Boathammer : Age of Bloggening

July 19, 2008

My Penultimate WAR Question : Scenario Balance

Filed under: Speculation — boatorious @ 6:40 am

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There’s only one big question I still have about WAR that hasn’t been answered by the E3 news. The title is just to cover my a**.

How is Mythic planning to deal with player imbalance in scenarios? The original plan (and ironically one of the things that interested me about the game) was to use NPCs, “Dogs of War” to even out the sides.

Since then, I guess, Mythic hasn’t been clear about whether they were planning on having “Dogs of War”, cross-server scenarios, or neither. Let’s examine both briefly.

Dogs of War

This would involve introducing NPC’s to even out the sides. Players generally have worried about the ability of NPC’s to compete against players — “players are always smarter”, as they say.

When Blackwing Lair came out I remember some WoW players were feeling their oats, saying that they could beat any dungeon Blizzard gave them. One of the CM’s responded and pointed out that it is ridiculously easy to create a boss that will annihilate players every time. Blizzard doesn’t make unbeatable bosses because it’s bad game design, but it’s not something that’s difficult to do.

So I do think that Mythic could make NPC’s that players could beat, say, 60% of the time.

The hard part of Dogs would probably be AI. There are a lot of different types of scenarios (good job on this Mythic) but it seems like each would need a slightly different AI regime. One way to avoid too much AI coding would be to allow players to order the Dogs around, but that could really change the focus of scenarios from PvP to micromanagement.

Cross-Server Scenarios

Right now it’s 6:15 on a saturday morning, and I’ve been at my computer since about 5:25. This is not unusual for me. So let me tell you I am a huge fan of WoW’s cross-server battlegrounds (battlegrounds in WoW are instanced PvP, equivalent to scenarios in WAR). No WoW server would ever have a battleground going at 5 AM on a saturday, but with cross-server battlegrounds there are usually at least a couple to choose from.

The criticism of cross-server scenarios has been that they make it harder to develop rivalries since your foes are never the same. This is true in a way, but ultimately I’d prefer RvR whenever I want rather than somewhat improved rivalry-making. Additionally, if there were a cross-server system implemented it would not be much harder to create a hybrid system that automatically switched to single-server scenarios when (on a server-by-server basis) there was interest to support them.

The problems and how I think Mythic will solve them

WAR has far, far more scenarios than WoW has battlegrounds. Getting them all filled even during prime time is going to be difficult. So clearly something needs to be done.

Now, the option that I’d like Mythic to choose is : both. Again, I play at weird times, and I just don’t think that all the scenarios I’d like to play could possibly have enough players (even cross-server) to fully populate them. Likewise, Dogs don’t really do it for you on a single server, because I can see starting a scenario and being the only player on either team. I don’t know if WAR would even allow you start such a scenario. Either case would not be much fun.

However, implementing both would give you enough players to populate a side, while still allowing, say, a 4v8 in a 12v12 scenario.

What will Mythic do? We know that both solutions will be a pain to implement, and it does not seem that Mythic broached the subject at E3. So I’m guessing that we’ll actually see neither option at launch. It’s evidently a pretty good thing to leave out, since I’ve seen very little talk among players about whether or not it will be included.

I do have a little hope for cross-server scenarios, however, as Mythic probably had an inkling during design that they would be necessary (as opposed to Blizzard, who seem to have been surprised by the necessity for them).

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