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

John Buehler johnbue at msn.com
Sat Apr 7 02:06:54 New Zealand Standard Time 2001

Brian Hook writes:
> At 12:42 PM 4/5/01 -0700, JB wrote:

>> There should be conditions available in the game that always
>> clearly favor one over the other.

> The problem with this is that, depending on the type of situations
> available, there's going to be an imbalance in fairness if
> advantageous/disadvantageous ratios don't stay close 1:1.

[examples snipped]

You're assuming a single goal, which is to be combat effective.  I
don't see why druids should be combat effective, nor rogues.  Rogues
are combat effective in rare circumstances.  The bulk of the
entertainment for rogues should be sneaking around, skulking across
high wires, listening to conversations unobserved and so on.  Druids
are lovers of trees and should derive their entertainment from
developing mastery of nature and of aiding trees in their growth and
so on.

The trend in the industry seems to assume that the only interesting
thing that we can offer players is advancement based on the
destruction of bad guys and riches (also based on the destruction of
the bad guys).  Surely other avenues of entertainment can be provided
by games.

>> It then becomes the player's responsibility to ensure that his
>> character doesn't get caught at a disadvantage.

> If the advantage/disadvantage system is based on adventure areas,
> players are going to create a fuss when they have to adventure
> places where they're "weak".  I'm not saying this is justified, but
> that's the reality.  You're Zokar the 37th level druid and you want
> to visit the Dungeons of Infinite Darkness with your friends.  At
> this point you're at their mercy because, "Hey man, we'd love to
> have you, but Uklau the Dwarven Miner is way more kick ass in a
> dungeon than you.  Sorry d00d, maybe next time."

Given the idea that head-to-head combat between girl scouts and roman
gladiators doesn't need to be balanced because not all professions are
about combat, this isn't a concern for me.  All I need to do is have
areas where players can find entertainment consistent with the
profession that they've chosen.  Why a 37th level druid wants to go
into a dungeon is beyond me.  If they're playing a druid, they should
be interested in the entertainment that the game provides to druids.
If they want to go into dungeons and kill stuff, let them become a
mercenary.  As before, let's not assume that the single way of gaining
entertainment is killing things and getting their (screwy)

> /petition Druids are l4m3!!!

> /petition Dwarves are l4me!!!

> What are you gonna do?

Let them go away so that they can find the game that they enjoy
playing.  I've made comments before about the need to ensure that such
players don't consider my game as even potentially interesting.  If
they show up and are disgusted at the entertainment that they find,
they'll turn into grief players.  That's obviously not what I want -
hardcore gamers turned grief players.

>> Personally, I'd like to see a resurrection of the melee warrior in
>> the medieval genre.  That he really has the advantage in field and
>> confined space combat (i.e. most scenarios).  When an archer has a
>> defensible position, he should have the advantage.  But when an
>> archer exposes himself to direct contact with a melee warrior, he
>> should know that he's in trouble.  "Run early and run often" should
>> be the archer's motto.  In all of this, I assume that an archer is
>> not the melee skill equal of a melee warrior, nor that the melee
>> warrior can equal the skill of the archer with a bow.

> Unfortunately, this isn't how typical fantasy fare likes to view
> things.  The awesome archer is also going to be some dual wielding
> madman.  On top of that, historical combat rarely pitted a single
> archer vs. a single man-at-arms.  The existence of mixed arms mass
> combat -- cavalry, artillery, archers, men at arms, etc. was
> extremely common, and each man played a part of a greater unit.  You
> didn't have a bunch of folks just mixing it up, and rarely did you
> see very small bands engaging in serious combat.  Warfare was a bit
> grander scale than what is typically represented in fantasy fiction.

Sure, and I understand all of that.  The example of the single archer
versus the single warrior was only for the purposes of illustration.
As for archers becoming dual-wielding madmen, I'd work to avoid that
in my 'systems'.

> In fantasy fiction/games, you typically have your band of adventures
> vs. bands of other enemies.  Or you have your lone hero fighting
> small bands of (weak) enemies or the single cunning enemy.

I'm trying to move far more towards a historical bent, flavored with
fantasy, rather than the other way around.  I've made comments about
mundane magic because I can't see magic showing up in a medieval
environment without completely destabilizing everything (as evidenced
in the graphical games that I've seen to date).  Also not the sort of
thing that the fantasy player likes to see.  Personally, I don't think
that the fantasy genre delivers on the expectations of fantasy
players.  Everyone wants to be a hero, but heros have to stand apart.
With 2000 heros running around, it's kinda hard to stand apart.  So I
won't bother trying to cater to that goal.  Instead, I'll shoot for a
player who is willing to experience the common man's adventure.  No
super powers, no bazooka-on-a-stick (aka Sword of Doom).  Just your
basic living experience.  Seems a lot more viable from a roleplaying
standpoint in any case (not that I'm too concerned with roleplayers).

To be clear, the "common man's adventure" doesn't mean the medieval
peasant's ditch digging and crop planting.  It's pretty much taking
your average guy or gal and letting them go do stuff.  They don't grow
in power, they don't accumulate ludicrous items.  They experience the
entertainment of the game.  Tournaments, castle ruins, trade fairs,
political intrigue - whatever it is that the game developers can
figure out how to entertain players with that doesn't require more
than Joe Average in order to do it.

> So when you have the source material (historical men at arms)
> mismatched with the archetype in a fan's minds eye (Heracles, Xena,
> Drizzt, Wulfgar, Conan, Legolas, Aragorn, Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser),
> it causes weird balance problems for people trying to make games
> with the authenticity of historical combat but with the flavor of
> mythical combat.

Something that I have found odd is the fact that games seem to be
predicated on delivering an exceptional experience.  For example,
becoming as powerful as Hercules or Gandalf.  But the game is going to
be structured one of two ways.  Either all players can fairly easily
achieve that power level and everyone eventually becomes Herculean
(Galdalfian?), or players compete with each other to achieve that
power level and only one becomes Herculean.  In the first case, nobody
is exceptional because all players eventually become Hercules.  In the
second, only a few are exception, meaning that the vast majority of
players don't get to experience being Hercules.

So strange.


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