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n00b0dy

[Monthly Discussion] on RPG flaws - Month 5: "Battle Encounter Design"

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All rpgs have taken the assumption that given a good gear and skill level they should be able to win a fight 100% of the time. They adopt the holy trinity concept (healer, tank, dps) and end up with 5-10 min boss fights where they follow a predetermined macro they read from a guide. These fights allow 0 player creativity. Same combo spammed every battle, same outcome every battle, they follow a battle chorography like bots. A bot would be more efficient than a human in this case, 0 lag, perfect coordination, 100% ability to dodge aoe effects.

What if this wasn't true ? What if battles were luck based. And chance to win was based purely on luck. Better gear or playstyle will increase the chance to win but there would always the risk to outright lose regardless of your actions because luck failed.

An example from dnd that doesnt follow determined battles:

3 kobolt mages (each deal 40 dmg with ice ray every 2 sec). Aggro immunity.

vs you (3 members)
Tank: 110 hp. 3shotted.
Dps/healer: 50 hp. 2 shotted. Healer: heals 20-40 hp. Dmg dealers kill kobolts in 2-4sec.

Party compositions.
a) Random : If you get lucky, you manage to spread the damage and win the battle. Else you lose.

b) 3 Rogues : stealth, stunlock them and kill them before they react. if you get spotted before you stun, you die.

c) Holy trinity : with luck, if you spread the dmg you defeat them.

What would this allow is more chaotic situations, a party member dies, and then your party has to improvise in order to win the fight. You lose a party member, they lose a party member too.

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All rpgs... adopt the holy trinity concept (healer, tank, dps)

You talk solely about MMORPGs ?


and end up with 5-10 min boss fights where they follow a predetermined macro they read from a guide. These fights allow 0 player creativity. Same combo spammed every battle, same outcome every battle, they follow a battle chorography like bots. A bot would be more efficient than a human in this case, 0 lag, perfect coordination, 100% ability to dodge aoe effects.

The same could be said about football or any other team sport.


What if battles were luck based. And chance to win was based purely on luck.

Then I would never see a reason to play this game...

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5-10 min boss fights where they follow a predetermined macro they read from a guide

Dominant strategies are always going to emerge, and players will always be able to look them up. The only option you have here, I believe, is to make the game interesting enough and not too challenging so that the player will enjoy their unique builds or strategies without feeling the need to power play or that they're being handicapped.


n00b0dy, on 11 September 2012 - 07:20 AM, said:
What if battles were luck based. And chance to win was based purely on luck.

Then I would never see a reason to play this game...

I agree with Ashaman73. The only thing I hate more than winning based solely on luck is losing based solely on luck. If anything RPGs need to shift away from random chance, not towards it.

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would always the risk to outright lose regardless of your actions because luck failed.


Losing based solely on luck is (almost) always going to be a bad thing. Imagine a game of Tic-tac-toe. If you play perfectly against another player who also plays perfectly, no-one will ever win. Now, if you played and at the end you rolled a die, if you rolled a 1-5 the result stayed as it was (a draw), if you rolled a 6 you lost. Most of the time, because of your ability you're going to draw, but sometimes you're just going to lose.

Apply the same to any skill game. "I was about to kill the boss, but I rolled a six." "I was going to cross the finish line, but I rolled a six." "I played a perfect game, but I rolled a six."

The problem is "losing regardless of your actions." Randomness could affect the encounter, but not determine the outcome outright. In fact some of the most memorable encounters I have had in current MMOs is from things randomly going wrong and having to adapt to them.

If you get unlucky, and you still pull through and win. Then it feels rewarding.

If you get unlucky, and you try to cope, but you don't manage to quite pull it together - then you appreciate the challenge, and you see what you should have done.

If you get unlucky and there's nothing you could have done, then you just feel cheated.

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I feel that my thread (even down to the title and syntax) has been hijacked :S


Dominant strategies are always going to emerge, and players will always be able to look them up. The only option you have here, I believe, is to make the game interesting enough and not too challenging so that the player will enjoy their unique builds or strategies without feeling the need to power play or that they're being handicapped.

Chess? Edited by Orymus3

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I feel that my thread (even down to the title and syntax) has been hijacked :S

I knew something about this one looked different...

Chess?

Ok you got me there. I don't know of any dominant strategy in Chess, so that's a good exception.

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[quote name='Orymus3' timestamp='1347376474' post='4978912']
I feel that my thread (even down to the title and syntax) has been hijacked :S

I knew something about this one looked different...

Chess?

Ok you got me there. I don't know of any dominant strategy in Chess, so that's a good exception.
[/quote]

I don't think it's really an exception. It's just not as obvious. There isn't a (known) perfect way to play since there are so many variables (including the fact that is a PvP situation), but it is definitely possible to make a wrong move. A grandmaster is going to beat a run of the mill player because he knows the better strategies for different situations. There are commonly used openings because they've come to be known as close to current best practice.

It is possible to study chess and learn better moves for different situations. We're just not at the meta-gaming stage where anyone knows "this is what you -must- do" because there's so much to consider.

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It is possible to study chess and learn better moves for different situations.

Agreed, though I don't know chess tactics nearly well enough to debate their merits. Still, chess serves as a great example of a game resistant to dominant strategies, since you won't find any tactics/moves nearly as powerful or widely applicable as Halo 1's pistol or FF6's morph-nuking bosses (excluding the 4 [5? i forget] move check-mate, but that doesn't work on pros, they'll just laugh at you).

Still, the harm caused to gameplay by the existence of a dominant strategy is that it can be applied with advantage to every situation, making variance worthless. I'm pretty sure chess avoids this problem.

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The resistance of chess can be found in a lot of well-balanced games such as Starcraft 2. If the player has multiple viable options, and an ability to change strategy to adapt, then you get something going on. Small balancing mistakes quickly ruin this though.

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Chess only lacks dominant strategies when both opponents are equally skilled at playing. If a professional is playing a novice the professional has a few dominant strategies up his sleeve that give him the upper hand. In MMOs you can look at it the same way. The NPCs are not as skilled as the players and have no knowledge of how to counter the dominant strategies and level the playing field again. For this reason its generally more difficult to find dominant strategies in PvP situations. Of course there will always be dominant players and gear but its not the strategy as much as it is the player. If the AI for the game could be improved to learn some basic counters to common strategy then the game would seem less predictable.

Lets take a few examples
If you're in a PvP arena and you're facing a healer + tank + dps what are some strategies?

1. Try to reduce the damage output of the dps player and stay alive until the healer runs out of mana
2. Try to burst kill the healer and then take out the other players
3. Try to spread damage out across everyone and see if the healer can keep everyone alive
4. Try to burst the dps player and use interrupts on the healer at strategic times to make healing difficult

There are many more strategies that can be inserted here but my point is that the dominant strategy will often vary depending on your group makeup and how the opposing players are effectively countering your strategy. Players will generally try one strategy and make a decision if it will work or not. The NPC players have one strategy for all fights they attack the person who is doing the most damage or healing until a tank taunts them. I know that in a PvP environment unless the tank was being disruptive to my offensive or healing abilities I could care less about him, so why should a NPC treat a tank any different. You have to remember that the computer could be easily be programmed to be way to dominant.


Players employ many different strategies for protecting healers in battlegrounds. Healers are almost always played behind the front line of attack; if they get too close they become an easy target. If they're being attacked by a ranged player they generally try to position themselves in a location that puts the other player vulnerable to their team and hope to stay alive long enough for their team to kill the opposing player. Other strategies include hiding healers in a group of people or on a cliff where maybe you weren’t looking. Line of sight is also a common tactic in combination with quick heals. I could go on but my question is, "Why can't the same tactics apply to the raids?".

Its not about luck, its about adapting and countering attacks or defenses. Edited by bwight

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