Sound trumpets! Let our bloody colours wave!

A mode of co-operative play that is becoming a standard feature in FPS games these days is one where your group have to fight off wave after wave of increasingly difficult enemies. Gears of War 2 has Horde mode, Halo ODST has Firefight.

LotRO’s Skirmishes have a similar sort of feature but it’s not quite what I’m after: it’s a fixed number of waves, and the waves of mobs don’t get progressively more difficult as such, they simply have a random chance to have a lieutenant spawn with each wave, with the final wave spawning a boss mob. I can’t think of a comparable example in any of the other MMOs that I play, let me know if there are any examples that you are aware of.

I think this could be quite a fun mode of play in MMOs. A party of up to five players spawn at a point which they have to defend; increasingly more difficult waves of mobs attack, with short breaks between each major wave allowing the players to regenerate some health and mana (standard potions and food wouldn’t work in this game mode, but there would be potion and food equivalent items placed at strategic locations around the map that players could gather, if they wish to risk leaving the safety of their defended position). A timer begins its count at the start of the game and the longer a group of players manages to stay alive the greater their reward; once all players are dead they are returned to the exit point where a chest with the loot they earned based upon their survival time awaits them.

Thinking in terms of World of Warcraft – in order to avoid the standard AoE-spam tank’n’spank that exists in the game at the moment for most five man dungeons, it might be that the non-elite mobs in a wave can be controlled with taunts and standard aggro generating techniques, but that lieutenants and above are immune to such, they can however, be restrained with various crowd control abilities (this is based upon an idea that tigerears mentioned recently when we were discussing tweaking the existing five-man dungeon content to remove some of the AoE spam, Rohan recently touched on the same idea too).

There are all sorts of other game elements that could be incorporated: turrets that can be used to thin out the waves of mobs as they approach the defended position, for example; objectives around the map that give powerful buffs and other effects, but which require a significant amount of risk and skill in getting to (and back from) them.

Do you have a non-dungeon-crawl mode of game-play that you’d like to see in an MMO?

9 thoughts on “Sound trumpets! Let our bloody colours wave!

  1. Tesh

    There actually is this sort of mechanic in Puzzle Pirates. Sure, all competition is based on puzzling, there are no levels, and it’s based on player skill not avatar grinding…

    On the “Cursed Isles”, there are waves of progressively harder enemies, and the rewards scale quite nicely once you get past a certain point. It’s a lot of fun, trying to push the envelope. That’s the kind of group-based PvE that I like, where the difficulty is up to you and your skills. You only push as hard as you want, and get rewarded according to your success.

  2. Ross Smith

    Guild Wars does this a lot; there are any number of quests all through GW built on the “defend this shrine/gateway/NPC/yourselves against multiple waves of enemies” theme.

  3. Melmoth Post author

    Splendid! I thought there’d be at least a couple of examples out there, but I couldn’t think of one from any of the MMOs that I’ve played in recent times. It seemed like the sort of thing that might have been implemented in Tabula Rasa, say, but I never got far enough in that game to find out.

    Alas, for my sins, I never got terribly far with either Puzzle Pirates or Guild Wars.

    And indeed, I like the idea of having the rewards scale to your level of success, and that there isn’t necessarily an upper limit to that success. Each time you run a dungeon you know where the end is, and once you’ve completed it for the first time you’ll always know that you can do so any time you choose to return.

    Game modes where you strive to get as far as you can before being overwhelmed can offer a more classic, perhaps arcade-like, gaming experience. I guess it could be likened to Space Invaders and company, where you try to get as far as you can and gain the highest score possible before the game throws too many enemies too quickly at you for you to get further. The more you play, the more likely you are to get that little bit further. I think developers would be wise to not ignore this arcade style of play in their MMOs, it can be easily as ‘addictive’ as, say, the standard MMO level grind.

    For example, I have an idea for a sort of inverse-Tetris mini-game, built around the format of a WoW-a-like MMO. WoW and Tetris combined in one game space; surely it would be banned by governments as a Class A narcotic.

  4. Melmoth Post author

    I’ll have to take a look, it’s always been out of action whenever I’ve had an opportunity to skirmish, alas.

    Do the waves of mobs get progressively more difficult, or is it wave after wave of standard mobs with the same random chance of a lieutenant spawning, with a boss at the end?

    Ideally the actual strength of the basic mobs should increase in power as you move through each wave, and after X waves new mobs should be introduced into the pool of attackers which would serve to add a new level of complexity to the players’ defensive strategy.

  5. pjharvey

    Maybe the thought of going in to a scenario knowing you are going to ‘lose’, even if offered a ‘consolation prize’, doesn’t fare as well with many people as a smoothly completed victory.

    I imagine PuGs using this mechanic would become stressful pits of blame and resentment.

  6. Melmoth Post author

    Most people would play Pacman expecting to lose, but would enjoy it nevertheless; as much as, say, Super Mario where they might have some expectation to reach the end with only a modest amount of skill.

    Is it because MMO players want everything to be known and a simple matter of grinding progress out? Is that why there seems to be so much resistance to raid bosses with random abilities, for example?

    PuGs are PuGs; although I agree that there is an elevated chance for blame and resentment in this style of play, I don’t believe that it would be that much greater in magnitude than that of, say, raiding.

  7. pjharvey

    True enough. Old arcade games were built around ramping up the difficulty until the inevitable defeat. I suppose I am reflecting the industry’s move away from wanting to eat credits and offering a longer-lasting gaming session, but that doesn’t preclude the basic game style from being enjoyable or satisfying.

    I would suggest that PuGs have more blame than normal because of the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory. Any group that assembles regularly must foster higher levels of personal responsibility.

  8. Capn John

    Funny you should mention this, I just happened to tank Zul’Farrak last night, and I particularly enjoyed the encounter where you free Bly & his buddies then face down wave upon wave of Sandfury Trolls.

    Tanking is all well and good…when you’re in control. But it gets really fun when things get a little out of hand. Maybe you Aggro a Pat mid-fight, then miss a runner who comes back with another Pat while you’re still fighting the first. Mobs are running all over the place, heading for your Healer, etc., and that’s when it gets hairy but Fun! :)

    For some reason our Hunter dropped out with Gahz’rilla still left to kill leaving myself (a Prot Pally), our Shaman Healer, a Rogue, and a Mage. As we entered the area with Gahz’rilla’s pool I carefully pulled a couple of solo Pats and took care of them, then when everyone was ready I pulled the big crowd to the left. I think about 5 Mobs in all. But while we were killing them I looked around and saw a 3-4 Mob Pat was bearing down on us from behind. As they hit us I tried to grab Aggro but our Shaman took a couple of cheap shots and went down.

    “That is NOT good,” I thought to myself, but I gave it my best shot and tried to round them all up so the AoEing Mage and my Consecrate could do maximum damage. It wasn’t a long fight by any means, but it seemed to last some time. There were Mobs all over the place, AoE explosions from the Mage, it was chaotic! (But fun ;) And then, just like that, we pulled through. We survived!

    I rez’d the Shammy and apologized to her and she said we actually did pretty good. After that, Gahz’rilla was a piece of cake, and if not for his habit of playing with his food and booting us into the air twice, it would have been a boring fight.

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