Sunday, October 11, 2009

What To Take Into Account When Making a Sword and Arrow Style Multiplayer Game

I recently went on what I call a "mod binge", in which I download various random mods and try them all out to see if I like any. One of the most recent of these games being Pirates, Vikings, and Knights II. I won't bother on a review of that game, but I will give it a two word review, cluster fuck. Something positive did come out of this experience though, I finally realized that most of these games that rely heavily on melee or archery style combat tend to suffer from the same problems that boil them down into an incoherent blob. So without further delay I'm going to provide a list of things that need to be taken into account when making a sword and arrow oriented online game.

1. Disable The Jumping Ability

Yes you heard me, if I am carrying around 50 lbs of armor and a 10 lbs sword I should not be able to hop let alone jump two and a half feet into the air.(Edit: I recently found out that knights were actually quite mobile in their armor, but I still think their jumping would be restricted. If not, I still think this should come into play.) Even if you disregard the realism issue you come across the major problem, people don't stop jumping. I would be surprised beyond belief if I played a game like this where half the team wasn't constantly hopping around and wildly swinging their swords around like a bunch of seizure induced bunny rabbits with pointy objects. This also adds to the cluster since most of these games also want you to dodge and parry these little pricks while they are jumping over you like your a bloody candlestick. It just makes things too complicated is all. Now I'm not saying all classes shouldn't be able to jump, there's no reason an archer dressed in cloth shouldn't have a modest leap and an assassin's whole concept is agility, but even with them I believe you should provide a stamina bar of sorts so they can't do it constantly.

2. Simplify Blocking

What do I mean by this exactly? Well instead of having to block in accordance to the type of swing an enemy is executing it should rely more on a rock, paper, and scissor concept. For example, you wouldn't expect to be able to realistically block a two handed great sword with a dagger and you wouldn't think it possible to block a javelin spear flying at you with anything less than a shield. I think it should rely more on a timed gauge than going in the right direction as well. It'd be much more practical to simply press block at the right time than focus on going to the right and blocking while someone to your right would enjoy turning the right side of your liver into a sliced dinner.

3. Give Incentives for Someone to Play the Class Like You Intended

Examples being:

Archers or Long Distance Classes: Give a bonus to damage when they attack from a distance instead of at close range.

Assassins or High/Fast Damage Classes: Give a damage bonus for being able to strike an enemy first before they hit or block you (don't give a back-stab bonus since that will quickly devolve into a game of "Ring Around the Rosie").

Tank or High Armor Classes: Give armor or damage buffs when attacking multiple enemies or successfully blocking an attack.

Guns or Mid-Range Weapon Classes: Provide a charge gauge that does a higher damage or provides a more accurate shot when aimed or held for a signified period of time.

4. Provide Areas to Heal, But Do NOT Make Them Instant Heal

Medical stations or pick-ups that slowly heal over time. This makes sure that battles don't quickly spiral downward into simply knowing where each health pickup is and hopping to and fro. Medical classes are also a plus, but again they should heal incremental amounts of health at a time. Inversely, I'd rather not have to whimper out of a conflict simply because I was left with only an iota of health after the last encounter I had and can't find a single way to regenerate my health.

5. Size, Size, Size

Let me put it simply, small scale games are usually not fun in this style of combat. When I pick up a sword nearly as tall as me I want to have a good section of opponents to be ready for a good chopping. The same goes for if I pick up a long bow, or a javelin, or any type of pointy weapon. Now I know that, ultimately, you can't predict how many people will play your game, but simply making the default server limit around thirty or higher can give a hint that you want a large amount of players on a server at one time.

6. Give Damage Indicators

This is more of a personal wish above everything else, but it would be nice to know what I hit and where I hit it when I swing into a horde of enemies. If nothing else it will organize everything a bit better and also help negate some complaints about hit detection.

That's my list of what you should take into account when your making this type of game. Of course, I am not a professional in anyway, so this is all simply a well organized pile of opinions and nothing more. Though, I do hope that someone will eventually see this or at least take these points into account when making or updating their game.

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