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Warhammer 40.000

Bright days ahead for Warhammer fans. This year might see the release of Warhemmer Online: Age of Reckoning. And additionally a Warhammer 40k MMO has been announced, although no details are out yet.

Author: Tasilla

Balancing and Limiting Terminators

Posted by Tasilla Monday April 7 2008 at 6:30AM
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Welcome back. Today I will turn my attention to balancing and the limitation of unit types and equipment that are not common on a battlefield.

I will again take my beloved Space Marines as examples. But the same mechanics will also work for other armies. So what is our basic unit type? Tactical Space Marine with power armor and bolter. For close combat either equipped with a bayonet or a combat knife. If you start the (imaginary) game and choose Space Marines as your army you will be able to instantly jump into the action with this equipment. If you die, you get another one. If you run out of ammo, go back to base and resupply. But what if there is a Chaos Land Raider on the battlefield blasting you and your comrades apart? Shooting your bolter at this monstrosity or hacking at it with your knife will do no good. So you would like to grab a lascannon and show the crew why they should have stayed in the Eye of Terror. Taking a closer look you might want to use that lascannon against other enemies too. Such a Chaos Marine might well take some bolter rounds until he's defeated. But struck by a lascannon ... he would be gone more quickly. So most likely everyone would want such a lascannon. First balancing step would be to introduce some kind of drawback. Looking at the TT and DoW this is quite easy: if you want to fire a heavy weapon you have to remain stationary and brace yourself for the recoil. But if you and your 10 friends all got lascannons, you would just form a firing line and that drawback wouldn't be that bad. If we take another look at the TT we will soon find out that heavy and special weapons have a cap per squad. The standard tactical Marine squad only allows one special and one heavy weapon. And they cost additional points! As far as we are with (the imagination of) the game, there are no squads. I will introduce a scheme to encourage squads later on in other entries, but nobody will be forced to be in a squad. So what is left as a possibility? Cost. If you want to have more than standard equipment it will cost you.

But it will not only cost you. If you want a lascannon you have to gather or buy the materials needed for it. And you have to construct it. Or find someone to do it for you. But that's not enough. If you have it, you have to maintain it. Which will also cost you. And that's not nearly all. If you die while carrying that fancy lascannon of yours around, it will be destroyed. If you are lucky and don't get killed, but take some hits, your precious lascannon will be damaged. Even if you don't get hit but fire that baby at the evil Chaos Land Raider, it will take a bit of damage. And guess what? The repair will cost you. In addition to maintenance. If you don't repair it, it will be destroyed at some time. Oh and did I mention that lascannon energy packs will have to be reloaded at additional (low) cost?

So what is the aim of all this? Limiting. There shouldn't be large numbers of people running around with rare equipment. Special equipment should only be used if necessary. In fact the costs should be high enough that only guilds would be able to field a larger number of special equipment. With the price for each piece of special equipment, balancing like in the TT could be achieved.

In fact guilds will be necessary for everyone. From the start on everybody will be in a guild. First in a NPC-run guild. Guilds will run depots for special equipment and will be able to set access rights for their members. If you want to enter combat with special equipment, you have to access your guilds depot and equip yourself there if possible. Guilds will be able to maintain a certain number of each special equipment type (depending on the size of the guild) with a reduction in cost. If they want to have more in reserve, it will be more and more expensive.

But who will build the equipment? Players will be able to train crafting skills. With these, they will be able to create special equipment. As there will be a large variety of different ways to skill, every account should contain 2 or 3 character slots which will all be able to train skills at the same time. This would ensure that everybody can follow a path for fighting and at the same time be able to supply his guild with new equipment.

That leaves one open question: what do you need as resources to construct something? Well, I'm not sure yet. Maybe one could stick with an abstract 'resource-point' model. These points would be awarded for killing enemies, for completing 'special operations' (some kind of semi PvE I will introduce later) and for overall performance. Overall performance would be calculated once per week and would take into account everything that has happened - for your whole faction. Like: how many Space Marines were killed last week, how many enemies were killed by Space Marines, how many planets/battlefield objectives/etc... were lost/destroyed/claimed/etc... Based on the overall performance, the Space Marines would be awarded a pool of points that would be split among all players according to their personal performance during the week. If real resources (metals, gases, and so on) would be used, these awarded points would be some kind of credits. But real resources would require for someone to collect them. Obviously, Space Marines are no miners. 'Normal' humans (or other species) would have to be included as civilians. Maybe I will further address this issue in a later post.

That's it for today.

Of Aspect Warriors, Orks and the like ...

Posted by Tasilla Thursday April 3 2008 at 6:06PM
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In my last entry I stated that in a W40K MMO, Space Marines have to be included as playable.  I also stated that they would - for balancing reasons - be the only playable Empire 'race'. As expected, this provoked some comments ^^. Before opening new battlefronts, I will first deal with them.

@Kuji Kiri: No, I would vote for Inqusition and Mechanicum do be non-playable. As far as I know they offer no troops that can match space marines in a 1on1 situation. Well, except Death Watch (after all thay are mainly Space Marines) and Grey Knights (which are better equpped Space Marines) of course. And maybe in some regards the Adepta Sororitas. As for progression: I imagine a mix between skills like in EVE and a not-character-fixed system. Basically you will be able to learn skills as you like and will ultimately be able to use everything you want. This also includes playing as a Librarian. To prevent everyone from playing as heros I have a concept in mind that I will share with you later on. Don't want to give all the goodies away at once ;)

@Shadowdawnz: No, in Warhammer 40k there is almost no solo play. There are a few special characters, but the main part of the models on the battfield belong to some kind of unit. I have not yet conceived a system to model this completely for an MMO, but to get things started, guilds will receive certain benefits to encourage their formation. So they would take the place of major military units like Space Marine Chapters.

@korvass: I admit that Space Marines are the best standard unit you can have in W40K but what is true for the TT doesn't have to be that way in an MMO. Careful selection of other playable characters for the other races and a bit of tweaking concerning the stats will provide balance and stick relatively close to TT behavior. What to do for the other races I will point out after the rest of the comments as this will be the topic of this entry ^^. Please note that I have never played Planetside nor do I know about its game mechanics. But as you mention points that can be spent before entering a battle: yes, something like that I do have on my mind but I will clarify on it in later entries.

@NeeAnderTall: I am strictly against base building in an MMO. Also I don't think that a special emphasis on the weekends should be supported (this is mainly because I spend my weekends with my girlfriend ;)). Additionally I aim for a system without classes where everyone can do everything - at least if he invests enough time.

@dethgar: Something like a singleplayer (or PvE) campaign to complete was not on my mind. I was going for a more open, PvP based approach.


Now for the topic of this post: The other races and what you should get to play of them ^^

Let's start with the Eldar. Here I imagine to have the players fighting as Aspect Warriors. The basic type would be a modified version of the Dire Avengers. Aspect Warriors in general are quite equal to Space Marines in terms of melee and ranged weapon skills. Some Eldar armor is also as good as Space Marine Servo armor (not Terminator armor). Additionally, Eldar have a higher Initiative than Space Marines which means that they are faster. In a MMO this could also affect movement speed. The TT gives most infantry a standard movement rate of 6 inches. I think this is merely to make movement easy and you don't have to look up movement rates for most units. In a MMO this can easily be changed and so Eldar may move faster than Space Marines. This could also affect dodging of ranged attacks. But I haven't worked out a combat system yet. If a FPS style would be used the higher movement rate would automatically lower the chance to hit against an Eldar. Otherwise this would have to be specifically regarded in the combat system. The stats of the Dire Avengers wouldn't have to be changed if the importance of speed is properly set. The modification to the Dire Avengers would have to be made concerning their weapon choices. Here I would propose a mix between the Dire Avengers standard equipment and stats with the options of the Guardian Defenders. This would mean that Dire Avenegers are able to use heavy weapons platforms. The other Aspect Warriors and the Wraithguard would be playable with increasing skills.

On to the Orks. As I see them, they are dangerous in close combat. Taking a look at their main close combat weapon (the choppa) reveals that they reduce the main advantage of the Space Marines: their armor. Although the initiative of Orks is lower than that of the Space Marines, they should be a bit faster or be equipped with special abilities to charge an enemy to come into close combat range. An additional modification to the stats would raise the strength of the standard Ork boy to about the same than that of a Space Marine, while Nobs or better Orks would be stronger than indicated by the army list. I think this applies to the idea behind the Orks and takes into account that in a MMO there wouldn't be that much more Orks than Space Marines. The different specialised Ork types would be playable with proceeding skills.

Now let's take a look at the Tau. Their weapons technology is superior to that of the Space Marines. Yet the standard Fire Warrior has only the ballistic skill of an Imperial Guardsman. Raising the ballistic abilities of the Tau to that of the Space Marines would make a Fire Warrior a worthy opponent to a Space Marines (I think). Like the increased strength with the Orks, this would be in the spirit of the Tau as superior ranged combatants. An alternative to the Fire Warriors as standard troppers are the Kroot. Their lack of armor is the biggest drawback in comparison to the Space Marines. Raising the wounds of a Kroot from 1 to 2 would more than compensate for that. Additionally they feature a higher melee attack speed than Space Marines if using their Kroot rifles. Making Kroot that tough would also allow them to be just as fast as Marines if awarded with a charge skill to get into close combat range. Increase in skills would allow Tau players the use of battlesuits.

To the Dark Eldar I can't say anything as I don't have their codex. I imagine they have less armor than Eldar, are faster and have stronger weapons. Perhaps some of you can comment on that.

Unfortunately I think that Necrons and Tyranids should not be playable. Their motivations and organisation are quite distinct from the other races and would make it hard to integrate into the MMO as playable and simultaneously offer the players of these races the same range of involvement and freedom. Therefore I treat them as unplayable and so the balancing of their standard troops is not that important as numbers are freely adjustable as NPCs. I excpect a lot of negative comments on that part, but go just right ahead. Maybe there are ideas around I haven't thought of and would allowe them to be playable.

This concludes today entry. Have fun commenting and drop by for the next read which will most likely be available on monday.

Of Men and Space Marines

Posted by Tasilla Wednesday April 2 2008 at 5:27AM
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Welcome back. Today I want to further address the topic of playable races/characters. I will also say something about the comments I received for my first post.

Let's start with a statement: There will be Space Marines. There should be no arguing about that if one takes into account the current marketing strategy of Games Workshop (GW). Space Marines are at the center of GW marketing and I dare to say that they are probably the most popular army list currently available. That being said, Space Marines will have to be playable in order for an W40K MMO to be successful.

Although Space Marines are that successful, there are other races in W40K (as pointed out in the introduction) that certainly have a dedicated fan base which (and that is important) spends A LOT of money for their hobby. While I admit that not all of the table top (TT) players will play a MMO, at least some of them will. So it would be a mistake to exclude all of the other races. As playable races some might have to be excluded. For example the Imperial Guard.

It was already stated, that Space Marines have to be in the MMO as playable race. This automatically excludes the Imperial Guard as playable 'race'. Why is that so? Well, obviously: balance. Let's imagine a lonely Imperial Guardsman facing a single Space Marine. Most likely the Space Marine will beat the hell out of the guardsman in ranged combat and melee alike. Some might ask why this would exclude the Imperial Guard as they would fight together with the Space Marines (at leats most of the time). Well, for balancing it will be necessary to choose playable characters from other recaes that are about equal to the Space Marines. That would lead to the situation that the Imperial Guard would most likely lose a battle if numbers are not in their favour. For a MMO this is a rather bad idea. The same is the fact for nearly every other thing one might imagine as playable for the Empire.

At first glance, the Adepta Sororitas might be an exception. But I say: they are no alternative for the Space Marines. While the standard Sister of Battle might hold herself against the standard Marine, there is a balancing issue on the broader picture: weapon diversity. Space Marines are able to field almost any weapon type with their infantry (except autocannons, iirc). The Sisters of Battle are rather fond of flames and bolts. If I'm not mistaken, they can only field bolters, heavy bolters, (heavy) flamers and (multi) meltas. So they lack missile launchers, lascannons und plasma weapons which are effective weapons against vehicles and heavily armored infantry. The meltas are effective against these too, but they only offer short range. This I judge as a serious disadvantage in comparison to the Space Marines.

MChavez suggested that the inclusion of hive world gangs would serve the game well. According to above mentioned, I don't think these will be included because of balancing. An avergae gang member on a hive world will most likely not stand a chance against a Space Marine or anything roughly equal to them.

BlindShooter mentions that there are multiple possible scenarios. I admit this is true and that I will have no influence whatsoever on which scenario will be selected. Nevertheless I will later on write about the different possible scenarios and the consequences of choosing each of them. So stay tuned ^^.

Concluding this second entry, I will shortly summarize the essentials:

  • there will be Space Marines and they will be playable
  • most likely no other factions/armies from the Empire will be playable



Posted by Tasilla Tuesday April 1 2008 at 8:09AM
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I will keep this first post quite short and just present some initial thoughts about a Warhammer 40k MMO.

So what should be considered, when developing the game? First of all: what races to choose. Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (WAR) has choosen the approach of selecting 6 races and putting 3 each into some form of alliance. While the Empire is allied with the Dwarves and also with the High Elves ... well Dwarves hate High Elves to the blood. Nevertheless they are in the same 'faction' or 'realm' (referring to the Realm vs. Realm (RVR) nature of the game).

Taking a look at the other realm reveals an alliance of Dark Elves, Chaos worshippers and Greenskins. If anyone would ask me: that's nonsense. These 3 would just as well kill each other as well as their enemy faction.

So what to learn of this? A Warhammer 40k MMO should not do this at all. There is only one 'alliance' in Warhammer 40k and this is the Empire. Well ... at least most of the time they kind of work together. This includes the Imperial Army/Navy, the various branches of the Inqusition which also inlude more or less the Grey Knights and the Adepta Sororitas and partly also the Space Marines wich are also the last part of the alliance and likely also the most popular army in W40k at the moment. So there is the Empire ... Orcs, Eldar, Dark Eldar, Tau, Tyranids, Necrons and Chaos. Well, to be ture, most of them feature internal conflicts as well as the Empire. But this could form a basic list for factions in the game. All of them fight against everyone else. So if one doesn't want to press them into some kind of greater alliance that's what the game should feature as slectable 'races'. To be honest - I don't belive this will happen. No developer will design so many different factions and try to balance them. But as long as there are no further infos about the game actually in development, I will use this as a base for my thoughts.

Furthermore, I think this game should focus on PvP. Anything else wouldn't fit the Warhammer universe well. But as I see the necessities of the market, it would likely also have to feature some kind of PvE.

As I'm out of time for now, this concludes my first post. In the furure I will write about the kind of characters, pepole should be able to play, about PvE elements, the alternatives for settings and camnpaigns and about the server-structure and size to use.

Hope you drop by to read ;)