Sunday, 11 August 2013

MMOs: Level Restriction and Threat

[Part of my MMO Design Folder]

Have you ever heard of the tale where a great knight ventured to the entrance of an evil lair then began screaming out to the world for a healer and a wizard or rogue to join him? This happens a lot in MMO's, and is in fact referred to as "the holy trinity" where one person plays the role of "tank" keeping the monster's attention while absorbing the monster's damage, the "healer" uses their skills primarily to keep the "tank" alive, and everyone else being "DPS" (damage per second) either on said monster or crowd control ("CC" used to be "DPS"). Personally I only ran into the "holy trinity" term when I began Guildwars 2, because people were either angry or happy that it wasn't there. I actually had to ask what it was, and now that I know I find it rather stupid.

I can see how it came about though, simply by how some games handle "threat" or "aggro" (as in, which of you the monster most wants to eat) and more so by the definition of specific classes to play "roles". Neverwinter Online's five classes are a good example of this:

Thief - highest single target DPS, quite squishy (killable)
Wizard - highest area effect DPS, but not as high on single target as thief. Very squishy.
Great Weapon Fighter - less squishy than the above and out performs them on their weaker side but is not as good as their specialty.
Cleric - provides healing and buffs and some decent area damage
Guardian Fighter - Tank. Only class with a shield, and only class that "blocks" instead of evades.

While most MMO's tout that you can be "whatever you want", other people will look down upon a wizard who tries to be the "tank", or a cleric focused on attacking instead of healing, or a tank who chooses not to wear armor (and be squishy) - especially is said people are more interested in being "efficient", the type that sit down and actually number crunch for the best build for their specific role and more often than not the first requirement of which is to max out your level to the highest it can be.

I feel this is the first problem. Skills and abilities can have levels, sure. You get good at doing "stuff" by doing said "stuff". Maybe Bob the sniper is more accurate than Hank, while Hank the messanger can outrun Bob. However, Bob shouldn't be able to magically become a fantastic swordsman  by baking cake. As humurous as that sounds, that is actually possible in GW2 which only has one overall level track, and not many little tracks for skills. In comparison Ultima Online offered incredible freedom. No overall levels, just skills which meant you can be a spell sword, a fisher knight, or whatever. It's a similar case in Mabinogi where skill ranks are more important than your overall level. I'm over level 2000 there but I can still lose to a bear if I don't fight perfectly.

Swordsmanship has increased by 0.1%!

The second problem is monster aggro or threat. Tank classes generally get skills to make monsters pay more attention to them instead of all the other people damaging it. Some games use strange maths to then calculate stuff like if player A did 100 damage to me, but player B healed player A for 200 HP, I should kill player B (Rappelz). For me it should be simple. Just like in real, predators (especially in a pack) should always go after the thing they can kill fastest first.


  1. Heh, maybe that would make a good comic story. The knight who boldly runs into the dragon's lair and proptly screams for help :P

    1. That happens a lot in Wizardry Online too. Maybe I should do it to try get past Baby Adrian in the Old Sewers! :P