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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

Random idea - symmetry of combat

Posted by Melf_Himself Friday May 16 2008 at 6:51AM
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Ok, I feel it only fair to warn you that this idea is a little out there. Stick with it to the end before you jump in and flame it though.

I was pondering the nature of group PvP combat in RPG's recently, and it occurred to me that combat systems are very asymmetric. By this I mean that damage, pound for pound, is better than healing, even though it's more expensive. By better, I mean that damage dealers can concentrate damage in a short time frame ("spike") to kill a character before the healers have enough time to react.

To make up for this, games always make healing more efficient than damage - a healer's "HPS" (health per second) is more effective than a damage character's DPS, both in terms of cost efficiency (eg mana cost) and in terms of health change per second.

But what if we removed this concept? What if healing and damage were truly opposites of each other? Let's think about this...

First of all, symmetry means that it would be possible to heal a character above their normal HP. ie a character may start on 500hp. 500 points of damage will take them to 0 HP, after which damage has no effect. Equivalently, it should be possible to heal that character to 1000hp, after which healing has no effect.

Let's take this a step further...


Attacking inflicts damage on an enemy, reducing their HP and causing total debuff (death) when HP reaches zero….. to put it another way, that player’s efficiency is altered by -100%...

Why not make it so that…

Defending inflicts healing on an ally, increasing their HP and causing total BUFF when HP reaches max… to put it another way, that player’s efficiency is altered by +100%...

What do I mean by "total buff"? Since death involves your team being "down a man", your "total buff" would involve it being "up a man" - your character would effectively double in abilitiy. This means attack speed doubled, mana cost halved, cooldowns halved.

Now if you're struggling with the realism of this situation at the moment, envisage "total buff" as ascendancy to a higher being. This comes about as a result of a large amount of healing, or channeling of divine energy through your body, to reach this higher state. Or something.

Now let me say right here, I of course realise that the ability would probably play out as being extremely overpowered. The ability can be tweaked to not be a +100% buff of everything... maybe it would only be 50%, maybe only 25%, worst case scenario only 10%.

Wherever you draw the line, it would have major cool factor to include this in a combat system because:

a) Healers would no longer be just "healbots", they would also have to try and conserve some of their energy to try and "spike buff" their damage dealers

b) When a character is ascended, you'd give them a cool glowy aura, wings, whatever, and it would just pretty much feel awesome to be uber godly for however short a time.

Now that you've got your head around where I'm coming from, a few extra features of the idea:

1) I'd still end up making combat fairly asymmetric to favor damage, in the traditional way... it's just I'd throw in this "ascendancy" system as a way to liven things up a bit. If damage didn't have a clear edge over healing, players would never be able to take down teams of all healers.

2) What happens when you die? You start on a respawn timer to res at some nearby res shrine. So what happens when you ascend? You start on a "despawn" timer (ie the buff only lasts for a while). To avoid being imbalanced, this timer could be made shorter than the death respawn timer by some amount.

3) What happens when you die and somebody resurrects you before your respawn timer is up? You return to life on the spot..... so, keeping with our theme of symmetry, it would be possible to "desurrect" ascended people, returning them on the spot and removing their buffs. No extra skills would be required for this - you could make standard resurrection skills do double duty (making them a bit more interesting). The stronger the "desurrection" skill, the less health the ascended player would have on returning.

4) What happens when you die and people try to keep healing you? Nothing, you're dead, no amount of healing can bring you back alive. What happens when you're ascended and people try to damage you? In a perfectly symmetrical system, the same thing - no amount of damage can kill you while the effect lasts. In practice, for the sake of balance they wouldn't have to be completely invulnerable - you could make it so that a certain (large) amount of damage would knock them back to normalcy. There does need to be some kind of extra HP pool or invulnerability granted though, otherwise it would be possible to "fart" on people and de-ascend their character.

5) I'd also make the person still vulnerable to debuffs (otherwise it would be a bit unfair since they'd be unstoppable and have ridiculous damage). However, debuff duration would be halved (since we're going for the concept of there being "another you", that other you shares the debuffs with you).

6) Continuing the "other you" concept... if there really was another you, you'd be able to move him around to attack other targets. I thought about granting people an NPC clone to do their bidding, but the AI would probably suck quite a bit. Then again, since the concept is possibly very overpowered anyway, this may be a good thing.

Another option would be to give you a "shadow" which you can position wherever you like while you go about your business. All players could see the shadow. At any time, you could swap positions with your shadow. This allows a neat teleport effect, but players have some forewarning since they can see your shadow come towards them.

Again, this could be balanced by reducing the range of the teleport, introducing a small latency (eg half a second) to signal a teleport is incoming, etc.

7) In many RPG's when you're outside of combat and you've been damaged, your health will regenerate. We would do the same thing here - when your health is above the baseline, if you haven't been healed for a while, it will slowly degenerate back to normal. Again, a balancing factor can be introduced here - this rate of degeneration could be faster than the equivalent rate of regeneration to overcome damage.

8) Death is usually pretty obvious in RPG's. I would make ascension equally obvious. For example, maybe when someone dies a great black pillar appears from the sky. When someone ascends, a great golden pillar could appear from the sky.

9) Some games make you invulnerable, or at least less vulnerable, just after being resurrected. An equivalent period of enhanced vulnerability could be implemented following the ascension, to balance out its powerful effect.

10) When the res timer runs out, a dead person appears at some remote location (res shrine). When the ascendancy timer runs out, the person shouldn't appear at a remote location (we don't want to punish them). They should get to choose a nearby location to "despawn" at, since they will be temporarily more vulnerable as per point 9).


So, ascended characters could have 2 extra controls – a shadow or an npc to control (visible to all) and a despawn marker (visible only to them).


So that's about it on that idea. Just curious what others make of it... is it workable? What parts sound good, what parts sound ridiculously overpowered, and what checks and balances do we need here?

JB47394 writes:

It's an interesting concept.  A couple thoughts for you.

1. Some systems work with certain fictions and some don't.  Magic on a World War II battlefield isn't such a good mix.  I think that the current situation with fantasy MMOs has gotten to the point where the medieval environment is not an appropriate fiction.  I think you're pushing it even farther.  Such a system wants a new fiction to support it.

2. Nobody is going to feel godly from such a system, just as nobody ever feels heroic in current systems.  That's because the 'feeling' comes easily, often and to everyone.  There's nothing special about an aura and wings when everyone in the game has been there and done that - and still died to the guy with better equipment.

3. The symmetry is busted in that dead people don't do anything, while ascended people do much more.  I would expect damage to just change the abilities of a character.  By the time the character is dead, it would have the full set of negative abilities.  The same would be true for ascended characters.  Perhaps only the dead fight the dead and the ascended the ascended.  Or the dead and the ascended fight.

That would be interesting.  You ascend one of your characters for some reason and the enemy kills one of theirs so they can stop him.  This is assuming that mundane characters can't interact with ascended or descended characters and vice versa.

"Okay, who wants to take on the ascended guy?"
"Not me, I had dead duty all last week."

Fri May 16 2008 11:39AM Report
Ascension08 writes:

I think this is a good solution, but the real problem I think is magic itself. I know, it has to be in a fantasy game, but magic can be interpreted in so many different ways, it's hard to balance with normal classes. Healing is more effective unless you can stop the healing, spellcasting is more effective unless you can stop the spellcasting. And if you make it so the casters have alot of hitpoints, to the point that they can take 20 hits from a giant axe before dying...while the opponent can only take 5 fireballs...that's rediculous.

(Yeah I was talking about WoW. Can't help it. Warrior vs warlock, mage, priest...anything except was just bull.)

If anyone implemented this system I think it'd be pretty interesting. At least it's a new spin on gave me the feeling of making the MMO genre more mathimatical then it already is, but to me, that's a negative step.

Fri May 16 2008 4:03PM Report
Melf_Himself writes:

Thanks for comments.

People won't feel godly per se, but they would still feel pretty cool. It's similar to activating your "special" meter in many fighting games... everybody does it fairly frequently, but it's still fun to do, it looks cool, and is something you always want to work towards.

You can look at the symmetry 2 ways. One argument is that since dead people have their effectivity multiplied by ZERO, ascended people should have their ability multiplied by infinity! Obviously, that wouldn't work...

I like what you wrote about changing abilities though. You could make various tactical options open up to the team by ascending particular character classes in particular situations.

It's hard to work death in the same way, because your death is supposed to be how the other team wins. But as long as there are viable alternate victory conditions open to everyone against teams that become stronger on death, it would be ok.

Cool idea.

Fri May 16 2008 7:50PM Report
Melf_Himself writes:

@ Ascension: I'm not too worried about 1v1 class balance. I've never been able to think up a system that would have different classes that would be balanced when duelling each other, yet still perform different roles in a team. I've never seen a good multiplayer RPG with balanced PvP for 1v1, so I'm not really sure if it can even be done at all!

Fri May 16 2008 7:54PM Report writes:
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