Tobold's Blog
Monday, February 23, 2009
 
The value of targeting

Combat in MMORPGs hasn't evolved much in the last 10 years. In most cases it still consists of targeting an enemy by click or keyboard (usually TAB), and then attacking with a spell or ability by clicking on a hotkey or using the keyboard shortcut for it. So it isn't surprising that some developers at least try to do something new. Most notably, in Age of Conan and Darkfall, having combat without targeting. You do a sword attack, and hit everything in range in front of you. Is that a good idea?

Fighting without targeting can be fun, but certainly isn't adding to realism. If somebody were to swing a sword, even a very big one, with three enemies in front of him, it would be physically impossible to hit more than one of them. The sword you just get stuck in the first guy it hits. To go right through and hit the other two guys as well, you'd need a light saber. So maybe we'll see this in SWTOR.

Where fighting without targeting fails is particularly visible in Darkfall. Darkfall has very few restrictions on what you can attack, so hitting a player of your own faction is totally allowed. But Darkfall has a minor anti-ganking mechanism, in which the player who attacks other players is labeled a "rogue" for 5 minutes, and takes a hit to his alignment. But as there is not targeting in Darkfall, a player who wants to gank you, just needs to run between you and the goblin you are currently fighting. Thus without intent you'll hit the guy who wants to gank you, and it is YOU who turns rogue, while the ganker even gains alignment for killing a rogue player. A combat system with targeting would make that impossible, because it would make clear who you intended to hit.

Without targets Darkfall also isn't able to discern whether you launched a magic missile that simply missed its intended target, or whether you just launched that magic missile into thin air. Which matters because Darkfall has no xp and levels, but only skills, which improve with practice. So to improve your magic missile skill, the best strategy is to go somewhere where there is no monster or player around, and endlessly launch magic missiles against trees or rocks. Pretty quickly players realize that this can be done unattended with the help of programmable keyboards or other forms of botting. In consequence the best mage in Darkfall will always be a botter. Compare that to World of Warcraft, where you can't improve your weapon skill without actually hitting a monster (or recent patches even eliminated most monsters who can't hit back from giving skill). If there are targets in the combat system, the game knows what you are trying to hit, and whether your intended target is a mob that is in range and can hit back.

So the value of targeting is enabling the game to know your intentions better than it could without targets. Thus the game is able to properly reward or punish you for your intended actions. You aren't punished for hitting somebody you had no intention of hitting (unless you use AoE), and aren't rewarded for hitting thin air. So, nice try, but removing targeting isn't making MMORPG combat any better. Next idea, please!
Comments:
I can't remember I played a (MMO)RPG without targeting really, but I don't agree that we should serve it off like that....
It does add to realism. You should think before you start swinging with your sword if there is anything around you, you'd rather not hit. Kill your friend or break your sword on the wall...

If you are stupid enough to stand in front of someone swinging a sword around, you should not be rewarded for it... it's not the (non)targeting system that is at fault here I believe....
 
Well, the way I see it it's not the idea that's rotten, it's the implementation, things would be different if the devs had implemented a few failsafes like :
- not skilling up when not hitting an actual target to prevent botting
- some sort of confirmation for friendly fire to prevent griefing (although that's a tougher one)

Not the concept seems sound to me, the implementation however may not be realistically feasible (lag effects, a finer way to control who you're hitting etc...)
 
where does it end?

do we actually want a combat-system where you can hide behind a tree, and if a dude hits the tree with his sword. does the sword get stuck?
 
"But as there is not targeting in Darkfall, a player who wants to gank you, just needs to run between you and the goblin you are currently fighting."

This is the only problem and it needs to be addressed. All the rest is just saying: "I don't want a skill based game". Which is perfectly valid. :)
 
Agree with everything you write .. but I miss the other side.
While there are disadvantages, removing targeting also has advantages; and I am pretty sure I don't need to spell them out to you.
 
All the rest is just saying: "I don't want a skill based game".

Actually I would love a well-implemented skill-based game. Unfortunately I haven't seen one yet. All the skill-based games I know allowed you to do something not very challenging to skill up, but required you to do it very, very often. I remember Grand Master Tailor in UO was reached by killing 67,000 cows for leather. Level-based games aren't inherently better, but they are often better implemented. In spite of what you saw on South Park, you cannot level up to the level cap by killing 65,340,285 level 1 boars in WoW. If somebody could find a way to make a skill-based game in which you only gain skill if you are in at least as much danger as you are when gaining xp in a level-based game, and you'd gain more skill the more danger you were in, that would be perfectly fine with me.
 
"But as there is not targeting in Darkfall, a player who wants to gank you, just needs to run between you and the goblin you are currently fighting."

This is the only problem and it needs to be addressed


Agree with this quote. The original blog post is really stretching to find problems with non-targetting systems.

On age of Conan's "sword gets stuck", that depends on where the sword hits and how it hits. A slashing sword certainly could go through multiple people. In addition, otbher games have their "cleave" attack that has a similar effect. (not to mention all the Thunderclaps, shockwaves, and such that are impossible for an actual person to do in real life.)

As for the darkfall issues, that again just seems an implementation thing to change, not a problem in general with "no targetting".

Level-based games aren't inherently better, but they are often better implemented.

That seems a problem with uncreative developers, rather than skill based games in general. (And like most of the posts today, is stretching for reasons to argue that something wouldn't work.)
 
Funny enough, the most recent patch for DF addresses the whole 'goblin jumping' scenario, although if recent history is any indication, people will quote the goblin issue months later, just like they quote the scenario issue in WAR, despite it being 'fixed' a month or so after release. Plus lets be honest, in a world as big as DF, how long will goblin jumping really be a problem, beyond the crowded starting area.

On the combat system itself, it worked in TES Oblivion, and Fallout 3 (among other examples I'm sure). As others have pointed out, lets not confuse the actual system with the rules around it. In a way, tab-targeting is just a crutch to avoid the issue you listed, and 'skilled' players won't be bothered as much as those with slower reaction time. In an MMO setting like WoW, you need targeting. In a setting like DF, it would just 'dumb down' the skill level.
 
"On age of Conan's "sword gets stuck", that depends on where the sword hits and how it hits. A slashing sword certainly could go through multiple people."

Despite what you have seen in movies this is not soemthing you would see much of. Cutting through the upper torso (including Ribcage) and Spine of multiple people is...unrealistic. Even going for an area with just the spine (lower torso) You could maybe cut through the first person but it's going to get caught up in the second one.
 
Funny enough, the most recent patch for DF addresses the whole 'goblin jumping' scenario

No, it doesn't. Quote from the patch notes: "Alignment Rogue handling has been tweaked: If you have positive alignment and attack another player with positive alignment, you will go rogue for 10 seconds. Every subsequent attack towards a good player while on the 10 second rogue mode will make you go rogue for at least 2 minutes."
It just makes the life of the ganker slightly more difficult, because he has to either kill you in 10 seconds, or run into your sword again.
 
"Despite what you have seen in movies this is not soemthing you would see much of. Cutting through the upper torso (including Ribcage) and Spine of multiple people is...unrealistic. Even going for an area with just the spine (lower torso) You could maybe cut through the first person but it's going to get caught up in the second one."

I'm thinking of a more shallow slashing (something that hits muscles but doesn't go deep enough to hit bones). (It's unlikely someone would actually go for that sort of attack, or that it would happen often, or that the type of attack I'm describing is common at all or represented in Age of conan, but there is a possibility)

Even so, there are still quite a lot of unrealistic attacks in autotarget systems, if you consider what the attacks are supposed to be (Cleave in many games is "slashing through two people", guild wars skills like dismember and decapitate somehow don't prevent the other player from fighting back, Thunderclap and shockwave (Wow) or earthshaker (Guild wars) type skills rely on someone being able to, using their own strength, hit the ground hard enough to damage several people, sometimes directing the shock wave, and probably some other attacks I've forgotten.)
 
And considering how long it takes to kill someone in DF (assuming they are not afk and actually moving), 10 seconds is nothing, so it won't get someone killed. Sounds like a fix to me, without completely removing the ability of players to fight it out. If you are focused on PvE, and someone gets tagged by accident, it won't get you killed if you are paying attention.
 
This fix is indeed bad. It is almost impossible to make a system that is good enough at determining who attacked whom fully automatically.
The original system was better, because players regulate themselves. Someone who exploits game mechanics is very soon well known on a server. The more time you spend to make a fully automatied system better, the more devious the exploits become and the more tolerated they become!

The only effective way to handle these things is to enable players to decide - e.g. allow them to place a bounty on another player. This way the wrath of the player goes where he decides it goes - and it even makes sense in a roleplaying sense. Alternatively a player could tag another players as 'not welcome'. If enough players do this the reputation of the player with the respective faction could go down.
 
"Where fighting without targeting fails is particularly visible in Darkfall. Darkfall has very few restrictions on what you can attack, so hitting a player of your own faction is totally allowed. But Darkfall has a minor anti-ganking mechanism, in which the player who attacks other players is labeled a "rogue" for 5 minutes, and takes a hit to his alignment. But as there is not targeting in Darkfall, a player who wants to gank you, just needs to run between you and the goblin you are currently fighting. Thus without intent you'll hit the guy who wants to gank you, and it is YOU who turns rogue, while the ganker even gains alignment for killing a rogue player. A combat system with targeting would make that impossible, because it would make clear who you intended to hit."

PVP Toggle.

"Without targets Darkfall also isn't able to discern whether you launched a magic missile that simply missed its intended target, or whether you just launched that magic missile into thin air. Which matters because Darkfall has no xp and levels, but only skills, which improve with practice. So to improve your magic missile skill, the best strategy is to go somewhere where there is no monster or player around, and endlessly launch magic missiles against trees or rocks. Pretty quickly players realize that this can be done unattended with the help of programmable keyboards or other forms of botting. In consequence the best mage in Darkfall will always be a botter. Compare that to World of Warcraft, where you can't improve your weapon skill without actually hitting a monster (or recent patches even eliminated most monsters who can't hit back from giving skill). If there are targets in the combat system, the game knows what you are trying to hit, and whether your intended target is a mob that is in range and can hit back."

So require it to hit something.

Doesn't seem like problems are all that hard to fix.
 
Call me crazy, but aren't your complaints a tirade against reality? Swinging a sword really does make you better at swinging a sword! It doesn't matter if you hit a tree or a ribcage. You might gain some other type of skill (bravery?) for hitting a person in battle, but that's an entirely different issue. Same story with casting Magic MIssiles at a tree.
 
Some of you are talking that non-targetting system isn't realism addition. You are wrong. There are many games, where when you swing with a big sword i goes through enemy who is not targeted and it doesn't make any damage. When non-targeting sword cases damage to all in its range,so it's more relistic. I think that non-targeting is better, because player has to have skills, non just mind to click on a hotkey.
 
Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link



<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

  Powered by Blogger   Free Page Rank Tool