Saturday, April 13, 2013

About strong enemies, or how some games born to die

Today we went to ruins of Eastgard, the ancient burial chamber, north east from Dune. I wasn't encouraged by this journey since it was graves of my nation inside. But I was only one khajiit here and money from contract was too big to not accept it. So we headed to Eastgard with hope to finish it fast, obtain needed scrolls and get the reward. On the second day of journey, 5 miles far from ruins we met ebonheart's party, consist of 2 battlemages, scout and a warrior. It was too late to change the path since we almost faced foreheads with warrior who walked behind all to cover the back. I recognized him immediately by his cloak made from pieces of  skin flayed from fallen enemies.  There was White Horn, leader of White Bane clan, famous for his madness in battles. Our healer, Mart, died from ferocious throw of the axe which almost split him apart. Do'kir, our warrior, tried to protect him, but Horn crashed his shield with only one fist and then bashed him in chest, stopped his heart in one moment. All this time I tried to shoot him with the best ebony arrows enchanted with flame from atronach heart. Once he faced me after killing my companions, I managed to hit him in right leg, stopped him for a moment long enough to let me run. I've been running for almost an hour, until I saw a outpost of Valenwood, where I finally feel save.

Let the drop lore part away and face the first problem of every MMO, RPG or not. This is the problem of balance. Balance is the first thing that need to be adjusted and which never adjusted. Keep the game unbalanced is fine way to keep players bought stuff from in-game shops for real money or bought premium things, and so. I saw a lot of games of RPG type with leveling and items/gears and MMO of Counter Strike type, without anything that can be upgraded or improved. Let's look on first type since ESO will be of this one.

To this type belongs almost all MMORPG. Unbalance here cames from different sources: unbalance between classes, between new and old players, between frequently playing people and those who have real life etc.

Unbalance between class always exists in games since there is very hard work to balance all the classes in every aspects. In addition, hard to balance when one have PvP build and second one have PvE and so. So the balance between classes must be in next spheres of game
Balance in PvP (1vs1, 1vsCrowd). This is most frequent situations in fights against players. Fights of type 1vs2 can be assigned to 1vsCrowd. Here and further all characters have same gear level and same builds (here I mean both have PvP or PvE build, or in case of no builds in game, all trained/equipped/adjusted for same type of activity). Balance of 1vs1 fights must be established by at least one thousand fights between each class against each class, and the amount of wins must be 50/50. This is the criteria from probability theory, 50/50 mean that the classes are balanced when fight in same surrounding. Balance in 1vsCrowd situation is only needed for check, if AoE spells strong enough or not. I mean when mage, for example, smash the crowd of enemies with fireball and explosion so strong that all of enemies left with half health and so the second fireball kill them, and this way mage own crowd in two spells. Or another situation, when warrior, equipped with strongest armor, charge through the crowd and didn't get any damage since he got a lot of health and armor and almost immortal.
Some can ask: "Why it's so important to make so precise balance?" Because if we take character of each class and perform 100 fights with random players, some of classes will have win percent more than another, that means that some classes will be more valuable to make and play. And tell me, who want to continue play with character which not best of the best? No one, I will answer. In situation of 50/50, there is no such questions. That helps to keep players in game, that most import for game growth.
Balance in PvE. Situation here is better, since in almost all games there was no classes able to run instances in one face or with party full of characters of same class. But anyway tests are needed here. Main things that needed to be adjusted is: who's the main dps class in game, who's the main healer class in game, who's the best tank in game etc. So if healer tried to deal damage he must not over damage mage who is specialist in this. And scout must not sustain more damage than warrior in full steel armor. Of course, there must be warrior in light armor but he still warrior not scout or rogue. Since if scout can tank in some way and deal damage same moment why you need to play warrior? Same dilemma as before, no one want to play weak characters. Each character must have special feature for PvE, that makes him important in party.

Why all above? Of course I didn't get invite to ESO yet but all I heard and saw was about huge unbalance in game. I strongly believe that I mistaken but even from cinematic trailer when Nord own whole dungeon almost alone, Breton killed about 10 guards alone also, and the Altmer mage make dust out of Imperials. Yes yes, alone too. And the system, that allow all classes to wear any gear and any weapon. Pray the Gods not to see firemage with shield, as I played both in Morrowind and Oblivion and unstoppable own every one on sight. I hope there was not of such nonsense in ESO.

Next option - balance between old and new players. Ahh, my favourite one. Imagine some one who played game for 3 years. And some one who just started. Even with this equilibrium system, that make new players to max level in PvP, how I suppose to fight against some one who collected legendary artifacts and master abilities for 3 years? I think it is no way to win until donate some money for potions or...Let's imagine no buff things for real money. Then how should I play? And this mega server, all OP (overpowered) people running next to weak ones, it is always good when one of OP on your side but if there is 10 on opposite side? All of this is the reason to new players to leave the game. In most cases and games I saw, old players become so unbalanced, that their state can't be reached by new players even if they will play whole days. Only accurate and precise balance system can safe the situation when new players will never face old ones (of opposite alliance) until they become strong enough to make them some damage or even kill. Or protect system that do not allow old players kill new ones.
But let's not forget about old players too. How to award them for long play, how to make other people admire them? I'm pretty sure killing noobs not that thing. How about killing each other? Or killing dragon located far away from started location? Good enough i think. Let them do activity that not connected with activity of low players.
I heard about some rating system that will be in game. I hope when I start I will not fight against some one with rating ten times higher than mine. You must understand what I mean.

And finally how about those who play every day and those who play once per week, on weekend for example. They want to compete too, and kill too but they don't want to exchange real life for virtual one. Probably solution in activity that not required to use anything, that you accumulated in game. I mean some type of activity when only your brains are important. No gear, no spells, no abilities, only brains, may be reflexes, savvy or something. Like game-in-game. Chess. Chess good enough, and as reward you got some money. Or sharpshooter challenge, with default bow and no skills.Or PvP but using not your character but robots with same weapons. That out of the theme of article and probably I will add some ideas (which not new in games, I know) later but this things help people when they don't want to play frequently. And who said that you can't play football with dwemer sphere, huh?

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