Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Single Class Games: A Creative Springboard for New Class-oriented Gameplay

I ran across a blog post the other day (which I cant seem to find now despite hours of searching), that discussed the concept of making a game with only one class! What an excellent idea! This has already been done to some degree, mostly centered around the rogue-type with games such as Thief.

Not only would it be interesting to delve into such a focused area to try and make it engaging, interesting, varied and fun, but I could see doing a small focused game along these lines as a prelude to producing a bigger game that combines the concepts gameplay from the smaller games and incorporates them into a whole.

Click the link below for some random thoughts about what could be done with this idea.

Rangers - Game would be mostly outdoors. Rugged wilderness with lots of nooks and crannies. Mostly small villages who would be somewhat distrustful of the wornout stranger walking into their town. Villages would just be for some light trading before the players would set back out into the wilderness. Gameplay would be centered round tracking, outdoor survival, learning the lay of the land, etc. Opportunities for combat, puzzle solving and exploration abound!

Soldier - This game would start you off as a guard in a town. You do patrols, break up bar fights, gamble and drink on your time off and eventually work your way up to joining the army where you are sent off to fight battles in which you find yourself just one of dozens or hundreds of combatants, and your main focus is to defeat the guy in front of you and keep an eye on whats happening in your general vicinity while trying to maintain your formation and respond to any new orders from the leaders. Maybe even moving from this closeup individual combat to commanding your own squads and armies!

Mage - Entire game based inside an impossibly huge tower that likely crosses and exists in several dimensions at once. The basic concept is that the player is a new apprentice who must learn to use magic, pass tests of their magical abilities, and explore the mysterious tower without getting caught trespassing into forbidden areas while also avoiding being eaten or imprisoned by various entities who live in the recesses of the mammoth structure. There would also be various factions within the school that the player can choose to join which would further alter their playing experience as they advance through the ranks. This would also be an excellent place to try out a complex spellcrafting system!

Priest - Player starts as a novice priest dedicated to a certain god. The goal is to increase their gods in-game presence through converting heathens, making appropriate sacrifices and establishing new temples.. As they gain favor, the player can gain new powers. They'll even have opportunities to change the deity they are aligned with... for a cost. Avatars for other deities would be also trying to promote their gods and as such would cross paths with other players, sometimes in battle, sometimes in uneasy alliance.

Just a few examples off the top of my head. In some ways, having such a narrow focus provides even greater opportunities for creativity than a more open game would.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Azh's WoW Adventures: Heroic Mechanar Redux

Note: If you're looking for help with Heroic Mechanar, check out my Quick Tips post.

Made two more runs through Heroic Mechanar the past two days.

First group consisted of myself, a protection warrior, warlock, druid and rogue. The druid dropped out early and was replaced with a priest. Learned some tricks for skipping past a number of pulls at the front, and also learned that Capacitus' polarity charges can be used to your party's advantage. If two players of the same polarity stand together, they get %100 damage bonus!! Knowing that makes the encounter much easier.

I also was witness to the ways in which a good warlock can tear up the demon groups. The guy we were with could almost solo them by taking control of a bomber, banishing another and then healing the bomber as he took care of the other demons.

We didn't even try Sepethrea. And for the waves of attackers after her, we would run down the elevator between most combats. Pretty cheesy tactic, IMO, but you have to be really coordinated to keep crowd control on the Blood Elves as they're rushing you, which is not easy with a pickup group. We muddled through and downed Pathaleon on the first try (I think. Maybe it was the second. Either way, we didn't spend too long on it). Came out of the adventure with 4 badges, but rolled a lowly 1 for the Primal Nether.

Similar setup today, but with completely different players. Had a shaman along as healer instead of the priest. Had a little trouble with a patroller add, and then failing to interrupt Gyro-Kill's Shadow Power buff. First attempt at the Mechano-Lord saw the shaman falling first. We then fought on for another 10-15 seconds while urging the shaman to ankh, but he instead waited until everyone was dead. Second attempt went more smoothly. Skipped the Nethermancer, only ran from two of the event waves, and then killed the Calculator after two attempts. It seems like you really need to kill that first wave of elementals. If you try to just fear them, you get screwed when the second wave appears. Eight arcane elementals auto-firing 1.2k damage arcane bolts is just too tough to deal with, especially when any that aren't feared are likely going after your lone healer! Only two of us rolled on the Nether and I won (just two more to go)!

But this group decided to make a single attempt on Sepethrea. We started off well. I didn't have any of the elementals after me, so I was able to unload on her at the beginning, but then it just got out of hand. I have to agree with those who say this encounter is overly difficult. It's enough of a pain to have to run away when the elementals are after you, but then they can daze you, the Nethremancer can disorient and freeze you, and with three of them running around, you often have to run through some of the flames anyway! Definitely not an encounter that supports melee, which seems to be the case for too many dungeons (auras, AoE blasts, AoE fears...)

Friday, July 27, 2007

Azh's WoW Adventures: Heroic Mechanar

Note: If you're looking for help with Heroic Mechanar, check out my Quick Tips post.

In trying to acquire enough Primal Nether to upgrade my blacksmithing axe(s), I've decided to seek out pickup groups for Heroic instances when we don't have enough guildmembers awake.

Yesterday, I joined one for Mechanar. This was my first trip into the heroic version of this instance, and I was a little apprehensive because I'm Arms-specced (though I've successfully played the role of tank for Heroic Slave Pens in the past) and would be fighting with a group of players that I didn't know. Luckily, the first group member turned out to be Draaco, a rogue that I used to see in the battlegrounds all the time back in the day. After a bit of waiting (the LFG tool can actually work sometimes, though it's often slow going), we filled out our group with a shaman and two mages.

I don't have any epic tanking gear, but it is mostly blue, with a couple of pieces of the 'Bold' plate armor. In my full defense kit, I have 483 defense and about 11k health. I also have a variety of resistance pieces that I swap out as needed, including a full set of Enchanted Adamantine armor, which proved to be especially useful for some encounters.

Things started off well. Having the option to sap as well as sheep two humanoid targets made the blood elves easy pickings. One the mages tended to draw aggro at bad times, but that usually just resulted in him getting killed in three hits. (Important Note for non-tanks: If you're getting pounded, run towards the tank! Running away and making me chase the both of you doesn't help anyone.) The rough parts came when we hit the demons. The big guys weren't so bad (except for those annoying ones that have the various confusion abilities), but the little guys who throw bombs faster than Lindsay Lohan chugs drinks were troublesome. I finally hit on a solution that worked well. I would put on my arcane resistance suit and just try to keep aggro on everyone while the rest of the party killed the little demons fast. This worked especially well when there were three of four of them to a group.

The first two mini-bosses were fairly easy, you just have to remember to move away from the guy with the hammer when he 'raises it threateningly'. The Mechano-Lord Capacitus also turned out to be an easy fight. His only extra trick for heroic mode was that he would occassionally 'charge' the party, some negative, some positive. Opposites need to stay away from each other. As tank, I pretty mucg ignored it except for trying to yell out which way I was charged, which resulted in aggro loss twice. So maybe I should have just stayed focus on the job at hand.

Sepethrea proved to be a tougher customer. She has three of those damned invincible fire elementals. Combined with her frostbrand slowing attack, I found myself having trouble avoiding the flames while keeping her occupied. Putting on some fire resistance helped, but after two wipes, we decided to skip her.

The gauntlet event in the hallway afterwards also got us a couple of times, mainly just due to uncoordination. If I had been with a guild group who knows which targets I like to take down first (mage types), it would have been smoother. But we pushed onwards.

Finally, Pathaleon the Calculator. This encounter proved to be our bane. His elementals that he summons hit for a lot more damage than he does, and we only had my one fear to use on them. We tried a few different tactics but were defeated every time. Finally, one of the mages got frustrated, said that we needed a protection warrior and left the group. Undaunted, we quickly found a replacement (enhancement shaman) and tried again. Our tactic this time was to kill the first wave of elementals, fear the second and try to burn him down as quickly as possible in-between. Our first attempt was again inadequate, as I mostly left the elementals to the rest of the group and focused on the boss. But then I realized that they were probably taking too much damage while dealing with the first wave, so I slapped on my arcane resistance suit and used my challenging shout to keep the first wave on me. This seemed to work well, and we emerged victorious! Even better, I rolled a 100 for the Primal Nether, bringing my total to three (four if I turn in my Badges of Justice). Halfway there!

Warhammer vs Warcraft: A Very Brief History

Given the upcoming MMO, Warhammer Online, there has been a lot of discussion over the past year or so about who's ripping off who. As hopefully everyone knows by now, Warhammer (first published in 1983) has been around long before anyone even heard of the Internet. But what many don't know is that before Warcraft, Blizzard had been in negotiations with games Workshop to make a Warhammer game. For whatever reasons, the deal fell through, Blizzard modified a few things and released Warcraft (which is why the games seem similar in many ways). I guess there was enough ambiguity for Blizzard to avoid a lawsuit.

Anyway, in short, Warhammer has been around for a long time, Blizzard was undeniably, heavily influenced by Warhammer when they created Warcraft, and now, Warhammer has a lot of work ahead to claim its rightful section of the MMO pie.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Breaking the Holy Trinity of Character Grouping

Tank, Healer, DPS. The three required classes of any class-based MMO. Which pretty much makes dungeon adventures very standard and boring after the first couple of times through. Wouldn't it be nice if you could take any class-combo you wanted into a dungeon. If there were ways to engage encounters that didn't rely on the tried and true, "You take damage, You heal, and You kill stuff" routine?

I think a lot of this is simply due to the lack of decent AI. The mobs can't think on their feet, so the standard is to simply make them do lots of damage, and give them lots of hit points so that the players have no options except to follow the rails on your amusement park ride.

But how could this be handled without providing numerous opportunities for players to find ways to cheat the system? With instanced dungeons, you could have some variables that changed the composition, layout and abilities of mobs and bosses based on the group makeup, but then you would have to lock the instance to that group, and not allow them to switch or add other players, which in turn presents a whole slew of problems on its own (not to mention the extra coding required).

In reality, I dont think anything can be done along these lines in a class-driven MMO without some major changes to how things are done. Hit points and damage would need to stop scaling exponentially with level. Players would need to be given lots of various utility abilities that would provide them opportunities to do more with less so to speak. Computer AI would need some serious buffs and the Monty Haul equipment hunt would need to be seriously scaled down so that it doesn't have such an effect on a character's power. In short, too many changes for a class-based system to incorporate. After all, one of the primary reasons for creating class-based systems is to compartmentalize players into easily quantifiable boxes that can then be stacked together and compared to the mobs for ease of power balancing.

When you design a game based around character classes, you're putting the train on the tracks, and your combat system will be pretty rote from there on. If you can come up with ways to make things less generic and more interesting while still maintaining the concept of character classes, then more power to you. But, in the meantime, I'm looking at the skill-based systems as the future of online worlds.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

iTrackr Sucks

Plain and simple. I just spent a frustrating hour driving through crappy traffic and dealing with crappy drivers today because they said two stores in my area had the Nintendo Wii in stock. Neither did, and both said that they hadn't had any for many days.

A completely inaccurate and unreliable service. Not even worth the free signup.