Conventions of the Game

Pulling is inherently a weird notion. You have to wonder about the guy next to the one who was pulled. “Did Bill just get shot in the shoulder? Meh, I guess he can handle it.” These aren’t villains, they are horror film extras, wandering into the woods one at a time, where an insane gang of SCA-wannabes lurks.

That is far from a new insight, but other oddities struck me. City of Heroes enemies have relatively small aggro and pursuit ranges. I regularly run past enemies with no stealth on, since they will shoot maybe once or twice before wandering back to their spots. We call it “Tanker stealth.” “Intruders! We’re under attack! Ah, eff it, he’s way over there. Not my job.” This is why the archvillains lose: their henchmen are lazy and stupid.

I was playing my Sonic Defender tonight. Staying out of that aggro range, I flew merrily above my enemies’ heads to get to their drug stashes and boss. Sonic Defenders have huge, spherical force shields. “Guido, did you see a giant orange bubble zip by us? No? Maybe it’s just me.”

: Zubon

5 thoughts on “Conventions of the Game”

  1. I think about this a lot, actually. I think the day someone makes an MMO where pulling is done away with will be a fine day indeed. Not only that, but the concept of adds. That’s probably the most frustrating thing for any pick-up group to have to deal with, and the inexperienced player’s bane.

    Can’t we have a mission layout designed where you’re meant to take on the entire room at once? I mean, a lot of power sets in CoH/V can already do it, but it’s clear that you’re supposed to hop from little cluster to little cluster of villains, being ever vigilant that you don’t get just slightly too close to the next group.

    That’s cognitive dissonance if I ever saw it, and the only reason we put up with it is ’cause we’re used to the way MMOs work. The fact that this is one of the hardest things for pick-up groups to deal with signals to me that new players don’t get it, and that’s because it makes no intuitive sense.

    OK, that was a little more ranty than I intended.

  2. My favorite cognititve dissonance towards Mob AI in City of Heroes is the Stealth provided by Storm Summoning’s Steamy Mist.

    “Hey Guido – do you think there’s anything unusual about this little patch of fog moving through?”
    “Nah, it’s gone now.”

  3. Unfortunately, the only way an MMO player can handle 4 mobs, or (perish the thought) 5 mobs at a time, is if they are an AoE class.

    That is the extent of our group-killing capabilities: AoE.

    As much as I hate to say it, I see a better step being one more towards the MMOFPS. As a shooter, you can take out as many people as you wish if you are skilled enough.

  4. I think maybe the best way to handle it is to make characters actually heroic, instead of equal matches, or slightly more than equal matches for their enemies. I was actually going to write something about this last week, but, ah, lazy. The idea I have isn’t exactly novel, nor simple, but I think it might be something that adds a little more verisimilitude to games. And it’ll take a while to write up, so not here int eh comments. :)

  5. I’m liking this blog.

    Not often do you get ‘cognitive dissonance’ and ‘verisimilitude’ in one site, let alone one thread. I’m guessing you guys got +20 smarts.

    I actually come from a pen & paper roleplaying background. (Yes I’m a 40th level geek). TBH I tend not to play MMOs because roleplaying’s translation to online tends IMHO to lose alot of atmosphere.

    That said, I’m putting some thoughts together on how things can be improved.

    My main gripe with MMOs is the way that you can repeat missions. Like I can be playing for 6 months, and do a series of quests… and you can come along six months later, and although we share the same world, you can do the series of quests I did six months earlier. For me this tragically ruins the gaming environment.

    Now I do appreciate the limitations of the game system – but I do believe there is another way to create missions that don’t have to be replayed, using a variable set of ramdomized features.

    I.e. The overarching storyline presents one or more events running concurrently or consecutively attributed to different regions within the gameworld. Each event has associated with it a series of character types, items, missions, locations and objectives. Quest vendors then create random quests according to the Event and the Region.

    E.g. An Event occuring at the Isles concerns Orc Pirate Raids. A random quest may be: travel to the coast, find the Orcish Pirate Captain, retrieve the Farmers Daughter he kidnapped, return her to wherever.

    Obviously this is intensely simplified. But with enough random variables, players can feel that they are making significant impact upon the situations pertaining to the current Event.

    Moreover, it means the quests a not repeated. Once the farmers daughter is returned, the next quest that vendor can give will be something randomly different, and probably, though not certainly involving any of the aforementioned elements.

    Furthermore, in this way, mission trees can be built. So that if you complete one mission, another mission involving one or more of the previous elements is provided to you.

    I.e. in this case, once you have rescued the daughter, the next mission may be to escort her to whatever location and meet with whomever. Once you’ve done that, you may have to take back an item to the farmer. Blah blah blah.

    As said, put enough elements together, randomize and provide coherent mission trees and you can give players the feeling they are living in a real world where their actions have direct impact and missions are never, exactly repeated.

    Not only that, you can also more effectively handle mission failure. If you fail to get the farmers daughter back. The mission can evolve to include a new location, or a different kidnapper. All again based on randomized mission trees.

    From an individual players perspective, they have a personlised game with a variety of missions – they don’t have to play missions that others have done before them.

    Moreover, taking this concept one step further, it also provides the games designers / mission scriptors with valuable data upon which to base the next significant Event in that region.

    I.e. Enough people do enough orc pirate missions successfully, and the next major event describes how the orc hordes have been driven back to their homeland, and its now time to take the fight to them. And a whole new set of missions present themselves, using a different sub-set of elements.

    I’m sorry this is so long winded.

    I don’t get out much.

    pilch out.

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