Let's 'pretend' for a second that magic is real (lol). Imagine being a wizard on the back-line of a large army charging into battle. Your army's front line knights clash heavily with those of the enemy and the battle begins. You start spell casting and send a magnificent fireball into the fray of battle. The fireball explodes leaving the enemy front line completely decimated. Luckily you have friendly fire 'turned off' and all your army's knights are unharmed. WTF? Immunity to friendly fire doesn’t make any sense in a fantasy realm, so what is it doing in my RPG?
Friendly fire (FF) in an MMORPG would definitely make sense, so why is it so rarely implemented in practice? I began pondering this question today...
If everyone in the game could harm everyone else, how would you prevent abusive players from carving up their own team? How would you even have teams? The entire game would need to be based on trust and diplomacy, which aren't exactly common traits in online players. FF would add an extra element of difficulty to large scale battles, because it would be hard to avoid accidentally exploding your team mates with AoE type attacks. The extra layer of difficultly would in fact make the game require more skill, possibly appealing to the hardcore gamers. Unfortunately hardcore gamers aren't exactly the majority population at the moment, so FF might not be the best idea ever. I'm guessing this is the reason that MMO game companies have thus far steered clear of FF. Too much risk of abuse, and only a small population of gamers that would enjoy it.
I definitely think FF would work in an MMORPG, but it would require a clever consequences system to prevent abuse. Being somewhat of a hardcore gamer, I look forward to seeing the first MMORPG to successfully pull it off. I've heard the FF will be included in Darkfall, but I'm still not convinced that the game isn't vaporware.