April 23, 2008

Warhammer Concern

Looking over recent releases from the Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (WAR) circle, both beta leaks and official information, I have a concern I want to voice. Yes, I said beta leaks, but they are merely confirmation of what is publicly speculated at large.

First, WAR seems to be treading a dangerous line towards the traditional problem most class-based MMO PvP games have: ranged standoff fights. In a ranged standoff, ranged classes spend the entire fight pea-shooting each other back and forth. Any attempt to gallantly charge the enemy down as a melee class is met with death at the hands of the ranged classes.

Now, since WAR is focusing on a lot of keep and castle sieging, the ranged DPS problem is actually OK in my book in certain situations. Ranged DPS should be king in keep fights, simply because melee are physically blocked by keep walls and should be focused around helping take the doors down.

However, what seems to be happening currently (and this is just beta), ranged DPS is king in every single fight. They do massive damage, have tons of crowd control, and for the most part can just walk away when approached by melee.

I think there are a couple contributing factors to the ranged stand off problem. First, the fact that ranged DPS is insanely high. Plus, the ranged classes have a ton of crowd control, as I mentioned. Secondly, and more importantly, the ability for healers to stand in the "back line" and heal the ranged DPS while they have fun. This means tanks/melee DPS don't get heals when they charge, because both the melee and healer are cut down from range. Players are smart and will maximize their progress potential and if that means healing the ranged DPS, who are getting all the kills, then that is what will happen.

That is not how WAR was advertised early on. Mythic was very strong about healing being minimalistic and requiring the healing classes to fight first while they "built up" healing power to heal later. It seems that is not the case any longer, with healing classes able to sit in the back row and heal away on the ranged DPS classes. I hope this is not how the game goes live, because I am sick of pigeon holed healers that just spam heals. Healers should be forced into combat and should be required to stay fairly close to their healing target.

This gives tanks renewed purpose as they have to go in with the healers to defend them with defensive skills such as bodyguard and the fact that through collision detection they can physically block opponents. This also allows melee DPS to get into the fight following the tank and healers in. Then ranged DPS can come into the fight. The battle then becomes a far more classic fantasy fight, with a grand melee in the middle of a bigger fight.

Unfortunately, that doesn't seem the direction that WAR is going any longer. Which brings up problems of its own. Namely, the fact that Mythic has brought stealth back into the game for melee DPS classes. This is a direct result of ranged DPS cutting down melee classes. Now the melee DPS classes are "stealthed" and thus can't be targeted as they approach. Bad design decision in my book, regardless of how limited the stealth is.

This will not ruin the game, but it will definitely create problems as once again far too many ranged DPS classes get played compared to healers/tanks. Thus going right back to the problems of tank and healer shortages every diku-inspired MMORPG has had since Everquest.

Oh well, keep sieges are still looking kick ass.

17 comments:

Tholal said...

Erg. You're scaring me!

Anonymous said...

Stealth??? Didn't Mark Jacobs make it a point (as we were reminded by Paul Barnett in most of his interviews) of having no stealth classes in this MMO? And to give ranged classes to much power...give me a break! They were a problem from day 1 in DAOC, and are still being nerfed downwards in power to this day.

I hope you are wrong brother.

Anonymous said...

Stealth??? Didn't Mark Jacobs make it a point (as we were reminded by Paul Barnett in most of his interviews) of having no stealth classes in this MMO? And to give ranged classes to much power...give me a break! They were a problem from day 1 in DAOC, and are still being nerfed downwards in power to this day.

I hope you are wrong brother.

heartlessgamer said...

@Tholal

Don't worry. Mythic has done a great job with beta, and each phase has impressed the beta testers. A lot of garbage leaks are out right now talking about class balance, without really noting that classes are not even finished yet that are being tested or classes that have huge bugs.

My ranged combat concern really comes from the "polished" stuff they are showing off at conventions and shows, which I confirmed via beta leakers as a problem (not the beta leaks website).

@Anon

Yes they said no stealth, but it has made it's way back in limited form. This was made official at the Paris press event a couple weeks ago.

Their reasoning was exactly my concern, melee DPS couldn't close the gap to take down the overpowered ranged classes, so they gave the melee DPS (Witch Hunter, Witch Elf so far) limited stealth to. As far as I know it is time limited (about 10 seconds) and is not 100% invisibility.

Beta testers have claimed it is nothing to be concerned of, but I'm fully concerned that it could grow should the ranged dominance continue.

Spidubic said...

Perhaps they should simply remove healers from the game. hehe
And no stealth.

Anonymous said...

Amazing...ranged dominance still rearing its ugly head in another Mythic game. So from your experience can shields block arrows like they do in DAOC - nearly 100%?

Anonymous said...

Amazing...ranged dominance still rearing its ugly head in another Mythic game. So from your experience can shields block arrows like they do in DAOC - nearly 100%?

Snafzg said...

You know, you can design the most amazing game mechanics in the world and it will always come down to how players use and abuse them.

They can design a healer class that is most efficient at healing when participating in the fray, but if someone wants to stand in the back spamming inefficient heals, what can Mythic do to stop that that isn't drastically prohibitive and game-breaking?

Also, I remind you that the game is in BETA, which means they are throwing all kinds of things at the players to test. Players will provide feedback and the game will eventually streamline itself. How can you be gloom and doom about something that's 3-6 months away from release and in a polish/balance phase?

Snafzg said...

You know, you can design the most amazing game mechanics in the world and it will always come down to how players use and abuse them.

They can design a healer class that is most efficient at healing when participating in the fray, but if someone wants to stand in the back spamming inefficient heals, what can Mythic do to stop that that isn't drastically prohibitive and game-breaking?

Also, I remind you that the game is in BETA, which means they are throwing all kinds of things at the players to test. Players will provide feedback and the game will eventually streamline itself. How can you be gloom and doom about something that's 3-6 months away from release and in a polish/balance phase?

heartlessgamer said...

I am not trying to be doom and gloom, so sorry if it is coming off that way.

Honestly, I am crazy happy about the videos that Ten Ton Hammer has come out with showing off the scope of keep sieges and the campaign system. If you haven't seen them yet (http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/30169).

Really, class balance is a small concern in the greater scheme of things. Every game I've played, and currently play, has it's class balance problems.

To me, right now, it is more important to see that classes can all contribute equally to a fight. Currently, the ranged standoffs eliminate almost all the melee classes and start the game down a path I don't want to see it go.

All said in the end, if the game plays well, is stable, and provides keep sieging, city campaigns, and open world RvR objectives, I'll be playing it for years to come.

So, take it at a good sign I'm not here talking about the game mechanics being complete crap and at this stage of beta all the official demos are rock solid. A lot of recent games have announced going gold before even showing off a single aspect of their end-game. Mythic at least has that part right and each convention or interview they show WAR off at has another amazing piece of the puzzle to wine and dine us with.

Snafzg said...

All right, cool. You came off a bit sour in the original article, so I was kind of defensive about it. Not that I'm a fanboy! :P

This post and one on zerging has inspired me to write a two-part entry on "zerging" and "standoff" practices in MMORPGs and how WAR can avoid them. Click my name to see part one and check back next week for part two! :)

Snafzg said...

All right, cool. You came off a bit sour in the original article, so I was kind of defensive about it. Not that I'm a fanboy! :P

This post and one on zerging has inspired me to write a two-part entry on "zerging" and "standoff" practices in MMORPGs and how WAR can avoid them. Click my name to see part one and check back next week for part two! :)

heartlessgamer said...

Heh... I'm a huge fanboy. I just get behind some games, mostly because I want them to succeed. The more I care about a game the more I am likely to bitch about it :P

Usually, my hate is reserved for repeat offending developers.

sam said...

I don't know heartless as someone who usually plays healers I have concerns as well. If the tanks have to have healers and the healers have to be next to them to keep them up then as usual in PVP healers will die in the first 3 seconds because we are almost always squishie. Then the tanks die and then the dps go after each other. If it follows that tired old formula it will only be epic for the dps classes, the healers will just be speedbumps and you won't see many of them.

If they are going to force healers into melee combat they better give them lots of defenses and make them hard as hell to kill. Otherwise prepare for the forum posts. "where are all the tanks and healers"

heartlessgamer said...

My understanding is that the current melee healers are tough as nails and provide their own DPS for a fight. That was the whole point Mythic made about WAR, healers were DPS first, healing second. WAR Healers != the classic healer archtype.

However, the melee healers are not worrying at this point. It really seems like the ranged healer classes, who do ranged DPS, are turning into the backline healers. Which fits right into the potential ranged standoff problem. At range, no one has to get dirty in order to effectively cut the enemy down.

Anonymous said...

Why do we not see melee weapons on modern battle fields as a primary weapon system? the gun has no effective defence aginst it. compare this to the days of Bowmen, when a good sheild user in heavy armor could walk through immense amounts of arrows. to make melee effective, Melee must have 2 things. 1. the ability to force hand to hand engagement. and 2. the ability to survive hostle ranged attacks long enough to force said engagement. the sheild block (and High Elf sword perry) provided requirement 2. as too requirement 1, the chaos chosen can "yoink" hostles into melee with it, but if this abilitys range isent long enough, it is of little use. the key tool is Snares, allowing a melee combatant to close the distance, if the ranged attacker can slow the melee combatant better then he can slow the ranged fighter, there will be no melee engagement, and point 2 is moot. in the end it comes down to a diffacult balance. but given this i would imagine the goal of ranged DPS units as elimination of hostle melee DPS, allowing their melee DPS to crush the tanks down, leaving the support units covered by said tanks open to death. but this sitution becomes a Rock Paper Scissiors arugment quite fast.

Anonymous said...

Why do we not see melee weapons on modern battle fields as a primary weapon system? the gun has no effective defence aginst it. compare this to the days of Bowmen, when a good sheild user in heavy armor could walk through immense amounts of arrows. to make melee effective, Melee must have 2 things. 1. the ability to force hand to hand engagement. and 2. the ability to survive hostle ranged attacks long enough to force said engagement. the sheild block (and High Elf sword perry) provided requirement 2. as too requirement 1, the chaos chosen can "yoink" hostles into melee with it, but if this abilitys range isent long enough, it is of little use. the key tool is Snares, allowing a melee combatant to close the distance, if the ranged attacker can slow the melee combatant better then he can slow the ranged fighter, there will be no melee engagement, and point 2 is moot. in the end it comes down to a diffacult balance. but given this i would imagine the goal of ranged DPS units as elimination of hostle melee DPS, allowing their melee DPS to crush the tanks down, leaving the support units covered by said tanks open to death. but this sitution becomes a Rock Paper Scissiors arugment quite fast.