Tobold's Blog
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Zero on programmable henchmen

Zero, not the Punctuation one, started a blog, and posted an interesting idea for WoW henchmen: What if Blizzard not only added them, but also made them programmable, like the Gambit system in Final Fantasy XII? Basically there would be building blocks for small AI programms, blocks like "if I'm under 50% health" and "cast healing on me", which put together would tell the henchman NPC what to do.

Of course that would be another big step towards World of Warcraft's solofication. But the henchmen shouldn't be so good that you could do heroics with them, so for most people the choice is doing normal dungeons with henchmen or not at all, because for many of them there are no groups to be found. So I do think that henchmen would be a good way to revive old group content, and to give players some ideas about group play much earlier on in their career.
Henchmen would provide a new dynamic to the game but generally is only addressed in games where soloing is an issue, like FFXI. I don't see wow taking it up any time soon. I do like the idea, setting up a few henchmen and "five manning" instances while I level up a character would be a fun new aspect of the game to figure out.
No, The best way to revive old content would be to revamp it in an Epic style.
Imagine Heroic DeadMines. No need to re-design entirely new dungeons, and character models. If DM had a heroic option with level 80+ Elites it would still be fun to do. And rather than a whole range of new Epic gear, the bosses could simply drop tokens to be exchanged for something nice from the vendors.

It would re-utilise the whole of the old Azeroth dungeons, and surely balance out some of the server loads too.
There's alot of beautiful work that went into the original dungeon designs, and now people will rarely see it.

Providing henchmen would just make it even harder to find groups than it already is. And would you really trust the AI to tank for you, if you were a healer / dps class?
I think that well done henchmen would greatly add to the game. Yes they need good AI and simple but sensible control options. Perhaps a programmable system would work but I would start simpler - just give them some basic commands that can be toggled "auto" or manual. Would I trust a henchman to tank a heroic instance for me? No. Would I trust it to less challenging content - yes surely - In fact any hunter with a pet is doing just that already.

The guild wars "Hero" model has a lot going for it and I like the idea that henchmen get their share of the loot in lieu of payment but as I have said before I think Guild wars allows too many henchmen. I would limit it to two in a group - that would allow solo players to set up a real tank/heal/dps but means you would need plenty humans to tackle instances and harder content.

As for the issue of making it harder to find groups I am not so sure. Remember that you would still need plenty of humans for instances. Also the use of henchmen would hopefully train more people into the benefit of grouping. In fact groups would be even easier to assemble because you would no longer have to wait around spamming "LFG 5/6 Need healer" if you can make up the last spot with a henchperson.
I think henchmen are a great idea, especially programmable ones. They worked extremely well for Guild Wars. The only downside is the obvious anti-socialization that comes from not needing other players to complete important missions. I guess they are a boon for the solo players, but not so much for the groupies. It may solve a few problems in WoW, but at the same time create a few more. I guess you just need to weigh up the good and the bad.
Would LOVE that one, most of all "utility" henchmen. Put as example the little helper you got in Oracle quests at sholazar basin, its combat help is really negligible more a fun factor than otherwise, make one of them sumoneable everywhere and permit him be programmed to loot your tagged copses automatically, give him one bag of extra store and you have a useful friend to go with you.
That kind of logic really belongs in add-ons. The built-in interface only needs to be '/hench alice startattack', '/hench alice target bob', '/hench alice cast flash heal'.
I love that idea. But then, I loved the Gambit system.
I've played with henchmen in Guild Wars, and unless AI takes an outstanding leap, they are often more trouble than they are worth.
The henchmen in GuildWars are indeed buggy.. (Healer with a fetish for taking a swim in poison or lava? Check! Looking at you, Alesia..) The Hero system, on the other hand, is awesome. It's more like a AI-controlled, customizable alt.
Im with Smyth..dont waste time programming new mechanics. take time to make all the old instances Heroic.
I hated the Gambit system in FF XII because, by the time I was done setting them up properly, my characters literally played the game for themselves (and almost as effectively as if I'd been playing them). It took all the gameplay out and left me wishing there was a "just watch the movies" option so I could see how the game ended - in the absence of one, I just never finished.

Henchmen would be difficult in WoW because many classes are ALREADY good at soloing. Giving pure DPS classes like mages and rogues the option of a full-time pocket tank would effectively remove all difficulty from the solo game. Ditto giving tanks a pocket healer.

The only problem that henchmen would solve is the lack of healers for instances. As others have pointed out, though, the henchmen CAN'T be as good as player healers or almost no one would still use player healers. If you're going to go that route, you should just make a dungeon where the only legal heals are "regen from doing damage" (with damage done to the party tuned accordingly).
Henchmen or revising old dungeons (eg., Heroic Deadmines) both sound like great ideas. They both revive old content and make the game that much larger. I'd love to see both ideas come to fruition. Henchmen could be used for alts when leveling up, and adding a heroic version to each classic dungeon would just add more opportunity instead of the current wotlk level 80 heroics.
Guild Wars Heroes (player-equipped and semi-controlled Henchmen) and also the Henchmen themselves are, despite some AI flaws, very capable. To the point that you can be sure that you and your Hero/Henchman team are better and more efficient, stronger and more reliable than picking up random players.

I usually played together with some friends and NEVER accepted randoms. We wanted to play with friends, not randoms, and besides that, our henchmen were already more than enough to get the job done. Which cannot be said for many players.

Henchmen are great for solo players, but they are also an anti-social element. This became and is a problem in Guild Wars, especially for new players who could profit from some old players showing them how to play. The veterans will just take henchmen and not bother with the newbies.

Crimson Starfire already said it, henchmen are not only a blessing, they are also a curse.

I would argue against henchmen in WoW: Most quests and most parts of the world can be soloed or done with two players. Easily. The player chars are more powerful than ever before, the mobs very easy.

Dungeon and Raid parties often could use a replacement NPC for a missing player/class, but I would say if you want to go solo even there, you are playing a game that was not made for this kind of gameplay.

I am all for NPC support in "phased" quests though.
Henchmen would increase the "solofication" of WoW and would teach players the dynamic of playing with... henchmen.
If you only bothered to play alone until max level, is not an henchmen that would give any notions on group play.
On the contrary: players would get used to have something that would do exactly what they expect and when they expected it.
Henchemen, at most, would be a fun gimmick.
I said the same thing last year. One of the nice things about the Gambit system would also be that it adds a lateral forms of advancement (other ways to progress your character besides simply increasing the character level cap): Heroes could be collectible, like a collectible card game; you don't start with every Gambit, you would have to quest for them; and the number of Gambit slots your heroes could utilize could be tied to a Leadership trait and item bonuses (Necklace of Leadership: +1 gambit slots).

It also means that we could get rid of the artificial distinction between "solo" mobs (which are trivial since they are designed so anyone can take them on), and "group" mobs (which assume you have a tank, healer, and DPS). Every mob could be a group mob, since everyone could have a group (though real groups with real players would naturally be more efficient).

I don't know about adding them to WOW, adding henchmen to a game that's 99% trivial solo quests doesn't make sense to me. But I would definitely want to see a next-generation fantasy MMO incorporate their usage.
no no a thousand times no on henchmen; TEN THOUSAND times no on programmable bot henchmen.
Guild Wars may utilize henchmen, but GW isn’t imo, a true MMO. In GW the only time you see another person, unless grouped, is in town. The entire world is a per-player/group instance. Do you really want people to be so antisocial?
I think the addition of henchmen would absolutely destroy the look and feel and play of WoW. If they did that you would either have to, like Lars said, make every mob a group mob, or you would have to triple or even quadruple the number of mobs. With all that loot floating around, can you say "death to the AH."
Sure it would be great if you didn't have to rely on other people, but most of the game is already like that. If you really, REALLY, feel the need to solo a 5-man, then multi-box it, that actually takes skill.
The "true MMO" argument always looks silly to me. What's so "massive" about WoW? You can play darn near the whole game solo, and even the much-vaunted endgame raiding only needs 39 other players. The AH could be run perfectly well from a web browser.

Henchmen and heroes have pros and cons, sure. It would be hard to shoehorn them into WoW... but remember, we're talking about training players here, specifically in raid dynamics. How about having "dungeon henchmen" that train solo players how group dynamics work in dungeons, but leave the overland content alone, if there's a huge worry about altering the dynamics of the game.

(And Mr. V, don't sweat the loot dynamics; Blizzard controls the drop rates, and could adjust accordingly. Not every mangy wolf needs to carry a broadsword.)
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