Wednesday, January 03, 2007

What determines Skillz in MMORPGs?

When you defeat someone in online player vs. player combat just how rewarding do you find it? In Real Time Strategy games those who can multitask and click fast seem to have the advantage. In First Person Shooters the players with good hand-eye coordination and knowledge of the maps dominate. It seems that depending on the genre of online gameplay different traits come into play for determining the better player. So what traits define "Skillz" in Massive Multiplayer Online games?

The number one trait that seems to give an advantage in MMO combat seems to be time spent playing. Unlike the other genres its not just that players learn the subtle nuances of combat by practicing. Players also attain statistical advantages to combat by increasing both their level and the equipment on their characters over time. As a general rule characters that have been played more often are going to beat players that have been played less.

Some roadblocks are thrown in during the end game of most MMOs to try to slow down those with large amounts of free time. But they never seem to work. Despite the ridiculously high time cost of end game items many players will eventually pay it. After all MMOs are popular since they are relatively cheap for the hundreds of hours of entertainment they provide. However, players with the less time intensive gear are forced to work on improving other traits to be competive in PvP.

1) Time Spent Playing: Time played = Quality of Gear, and better gear provides the statistical advantage in almost every aspect of combat. A tier-3 equipped player can be half asleep and playing against good players and still win if they are only wearing blues. In my opinion the gear advantage from having a high /played time will offset two of any other traits I've listed.

2) Timing: Patience is a virtue and being able to know the cooldowns of your spells and abilities keeps you one major step ahead of your button mashing opponents. Know which spells take too long to cast and aren't likely to go off during combat. Plan your crowd control abilities around your other spells. Rogues aren't the only ones who can time abilities to lock down a player.

3) Teamwork: Combat is almost never 1v1 and being able to integrate your character's abilities with another makes you both stronger. I'm not just talking about having a healer following you around. Knowing when to leave an enemy alone cause they have been crowd controlled or already about to die because of dots can be crucial. Having a chat channel can artificially boost teamwork but people truly skilled in this area will know what to expect from good players and be prepared to react to their abilities.

4) Preparation: For player vs. environment combat this mostly means researching information to know the outline of a quest or raid boss before you begin the fight. In player vs. player combat this generally means having the consumables and trinkets to break out of someone else's good timing. Fear, root, snare, and critical strikes can all be offset off by consumables and trinkets. Its amazing how many times a cheap pvp healing potion from the AV vendors will save your life in the battlegrounds.

5) Interface: Old MMO games had interfaces set in stone which often required players to use special programs to modify. But newer games often include macro and scripting languages which allow players to reduce the amount of keys they need to press. Thus a player's favorite combo attack or complex spell sequence can be put into a single key. Then it just becomes an issue of reaction time since the computer is really doing all the timing. And I hate to say it but a computer is always going to win in a contest of timing abilities.


Aeigelus said...

The problem I have with gear dependency, is when it creates such an advantage, that it makes a person near god-like. For instance, in Battlefield 2142, you can unlock weapons as you rank up with time. The problem with this, is the weapons you get, are grossly overpowered, and it's nearly impossible to overcome this difference with the "stock" weapons you get.

In WoW, I think it's a lot less overpowered, but with the gear becoming more and more epic, how is a newcomer to the game not going to get frustrated when they see someone nearly one shotting them everytime they step into a battleground? I think eventually, some sort of grading system is going to have to be added to the battleground queues.

Relmstein said...

The developers actually have a battleground matching system almost completed that assigns a score based on the equipment in a player's inventory. However, it wasn't quite complete in time for patch 2.0.1 and they are waiting to patch it in later. Once they do it will become a lot harder for people to use their gear advantage to farm honor points. That's why almost every hardcore raiding guild member is trying to reach the max number of honor points before the expansion.

Aeigelus said...

Well damn... shows how much I read the official forums. Thanks for the info :)

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't a person who has invested many hours in gearing up deserve to be significantly more powerful than the player who has not? What a person does should determine their overall "quality", not their choice of race and gender ;)