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Posted: Feb 4th 2009 12:31AM (Unverified) said

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It has always bothered me that (in WoW) you get less experience when you group up, it is an MMO after all, and you should get awarded for grouping.
It just feels wrong to get punished for it...

Posted: Feb 4th 2009 3:42AM ultimateq said

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I agree with some of his points, but he seems to want an "Instant Leveling" button. Regardless of how you progress, be it levels, skills or whatever; your still going to have to grind in one form or another.

I think getting to the "max level" in a week trivializes the whole system. You should have to work for it.

"Make mobs smarter", I agree. Ditch the whole "Hate", "Threat" set of mechanics, and just let them fight logically. "That dude just healed everyone, maybe I should kill him first!". It would make the game play a bit more challenging.

"Let me move servers to play with my buddies." I'll give you that.

"Let me change my name. Let me change my appearance as often as I like. Don't restrict me doing these things unless you have a very good reason.", this would encourage poor conduct. Why would you need to be nice if you can always change your name and appearance, when people dislike you. I rather liked Tabula Rasa's approach to naming; You had 1 surname, and it was bound to your account for that specific server. For -ALL- of my characters, I was known as "Dughall". This encourages people to be less "assy". Of course, people will still be assholes, but I believe it helps makes the community richer as a whole.

Posted: Feb 4th 2009 7:43AM (Unverified) said

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"Ditch the whole "Hate", "Threat" set of mechanics, and just let them fight logically. "That dude just healed everyone, maybe I should kill him first!". It would make the game play a bit more challenging."

What you describe is basically achieved by setting the healer at the top of the "hate list" (or making the "threat" multiplier of heals very high). I can't think of anything to replace the hate/threat system, because mobs have to prioritize some people over others to make it remotely challenging.

If any heal set the healer at the top of the list with no way to disengage, playing a healer wouldn't be nearly as interesting (one heal = sure death?). Which is why other players need "taunt"-like skills.

Not to mention healers then being able to ping-pong the mob by healing the group in alternance. In the end, any AI can ultimately be broken down to a set of rules and abused.

Now the things that could be changed, would be:

1) Different "threat multipliers" for each mob type/family/location. Races with more insight in magic would for example be able to recognize a healer, while the wolves would simply gang up on whoever has the lowest health (mobs ganging up on low on health players was already used back in EQ1 actually).

2) Random variations of the "threat multipliers", so that each mob would behave differently within a given type : while 2 nuker mobs would want to burn down the healers first, one would more easily driven to change its target to the tank, while another would really require some effort to be peeled off the healer. This adds some uncertainty to the fight, which means challenge.

3) I'd like to see mobs actually efficiently use skills. Not only random stuns or heals, but also utilities like debuffs or debuff removal, and not only target the top player of their hate list, but actually react to the players tactics (i.e slow the top DPS, and use melee slow on the melee, and casting slow on the casters). I've seen it done to a degree in LotRO, where ranged goblins would usually root you, then run away and fire arrows. Only, they'd then come back to melee after a couple of arrows, which is pretty stupid.

4) It shouldn't be hard to have groups of mobs actually being able to coordinate their attacks and actually work as a group, rather than a random rabble: one mob dedicates itself to suppress the enemy healer (stuns, mezzes, interrupts) while the others beat on someone else, or the whole mob group tries to keep the player group slowed, or mobs defending each other or actually using taunts (locking the players target on them),...



-Mildaene.
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Posted: Feb 4th 2009 12:36PM ultimateq said

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Yeah, I wasn't talking about hate, I was talking about logically assessing the situation. No skills that build additional hate or threat (as some games seem to call it), or to reduce hate. I didn't feel the need to go into detail about it, but I'm glad you did. You generally said what I meant.

NPCs could have an intelligence level. So a goblin might be easier to kill than a human, because they may not know how to maximize their skill set. Additionally, since they are stupider, their loot would suck. Humans (the race, not another player) would be harder to kill, but their loot would be greater, and perhaps yield more experience.
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Posted: Feb 4th 2009 4:20AM (Unverified) said

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Most of what he says was covered in Star Wars Galaxies - dynamic, player-influenced world, mixed skill-sets, good social dynamics, inter-player dependency, the ability to change your appearance (thanks to the Image Designers), combat that was engaging (attacks would put you in different stances which affected your DPS/defence skills) and so on.

If SOE did a Classic SWG server, I'd renew my subscription this second...

Posted: Feb 4th 2009 4:53AM (Unverified) said

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One common misconception though regarding "grouping."

Some designers/"experts" think that grouping equates to a social interaction and so assume the two are the same thing. That's not true.

Forced grouping is a pain. You end up in a PUG with somebody half-way through the "kill X of Y" quest and the moment they have a full score, they quit the group. Or you group with somebody who is an idiot and gets you killed. Or you group with somebody who - if they do die - quits immediately. And if you can't find a group, you spend your play time standing around trying to find somebody to group with.

Social interaction on the other hand doesn't have to revolve around groups. Indeed, the best stuff comes from times when you're NOT grouped, as trying to socialise mid-combat is impossible. Rather, things like player-owned businesses (ala SWG) are a good way to create social dependency. I remember a number of occasions when I'd be in my SWG house working on some crafting and somebody would enter my shop. I'd greet 'em and often find people would start asking for specific items, like "can you make me a cool shirt like that, but blue" or similar. A Master Gunsmith on my server used to send mailshots to his customers and offer a free repair on any item he'd manufactured. Entertainers in SWG used to heal wounds out of combat and so you had social hubs in cantinas where people would turn up and watch the entertainer to relax (thus healing them) and bands of performers would form, the audience would chat with each other and the performers and so on.

And if nobody was in the cantina, your wounds would recover over time anyway so you naturally gravitated there to heal.

It's that form of social interaction, almost "pointless interaction" that's so lacking in MMOs these days, where so many people see any form of interaction as something they're forced to do simply to "kill teh baddy."

Designers need to consider this again. I'm not talking about the EQ "forced rest periods" (the concept being that if you're wounded and recovering very slowly, you begin socialising as a way to pass the time) but some form of social hub or "hang out" where players will gravitate would be a great idea. For example, make it so if you spend time "live" in a Tavern/Inn, you get an XP bonus when you leave...

Posted: Feb 4th 2009 5:31AM Sephirah said

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If I open a blog in which I write some random crap about MMO features I don't like and give unfeasible solutions for them, will I have an article here too?

Posted: Feb 4th 2009 8:47AM UnSub said

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Yes, but only if your statements are incredibly generalised, are incredibly populist and ignore the reality of what would happen if such things were implemented.

Such as "make mobs smarter": it sounds great when you describe a story where you win. It doesn't sound so great when the orcs use superior numbers and tactics to curbstomp you, forcing you to need a team for every encounter.

Or "give players what they want" and using CoH/V as an example, where there are some pretty good examples of that title not giving players what they want e.g. the recent changes to PvP, the vocal outcry at introducing rare loot to CoH/V, the merit system, etc. Even by listening to the players you won't make them all happy and if you annoy enough vocal minorities you will still end up with an empty game. (Not saying CoH/V is DOOOOOOMed, but despite a number of popular changes player numbers have been slowly declining for a while now - 124k-ish at last announcement, I believe.)
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Posted: Feb 4th 2009 8:00AM (Unverified) said

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I've seen it done to a degree in LotRO, where ranged goblins would usually root you, then run away and fire arrows. Only, they'd then come back to melee after a couple of arrows, which is pretty stupid.

----

I think there's some kind of mechanic (or maybe just random seed) involved as to when they run back, as I regularly find as a Champion I'm stuck with them at range throwing spears at me and - as my ranged attacks are limited - they tend to stay there a lot of the time.

Granted, sometimes they do come back into combat range but they're also buggers for NOT coming close, so who knows?

But I do find the LOTRO mobs tend to be a little more unpredictable in their behaviour - sometimes they charge when you shoot 'em, other times they'll exchange ranged attacks first...

Posted: Feb 4th 2009 8:23AM Tom in VA said

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I'm wondering if some of this guy's "answers" to the (non)problems Chick was opining about are just as bad as the faults they are intended to fix.

For one thing, penalizing player who don't group is a bad idea, imo--which is basically what all this rot about "encouraging grouping" boils down to.

Most players play solo most of the time and group occasionally. My suggestion is to have equivalent options to satisfy both crowds. For my money, I'd like to see an MMO somewhere offer dual options on the instanced content--solo or group versions--with comparable rewards.

I enjoy grouping as much as anyone, but I despise MMO mechanics that force me to group, especially in situations where finding a full groups takes as long as completing a given quest! SWTOR sounds like it's headed in the ideal direction--and essentially solo MMO with a grouping option, as was done so marvelously in Guild Wars back in the day.

Posted: Feb 4th 2009 1:09PM (Unverified) said

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I agree that increasing the amount you are are forced to group up is not a good idea. It would kill a game for me.

For me, groups are just about the worst social experience in the game. I don't have friends that play so any grouping I do has to be random. I've had maybe one or two good experiences. Most of the time people I end up grouping with barely talk, get annoyed when I don't know something they take for granted because I haven't played as long as them, and are often downright rude. I've even been called names by someone much lower level than me that I was helping out because he had asked me to.

For me the social aspect of the game is definitely about the things that happen when I'm not "playing" like just talking to people in guild or trade chat or doing goofy things during the holidays/special events.

Whenever there is a group quest or dungeon, I usually just wait until I am high enough level to solo it, because it seems like grouping is most fun when you are already friends with your group in real life, and I don't have that situation in the game.

Posted: Feb 4th 2009 3:55PM (Unverified) said

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This article was one of the more obnoxiously condescending, misinformed, and internally inconsistent rants I've read in a while.

For the most part, all of these items are already out there in some form. So the article is really just one person's wish list pulling together bits and pieces from different games -- something every developer already does, only with the developer's own sensibility as the filter and not this author's.

1. Obvious - no one will disagree, but then again, there's really no need to make this point at all. Also, by acknowledging that some games get it right, you are refuting your own thesis that these are ways to improve MMOs in general.

2. Some people like classes and levels. A lot of people despise classless systems. To say that every game can be made better by ditching classes is like saying all ice cream would be better if we outlawed chocolate.

3. There are several games due for release this year that have more advanced combat. Some specifically include a block mechanic. DDO already has blocking and dodging. So yeah, not exactly a fresh idea.

4. The definition of "grind" is so utterly subjective that to mention it here is meaningless.

5. Mobs can be made smarter. Mobs have been made smarter. EVERY TIME a developer does this, the players complain that the game is too hard, and the mobs get nerfed. I'm not saying it's right, I'm just saying you should blame the players, not the devs.

6. Umm, didn't you say we should do away with classes? Your solution doesn't work very well if there are no classes, now does it? FAIL.

The way to encourage grouping (and I agree that this is important) is to make grouping easy to do. A slick Search interface (like CoH) is a start. Public quests as in WAR are a good idea, they just need to tweak the implementation.

7. There are already examples of games with each and every item on this mini wish list. True, no game has put it all together yet, but CoH comes pretty close.

8. Server populations would absolutely not go up with cheaper subscriptions. Having multiple subs does not allow a person to play two games at the same time. You still have to pick your favorite game (at the moment) and spend your time there. The number of gamers in on planet Earth remains (nearly) the same.

9. "Listen to the players" is forum code for "listen to me and ignore everyone with whom I disagree."

10. Yes, I agree with this one. You shouldn't have to say it, but considering the shape of the last few major MMOs to hit the shelves, I guess it bears repeating ad nauseam.

Posted: Feb 4th 2009 6:35PM (Unverified) said

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I'd like to clarify a couple of points as there seems to be some misunderstanding about my post.

a) A lot of us default to looking at everything through the lens of today's MMOs (eg forced grouping means people quitting when their quests are done; an MMO must be about striving to reach the level cap etc). Hence a lot of comments above. But MMOs don't need to be like this. They can be different. That's the point of the post.

b) 'Encouraging grouping' doesn't mean 'forcing grouping'. And one way to encourage grouping is to get rid of 'kill 10 rats' quests that can't be shared. Note in point 6 I suggest everyone get the quest reward when completed, regardless of who's quest it was.

c) Different people like different kinds of games. I say this several times. Moving away from the homogenised state of MMOs today is what the post is all about.

d) Heh, I'd never suggest one MMO apply *all* of these points. That would be funny.

e) SWG did have a lot of these suggestions built in - but it had crippling problems of its own. If factions, vehicles, the galactic civil war and jedi were well implemented from day 1 (so it wasn't all about hunting dewbacks...), I think it would have been a much better game. That said, it's nigh criminal SOE changed it wholesale rather than let those who enjoyed it continue to enjoy it. One of the great gaming blunders of all time, IMO.

f) @Meanwhile: I've had a few comments like yours - they start off all vitriol and ad hominem, but they end up agreeing with most of the points...

g) These are suggestions. I don't know the answers, but I do know I'm bored to today's unimaginative, derivative MMOs. And I'm sick of MMO apologists not thinking outside the current box we're in. If we want different games, perhaps we should start a conversation about that, and developers might take notice. They might not. But they might...

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