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Rayner The Ape's MMOLog

Apostol Apostolov (aka Rayner The Ape) is a 29 year old lead game designer hailing from Bulgaria, Eastern Europe, working on a fairly unknown but highly promising (oh yeah, you heard that before, haven't you?) MMO.

Author: raynerape

Mighty Gods & Their Solitary Heroes

Posted by raynerape Wednesday June 6 2007 at 5:33AM
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Reading Gods and Heroes' latest newsletter, I couldn't resist but peek into the new Minion mechanics the game promises. While I have to agree - they are having a novel idea - I think many companies haven't gone into the whole squad tactics leadership in a MMO for a couple good reasons.

First, with about 16 units under your command, the game seems to strongly encourage solo gameplay. As a MMO designer myself, I want my players to have access to almost 2/3 of the gameplay through solo gameplay like everyone else, but I want them to feel solitary when doing so. I want them to feel the difference between solo and party and come to value being part of a party when they are, not smudge the difference with numerous minions. Otherwise it would be too easy - at least psychologically, if not metagame - to exchange a couple real party players with a dozen minions, anytime.

Second, squad management could require frequent "herding" over them. I hope G&H devs avoid somehow that as the next-to-last thing I want as a player is a game that requires constantly my attention switching between my character and a group of AI-controlled puppets following me. Also, the last thing I want as a player is a game with more attention-requiring gameplay. I know most of you would disagree. But traditional MMOs have always provided character-centric and slow-paced gameplay that have allowed a player to be at his mostly full potential even after a dozen of hours before the screen or another sleepless night. If he has to take care of more things and/or entities onscreen, the player could find himself mentally exhausted after much less time period. It's a problem other face-paced games notice.

Third, have you tried controlling whopping 16 units through over the shoulder third person camera? At this squad level the bird's eye view comes really handy and the MMO could quickly evolve into a squad based tactical strategy. That's not necessary a bad thing, but is this among the game's goal? I feel like the best way to control your squad in this game would be to turn it in an RPG cousin of Company of Heroes.

Fourth, what was really heroic about a player squad leader sending his squad against a mighty crocodile? No, it's not the crocodile the issue. It's the commanding, comfortably standing in the rear image of an experienced general who sends his grunts to do his work. Hardly the hero who unsheathes his sword and charges into battle. You might say, why not change the old image of do it yourself heroes, and what's wrong the good old HoMM3 heroes who had their armies battle while they rained buffs and magic upon them? No problem with that, but once again, hardly heroic.

Fifth and finally, in minions' sole defence, can you imagine what a party of five players with 16 minions each would look like onscreen? Oh, i don't mind the low framerate, as next-gen cards will easily do the hard work, but the battles would be truly epic in size!! I do like the mental image of that and part of me itches to witness that scene, and my wallet is theirs as long as I don't feel like I play a strategy squad level game.

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