OK, I had the idea for this thread a while back but the latest bit of discussion in the Champion's thread brought it to the front of my mind.
So in most MMO's the optimal tactic is to have one tank take all the aggro, for a healer to keep him on his feet and for others to focus all their attacks on one mob at a time to kill them as fast as possible. There might be some form of crowd control but that is secondary and it is also very important not to attack those mobs being sleeped, feared or whatever.
So what is wrong with this?
- It's unrealistic. Even in most fantasy lit. you don't really read about some priest or cleric, constantly healing some intrepid knight as a dragon hits him again and again. In other settings it's likely to be downright stupid.
- A lot of people find healing boring and thus there is almost always a lack of healers compared to classes that fill other roles.
- It's been done so many times that it is boring in general.
What I'd like to discuss in this thread is what could be done to change and improve these mechanics. The concrete example I have in mind, but that other people can ignore, is combat between Dreadnoughts, i.e. Battleships, during WWI before carriers came along and ruined all the fun.
In contrast, when lack of communication by Admiral Beatty led to two battlecruisers firing on one of their German opponents while another German battlecruiser was not fired upon, this mistake was considered serious enough that a court marshal was considered and Beatty later said that the officer that sent those misunderstood signals cost him two battles.
The reasoning behind the general order to spread each squadrons fire instead of concentrating it come in three parts. First, being fired on made returning fire harder since the smoke and confusion made aiming more difficult, i.e. firing on another ship suppressed
that ship to a degree. Second, two ships firing on one made it hard for each ship to see if their shells were falling short of their target or were flying right over. Third, each round fired had a small chance of even hitting the target and the results of a hit were very random, ranging from bouncing off armor to igniting the powder stores and making the target explode. This meant that concentrating fire on one ship didn't have the strong advantage of taking out that one target faster.
Again, in a typical MMO combat things are very different. Almost every shot hits, the amount of damage a character does is very predictable and steady, hence "DPS", players or mobs are not normally crippled by damage until dead. Attacking a mob does not make it any less dangerous or suppresses that mob in any way.
So, in short I think it would be worth toying with the idea of adding the following to MMO combat mechanics.
- Crits that cripple the target in some way and for a long time.
- Attacks have the additional if not main effect of suppressing targets.
- Fewer but more telling hits.
- Less predictable damage from attacks.
- Don't reward concentrating damage except in special circumstances.
(Please do not gift. My game bank is already full.)
Edit: Yeah I didn't read the post before I posted. Deal. Age of Conan is kind of taking a different approach to combat than recent MMOs that I think is kind of hitting on what you're talking about. You have spread damage an attacks depending on the type of weapon you are using. There also is a mini game to blocking. I am not sure exactly how it all works and since I am not in beta, nor have I read that much about it, I can't really say. Just going on what I HAVE read and what I've seen in the purdy pictures.
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Fewer but more telling hits? No. Close combat is way different than fighting over an open sea. I CAN agree that hits SHOULD cause some problems with attacking back, but in a general mmo sense, its tough to integrate that. Age of Conan is supposedly integrating some more "realistic" combat in that sense. But all we can really do is wait and see.
I don't mean to shoot down your idea completely, as there are things I can agree with, but remember, there are limitations to online games, and people behave differently than ships.
There is precedence for certain parts of an army bearing the brunt of an offensive and protecting other parts; archers in medieval warfare, for instance, or artillery encampments later on. This idea, of course, kinda falls apart a bit when you try to shrink it down to the small groups one is more likely to find in an MMO.
The closest thing to that, historically and with people in mind, would probably be certain gladiatorial combat styles. Honestly, anything 10 people and under is almost always going to be a group of all-purpose brawlers. Perhaps that's what we need, I'm not sure.
The idea of focus fire is pretty old- that's one of the basic ideas of the phalanx, or the roman style of tight marching with short, stabby swords. Sure, the individual centurion might have difficulty against your individual screaming barbarian with a 3-foot claymore. But if you put a group of one against a group of another, suddenly each barbarian has to deal with 3 centurions at a time, just because he can't stand in close formation and swing his 3-foot sword at the same time. To my memory, the idea of suppressing fire (as opposed to focus fire) didn't really come into play until a more modern age- perhaps because a person in a battle was, in general, either locked in hand to hand combat with another meelee guy, shooting from a distance, or involved in a rout of one side's long range group.
I think your ideas might be a good fit for a game about (duh) ships, or perhaps mechs. For sword and sorcery games, I'd probably prefer more of a motion towards skill based combat, more similar to fighting games.
Also, you have classes whose damage is less steady and burst-based, but frankly, I found playing them annoying, so I'm glad they're not the norm. Missing the enemy is always a disadvantage, whereas getting a string of lucky crits is only helpful if the enemy is still alive when they finish (ie, they took full damage), which means that on average you're losing more than you're gaining.
Actually, I'd be interested in knowing why MMO combat works the way it does.
For instance in most PnP rpgs hitting your target is pretty far from automatic while in most MMOs it basically is. In many if not most PnP rpgs damage from an attack is fairly random while in most MMOs it is mostly constant. In most PnP rpgs your level, if such a thing exists, rarely is used directly, while in MMOs the difference between your level and that of your target is one of the main variables used.
Why are these norms so different? Do they find that players hate missing so they make it less likely to occur? Does having such predictable combat make it easier for them to design scenarios when there is no GM to modify things on the fly?
Also I'm sorry if my example of dreadnaught combat threw people for a loop. I'm just a big nerd and while reading Castles of Steel, I was struck how different the order "Fire upon your corresponding ship" was to "OK, everyone use the MA's target".
Of course the idea of suppressive fire, etc. are not restricted to that. In ancient battles the winning side often took shockingly few casualties because most kills came after one side started to run and were not fighting back. In modern combat, getting rounds down field is considered just as important as aiming for an opposing soldier. As for the idea of fewer and more telling blows, dreadnaught battle is one of the few examples I can even think of where something or someone might take dozens of hits and still stay battle worthy.
But I think those that bring up the small group or solo nature of most MMO combat have a good point and one I'll have to think about. Also, I don't doubt that being on the recieving end of the equivilent of a magazine explosion would not be fun for most players. Stuff like that would have to be toned down, obviously.
(Please do not gift. My game bank is already full.)
MMOs don't have a GM looking at your every move, ready to call for extra checks if that extra randomness results in a really shitty outcome. Even something as low as a 1% chance to REALLY fuck up comes up often when you're literally killing thousands of enemies. Also, with PnP you make the rolls yourself, in MMOs those are hidden; would you really enjoy a PnP game where the GM was making hidden rolls for you, with a modest chance of a fuck-up?
"You can't see if it really happened, and can't do anything about it, but you just died again."
Why are we comparing them to PnP, anyway? They're CRPGs with an online component.
Because PnP came first, and there's clearly still a very large mark of influence.
I think you are right in saying that MMO's are different because of the limitations of the medium, though- that, and the fact that everyone wants to play in real time, rather than turn-based gaming.
I think you're right in saying that PnP is different because of the limitations of the medium though- that, and the fact that everyone wants to play interactively, rather than read about it.
is it boring then?
I agree the concept of (one) tank getting heals while (one) dragon beats on him is pretty played out.
I also agree there needs to be more specific damages than just numbers, but slow, poison, silence, etc. are all shades of the same handicap, how could this possibly be improved upon? loss of limbs? loss of senses (hearing or sight?)
I dunno, you make valid points, I'd like something where you storm into battle more of a fleet than a designated tank/healer/dps team.
I'm not so sure about navyfield, the reason that ships in NF tend to diverty fire is because you have 10-40 people per side and ZERO communication beyond XXXXX and DONT CROSS ME, among others.
Even slightly more organised groups like the goons or other clans aren't gung-ho on target calling primaries, since at most there's only a few per game, in different classes of ships. If it were possible to get a few guys together, that are roughly the same levels and ships with equivalent gun ranges, I have no doubt they would put their guns onto a single vessel in range. It happens that way on its own often enough without communication when a hostile gets into range anyways.
In eve the reason for calling primaries in such a rigid fashion, depending on the size of fight, is
2. ship specialisation
With lag, only certain people will be able to actually "see" and shoot the target being called. Which is necessary then to maximise the few people that can actually function and deal damage, as anyone who is unable to see the primary being called, will try to hit whatever they can. Ship specialisation, the two ways of calling primaries in smaller fights is either taking out DPS, or destroying the hostile EWAR ships, depending on situation. If your entire fleet is shooting whatever they feel like, they will focus fire and drop your own more quickly than spread out dps will destroy them. Also they may be able to react and remotely repair anyone in trouble of going down, as spread out dps won't be destroying them as quickly.
One of the things that always bothered me though, is that eve dreadnaughts don't (ie. CANNOT) actually fight anything but other dreads
Well the moros sort of can but it's still not the best idea.
There are a lot of PnP games out there but I think as a rule healing in them is more about fixing situations that go wrong than about a constant flow of healing. But I'd guess the real difference is that in a PnP situation both a warrior and a healer are experiencing the game in fundamentally the same way. Whereas in an MMO, healers tend to get tired of "staring at health bars all the time".
Just to expand on what I think is most telling about MMO combat as it is now, take typical pvp tactics. Again the concept of an "assist train" is the opposite of any kind of real life tactics. Furthermore isn't it the opposite of any kind of heroic fantasy tactics? Not that I'd want to hang out in a rigid phalanx all day instead, relying on my neigbor to shield me from blows when he is probably afk, but couldn't something be done to make MMO combat both more realistic and more heroic.
I'm sure a lot of it is the difficulty of having collision detection work well at all and the fact that if it did work it would be used for mostly griefing.
Finally just a random thought that popped into my head. Has any MMO with pvp added in something like challenges? I sort of like the idea that you could call out an opposing player and if he declined he would have to slink back to the spawn point or be otherwise punnished in a suitable way. Anyone that has played Warhammer Fantasy probably knows what I'm thinking of.
Well the first Dreadnaughts were designed as "all big gun" ships. But they discovered that this led them to be vulnerable to torpedo boat attack. So they added more small guns and made destroyers to take out the torpedo boats. But then they put torpedos on the destroyers and things started to get confusing. Anyway, I have no real point here.
In any case if you have
You have a strong incentive to focus fire on single targets. If you add in either rechargable sheilds or healing or something then it becomes even more important to overcome those with massive damage. If you want to avoid having concentrated fire in these cases you'd have to invent some huge incentive to spread fire around.
(Please do not gift. My game bank is already full.)
Like lowlycook said, though, you have to incentivize multi-targeting pretty strongly for players to not want to focus-fire a target with a known, limited amount of HP. A metric like the battleship example, where increased players targeting one enemy have diminishing returns of their damage, might accomplish that.
Pluto was a planet and I'll never forget
In healing's place would be abilities that you could use on others to mitigate damage in some form. The basic form of this would be along the lines of, "absorbs 75% of damage, up to 500 damage, for 10 seconds." You can then futz with those numbers to give different "healing" spells which become a MUCH more interesting mechanic than GREEN BAR GO UP. Combine these with detaunt (less hate/threat/aggro) effects to make the monsters behave in a much more human-like manner, and now you've gotten a much more dynamic fight.
You can't stick with one tank, because that player will inevitably run out of health and die, because you've got no way to restore it. You have some abilities to prevent ALL damage, but they'd be tied up with a large detaunt, so they'd serve more as an "OH SHIT" button than something you'd use normally. Fights would instead focus around every groupmember tanking what they can for as long as they can, then shunting off the mobs for somebody else to tank.
Speaking of mobs: all fights should start with as many mobs as there are players, and only go up from there. Fighting a single large enemy has always been boring as hell.
The archetypes would still exist, but it would lead to every fight becoming a tactical experience, rather than total monotony.
Though I think that's just the downside to the "fight 10 people at once" design. With your average MMO utility abilities are very important- being able to temporarily put a single enemy out of the fight can reduce the damage you take from 30% to 100%, so with tougher fights it's necessary for you to use them well and correctly in order to get by. With CoX most such abilities have been made AoE (excluding single holds, which are *practically useless except when a tougher boss pops up), so the strategy boils down to:
-slap on AoE debuffs
Fun, but shallow. Doesn't even compare to having to mind control lesser bosses and using them to tank the big guy because he can two-shot any one of your party, or having encounters designed specifically to punish players herding enemies or grouping up for effectiveness.
*as in, not fun at all to chain and be made useful. If you don't blow your brains out chain-holding groups they can be effective, but honestly, I'd rather be fucking healing