Thursday, April 2, 2009

CC in PvP

Saylah over at Mystic Worlds has a post up about CC in PvP, generally lol-ing about the fact that Blizzard can't seem to figure out that people don't like it. She raises a good point - nobody likes to lose control of their character by being stunned, rooted, feared, or whatever else the flavour of the month happens to be.

One way to get around the debilitating effects of CC is to never truly let people be powerless. For example in Left 4 Dead, when you are incapacitated you can still shoot. You are limited to using only pistols, you can not move, and your accuracy is impaired, but it's infinitely better than not being able to do anything at all. Further, should you die as either a Human or Infected, you are able to enter a free-roaming mode where you can travel very quickly around the map, spinning the camera around, passing through walls etc. You can scout ahead for your team this way, or simply watch the cinematics unfold from a pretty vantage point, or watch another player from their point of view (always entertaining). It's not as good as if you were still playing, but it's fun, and it passes the time until you can join the team again.

Another way is to have the CC be a heap of fun both for the person dishing it out, and the person taking it. The only example of this I can think of has to be knock-backs. In WAR I never cared when someone used a knock-back on me, even when it sent me hurtling off a cliff, as I was always too busy chuckling to be frustrated.

If approaches similar to the above are not possible, there are still plenty of ways to make CC a fun and balanced part of PvP. But it is important to realize that, by definition, class-based games are never balanced on a 1 vs 1 scale. If they were, it would mean that every class does effectively the same thing, which would then mean that it's not a class-based game at all.

No, in class-based games, balance needs to be considered on the team scale. As long as someone else on your team can easily counteract the effect, balance is preserved, and your fun isn't ruined. But, this is where most MMO's get it wrong.

For example, WAR. In WAR, there is a tiny icon that appears underneath your character portrait on the party member UI that denotes the effect that is on you. Your team mates can see this icon. However, there is a different icon for just about every skill in the fricking game, they are not easily distinguishable from one another, and the whole thing is a mess. On top of this, removal of debilitating effects is often not spammable due to cooldown and/or being in an undesirable spec. What you're left with is terrible gameplay for the person suffering from the effect, because nobody is going to help them out. I'll assume this all works the same in WoW, but I can't distinguish it from WAR in my head, due to WAR's blatant ripping off of... everything about WoW.

Anyway, let's now consider a game like Guild Wars. The differences are:

- All debilitating effects are characterized as either conditions, or hexes. A grey icon appears on the health bar for conditions, and a pink icon for hexes.
- Many effects can cause the same condition. For example, you could have the "Crippled" condition applied to you through one of several different melee or ranged attacks or spells, but they will all result in the same icon appearing on your UI, and the same magnitude of effect (in this case 50% slow-down).
- The fact that the icon is right on the health bar, that the icon is large, and that it doesn't have to be differentiated from a hundred other icons, makes it much more likely that a team mate will have the inclination to help you out.
- There is a little more specific information available for many conditions, eg changes in the color of the bar. But in general it may not always be apparent what conditions are on a person.
- This is supplemented with the ability to control-click the icon of the de-buff in your UI. This sends a message to team chat, e.g. "I am suffering from the Blind condition!"
- Condition and hex removal are spammable, and are effective even with minimal points in the particular attribute that they are linked to (many of them being linked to no attribute, i.e. require no stat point investment to get the full effect). Although you can "cover" important ones with lesser ones, in general it is easier to remove the effects than it is to apply them.

What we end up with is a system full of some really debilitating debuffs, but it's not broken because they can and will be removed easily. This forces people to select their targets and their timing more carefully instead of mashing skills on recharge like in most other MMO's.

Of course, there will be people who will recount some story of how they got jumped by a Rogue on some PvP server while they were farming Foozle eggs, and never had a chance. Boo-hoo. That's not "PvP", it's a retarded gank-fest. Class-based games can and should only be balanced for team play, never for 1 vs 1. If ganking is a problem in the game, fine, change the game design so as to make ganking not a problem.


Saylah said...

As you've pointed it out, people don't complain as much if they can still fight back in some manner. There was a lot less crying about the root CC's in WOW than these other two that basically leave you at the mercy of whoever.

That's a good point about knock-backs in WAR. I remember that I couldn't wait to get mine to knock some Destruction into the lave and off cliffs in Scenarios. But it never pissed me off when it was done to me before I had my own version. It wasn't an instant win button. It could not kill me! It didn't do any damage to me. I was not incapacitated at all. It required the player to make strategic use of it to actually harm me, that's the significant difference. The skill itself didn't compromise me. You get smart and you position yourself carefully around classes with a knockback.

On the other hand, that Magus suck you in and root, while a Sorc drops a lethal dose of damage on you outraged players. Sucking people thru walls, doors and rooting them to their demise is the sort of stuff that pissed people off.

I think you've given a good example of how it can be done better and in a way that makes CC tactical but not completely an "I win" button. PVP designed around group or 1v1 doesn't make a difference really. No CC should provide such huge advantages.

Blizzard likes to borrow and improve. They should give Warlocks and Priests WAR's version of knockback.

Crimson Starfire said...

What if there was an ability to temporarily swap control of your character with another player? Do you think it would be popular, or not really? I definably think it would be fun, and probably really strategic as well.

Melf_Himself said...

Argh I hated that Magus combo so much Saylah! That was probably the last straw for me leaving the game.

That idea seems pretty awesome at first Crimson.

Although, one annoying thing would be if people just spammed all your skills and got rid of all your energy, or ran into the backline out of heal range to allow your character to be killed quickly. You'd also want to make sure that suicide isn't possible (e.g. taking over someone with "infuse health" in Guild Wars, where you lose 50% of your health in 0.25 seconds, would be amusing).

I think a better form of CC would be if you swapped your attributes/abilities/class with another player (for a brief time). That would be strategic but not open for abuse. While the swap is in effect, the "Swap abilities" button should be greyed out/cooling down (otherwise, domino effect, lol)... but, it should be replaced with another powerful skill, so that the player who receives the "swap" character isn't disadvantaged.

Cool idea... I will have to think about it :)