Tag Archive for Combat

Combat Pacing

One discussion that comes up from time to time when talking about game design for MMOs is about combat pacing.  That is, how long should a fight last, and how “active” should the player be?  In fact, just last week a thread about this showed up on the forums over at Nerfbat.

Because I’m more interested in group play and social interactions, obviously my stance is to make fights longer and reduce the need for button pushing.  I’m extremely fond of the old EverQuest design where fights were counted in minutes and players often had between 3 and 10 seconds between actions.  In my opinion, this allowed for more tactical play, allowing you to see what was happening and consider your response as opposed to faster games where you tend to approach the fight with a plan and execute it, the individual fight lasting 30 seconds or less (excluding boss and raid encounters, which are obviously tuned to large groups and to last longer).

I also like slow combat because currently, unless you are playing exclusively with friends and using voice chat on a Ventrilo server or similar service, social interactions have to occur through the same keyboard that controls game play.  If you are hitting a key to perform a combat action every 1 to 2 seconds, that doesn’t give you much opportunity to chat.  The more “intense” the combat, the more “quiet” the game gets, and you have to practically stop playing the game in order to be social.

Anyway, those are my thoughts, also expressed in the thread.  If you want to join in the discussion, I encourage you to sign up at the Nerfbat forums and do so.

Combat Revised

Tobold has an interesting post up today about making combat in MMOs better.  I’d like to take his combat cards design a step further, and use it to support a classless design as well.

Think about it, if all your attacks, defences and utility moves in combat were based on a deck of skill/action cards, you can go a step further and make each card have requirements.  For example, a defensive card called “Shield Block” that would buff you an absorb the damage of the next incoming attack (or X amount of damage) would require you to have a shield equipped to use.  A “Fireball” card could require a wand be in your primary hand, while a “Backstab” requires a dagger.  I’m sure we could spitball and come up with many things like this.  As an added bonus, the items could have a modifier.  Using a flat shield with “Shield Block” has no bonus, but if you had a Spiked Shield your “Shield Block” would inflict X damage if the attack absorbed was a melee attack.  Again, let your mind run wild on all the things you could do.

The result would be that your “class” would be defined by your equipment and the deck that you carry.  New cards and new items could be found through questing and adventuring, and made through crafting.  Crafting itself could be made up as card game combat using a separate deck and crafter’s tools.

To throw another element into the mix, you could allow for character level to affect the bonus on cards, or even add a “card level” where the cards in your deck gain experience through use, the more you use a card the higher level it gets the better the bonus.  Card level would, in effect, mirror a skill based system, while your character level would carry a bonus on all cards.  So if you had been heavily magic focused and decided to become a plate tank by switching your gear and cards, the 50 levels you earned as a mage would transfer as a level 50 warrior, you’d only be lacking card levels.

Another thing this design would allow for is a structure where any opponent can be non-trivial.  If defence and mitigation are card effects, an unlucky draw could leave you open to attacks by even the “lowest level” foes.  The reverse is also true, that low level characters can fight even high level foes with a good deck and a lucky draw.

This design would even allow for RMT in the form of selling booster packs of random cards (or buying specific cards for larger amounts), but restricts the power of “bought goods” through the equipment requirements and card level bonuses.  (Traded cards would not retain their level.)

Lastly, similar to the way Guild Wars handles things, make the places you can swap equipment and decks be limited to the adventuring hubs, so that a player picks a role and outfits themselves prior to heading out.  (This works fantastically with my thoughts on towncentric design with judicious use of instancing.)

The more I think about it, the more I like this.

Thoughts on PvP

About a month ago, Scott at Broken Toys made a great post on How To Make A Game With ‘PvP Done Right’. Tobold followed that up with We Just Don’t Want To Lose. Both great posts… and there were a bunch more.

So, exactly how can you manage to have good PvP and avoid making losing feel like a crippling loss?

Before I go into anything, lets just put out there that I do not like 100% open friendly fire PvP. I prefer PvP games where there are sides to choose, like Dark Age of Camelot and World of Warcraft and the upcoming Warhammer.

I would think what you would need is to reward players with several buckets.

Let’s call the first bucket the “Combat Bucket”, in here the player is given points for damaging enemies, healing damage done by enemies, casting debuffs and buffs with diminishing returns for recasting spells that don’t stack (i.e. – if you cast a debuff that reduces the target’s accuracy by 5% and a second cast stacks for a 10% total you get full points for casting it; but if it does not stack and a second cast keeps the effect at 5%, you only get points if your cast is considered a “refresh” – the effect lasts 30 seconds and you recast it at 10 seconds or less to go; if it doesn’t stack and isn’t a “refresh” you get nothing). Essentially, within the PvP environment (the open world, the instance, whatever), every action that is taken in offense or defense earns points in the Combat Bucket. You could even split this into two buckets for offense or defense, but that might get complicated.

The next bucket is the “Kill Bucket”. When an enemy is defeated, points are dropped into the Kill Bucket for all the people who participated in the kill. How far/deep to go with this is a very long discussion and requires testing to determine how far is far enough and how deep is deep enough. How is the kill awarded? To a player? To a group? To a side? To everyone who damaged, debuffed, buffed/healed those people, etc?

The third bucket is the “Victory Bucket”. If the PvP has objectives that are met, points are dropped into this bucket. This can be for winning the match in a WoW Battlegrounds type scenario, or even completing mini objectives like the subquests that exist inside the WoW Battlegrounds (gathering supplies and what not in Alterac Valley, or capturing/defending control points in Arathi Basin, or capturing a flag in Warsong).

The key here is to try to award points for as many actions as possible and to reward “doing nothing” as little as possible. With a model like this, sure a player might AFK through a round of fighting and earn a minimum Victory reward (if his team wins the round), but actually participating would earn rewards as such a faster rate that being AFK through rounds would seem like a complete waste of time.

But why the different buckets? Well, with the points you earn, you can buy items, but the items would also be divided up. Some items would require generic “points”, and the player could spend from any combination of their buckets to buy them. Then you’d have items that required specific point types. New weapons and items that affect combat would come from the combat and kill buckets, with special “trophy” items coming from only one bucket. And the Victory Bucket would be spent on titles or armor models. With trophy items, the purchases could be tiered so that maybe you’d buy a first level helmet plume for 5,000 victory points, and the second level helmet plume would be 10,000 points plus a first level helmet plume, making the point cost of the second level actually be 15,000, but also making it so that spending the first 5,000 has no penalty to it except expending the points sooner rather than later so if you end a hard day of playing with 5,800 points, buying the first level plume doesn’t hurt you on your way to getting the twentieth level plume.

Anyway… this is just me armchair game designing again… feel free to shoot holes in my proposal, you won’t offend me with constructive criticism.

Combat Skills

One thing I feel is really lacking in pretty much all MMORPGs is actual player skill. With their simplistic auto-attack or even button/click feat based scenarios there is very little room for the player to really control how good their character is at fighting. Even in games like City of Heroes where there isn’t really an auto-attack, your skill is hamstrung by the limitations of the game mechanics, which in CoH is the recharge time and choice/placement of expansion slots.

FPS games are all about skill. Well, except when the game allows scripting/macroing. People who used the rocket-jump scripts in Quake were cheaters in my book, people who did it without a script were talented. But that aside, every player runs the same speed and has access to the same weapons, and what separates the players is how well they use the guns and know the maps.

However, in making combat more skill based, I don’t want to lose the players who actually prefer auto-attack. So consider this…

The default configuration is auto-attack. You equip a sword and run up to the monster and hit attack. Your weapon will do average damage, perhaps with a random chance to score a critical hit and do double damage. This model is enough to play the game. You won’t be the best in the world, but you will do alright. Then, on an option screen, you are able to select several levels of skill based control. For example, you can choose the “fighting style” method which presents your character with a list of pre-set sword grip and fighting styles. Each style has advantages and disadvantages, base-lined on the auto-attack, and you select them and use them. Then on the furthest end of the scale is “complete control” where your joystick controls your sword arm and your keyboard moves your feet, you gain the ability to move the sword in whatever way you choose to hamstring opponents or stab at the eyes, but you also have your damage affected by your movement because “strafing” around a target you’ll have much less power than if you plant your feet and put your whole body into the swing.

It would obviously take alot of effort to work out all the details, but the gist is that you allow the player to decide how much skill they want to use in the game. The less skill they use, the move “average” their character is; the more skill, the more chances for heroics.

The Music of My Youth

Okay, so this is going in the Gaming category, but only because it didn’t really fit into Random Thoughts, and it does actually have something to do with games. I’m not normally one to post about crap I see on the internet, but this I just had to put up.

Nintendo Choir.

Its only not safe for work if your PC is loud, but even then most people under 40 should laugh when they hear this. Its a choir singing songs from popular Nintendo (and other) games… Mario, Zelda, Mortal Combat. And they do a pretty good job of it too…


Ideas on hold…

SOE is going to be introducing an all new melee combat system. So, to that end, I am going to withhold judgements and further suggestions until I see what they come up with.

Either it’ll be good, or it might be bad enough that I give up on EverQuest.