[MUD-Dev] Balancing Melee vs Ranged Combat in Games Which Model Space

John Buehler johnbue at msn.com
Tue Apr 3 14:47:53 New Zealand Standard Time 2001

Zak Jarvis writes:

>> From: Daniel.Harman at barclayscapital.com
>> Sent: Tuesday, April 03, 2001 8:02 AM

>> Its a simple question really. Does anyone think it is possible to
>> balance melee range combat with ranged combat/magic in games where
>> spacial issues have impact?

> <snip>

> Yes, I do think it's possible. Here's the solutions we've come up
> with for our combat mechanics.


> Melee versus ranged is pretty easy.


> Magic is most useful on magical creatures which often cannot even be
> perceived by non-magic users (and hence, they're safe from those
> creatures as well). Mages don't toss around fireballs and magic
> missiles, but rather channel flows of energy. This means the
> mechanic for damaging magical creatures is actually to channel their
> energy away from them, or fill them with an opposing energy.

> Mages will have some limited abilities to interact in a more
> traditional sense but their primary use will be to 'buff' natural
> items or cause secondary combat effects (reducing the effectiveness
> of armor, causing enemies to drop weapons or become distracted,
> etc.)

This is the approach that I favor as well, although I'm not interested
in having 'magical creatures'.  Altering the simple elements of
scenarios is a great way to go.  The ability to muffle sounds such
that a guard's cry for help doesn't travel as far when the guard is
shot with an arrow, or such that your armored warrior isn't heard as
he approaches a stronghold.  The ability to cause a flash of light so
that an opponent's night vision is temporarily damaged or simply to
signal someone at night.  The ability to dink around with the footing
of an opponent to increase the possibility that they will slip - or to
enhance the footing of a friend to increase the possibility that they

The 'buffing' that I see is also 'active buffing'.  The mage has to be
around, actively concentrating, for the effect to hold.  It may have a
ramp down of a few seconds once the concentration is broken, but it
requires the mage to be present and paying attention for the full

True magical enchantments involve actively casting on raw materials as
they are being worked and shaped.  Quickie buff spells only enchant
the surface of an item.  For enchantments, the 'ramp down' time is
greatly reduced when the magic is infused into the materials.  Metals
and liquids are good for such things because they hold the enchantment
well.  Materials that are not worked in a liquid or malleable form are
MUCH harder to push magic into and require correspondingly longer
enchantment times.  Fortunately, they take that much longer for the
enchantment to leave.  Crystals are extraordinarily difficult to
enchant, but what you get in stays.  Metal is always a favorite
because it starts out malleable and enchantable, and when it cools the
enchantment sticks pretty well.  Enchanting a growing tree each day
for 20 years yields very magical wood and is the sort of thing that a
druid does.

I'd also like to dramatically limit the simultaneous use of magic on
multiple targets.  Using muffle magic on one target should completely
occupy a newbie mage.  Learning the intricacies of muffling different
types of sounds should provide an advancement schedule just on that
one spell.  Learning how to deal with multiple targets is another
skill with its own advancement schedule.  Dealing with moving targets
is yet another skill.  After a while, the mage will learn how to do
things other than magic while they are producing their effect - like
being able to walk.  Tap a newbie mage on the shoulder and all their
effects poof.  They are distracted.  Once that happens, they have to
go through the process of refocusing, redrawing mana to their
purposes, etc.  A really talented mage can be dodging a boulder while
still maintaining a couple of magical effects on friends and enemies.

Make magic produce subtle effects that have definite advantages, but
it such that those effects are not accumulated en masse.  You don't
have 30 different things that you can do as a newbie mage.  You might
accumulate 30 after a year, but they all remain subtle effects.  Once
the precedent of subtlety has been put in place, an effect like
teleportation is so incredibly HUGE in comparison, that the
expectation of players has been developed that it is going to take
something extraordinary to accomplish that.  Perhaps 10 skilled mages
coming together at both ends of the teleport in order to move one
person, with each of those mages tackling a separate element of the
teleport.  One is binding the end of the teleport channel, two are
reaching out to find the other end of the teleport channel.  Others
are weaving the channel itself on top of that basic guidance structure
and yet others are going to 'push' the person through the channel.
Note that all of these things are skills and have to be developed.
Their more primitive forms should be entirely applicable to produce
those subtle effects.  The overall experience would be a bit like
MacGyver (sp?) bringing together lots of bits and pieces to produce a
larger, more valuable result.

I assume that combat is the exclusive realm of warriors.  That's their
job - to damage the physical person of the enemy.  Archers have a
role, but it's a very unreliable way of projecting power unless you're
in a nicely defended/fortified position.  Mages twiddle with the
balance of power, but not in a significant way.  Stop making mages
just high powered warriors.  EverQuest did this and in the end,
warriors cast spells and are girded head-to-foot with magical armor.

That said, I can imagine an extremely dedicated mage developing
certain skills - to the exclusion of almost everything else - so that
they can do something like the equivalent of a magical missile.  It
can burn a hole in a shield or armor or cause nasty damage to an
unarmored opponent.  But the mage has to do that to the exclusion of
everything else.  He can't cook, he can't make anything, he's not very
strong, he doesn't move quickly, etc.  He's the equivalent of a
research scientist in a war zone, whose concentration would be so
easily broken that his magical missiles would almost never be
successfully cast.


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