SWG ravings: Classes

Same thread:

– Classes –

I agree that silly interdependences are counterproductive. But I will defend the need for players to make choices. In the real world there are few people who can do everything themselves, despite Heinlein’s “specialization is for insects.” Communities rely, in large part, on synergy between different specialties.

I don’t criticize the need or promotion of the specialization. I criticize the fact that you choose to specialize strictly roleplay possibilities. You aren’t specializing a player toward different styles to combat. You are specializing him about *possibilities*. Possibilities outside the mechanics.

The design doesn’t work, imho, because you created a *gameplay* class from a roleplay possibility that has a completely different nature and now you need to denaturalize that class to give it an excuse to be a “gameplay” class.

Roleplay is something that needs to be accessible to everyone. It shouldn’t define specific classes because it should be a *pervasive* non-gameplay “mood”. Defining a specific role for something that should be everywhere is not a good idea.

I also don’t believe that enforcing a ruleset makes the players play in a different way. I don’t think that you should even care about having a “second-class citzen”. There’s nothing to teach, imho. If the players don’t choose to play in another way it’s simply because the game doesn’t offer enough possibilities to do so. Tradeskills are not important and a “second-class citzen” just because they have an horrible implementation in many games.

You cannot “teach a lesson” if you still have nothing new to offer. SWG has, and I think that having strict non-combat professions hasn’t really helped toward their “success”. On the contrary, offering them as an alternative just brings a lot more players to appreciate an important and original part of the game. Making it more satisfying.

In SWG, the original conception of the RP profs was to recognize and reward some of the crucial roles that people play in these games that the games traditionally ignore in the code.

This could still be done without enforcing this approach as “exclusive”. These possibilities should still be open to everyone. I don’t criticize at all the rewards, I criticize just the specialization applied to this element.

The interdependence was intended in part to teach a lesson on the importance of the RPers and social glue to the game as a whole.

Yes, but you also shattered the exact same purpose. You have denaturalized a playstyle and you have also made it an exclusive choice that surely doesn’t promote the need for RP.

I strongly believe that these games need a presence of non-combat possibilities. I think that nearly nothing has been done till now on this aspect but I also think that this section shouldn’t be exclusive and specialized.

The very potential of these possibilities is ruined if you denaturalize them. Forcing them to have a strict gameplay role (so not anymore an RP value) is about a denaturalization. I don’t think that forcing this is really adding an RP depth to the game. Actually I think that this is actively ruining the RP potential since it’s only accessible after a selective approach.

Instead of assimilating the “RP flavor” you are segregating it AND forcing it to integrate through a denaturalization.

I understand your choices, I just hope it’s more understandable what I criticize.

To conclude:
1- The roleplay should be pervasive in the whole game and open to everyone. By creating a specific and specialized role for it you aren’t promoting it. On the contrary, you damage it and denaturalize it. With the side effect of needing excuses to justify its presence IN the gameplay (since a “class” has a sense and is justified in the concrete gameplay you can or cannot offer).

2- Classes should be defined as *consequences* of an observation of the possibilities you have in the game. SWG does the exact contrary. You continuously need excuses to justify the presence of the class. Here you are just experiencing an inner flaw produced by the denaturalization.

The problems are just consequences of previous errors.

EQ2 is doing this with its tradeskills. But I would suggest to you that if one of the two sides does not have comparable investment in content

This sounds like if you trying to justify the work on these parts of the game toward the “producers” or the players or both. Well, if this is the case it’s not a design problem. It’s a managment problem. If your choice is a compromise for this situation, so this is just another demonstration that this compromise is now producing bad consequences.

SWG ravings: Combat

More design discussion at Grimwell:

– Combat –

From Keldarin’s comment on the forums:

It is important to remember that this is not THE solution, it is only the first and fundamental part of the total solution.

And that’s the point. More than a year to arrive at this proposed solution and considering it the first and fundamental part. Rejoice.

We�ve been moving very, very fast and that�s something that people don�t seem to recognize.

I think that with some of the things that we�re discussing there is potentially to really dramatically change the game in ways that are really going to surprise players. I think that they�re going to be pleasantly surprised by some of the stuff that we want to tackle in the coming months.

Now, where is this absolutely awesome and revolutionary design? It’s a “fatigue bar”. Wow, incredible. What they proposed in the design document is simply about adding a fatigue bar that is present in every other game. With the difference that in this case the bar is also affected by your “hitpoints”.

As I already commented this IS an improvement. Despite what Darniaq says (and is true) the new system works better even if they are adding three more bars to consider. *During* the combat the dynamics should be more readable. But where I agree with Darniaq is that this system still relies completely on what goes on *outside* the combat.

There are tons of interdependencies between all your stats, between the buffs that both directly affect your performance AND modify again your stats, plus the armor that, once again, affect the stats, the resistences and both the regeneration rate of the bars and their actual dimension. IT. IS. A. MESS.

A mess that builds a very complex and deep combat system but if you look at it you’ll notice that NOTHING directly involves the combat. It’s way too messy to actual CARE during the action. What is going on is about centering the pivot of the combat system on the *preparation*. While the actual fight becomes dull (and not just for these reasons).

Now, as I said, their plan is a secure improvement. But this imporvement doesn’t fix the real problems. With these changes they aren’t bringing back old players, nor gaining new ones. They’ll probably bring back only those who had canceled in protest.

So really what�s happened is that we�re looking at increasing the scope of the changes and the updates and additions that we were going to make with the combat balance and make it more creative.

Yes, “creative” for them is finding this new design idea called “fatigue bar” and make it rely on your energy. So basically they are copying every other game with the addition of a dependence on another bar. Is this dependence really an improvement? Darniaq says that this messes even more the rules, I think it does but I also draw a line between combat preparation and the actual combat action. The system is more messy and confused during the preparation but it is also more straightforward during the *action*.

Now, what’s the aim? Where are the REAL problems of the combat in SWG? This is what I wrote in my comment. I agree with their solution but I don’t agree with their *premises*. The changes they are planning could work from a design point of view and concretely adjust the system toward a better state. BUT they don’t change anything if we look at the whole thing from a different point of view.

My design observations have told me that the combat *action* is way more fun when as you fight you also gain more possibilities, you expand your horizon. It’s a combat system that should push you deeper and deeper into the fun of FIGHTING. This not only come from the example I made about WoW, but it comes also from games where the *action* is the whole scope of the game. Think for example to the fighting games, where the more you going on the more you could have access to combos.

So, my belief is that a good (or “better”) combat system is about a system that pushes you into the action, where the fun comes DIRECTLY from the gameplay. Where the system is fun on its own, just by playing it and as a demonstration of this you have a system that involves you in the combat. Which wants you to fight and gives you more and more tools to have fun.

SWG goes in the EXACT opposite direction. It’s flawed in two, big, parts:
1- It relies completely on too many “variables” that are basically impossible to manage during the action. And which just make the game complicated (not *complex*, mind you) and dull to play during the real *action*.
2- It’s based on limiting your possibilities. The more the fight goes on the more you are approaching a defeat. The combat system doesn’t want you to fight. It wants you to win as soon as possible. Every other second is a menace.

It’s way too complex for me to explain what I mean but while the proposed system could work from the strict design point of view, it’s still horrible if we consider a broad point of view. The concrete result is that, despite the changes, the mechanics are still messy, confused, unfun and counterproductive.

Now, when I suggest a creative approach is NOT because I intend to erase all we have already to create a system from the ground up. What I STRONGLY believe is that the combat system MUST rely on different gameplay elements. Every DAMN attempt at fixing it shouldn’t simply be targeted toward fixing the *implementation*. But it should reconsider and adjust the *mechanics*. Because even if the current implementation is broken, what really damages SWG and makes it terribly wrong and unfun is about the MECHANICS involved in the combat.

The fact of having hundreds interdependent variables affecting regeneration values, bonuses, maluses, and recursive variations, brings the combat system to a crisis. Not only it is terribly unfun because you cannot USE that during the real combat but it’s also HELL to balance. It’s a mess that will swamp you down.

I’m saying NOTHING NEW:

The less worthwhile player involvement, the less interesting the combat is. You want to make combat interesting, you need to get that player involved.

(I totally believe RPG PvP would be more popular if it was based less on pre-battle time and more on during-battle decisions)

So, with THESE premises. With THESE aims. Look back at their proposed design and you’ll draw my exact same conclusions: their system works better but it doesn’t really change a damn thing. It’s still the same broken, umbalanced, unfun and messed game.

This is why I’d push the efforts about adding completely NEW elements and mechanics. To the point that I could still mantain the current HAM system because it isn’t that what DEFINES the gameplay about the combat. This is why not only they need to adjust the ruleset but they also need to rework the dynamics, like the controls.

I’d like to see gameplay elements that should fit better the propose. Like the arcs of fire. The fact that you should need AT LEAST TO FACE your enemy. Use the environment actively, giving more controls so that you can lean from behind a wall, using rocks or other structures to cover parts of your body. And , perhaps, if it’s possible, to WIPE completely the auto target and just create a semi-twitch model. Where it’s not important the skill but still requiring you to ACTUALLY PLAY the game. Having FUN because YOU ARE FIGHTING and not *directly* planning and foreseeing the behaviour of thousands different and interdependent variables.

SWG’s combat is EXACTLY like EQ2 graphic:

Haemish getting married:
If your 3d artists are mediocre, as these guys are, if they cannot imbue the art with a sense of style, the models will be bland suckage. Numbers (i.e. math and high-level abstract technical shit) is not pretty.

I repeat: the proposed design is AWFUL, TERRIBLE. It’s just another demonstration of how much out of track they are. Requoting:

We�ve been moving very, very fast and that�s something that people don�t seem to recognize.

I just see a general tendency. SWG feels fatigued and slow. Despite the insane work it’s just feeling more broken and unsatisfying. I don’t think that adding MORE work will solve the situation because the fatigue is of another nature. What they need is about a different approach. If this happens the fatigue will vanish.

But it doesn’t happen.

The other thing is hologrinding, a system that looked great on paper

Now. How can these guys tell this with a straight face?

Arcadian Del Sol on MMOGs economies

From his blog:

F13.net engaged Raph Koster (again!) in a discussion about MMORPG economics, under the flawed assumption that any of them had one. Scott Jennings of Mythic Entertainment said so, and when he says ‘so’, it is. Hey F13 – stop baiting Koster, he has games to make.

Lum knows exactly what to write and how to write. And be effective. The content of what he says is nothing miraculous but he’s able to express what was already “latent” in everyone else.

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Duh! It seems Haemish is getting married

I didn’t see him on the forums, so I checked his last post:

Just a note to let you all know that I’ll be out of town from Friday, July 16th til the 24th, so don’t be alarmed when you don’t see my sparkling presence on the front page or in the forums after 5 pm today. My fiancee and I are taking the train to Connecticut (because I get most of my travel comped thanks to my work on the account) to visit her folks…

And finally, thank God, after 7 years, get married! YAY!!!!

We met a little bit over 7 years ago on AOL (say nothing, vermin!) and from the minute I heard her voice on the phone, I knew I was going to marry this woman. Our lives have sometimes been rough, but they’ve always been good when I’m with her. If you’ll forgive the mushiness, I hope everyone is as blessed as I feel I am for having someone so wonderful to spend my life with.

We accept gifts of all denomations, so long as the bank will turn them into dollars. :)

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SWG- Commenting the proposed HAM system

Thunderheart posted on the official forums a design document about the revamp of the HAM (Health-Action-Mind) bars. One of the most important systems related to the combat. It sounds like this thing shoud move on the test server, and then live, quite soon. In the last days SOE announced the delay of the real combat revamp and that brough to a revolt of the players since not only the combat revamp is absolutely necessary, but it’s also from the release that it gets delayed, month after month. So this design document should be related to the tweaks they expect to finish before the launch of JTL, the space expansion.

To comment the system the best way is to understand their approach. It seems to me that they chosed to focus on precise elements to “solve” the known issues and produce a better system that is also nothing different from what the players have used till now. And this is both good and bad, depending on the aim. It fits perfectly Raph’s methodology: consider gameplay systems like “riddles” to solve. You have a set amount of issues and you need to find solutions to bring back those issues to a “normal” value, mantaining the balance.

In this case the problems they focused about the current HAM system are principally two:
+ Special moves damage you when you use them. The original idea was about adding a strategical depth, the result is that it “feels” wrong and it’s also not easy and intuitive to manage as a positive gameplay element during combat.
+ The impossibility to heal the “mind” pool. Support classes like medics can heal damage only related to the health and the action pool, making the PvP pivot completely around the mind pool.

If these are the issues I think that they did a good work. To explain the new proposal I think it’s better to imagine directly the new interface. We have still three pools, health, action, and mind. Starting from the right and going toward the left we could see, firstly, a black zone. The black still represents the “wounds” and the wounds limit the max value you can have in that pool. This isn’t related to the combat system since you can heal this part only *outside* the combat dynamics and it’s also not directly relevant. Then we have a red, green, or blue bar (health, action or mind) which represent the actual energy, as you get hit and take damage you loose energy. The bar goes toward the left leaving behind a white zone. When the bar is all white you are incapacitated. This is the zone you can actively heal during the combat. At this point the special moves don’t use anymore your energy on the bar, damaging yourself. Instead there’s a new (dark color) bar that goes up and down *inside* the space of the previous one. You basically have another bar inside your energy bar. This is the bar that you’ll use when performing a special move. This special bar cannot be healed directly, it heals by itself with the time, plus it’s directly affected by the energy bar since the more energy you loose the more you’ll loose “space” for the special bar.

With this system the use of specials relies completely on an apposite bar with its own regeneration rate and that is only directly affected by your current energy. The more you get hit, the less specials you’ll be able to perform. At this point what they wrote isn’t really clear about how they expect to solve the second problem. They don’t specifically say anything about it so my guess is that with the new system the mind pool behaves exactly as the other two. If this is the case I can say that the solution they proposed achieves their aims:
+ With the new system the use of special moves is more comprehensible and also concretely usable as a gameplay element during the combat.
+ The mind pool going back to a “default” behaviour brings various good consequences. Not only this fixes the PvP problems but the system becomes way more intuitive since it works without “exceptions”.

It’s a success? If I consider their riddle-like strategy I can say it is. They focused two problems and they worked out a better system that fixes the issues, is more coherent and doesn’t create side effects. But it’s not all. As I said this is an extremely focused approach. The curent combat system works on top of different elements and the HAM is just a gear, strictly connected with the rest. It’s not easy to judge it without knowing how the other parts affects the HAM mechanics concretely. Also, I think SWG could use a completely different approach where you observe the design from a broader point of view, opening more possibilities instead of having a strictly psychotic approach focused on a “blind” point of view (you can only see and solve the “inner” issues, but you loose the view on the outside, toward a growth).

Their design methodologies are also tied to a few posts I wrote on Q23 boards (original thread here), where I was discussing one of the most used system: “Risk Vs. Reward”. Which I hate. Specifically I was just commenting how much World of Warcraft’s design was far superior compared to Dark Age of Camelot and a part of the analysis was about the implementation and use of the “fatigue” bars. My point is that often games are designed to use the “frustration” as a strong gameplay element. The whole “risk vs reward” just relies on the use of the frustration and nearly every death penalties applied in every game is simply a balance achieved about frustration. I think there are better solutions. I think that the use of “frustration” isn’t a good thing and an active obstacle to the fun. Having a bar decreasing means that you are loosing possibilities, in WoW you have the opposite mechanic. The more you fight and the more the game gives you possibilities. Fighting opens the gameplay instead of closing it toward a death (your or the one of your enemy). The combat gameplay nourish itself, the fun brings more fun and your actions open more paths to choose. If you represent the combat like an algorithm, you’ll be able to see that SWG or DAoC work as a “tree” diagram where the “branches” are the beginning and the “trunk” the end. WoW transforms it so that you start from the trunk, and then you develop possibilities and strategies. If you die, you do it in a “possible-otherwise” state. If you die in DAoC, you do it in a “destiny-has-choosed” situation. And this brings *directly* to frustration. While WoW brings fun, possibilities, strategical depth and a whole better general feeling.

This was just to demonstrate that “good design” doesn’t depend on a situation you need to solve. Design isn’t about solving, it’s about creating. You can intend it as a methodology where you start with a few aims and observations and then work out a way to solve them, but this is a passive, psychotic attitude that will never produce something really positive. In this precise case I think that the game really needs a positive attitude, not a passive one. SWG has many resources and they need to be used with more creativity. The game seems way too much “fatigued”. It’s stressed even if the situation should be really good. And something -active- needs to be done to move the game in this direction. The combat system doesn’t need to be fixed, it needs to be transformed to use different design ideas, to be more fun, to be more realistic and tied to the setting, to be more compelling. A lot of work should be done to add different and important gameplay elements. The controls need to change, there’s the need to include the environment, more movement involved, implement arcs of fire. NEW gameplay elements, not just the old ones adjusted.

Everyone should remember that you can add or discard the pieces of the puzzle, not just organize them the best you can. If you limit the point of view you’ll also kill the potential. SWG is about potential still unexpressed within the game.


I’ve worked for various hours on the site and it looks like nothing changed. Not so good when it happens.

The old workaround to run cron.php doesn’t work, I don’t know why. Now I’m using another service and the news should update every hour, precisely… In my dreams.

I also started to import *manually* all the damn entries on MT. I realized it’s the best way. That brought also a number of problems due to the layout and my extensive use of tags like “blockquote”.

I’m not happy at all about how the layout behaves and I think something will change. I also need to figure out how to make the taxonomy usable. I fear that I’ll need to mess with the PHP…

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Chompy.net down

Chompy.net is down so the news aggregator won’t work properly. Many of the feeds I track use only Atom RSS, in particular Blogger-powered blogs. Drupal still doesn’t support the Atom feeds because the protocol isn’t even fully defined, so I have to use an alternative parser that converts the feed.

Chompy.net was the converter I normally use. Till it’s down the news aggregator won’t be able to track Atom feeds.

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The taxonomy seems to work

I’m not completely satisfied but the taxonomy now works. I removed the hierarchical organization because each sub-site still uses the same topics and I found out that the system Drupal uses is already powerful as is.

I’ve updated the four links at the top. Now they point to the proper page as it happens in the old MovableType site. Plus I’ll use more categories. All this because then I’ll be able to use a poweful search system: if you see the link of each page you’ll notice that it finishes like “taxonomy/page/or/2”, “or” is the logic function, the number defines the category.

At this point I can chain more categories together: “taxonomy/page/or/2,4” will show the entries that appear in the category “2” (cesspit) OR in the category “4” (ravings). Together. “or” is the well-known logic operator. You can replace it with “and” and the result will be that the page will show ONLY the entries that have been flagged for BOTH those two categories.

Now the hard work is providing an interface for an user or myself. I cannot remember the numbers, so I need a GUI that translates the numbers in the actual descriptions of those categories.

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