Improving Group Combat In MMORPGs

Tobold published an interesting article about combat and how it can be made more interactive and interesting. He has plenty of good ideas and I won’t revisit them as you can just checkout his blog instead but one of the things he didn’t touch upon was group combat.

Everquest 2 has a group combat system called Heroic Opportunities (HO). It was touted as being a revolutionary mechanic that would reward co-operative group play and, although it’s a fun system, it’s not hugely changed the way group combat works. It’s pretty simple really – almost all spells and abilities have an icon associated with them (like a hammer or a sword or a lightning bolt) and every class has a special ability which when cast initiates a Heroic Opportunity starter. Then, depending on what spell or ability is used next, a chain is started and the group has 10-12 seconds to cast the correct spells in order to complete the chain and trigger a nice attack or group bonus. When EQ2 first came out, almost every group wanted to cast HOs but now they are pretty much ignored, mainly because they are quite weak at high levels and not worth the effort. I think Lord of the Rings Online also has a group attack system but don’t know anything about it.

I honestly think the EQ2 HO system is pretty decent and could have a lot more potential if the developers just made it more appealing at higher levels and expanded it a bit. I like the idea of being able to pull off powerful attacks through group co-operation plus I genuinelly think it makes combat more interesting.

I don’t really have any issues with the current hot button style combat. Although I think mechanics like the combo stuff found in AoC is fun, it’s not exactly revolutionising combat interactivity in MMORPGs but then that’s OK. The current style of single player combat is fine for me, I don’t play MMOs to test my eye-hand co-ordination or twitch reaction skills. What would be nice though is to see more a focus by developers on improving group combat. Imagine being able to formulate raid groups into different tactical squads who, decided by the group make-up, gain access to different group buffs and abilities which can used to improve the raid as a whole. Or imagine different classes combining to bring diverse and unique group abilities to the table which can help out during instances or dungeons.

No doubt any sort of group combat system would be tough to balance but I think it would be fun to see it explored more. Anything which makes group combat more involving and engaging with team mates could only be a good thing.

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5 Comments

  1. SmakenDahed says:

    Don’t forget the additions Vanguard brought to MMOs; combat chains (okay, so it wasn’t really VG that brought us that one) and vulnerabilities/exploits.

    We used to make liberal use of the exploits. It sort of works similar to HOs only each ability could put a vulnerability on a target or also consume that vulnerability. Others in the party could make use of that vulnerability to increase damage.

    It was nifty but, like EQ2’s HOs, unnecessary because combat really wasn’t that hard.

  2. Beej says:

    Sadly, I always thought the queue system that old SWG had was one of the most fun. It allowed for both mindless XP/money grinds as well as pretty in-depth combat that played like a mini-strategy game. I liked having to clear my queue if an opponent in PvP did something I wasn’t expecting and having to start from scratch.

    Group combat is one that I’ve never experienced. The EQII system sounds cool, but like you said, they would have to scale pretty well to make them worthwhile near the end. I really hope that The Old Republic has something new and unique that goes a little past combo/action points and no auto-attack.

    I wonder how hard it would be to implement Chrono Trigger style group attacks depending on group makeup. Hmm…

  3. Gordon says:

    I played VG for a while but didn’t really get a chance to experience the deeper mechanics of combat they advertised. I don’t know I saw anything to do with the vulnerabilities and exploits (I can’t remember, it’s been ages).

    SW:G combat was fun for me just becaue it was the first MMORPG I played that had guns in it :)

  4. John Hamer says:

    I haven’t heard of group combat skills before. This is very interesting, from how it sounds, this totally add a different in game dynamic. This could also mean a tighter crew, heighten the level of trust and player’s team work skills plus a whole lot of in game hours.

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  5. Tesh says:

    Mmm… Chrono Trigger Team attacks. I wish more games had taken up that gauntlet and expanded on the idea. It would be a natural extension into MMO combat, especially given CTs’ positionally important attacks. (It always bugged me that I couldn’t move my characters to angle a line attack the way I wanted to, or move an AOE focus point for tactical advantage.) With players in control, tactics really *should* be way more important than it is.

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