Tuesday 13 November 2007

In one, numbers were burning

I started my MMOG life in City of Heroes, which shaped a few of my ideas about How Things Work. What constitutes a normal encounter, for example; true to CoH's comic book roots, as well as dealing with the odd city/country/world/universe/multiverse-threatening creature of extreme power, you need a bunch of henchmen to wade through accompanied by suitable "BIFF!" and "PAF!" effects. Accordingly, opponents are graded as Minions, Lieutenants and Bosses (with the odd Elite Boss and Archvillain for team challenges). Very broadly, the idea is that one player hero should be challenged by 3 minions, or 1 lieutenant and 1 minion, or 1 boss (or maybe 2/3 of a boss, I start get a bit hazy at this point... possibly 1/2 a boss, 3/4 of a lieutenant and 14/17 of a minion. Something like that. Maybe it's one boss, a squirrel and a weasel that are a challenge for one player hero, a stoat and a badger. Wait, that's not fair, swap the stoat for the weasel, and give the boss a marmoset. And an elephant shrew for the hero. Anyway!) The important thing is that 3 minions are the basic spawn you'll run into, even as a solo player, from the start of the game, and the more players, the more mobs you face, up to the point that a full team of eight will face... erm, hang on... carry the one... then four plus minus one plus ten is fourteen minus one 'cause addition is commutative, right... a full team of eight will face spawns of 243 minions, 12 lieutenants, 3 bosses and a duck-billed platypus. Hrm. I think I shifted a decimal point somewhere. Anyway, that's in the current game; back in the Good Old Days you got the same spawn sizes, only they were such a trifling challenge you'd get your Tanker to go collect the *entire map* and bring them back for the Blaster to annihilate in a single blast, but we don't talk about Those Times or it attracts people whose sense of a fair fight is still calibrated to 2004 settings, and regard anything less than instantaneous defeat of several hundred enemies at no risk to yourself as "UNACCEPTABLE SLAP IN TEH FAEC", a frequent complaint being "I don't feel Super any more" (which I s'pose is difficult to argue with if you're taking Superman as your minimum-power benchmark, but it would be pretty tricky to have a game world with Supermen everywhere.) For any WoW players who haven't experienced CoH... you know Zul'Farrak, when you rescue the prisoners? And you're barrelling down the steps like a pram in Battleship Potemkin, and there's trolls everywhere, and you're AoEing for all you're worth... CoH is like that, with more particle effects.

So! City of Heroes prepared me for three opponents as an absolute minimum, wholesale slaughter arresting as a matter of course, and saving the galaxy a couple of times before breakfast. World of Warcraft took a bit of getting used to after that, with its crazy idea that one mob is a challenge for one player. "I need some murloc eyeballs... and look! A flange[1] of murlocs! ATTACK INDISCRIMINATELY WITH DAMAGING POWERS fireball fireball fireb... oh..." It was at that point that another difference from City of Heroes became apparent, where after level 14 most characters can fly, teleport, leap tall building in a single stride etc. This makes legging it a slightly easier process (so long as you haven't been knocked to the floor, rooted to the spot or otherwise mesmerised) than WoW, where your typical escape attempt consists of running away at almost exactly the same speed as your opponent, before bumping into another flange of murlocs ten feet away and getting killed by them.

[1] I'm not sure if that's the right collective noun.

Neither approach is inherently better, it just takes a bit of time to adjust from one to the other, and I sometimes wonder what it's like to come from the other direction.

In other random happenings, when an ambush last night caused a cry of "Dudes!", I was reminded of Fargo's fantastic Automated Online Role-Player, resulting in much saying of "Dude!" and "Lag", and when flipping through feeds this morning I noticed there's a new xkcd shirt based on a comic that's strangely appropriate for the "how to fit blogging in to work" conversation...


Changling bob said...

3 things:

Yay particle effects!

I'm sure I tried to reference that comic last night :)


Zoso said...

Right on!

/hands Bob a melon