Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, August 04, 2010
Mytheon showing the way

When EA shut down Westwood Pacific in 2003, a group of employees formed their own game development studio called Petroglyph Games. They have several games in various stages of development or release, among which is a Free2Play MMORPG called Mytheon. Mytheon was supposed to be released in July, but the release date got postponed to later this fall, so the game is still in open beta. Now half-finished Free2Play games are a dime a dozen and I usually don't blog about them, in spite of receiving many "press releases" by e-mail. But I did play a bit of Mytheon, and think it is one of the games which you should see. Not because it is the "best game evah!!!" or something, but as a proof on concept on how combat in MMORPGs could be much improved.

Apart from the Greek mythology setting and click-to-move controls which resemble an action-RPG more than a MMORPG, Mytheon has the typical elements you'd expect from a MMORPG: Character classes, levels, quests, instanced zones, collection of gear and experience points by doing quests and killing monsters, and so on. What makes Mytheon stand out from the rest of the crowd is the combat system, which borrows elements from trading card games. You play a "stonecaster", with each stone representing a spell or ability, of which there exist various categories: Structures, companions, and various spells that deal damage, heal, or buff / debuff. The interesting thing is that you decide yourself which of these "stones" to bring to an adventure. You start out with 15 of them, but you can loot or craft or buy more, and then put up to 40 of them in your "deck". Every class has different stones, but you can put 1 off-class stone in your deck, thus using a spell normally reserved for a different class.

Like in a trading card game, you don't have access to all the stones in your deck, but only to a random selection of 6 of them. Thus instead of having a hotkey bar with always the same buttons on them, you have a bar with those 6 random stones from your deck. Otherwise combat works much like in standard MMORPGs, with you targeting a mob, and using your hotkey buttons to launch your spells and abilities, within the restrictions posed by cooldowns and mana. Every time you use one of the 6 abilities, it disappears, and is replaced a bit later by a new stone from your deck. Thus you have a different selection of spells and abilities for each combat, which very nicely evades the 123123123 optimized spell rotation of games like World of Warcraft.

Not only is your current selection of stones you can cast random, but also unlike World of Warcraft there is no static optimum. Monsters have one of three types, tank, melee dps, or ranged, and the companions, temporary "pets" you can summon, have these same three types. But the combat works on a rock, paper, scissor principle, with each type being strong against one other type, and weak against the other. Thus while you do get bonuses for having several of the same sort of companions out, filling your deck with too many of the same stones makes you weak against one type of enemies. A similar rock, paper, scissor rotation exists for the elements that make up the direct damage spells.

Mytheon certainly still has some flaws, it often plays more like a single-player game than a MMORPG, and the amount of content available is still limited. But as a proof of concept it already is brilliant, showing that MMORPG combat works quite well with a bit more randomness and decision-making involved. Instead of having one "best" talent build from a theory-crafting site, two players of the same class will have different decks, depending on the challenge they face, and the stones they collected during their career. Combat in Mytheon is much more varied than combat in a classic static skill system.

I do think we will see more games with combat somewhat like this, with more elements either from trading card games, or with rock-paper-scissor elements, or both. The trading card principle obviously works well with a Free2Play business model. And with us spending much of our time in MMORPGs in combat, a more interesting, interactive, and variable combat system keeps people interested in a game for much longer. Chasing for new "cards" and building "decks" is a strong long-term motivation factor. And Mytheon shows one example of how this could work. Check it out!
A very interesting read. Sort of similar to the Magic: The Gathering design and that game is brilliant. I like this concept quite a bit and I wonder if other MMORPGs will follow suit.

This kind of "random" combat in my opinion supports more of a "hack-and-slash" style of gaming (e.g. Diablo 2) rather than the structured raiding of WoW.

A few questions: Is there PvP in Mytheon? If so, is it "WoW-like" or more "Eve-like"?
What separates this random card mechanic from something like the spell cards in W101?
How would you group or "raid" with this type of combat?
Definitely interesting but I can't see how the group dynamic would work. Also, what about your "oh sh!t" buttons"? Just last night as the tank in PoS, an impatient dps pulled just as the healer dc'd and two more mobs aggroed. Me and an offspec healer managed to pop all our cooldowns and prevent a wipe. I feel that with a random ability system, you'll feel stuck holding onto those AoE Taunt and Super Powerful Heal abilities "just in case" and spamming whatever else comes up.
I tried to play it, but...
I dont know what is the problem, but game constantly dc on me, i manage to stay on line maybe 45 sec all together.
Come on Tobold, just admit it. You want am MMORPG which plays like Magic: The Gathering!
How long before actually engaging in combat do you see your spell selection for that fight? It seems like there would be two options for casting your first spell in combat; spam 1 as you enter combat, and get the spell off immediately (no matter what it is), or enter combat, eyeball your lineup, then cast the highest damage/most beneficial. For the second option, there is that player-induced lagtime that it takes to eye over the hotbar and compare icons, and isn't that considered 'twitch' since it could give a large benefit to those with the quickest response?
is a fun little game, but it's very much a "game" and that's not what I come to MMOs for. I don't have any major interest in games of any kind, either on or offline. I log into MMOs to be someone in a place.

More world and less game is what draws me in, and Mytheon is very much not any kind of virtual world so these mechanisms don't really catch my interest. They are, unfortunately, becoming increasingly prevalent, and the more inroads they make into the form, the further i am likely to withdraw from it.
sounds like a ripoff from the chronicles of spellborn
Did you even play The Chronicles of Spellborn? TCoS has rotating skill wheels with absolutely no randomness involved. You put your skills into those wheels, and they'll always pop up in exactly the order you put them in. Great disappointment, that game.
Has anyone here tried urban rivals? Its an awesome mmotcg which is free to play and has a very dynamic card dynamic since new cards are released every 2 weeks.

There are different deck formats and over 500 cards with ability to level the cards to open up abilities. I was a real fan of magic and now i'm hooked on this one. Also matches are a short 2-3min each. Very playable and highly rated. BTW you can play on ipad/iphone too and its an online shockwave game with no download.

As a shameless plug, if you signup put theadrin as a referrer :)...
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