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Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 30
04-01-2009, 12:42 PM
Originally Posted by _Pax_ View Post
I look at what he said, and what you got, and .... Underpants Gnomes, Step 2.

I'm not sure that reading Craig's comments as indicating that STO will offer non-combat ("support") gameplay that's distinct from combat is a leap equal to jumping from "1. Collect underpants" to "3. Profit!" But it's an interpretation that's open to question, I'll definitely agree with you there.

Originally Posted by _Pax_ View Post
The thing is ... Tank/DPS/Support roles in Team-based gameplay predate the internet. Seriously, they're from Dungeons and Dragons style games. And before that, even, in wargaming. Even in non-class-based game systems (and I'm still talking non-Computer games, here), the skills you pick generally will determine which of those roles you have, within the game.
All I can say is that my experience, which dates back to Chainmail and the original D&D, differs. There was no "aggro." If you were in a narrow corridor, the DM and everyone else simply understood that "collision" was happening: you were the one who was going to get hammered on. Otherwise everybody picked a target (including the DM, who would generally choose PC targets for all attacking NPCs using an aesthetic "what's the most fun gameplay" basis) and went to town.

Based on my recollection from that time and after, aggro -- and from aggro, the notion of a "tank" role (and the later "crowd control" role) specifically designed to manage aggro -- showed up only in computer games. The fundamental problem was and is that computer make sucky DMs. They have no aesthetic sense. So programmers have to come up with code that tries to mimic a good DM's ability to run NPCs like intelligent/adaptable/goal-oriented beings.

So far, they haven't done a very satisfying job of that. Aggro is better than nothing, but it's still nowhere near as good as a human DM can do.

I'd like to think that our progress toward that goal will not stop with "aggro" (and its handmaiden roles) out of a mistaken belief that that mechanism is a desirable end in itself. It's not. It's one means to an end -- good DMing -- and as such MMORPG developers ought to feel free to replace it with some better means as gaming and communication technology improve.

Originally Posted by _Pax_ View Post
Well, here's the thing. Bob has "Light weapons" - as such, his damage output is lower than Sarah, who has "Heavy weapons".

What does Bob get to compensate him for having less damage output? Or, alternately, what did Sarah have to give up, in order to acquire her relatively-speaking improved damage output?
Yes, I thought you might go there. It's the correct question to ask.

Lower damage endurance is, as I've said before, an obvious way to go if you're a programmer under the gun to make combat work in a big, complex gameworld.

But mobility is another viable option. Dedicating a higher proportion of skills or hull space to heavy weapons or special weapons could mean fewer skills (from a character perspective) or less speed/agility (from a vehicle perspective) for adapting quickly to changes in the battlespace.

The opposite historically holds true as well. Horse cavalry is a classic example of choosing to accept a reduced damage-inducing potential in exchange for an increased tactical maneuver capability.

So with all the advances in gaming technology since the days when the "aggro" hack was deployed, why can't we consider improvements or reductions to mobility -- with all the tactical gameplay goodness that flows from such a feature -- as a viable alternative to aggro?

More importantly, mobility is merely one option for gameplay-oriented plus/minus tradeoffs that seem natural if we wanted to design combat gameplay around light/heavy/special weapons roles. Those roles are just examples I pulled out of the air as alternatives to the tank/DPS/support roles to demonstrate that there's nothing sacred about the latter role design and the aggro notion that inspired it. I expect we could come up with even more alternatives if we put our minds to it.

And we're not professional game developers. (Or at least I'm not.)

I think it's reasonable to expect Cryptic to do what they've said they were going to do: start with Star Trek and develop gameplay (including combat roles) from it -- not the other way around.

To be fair, it's possible that that's exactly what they've done, and that Craig is just trying to describe the unique combat gameplay of Star Trek Online in terms that will be familiar to today's online game players.

If so, it's an understandable marketing decision. But it does carry a potential danger if, when the game launches, combat turns out not to be the simple tank/DPS/support+aggro that the use of those terms in interviews led people to expect.

If combat in Star Trek Online isn't about aggro management, then I think Craig would do better not to use "DPS" (for example) as a way to describe that gameplay.

On the other hand, if he does use the term "DPS," then perhaps aggro management is indeed what combat in STO is being designed around, just like in all those other MMORPGs... in which case all of my criticisms of that choice for this particular game stand as given.

Originally Posted by _Pax_ View Post
We - both you and I - have no real evidence except lack of direct mention of any other scenario that combat is "the single starting point" at all.

I think you're being a bit of a Chicken Little just now. No offense, mind.
No offense taken. You might be right.

If utility for killing things isn't the single starting point around which character skills and ship functions have been designed, I'll be happy to admit that my concerns on that score were unfounded.