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Posts Tagged ‘Warrior’

Stop, Drop and Loot

One more set of thoughts spurred by World of Warcraft… though I stopped playing a week ago.

With Thumpin retired, I thought I’d play a Warrior for a little bit to see how Warrior tanking felt at low levels.  (I can’t really explain my current fascination with tanking, but it’s actually kinda fun, especially with a Bear Druid, all up front and fiesty.)  The Paladin toolbox is multifaceted, like a Druid’s, effectively letting one fill any of the “holy trinity” roles.  Thing is, compared to a Warrior, a Paladin loses focus.  Since character abilities are parceled out on a drip feed as a character levels, and the pace is somewhat consistent between classes, the Paladin (and Druid) has to cover three potential roles with the same raw number of abilities that a Warrior can use to devote to two roles (the Paladin gets 14 abilities at level 20, and the Warrior gets 13 and a passive Parry ability).  As such, a Warrior will naturally have more “DPS” and tanking tools than a level-comparable Paladin.  At high levels, with a sufficiently large toolbox, a Paladin more or less catches up simply because tanking doesn’t require a ton of tools, and even at 20, they have decent tanking tools… but Warriors naturally have more at that level.

So, Glumpin the Orc Warrior was born.  (I’ve lost the account information I used to play Mortiphoebe, so she’s still off on her own adventure.)  As it happened, I never actually got around to tanking with him, as I was thoroughly tired of the game by that point, but maybe I’ll go back someday.  In the meantime, though, the playstyle of a Warrior did make me think of something else, hence the post title.

Y’see, a Warrior seems designed to be a wrecking ball that functions best when it just keeps killing.  The “rage” mechanic (fuel for a Warrior’s combat abilities, generated by hitting stuff or being hit, mostly) means a Warrior thrives on combat, and indeed, only works best in the thick of things.  The ability Victory Rush is a nice little attack with some self-healing attached, but it’s only available for a short while after killing something.  A Warrior really wants to just be wading into battle every waking moment.  It’s a nice thematic design, and it makes playing a Warrior different from playing a careful, self-healing Paladin.

And yet, there’s this “looting” process that slows everything down a bit.  WoW trains you to rifle through the pockets or parts of whatever you kill in the hopes of material gain.  It’s actually usually a pretty quick process, but it’s a pause in the action, something that throws off the tempo.  This was most apparent with the Warriors I’ve played, as they really don’t want to be stopping to deal with the defeated, they want to go kill more things.  They want to Kill All The Things, not scavenge around like a Goblin panhandler.

So naturally, I compared that to Torchlight.  That game showers the heroes with loot and money like other arcadey dungeon crawlers (Diablo being a big influence on the genre, of course), but unlike others, your character automagically picks up the money that foes drop, simply by walking over it.  (I say automagically because the avatar doesn’t automatically bend over and pick it up, the money just appears in their pack.)  You still have to click to pick up other loot (and there’s plenty of it), but some of the process has been automated.  My guess is that someone in the pipeline figured that picking up money is a “decisionless action” and just automated it (who doesn’t pick up money, after all?).  Programmers love to do that sort of thing.  Since picking up lower quality loot can often be just a waste of time (OK, a relative waste… this is gaming after all), there might be some decisions made to leave “vendor trash” in the dungeon, so picking up non-money loot was left as a player action.

Of course, at some level, one might wonder why and how random bears and boars carry coins and/or mundane and magical gear, but we’re already down the rabbit hole there.  It’s best not to think about some things.

I also compare and contrast with games like Ratchet and Clank or Mega Man, where gameplay is all about the action, but baddies still drop goodies on defeat.  In those games, though, the loot is picked up simply by running into it.  Of course, neither has a direct analogue to WoW’s gear system, but the emphasis on action and how that affects actual gameplay is what I’m looking at here.

There’s also the RPG design ethos, with varying shades of “looting”, all the way from games where looting is often just assumed, like Final Fantasy games where you just gather the spoils automatically after combat, to something like Darkfall, which I’ve never played, but apparently has a more visceral looting system where you have to drag everything into your pack.  The range of “realism” in the looting systems is pretty wide, and each has an effect on the pacing of the gameplay.

So what if an MMO were more streamlined like a Final Fantasy offline game?  Maybe there is one out there that does this, I just don’t know of one (and there are a lot I don’t know about, so this is more about my gap in knowledge than anything).  It seems to me that an action-based game might benefit from a loot system that doesn’t require the player to stop what they are doing to pick stuff up.  My WoW Warrior might be happier if he could just go Kill Stuff without worrying about scraping together enough coin to pay the class trainers.

Maybe that means a reputation-based economy, where reputation is “spent” on gear back in town, or faction outfitters who set up characters with relevant gear.  Maybe characters just carry around first aid kits and some consumables.  Maybe it means no gear at all.  There are a lot of directions to go with this… and it still baffles me a little bit that we’re still stuck with the “kill, loot, vendor” cycle.

But, but, what of the lottery drops?  Y’know, those little things that make you say “YEAH! I totally got that rare drop that made my 8 hours of play so much more than a Skinner exercise!”  Maybe that’s just the province of treasure chests that the baddies were guarding.  Maybe reputation factions have rich patrons you can appeal to via quests or pure luck of the draw, and they operate like other landed gentry; randomly granting largess to the underlings.  Maybe today, it’s a fantastic sword.  Maybe tomorrow, it’s a shiny little bauble they have no use for (but naturally makes your character better).  Maybe they heard that you defeated the Ugly Hag of Urgurgle and they just happened into this lovely helmet that they have no use for and wouldn’t you just love to have it-howzabout-I-sign-it-for-you?  Seems like there’s storytelling potential there, too, whether it’s a genially insane upper class to please or a pantheon of unpredictable deities, there’s plenty of opportunity to create in-world lottery mechanics.

I’m thinking of pacing, mostly, but looking at why players do what they do does opens opportunities to make the mechanics match the message, and to enhance the playstyle, storytelling and worldbuilding of a RPG.  If a Warrior wants to just always be going, going, going, perhaps there’s opportunity there to let them do so, beyond just their hotbar abilities.

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Meet Mortiphoebe, Forsaken Warrior.

Mortiphoebe, Warrior Noob

Some time ago, I agreed to Ixobelle’s curious suggestion (seconded by Spinks) to try out an Undead Warrior for another spin through Azeroth.  When I read of a blogger guild, curiously named Single Abstract Noun (SAN), I thought I might poke my abnormally large nose into matters that were little of my business.  (Though as Pitrelli and Hatch rightly noted, SAN is a recipe for a wee bit of drama, as might be seen of late, but hey, it’s fascinating either way, even if I’m just on the proverbial sidelines.)  It turns out that trial accounts can’t join guilds anyway, but so it goes.

SAN plays on Argent Dawn, a “Role Playing” server, so I spent a bit of time reading up on the Forsaken and the Scarlet Crusade, trying to craft a backstory for my little undead lady who was deathly afraid of the undead (hence the name she chose for her new self, a delicious portmanteau mixture of “cute, perky and emo”… or something like that).  I’m sure my lovingly crafted story of a former Human Priest who joined the Crusade to fight her irrational fear of the Undead, only to be turned to the Undead in a botched operation, was the stuff of legend and totally original, but I wisely chickened out of playing it to the hilt.

Sure, it explained why she was a Fury Warrior, totally shunned by her former allies and the Light, driven by blind fury to destroy those nasty tricksy Undead that she was now surrounded by… and it even played into my own rather soloist tendencies, but in practice, since she couldn’t attack those of her own newly adopted faction, it just didn’t work out.

I had grand notions of writing a pair of diaries from her point of view, one of her old life, one of her new one, reacting to her old diary and the new circumstances in which she rather uncomfortably found herself.  I took a LOT of screenshots (637) that could have helped this endeavor, and may get to it someday.  I still think it could be a fun writing exercise, but with my lack of time and the difficulties it provided in actually Playing a Role, I didn’t bother with it.  Ultimately, I’d like to write my own stories, anyway.  Ah, the troubles with Role Playing…

When a random Forsaken player kneeled to Mortiphoebe, that sealed the deal.  If a random stranger in an Undead body took the time to welcome my little zombie into the fold, well, the RP was irrevocably broken, and I just went ahead and played the dang game.  See, Mortiphoebe as I’d imagined her would not have calmly nodded at the stranger as I told her to in the game, she’d have whipped out her two handed sword and lopped his ugly little Undead head clean off and then stomped on the rest of the corpse and scattered the bones, then shrieked until she was hoarse, running into the forest.  (Of course, that she didn’t do that to the NPCs was easily attributed to shock and the fact that they didn’t actively talk to her.  It’s a whole new level of interaction when a player takes the time to stop and do something welcoming.)  Irrational paranoia and fear of your own faction doesn’t work in the WoW RP framework, even if they weren’t trope-laden emo gibberish to start with.

*ahem*

Sooo… I’ve played another ten day trial with this character, hot on the heels of playing Allods Online.  I’ve gathered some notes of comparison, and have a few things I’d like to dig into from a game design and art perspective.  That means more articles in this vein, likely all titled “Dead Again: Subtitle”… and lest one get the impression this is now a WoW blog, I’m done with the ten day trial, with no current intention of proceeding further.  I have a few other articles in mind that I’ll toss in between the DA series, too.

After that, I hear the Meridians are worth exploring, and I really want to see what I can tease out of the 59th one.

Since that’s sort of what I do.  Play, analyze, write.  It’s like going to a movie; I’m trained in CG animation, I can’t help but analyze the things.  It’s really hard to just go along for the ride.

In the meantime, though, a quick vignette that might explain a lot about just how hapless I was.  I tried out the Random Dungeon Finder when the tutorial tips prompted me to at level 16.  I wound up in Ragefire Chasm with some of those other players.  It turned out to be fun (gasp!), and we steamrolled the boss.  It was my last night of the trial, so I signed on for another random dungeon, and we wound up in Deadmines… whereupon, after downing one boss, we promptly wandered into a pack of goblins and wound up wiping.  I’ll write more on that later, but what struck me as interesting was after that.

I “released my spirit” and wound up in a graveyard out in Westfall.  I’d never been there before, so I was totally lost.  I saw a player outnumbered by some sort of piggish bipeds, so I went to investigate.  Her guild tag proclaimed her to be a part of SAN, so I figured I’d go help, though it took me a while to get there.  I killed one of her assailants and then wandered off again into the unfamiliar hills.  She thanked me and I nodded.

Only after I looked back did I realize that she was playing a Gnomish character.  Y’know, one of those Alliance mooks.  It must have been baffling for her, seeing a Forsaken come in and help, then wander off.  What can I say?  I was lost.  Um… I was Alliance once?  For the Alliance? Rah, rah, team?  Gooooo Varian?  Nice ‘do, who does your hair?

So, Steelspark of SAN, sorry it took me a while to get there to help (but you survived, which is all I was really angling to help with).  Here’s hoping your evening went well.  Don’t mind the unguilded teenaged Forsaken who looked lost and incompetent.  First impressions can be misleading… or accurate.  It’s not worth worrying about which.

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