Thursday, September 4, 2008

Friendly fire in MMORPGs?

Let's 'pretend' for a second that magic is real (lol). Imagine being a wizard on the back-line of a large army charging into battle. Your army's front line knights clash heavily with those of the enemy and the battle begins. You start spell casting and send a magnificent fireball into the fray of battle. The fireball explodes leaving the enemy front line completely decimated. Luckily you have friendly fire 'turned off' and all your army's knights are unharmed. WTF? Immunity to friendly fire doesn’t make any sense in a fantasy realm, so what is it doing in my RPG?

Friendly fire (FF) in an MMORPG would definitely make sense, so why is it so rarely implemented in practice? I began pondering this question today...

If everyone in the game could harm everyone else, how would you prevent abusive players from carving up their own team? How would you even have teams? The entire game would need to be based on trust and diplomacy, which aren't exactly common traits in online players. FF would add an extra element of difficulty to large scale battles, because it would be hard to avoid accidentally exploding your team mates with AoE type attacks. The extra layer of difficultly would in fact make the game require more skill, possibly appealing to the hardcore gamers. Unfortunately hardcore gamers aren't exactly the majority population at the moment, so FF might not be the best idea ever. I'm guessing this is the reason that MMO game companies have thus far steered clear of FF. Too much risk of abuse, and only a small population of gamers that would enjoy it.

I definitely think FF would work in an MMORPG, but it would require a clever consequences system to prevent abuse. Being somewhat of a hardcore gamer, I look forward to seeing the first MMORPG to successfully pull it off. I've heard the FF will be included in Darkfall, but I'm still not convinced that the game isn't vaporware.


mbp said...

Although I have never played an mmo with friendly fire (are there any?) your post reminds me of my experiences with Never Winter Nights 2. One of the consequences of changing the difficulty slider to hardcore was to allow area of effect spells damage friend as well as foe. This made fights far more challenging and called for clever use of tactics. In my opinion it was a change for the better and like you I would love to see it implemented in an mmo. I actually wrote a bit about it here:

Crimson Starfire said...

I just read your article on friendly fire. My thought's exactly. I never really got into NWN2, but I was a huge fan of NWN. Friendly fire works well in single player and LAN style RPGs, but I'm not sure how well it would go in an MMO. Too much risk of abuse.

The problem is that I want my MMORPG to be as realistic as possible and FF is right up there on the list, but if it comes at a cost of enjoyment, then I can do with out it.

mbp said...

Hits head.

My last post contains a serious inaccuracy. Of course I have played an MMO with friendly fire. Its called EVE.

You are right of course - friendly fire can be abused. EVE is based an a huge culture of mistrust precisely because anybody, friend or foe could turn on you at any time. It works in EVE but then what is called abuse in other games is considered all part of the game in EVE.

I can't think of a way to get the tactical implications of friendly fire without the abuse potential. Perhaps by restricting friendly fire to aoe damage but even that could be abused.

Elementalistly said...

Friendly fire exists on the AoC culture server.
The reason is you can team up and anyone NOT in your team is vulnerable to FF.

This includes your Culture....

Stupid Funcom!

Crimson Starfire said...

Oh yeah, I forgot Eve was friendly fire. Eve wouldn't be the awesome PvP game it is today without friendly fire. Also because Eve is set in the vastness of space, AoE attacks are less of a worry and thus allow for large battles to take place without too much FF going off. Very cool.

Stupid Funcom!

Hey! AoC will be good one day... just 375 more patches from now, when its too late ;)

I wonder how popular their friendly fire 'culture' server is. I'd probably take a look at it if I played AoC.

Melf_Himself said...

I've thought about this too. I love the idea.

Another awesome advantage of it is that it helps to level the playing field when there's a massive zerg of the enemy.

With some smart defensive play, you could let the noobs slaughter themselves with their own friendly fire. I think that would go such a long way to balancing out games where zerging is a problem (eg possibly in WAR, where apparently destruction outnumbers order by 2:1).

A random idea I just had to prevent exploits:

The game keeps track of the total amount of damage inflicted to the ENEMY team by an individual person over a given time period. Call this A.

The game keeps track of the total amount of damage inflicted to the ALLIED team by that same person. Call this B.

As long as A is sufficently larger than B, the person is an asset to the team. However, if the ratio is less than some threshold, the person is likely a noob or a griefer, so their own team gets the option to be able to target them.

ie, if someone damages too many allies and not enough foes, a big message comes up saying "Kill the traitor!!" and puts a big X on the head of the guy doing it :o

Melf_Himself said...

This would also allow leet people like me to periodically kill noobs on my own team to vent some frustration, since I would have so many enemy kills racked up that I wouldn't be deemed a traitor.

But as long as I'm a net gain to the team, it's all good right :)

Anonymous said...

Friendly Fire in PvP sounds great, but not in reality; at least not without some kind of constraints to make it a PKers paradise.

You would not be able to move 5 feet in your average MMO town without Lolboy killing you just for the hell of it.
That 20 second trip from the Inn to the Bank would involve 6 corpse runs and multiple /spit emotes or the like.

Tesh said...

What about introducing penalties for damaging or killing teammates? If the risk/reward is balanced sufficiently, it could discourage the PK shenanigans.

Crimson Starfire said...

Great idea. Often game design ideas like friendly fire are left out purely for the potential abuse factor. If the abuse if mitigated correctly, then I see no reason to leave it out.

Anonymous said...

Id love to see MMO's with friendly fire. It really wouldnt be too difficult to implement a penalty system for PKs and for towns you could just take something like Log Horizon's No Combat Zones in towns and the like. In LH they have basically unkillable "Royal Guards" that appear and will DESTROY anyone who is fighting in NCZ's. Out in the field is where it would be more difficult to enforce but not impossible.