Saturday, September 19, 2009

Mages and Platemail

I've had a few theories about 'the perfect MMO' and what it would involve. Often, these actually go the opposite direction, and devolve into what an MMO shouldn't have. To me, there are far too many standards that are followed for the sake of following standards, and there needs to be a game that comes along and breaks every single mold, just for the sake of doing so. Warhammer is interesting, because they've introduced about two new elements to gameplay, and everyone is jumping around acting like the game is revolutionary.

Public Quests are neat, and XP for killing people probably didn't even start in Warhammer. Renown is basically honor, so that's not really new either. What I want to see in the next MMO is mages wearing platemail. I don't mean Deathknights, I mean any class can wear any piece of armor at any time. There would need to be guidelines, but nothing set in stone. That there's some magical barrier preventing me from putting chainmail on a priest is redonkulous. Each item should have stats tailored to fit the intended role (+INT on cloth, +AGI on leather), but if you want to be a mage wearing plate from head to toe, go for it!

Let's take a closer look. For starters, the fact that a rogue and tank move at the exact same running speed as every single other person on the server is stupid. Having armors use a weight system is a step in the right direction. Tanks should naturally move slower, because they have so much crap on, plus they're dragging a shield around as well. Stats like +STR could offset this, so your tank isn't permanently hamstringed. Start with a base 'naked running speed', and for every piece of platemail you wear you're slowed down by 4%... chain is 3, leather 2, cloth 1. See how easy that was? Of course everyone is already getting upset, because they think that I'm implying that everyone would be drastically slowed down from their current speed, but I'm talking about a complete overhaul from scratch. Of course it should make sense that my tank can run faster with nothing on. If he was running from point A to point B and got caught with his pants down, though, he'd pay the price. You could then factor in things like +STR or +AGI adding a movement bonus, and the penalty would cancel out if you geared 'PROPERLY'. Hell, you could even give yourself an edge if you chose to wear one or two pieces of cloth (or nothing), on your hands or wrists as a rogue.

Casters can wear chainmail, but they have a baseline "naked" global cooldown rate. Each piece of leather or plate they wear encumbers their casting speed, and they probably wouldn't want to wear plate anyway because the +STA and +STR stats don't do much for them, but there's no magical reason why they couldn't.

If you want to take armor a step even further, give each slot a specific 'use'. Boots could affect knockdown and stealth. Don't like being knocked on your ass as a mage? Wear plate boots. But a rogue will be KLONK KLONK KLONK-ing everywhere they walk, so it wouldn't be useful in stealth. Leather and cloth chest pieces allow for greater flexibility in combat, and therefore affect your dodge chance if worn. A platemail helm means you don't have to worry so much about deflecting blows to the head, and are therefore free to focus more of your attention on studying your opponents attacks more closely (+parry). Perhaps it could vary for each class; each item slot having different benefits per class. Mages wearing a plate helm would have the same 'confidence' in wearing a plate helm, but it would increase their chance to resist spell casting delay or knockback. It would open whole new talent builds! Warlocks soloing could slap a few pieces of plate on, and skip those talent points they spent is preventing knockback for drain tanking in the wild. In an instance or raid, they shouldn't be taking hits to the face anyway, so they could slap their cloth +damage gear on, and stand in the back DoTting and nuking away, with those talent points not going to 'waste' in a raid setting.

Similarly, being able to wield a 2h Axe, but being baffled by the concept of a 2h Sword makes no sense at all. I can hold a polearm, but those staves are just crazy! Daggers are okay for my hunter, but if the blade is longer than 6 inches, I might get confused and try to the hold the wrong end!

Give certain classes inherent bonuses to using certain weapons. Rogues get armor penetration with a dagger; Paladins are such holy goodie-goodies that if they slay an opponent with an axe, they're so overcome with remorse at the sight of the mess they've created from another living being that they're stunned for 2 seconds. Yet if a holy paladin wants to wield a staff with +healing LET THEM. Maybe a hunter has a better +hit or +crit chance with guns and bows, but a priest with +250 INT can't figure out where the trigger on a rifle is? Really?

This would be extra code to implement, but in the end, would make choosing gear a more thoughtful process. You'd have to weigh the pros and cons of each item, instead of just saying 'grats clothies' and moving on to the next pull.

Of course, it would be stupid of me to pretend I don't know why they do this. Loot-whoring noobs would roll need on everything if they were given the chance to. BUT MY MAGE NEEDS TO DUAL WIELD SHIELDS! Aside from the fact that seeing a mage in Arena wearing two shields would be double the awesome, you could just place a 5 second penalty on casting spells while wearing a shield and the problem solves itself. If said mage wants to channel 10 second frost novas, LET HIM. The game should reward players who are intelligent enough to wear gear that benefits their class, but if a certain clever user realizes that wearing cloth shoulder pads increases his melee attack speed on his rogue just enough to make it worth losing his 'normal' stats on that item, then let him play how he wants to. Power to the people, etc etc etc...

Similarly, it would open the door for interesting gear creation by the devs as well. Instead of every single piece of gear getting the 'default stats', certain greens that pop up in WoW would actually make sense. Ever clear the basement of Kara and get plate wrists '...of the Falcon' (+AGI and +INT) or some crap that suck for tanks and paladins alike? A mage in the raid could take a look and say "Hmm... +INT is always nice, and the +AGI would drop my GCD by .2 sec... sure, I'll take those for boss fights where I'm just nuking, and every second counts".

I think at first, people would be paralyzed by so many options, and the system would take getting used to. Once established, though, the system would work itself out, and seeing a mage rolling on plate boots or a chainmail helm wouldn't be such a big deal, especially since "Hey Mr. Asshole Hunter, thanks for taking the leather, the only type of armor I can wear as a Rogue" would become a thing of the past. Woo! Hunter weapons for everyone!


Anonymous said...

What you are basically suggesting is adding real role playing rule sets to MMO's.

in anything with even half assed D&D rules there is noting stopping you from wearing anything or wielding anything. except for all the restrictions, bonuses, and negatives for doing so.
you mentioned a few of them. casters can wear heavier armor, but it fucks up their casting. (normally anything higher then cloth has a increased chance of spell casting failure) for fighting classes wearing too heavy of armor makes it so you attack less efficiently. (your movements are too encumbered by your armor)
thats not to say that all of them let you wear whatever from the start. some of it you have to learn (buy?) the skill/training/ability which seems silly in itself. you need to teach me to put on armor? or perhaps there is a bonus you get to your penalties if you received the training for fighting in the armor.

some of this works out to be silly as well. my monk can rock your face with gloves on, but give me a baseball bat and i suddenly can't hit anything with it.

i believe that the current MMO's loosely follow this because throwing an entire huge rule set at them will make the games more complicated for new people.
they sorta implemented the rules, but instead of putting in penalties they just blanket covered everything with a NO.

oh and at that point the game is more then rock paper scissors.

Anonymous said...

I love the idea! I certainly would like such a game... but, to be honest, I still struggle in figuring out which cloth item is better when something new drops. Knowing what's better between sta, int, spell power, spi, etc, is still confusing.

Why is it that there are no quests in the early levels when greens start to drops to educate you on what types of stats are out there, and which ones are better for your class and how much of an impact +1 does on anything?

Hatch said...

Oh my god I want to dual-wield shields!

Hatch said...

For advanced users, the idea would be great. But in a game like wow with 11 million subscribers, 10 million of whom are melee hunters and +spirit-geared warriors, you'd basically be destroying any hope that I new player will be able to gear themselves. You'd have to put a lot of in-game tutoring in there to guide new players.

This is actually the #1 thing I think wow is missing. It needs more in-game education and tutorials, so a new player is given more guidance than "here's 3 moves and a sword, go talk to the guy with the punctuation mark over his head". Make them interesting, and skippable for experts. Audio you can listen to while grinding? Cutscenes? A training questline? Something.

Anonymous said...

audio cutscenes that are activated at certain icons and play as you quest around the first level, along the lines of the developer's diaries in Half Life 2 (the first place i ever came across one) would be awesome for the 'valley of trials' type areas in the game.

For those still stuck between "item A or item B", i heartily recommend Ratings Buster. It shows each stat, and a breakdown compared to what you're wearing.

this item has:

+2 STA
-2 AP
+4 INT
-.07 spell crit


then you just glance at the stats, decide what's important based on the tradeoffs, and run along ;)

David said...

While this seems like a great idea, I think it would be really, really hard to implement.

1) The aforementioned loot whore problem.

2) Inventory issues. Would we just eliminate bag space and bank space so that I could accumulate every kind of armor piece for every situation?

3) Balancing. Blizzard can barely balance their game as it is. When you add more possible combinations and iterations, or 'deltas' (as the developers call them in an effort to sound like they know what they're doing). They don't have time to balance dual-shield mages against ham-hock wielding priest-rogues.

4)Min-maxers will just end up wearing what is best for their spec or class - plate for warriors would become a 'cookie-cutter' spec. Endgame pve and pvp would be the same as before

Of course, in a new MMO it might work, but implementing all these (very good) ideas in a game would be a development and balancing headache for the poor guys that try to make it.

Anonymous said...

Hey so I missed a couple days and I'm making up for lost posts!!

Alright this whole issue of "wear what you want"...

The number 1 reason you can't do this: Hybrid classes.

Classes capable of accessing all or several functions of combat. Gearing hybrids is already a major issue. Look at what has happened since the term "spellpower" has taken a front seat. Hybrid classes DOMINATE. It isn't because of their ability's that retardins are so potent (well partially it is). But their gear grants them a statistical edge because literally every stat feeds into every move in their spellbook.

Allowing hybrids to adjust their gear would make them literally insane. Look at it like this: Paladins need plate gear to heal, that gear requires stam/int/crit/spellpower. Slap a set of that garbage on a boomkin with +400% armor. You would be facing a caster with zero casting limitations, 40k armor, and the ability to heal while casting. Best of luck huntards, hope that arcane shot gets that Rejuv every time O.o

Anonymous said...

Maaaan, a arcane mage with shields and their cursive target tracking arcane missles wouldboe horrific.

Sorry, that's just where my brain instantly headed when you said the reduced casting time thing.

...he'd be a missle turret.

Melf_Himself said...

The thing with this is that you'll have 2 groups of people: those that wear something non-optimal, and those that wear the "correct" stuff.

The latter group will rage at the former and refuse to group with them.

I can't remember exactly who said it, but I remember reading a quote that players generally choose the stupidest option available to them (assuming they don't read the forums etc).

Anonymous said...

With regards to armor class affecting running/walking speed and having penalties (slow, weak defense, slow casting speed, etc.), it has been and still is being done by Lineage II and RF Online.

Khatib said...

I see what you're saying there Iso, but it'd have to be built into the game from the ground up. There's NO way WoW could successfully transition to that system from what they have now. The balance would NEVER happen. Well, at least not in the first 6 months, probably not in the first year.

Anonymous said...

The first anonymous post mentioned using the paper RPG rules set to help balance. I think it worth mentioning that the idea of class specific gear was first introduced in the original D&D/AD&D rules. While I know I would greatly enjoy a more realistic gearing system (even a retard knows how to put on a helmet) the lore-based justification for class specific clothing was taken from the original balance of mages can't cast in metal=it is against a cleric's religion to cut someone=thieves can't sneak in metal=warriors are too dumb to read. I think the bigger issue is that MMO developers need to recognize that their player base has expanded beyond the paper and dice crowd. So much time is spent creating a lore-rich, story based experience that millions of grinders never see.

For me, bring on fixed exp, all equppable gear, realistic crafting, and anything else that will get people back in instances. That is where is story is, and where the game is. But then, I am paper and dice, and in the minority.

Maniac said...

Ixo, as a teenage Dungeons and Dragons pen n paper rollplayer, I recall that any class could wear any armour. There were penalties, so a magic user would not wear plate because the penalties would be so servere as to be pointless. So your suggestions are totally spot on and what really makes MMO makers look really dumb is that these mechanisms were in Dungeons and Dragons back in 1984, and nearly all fantasy MMOs today are based on the DnD pen n paper RPGs... so WTF?

Bri said...

I see this as a game balance nightmare.

JediOfTheShire said...

"I see this as a game balance nightmare." (Bri)

I don't understand why everyone seems so insistent in mashing PvE and PvP together in their games. In WoW as a PvE player I do NOT want to group with someone in PvP gear because nine times out of ten they're extremely impatient and rude and just want to wash their hands of the PvE game and get back to their PvP. Then I can't PvP myself effectively because I have no resilience so someone with similar stats will crit me twice as often and for twice as much.

Look at EverQuest. PvP-wise it was/is the most unbalanced game known to man. All you have to do is get off one root/snare on a melee class and it was game over for them because they could do nothing while you kited them around, and fear was even more disturbing (Fear-kiting in PvP anyone?) than any WoW players could possibly imagine.

Why did the game still work? Because it didn't pretend to be a PvE AND PvP game. It's amazing what fun you can have playing with people against computers without ever needing the option to kill your friends.

Counterstrike, Halo, and Call of Duty, have all been wildly successful PvP games, and even WarCraft3 has a pretty active PvP community on Why shouldn't this work in an MMO? Make your game PvE-only and suddenly you can pretty much throw class balance out the window. PRETTY much. Not completely! ;) Let someone pick a character they enjoy and then let them play that character without tweaking their more powerful abilities to "keep things even" with other players.

In EverQuest no one was better than a Wizard at pure nuke dps, and that was okay because you didn't always want nuke dps. The threat game was important. In WoW you don't see that kind of nuance in instances and so you have to balance dps to make sure everyone is at about the same dps. A good tank will basically be able to hold aggro on every mob no matter what your dps do, so dps is just supposed to burn burn burn the entire time and just save cooldowns for rough patches.

I'm getting distracted so I think I'll go write something on my own blog. Good article though! I would enjoy playing a mage dual-wielding shields and wearing plate! :D

Anonymous said...

"a mage in Arena wearing two shields would be double the awesome"

Sold... I can never get a Frost Nova off before I am ganked anyway... might as well plonk them on the head with my shields

Lerbic said...

Nice idea, and actually some of it isnt that new, the MUD I used to play allowed any class to wear any armour, had movement penalties for low str characters wearing plate, not speed, but MUDs had movement points, so a plate mage could run just as fast, but not for as long without needing to rest

IIRC, there was a dodge penalty for carrying heavy equipment too

It also had certain boots that increased stealth (or made you untrackable) etc....

I'd probably play a game like that again, but that game isnt WoW, perhaps thats an idea that might work for a different game, but to retro-fit and balance a different "gear engine" to an existing game would be almost impossible

JediOfTheShire said...

Well if anyone's going to read this then I feel like I should mention that the current restrictions on weapon/armor use came about probably as a direct result of the penalties that came before in MUDs and D&D. I think it's fair to say that they made the transition from discouraging players to use armor ill-suited to their abilities to just flat out restricting players to the useful gear.

It's just a simpler way of doing things, and simplification is something that's pretty big right now. When was the last time you reached for a reagent for a standard spell that you cast over and over again in a game? In this same way the spellcasting penalties for medium/heavy armor are likely so significant as to basically make wearing them as a caster useless, so the devs prob'ly said to themselves why even bother letting them equip it anymore? There really is no point, is there?

And I think they're right- for the most part. Every once in a while it could be fun to throw some plate on your mage and blink around a BG soaking up hits like you would never be able to if you wanted to actually do damage, but besides that I'm not sure there's really much point.