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In My Humble Opinion

My ramblings on where the MMO's of tomorrow are going to have to go to keep us all interested...

Author: Melf_Himself

Revisiting the Holy Trinity

Posted by Melf_Himself Tuesday April 29 2008 at 4:31AM
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I've read a couple of blogs today about the Holy Trinity. First was heerobya's:

Heero's position was that the trinity isn't THAT bad, it leads to camaraderie / dependence on your fellow player.

Next vajuras responded with:

His position was that it's unrealistic for an enemy to attack the most highly armored target on the field. The enemy should always target the healers.

I've touched on this in my previous blog, but it was loooooong, and I'd like to make a couple more points along with a possible foundation for a combat system, so:

1) PvP and PvE players are always segregated in MMO's. This is because completely different tactics are used. This is because monster AI is nowhere near as smart as human AI.

Monster AI often attacks the nearest player, not the most vulnerable, it doesn't learn from its mistakes (ie continues to attack the tank even though it's taking no damage), and it often doesn't run from AoE effects. Designers also gimp monster groups, usually not allowing them to have a good mix of monster classes.

Because monsters are so dumb, they are invariably buffed in either damage or hit points or both, in some cases to flabbergastingly astronomical levels.

2) It's not as simple to fix the AI as to just "make it go for the healer". This is for 2 reasons:

a) If the healer being targeted is smart, it will see the monsters have targeted him, and run away. This is called "kiting". The AI then needs a further step, to identify when their target is kiting, and to not chase them too far before switching targets.

b) Usually the best target to pressure are actually the NON-healer casters. Think about it: if you attack the DPS, you can either interrupt it or force it to kite. Either way, you stop it from doing its job (doing DPS). Whereas, if you attack the monk, the monk will kite.... but it's still doing it's job by kiting (it's job is to negate damage). And, that DPS guy that you COULD have targeted, is still doing his job.

So, by attacking the healer, you don't achieve anything - if the healer is smart. And we want our AI to be able to play well against smart players.

The AI needs to be able to have options open to it to disrupt enemy players, and to be smart enough to disrupt the right players at the right times.

3) In vajuras's blog, JB commented that the AI shouldn't be always programmed to do the same thing under the same circumstances, do decrease predictability. I agree with this to a certain extent. Many theories about having "fun" in games state that the fun comes from analysing patterns, and solving problems based on those patterns.... if the AI is to predictable OR too unpredictable, the game would likely not be as much fun.

However, as long as the AI does whatever a smart player would do, the AI is predictable to an extent (you just have to know what a smart player would do). This would allow people to decipher the pattern.

4) Following on from point 3, you don't want to always have to be wracking your brains every PvE fight. The AI needs to be scalable. You could make this tie easily in with realism - eg the horde of zombies you fight in the evil liche's castle use stupid tactics, but the liche at the end with his posse of uber zombies and vampires are smart, and consequently tougher to take down.

Another option is just to make a gradual transition as players move through the content in terms of the AI slowly getting better, with the game completely finishable where the enemies only use moderate AI, and optional "end-game" content with "real" AI.

5) Where do warriors fit in under such a regime you ask? vajuras mentioned that as long as server-side collision detection is implemented, the warriors can still deter enemies from attacking their squishy casters. However, another poster raised the issue that this would cause a large imbalance in the mage : warrior ratio of player characters needed, since you could have one line of warriors with a large group of mages behind.

An idea to stop that from happening:

Make warriors the best melee characters

Make the best disruptive characters in the game need to go through warriors to be able to disrupt the mages.

For example, you could have the assassin who's abilities may be centred around throwing casters off balance, or you could have a DnD monk-style "anti-magic" character who is able to cut through magical defenses, etc. You could also have ranged disruption in the form of archers/rangers.

You'd then have a dynamic situation in which the mages deal large damage but are interrupted easily by assassin/monk/ranger types, and so require warriors to protect them from these types, who could in turn be temporarily disabled by mages, etc.

You still have a rich inter-dependance between all the classes as heero said is a good feature, but it seems to make a bit more sense than ye olde Holy Trinity.

That's just one idea - I'm interested to hear any shortcomings people see with that system, and especially any other ideas people have had to end this Holy Trinity nonsense.



I haven't blogged here for a while. Last blog I mentioned a lot of things I hate about current MMO combat systems, and hoped that in my next blog I'd have magically solved all those problems. I haven't come close to solving them all, but hopefully this is a start :p