Monday, 8 August 2016

Fight! Fight! Fight!

In the comment thread on Aywren's previously discussed post Dahakha makes the excellent suggestion that to avoid becoming trapped in a task-oriented mindset you should consider designing your own content. Many MMOs provide specific mechanisms for this from decorating houses to creating entire dungeons. Dahakha also lists a number of social activities of the kind that the better guilds often put on to keep both their members and the community entertained.

As well as all of those, there are also a myriad of ad hoc amusements that can enliven a dull session or brighten a gloomy day's grinding. Long ago I posted about my predilection for encouraging enemies to make pretty patterns when they die. I still do that.

When I wrote that post I made some indication that it would be the first in a series called "Simple Pleasures". Well, here's the second in that series - just five years later!

Simple Pleasure No. 2 - Getting Creatures To Fight Each Other

This is something I used to do a lot. It was an intrinsic part of the gameplay in EverQuest back at the turn of the century, when "splitting a camp" was an essential skill for any soloist. You did it because you had to but I also used to do it for fun.

There were several classes with specific abilities that allowed them to mess with the heads of monsters (and, for quite a while before it got changed, other players). Enchanters and bards were the prime culprits with their ability to "charm" just about anything. You and I might have a number of let's call them 'creative' ideas on the possibilities that mind control would offer but in Norrath the only option was basically to have your guy fight the other guy.

Other classes could charm specific types of creature- Druids got animals, Magicians elementals, Necromancers undead and so on. It was a high-stakes game because the charms were prone to break early and unexpectedly and most creatures tended to resent being used as unwitting attack dogs. Still, it could be a lot of fun while it lasted, at least until you woke up your bind spot with a couple of hours xp to make up.

I don't have many pictures of things fighting each other - I do have this perfect ring of corpses though!

Necromancers, Shadowknights and most especially Monks had something even more amusing - Feign Death. The plains of Karana and the swamps of Kunark were littered with human and iksar monks who'd "fallen to the ground" as they tried to train up their skill but once perfected they were a right old nuisance force to be reckoned with.

There were bad monks and even nastier necros, who made it a practice to flop down at the feet of people they didn't like, leaving a train of slavering orcs hot for blood - anyone's blood. Less controversially and antisocially it was possible to set whole gangs of monsters at each other's throats by dragging one lot into the camp of another that weren't on the best of terms with the first. Then you'd drop to the ground and let them sort out their differences in the traditional manner.

I didn't do much of that in EQ but I made a hobby of it for a long time in Vanguard - at least until some po-faced killjoy at SOE changed the rules. My Raki Disciple was a kind of monk in away, although far superior to any monk class any entry in the official EQ franchise ever had. He could FD with the best of them and for months I satisfied both my explorer's curiosity and my childish sense of humor by running into dungeons and falling over.

What happened in Vanguard at that time was that when an angry goblin found himself suddenly without a target he'd transfer his hate to whatever was standing next to him. Didn't matter if it was his clan leader or his long-suffering wolf. My Raki would run around a room until everything in it was chasing him then hit the ground and lie there laughing as the whole lot of them engaged in a battle royale to the finish.

Hmm... I wonder what the rules are going to be like on New Telon?

I seem to remember I also benefited from the xp from all those deaths and if so, even though it wasn't why I was doing it, it explains why someone decided it had to stop. Shame. Like many of the odd, probably unintended sideshows in the first and second wave of MMORPGs - giving weapons to monsters was another - it added so much to the gaiety of nations.

As time went on and the games, arguably, became more professional. so these little wrinkles were ironed out. It's with great pleasure, then, that I'm able to confirm that I've found it's possible to get some things in GW2 to fight others.

I only noticed it the other day but Mrs Bhagpuss tells me it's not new. I was aware, of course, that many things in Tyria like to fight other things. That's an excellent piece of scene-setting that all MMOs should have. Wolves anywhere will leap on rabbits and one-shot them. Grawl hunt moas in Everfrost.

There's a moose and a raptor that roam near the walls of Garrison on our borderland that fight to the death every time they meet. I watch them often from the battlements. They're evenly matched and the outcome is uncertain. Someone should run a book.

What I hadn't realized until recently is that, by a judicious use of dodging and timing, it's possible to train creatures that don't have an innate animosity onto each other and get them to fight. If the creature chasing you has an attack that misses you as you dodge and you can line it up to hit something else then it's like ducking in a bar fight. The guy that gets hit with the chair isn't best pleased.

I've only just begun to experiment with this. I need to try it with someone who can stealth and see how that goes. I'll report back when I have more evidence. Maybe in around five years from now...

9 comments:

  1. Excellent. I love doing silly, unintended things like this. I'll be looking forward to screenshots from the Borderlands in just a few years.

    -- 7rlsy

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  2. (This comment is a bit off-topic, sorry about that. I warned you. It's not too late to turn away from this abomination of a comment, ignoring all the unwritten rules about providing sensible, on-topic & intelligent commentary.)

    "When I wrote that post I made some indication that it would be the first in a series called "Simple Pleasures". Well, here's the second in that series - just five years later!"

    Reading this makes me feel so much better. Perhaps there's still some hope for those 50+ blog post drafts that are waiting around in my blog, especially with Blaughust being upon us. I always find it so hard to muster up the enthusiasm to actually finish them.

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    1. I hardly ever leave draft posts unfinished but I often start supposed "series" and then forget about them. Whatever happened to the second part of my "all the MMOs I ever played" rundown, I'd like to know?

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  3. "What happened in Vanguard at that time was that when an angry goblin found himself suddenly without a target he'd transfer his hate to whatever was standing next to him. Didn't matter if it was his clan leader or his long-suffering wolf. My Raki would run around a room until everything in it was chasing him then hit the ground and lie there laughing as the whole lot of them engaged in a battle royale to the finish."

    I've never regretted not playing Vanguard, until now. That sounds amazingly entertaining.

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    1. I was more than a little miffed when they decided to "fix" it, I can tell you!

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  4. As an addendum, it may interest you to know that if you get the Dark Whispers buff in WoW right now (happens randomly to people in Orgrimmar and Stormwind, and it's pretty frequent), you'll get an ability that creates mass hysteria in a small area, turning everything in that area hostile to each other for a short time. Players, NPCs, anything.

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    1. I haven't had a chance to log into WoW since the patch. I must make the effort. I definitely want to try that out before it goes away!

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  5. When I read the post and its comments I can't help but think that MMOs have become about efficiency more than the thrill of exploration and play led activities. I think Wolfshead's blog has mentioned this more than once. When I remember playing Everquest much time was 'wasted' wandering around, creating things, talking in the common lands tunnel - not very efficient according to modern metrics. Yet it is this wasted time that allows community to form and friendships to build, and low energy moments of relaxation to occur. Has everybody forgotten that friendships are built in all that wasted time together. Hanging out - doing seemingly nothing - is the crucible of relationship building in MMOs and life. Or do we prefer to be so efficient that we are alone together - too busy chasing ephemeral goals to bother about who is with us on our adventure. Furthermore, there is the extremely scripted nature of everything that we are doing, where we are driven by the imagination of the developer, rather than our own. Where is our imagination, have we forgotten what we did so well as children? I think Everquest gave us many of these things – they weren’t perfect – but they allowed us to imagine and create our own adventure according to our own time-frame, and allowed us many low energy moments. Actually, often high energy moments were interspersed with low energy moments of ‘meditation’ or downtime during battles. Without the obsessive directedness of developed ‘quest’ goals we were free to adventure in a virtual world according to our own time-frame, our own goals, with the friends we made during ‘low energy’ moments together. All this seems decidedly missing nowadays, although I remain hopeful of the promise of the upcoming MMO Pantheon Rise of the Fallen to redress many of these current shortcomings.

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    1. That's a great summary of exactly what's happened. Over the years these "games", which were once not very game-like at all, have become much more directed, structured and goal-oriented. Instead of resembling a hiking trip into a wilderness area they've come to seem more like a stay at summer camp with organized activities scheduled to fill every waking moment.

      I don't have a problem with the addition of structured play but i do have a problem with the removal of anything and everything that smacks of creative freedom. There seem to be far too many game developers who are deeply uncomfortable with players acting in anything other than the expected, prescribed manner, regardless of whether that impacts anyone else or not.

      You can still make your own entertainment in just about any MMO, though. It just takes a bit more effort, imagination and determination than it used to.

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