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The Lunch Break Blog

For those of us who would rather be leveling right now.

Author: cmagoun

Balance By Tedium (Or Get Your Freakin' Bots Out of My Doorway!!!)

Posted by cmagoun Tuesday August 12 2008 at 2:54PM
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I do love MMOs, and of all the MMOs I have played, CoX has been one that I keep finding myself coming back to. I enjoy the fast combats, the costume creator, and the tons of permutations of characters made even more interesting with the addition of inventions. I love CoX.

But it certainly has its flaws.

Character balance is a huge one. There are definitely ATs and combinations that overperform and others that underperform. There is n doubt in my mind that scrappers, tankers and brutes have an advantage in the high level game due to their status protection. Likewise certain mastermind combinations are essentially tank-mages (say Bots/Force Field) that can tear through almost any content solo or on teams.

But I am not really posting to complain about overpowered classes. I don't really care. I enjoy the game for what it is and understand that I can customize my level of challenge and team/solo effectiveness by choosing one combination over the others. It isn't an imbalance; it's a feature!!!

Nope, this blog post is about a one-off comment a friend made while playing his mastermind. This was a mission team, jumping from a sewer mission, to a cave mission, back to a sewer mission... and this guy had to resummon every mission and had occassional issues with bots getting stuck or lost. So, eight missions in and we are standing by the door in yet another cave and this guy sighs and says,

"Masterminds, balanced by teduim"

Ok, that was a long buildup to that punchline, but that comment stuck with me. Could that really have been the intent? 'We'll make this powerful class that can do damage and tank and buff and debuff but it will be a pain to play..." Huh?

And I see the tedium elsewhere in the design. All of the shielding defender sets have 4 minute buff timers. Not horrible, but can get tedious on big, fast-moving teams. Kinetics has Speed Boost on a two-minute timer. Does it make any sense that on an 8-man team, my Kinetic just spams Speed Boost whenever the team isn't fighting? Does that really make me a better player? And is it really a balancing point for the awesomeness of Fulcrum Shift?

I am not sure I have a good point here aside from the fact that it would be nice if Speed Boost was on a longer timer and if mastermind pets would come through a door. What do you think?

Figjam74 writes:

I completely agree, and I think Cryptic learned these lessons and is fixing them in Champions Online. Some of the developer comments lead me to believe this anyway.

I think the issue with masterminds was the same as with all pets, and a limitation of their engine rather than a purposeful introduction of tedium. The time taken to summon and buff pets in combat situations is the balancing factor, the unfortunate result being that you need to do it everytime you zone.

As far as buffs like Speed boost, I think the reason they are the way they are is a specific design choice. On one hand, they want players to be able to hand buffs out to non-team mates. They want the vast majority of them to be able to stack effects. If they lasted significantly longer, the whole system would be broken. If they were AOE toggles or team toggles you wouldn't be able to pass them out to strangers in a meaningful way.

I think the biggest disaster as far as the design however, is the way controller/dominator holds work. This too was done for a specific purpose. Ideally I would have used a system of straight magnitude. Magnitude would get burned off at a constant rate, and different magnitudes applied would have different effects.  For example, let's say 1 and under is an applied slow effect. under 2 applies an additional slow and -recharge. under 3 applies an immobilize and an additional -recharge. under 4 an additional -recharge and a -defense effect. 4 or greater is a hold and an additional -defense. Have it work so that higher magnitudes burn off faster (like the brute fury bar), and higher strength opponents would also burn it off faster. I like the idea of a system like that, but it would never work in city of heroes because controllers and dominators are essentially defenseless. If they can't lock down their target completely and instantly they are anhilated by the alpha.

The game really, is horribly broken... but somehow still manages to be a lot of fun.

Tue Aug 12 2008 5:05PM Report
cmagoun writes:

I think you could increase the duration of most buffs by increasing their recharge by a similar amount. Then you could not "self-stack" any more than is possible now and you would have less re-applying to do.

I have always thought that the design of CoH took a wrong turn when they made such a large survivability gap between melee characters and squishies, but yes the binary holds are an issue... not so much in normal PvE play, but certainly in AV fights and PvP.

Thanks for the comments FigJam

Wed Aug 13 2008 11:06AM Report
Figjam74 writes:

Self-stacking isn't the issue as far as I can see. Giving a long duration to buffs that can be freely handed out and provide a substantial increase in survivability is.

Wed Aug 13 2008 2:41PM Report
cmagoun writes:

Perhaps, but I don't see much difference between a 2-4 minute buff and an 8 minute one except for less clicking. Now extending the time to 1/2 hour? That would allow someone to go "collect" buffs and yeah, probably breaks things.

Wed Aug 13 2008 3:31PM Report writes:
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