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In video gaming, camping is a tactic where a player obtains a static strategic position of advantage. This behaviour manifests in different ways depending on the underlying nature of the game (online text adventure, graphical MMO, first-person shooter, etc.), but invariably involves a player waiting in one location for the game (or other players of the game) to do something which they can take advantage of, often repeatedly. That camping is often seen as a method for circumventing much of the effort usually required to acquire a desired reward makes the activity contentious. Among many players, camping is considered tantamount to cheating, especially in deathmatch-type first-person shooter 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. However, by camping, a player is able to learn and adapt to the limited environment he/she is playing in; noting specific points to check repetitively. By following this method with little fault, a lower number of deaths can be achieved.
Multiple players camping in mutually supportive positions is referred to in some game types as turtling.
Camping in first-person shooters
Camping often provides 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. More experienced players are sometimes "semimobile campers/snipers" that leave boobytraps and relocate after 1-3 kills to prevent retaliation.
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.
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 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 create an ambush. 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).
In some games such as Blacklight: Retribution, players are given a way to combat camping. All players in Blacklight: Retribution have what is known as a 'Hyper-Reality Visor' (HRV) which enables them to see, among other things, players through walls. Usage of the HRV is limited and players cannot use their weapons when it is engaged. This feature allows players to know where possible campers are and allows for faster gameplay. The HRV can be combated by certain equippable items however, such as a mine that disables the highlighting in the HRV.
Spawn camping involves camping or guarding the position of the own 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.
Some objective-based games use fixed spawns defended by, for example, 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.
Spawn trapping is the act of camping in an advantageous position in the vicinity of an enemies spawn and killing them as soon as they leave the spawn, or their spawn protection runs out. Base trapping can also be used to describe this act.
Another form of camping, typically found in large-scale deathmatch games with large open maps. 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.
- 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 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.
- 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 own 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.
On the other hand, a player may simply choose to camp in a vehicle, taking advantage of the vehicle's armor or its weapons, which are generally better than the player's. In many cases the vehicle has a large amount or even infinite ammunition, allowing the camper to avoid expending his own ammunition, while still being able to kill members of the opposing team.
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.
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 desirable items 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 as this version of camping poses no risk to other players unlike those in first person shooters. There is no official rule granting players exclusive rights to a camp.
The MMORPG EverQuest, when first released, had advancement through the game 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".
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.
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.
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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.