Monday, July 15, 2019

Off Script or Where Raiding Went Wrong

Kaylriene has a short post up about something called Eternal Palace, which appears to be a new raid introduced in World of Warcraft's latest Rise of Azshara patch. Normally something like that would pass me by. I'm not playing WoW and even if I was I certainly wouldn't be raiding, let alone in new content.

Raiding is something I rarely talk about here. I've never been a raider in any MMORPG. I've never been in a guild that considered raiding or raid progression to be its primary reason for existing. Raids, by and large, are things that happen to other people, mostly in far-away lands of which I know nothing.

And yet, that doesn't mean I have no interest in, or knowledge of, the form. Raiding has always been there, a mysterious light on the horizon, a siren call or a dire warning. Perhaps both.

The history of raiding in MMORPGs turns out to be surprisingly hard to research. The Wikipedia entry is thin to say the least. It comes as absolutely no surprise to learn that raids originated in the MUD scene - what didn't? - but knowing that deep ancestry does little to explain how typing in text turned into hyperkinetic ballet.

Maybe someone else can chip in and explain raiding in Ultima Online or Asheron's Call or even Meridian 59, if any of them even had raids. I played all three but never got out of the newbie zones. I don't think it's too EQ-centric to say that, when most people think of the dawn of raiding in MMORPGs, it's EverQuest they have in mind. (Not counting the millions who believe WoW was the first MMO, obviously, but I don't think any of them are likely to be reading this).

Phinny, still just about a raid target when I first killed him.
We took a lot of people anyway.
When I started playing EverQuest in 1999 (I should put that phrase on a hotkey) raiding was already established as a concept. I remember people talking about raiding Naggy and Vox, the game's two big dragons of the Classic era. There was a third, Phinagel Autropos, who I never even heard of at the time, although I got to know him and his sad, demented backstory later.

All three were, effectively, the final bosses of their own dungeons, although I literally never heard anyone use the term "Boss" for a powerful mob in EQ until after WoW launched. I had about as much chance of seeing one as I did of soloing a sand giant. For most regular players back then, at least as functional gameplay elements, raid targets might as well have belonged to a different game altogether.

Just a couple of weeks before I bought my boxed copy as a birthday present to myself in November, Verant Interactive opened the first dedicated Raid zone, Plane of Hate. Like the dungeons, it was open-world. EverQuest had no instanced content at that time so anyone could join in with anything that anyone else happened to be doing.

In theory. In practice, access to the Plane of Hate was heavily restricted by game mechanics, preventing random players from wandering in, dying on load-in and losing six months of work with an unrecoverable corpse. You could do that easily enough in the zone outside, Kithicor Forest, anyway.

Plane of Hate required extraordinary co-ordination just to survive, let alone complete. It was the seed of what was to become EverQuest's raison d'etre, multi-hour raids involving anything up to six dozen people, requiring organization skills on a par with managing the wedding of the head of state of a minor Balkan principality.

At the time it was commonly said that only ten percent of players raided. Many had no interest in joining them but more did. Most guilds had neither the strength nor the skill to take on the designated raid targets but that didn't stop them raiding. They raided zones.

There were parts of Norrath that were considered ideal for this. Certain dungeons were popular. I remember several, largely disasterous, raids on Mistmoore with one guild I was in. Kerra Ridge (or Isle, if you prefer) was a conveniently isolated open zone where guilds could generally rely on only annoying a handful of players when they turned up mob-handed for a "practice raid".

Some kind of raid for someone's Epic, I think. Bard, probably.

Throughout the Rise of Kunark expansion into Scars of Velious things slowly changed. The raid targets got stronger and stronger and there were more and more of them. In order to survive against the overwhelming forces brought against them by players, there being no limit on how many could attend a raid other than how many it took before your PC caught fire, the bosses began to develop certain abilities and tricks.

This thread covers the way things changed rather nicely. Developments like a fixed cap on numbers (72 at peak) and, eventually, instances came about as solutions to technical and social problems caused by the all-pile-on approach, rather than as a result of conscious design decisions. (I would contend most of the direction of travel in the genre has come from developers reacting to perceived problems caused by player behavior but that's a topic for another day).

Planes of Power introduced instanced raiding, reducing direct, physically confrontational competition between raid guilds, moving instead to something more like the ladder system with bragging rights, which persists to this day. The thing that really changed raiding for me, though, was the introduction of scripts.

I remember scripting as a feature of EverQuest's second expansion, Scars of Velious, something confirmed but also questioned in this old discussion from The Safehouse. Whenever it happened, it was a gamechanger.

Poor old Feydedar. He never looked like much but he was a handful in his day. Reduced to single-group content by the time I killed him. Now he's a one-shot solo.

Before scripting, fights in EverQuest were straightforward and, to me, immensely satisfying and enjoyable. You faced off against creatures hugely more powerful than you and by dint of your superior numbers, along with a clear understanding of your and your companions' skills and abilities, you tore the mountain down.

The basic mechanics of the game allowed for infinite variation. The way aggro switched, the innate abilities of different mob classes to cast spells just like players, the ever-present possibility of outside agencies coming to the assistance of your target or just joining in with the general chaos provided all the variety and novelty anyone could ever want. Or so I thought.

At this point I was still, theoretically, interested in raiding. I'd done my share of zone and practice raids and I was curious to see the real thing first-hand. I'd never touched the Kunark raiding content but I got as far as some of the entry-level stuff in Velious, working into Kael with a guild some of whose members I knew.

It was hard work. It took a long time and most of that was down to organization. It was quite fun, though, and I might have put up with the delay and the effort, so long as no-one was asking me to organize anything. Not so the scripting.

There's long been a correleation between RPGs and acting. Tabletop roleplaying has a well-known split between improvisation and operational modes with one tending towards am-dram and the other grognard mechanics.

These days I never step out of the Guild Lobby without a full set of Raid buffs. Does anyone?

To my way of thinking, scripted content in MMORPGs manages to add a third way; one that, with hideous irony, combines the very worst aspects of acting and game mechanics to create a malformed monster hell-bent on bringing down the arches on its own head. Worse yet, it compounds that devil's synergy by bringing in dance moves.

I always liked acting but I could never learn the lines. I do not have that kind of memory. I love learning but I loathe learning by rote. As for dance, as an adolescent, going into young adulthood, it was tantamount to being my religion. I lived to dance.

When I discovered table-top role-playing games in the early 1980s they quickly became an outlet for my (imagined) improvisational dramatic skills. I liked the mechanics but I loved the "acting". The best part was making it up as I went along. Similarly, when I danced, people might have had to stand well clear or sit down before they fell down from laughing, but I didn't care. I was "expressing myself".

In the first few years, grouping and raiding in MMORPGs provided much of the same enjoyment and satisfaction. I knew what my character could do. I knew what I could do. I knew what my companions could do. Sometimes I even imagined I knew what they would do. Together we faced mobs that we understood and together we brought all of our skills and abilities to bear to defeat them.

And to do it we had to improvise. Improvisation was everything. Stick to a sript, you'd be dead. We had to observe and think and react and plan. It was acting and dancing and it was living

Giants were scary once.

Raiding ruined all that. Destroyed it utterly. The scripted events that were introduced to challenge raiders filtered down to contaminate almost all the content in the game. Every game. Nowadays even solo mobs in tutorials run scripts.

Had raiding remained a clear and direct offshoot of the gameplay that drew me into the genre to begin with, I might be here, now, telling my raiding tales with the rest of the grizzled vets. Probably not because I would likely never have had the patience but it's possible. The coming of scripted content ensured I was never going to raid and, until the arrival of Public Quests, it all but ended my interest in co-operative combat altogether.

When Kaylriene says "Blizzard is known to be staunchly opposed to adjusting bosses upwards in difficulty, because of how it impacts the morale of an already low-morale playerbase" I have to smile. It's a bit late for that as far as I'm concerned. When he says "Many bosses have complicated sounding mechanics that don’t do very much. I ate the first boss’ stack mechanic solo as a tank and had 66% of my health left afterwards. I have no clue what we did on Za’qul, but he died in two pulls. Nearly every boss died in 1-3 pulls... Mechanics don’t matter", however, I feel hope rise.

I believe in the freedom of the open road

These days my preference in any MMORPG with scripted combat is to reach the point where my character is so overpowered I can wholly ignore the script. I don't want to learn lines or dance steps. I want to get in there, spit in the boss's eye and face-tank him until only one of us is standing. Or kite him 'til he drops. Either one.

In my ideal MMORPG every boss could be tanked and spanked. Raid bosses would need a lot of sapnking. And they'd have friends who'd need to be lured away or locked down.

It wouldn't be easy or quick or predictable because things would go wrong. You'd make mistakes. I'd make mistakes. We'd notice or we wouldn't. We'd fix it or we'd fail. We'd muddle along and make it up as we went. And when it was over and we were all sitting around breathing hard and giving each other notes they'd be a hell of a lot more interesting than "You missed a cue in stage three. You need to work on your timing".

Yes, I know I'm romanticizing. Everyone will still learn their rotations. Things will go to plan. The adds won't wander up. The pull won't go wrong. The crucial taunt won't be resisted. It'll be boring.

Well, then, at least let me be bored my way.


  1. I find myself experiencing an interesting mix of strident disagreement and total assent with your thoughts here.

    On the one hand, the idea of a world where nothing has fight mechanics and everything is tank and spank kind of feels like hell to me. Or at least purgatory. It's not a (virtual) world I'd want to live in.

    On the other hand, I do find myself agreeing with a lot of your thought process, if not the conclusions. I don't have a problem with scripting itself, but the way it's used often leaves much to be desired.

    Like you, I prefer improvisation to rote dance moves. I prefer combat that has an element of chaos to it. This is why I prefer action combat games with no trinity or a relaxed trinity. Those are much more about reacting on the fly than memorizing a rigid ability rotation or a specific "safety dance."

    I also dislike the preference for "pass/fail" mechanics that so many MMOs tend to use, especially in raids. Usually the preferred design is mechanics that are relatively easy to beat -- run out of this heavily telegraphed attack -- but which punish you severely for failure. I hate one-shot mechanics.

    Ideally I'd prefer the opposite: mechanics that are quite challenging, but which are fairly forgiving of failure. When you either coast through a fight or just die, it's boring either way. There's a lot more excitement in fights where you're likely to suffer setbacks often, but where you have the opportunity to recover with good play.

    1. Tank&spank is fairly lazy shorthand on my part. I really do like literal face-to-face slugfests but before scripting that's not what we had at all. What I really mean is that every NPC/Mob/Boss should have a subset of the same abilities a player has and suficient AI to deploy them in a reasonable facsimile of a player. Caster mobs should hang back and cast, tank mobs should rush the strongest player and pin them, crowd control mobs should attempt lock downs and so on.

      That's exactly how it used to be before we had scripts. Most of my experience is from group rather than raid content but clearly the experience could be extrapolated. If you have a dragon in a huge cave, guarded by a cadre of fire giants and a few other powerful minions and they have the ability to transfer hate lists between them and to prioritize targets, it seems to me you shouldn't need a specific script that plays out the same every time.

      If you then throw in some roaming mobs that might turn up and tune the respawn times so that taking too long means the dead rise again, you have everything you need to keep people on their toes. Of course, given enough tries, players will work out a schedule even for something like that but at least it will be their own.

      The problem, really, is that the kind of people who are most drawn to raiding, particularly those who organize it all, are often more interested in efficiency than entertainment. It's a very goal-oriented part of the game and there's not much support for anything that adds unpredictability.

  2. I dunno, I just think of raids as a kind of no-win scenario.

    If it's smooth and efficient and quick, it apparently bores a good part of its audience, who clamor for harder and harder challenges to show off their performances and their overt stated preference for learning and growing by facing off difficult obstacles so that they can experience joyous fiero at the end of it. (Me, I'm thinking I'll take smooth and efficient and successful over multiple failure attempts so that I don't lose extra hair, sleep, or additional gaming time, thanks.)

    If it's hard and challenging and forces a group to re-try multiple times, before you know it, a very similar part of that audience gets more and more pissed off and frustrated because their overt stated preference for learning and being challenged only extends so far as themselves, and anyone who learns a little slower than them is blocking their path to victory. Meanwhile, to another group of people, the encounter is too damn hard to learn, or too unpredictable and thus not worth investing time in.

    If it's predictable, it bores some people. If it's chaotic, it overwhelms other people. If it's punishing, it makes some people happy and frustrates others because they're barely having time to take things in before they're laid out flat and out of the fight. If it's forgiving, another group of players is complaining that they can ignore the mechanics so why even have them there in the first place...

    Good luck getting it goldilocks just right. In the meantime, your playerbase just split down the middle, various times, across all their different preference spectrums. Hope you've got enough content to make each teeny tiny subset happy.

    1. That is pretty much my experience. I have never had the slightest interest in repeating failure until it turns into success. When the reward for finally suceeding is to move up a notch and repeat the same process at a higher level of difficulty and doing it again I begin to question the entire concept, not just for myself but for anyone.

      Back when I was in a family guild in EQ around 2001-2003 we had lots of members who wanted to raid. Since actual raiding was far out of our reach the officers would organize zone raids on places like Mistmoore or Tower of Frozen Shadows. They tended to be on Sundays and people got quite excited but fairly soon they also got bored (if it went well) and/or frustrated (if we wiped) for exactly the reasons you list. They wanted to raid because raiding was what the bigger boys did but doing it at the level they were capable of wasn't much fun.

      When I went along with some bigger guilds later and did a few bits and pieces of actual raiding (entry level stuff only) I found that wasn't a whole lot different. It seemed like a lot of time and effort for precious little fun. I could see that if I stuck at it it was going to be first overwhelming, then arduous, then repetitive, then tedious. Why not save the hassle and not bother in the first place?

      A few years later, I took to the chaotic world of Public Quests, Rifts, "open" raids and World Bosses like a duck to water. They seemed to offer all the attractions of raiding while avoiding most of the downsides. I used to say I had no interest in raiding but clearly I love it when it's done the way I like it. Then again, I imagine everyone does.

  3. Hm, as someone who's been raiding pretty consistently for the better part of a decade I think you're barking up the wrong tree. After all, isn't everything an NPC does scripted? What spells they use and how often, whether they move and how fast... I find it hard to imagine a boss without at least a rudimentary script unless they are literally an inert rock. The scripts have just become more numerous and complicated over time.

    My own impression has always been that you're more opposed to instancing, though maybe not consciously. After all, you quite seem to enjoy Guild Wars 2's various world bosses, and what is a world boss but a raid boss that isn't confined to an instance?

    Also, (instanced) raiding often involves a certain amount of organisation, and if there's one thing you seem to really dislike in your gaming (at least these days) it's being told what to do. :)

    I may be totally wrong though.

    1. As I understand it, Scripting, as I heard of the term when it was introduced into EverQuest, is both different and separate from what I would call behaviors. All mobs in all MMOs have set behaviors - pathing, abilities, faction, hate lists etc - but those, I believe, would be accessed through a different process. I imagine more of a lookup-table scenario although my knowledge of these kind of things is archaic.

      What I believe was added was the ability of specific, individual mobs to run their own, much more complex, scripts. This would set them on a pre-set routine that had to be followed or it would break, usually resetting the encounter or bugging it. Players had to learn to do what the script expected or the whole thing would fall apart.

      Over time that became more sophisticated and these days scripts generally don't break if people do the wrong thing but by then the damage had been done. Also, I believe, the big change was that the introduction of scripting began the handover of content from people who could actually code to people who mostly wrote.

      As for World Bosses/Events/PQs/hot-join open raiding - see my reply to Jeromai! It's not specifically instanced raiding I don't like so much as formal raiding, for want of a better term, but it's very true that I don't really take to instances for this kind of thing. For groups, sure; for big gangs, not so much. I don't much like the way EQ2's public quests are now at set times in instances, for example. I preferred them to be in the open world and relatively unpredictable.

    2. I guess I don't see what difference it would make to the player, even if there's a technical one. If you have a dragon boss that roars, breathes fire, swipes things in front of her and flies into the air every so often, what does it matter to the player whether this is coded as behaviour or scripted by your definition (assuming nothing is literally broken)?

    3. I still think the most useful analogy is with acting. Raiding and grouping in MMORPGs that use fully scripted content is like being in a repertory theater company. All the members have specific roles. The company performs from a set of plays that everyone has learned off-book. On an ideal engagement everything goes exactly to plan, everyone hits their marks, no-one fluffs a line and on to the next booking.

      Before scripting it was closer to improvisational theater. Everyone had skills, often very finely-honed, and everyone knew how to work as a team and bounce off each other. There would be a clear understanding of what needed to be achieved (a successful performance in which no-one "dies") but the path to gettign there would be very different every time. No two performances would be the same, or often even similar.

      Analogies are always inexact and often misleading but that feels like the difference as I experienced it. I can remember the specific point in group content when I finally decided scripted content wasn't for me: it was in EQ2's 2005 Adventure Pack, The Bloodline Chronicles, when I was with a group and we all had to run to a specific spot and hide behind a wall to avoid an AE attack. I remember thinking "this is not what I signed up for". Not long after that I was back in EQ, doing the content that pre-dated scripting.

  4. Asheron's Call didn't really have raids as we understand them today, or even really pre-Planes of Power EQ raiding -- although that would be closer.

    AC was more of a story live event type setup. Super powerful characters like Bael'Zharon actually controlled by a developer of Turbine. But such fights didn't even really rise to the level of Tank and Spank from a purely mechanical perspective.

    AC didn't really have classes (what classes that did exist on the character create screen were more starting templates). Any character worth its salt was independently strong in all aspects of the trinity.

    So you'd get a mass of people -- as many as the servers could handle before portal storms would start kicking in and removing excess people (I would like to say this was into the low 100's, but I could be well off on that) -- each going for the boss, getting attacked, healing themselves, DPSing away.

    These events were all about the drama. The interplay between the big characters. They were story content moreso than gameplay content.

    I really enjoyed them at the time, the lore and story of AC was fantastic. And when they did things like allowing the player to direct the path of the story through what was essentially an ingame poll (return one of two items to Martine, to either help fuel his rage or to remember his humanity) this seemed like space age craziness at the time.

    Having said all that, I very much appreciate the WoW-esque approach to raiding with multiple difficulty levels and mechanics to dance through as well! I have no doubt that eventually this will seem quaint and in the past too, and we'll get some of the dynamic content mentioned in the other comments here. AI will come and the robot overlords will start their practice against us in the gaming fields. ;)

    1. Thanks for that! It rings the vaguest of bells so I must have heard about AC's raids somewhere but I would never have remembered. It sounds not disimilar to the huge holiday event fights in TSW/SWL, which I really like, and also a precursor to the kind of open-world raidlike events that I first saw in Rift and which are now a mainstay of GW2.

      It's a shame I didn't get on with Asheron's Call when I tried it (I still have the box on a shelf somewhere). The more I hear about it, the more interesting it sounds.

  5. From my perspective, one of the things that hurts Wow's raiding is the arms race between the developers and the bossmods addon writers. Instead of the raiding slowing changing as folks developed new skills, the addon writers simply tell people what dance moves need to be done next. The developers then make the fights that much more complex to compensate. For me it has reached a point where it has stopped being fun. I can still do the fights, but scripted dance just isn't interesting. The ones that I have enjoyed are the chaotic ones that you can't just over gear. Ironically, those are the fights many of Wow's raiders hate.

    1. There's definitely a lot to that idea - the boss mods have created a race to add more mechanics, which definitely makes the dance harder to do. I think I would like more chaos, but I'm not a fan of Blizzard's ways of adding chaos to fights - usually hinging on rapid-fire mechanics that require immediate response like randomly teleporting your whole raid onto a single player during a phase in which certain players have to move out to avoid causing large amounts of raid damage. I'm certainly curious as to how they do the last tier of raiding in Battle for Azeroth - it can certainly be more chaotic thematically and I hope they think of better ways to implement that idea!

    2. Don't get me started on Add-Ons! I really should do a post on that some day. There was a time when I considered any use of any variant to the UI that comes with the box to be outright cheating. Didn't care if the game allowed it - that was just the equivalent of the devs condoning cheating.

      I have mellowed a lot on that and I do use Add-Ons but I still think they are hugely problematic and what Pallais describes is a very good example of why.

      I wonder what kind of demand there would be for a speical ruleset WoW server that didn't allow Add-Ons or that only allowed a very specific subset of approved ones? It seems to me that could potentialy bring something of a "Classic" feel to a Live environment, although by now, of course, most of the higher content would be pretty much unplayable. Still, people say they like a challenge.

  6. Thanks for the interesting look at the history! I definitely started with WoW, but have an appreciation for what came before.

    Blizzard has, for better or worse, tied the fate of their game to raiding - it's very much the one thing they do that still stands apart from most of their competition to enough people that it matters. As someone who wasn't really an MMO player before WoW and still kind of isn't (although that is changing!). raiding is the thing that hooked me into the game.

    I don't mind being able to completely bowl over a boss here and there - the idea is quite appealing and it's something Blizzard fails to handle well since they love to keep everything in a tense state of balance - but my goal with that post was to communicate a bit of displeasure in the fact that most of Eternal Palace is really easy right up to the end.

    But I'm probably pretty opposite to your stated preference in play - I'm starting to get more into Extreme trials in Final Fantasy XIV and those are fights that are scripted to such a point that they are predictable and the only chaos is when players fail to execute their "dance moves" as it were. I even spent a few hours this last weekend just farming one of these bosses for a weapon!

    I think WoW's compromise, noted in Naithin's comment above, is a good one. Raiding has multiple levels of difficulty and so when you run into what my guild did this last week, you simply jump up to the next difficulty and do the same bosses but with tighter tuning and more mechanics - a larger dance routine to perform. We'll hopefully find what we're looking for in Heroic - but it is a bit of a problem that there isn't really content to appeal to a player like yourself. Blizzard's problem in Battle for Azeroth is that nearly everything is scripted to a much higher degree, to the point that the cannon fodder in the world even requires a degree of strategy to fight and right as you begin to outgear the nobody enemies in the overworld, a new zone comes out and you start right over again, multiple times per expansion.

    1. Your post was a great seed for a topic I never really considered writing about. Raiding has always been a hugely contentious issue in MMORPGs. These days it's been made so much more accessible that far more players ahve at least some experience of it, and the concept of a large number of players fighting a very strong opponent has been turned into a much more commonplace, open-world activity.

      For a long time, though, hardly anyone actually raided. As I said, the estimate used to be 10% of the active playerbase. The theory was that the other 90%, or at least a lot of them, would see the raiders with their amazing gear, posing in front of the bank, showing off their particle effects, and want to be them. It was believed to be a big driver of subscriptions.

      These days that function has been widely replaced by cosmetics sold through the cash shop in most MMOs. You don't need to raid to look like an explosion in a firework factory, you just need to open your wallet. It kind of cuts out the middle-man as far as the devs are concerned. As the Kotaky piece about EQ I linked in the post confirms, though, in an aging game (and WoW is very much that, now), raiding is still hugely important when it comes to retaining the customers you already have. From that perspective it makes sense to make raiding as user-friendly as possible at the entry level and then to ramp up to impossibly hard at the far end.

      GW2 is currently making a total hash of doing that, to the detriment of the game. FFXIV, I think, is likely to manage it much better. They both rely incredibly heavily on scripted content and dance moves, but at least GW2 has an alternative with wide range of open-world raid-like target that can be zerged down or overpowered. Also there they use a form of scripting I do like, which, to continue the acting analogy, is to break events down into Acts and Scenes. That might deserve a post of it's own some time.

  7. Mainly replying to the exchange of comments between Shintar and Bhagpuss. I find it very interesting because I know that Shintar mainly plays SWTOR.

    The thing is, of the MMOs I've played and run group content in SWTOR has by far the heaviest scripting of boss mechanics. I'm absolutely sure you'd hate those raids with a passion, Bhag.

    Personally I liked them quite a lot, but like you I think that these kind of mechanics go well beyond what I'd call 'mob behaviour'.
    I once wrote a boss guide for our guild's forums. I didn't count at the time, but that guide must have been 1500 to 2000 words long, with multiple screenshots to make it easier to understand. This is ONE boss I'm talking about (Warlord Kephess in the Explosive Conflict raid on hard mode).

    I was the raid leader and played one of the tanks when we beat that guy for the first time. It was glorious, but I can totally understand why many people dislike that stuff. It's the polar opposite of tank and spank, in my opinion.

    1. I know that there's a scale, from my point of view what Bhag is talking about in this post is not even on the map though, hehe.

      Though after thinking about it some more, I do remember a fight I did that was very much like what Bhag described in his reply to Tyler: the Faction Champions in WoW's Trial of the Crusader. Most people hated that fight and kept saying that it was too much like PvPing. Even found a post I made about it almost ten years ago!

    2. That's a really interesting post you linked, Shintar. It sounds as though that fight was the kind of thing I'm talking about (and which would have been relatively common in EQ and other MMORPGs pre-WoW) but horrifically overtuned.

      It's vitally important that the devs don't hand ALL the cards to the mobs. Yes, they should use a subset of player-like abilities and behaviors but that subset needs to be very carefully selected because AI controlled mobs have huge built-in advantages over players. Their reaction time is instantaneous as is their intel. They never fat-finger a key or cast the wrong spell by mistake. The only reason AI companions are often poor at keeping out of red circles, for example, is that someone programmed them to be bad. If devs don't undertune the AI it will beat players every time.

      Which is why I am so skeptical of the endless claims that someone is about to make a game with realistic AI , where you can't tel the NPCs from players. There was yet another one of those on Massively yesteday. The fact is, NPCs could do that twenty years ago, at least as far as combat is concerned. The issue is that players won't put up with it and why should they?


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