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Fantastic Pixel Castle's Scott Johnson and Brian Holinka on Combat and PvP, and Their 'Approachable' Design Goal

Discussing their approach on combat and PvP, prior experience and concerns as they work on 'Ghost'

Christina Gonzalez Posted:
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The Fantastic Pixel Castle team has a new podcast episode where Scott Johnson is joined this time by Brian Holinka, a familiar dev to many during his decade at Blizzard and work as Lead Combat Designer on World of Warcraft before he joined this new studio.

Holinka and Johnson start off by talking about bees (as Holinka recently had an infestation at home) before pivoting over to their upcoming MMO, still code-named Ghost (which the team recently showed off some very early prototype footage from). With Holinka’s extensive experience in combat and PvP, naturally, the conversation went in that direction, with a focus on lessons learned from the experience on WoW and how that affects his design philosophy on combat overall. 

When developing an MMO they want to create something different, but something that's also familiar enough that it's approachable. As Holinka puts it, things should feel familiar enough that you can jump in right away and enjoy them instead of feeling like you have to “take a three hour course” on the mechanics and how to play. Citing games like Helldivers 2 and others like , that approachability is the foundation. The other part is asking the question of what new things they can bring to that familiar experience. 

Later, they discuss control systems, complexity, considering controllers, and teams. They bring up how action game fans might try an MMO and have 'wrong instincts', like trying to run away instead of taking the hit and using the right skill, while also emphasizing that both of these are learned, since we all start somewhere. Yet, there is something to bring to MMOs from that action-based format too.


Fantastic Pixel Castle Shows Early Prototype of Ghost MMO In Latest Update

Tab targeting, and other option come in as well, and it all touches on teams, PVP and the importance of players shaping their own experiences while also facilitating fun and effective teamwork. A concern comes up on potential feeling of hierarchies based on how difficult a class might seem to play successfully, but there's also the potential for balancing rewards effectively for learning to skillfully play harder classes.

On a previous episode, the team cited player experience as one of their biggest guiding forces on Ghost, and here they touch on fantasy fulfillment, making everyone feel like they're contributing, and how that impacts combat too. 

The full conversation is worth listening to, since PVP and combat are some of the more challenging things to get right and balanced in MMORPGs, and the FPC team does emphasize transparency and wanting feedback.


Christina Gonzalez

Christina is MMORPG.COM’s News Editor and a contributor since 2011. Always a fan of great community and wondering if the same sort of magic that was her first guild exists anymore.