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Community Spotlight: Evils of a Fair Fight

Posted by MikeB Saturday March 17 2012 at 4:28PM
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In this week's Community Spotlight, we focus on the thread, "The evils of a fair fight" by Creslin321. In the thread, Creslin321 argues that MMO developers shouldn't structure the world so that monsters are always of the appropriate level range for where you are at in your progression:

One thing that I think is way different (in a bad way) when you compare the MMORPGS and RPGs of today to their counterparts of 90's is this concept that everything should be "fair."  In themepark MMORPGs, you are guided from quest to quest in a way that ensures the mobs you fight will always be around your level, so you always have a "fair" (typically easy) fight.  The same is true of modern SPRPGs, though they sometimes use devices like level-scaling to enforce this fairness as opposed to simply guiding the player.

This can be nice because you know you'll never be put in a fight you can't win, but it kind of kills any feeling of exploration, danger, and most importantly, PROGRESSION in the game.  For example, in WoW, I'm always fighting MOBs that are yellow or green..that's it.  The quest nodes and zone levels on the map are very careful to guide me along a carefully determined path so that this is the case.  I never really feel like I'm progressing, because my foes are almost always the exact same level as me...they increase in strength precisely proportionately to my advanacement.

So I think this philosophy is misguided.  You see, I believe that RPGs are about progression FAR more than they are about action-packed or highly tactical combat.  And guiding the player so that they are always fighting "equal" opponents kills that sense of progression.

In old school RPGs like early Final Fantasy games, the Ultima Series (including UO), or Everquest, if you wandered off the beaten path slightly, you may wind up meeting mobs that will hand you your behind on a silver platter.  This may seem unfair, but it really puts the danger of the world into perspective.  You KNOW that a sand giant can absolutely destroy you, because you encounter them often...they are as much a part of the world of a level 18 as they are a level 40.

And when you finally get high enough level to kill a sand that's a good feeling.  You feel like you actually accomplished something...the deadly predator of yesterday is now your prey!

So in conclusion, I really think (MMO)RPGs should get back to showing the player the terrifying monsters of the world at a lower level, and not being afraid to let them stumble on a dragon's lair just to put everything in perspective.  I'm not advocating the use of "grief NPCs" like Everquest had, but I think it would be good to even have a few "non-aggro" NPCs of higher levels wandering around lower level places so that players could have something to strive for.

Does the community agree? Read on to find out!

Loktofeit challenges the entire premise of Creslin321's argument:

Actually, it's done because it enhances the feeling of progression for most players. The majority of players are playing to progress their character. The majority of players aren't playing to challenge themselves - the game is an entertaining diversion. Imagine the con of just a fraction of the mobs in any mainstream MMO shifted down a color or two. What's really a red now shows as yellow. What's really white now shows as green.

Which do you think is the most likely scenario?

A) Players see those mobs as a rewarding challenge

B) Players complain the mobs are OP for their level and should be nerfed

C) Players avoid those mobs altogether and fight the easier stuff

I'd say B and C are good bets.

Now, before Mr Extreme OutofLeftField RedHerringStrawMan jumps in... I never said that no game should be more challenging or that no one wants a more challenging PvE experience. I'm addressing the specific point the OP made that MMORPGs should get back to adding that level of challenge or difficulty. In an MMO where the playerbase is there for challenging battle and not to simply progreess their character, that would work. Very few MMOs are actually like that and very few players are actually looking for that (raid/boss/elite content the exception) so getting back to showing players this form of gameplay isn't anything that most MMOs should really focus on as it conflicts with what their players are trying to achieve/accomplish.

LowFlyingHam can see both sides of the argument (awesome user name by the way!):

Agree but disagree at the same time.  I remember playing RF Online for like a half hour.  I got to the first town after doing the tutorial, and either I missed the quests or simply picked the wrong exit from town.  Got rofl-stomped by baddies way higher than me right next to the starting town... I kinda sat there for a few seconds, and immediately uninstalled.  That's just bad game design, I don't care how you justify it.

I do have 'fond' memories of being genuinely scared of some mobs in Dark Souls.  While you're making your way to the Taurus Demon for example(the one you fight on top of a castle wall with a tower you can get up on... this is way early in the game), there's this big knight looking guy next to some narrow passageway going down some steps.  It's completely out of the way, you're not required to go down there at all.  I think he was guarding a chest or something, and he'd kill me every single time.  He may have actually been impossible to kill, I don't remember very well... but that's the kind of feeling that's missing from MMORPGs, that sense of danger. 

WoW had a little bit of this here and there like the Fel Reaver in Hellfire Peninsula.  It patrolled all over the zone, and the ground would shake if it was walking near you.  If you didn't see it outright coming towards you, the ground would shake and you're like "oh crap" and start swinging your camera around looking for him.

For PvP I advocate nothing but a fair fight.  This is why I've always been disinterested with PvP in MMOs... if it's not an issue of gear balance, it's rock-paper-scissors class design.


DannyGlover is definitely feeling what the OP is talking about:

hehe yeah those times were pretty fun. I remember wandering around Trisfal Glades as a level 7 Undead Mage in WoW.

I saw a camp out in the distance...

"huh, The Bulwark. Thats cool. Wonder whats through this entryway.."

Next thing I knew a diseased bear is running right at me from 50 yards away. Before I could say 'oh shiii', I was dead.

I came back about a month later. Seasoned, geared, level 53. Found that diseased bear and dropped him like a bag of dirt. Remember me, smokey? Whos laffin nao!!!

First a little context: I tend to play just about every game on the maximum difficulty the game will allow. Needless to say, I'm one of those players looking for a challenge. However, most of the people I know don't tend to do this, they are playing games for that entertainment value and I honestly have to try and convince them that the experience is more satisfying if they endeavor to challenge themselves. While this is purely anecdotal, I can definitely see why game developers design things today the way they do.  While I think those of us looking for these sorts of experiences may be vocal, I don't think the larger mainstream gaming population is necessarily into that and it can be off-putting for many to wander into dangerous creatures or territory unknowingly.

At the same time, I also have fond memories of the sorts of things Creslin321 brings up in his OP. Heck, even going all the way back to MUDding. Sure, most MUDs feature zones that are designed for specific level ranges, but you would often still have to 'consider' a mob before you fought it. Just because it was in your range didn't necessarily mean it was a sure thing. Of course, some mobs were entirely aggressive on top of this and would give you a rude awakening if you wandered into the wrong room.

I'd like to see this sort of thing come back to MMOs. How about you? Share your thoughts in the comments below!


zekeofev writes:

MMOs have one difficulty curve. While the curve varys a little bit from game to game I dislike how most MMOs have a way too easy leveling curve.


I wish the early game had a harder option for more reward. Sadly, I think this style of option would just frustrate most casual players.

Sat Mar 17 2012 4:50PM Report
Resia writes:

I miss the "excitement" of some wandering mobs that could literally own you when you were the same level as everything else in the area. It isn't just the challenge for me, it is the danger and the feel of adventure. I will use EQ as an example as it had giants and wandering mobs in a few places that were far higher level than the rest of everything in the zone. You had to run from them.

For me it added that sense of danger that made it exciting. Also a senese of accomplishment when you gained several levels and came back to take them down. I am not a person who plays games at the hardest difficulty or have a need fight the hardest "Mob" everytime.  I  just like the random sense of adventure these added, for me.

Sun Mar 18 2012 12:54PM Report
Kyleran writes:

As I mentioned in the original thread, what we're looking for is to be surprised, sometimes unpleasantly to give the MMO an air of unpredicability.

Trouble with current titles is you can easily figure out the winning formula for almost every area (SWTOR is very much like this) and there's little chance of actually failing.

I'm not saying older MMO's were always challenging, but every now and they they'd toss you a curve and you'd be face down.

I remember DAOC did a good job with their con system, and while you might be able to kill that orange/red or even purple con, depending on how you were geared and spec'd (strong defense against crush, strong slash) vs how they were spec'd could change the outcome considerably.


Sun Mar 18 2012 1:26PM Report
Painlezz writes:

The PRIMARY issue in my eyes are quest level requirements.  It's not so much that quests lead you from one area to another and help keep everything around your level.  It's that you cannot possibly go after higher level stuff because the game prevents it.

In the latest versions of WoW, you cannot pick up a quest till it's about your level.  You cannot equip an awesome rare sword form a hard to kill higher level creature you found because it has a minimum level requirement.

The solution is simple, allow players to do whatever they want.  "IF" a player is capable of killing something 10+ levels above them after a 5 min fight... they should be able to benefit from that fight (use the items, get the massive XP boost).

Unfortunately this isn't allowed in modern MMO's because players find ways to exploit it.  If you allow players to do "difficult" things and benefit from them you'll have players who find ways to cheat the intended difficulty and benefit from it so much that it unbalances the world.

Sun Mar 18 2012 8:09PM Report
sirach writes:

I have to agree with LowFlyingHam, the Fel Reaver in Hellfire Peninsula did add a sense of excitement and fear. I remember the first time I saw him (and died) I was mad, but it did make questing more exciting than anything I had experienced in WoW up to that point.

Mon Mar 19 2012 1:03PM Report writes:
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