Tobold's Blog
Friday, April 29, 2011
Turn-based MMORPG

A reader wrote me after having loved the turn-based combat of King's Bounty with the question: "Why oh why couldn't this be integrated nicely into a MMO?" The idea being that the general part of the MMORPG would run in real-time, but combat would be turn-based.

If you think that is impossible, I have to point out that this already works quite nicely in Wizard 101. Of course players don't get all that much time to complete their "turns", only some seconds. But between having to react in fractions of a second, and getting 10 seconds for your turn, there is a huge difference. The main advantage of turn-based combat is that designers can't hide their trivial combat moves behind the "challenge" of twitch-based combat; in turn-based combat players need to think more, and get the time for thinking.

Turn-based, tactical combat works best if you don't just control a single character, but a whole army. Again, that does exist in MMORPGs, for example in Atlantica Online, albeit without the troops moving over the battlefield like in King's Bounty.

So, in summary, turn-based MMORPGs seem to be possible, but the examples are few and far between. In fact, turn-based single-player strategy games appear to be nearly exclusively be produced in Eastern Europe these days, with the rest of the world creating rarely anything but real-time strategy games. So turn-based games in general are evidently a niche genre, and turn-based MMORPGs even more so. A pity! If you know any good turn-based MMORPGs, I'd love to hear about them!
And don't forget Dofus, it's a very good example too.
Can't be done with group content (which is necessary in an MMO). It would be "everyone is blindly doing what the raid leader yells to them". Now the RL can't micromanage every single move.
Perfect World is basically Kings Bounty as an MMOG
Ops I meant Atlantica Online
Actually, Atlantica Online instituted a Tactical Battle System a few months ago so it now has the same "troops moving over the battlefield" goodness you are looking for.
One of the biggest crimes in MMO history is Atlantica Online being a F2P game. Given a proper sub model,that game would shine in the EU/US. So many good design decisions, all trashed by the business model. Pretty sad.

Trust me, it's turn based (oh yea mama)
I think MMOs are the last refuge of thinking games and would agree we need more thinking in MMOs gameplay but I don't think turn-based combat is the way to do it -- especially in a group, where people would just get impatient and annoyed. It might work with henchmen though or even some sort of pvp puzzle-type scenario akin to a chess-match.
This could work quite well in group content, just not in the way we normally think of it. Think of a mutual war in Civilization. You work together, but definitely not doing exactly what someone else tells you to. There is a shared goal, but only one. The presence of other goals causes players to play independently.
I LOVE this idea and would subscribe to a game like this over a twitchy MMORPG.
I like the idea, but fear it will turn into multiplayer Civ (or Deadlock, my first tragic experience with multiplayer turnbased strategy) or board games (bored games, amirite?).

I love them both, but it's really easy for someone to take a while and slow the game to a crawl, and it causes everyone to get bored.

If you find a good one, please let us know, I'd love to try it. But I'm too scared to try them myself. Somehow I'm still playing that damn MineThings game, though I don't know why (and will probably stop soon now that I have all the yellow starter melds).
Perhaps the Valkyria Chronicles combat system can be adapted to a MMO setting?
... or RoboSport. That was actually the first network game I played and actually enjoyed. Hard to see how it could be anything other than PvP though :)
Oh I love Valkyria Chronicle. That game was GREAT!

Also for a turn-based strategy "mmorpg" you can check it's quite unique, brutal and fun!
I am biased but I played paper based wargames before the mouse was invented (i.e. Olden Days) I really loved them.

@Gevlon is, of course, wrong by focusing on tactical.
I.e., 10 CoD players attacking the same objective is not very friendly for turn based play. But if you are simulating/emulating the Eastern Front or WWI or even two 10,000 player alliances with different prime time zones fighting, then turn based is not that bad. So I don't think you could directly convert current MMOs into turn based. Alas, they seem to be going the other way (i.e. twitchfest ftl) But that does not mean you could not design other games that supported it.

I also see a dichotomy of turn based:

1) "de-twitch" it - remove RT reflexes and computer/network requirements. Once you take out RT, then the client no longer needs to compute combat, making it harder to hack and fewer hardware requirements. In particular, an iPad 4 might easily OpenGl render the world that the TitanTurn server computed. A multilevel menu system when you don't need RT performance is viable. I posit that better suitability to smartphones is a non-trivial reason to try turn based.
2) PBM (before the internet there were play by mail chess and other games)
The point here is this does not work if you are a single toon in a single place. But if you were say the King of England (or CEO of Caldari 109) and could log on and spend an hour or three seeing how your vassals were doing and launching some attacks and defending others, it could work (for non-FPS people any way). Note this methods allow for global communities; since the people in Russia or Australia no longer need to be on the same time as you to participate with you.

How many guilds fallen apart because they can't get 10 people to rearrange their lives in order to reliably play at the same time?

Getting customers to log in a few minutes at work to do a few turns would be useful for an MMO. How many HOO clears are run at lunch?
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