Thursday, November 22, 2007
Henchmen in WoW
I bought the original Guild Wars, found it not very solo friendly, and never played it much. But many people tell me that since the Nightfall expansion added NPC heroes to accompany you, which are much better than the ordinary henchmen you could use right from the start, the game is much better for soloing. So when one of my readers commented that World of Warcraft doesn't have a tutorial to teach you how to play in groups, I was wondering whether World of Warcraft could introduce henchmen or NPC heroes.
Imagine running through a World of Warcraft dungeon together with 4 NPC henchmen. You would give basic orders, for example by setting the already existing raid marks and then giving a GO command, at which point the mage sheeps the mob with moon over his head, and everybody attacks the mob with the skull. The NPCs would be of your level, and would play uninspired but according to their class role. So if for example you were the healer, the NPC tank would pull on command, and the NPC DPS classes would do a steady stream of damage. But if you decided to heal someone too early with too big a heal, and pulled aggro on yourself, the NPC tank wouldn't automatically rush to your rescue, unless given a command to do so. The whole thing should be balanced (which is probably difficult) in a way that if you did nothing, or played badly the group would fail. But if you played well, you and the NPC group together would be able to finish the average WoW dungeon (non-heroic).
I don't think Blizzard is even thinking about adding such a feature, at least not before the third expansion. But when I stand all alone with a low-level character in front of a dungeon and can't find a group, I find the idea to have a group of NPC henchmen rather attractive. I didn't get to control more than 1 henchman in the Gods & Heroes beta before the game was cancelled, but the gameplay was certainly interesting. And I think that by playing with 4 NPCs instead of 4 random pickup group members, players would learn better how group play works. Unless you already know a lot about aggro management etc., it isn't always obvious why things went haywire on that last pull. The tank blames the healer for not healing him, the healer blames the tank for not getting the aggro away from him, but in reality it was the mage casting an AoE spell that made the plan go wrong, because then the healer had to heal the mage, which transferred the aggro to the healer, and thus kept him from healing the tank. Most people in a PUG think that one of the other 4 players was the problem, and rarely realize when it was themselves. If you'd control the other 4 characters, and they did only predictable stuff, you'd be able to experiment with different tactics. NPC heroes should be too weak to tackle the dungeons at the level cap, heroics, or raid dungeons, so people would still be encouraged to group with real players. But if they had practiced with NPCs first, maybe their group play at the level cap would be better.