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Wush

To use trial and error combat in mmorpgs?

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Game design is ultimately about optimising fun. However people have different preferences so lets start this by me telling you the 3 criteria I use to determine if combat is fun for me, this way we can avoid just talking about simple matters of taste.
 
Challenge (moderate)
Combat needs to occupy you, make you use enough of your mental abilities/skills that it differs from boredom,
however even though I enjoy beeing rewarded for a good performance I am not a player able to reach perfection. 
So I prefer a system that does not require perfection to stay competitive but is still challenging, a system that allows you to play stimulated but relaxed.
 
Variety
How often do you repeat the same routine? How much do circumstances change what you have do to in combat? Without variation things can easily get monotone, without the need to react you simple hit bags of hp under a timelimit not an opponent.
 
 
Possibility to experiment
I enjoy sandboxy elements and I can get  alot of fun out of combining skills and stats trying out different builds and strategies , planning and thinking to create something that works.
 
facts,deductions
-For something to be challenging requires the possibility of failure
-failure with high penality is frustrating
-failure with low or no penality does not motivate to perform well
-variety requires a diversity of possible actions and/or action patterns
-for diversity to be meaningful different situations must require different actions and/or patterns
-if only certain choices of actions/action patterns succeed the rest must fail
 
-experimentation requires multiple possible configurations to choose from 
- enough possibilities have to be valid(have the same, best effectiveness)
-different possibilities have to change the gameplay in some way to be meaningful different
 
conclusions, hypothesis, ideas
The handling of failure is very important in a game, you want the player to succeed because failure is no fun but if you try to go for the easy solution of delivering only opponents a player is sure to beat your actually reducing challenge and variety for the player. A player has to win because he makes the right decisions not because he picks on the weak, but that requires learning, the collection of information, it requires a period of failure.
Herein lies idea of trial and error combat, to create a system that allows you to fail in a controlled way, to gain information trough action (like for example simulated combat before actual combat) and such avoid a dumbing down of combat or standardization of enemies required by fast paced combat, which only leaves minimal time for thought, information processing .
 
additional questions: The amount of meaningful differences in gameplay is limited so are variety amd experimentation in competition with each other? Is the existance of non valid combinations even necessary?
 
discuss :)
 

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The usual way to deal with this is to give feedback to the player of partial failures, through a health system. If you use good tactics, you can get through the first wave of enemies with no damage. If you use bad tactics, you'll just barely make it through. That's the game telling you, "refine your timing" or "try something different". As you move forward in the game, the margin of error shrinks, so if you haven't learned what you were doing wrong yet, you eventually get a harder failure state.

 

Fast paced combat can still have good tactical complexity, see for example high level fighting game players.

 

I'm not sure what you mean by variety and experimentation being in competition. In general, I'd think the opposite: that with more variety you have more opportunity to experiment.

 

Also, besides experimentation there is also logic and intuition. Given a new problem, if the player choices are logical at some point they could be expected to simply reason out the right approach.

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As you move forward in the game, the margin of error shrinks, so if you haven't learned what you were doing wrong yet, you eventually get a harder failure state.

Fast paced combat can still have good tactical complexity, see for example high level fighting game players.

This however only works with unchanging facts, general gameplay principles, opponents that are standardised or the painful memorization of skill/move animations

If you have changing enemies and circumstances you first need to learn relevant informations and learn how to adapt your gameplay, even in graphical form the amount of information you can convey and process in a short timeframe is limited.

 

 

 


I'm not sure what you mean by variety and experimentation being in competition. In general, I'd think the opposite: that with more variety you have more opportunity to experiment.

When you create a character build you usually choose a general strategy or a repertoir of responses. If your character is about hit and run any variation can only take place within that strategy, if you already choose what defensive or offensive response you have available you already reduced the number of choices/options you have in a situation.

 


Also, besides experimentation there is also logic and intuition. Given a new problem, if the player choices are logical at some point they could be expected to simply reason out the right approach.

I hope you only accidently use the word experimentation here, because when I used the word I meant it in a larger context of figuring out a strategy, character build etc not synonym with trial and error, and even when I talk about trial and error I never mean blind guesses, but logically guided, assisted ones.

Edited by Wush

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