Thought for the day.

I like a moderate pace of combat action in my MMOs. Put another way: I like to have time to consider my options in combat, but not enough time to draft those considerations into a thesis. At the same time, the frantic finger ‘pile driving’ required by games like Starcraft doesn’t really interest me.

Mixing the pace of combat based on role seems like it might add an extra level of flavour to character classes. Some classes might play slower but require more critical thought – the mage archetype seems apt – where the player mustn’t play for the moment but instead should consider the big picture, slowly and carefully building a foundation of power before unleashing their game-changing abilities, yet still having to adapt their plans based on the ebb and flow of battlefield. Other classes might require split second decisions – warriors being a prime example – where reacting to your enemy from moment to moment is the difference between victory or defeat.

With the primary aim being to give players a choice of pace within the same game context, is it wise to mix several types of combat into one game system?

10 thoughts on “Thought for the day.

  1. Caspian

    I think one of the key examples of how the pace of combat can change very dynamically is in PvP vs PvE; generally in PvE, behaviours are predictable (at the very least scripted) and once you’ve faced a boss on two or three occasions, you generally know how things are going to turn out.

    PvP on the other hand, by its very nature, demands a very different kind of approach and mindset; other people are by their nature unpredictable (for example, did you know I was about to insert the words ‘flummoxed penguins’* here?) and so skills of both the player and the character need to grow in different ways.

    I think also the way that we teach ourselves and interface with the games needs to change, based on requirements; for example, I always hot key abilities, use a Nostromo style game pad to play, will tweak my UI as much as I can and essentially give myself a competitive advantage where possible. In short, I’m prepared to do the research and initial legwork to setup my UI to make my play as optimal as it can be. (Whether this simply offsets a lack of actual skill or makes me 3% better is down to opinion!)

    Also, it depends what you want to get *out* of the game. Mixing different styles and paces of combat enhances replayability and keeps things interesting. Having spent a bit of time playing around in the Rift beta (very impressed BTW, although I hate the ‘polished’ word, my predominant thought was ‘well that’s well implemented’ and I liked all the little flourishes…) Anyway, the slightly different approaches by archetype kept things interesting while sticking to a number of MMO conventions, small steps.

    On the other hand, you can go too far when it comes to different combat styles as WAR demonstrated only too readily, with many different combat mechanics, some of which proved very confusing.

    I think what it comes down to is the level of investment that you as a player want to put in, and also what you want to get out. A person interested in PvP will be different to the person who wants lots of relayability who will be different to someone who wants to play casually one night a week to the person who games in one window and watches True Blood in the other.

    Not the most insightful of thoughts perhaps, but I guess it’s just horses for courses, and balancing novelty, convention, player needs and styles is an ongoing fine balancing act.

    *Benjamin Sniddlegrass just saved them from a cauldron…

  2. Melmoth Post author

    Interesting thoughts on the PvE and PvP, especially the fact that the pace of the combat changes while the fundamental mechanics of the combat and the characters do not.

    Benjamin Sniddlegrass just saved them from a cauldron…

    Wittertainment would be proud.

  3. Jonathan B

    Pros: Some real variation in switching classes rather than just button mashing different buttons. It would be more flavorful, and would appeal to those who see their character as a role more than just as a set of stats. Story people would like the idea of playstyle fitting the character archetype.

    Cons: The type of person who wants to play class X might not be the type who likes its play style. For example, the type of person who always plays a mage because they throw fireballs is probably not going to want to have to wait 3 minutes to get each fireball off while combat continues without him. He wants to throw a billion fireballs per second and fill his screen with a giant conflagration of epic flames that would surely kill not only all enemies but himself, his whole team, and villages for a dozen miles if friendly fire were not turned off. ;) Put more generically, there is a risk of tying a playstyle to a class such that the people who want that playstyle don’t want that class, and the people who want that class don’t want that playstyle.

    Con: Balancing would be tough, especially if mixed-level groups were involved. Nothing says fun like engaging in a long and complex cast sure to devastate the enemy horde and having some little dwarf with a battle axe slaughter everything in sight two seconds before your cast finishes. And in PVP, ensuring the slow cast has a chance of taking out the quick acting classes before they can chop him up might be challenging.

    That doesn’t mean balance can’t be done, as it certainly can. It just adds a layer of complexity to the usual difficulties of making it where all classes are important yet none are required in any one combat.

  4. spinks

    I think it would be fine if people can freely switch between them. I mean, old style MMOs often had a buffing class which was very very easy to play in groups (get your buffs up, go afk) which was perfect for people who just wanted to play with friends and weren’t interested in getting good.

    But a new player won’t know what their preferences are yet. They will pick a class based on how cool it looks. If they then find it’s too complex, too dull, or requires too much twitch then it’s back to the drawing board.

  5. Melmoth Post author

    @Jonathan B, @spinks: I think you’re right, the freedom to choose is an important one. Perhaps the main character classes could each be split into a fast and slow sub-class. Inventing a slow-paced tank could well be a challenge, for example, but this sort of thinking might also lead to new ways to consider ideas such as ‘what constitutes a tank?’

  6. Tremayne

    It COULD work… AFAIK both Rift and WoW have different global cooldowns for rogues as compared to other classes, so that playing as a rogue feels faster and more button-mashy.

    BUT – important but – there’s a trade-off between faster key-pressing and decision time. If you confront players with the same amount of choices to make but for some classes they have to make them faster, then the slow classes are easier to play. If my years of MMO experience have taught me anything, it’s that a lot of players will gravitate to the ‘easiest class to level’ which will skew the game population.

    The alternative is to give the ‘fast’ classes either fewer skills, or fewer skills that they regularly use and more situational or long cooldown special skills. The problem there is that a design that has a simple skill rotation that depends on rapid key-pressing for full effectiveness is just an open invitation to macroing or botting (can you tell I’m one of the “slow and tactical” players by preference? :) )

  7. Tremayne

    @Spinks: You’re not thinking of DAoC Wardens with their Pulsing Bladeturn spell are you? :)

    I’m never going to forget the group where our Warden announced that he was going AFK for 3 hours to take his wife to see a movie… and we all agreed to let him!

  8. Jim

    I think the Warden in LotRO is a good example of mixing combat types. The problem is a well-played Warden is completely op’d. But is that a problem when the practice req’d is so much higher than other classes?

    You need to have class balance in a game…ultimately different combat mechanics make such balance nigh impossible. I think that’s why some folks play CoD and some folks (the generally older and more often times drunk) prefer the measured pace of the GCD in mmorpg’s.

  9. Jonathan B

    @Jim CoD = Call of Duty? What’s GCD?

    Agreed on the LOTRO Warden being a good mix of combat types. I’ve not seen many people shouting that the Warden needs a nerf, so I’m going to guess that you’re right that the practice required is enough of a barrier to counter the power level. My warden is level 21 so far, and I still don’t feel like I have the slightest clue how to play him. I settle on one or two main combos and then occasionally hit other combos either intentionally or accidentally that may or may not be beneficial. :> Of course, this is exacerbated by the fact that I have 8 characters and the Warden is one of my least played ones lately.

  10. Jim

    aye, call of duty and global cooldown. 17 yr olds vs 30+ yr olds more like…and why I loved W:AoR pvp back in the day. It let me be decent while petting the dog or chatting with the wife :)

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