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Your Sacred Cows' Mad Disease

Challenging the Tired and Used assumptions in MMO's - and gaming in general.

Author: badgerbadger

The Danger of Blogging... (or: enjoy those Sacred Burgers)

Posted by badgerbadger Tuesday September 4 2007 at 5:29PM
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...The danger of course is that all the interesting and thought-provoking comments will draw someone already prone to tangents into forgetting what it was they were Intending to Blog on about.

   but clearly thats not entirely a bad thing.  Simulataneously; there have been some VERY interesting and even pertinent threads on MMORPG - yet even with the search function I am having trouble finding them to refer to and credit - my apologies in advance.

  I think my use of the term Sacred Cow was vindicated by the very first response...

On other threads (sorry again) the point was made of WHY there has been so little variety - Ultrapro also alluded to this - are I believe primarily market-driven. I DO believe there has been a lack of originality; but i VERY MUCH believe that the people holding the Developer's purse strings are the bottom line determinant... And as I said; I hope enough of a demand will become apparent that someone will risk something different.

 Meltdown mentioned DDO - and in fact I HAVE a seprate post about why i left that - but its worth pointing out that even though DDO made considerable concessions to standard MMO "SC" (healing in particular)- they DID risk more originality than most games - and got SOAKED for it( and generated so much whining...often becuase; lol; the players from other games found their generic MMO tactics didnt work there ).

  But all of this goes back to firstly what Dantes77 pointed out about WHY the current system became so prevalent (even before WoW) he pointed at EQ (before my time as an MMO gamer) - and particularly he mentioned fairness due to connection and lag speeds.  And I must say; at risk of picking on DDO - the only time it didn't lag me was in instanced zones - same with CoH; but in DDO the lag was more an issue - FOR the very reasons we're discussing.

  So: I wanted to recognize all this. I wanted to establish we actually have SEVERAL cows here in a herd. But I also want to establish - one of the threads i can't find now was the one over the weekend by mostly vet mmo-ers saying how tired everything had become. SO: there is some Demand.

    Another thing I'd like to establish is, the current combat system is NOT as some seem to think the ONLY way things have been done. Best and most popular are not quite the same are they? <..betamax...>

  So I'd like to look at some of the other ways things can be done. Another poster pointed out that MMO's don't seem to have continued to develop as single-player RPG's have.

  CONTINUOUS FIGHTING... The 3rd edition D&d rules DESPITE being turn-based did take steps to represent that people weren't stopping on the other guys turns. Original D&D, btw; used 1MINUTE rounds for combat - never intending that to represent 1 swing. Warhammer rounds are skill versus skill -and these are turned based YES.. but the point i'm getting at is combat shouldn't FEEL like turns of I'm swinging.. waiting for a recharge... you're swinging...

  With respect to Ultropro; i haven't played ElderScrolls; but with games calculating 40+Frames per SEcond; I dont think skill vs skill rolls (as an example) for parries and blocks are going to be the big demand on processor OR connection.

 Player Involvement is i beleive the real issue here - people have spoken on the lock on and auto-attack - or hit the same old key attack routine. at least the "skills"(attack options) involve the player to a degree.  Nice start - need it stop there?  What if; for an example, the options you were given were while they were fighting; to try actual attack options or combinations that made a difference - perhaps the rock paper scissors of  Lost Worlds, Magic Realms; Knights of Legend?

  I'm not necessarily saying a game system be all "twitch" to Involve the player - the character can be blocking and dodging - already  somewhat IS in most games- but I'm not being made to FEEL it( and as i said in most games you're more worreid about those hit points than getting in - or fearing - a telling blow. YET in the WAR movie; I was CRINGING...give me that ina GAME). Even the most rudimenatry animation that they are still fighting would be a start - that they DONT STAND THERE AND POLITELY TRADE SLUGS is the feeling I'm asking.

A NOTE ON WOUNDS AND HEALING - I think one of the most cognizant points commented was the link between the way healing is done in most games; and how it CREATES a metagame which i think in all fairness we can say has grown stale for many players.

       Healing and all the related discussion of swallowed assumptions is something I want to save for another post; but I htink it has to be touched on.

  Games existed and ran quite well that didn't make "hit points" the basis of advancement -or high hit points represent near-invulnerability. Lets speak of one.

  yes its old; and yes it was a single-player "RPG"( rpg? i'd argue it was a tactical combat game - at least fallout tactics admitted this - sorry tangent). But this goes back to MMO's not learning much from single-player games... see/ I tangent b/c this really does all connect.

 Wizard's Crown.  The interesting thing about this game  was that it kept wounds ABSTRACT which is the strength of "Hit Points" systems. Having played games that are very specific about them - I'll say they both have their place.

  A successful hit in WC based damage off  "hit quality" - how much you had exceeded your target difficulty - rather than it being a seperate random roll. So accuracy meant more of your POTENTIAL damage was done. (this is why critical hits and "sneak attacks" in D&D do greater damage- they were trying to represent getting around skillful "damage reduction" to do REAL DAMAGE... Good hits from 2h axes; at the battle of Hastings; were cleaving thru man AND mount).

  The physical damage types were cutting; piercing; and bludgeoning> an actual wound resulted in resultant degrees of INJURY and/or BLEEDING.

  Injury was a penalty to skill checks - representing actual physical impairment.                                            Bleeding steadily reduced your "LIFE" (hit points).

 if your life droped entirely to zero; you died - and if your injury exceeded your current life; you simply went unconcious.

  The unconcious feature is not only realistic (btw: ask your favorite combat medic: most people die of shock) but should help ameleliorate the concern that evryone will die; all the time.

  The interesting thing about healing was that the first step was merely "stop bleeding"; the next, heal injury, then restore life forces, then finally raise dead (if it was soon enough that the soul was still in). Without going too far into this tangent; if someone is healing your WOUNDS I want you to ask How. is it JUST by making your body do it..(forced regeneration) or are they flesh-shaping? In either case i want you to ask:  If they can do THAT.... me this is like discussions i was flamed for elsewhere - suggesting that magically-enhanced swords might do more damage becasue they are harder and thus SHARP; or that maybe zombies should GRAPPLE :).

  Anyway; the advantage of this sytem was it was still abstarct (simplicity) but that it ALSO made you FEEL your wounded charcter was in DANGER. You really had to balance staying in combat versus backing off to be healed - could the rest of the team cover?  The bleeding was a continual threat - try to finish my opponent or go on defense until I can get healed?...It made AVOIDING damage important - including,yes, armor that could reduce damage - particularly against things you couldn't dodge.

  Keep in mind this was an award winning game (that obsoleted itself by making it possible for the company to produce a more commercially successful "least common denominator" appeal game :) -which I believe WoW to be) -  and a system that supported play from a gritty low-fantasy start game to a world-hopping high-fantasy endgame.

  But that was just one example that combat's reliance on experienced survivability must ="high Hit Points" simply ISN'T the case.

  I myself enjoy more in games -esp MMO's- than combat; but as much of the EXCITEMENT factor - one necessary element - in them comes from combat; and as the generic combat CONTINUES to not provide that for many players; I think we must - those who like me have neither the resources to fund; or modern programming knowledge to develop myself - if we wish to see games advance; Question the ruts they have fallen into- and in future i hope to question other gameplay aspects than comabt- and just as importantly; put our time and subscription money where our mouths are - or there will BE no innovation.


(btw my GF's first mmo was DDO- as a result she considers other mmo's combat  "too boring" - and is back to playing Diablo2...)

    I also want to add that a good part of why the "trinity" works is lackadaisical AI. It rarely works in PvP games (offline?try it in chainmail/ D&D minis) or games where the AI will go after your "artillery"  (DDonline; or; offline; try TOEE).


 Once again thank you for reading my long and rambling thoughts.



soulwynd writes:

Mmorpgs are based on crappy ass muds. Hell, they're crappy ass muds with graphics. Most problems you see in a mmo, such as the whole auto-combat, crappy combat details and whatnot are caused by two things programmers didn't want to think about. First one is server sync. How do you synchronize every players and their actions into one big pool of mmo? The simple answer is to let the server handle everything. So no matter your lag, you will be seeing things in at least an orderly way. Did I mention it cuts down cheating? Oh no? Well it does. Programmers and designers go yay with that horrible scheme. Second reason is cpu load. Now that your server is handling everything, what do we do when 4000 people decide to fight at the same time? Keep the rolls and checks as simple and dull as possible so it doesn't load up. Not to mention npc AI, pet AI, chat handling, etc. This is how we end up with korean mmos, commercial games, and free mmos that are always begging for money and never getting anywhere.

Wed Sep 05 2007 10:03AM Report
nightrose writes:

Another reason MUD's, and their children the modern MMORPG, did not concentrate on twitch-based or exciting combat is because the original consumer of these games wasn't interested in it!  MUDs were created as a way to create an experience similar to tabletop roleplaying games; to tell and participate in a story.  Current MMOs have forsaken the RPG aspect of their games in favor of newer graphics and exciting combat.  Well, once players realize that there's nothing much new to look at with these pretty graphics, and the combat really isn't that exciting (most people still set a button to the one or two truely useful skills, and click them as fast as possible), what's left?

Wed Sep 05 2007 10:26AM Report
badgerbadger writes:

 Roleplaying games have ALWAYS been a marriage of the WARGAME and STORYTELLING traditions - and I'm afraid Hack N' Slash has always been the least common denominator... Most games stories - most "modules" had stories as thin as the quests in MMO's today.

...The real "storytellers" were always something of an elite if you will- a niche market; at least in my experience since...'79. Wasn't MMO a realtively small market until someone successfully marketed It to the least common denominator?

 Clearly; SOMEONE found "non-twitch" combat EXCITING and INTERESTING.

  Just as now; MANY WoW (and what-not) players still do.

 But this blog was written for those who NO LONGER find these simplistic modes of combat exciting. (Some have just matured to where they Require more than Hack N Slash to keep their interest - thast another subject... Myself I like  a good blend - i like action in my books and movies; too)

 So - as you said - Whats left?

  Whats left is to Evolve the combat - lets discuss that.

Soulwynd and dantes77 have mentioned reasons WHY it was done that way - and I'll say  YEP- i've had games where outside of instances (why i guess those are being implemented so much ?) - it was LagCity. "watch out the mobs got the LAG debuff!"

 But once again - perhaps we can advance something OTHER than graphics - what has already been done is NOT the only possibility. merely the only one developed.

Wed Sep 05 2007 11:53AM Report
Meltdown writes:

Heh, I also left DDO, D&D without a DM just wasn't the same. Scripted instances aren't anything new to MMO's. But why we can't have more dynamic creation within these instances (Diablo 2 anyone) is beyond me. Heck CoH/CoV dabbled with this. Actually it goes as far back as Diablo 1(maybe even games before that), there were scripted quests etc, but every time you go back in the game is different. With dynamic instances (or DM controlled) and more levels I believe DDO would have been more of a success.

As far as combat becoming boring it's odd. Many praise the earlier MMO's (UO or EQ) on being much more fun, even though their combat systems were much more simplistic and less twitch/skill oriented. Something I have seen disappear since these games is the idea of missing. I kid you not, start up a lvl 1 in WoW and you hit > 80% of the time. How is it this nubby lvl 1 orc warlock has become a master of the martial arts with his staff, clubbing bats out of the air and quick wolves.

Play low-lvl EQ and the fights are nail-biters. Perhaps its too late to go back to the idea of non-twitch/skill-based combat, but its much more exciting to me. That a lucky hit or miss could mean death or victory. UO was the same way, fighting was a comparison of skill, not a comparison of hit points.

Wed Sep 05 2007 12:42PM Report
Olgie writes:

A serious discussion of "building a better MMORPG"?  Man; I thought I was the only one...  LMAO

Truthfully, I'm just nor sure what I'm looking for at this point...  I've played UO, EQ, E&B, MTGO, EQ2, WoW, DDO, Archlord, Dungeon Runners, Rappelz, and various other single & multi player games.  Been a D&D player since before there was an AD&D as well as a game master for a few other P&P games, and I'm looking for puzzles to solve and challenges to over come. Combat to me is a means to an end, but only a part of the game. 

Having said that, the game that was the most fun for me was E&B.  I've hated EA for cancelling that and have not bought an EA title since.  EQ2 was a vast improvement over EQ (I admit I like the faster leveling at the lowe levels...  I didn't get past L22 in EQ, and I hated deleveling) and the "Heroic Opportunity" aspect of  EQ2's combat system is how I interpret Badger's desire for more player involvement in combat.  Players could choose to perform special moves and combine them with each other for some uber, temporary effect; very nice.

Well, if the purpose of this BLOG is to ramble, I think I've done that.  Thanx for starting it up Badger!

Wed Sep 05 2007 8:10PM Report
Hamilton-NEO writes:

Wizard's Crown?

Are you talking about that old game for the Commodore and Apple series back in the 80's?

I have never seen any one talk about that game until now.  Sure did like it back in those days.

Fri Sep 14 2007 3:25PM Report writes:
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