Technically we could say any player to player action (including trading, grouping, buying/selling, duels, chatting, etc.) is PvP. BUT we all tend to think of PvP as the act of combat with another player or players.
Now we get to the crux of the problem, defining PvP in the context of combat.
The Old School, "we've been gaming since people threw stones at each other - ugh ugh - therefore 'our' knowledge is vast and . . . type", will often loudly and abusivly state that PvP only exists in games such as Ultima Online (UO) or Dark Ages of Camelot (DA0C) or and sandbox-type game that allows player driven/inspired/controlled PvP. Anything else is weak and pathetic or unworthy of being classes as PvP.
I often read on forums and other blogs that if it's not full on looting and/or with massive death penalties when you lose a fight it doesn't count. Anything else is carebear or isn't 'real' pvp or just for nub/scrubs.
The opposite side is the whining in most games from those that just got ganked, about the unfairness of it all. You did roll on a PvP server right? Well then stfu! I accept the risk of playing on a PvP, and do go from gleefully happy when I win, to angry time to log when I've played poorly or been killed numerous times (ala Hillsabrad on a bad day!).
The debate rages even within a specific game -
WoW has the never-ending argument about PvP - is it arena's (what's your rating hmmm?) or battlegrounds or only world engagements actual PvP?
Warhammer has the same problem in 'are scenarios ruining the RvR or are scenarios legitimatePvP'?
Personally, I enjoy battlegrounds/scenarios - they're defined areas, defined goals, everyone knows why they're there and it is a competition - albeit sometimes quite uneven in numbers, skills, etc. But the fact that everyone there is there for the reason of fighting makes the rules simple and understandable - kill or be killed period! No one can complain if 20 guys mow you down, duh why'd you stand in the road? All classes abilities can be used, althoug some scenarios/bgs favor certain abilities (ranged vs melee).
Do I think the BGs/SC's could be dramatically improved -yes! I didn't have the opportunity to try the pre-BC battlegrounds, and think adding questing, more goals, a bit of pve stuff in Alteric Valley would breathe life back into them. The saving grace with Warhammer's scenarios - they're timed. You know win/lose its all done in 15 minutes. If you want longer protracted fights - there is the RvR lakes with the mix of pvp/pve.
The RvR lakes are fun when actual PvP is happening (versus PvE taking undefending keeps). Epic battles with 3 warbands on each side are all out mayhem and quite exhilirating!
The reason I prefer structured PvP is, I have a hard time (as much as I love world PvP) killing someone that I can clearly see is out questing, etc., or basically minding their own business. If you're near our towns, cities or areas you don't belong I'm going to kill you if I can, send out a request for help if I can't!
But, I've tried and have a hard time trying to embrace the 'red is dead' mentality! I can't take it to heart. I've been on world guild raids when we're killing everything in our path (those are fun!), but I like a fair fight and will defend myself even if a much higher level is killing me, I'm going to put up whatever fight I can!!!
I just don't get a whole lot of joy to gank someone many levels lower than me! I have done that, but rarely. My shadow priest once dotted 3 guys 20 levels lower. I'm not sure if they noticed but it was funny watching them fall over dead - lol! I felt bad about it later, but it was funny.
A gnome one time hiding by our graveyard in Warsong Gulch dotted us as we're rezzed . . . none of us noticed until we fell dead before we were midfield. Finally someone did and we killed him. I'm sure he had a huge laugh over that. It is funny in hindsight!
Admittedly though, nothing is sweetier though then beating the guy who tried to kill you - especially if its two or more of them!!! I had a pally/rogue duo attempt to take out my death knight one day in Un'Goro. I was leaving them alone, but they felt the need to try and kill me. Oh well. It was really fun watching them run every time after that they saw my little gnome on the horizon - lol!!!
I was very happy the day my hunter developed a good strategy to deal with death knights. I don't always win, but I'm not in the 'oh crap a DK headed my way' mode anymore! Pallys - argh!! I know I'm going down and running doesn't help!
My attitude is so different from many people I do play with friends, family, guildmates, as they will ride halfway across Azeroth to kill someone. I've done that but generally as payback only! You gank me, I'm going to try to grief you into logging out - lol!! A mage attacked me on Hellfire one day, killed him 3x, then chased him and killed him again.
I did a brief stint through AoC (Age of Conan) when it came out on a full pvp server. Basically you're flagged all the time. It was fun in general as you didn't know if the guy next to you might all of sudden take a swing at you. I even rolled on the racial based (forget the name know) where the three races were pitted against each other. It was interesting, except for the fact we could be in the same guild, yet grouping I could kill their race, they couldn't heal me - weird. The bad part (for me) was the roving bands of gankers looking for easy targets - usually a solo player or many levels lower. That mentality I just don't get! But then again I don't get human gang mentality picking on one person either. Not very sporting to have 4-20 players whack one guy!
I've also tried PvP on EQ2. Well I've not dinged 20 yet as I'm a basic chicken in that game. I keep wanting to give it a really good try, but I have been playing EQ2 so infrequently as it is, I would just be dead - alot! The people that play PvP with the way you can lock xp, just cause he's a 18 doesn't make him a 'real' 18!
LoTRO's PvMP (player vs monster player) is alot of fun. It's a separate zone called the Ettenmoors. were you either play your own level 40 character called a freep (free person) when in the Ettenmoors zone. Or you play the evil side a monster or commonly called a creep. Playing a creep is available at your level 10. You start with a level 50 creep. You can skill up by PvP, there are quests you can complete, objectives that can be taken, ganking going on, all in a rather pretty LoTRO backdrop.
It is different but entertaining. Playing a worg or uruk'ai really brings out the urge to kill the good guys - lol!!!
If I could be queen and have the perfect PvP game -
Everyone is flagged at all times except for the start zone
There are zoned level differences as far as killing goes - 4 level up to level 20, 10 up to 40, free for all after that
You can not be killed while taking/turning in a quest - 30 second immunity
City guards have high aggro range and are epic+3-4 people to kill them not killable by a solo person
Townspeople if they see/detect the opposition will react and guards will come
Looting partial with 60-80% of goods/money only or random stuff drops into a chest/gravestone
Mercenaries (npcs or pcs) could be hired to guard you on the main roads
Killing your own kin/race, etc., would class you as a rogue available for higher xp/rewards for killing the rogue
Wanted posters could be offered for gankers
Anyway, now that Darkfall is out and full PvP loot is back in action, the early reports have been pretty positive. I'm giving it a month to smooth out some of the wrinkles. The aches and pains of AoC and Warhammer have made me a bit cautious. I'm not sure I get Darkfall, the game as a concept so we'll see if it stays in the game rotation or not! I understand the skill versus level base, but I guess I'm more objective based. The objective to just run around and kill others will eventually become boring - I would think. More research is needed apparently!!!