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Portalus Games | Official Site
MMORPG | Setting:Historical | Status:Final  (rel 01/22/08)  | Pub:Portalus Games
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Developer Journals: Group Combat Missions

By Guest Writer on April 14, 2008

Group Combat Missions

One of the new pieces of content that we’ve created for 1.3 is repeatable group missions for port conquest. We wanted to give players of all levels the chance to participate in group-oriented content to generate or reduce unrest so they could more easily participate in the PvP game. For the aggressors, this takes the form of destroying a fort’s defenses in order to make way for a ground invasion force. On the defender side, this involves protecting a fort from multiple waves of attackers on both sea and land.


Because this was designed to be group content but also repeatable, there were several design considerations I had to take into account while developing these missions:

1. It needed to provide a challenge for 4-6 players, while still being reasonable to complete on a regular basis. Cannon ammunition and repair consumables can get very expensive. If the mission were too difficult, it wouldn’t be cost effective for players to do with any frequency.

2. It needed to require a team effort, with players being assigned to distinct and essential tasks. As a designer, I prefer this method over a “throw more ships at ‘em” approach to group content. Repeatable missions are an excellent place to develop your group tactics and coordination, especially for low-level players. I wanted to put them in a situation where finesse would be more likely to succeed than brute force.

3. It had to be easily scalable for level.

These considerations led to a number of interesting features. For the aggressor side, I decided to bolster the fort’s defenses with a “gunboat swarm.” While gunboats are small ships (with only one cannon!), they can be dangerous in large numbers. They also provide a very interesting challenge due to the fact that their cannon points straight off the bow. The vast majority of ships attempt to sail parallel or perpendicular to their target, while the gunboat simply sails straight at you. This makes them difficult to engage, and requires new tactics. On the other hand, it’s very fun and satisfying to see them go down in one broadside!

For the defender mission, the most interesting addition is the use of cannons in avatar space. The attacking ships continually drop off landing parties at the beach which attempt to enter the fort on foot. At least one player must assist in defending against these landing parties or the fort’s crew will be overwhelmed. To do this, the player is able to use three cannons that have been loaded with grape shot and pointed at the beach. Firing them will radically reduce the number of attackers that the forts crew actually has to deal with.

To adequately test these new missions for balance and playability, we did a playtest once a day for about a week each. The group typically consisted of myself, DrewC, Taelorn, and one or more of our QA testers. Isildur and Ivy also got in on the action occasionally. After each session I would meet with the group and discuss what worked and what didn’t, what was too hard or too easy, and how we could make it more fun.

This usually resulted in a number of tweaks that I would then implement for the playtest the next day. Once we were satisfied that we had fun and challenging missions, I sent them off to QA for comprehensive bug testing.

It ends up being quite a process, but I think youll enjoy the result.


Check out the original article here.