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Eric: City of Heroes and the Fallacy of Balance

I made a few mentions about the disadvantages that automated MassMOGs like City of Heroes have compared with traditional role playing, last night. While it's really freaking cool to have a game where everyone gets to run out and do things and in effect do improv acting whilst having some structure to it, there is also a serious advantage to having a gamemaster sitting at the head of the table shifting the world to match up to the needs of the players and the drama of the moment. It is wholly impossible to have a game like City of Heroes work like that except by making every mission an instanced mission, and I don't see that happening. It loses all the benefits (and they are many) of having a world where people are out doing things together and in parallel.

However, there are also things that City of Heroes and its developers could be doing that would bring the experience closer both to the tabletop roleplaying game experience, and -- much more importantly -- to bring it closer to the experience of comic books in general. However, they have fallen into a fallacy in their core design principles which unfortunately makes that harder.

Understand, I'm less frustrated with the game now than I was the last time I wrote about something that bugged me. I'm actively hopeful that bows will reignite my full CoH spark -- I have lots of ideas about them. (If they restrict access to bows to high level players a la the Kheldians, on the other hand, I'll just cancel. But that's another discussion.) Still, this is something that I think they really need to look at: namely, the fallacy of Balance.

This particular snark got triggered after reading an interview that Positron, one of the game developers, gave to an independent website. One of the questions and answers given was:

I've been playing City of Heroes since release. The game is still as fun for me today as it was a year ago when I started playing...however, I do see some clamping down on play styles. Power leveling being the most obvious one, the suppression change to travel powers (quick in and out strikes) and recent comments about pulling folks in off the streets and getting them back into the missions. Are there any other methods of play that you personally feel are detrimental to the game mechanics and design you and your team have put in place?

You pretty much hit the nail on the head with the playstyles we see as detrimental. We want to make the game fun in the long-term, so the changes we are making are so that the game never becomes tediously easy. If a Tanker is able to solo an Archvillain, well, that is something that none of the other Archetypes can do... his risk isn't matching his reward. We want the risk to match the reward, and for players to actually partake in some of the stories and story arcs we have in the game. That means making missions more viable and brining a greater balance to the Archetypes.

It's an understandable sentiment, and it clearly has informed everything that the Cryptic Studios team has done in developing the game. You need to balance the different Archetypes so that no one Archetype can get rewards for lower risk than others can get. That seems very basic. Also, this is a social game, and they very much want to encourage people to team up, to make connections, to do things together. (The latter is as much for economic reasons as anything else -- in MassMOGs, more people who group well and join guilds keep their subscriptions than casual players who come in, hit things and leave.)

It's also pretty old wrong. It breaks the comic book genre. And it breaks one of the core best practices RPG design -- balancing the game to the players you have, rather than forcing the players to adapt to meet your game's needs.

Take the example given. It's a clear concern when a Tanker can solo an Archvillain. Translated from MassMOG into English, this means it's a problem when a Tanker can fight and defeat an Archvillain without actually having to build a team for that purpose. If one looks back to Dungeons and Dragons, it's like having the single Paladin who can kill the ancient Red Dragon without any help -- it breaks the mechanics of the game.

Here's the thing, though. Superman, if he were a City of Heroes character, is a Tanker. Specifically, in fact. You can build 9/10ths of Superman in the game now -- the super strength, the invulnerability, the flying, even (at high levels) the heat vision. This design mandate suggests that Superman needs the Justice League to defeat Lex Luthor.

Batman would be a Martial Arts/Super Reflexes Scrapper, more or less. This suggests that Batman couldn't defeat the Joker on his own. He would need the Justice League.

But that isn't how the genre works. At all. Superman can defeat Lex Luthor. He does. Often. Batman can defeat the Joker without even Robin's help. Hell, Spider-Man can defeat Doctor Doom by himself, when the pair appear in Spider-Man's comic book.

And yet, when Doctor Doom appears in The Fantastic Four, he's harder to fight. It takes all four members to beat him. When he appears in the Avengers, he can potentially beat six or eight heroes all as or more powerful than Spider-Man. Lex Luthor can threaten the entire Justice League credibly, even though last week Superman beat him by himself.

Villains scale.

When you have eight heroes fighting one Archvillain, that Archvillain scales. No single hero can beat him. But when that Archvillain appears in the solo comic book title of one of those heroes, that Archvillain can be defeated by the single hero. Is it inconsistent? Yes. But it's an accepted part of the genre because it has to be.

City of Heroes, on the other hand, is so emphasizing team play over solo play, that they consider it a break in design when a player manages to model Superman well enough that he can defeat an Archvillain by himself. Superman shouldn't be able to do that, because in this game the Human Torch can't. In order to win, you have to team.

And that's genre-breaking. That's failing to adapt to the players you have. That's failure to scale. It's something every gamemaster and comic book writer does as an absolute matter of course, and it's something City of Heroes doesn't do well at all.

It's started to improve matters -- the game now has an in-game 'switch' that lets you increase the difficulty level of your missions, so expert players can get more challenge. However, it fails in this core issue: it requires teaming, to the point where if players who choose to Solo can achieve the ends of the major arcs on their own, it's considered a bug.

Here's how it should work: every mission a hero is given by a contact should be soloable, except in those very rare circumstances where (for example) you need bombs disarmed simultaneously. And those rare circumstances should be clearly spelled out -- possibly with specific coding -- before the player accepts the mission. Archvillains, in particular, should be designed to adapt their abilities and their AI based on the archetype of the solo hero fighting them... or should switch to "team" mode if more than one hero goes after them.

Does this mean that to 'balance' the game, every Archvillain has to be soloable by every hero? No. There is a real and clear place for both skill in character development and in design goals. It makes perfect sense for Archvillains to be challenging enough that you really need to design a well tuned solo character to fight them. And, should they be too much, it makes perfect sense for that hero to need to call friends to win. That fits the genre and rewards both skill and priority.

Is there a place for team-only missions? Absolutely. There is a social aspect to this game, and it should be encouraged. However, they have a mechanism for team-only missions already: they have Task Forces that require a certain number of characters. They have Trial Zones that require a certain number of players. They have Hazard Zones that explicitly need teams to be survivable. They should increase the numbers of those, and increase their appeal. But, for the individual heroes who are taking on missions from their individual contacts, the style of the game they play should adapt to what the player wants. Some people really, really like soloing. They want to be able to play the game on their own terms, in their own hours, without trying to coordinate with a supergroup or put up with the vagaries of ad hoc team construction.

But. Let's say for the sake of argument that this is too complex. There are too many Archvillains for multiple AI configurations and the like. I can see this happening, very easily. Let's say it's just too hard to tailor the abilities of the opposition to whether or not just one hero is fighting them versus six.

Why not go the other route? Why not improve the solo heroes. That's genre specific too -- Superman is clearly more powerful and competent in his own comic than he is in Justice League, lest he make the other heroes irrelevant. When a given hero enters a mission solo, let his ability get an automatic buff. Let his damage dealt, his accuracy, his resistance, his dodging and so forth increase -- with fewer buffs granted depending on what level of difficulty is. This wouldn't work on the street, of course -- on the street, you're never really solo. But inside of a mission, no other heroes can come in unless invited. So why shouldn't your hero be more effective. If you reduce the experience that solo heroes get, because they're more powerful, you give people a strong mechanical reason to do the team thing, still. If, despite the buffs, a given mission is too hard, you can always call on friends, have them come in, and automatically turn the buffs off as part of it. This would be simple to do. Hell, this would be trivial to do. Most of the energy needed would be in tailoring the different buffs for the different archetypes.

City of Heroes should have room for this style of play. City of Heroes should have room for Superman, or Batman, or Spider-Man. Not just the Justice League or the Avengers. As long as the emphasis is on reducing abilities to ensure people can't solo effectively with certain archetypes, instead of tweaking the other archetypes so they can solo effectively, the dynamics of balance are going to be fallacious... and the players are going to have to adapt to a game that doesn't want to adapt to them.

And that's not a good thing.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at June 23, 2005 12:06 PM


Comment from: Kirath posted at June 23, 2005 2:31 PM

New poster here, and i just want to say:


Hehe, sorry, that one's from the SWG official forums.. I don't actually remember what it stands for, but essentially means "I so totally agree with you. Dude."

Comment from: Kazriko Redclaw posted at June 23, 2005 2:57 PM

Soloing in these styles of games is kind of fun. In FF11 there are two classes that are skilled at soloing to some degree or another. Beastmaster and Red Mage. Beastmaster is able to go from the first level all the way up to the maximum level just by soloing. As a balance to this, they're unsuitable for almost any role in a party. Red Mages can solo given alot of time and skill. They can't really level up quickly enough by soloing to make it worthwhile, so they typically stick to parties for everything but quests.

Perhaps they need to make a primarily-soloing class in the game. Unfortunately, I think it's structured so that this would be difficult. In FFXI you can trade classes on your characters as much as you want. Making a solo class that is useless for party combat would probably not go over as well in a game where you cannot change your class.

Comment from: Zaq posted at June 23, 2005 3:36 PM

Now, I say this with the caveat that I've never actually PLAYED City of Heroes, but I've read quite a bit about it and talked with some friends who play, so I hope I have some clue what I'm saying. (If what I'm saying makes no sense, that's why, and I sincerely apologize.)

Anyway, perhaps one of the problems is that there's very little leeway in how you can and do build your characters... once you pick your Archetype and a basic build, that's about it. My MMO game of choice, the old dinosaur Ragnarok Online (I know, I know.), really doesn't have this problem; you can build your character any number of different ways, no matter what class you play. Take for example the Priest... it's "intended" to be a full-support class, doing pretty much zero damage to the enemy but healing and buffing your partymates endlessly (and it's true, a party with a competent Priest will survive a hell of a lot longer than a priestless one, more often than not). These priests are absolutely wonderful to have in a party, but are next to worthless solo. However, if you so desire, it's possible to sacrifice some (though not all) of your support tendencies and make a priest who can dish out some pretty heavy damage through their exorcism-type skills... these priests can solo to some extent, but can also be very effective as a primary attacker and a secondary healer in a party. Or, if you get really creative, you can take points out of Intelligence and into Strength and Agility, and make a battle priest who can heal and buff himself, and accordingly, he can solo really really well, for a very long time. However, if you put them in a party, they run out of mana WAY too fast to support their comrades decently, and since they can take care of themselves anyway, they don't do very well when paired up with someone else. Also, if you're in a competition to outdamage a boss monster and claim the MVP label, a battle priest won't be able to outdamage a Knight or a battle-build Blacksmith. However, if they're just level grinding or item hunting, the battle priest will cost a LOT less money and be able to go a LOT longer than pretty much any other class. I use the Priest as an example, but you can do that with pretty much any class in the game (which is one reason I still love playing it despite its numerous and obvious shortcomings.)... Perhaps if CoH allowed more creativity in the builds like that, then soloing wouldn't be such a probelm... you could make a character who would be helpless on his own but be absurdly strong in a party, you could make someone who would have a LOT of trouble with any team-based missions but who could go on their own and be very powerful while doing so, you could have sort of a compromise, or you could come up with other crazy builds. I have no clue how that would be implemented, but it would seem to solve the problem. Maybe.

As I said, I only kind of know what I'm talking about.

Comment from: KJToo posted at June 23, 2005 3:40 PM

Interesting. I've been a comic reader since I was old enough to hold one in my hands and I've never considered how writers scale the abilities and effectiveness of villains and heroes based on the dynamic of the story. Then again, I haven't really looked at comic books with anything approaching a critical eye, so do forgive me my oversight.

As someone who recently resubscribed to CoH after a brief lapse, I appreciate the thought you've put into this essay. I would estimate that 50% or more of the time, I'm running solo, so I was nodding my head as I read. My blaster faced Dr. Vahzilok solo just last week and barely managed to escape with his logic circuits intact. Hero and villain went toe-to-toe for less than 30 seconds before the former pulled the plug. My blaster was nearly defeated, while the bad doctor wasn't even winded.

Of course, as you point out, that's the way archvillain encounters are designed. Nevermind the fact that it takes the "super" out of superhero.

Comment from: Remus Shepherd posted at June 23, 2005 3:40 PM

In the early days of CoH, I suggested a 'Loner' hero archetype that would gain power when in a mission alone. It was seen as 'too powerful', so much so that everyone would want to play a Loner and nobody would want to play normal heroes.

I still think the Loner hero is a good idea, even if it goes against several of the standard MMOG design principles. Well, if any game devs can think outside of the box, hopefully the CoH devs will.

Comment from: KJToo posted at June 23, 2005 3:55 PM

Zaq, it is possible to build very different types of heroes within a particular archetype, and even two heroes with identical power pools can vary in their roles (though not quite so drastically) depending upon the powers that are chosen within those pools.

I've been able to solo pretty effectively with all of the basic archetypes in CoH, though I've had to consciously adjust my tactics from one to the other.

In groups, I find that I play very different roles, even with two characters of the same archetype. My two defenders, for example, cannot play the same role in a team. It simply doesn't work. Their power sets are completely different, with one running almost exclusively in defensive mode and the other is generally closer to the front lines, providing buffs and going mano a mano with the villains.

Of course, I have zero experience with Ragnarok Online, so I'm completely unfamiliar with just how much leeway that system offered. I have, however, been very pleased with the amount of diversity I've seen among the fourteen characters I created in City of Heroes, and I think that there's some misperception if you've gotten the impression that it allows "very little leeway" in building characters.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at June 23, 2005 4:56 PM

Well, the idea is great, in theory. But I don't know if the practice is there yet.

The idea of scaling encounters is nothing new at all. The first game I can think of that tried the concept was Lunar: the Silver Star for the Sega CD, although they only did it for bosses. The first game in my memory that did it over the whole game was Final Fantasy VIII. There are several others of the sort.

The problem, in every case, is that there were cheats to break the game even worse than if there were constant levels. Most notable was FF8, where the cheat was to actually win battles without gaining experience (one command allowed you to do so), allowing you to build up abilities that gave you buffs disproportionately powerful to your level.

If you give me any sample idea of how to make it work, I can show you how easy it would be to break the system or how difficult it would be to code. As one programmer griped to me at E3 after I made a comment on a game's controls, "Easy for you to say; you're not the one writing the code."

The idea's not bad, but can NCSoft and Cryptic incorporate something fair and robust?

Comment from: KJToo posted at June 23, 2005 5:06 PM

Encounters are already scaled to the level of the hero and the size of the group attempting a missions. The number of opponents you face in a given mission will vary greatly depending on how many heroes are on the team. The level of opponents faced also varies based on location. An Outcast Brawler in one area is going to be significantly tougher than a similar Outcast Brawler in another. The means to scale already exist, they would just need to be applied to archvillains.

Comment from: Zaq posted at June 23, 2005 5:43 PM

KJToo: If that's the case, then obviously I have no clue what I'm talking about. I'd thought I had done a fair bit of research on CoH, but clearly it's no substitute for experience. I stand corrected.

Comment from: KJToo posted at June 23, 2005 6:10 PM

Zaq, my own experience with MMOGs is somewhat limited. I've played only City of Heroes, Star Wars Galaxies and the now-defunct Earth & Beyond.

I can understand where – when compared with games that allow you to directly adjust attributes like Strength, Agility and Intelligence as a character evolves – the ability to affect that degree of change in City of Heroes might seem negligible. However, since pretty much everything you can or cannot accomplish in CoH depends on your powers, it is how the powers are chosen and "slotted" that ultimately determines their effectiveness.

Consider two heroes with the same blasting power. One of the heroes devotes slots to reducing the recharge time and endurance cost of that power, while the other uses the slots to increase the damage dealt and the amount of knockback that power delivers. When the heroes use this power, you're going to see some different results. The first hero is going to be able to fire his blast quickly, which may be more effective in a large group of enemies. The second hero, on the other hand, might be overwhelmed by that same group because he's able to dish out the damage, but not fast enough. Against a smaller group, though, he may be more effective, as he's able to take out the heavy hitters with less effort.

Of course, this observation is rendered all but moot by the fact that 90% of the time, the hero is dropping damage enhancements in every single slot available for that blast power. ;-)

Comment from: Dave Van Domelen posted at June 23, 2005 7:15 PM

So, you're saying you want your villains to be some sort of Adjustable League Unimaginable?

Comment from: PatMan posted at June 23, 2005 9:16 PM

I think everyone agrees that a tanking Rogue is bad.

Just look at Uncanny X-Men #200.

And a priestly Warcraft/X-men joke:

Why is the White Queen in her diamond form???

You can't use your psi powers in that form!

stfu n00b. im tanking.

Incoming psi attack!!!!

Who's on psi defense???


WhiteQueen has been kicked from party.

MarvelGirl joins party.

Get it? Shadow prisets? Eh?


Comment from: PatMan posted at June 23, 2005 9:18 PM

Grrr. There are supposed to be player names before all those quotes. They got removed vecause they were in those angle bracket thingies.

Comment from: Joshua posted at June 23, 2005 11:08 PM

I think you're conflating two different issues: that of balance between the players and the environment, and whether every encounter in the game should be soloable. Given the huge disparity between the power levels of almost all the ArchVillains and the normal badguys, it's a real problem if any character can solo an ArchVillain.

If you can solo ArchVillains (with a few exceptions for weak AVs like Dr. Vazh) it means that nothing else the game can throw at you can possibly challenge you: you bust the scale they're designing around. A character capable of soloing an AV is pretty much perforce capable of soloing an entire team of 8's missions set to the highest difficulty, the AVs are just that much better in every measure. If they introduced things challenging to such a character, less able characters would just be destroyed. (Super-Reflexes scrappers are already complaining about this in re some of the AVs). They need to keep it so even the most twinked out build of the most powerful AT in the game faces some challenge on the highest difficulty setting, or there's no point in even designing missions; otherwise they might as well build-in a GodMode cheat.

When the Devs talk about balancing, and risk vs. reward, they're almost always talking about that. Positron and Statesman aren't just worried about the mere fact that certain chars can take out AVs (they could easily introduce code to scale UP the AV if there's only one foe if that was the problem; you try to solo the AV, you get squashed, the end), they're worried about the level of power that represents versus the rest of the environment, and the difficulty of designing content for both those players and the players with much more average-performing builds.

Now, whether in a game which was balanced so even the toughest chars faced some challenge at the highest difficulty level, the AVs should be set within the range of a solo character or outside it is a somewhat seperate question. They could indeed make it so that an AV was no stronger than the groups of badguys that you'd find in a max-size, max-difficulty mission. That's not the case today, and I think it would make the AVs anti-climactic, but it's possible. You could even, as you suggest, make the AVs artificially weaker against solo foes. I don't think that would make the game any better, myself, but I wouldn't particularly object to it.

I do think, though, that it's just not the case that in order to be true to the genre, AVs have to be soloable. In CoH terms, the Joker or Lex Luthor, or even the Green Goblin or the Mandarin are not AVs, they're simply named bosses like Revenant, or Mr. Ting. (One thing that CoH could definitely do better is make the named bosses more distinctive, so it's more obvious that you're fighting a genuine costumed super-villain, even leader of super-villains.) If you had to translate CoH ArchVillains into comics, they are more along the lines of Ultron, Ultimo, Amazo, Solomon Grundy, Count Nefaria, and the like who are capable of fighting the entire JLA or Avengers all at once. Yeah, you could probably find instances of stories where they were defeated by a single hero, but I'd wager those stories turned around the hero using a plot device, not just beating the villain up. It might actually be neat if CoH had missions where a lone hero could "defeat" an AV through some mission specific plot device or temporary power (along the lines of the gadget you get in the Synapse TF to face the Clockwork King, but actually powerful enough to do the job), but I don't think it's a genre requirement that Iron Man always be able to beat Ultron single-handed (let alone Spider-Man or Dagger being able to do so).

Comment from: coldcut posted at June 24, 2005 7:17 AM

Really, the issue is more along the lines of what makes the Archvillains difficult. Instead of having specific vulnerabilities and strengths, they just have a heck of a bunch of hitpoints a lot of regen and maybe a really strong attack once in awhile.

It's sort of like watching a reverse Shawshank Redemption, with just two hours of Tim Robbins cutting a hole through the wall with a spoon.

Comment from: T Campbell posted at June 24, 2005 8:06 AM

Hoooo. Role reversal ahoy here. This time, *I'm* the critic.

See, Eric, what you've brought up is something I generally HATE about superhero comics-- I applaud when people like Grant Morrison find ways around it-- and you're saying CoH needs more of it.

I loved STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION's "Best of Both Worlds" because clearly not one of the characters was asleep at the wheel. They were all clearly marshalling formidable talents against something almost unbeatable. Contrast this with the TNG that everybody hates, where EVERYONE else is an idiot just so Wesley Crusher gets to shine. Only there were also episodes where everyone else is an idiot so that GEORDI gets to shine. And Crusher, and Worf... You know, you can't spend an episode convincing me that Picard is one of the most resourceful minds in the galaxy and then turn around and have him say, "Dar! Ship's 'bout to explode. Hurrr... mebbe we should auto-destruct to blow it up faster. Urrrr... howzit comin', Geordi?"

Villains do scale sometimes, plausibly. One day Doc Ock's got hisself some arms of adamantium. But usually what happens is that  heroes scale DOWN. If it takes the entire Justice League to beat the Joker, I'll be screaming from the rafters, "COME ON, YOU SLACKERS! IT'S NOT! THAT! DIFFICULT!"

If Spidey's up against Doc Doom, that can be thrilling, because frankly, Doom is out of his weight class. But if Spidey trounces Doom relatively easily-- that's just BAD WRITING.

I don't see why CoH needs more bad writing.

It's been a long time since I've played, so it may be that the problem IS that it takes the entire JLA to beat the Joker, when it shouldn't. But if that's the case, then the solution is tougher bad guys-- not bad guys who change their skill and power levels because, y'know, the writers FEEL like it.

Comment from: abb3w posted at June 24, 2005 8:47 AM

I'd note: not all superheroes are social by nature. Batman has a few junior partners he tolerates semi-reluctantly ("bat pole" jokes aside), and aside from the Metropolis boy scout, he is generally unhappy when circumstances force him to partner with a bunch of reckless super-powered amateurs. (He even said as much in JLA: New World Order.)

Not all players in an MMORPG are social by nature, and often some other players give them compelling reason not to be social. There should be consequences of such a choice, but it should be a choice.

Comment from: Meagen Image posted at June 24, 2005 10:37 AM

Hey, maybe the writers of that Justice League cartoon could draw inspiration from this. Tune in next week, when... Superman gets nerfed!

Comment from: Gally posted at June 24, 2005 11:06 AM

I think this is flawed. Its perfectly possible to solo to 50 with the right AT. (ie: scrapper or if you can go very slow a tanker or a few controllers after 32) Not every AT should be able to solo and I think AVs should never be soloable. The contact will ALWAYS say if you are picking up a mission that has an AV you must defeat in it so its not like you can get stuck with an AV you can't beat with out knowing it was there.

Comment from: Joshua posted at June 24, 2005 11:47 AM

Actually, Meagen, Superman has been nerfed substantially since the Silver Age. In fact, isn't the JLU Superman still wearing a breathing mask to fly in space?

Comment from: Jon Lennox posted at June 24, 2005 4:01 PM

About forced game balancing: have people seen Blizzard Chess?

(Link from a comment by Alan Bostick in Making Light.)

Comment from: miyaa posted at June 24, 2005 5:43 PM

You know, there's nothing worse than those episodes of TNG where Wesley Crusher was the hero. Ditto for the Deep Space Nine episodes where Jake was the main focus.

I think this boils down to a basic problem with the whole Marvel/DC world at this point: when was the last time you read about a really compelling character, hero, villian or otherwise?

And Eric, so what if balancing this breaks the comic book genre? They're more concerned about making a game that is team-friendly and not solo-oriented. Too many solos ends up being a pvp fest where newbies and non-pvp players get to be in the cross-fire as easy targets. There's a place for tradition, and there's a place for breaking tradition. I think this is a place for breaking tradition.

Comment from: Alexander Danner posted at June 25, 2005 2:41 PM

Maybe what they need to do is come out with a one-player version of the game, just as there are MMORPG versions and single-player versions of Final Fantasy.

In fact, I really wish they would, as the game sounds pretty cool to me, aside from the fact that I loath the entire concept of the MMORPG. Video games are what I do when I'm feeling ANTI-social.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at June 25, 2005 4:18 PM

You know, there's nothing worse than those episodes of TNG where Wesley Crusher was the hero. Ditto for the Deep Space Nine episodes where Jake was the main focus.
As with anything, that varied witht the writing. Jake had some very good stories and even Wesley had one or two.

Comment from: neongrey posted at June 26, 2005 6:55 PM

I still remember with joy watching Wesley almost die because he smashed some flowers.

And then he lived due to a prime directive violation.

Fucking teases.

Comment from: Kendra Kirai posted at June 26, 2005 7:39 PM

Actually, some of the earliest games to really scale with you are the SaGa bgames from Square. They were made into FGinal Fantasy Legends 1-3 for Gameboy, then there was Romancing SaGa for SNES, and SaGa Frontier 1 and 2 for PSX, and Unlimited SaGa for PS2. As you fight enemies, they get stronger within their enemy class. The weakest enemies will never be TOO strong however, and there's a definite upper limit...and in many places, the 'mininum level' is rather higher than you might be when you can first reach those areas. A similar place was early on in Star Ocean 2 for PSX, which also had scaling enemies, with a rather more limited range. Of all of these, only Star Ocean 2 has traditional 'levels', with all of the others giving you increased abilities, skills, or stats depending on which kind of attacks you use during a fight, and how difficult the fight is.

If you can find the translation patch for Romancing SaGa 3 for SNES, I suggest you check it out. It's pretty good. I don't know if it's better than SaGa Frontier which is often called pretty bad, but both are very, very good examples of scaling enemies.

If anybody claims they can't scale the enemies in a 'closed system' like the missions in CoH sound like, they're blowing it out their ass. It may be more difficult of course...but it can't be any more difficult than trying to figure out how to selectively nerf skills without making 70% of your playerbase try to lynch you.

if it were a global type of MMORPG, like Everquest or the bulk of the Final Fantasy XI quests and missions, it would be almost impossible, and would require whole teams of programmers for each enemy. But closed mission-based? Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Toss in some ranges, some calculations depending on the number of players, their levels, maybe even their powers if you want to make things really interesting..

It WOULD take a relatively hefty patch to do it...but not much heftier than nerfing skills or boosting enemy strength.

Comment from: Thomas Blight posted at July 4, 2005 4:34 PM

Ragnarok Online isn't all that divergent, for most classes like Knights, you really only have the question of 2-Hand Swords or Spears, because there's only really two ability trees, dependent on weapon. It's the same way with Assasins: You can use Katars, one knife and a sword, or two knives, which decide your options for the most part. (Knives and sword have the same tech tree)

It's also that way pretty much for Rogues. Hunters are slightly better with many traps to experiment with, but there's still narrow areas.

Of course, it's much different with Dancer/Bard, Wizard, Sage, Priest, Crusader, Alchemist, Blacksmith and Monk because there are more abilties and they have more unique effects than just damage.

Basically, most classes in Ragnarok have two or three main camps.

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