Showing posts with label L4D. Show all posts
Showing posts with label L4D. Show all posts

Monday, October 05, 2009

Possibly The Worst Idea

My wee mention of Left 4 Dead put me to thinking about things. Of course the thoughts aren’t terribly original but hey Echoes here.

Kyle Horner of Massively put digital pen to paper in March and offered up the idea of a Zombie Apocalypse MMO. Earlier still he mused on a Survival Horror game.

While collecting links for this post, I remembered where Syp talked about permadeath. Permadeath as he points out is a polarising thing. You either hate it or embrace it and rarely fall on either side. Unsurprising really given that a quick look at game wikis proves character death is cheap. In Champions, you take a hit to your effectiveness. In City of Heroes, technological wonders rebuild you on a molecular level as you fall, avoiding all the issues of death (probably also explaining why you can “arrest” with a broadsword to the neck). Aion, you’re immortal. Warhammer, you’re too busy to die. Warcraft, death is helpful if you want to get all the quests. There are so many ways of sidestepping the Reaper explained away by the fluff of the game, usually in the tutorial to boot, that is causes fights when applied to NPCs. Ask people about if Heroes kill or not in the Champions Online or City of Heroes role-playing forums and be ready for a firestorm.

Permadeath is based on a very basic premise though, one that exists in many games and I think could be applied well in MMOs (or it’s a horrible idea as the title of this suggests), specifically the idea that supplies are limited. There is only one of you. There are only so many resurrections available. There is no healer or mediport or other Applied Phlebotinum around to get you on your feet.

So if in fact supplies are limited, shouldn’t that apply across the game world? The Left 4 Dead example, and the idea of the post, is this. You have X amount of ammo, Y amount of friends and Z options. You need to get from A to B and there may not be a handy drop of medical supplies or pills or ammo or anything along the way. You could face hordes of mooks or a handful of specialised problems. Part of the tension comes in the fight, another part comes in the debate. Do I use my pills now or do I wait? Can I afford to unload my weapon like a madman into that mob or should I get my (unlimited) pistol? Will I survive just a little longer, saving that precious med pack for when we really need it?

In a post apocalyptic world or survival game world, supplies should be limited. Give people the ability to patch up friends into walking wounded, give people a weapon they can always use but isn’t exactly going to rock anyone's socks. Give them the tension that comes of the choices, to use what little they have now or try to hold on a little longer.

Like in Kyle's example, the best supplies and remaining scant resources are in the danger zone. You’re not. Maybe such a game would have permadeath, maybe not. Either way there would only be so many people with so much stuff and you’d have to work out how to survive on that. Logistics and tactics become paramount.

Bonus ideas

Two MMO settings where supplies are precious and choices hard. First, Sci-fi setting where humanity (or for extra points humanity are the invaders and you play something else) is on the run from an invading force. Until such time as the story allows it, it would be a game of rearguard actions and ever increasing pressure put on the survivors and their stockpiles. Escape, abandon other guilds to die, try to fight the good fight. Whatever you do, you’ve a game where people need to work together to win, otherwise they die piecemeal.

Second setting, easy one this, Post Epitaph One-Dollhouse verse. The world is clearly in tatters and people have all sorts of dangers rallied against them. Make the escape from a large city a very very long tutorial where you either learn what you need to work with people in refuge or you suffer a fate worse than death. Extra points if the game doesn’t include permadeath in a traditional way and instead offers you the chance to override a Doll. Do you take that option and take someone's body? Or do you do the honourable thing and go out shooting?


Either way the idea of limiting supplies could be awful, the one wonderful part of it is it has brought me that much closer to lunchtime. Really really awful. I remember reading about old school Everquest and guilds camping dungeons that they wanted to run. Do you think the world is ready for the ultimate co-op game? Not just an MMO but one where you really do have to shape up yourself as well as work well with others. Then again given the boards of many online games, do you really want to rely on those people for your continued survival? Would you play a game where every med pack is precious and if you don’t join the guys guarding the pharmacy, you may never see another?

I suppose in the end, supplies are limited. People will be patient with current game designs for only so long, many already have lost their patience. I guess my final question is this, would you play in a world where, in the big picture, your side has already lost? All you can do is survive and hope to turn the tide someday.

In The Name Of The Healer..

And the Tank and the Holy DPS did you see how I pwned that mob?!?

That’s right, the holy trinity. The three body system that has the person soaking the damage and keeping aggro, the person keeping everyone up and running and the person who dishes out the hurt. I’m told the Holy Trinity is boring and old fashioned and in need of a shake up. Personally, I’ve not had much experience with it. Even in games that have it, I’ve a tendency to go off and do whatever amused me rather than what I am good at or “meant” for.

The Trinity is being discussed on the Epic Slant Forums but this post is inspired by Luigrein over at Rainbow MMO. He was talking about City of Heroes and how just because your class is a tank, that doesn’t mean levelling one means you know them all. (By the way, I didn’t see your global for ages mate, I’ll tend to that tonight)

I am in total agreement with that. Last night I just got my tenth level 50 character in City of Heroes, this time my Warshade Kashlar. So as of writing this I have a max level on 6 of the 7 Hero ATs and 3 of the 7 Villain ATs. That doesn’t mean I have played everything, even in the ATs that I have supposedly finished. My friend Sephorus for the longest time had a Fire/Fire tank that he insisted was a scrapper with the wrong AT icon. Dinging 50, I was on an Imperious Task Force. We had no dedicated healer and precious little in the way of pure dps. What we did have was a lot of people who played well and had enough utility to carry the day (also lots of control). I have heard of all Kheldian taskforces, all Blaster taskforces, all Defender (broken and wrong:P) taskforces and so on and so forth. The Trinity can be undone through one word. Utility.

I think the hard part is though not everyone wants it gone. Personally I think I might enjoy some time making the healiest healer I can, or tankiest tanker. I might like my niche and I want to be able to indulge that desire wherever I play. Designers though are the ones who you have to convince and I know how.

Get the developers of all the games you love and have a massive Left 4 Dead vs marathon. Zoey is no better than Francis. Louis no less accurate than Bill. Each player is on an even footing and can pick the weapons that suit their style best, can heal with a medkit or patch up briefly with pills. They all can lay down walls of fire or lob a distracting pipe bomb. How the person plays with the tools offered is up to them. There is no dedicated healer, though someone can play that way. There is no dedicated tanker beyond “Hey you’ve slightly more health, you annoy the Witch”. There is no best weapon. You use what you have in a manner that suits yourself. Could that be applied to MMOs en masse? I haven’t a clue, though I will watch the one that recently caught my eye that might.

Levels and classes are a wonderful introduction to online games and teach you how to play in the virtual worlds that so many people love. Sooner or later though, the fun comes from having nothing but a shotgun and a prayer.