to or brought to the boss' lair entrance manually to camp instead of having the entire group camp is also not uncommon. These characters while may not have direct access to the inside of the lair use the ingame command /target to observe if the monster desired has spawned. Should a rival group party arrive and/or slay the cam, the group owning the cam character usually reacts by bringing parties of their own.
Certain circumstances may occur in which combat takes place and a player is killed, while the opposing player has a legitimate reason for staying in the immediate area of combat, such as questing or other in game events. This is not considered to be corpse camping, and in most cases game designers have incorporated alternate avenues for players to retrieve their bodies such as resurrecting at a graveyard for a nominal fee.
The practice is generally frowned upon, and, with the exception of PvP (Player versus Player) servers which allow players from opposing factions to kill one another, is usually not allowed. Certain games, such as World of Warcraft (WoW), seek to curb corpse camping by offering diminishing returns for killing the same character repeatedly. For example, WoW offers Honor Points, for a PvP kill of commensurate level, as a means to curb high level players from going into areas of lower level and killing low-level members of opposing factions, since such areas are usually far from the places where higher-level players would go to gain experience.
Another form of corpse camping is present in Starsiege: Tribes, and possibly other online first-person shooters. A player will kill another player, then either place a mine or satchel charge on the corpse, or take cover nearby. This sets up an ambush when someone arrives to retrieve valuable items from the body or revive a teammate. This is seen as unfair on most servers.
In Eve Online PVP fleets will often station themselves around the star gates which link the Eve universe together enabling some control over who may pass, in particular alliances use this technique to enforce controls on who can enter alliance Sovereign space. Eve provides a number of in game technologies to help enforce a blockade (warp jammers and bubbles) and to evade such blockades (cloaking devices and warp core stabilizers). Occasionally, hostile fleets may camp outposts and stations to keep an enemy bottled up, during the Goonswarm invasion of the Delve region the Goons scored a massive strategic victory by camping KenZoku (formerly known as BOB) fleet into a single station for an entire month. The battle to break the camp was one of the largest in Eve's history involving over 1000 players.
Camping can also be applied to real-time and turn-based strategy games, where it is also referred to as turtling. It is the opposite of a rush. Instead of attacking, players put most or all efforts into fortifying defensive and critical positions. Any attempt at attack against these positions is usually unsuccessful; any damage done to the defenses is often repaired or rebuilt before the other player can attack again. The obvious disadvantage is that turtling players often have no resources to invest in an effective offensive force, so they are not as mobile as rushers. As in first-person shooters, this is looked down upon as a rude practice due to the stalemate that often results, with neither side able to gain a victory over the other.
Many strategy games attempt to prevent such camping by forcing players to collect resources outside their starting position. Because campers, whose "economy" supports fortifications instead of armies, are usually unable to defend these areas, opposing players can cut off their funding and eventually win through sheer numbers and attrition. For instance, in Warhammer 40K-based game Dawn of War, all resources are taken from strategic and critical points located around the map, and turtling results in being massively outnumbered. (Relic Entertainment have underscored this viewpoint by establishing a "Territory Control" victory condition, wherein a player wins if they control more-than-50% of all Control Points for a certain length of time.) Thus, turtling offers great short-term defensive advantage but cedes the initiative; it can be seen as a suicidal or desperation tactic, or a hallmark of an inexperienced player. There are also some units in turn-based strategy games that are capable of helping to spike on the turtle's guards, such as the MB-5 Rabbit in Nectaris and the Mech in Game Boy Wars 3 or most of the long-range artillery that is able to sweep fortified position either clear of enemies or weaken their defences before crucial assault.
Another common game mechanism to prevent camping is the existence of superweapons, powerful attacks which can be unleashed on any part of the map and cannot be defended against. This usually requires construction of a superweapon structure, which forces campers to seek out and destroy the structure. Many games also have artillery units which have longer range than defensive structures, forcing the camper to deal with the threat. This can be a two-edged sword as campers can build (and heavily defend) these same units and structures themselves though paradoxically the resource investment required to build Superweapons in quantity actually leaves a turtling player even more vulnerable to Superweapons.
Turtling is not always futile though, especially in games with numerous opponents. A turtling player is unlikely to initiate attacks until mid to late game, normally focusing on advancing up the tech tree and either a) having such powerful defenses as to render themselves essentially invulnerable, or b) having a force of top-level units to (finally) attack with. An aggressive player attacking a turtler uses resources and units that, in most cases, would be better used against a player who is more likely to retaliate and, as such, constitutes a larger threat. In a hostile environment like this, turtling can be a viable strategy; there is potential for unhampered research and limited growth while the other players battle amongst themselves, with the turtler eventually emerging to dominate the weakened opponents. However, as with any form of turtling, this strategy tends to be frowned upon. A good example of this strategy can be seen in THQ's game Dawn of War, where Space marines have powerful top-of-the-tech-tree superunits that are able to teleport into the enemy base, and destroying the aggressive player's vital structures (with aggressive player likely having majority of the army located near defending player's base).
This type of camping is frequent in ranked games which require all players to be at the same time on certain screen (character selection, weapon selection, etc.). In games where a time limit in such screens is not included, campers can take advantage of the situation and stop playing, leaving their opponents also waiting with no other choice than to wait indefinitely or quit from the game, the last option resulting in an absolute win for the camper. An example of such camping takes place frequently in the character selection of Street Fighter II for Xbox Live Arcade.
In online play for Pro Evolution Soccer 6, at the team selection screen, some players will highlight but not select a weak team to persuade their opponent to select a weak team as well. The player will not select the team, and instead wait for the timer to count down, and suddenly select one of the best teams at the last second. This strategy often results in the player gaining a large advantage against their unsuspecting opponent.
The virtual world simulator Second Life features many locations where users avatars may "camp" in order to earn "Linden dollars", the currency of the virtual world. Usually set up by other users, camping locations might involve the avatar doing an activity, or simply sitting and doing nothing; a certain number of Linden dollars (which vary from place to place) are paid out based upon how long an avatar camps.
Camping schools of thought
There are two schools of thought on camping. People against camping believe it ruins the game, and that if everyone did it no one would get any kills. Essentially, "if everyone camped there would be no game". Many proponents of camping believe it's a useful tactic when in key areas of the map, or when trying to achieve a particular objective. On the other hand, some campers find the first room or corner they see on the map, and stay in that place until they've been killed.
- "Quake 4 Files Game Server Rules". Filefront.
- Weiss, Dan (1 April 2003). "Unreal Tournament 2003 FAQ v.1.1". IGN FAQs. IGN. Section C. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
- Hailey, Charlie (2009-04-30). Camps: A Guide to 21st Century Space. The MIT Press. p. 74. ISBN 0-262-51287-4. "Spawn camp affords an absolute position, controlling the game not by strategic action but through immobility—to the extent that popular games like EverQuest have come to be known as EverCamp."
- Eve Tribune: Battle: Well and Truly Joined