Notes from the boardroom.

Part the second.
(Part 1)

Colin: “Norman, my dearest of colleagues, why so glum?”

Norman: “Oh, you know, Colin. It’s these ‘player’ specimens that keep running around our game, killing our wildlife repeatedly for no apparent reason, honestly I think they’re a bit mad.”

Colin: “Ah yes, still here after all this time and all of our best efforts aren’t they?”

Norman: “Quite frankly Colin they irritate me.”

Colin “Well they are somewhat annoying, but they do bring in quite a lot of money, and you know that money is the only thing that these Earth creatures will accept in exchange for their delicious shoe polish.”

Norman: “No, no, they quite literally irritate me, they bring out the eczema on my nipples.”

Colin: “That’s… that’s too much information, really. Even from someone like you, who I love like my very own laundry basket.”

Norman: “Sorry Colin, I’m just tired because I haven’t found a way to slow them down at all. They scurry around all over the game like little crabs; little crabs that look like scurrying mice! And I can’t think of any way to slow them down.”

Colin: “Slugs!”

Norman: “Slugs?”

Colin: “And wargs!”

Norman: “Slugs and wargs? I’m not following you.”

Colin: “What I’m saying is ‘slugs’. And ‘wargs’.”

Norman: “Yeeees, and what I’m saying is ‘I don’t follow you’.”

Colin: “Ah, I see, sorry. Well, what if we had some creatures…”

Norman: “Like slugs?”

Colin: “Or wargs. And said creatures cast a debuff on these ‘player’ organisms that slowed down their movement speed.”

Norman: “It’s an interesting idea, Colin, but I think you’ll find that most of our combat involves the ‘player’ entities standing utterly stationary whilst slugging it out toe-to-toe with the mobs, so I’m not sure how that debuff would cause them any grief at all.”

Colin: “Ah, but the mobs will cast it right at the end of the combat.”

Norman: “At the end of the combat?”

Colin: “Yes, you know, the event that is far away from the start of the combat.”

Norman: “Oh! The end of combat!”

Colin: “Indeed.”

Norman: “Well why didn’t you just say so? It’s brilliant, Colin! We could have the slugs cast an AoE slime thing at the end of combat, and that will snare the ‘player’ for absolutely no good reason until they slowly crawl their way out of it. They’ll be utterly baffled as to the point of it! But what about the wargs?”

Colin: “Ah, now they will cause a wound at the end of combat which slows down run speed by a large amount.”

Norman: “Excellent! That’ll slow the ‘player’ varmints’ progress, make them more susceptible to being attacked by other mobs in the area, and is generally pointless beyond being an obvious mechanic to spoil their fun. I like it! I feel that it needs a little something extra though, a little something to really push them over the edge…”

Colin: “It’ll last for two minutes.”

Norman: “Two minutes?! But Colin, my dear congealed kibitzer, that would seem like an eternity to a player trying to make their way anywhere in the game, even if it were just twenty yards further to the next mob!”

Norman and Colin laugh nervously at the silliness of it. Then they stop and look at each other.

Norman: “It wouldn’t work, would it?”

Colin: “It’s genius, Norman, and you know it. Get the programmers on it right away.”

Norman: “I love you, Colin.”

Colin: “I know. Let’s go and get a nice steamy bowl of shoe polish to celebrate.”

I really would love to gain some actual insight and understanding into the design decisions behind some of the debuffs these mobs give to players in Lord of the Rings Online.

7 thoughts on “Notes from the boardroom.

  1. unwize

    Possibly another money sink, since they can be cured for 13s a time (at lvl 60). You certainly have to puzzle at the length of some of those debuffs though, I agree.

    I guess the actual design intent in this case was to prevent players from running away from wargs so easily, since wargs should really be pretty quick in comparison. Instead of speeding the wargs up, they slow the player down.

    Moria introduced the warg riders that have that annoying tendency to snare, quickly sprint away, and pepper you with spears. Perhaps they should give regular wargs the ability to perform that quick sprint part in order to chase fleeing players rather than snaring them.

    There’s also that annoying and incurable ‘hounding fear’ debuff, which according to one dev, is apparently so deeply embedded in the code somewhere that removing it would send the whole house of cards crashing down.

  2. Brian 'Psychochild' Green

    It ate my previous comment. :(

    I hate these creatures as a player, too, but let me point out a few things.

    1) The monsters are memorable. What’s the difference between fighitng a wolf and a goblin in LotRO? What’s the difference between fighting a wolf and a crazed gnome in WoW? (Besides the fact the you’d only feel guilty about killing the wolf…)

    2) It’s a shared experience. Every LotRO player will read this article and know exactly what you’re talking about. Shared experiences, even negative ones, can strengthen a community. Or, to put it another way, you’re part of an exclusive club of people who know what fighting wolves in LotRO means.

    3) It’s not always just an annoyance. When I was in the swampy areas of Angmar, a slug slimed me then a worm spewed fire. While sauntering out of the burning slime and watching my morale bar decrease, I thought, “Ah, this sucks more than just being slimed.”

    Not to say this is brilliant design, but here are a few things designers might consider.

  3. pjharvey

    I think I would appreciate the design decisions more if it were possible to avoid, or at least mitigate, the effects through situational awareness and agility in combat. Being hit by a debuff time and time again simply because that’s what the creature does right before death has made me drastically cut short game sessions out of frustration.

  4. Capn John

    A long, long time ago, I can still remember how that music…er…I mean, there was a time in WoW when Diseases could last for up to half an hour, and they were nasty Diseases too, with nasty debuffs. Not just a reduced run speed but you could take extra damage, or have your stamina reduced, etc. Brutal stuff.

    Now you’re lucky, or rather unlucky, to catch a Disease that lasts 5 minutes or more.

  5. Melmoth Post author

    @unwize: “I guess the actual design intent in this case was to prevent players from running away from wargs so easily,” I’d agree, but they cast the debuff at the end of combat, try it. At least, the ones I was experimenting on in the North Downs did. It might be that they also cast it if you try to run, I must admit that I haven’t checked that, but stand toe-to-toe and the debuff appears right around the time you land your killing blow; this is the thing that annoys me, or that I find to be curious at the very least. Long debuffs to last the duration of a fight and possibly beyond: no problem. Long debuffs only at the end of a fight: hmmmm.

    @Brian ‘Psychochild’ Green: Fair points there, you’re certainly right that it does make the mobs more memorable, but I feel that it’s not really for the right reasons. Making a mob memorable because it frequently and repeatedly annoys you to the extent that you log off in frustration is not really the way to go. Those fights where the debuff really makes you have to work to survive? Fantastic! Most of the time though you’re just limping around the landscape at a painful rate of knots for no good reason.

    @pjharvey: As unwize says, in this case you can cure the wound debuff, but it costs, you need to have enough of the salves to last for your session of game-play thus taking up valuable inventory space when questing, and invariably you’re going to run out of salves before you run out of mobs to kill. You’re right in the fact that, even if you can mitigate the problem, if the mobs invariably debuff you ‘just because’ then the likelihood is that you’ll run out of mitigation before you run out of mobs. It is terribly frustrating, not because of the debuff itself, but because it is applied in a way that is knowingly going to have no effect other than to cause you grief.

    @Capn John: Indeed, LotRO is certainly not the only one guilty of it. Overly long debuffs can be justified though, I think. It’s more the combination of a long debuff and the fact that it is applied at the end of combat, thus making it abundantly clear that it’s nothing to do with the mob trying to win the combat but about the developer trying to slow your progress after the fight. Or so it appears. As I said, I love to gain some insight into the design decision from those who implemented it, because I find it most curious.

  6. Melmoth Post author

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