Tobold's Blog
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Open Sunday Thread

The thread for everything off topic, including questions to me, suggestions what to blog about, or games you think I should look at.
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I’d like to know how you feel about the healing role in general. The more I think about it, the more I realize that it’s a somewhat broken mechanic in MMORPGs. This mostly applies to PvP (hopefully we can assume a fairly balanced fight for the sake of my argument) but it is a vital role in raids and boss fights. On one hand, healing is a mechanic that everyone has come to expect. It’s a fun variation of the normal combat and keeps things from becoming boring. But on the other hand, it’s a very difficult aspect to balance in PvP and a gamebreakingly critical and mostly aloof role during most big PvE fights. As they are, healers have too much power and responsibility in certain situations but they can’t simply be nerfed in the current system or they’d become underpowered in other situations and boring to play.

In PvP, a healer can change a fight in seconds. While saving an ally at the last minute is certainly fun for the healer, to the opposition their entire struggle has been undone by a couple clicks. This ends up with the healers always being the primary target, which is exciting at first but quickly gets old. The DPS and tanks are meant to protect the healers but all of this just forces everyone into priority roles that I feel defeats the point of having healing for the sake of variety in the first place.

In PvE, healers are arguably more important than tanks (but I don’t wanna debate that). Long fights are absolutely dependent on them. The role that they play compared to everyone else is incredibly unlike the others and it’s almost like the healers are playing a different game entirely. They don’t (or at least rarely) affect or are affected by the actual fight itself and their crucial role can feel insignificant because it’s fully measured by a bunch of tiny green bars.

Do you think the current way healing is handled could be improved? Or maybe is there a class in some game that you think does this right? In single players games it offers strategy but in MMORPGs it forces certain playstyles. Hurting an enemy does not scale in the same way as healing an ally. I do fully encourage classes who can support the team and have fun doing so, but more and more healing feels like a broken mechanic that’s always been assumed and overlooked.
I've returned to the game after a 5 month hiatus. I've noticed a definite change in the game. Many guilds have folded on my server and even my own guild has imploded.

There also seems to be a terrible elitist attitude to pug's now. Try and join a pug raid and you get slapped back with a "Must have GS5.3K/achieve". What the hell is that supposed to mean. Since when did this "Gearscore" rank suddenly decide who can and can't play the game.

I looked up my own "Gearscore" using one of the many websites that have sprung up and it says I have GS4.8K. As an experience raider I find it an insult that my net worth is now reduced to an arbitrary figure.
Some time ago there was a discussion aboun a future of MMO genre and about future of combat system.

I found an interesting project TERA - that seems to be one of the next-gen MMO. It has a new combat system that much closer to classic action games - there is no focus, players need to move and aim their targets.

Quote from developers

By now, we're all familiar with the traditional MMO combat model—your character faces a mob while you repeatedly press a skill button. While not especially dynamic, it got the job done, and for a while, it was even fun. But let's face it—the excitement of that type of battle has worn thin. Players want an innovative and dynamic combat system that gives them greater choices and delivers engaging, action-based combat.

TERA meets this new demand, introducing a groundbreaking interactive combat system that resembles real-world fighting, and allows players to respond instantly to real-time combat conditions. In TERA, players calculate distance and direction to coordinate weapon and spell attacks, healers continuously take new battle positions to cast spells. As a result, battles are more tactical, intense, and engaging

And from the video it is working very well.

I collect many screenshots and gameplay videos on my russian blog page(they do not need klowledge of russian)

or here is the video of group gameplay - with aiming and moving in combat

What did you think about this project? Can it really be the next generation of MMO especially it combat system?
Did you play Aion? I am playing it last weeks from the starter point it seems an interesting alternative for WoW. It is a wow clone with some improvements.

I do not leave the beginners zones for now (level 19 mage) - but it has some interesting features. Much better graphics, working craft system - I craft better items, then I can get from mobs or quests on the same level and need to trade with others player for some reagents. There is a special quests to level crafting without producing useless items and "critical craft" with much better things. Gathering of ore/herbs etc much more interesting - there are random elements that can speed up gathering and if your gathering skill much bigger than requirements for the specific resource, you gather very fast. There is a spell combos, I must cast some spells only after casting another spell and sometimes interesting quests (BC level, not Northrend). Players can fly and fight while flying (time limited).

It look like I will take pause in WoW until the Cacatlysm if Aion will be the same on hight levels.
What do you think about mana-based dps classes ? The reason I ask is this:

Mana based dps classes start every fight with full mana. Therefore they are not ressource-limited in the beginning.
Eventually they run out of mana. If they don't, the whole mana system is rather useless.

Since non-mana based dps classes do not run out of mana, mana-based classes are disadvantaged, unless they are more powerful while they have mana. This is something Blizzard doesn't want, but it was the original idea of mana-based, of course.

Now, the problem can be partly circumvented in a predictable pve encounter. Predictable meaning that a rotation can be used and adjusted for mana consumption. Something only arcane mages can do a little bit in WoW.

But in BG-PvP or even trash mob fights it is not balanceable in my opinion.

Blizzard solves it right now by making it impossible for mana based classes to run oom in pve, which works, but removes any meaning from mana-based dps classes in the first place.

My concern is that this is going to make a lot of adjusting necessary once Blizzard balances around BG-PvP, instead of arena.

But my biggest concern is that it is inherently impossible to have balanced mana based dps classes that actually can run oom.
Vedomir, I know a lot of people who tried Aion (WoW guildmates, workmates, friends).

They were all as enthusiastic as you initially.

They all abandoned it before the end of their first month.

I've never know a game to make such a good first impression, but get so boring so quickly.
"As a result, battles are more tactical, intense, and engaging".

Or fussy, stressful and off-putting, depending on your viewpoint.
With everyone telling you that mining is boring, I thought you might like reading this thread from the forums.

Okay, mining CAN be boring, but that doesn't mean good stories can't be written. You just need the right mindset.
Nils: Action Points (as per Warhammer Online) just seem better than mana to me in every way. In WoW terms, they're closer to energy than anything, and all WAR classes used them to power moves.
Tobold, how do you feel about Cataclysm at this point? Are you excited or do you see it as more of the same?

I'm looking forward to the 1-60 game being redone. I'm getting really excited for new leveling through Azeroth. I'm not as excited about the high end content, but I'm not much of a raider either.

I don't think mana-based DPS is meant to be considered as a mechanic anymore. Really, the only reason those DPS classes use mana at the moment is for flavor reasons, to make it clear that they're a spellcasting class. As you mentioned, blizzard doesn't want DPS running out of mana. I take this to mean that they don't want the mana mechanic at all for DPS, as it was originally designed.

For Cataclysm, they've announced a switch from mana to focus for Hunters, and we may see similar resource swaps for other DPS specs that currently use mana. All Warlock specs and Shadow priests are seeing a partial resource swap to Soul Shards and Shadow Orbs, respectively.
What did you think about this project? Can it really be the next generation of MMO especially it combat system?

I don't think so. I don't believe twitchy combat is the future of MMORPGs, because it a large part of MMORPG demographics don't really like twitchy, and there are a lot of technical problems with lag.
Hey I am brand new to blogging, and I was just wonder what advice you could give to someone who was just starting out. It looks like you get alot of Views, and your a nice person.
Empty space. Why is it that games seem to have so much empty space in them?

Look at any open world game, be it WoW, Grand Theft Auto, Fallout, Fable or whatever and you'll see these large expansive worlds. WoW's game world is massive, spanning what could possible be hunreds or even thousands of square miles, yet when you really examine these worlds so much of them is unused, empty space.

Sure they fill in those empty spaces with trees, objects, and scenery, but that doesn't make these spaces non empty. So why is it that developers build these massive worlds if so much of them goes unused? Does the Barrens really need to be as big as it is? Does Desolace really need large areas of nothing but dirt? Do we really need the large sections of nothing but mountains in Storms Peak?

Perception is the largest factor in why videogames have these huge expansive overworlds. A prime example of how perception can change a person's view of the gameworld would be Mass Effect 2. a very common complaint about ME 2 is that the game feels much shorter and that the overworld felt smaller then in Mass Effect 1. Yet Mass Effect 2 is more then 10 hours longer then the original and when you look at it in terms of space actually used for something, it's overworld is much larger as well. Why then do people say the game feels shorter?

When you look at both games overworlds I think you'll find that answer. ME 1 had large expansive quest hubs. They were mostly filled with empty space. Yes they were populated with a few npcs spread out here or there but overall the hubs were spaces of nothing in between npcs. ME 2 on the other hand has smaller hubs in it's overworld and packs them to the brim with npcs. I can count more npcs and interactive npcs in one of the hubs in ME 2 then I could find on several ME 1 hubs put together.

So again I ask why would someone look at the first game and get the impression that it's larger? Empty Space.

All that empty space in overworlds is what gives us the impression that we're part of this massive world. The simply act of having to walk twice the distance to something makes us think the world is larger and again I'm speaking in terms of space used, not just sheer size. But is this really the only way to do it?

What if instead of being as big as it is we cut the Barrens in half and adjusted it's content to fit that smaller size? We would have shorter travel distances, faster quest times, shorter farming times, and more player interaction by just reducing the size of the Barrens.

Would that all of a sudden make players feel like the Barrens is a tiny zone even if it had the same amount of content in it? Would our feelings of WoW's overworld being massive be hindered if it were shrunken by half it's size? Would we feel like we aren't getting our money's worth if we percieve the gameworld to be smaller?
Wow that was a long post now that I look at it. o.0
I'm looking forward to more of your Eve Online commentary.
@Bigeyez: I haven't played ME2 so I can't comment on that, but the size of the world does have some interesting impacts.

It's not just sheer size that makes it feel right, it's also the density of everything. In WoW it feels about right, everything is big enough to 'feel' like a world, yet not empty enough to feel like size just for the heck of it. Lotro got it pretty much right as well imho.

AoC has some zones that feel somewhat empty and hence oversized. SWG felt like a whole lot of nothing, really, especially when you ran into player cities with noone there, the whole place felt huge and empty.

EvE never really feels empty, but it has a bit of a repetitivess issue, which might be unavoidable for a Space Game though.

Would I like to see classic WoW zones smaller? Errm... No, I think some of them are actually as small as they could be before they start making no sense any more. Swamp of Sorrows comes to mind... The only zone that felt somewhat oversized to me was Tanaris, but that's about it..
Would that all of a sudden make players feel like the Barrens is a tiny zone even if it had the same amount of content in it? Would our feelings of WoW's overworld being massive be hindered if it were shrunken by half it's size? Would we feel like we aren't getting our money's worth if we percieve the gameworld to be smaller?

I think the answer to all of these questions is yes, at least in my opinion. Less travel time means less time to complete the content. This leads to feeling like there is less content, even though the number of objectives hasn't changed.

Our feelings of WoW's world being massive would be hindered if it was exactly half its size. For a lot of zones, my feeling of WoW's world being massive is already hindered just by the sheer lack of things that should be there. Take Westfall for example. Sure, it's large enough to travel acorss and quest in, but when you get right down to it: Are they really asking us to believe that all of the human lands belonging to Stormwind are fed by 6 farms or so? Sure, it seems to be enough for all the actual NPCs you see, but that small number of people isn't nearly enough to have Wars with (as "World of Warcraft"'s name states the world is about).

If I was paying to play in a huge world filled with wonder and then find out that that entire world is only about as large as 10 city blocks square or so, then yes. I would feel like I wasn't getting my money's worth.

I don't think shrinking the game worlds is the right answer. I think having the worlds be expansive and large is great, and the right way to make things feel more lively is to add more fast travel systems. Trains, boats, planes, portals, teleportation, whatever works for the environment.
I think WoW is about the right size; like some other posters I'd feel it seemed too small if it were shrunk. I didn't play Mass Effect, but two other games where this issue occurs are Morrowind and Oblivion. The Oblivion map is trheoretically larger than that of Morrowind, but it feels smaller. A lot of it is due to the fast travel option, I think; the rest is because Vbardenfell just seems large and wild compared to civilised Cyrodiil.

Fast travel can shrink worlds, it's something designers need to be careful about.

Back to Wow... Blizzard are actually going to split the Barrens in Cataclysm, which makes sense as it did seem rather large. As for Tanaris... it may seem large, but there's a quest to walk a tortoise from one corner to the opposite one, so it can't really be that big!

I think somebody worked out the the original Azeroth (two continents) was about 80 square miles in total. On that basis I guess Outland and Northrend add about 25 each.
That somebody was me.
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