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

Jerrith jerrith at jerrith.com
Wed Apr 4 12:48:24 New Zealand Standard Time 2001


At 08:51 PM 4/3/2001 -0700, Brian Hook wrote:

> Deer vs. bow.  Deer loses.

Ah, but what if Deer vs. bow became: Deer tries to enter melee range,
and if that fails, deer runs away quickly, faster than any player who
would want to kill the deer could move.

To use more EQ terms, nobody gets SoW, snare, or root type spells
until they reach a point where all their enemies would have ranged
attacks (be it breath weapon / spell type attacks, or bow & arrow /
throwing boulder type attacks.

> My point is that, traditionally, ranged weapons have a huge
> advantage over melee weapons.  The further away your enemy is when
> you harm him, the better off your chances of survival.  If you can
> hurt him while he can't hurt you, you have a serious advantage.

Agreed.  The point of balance here is that if the enemy can either
escape or reach a position where he can hurt you, quickly, then it's a
reasonable advantage.

> So there are really two options here: model things in a way that is
> tactically realistic, or model things such that "all fights are
> fair" or, put another way, "things are balanced".  I'm not very fond
> of the latter, I would prefer to have it balanced some other way.

"All fights are fair" implies some other things.  What I'm suggesting
though is that everything be both tactically realistic and balanced.
While it does put some restrictions in place when designing monsters
(no big powerful monsters without ranged attacks), I think it is
doable.

>> You also don't address players who don't have ranged weapons facing
>> those who do.

> Does the phrase "Don't bring a knife to a gun fight" ring a bell? =)
> Seriously, if I were doing a game I would hesitate to try to give an
> even playing field when it is obvious that it is not an even playing
> field in such situations.

In situations like this, I don't think you can really be totally
balanced.  I can stand still and fire an arrow or two while you run
into melee range with me, at which point we both melee.  However,
there's a big difference between shooting an arrow or two before
entering melee combat, and arrow kiting.

>> If the creature only has melee attacks, and can't close to melee
>> range, it either needs to be able to escape, or insignificant
>> enough that killing it doesn't give a reward the player would find
>> worthwhile.

> Okay, then we're talking about balancing the encounter instead of
> actually letting things play out in a "realistic" way.  The common
> techniques I've seen are:

>   - allow monster to warp to player - allow monster to summon player
>   - give monster insanely high magical resistance - give monster
>   insanely high dodge vs. missiles

Four of my least favorite methods EQ uses heavily.

>   - give monster lots of friends

Can help, if there's no way to get rid of the friends, but there
usually is...

>   - give monster ranged counter attacks

EQ does some of this, but I believe they tend to be AOE, not single
target effects.  This is one of my two preferred solutions.

>   - give monster very good ability to run away

This one can work for awhile, but at higher levels of power, it stops
working (unless you consider uninterruptable gate type spells, which
tend to just be frustrating in nature).  I prefer this at lower
levels.

> I'm not particularly fond of most of the above.  To model things
> realistically you could make use of the ranged weapon have a
> negative effect:

I think the last two above with some of these could work quite well.

>   - honor points (it's dishonorable to kill from a distance)

Great, if you can find a good way to deal with honor in general.

>   - longer reload times

Doesn't help in most cases, I think...  Just makes the kiting kill
take longer, even if you have to stand still while reloading.

>   - disallow "fire and run" by requiring a fairly lengthy aiming
>   period

Same as the previous one...  If you're kiting, you just have to run
out further, and then stand still to take care of your aiming
period...

>   - lower chance of hitting

By the time you've lowered it to the point where kiting is no longer
practical, you've also made it nearly useless in other cases as well.

>   - limited ammunition

Hard to accomplish, in games where you frequently have to carry a
large number of items...

>   - limited choice of armor

Perhaps...  However, if you can change armor quickly, it's hard to
keep this limitation.  Might help with the next one.

>   - long weapon switch time (bow -> sword takes a long time)

Perhaps, again.  However, in thinking about this a bit, it's not easy.
Basically, you'd need a situation in which a melee fighter can always
close to melee range and get an attack after you've made a ranged
attack and started the weapon switch, before you finish the switch...
If armor was involved here too, it would be even better.

>   - wounded NPCs have a strong tendency to run away and hide while
>   they die

Running and hiding is nice, but I don't think I've seen it done well
yet...  Probably because it is difficult to balance with various
connection speeds and latency issues...

>   - higher rate of weapon failure (bow string snaps, mechanism
>   malfunctions), although this tends to annoy players more than
>   anything else

Agreed.

>> In EverQuest for example, a number of combat techniques involve
>> slowing or stopping the movement of a monster, and then killing it
>> with ranged weapons or spells while out of melee range.

> Geez, I would imagine this list, of all places, would know what
> kiting is =)

Except I was referring to both kiting, and the "root and nuke"
technique that's also frequently used.  I think they're both in need
of changes.  (No root spell until everything worthwhile has a ranged
attack, for instance.)  The ability to root a monster is big thing...

> Bow kiting in Everquest could have been greatly reduced if a
> character could not fire his bow until stationary for N seconds
> (much like casters).  Of course, there are other exploits
> (ping-ponging, etc.).

It would have just slowed it down... (Perhaps to the point where it
wasn't used anymore, but I doubt it...)  As for other exploits, like
ping-ponging, I think it's a result of monster behavior that doesn't
factor in the cost of moving to another target well enough.

AR Schleicher (Jerrith)
jerrith at jerrith.com

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