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

Brian Hook bwh at wksoftware.com
Sat Apr 7 22:33:15 New Zealand Standard Time 2001

At 02:06 AM 4/7/01 -0700, JB wrote:

> You're assuming a single goal, which is to be combat effective.  I
> don't see why druids should be combat effective, nor rogues.

Because traditionally in these types of games -- even in pen'n'paper,
where restrictions on content and flow practically don't exist --
combat is the focus of entertainment.  This is particularly emphasized
in computer games because it's an easy system to focus on and balance
and doesn't require "fuzzy thinking" such as trying to implement rules
for sneaking, freeform infiltration, politics, diplomacy, etc.

In other words, combat is relatively easy to quantify.  Non-combat
skills, except for maybe trade skills, are more difficult to quantify
into a well defined system.

> 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.

I completely agree, however this (so far) has been extremely difficult
to accomplish in the computer medium because of the very freeform
nature by which a rogue operates.

> 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.

Absolutely, however at this point in time the commercial emphasis is
on combat and, based on the popularity of EQ and Diablo, I would guess
that right now that's what many players want.  I'm not defending that,
just stating that this seems to be a reasonable trend right now.

Other avenues definitely do exist and should be pursued -- the
conversations I've had with Raph indicate to me that he believes there
should be many different and unrelated forms of advancement for a
player to pursue, and I would dare say that Raph is one of the most
influential designers in this genre -- however they are A.) more
difficult to implement; B.) more difficult to quantify; and C.) more
difficult to sell to players and publishers.

In theory, lots of people want to be Conan or Gandalf.  Vanquishing
bad guys is a very popular activity.

> 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.

But head to head combat between two combat professionals should (so
the argument goes) be balanced.  Archer vs. swordsman.  I don't
believe anyone really brought up non-combatant vs. combatant.  And
given the subject line of this thread, I would say that arguing
non-combatant vs. combatant not fitting into your universe is, well,
beside the point.

> profession that they've chosen.  Why a 37th level druid wants to go
> into a dungeon is beyond me.

Because it's there.  That's how many players -- especially those in
combat oriented RPGs -- think.  Players feel that they have the right,
by virtue of purchasing your product, to experience as much content as
they can reach.  If they are "unreasonably" denied content, they get
frustrated and upset.

For example, say there is a dungeon called Minutia Catacombs.  Only
small races can adventure there.  Hey, that's cool, right?  Wrong.
Because while it adds flavor, that's a lot of designer effort that
maybe 1/3rd of the players can enjoy or experience.  And if it's a
high level dungeon, then someone that has spent all their time as an
ogre shaman is going to be pissed because they've been denied that
experience unless they're willing to restart the game as a small race
and game up to the necessary level.

> If they're playing a druid, they should be interested in the
> entertainment that the game provides to druids.

That's a bit of an elitist attitude.  If they paid money to play the
game, they should be able to experience how they want it so long as it
doesn't disrupt the game for others.  Some people would argue that the
mere thought of a druid in a dungeon would disrupt their game, but
they're the extremist version of the anti-powergamer and suffer from
the same delusions that powergamers do.

I remember being upset with X-Wing because I would try to play past a
mission that was clearly impossible for me to accomplish.  I didn't
"get" the mission, but because I couldn't cheat past it (enabling
cheating in X-Wing didn't allow you to complete a mission IIRC), the
game was basically over for me.

Looking Glass had a similar philosophy -- play the game THEY intended
you to play, not the game YOU want to play, and I personally don't
care for that philosophy.  I probably would have finished Thief if I
could have warped past the Tomb Raider levels.

> 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)
> possessions.

No one is assuming that ALL forms of entertainment have to be that
way, so I' not sure what your point is.  The specific discussion was
ranged vs. melee combat, so I'm a little confused why you're riffing
out over issues that don't seem to even pertain to the thread.

> 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.

Er, okay...but I'm not sure how that pertains to the topic of ranged
vs. melee 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.

This depends on whether the player is comparing himself to other
players or if he's comparing himself to the environment and/or his
previous self.  You can easily tell that you're becoming a hero of
huge proportions when monsters you used to run from are now cowering
from you.

Take Everquest and remove all the other players from the game.  You
can still see your character becoming exceptional and more powerful.
If you're competing with other players on that basis, so be it, but
you don't HAVE to compete with other players in order to feel bigger
and badder.

Brian Hook

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