Tobold's Blog
Thursday, July 05, 2012
How do you feel about guns in MMORPGs?

From Errol Flynn movies to watching the fencing events at the Olympics we all have an idea of how a sword fight "should" look, even if medieval sword combat probably looked a whole lot different. And from action and science fiction movies we have an idea of how combat with guns or blasters should look. If we compare that to what we see in our MMORPGs, sword combat isn't doing that badly. It isn't looking exactly like in a Hollywood movie, but it isn't all that far from it. Gun combat on the other hand just looks wrong in a MMORPG, because it looks very much like sword combat: Opponents standing toe to toe and exchanging blows for quite some time. Doesn't look like any movie scene at all. Nor does it look like what we are used to from shooter games.

The reason of cause is that for the MMORPG a gun isn't handled all that much differently than a sword: Whether you hit and how much damage you deal is mostly determined by your stats, and in most games there isn't even any aiming involved. Also there is this convention that everybody starts out with X "points" of health, loses some of them every time he gets hit, but otherwise these hits don't result in you getting weaker in combat. In sword fighting you might still explain that away with the health being in fact more like stamina, and the loss is from you exerting yourself to dodge blows. In gun fights that explanation looks a lot weaker.

If I stand 50 meters away from you and I'm attacking you first with an assault rifle, while you are armed with an axe, and will have to get to me before being able to harm me at all, that fight would be an auto-win for me in any realistic simulation. In a MMORPG I'd get one free shot that maybe reduces your health by 10% before you are hitting me. And then we stand toe to toe, me shooting you every X seconds, and you hitting me with the axe every X seconds, until one of us drops to zero health. That just feels extremely weird to me, and not like an assault rifle at all.

How do you feel about guns in MMORPGs? Does it bother you that they work so much differently than in movies or shooter games? Or are you able to keep up the suspension of disbelief?

I can deal with fireballs magically damaging only the target while sparing any ally nearby and NOT setting on fire the bushes they all are hidden in..... guns are not really a problem :)
Nah, actually sword combat "shouldn't" look like that. Good examples in my opinion are slashers like Devil May Cry and Gundam VS: it's about positioning and leveraging tactical situation (as gunfights should be too).
Maybe Vindictus and Continent9 got it right. Maybe not.

Anyway, if the core challenge of the game is to obtain higher stats and better gear for the "right" character build, then it doesn't matter how exactly are battles represented: they are just prolonged skill checks and resource management mini-games.

If the game honestly tells up front that the battles aren't about tactics, then tactically absurd battles will not offended or annoy me. I also probably wouldn't play it :]
tbh the sort of gun you can easily handle isn't likely to punch through heavy armour anyway.
The problem of having to shoot someone standing next to you hitting you with an axe has always been a game breaker for me and automatically rules some classes out ever since I first encountered this in Anarchy Online

I will always go for using a gun for long range targets and a melee weapon at close range. My assault rifle and katana wielding character in the recent TSW beta worked great for me.

Of the MMORPGs I've played, only Tabula Rasa got the feel of gun combat right.
I put this kind of thinking away after casting a fireball underwater.
so many people are fundamentally missing the point.

nobody can really cast a fireball people -> so whatever you can do in a game with a fireball, and whatever the fireball does will feel "natural"

shooting someone at close range several times is absurdly unrealistic and just as Tobold says allows the game to "show through"

it is like the Matrix - if you knew it was all a program that world is not that exciting anymore
The show Mythbusters recently showed that given both combatants are 'normal' people, as long as the sword (or in their case knife) weilder starts within 15 feet of the gun user, knife weilder can cover the distance and strike before the gun user can pull his weapon, click off the saftey, aim and shoot.

But at 50ft, yeah, dead axe man.

I just attribute it to the special armor (magical or super technology) that allows for this sort of thing. As long as I'm having fun with the comabt system, some of these inconsistencies don't bother me.
There is so much suspension of my disbelief whenI play an MMO that I can honestly say being shot twelve times at point blank range whilst only wearing a robe & still walking away from the fight a winner has never seemed any more odd than carrying 15 stones worth of weapons & junk with no visible bags on my person, or having a fight 3 feet from an NPC guard who fails to react in any way at all. These things are (currently) the price we pay to escape the mundanities of life for a couple of hours.
I was pissed off the first time I saw early beta footage of SWTOR. A guy has a lightsaber and spends the next full minutes beating a guard with it like an ineffective bludgeon.

That bothered me intensely. A lightsaber? Dammit, the first strike should've severed an arm or a leg, leaving the guard crippled and begging the space wizard for his life. Did these people never play Jedi Knight?

"Ten minutes work with a lightsaber," used to be a good way of calling someone morbidly obese. In SWTOR? It's the norm.

Most MMOs artificially extend the time taken in combat by reducing the lethality of weapons. It is always vaguely frustrating that firearms in particular are fucking useless compared to swords. (Or, in some cases, MARTIAL ARTS.) I can see the point to it in that if it worked both ways, you’d find yourself getting chopped in half before you have a time to react or instantly sniped by perfect-vision NPCs and have to respawn. Instead of making use of a full hotbar’s variety of situational skills, you’d use whatever got you the kill in the first 1-2 seconds. Not to mention how that would affect the careful tug-of-war that is PVP.

It's just a case of reality getting tweaked to make way for cool. Carrying a giant sword is cool. Fact. Carrying a giant sword into battle will get you killed very quickly. Fact. One of these facts has to go for the other to survive. Guess which one?
For gunplay in melee (plus some nasty sword fighting) watch Equilibrium (a more violent Fahrenheit 451) with Christian Bale.

Or watch the final fight scene on Youtube.
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