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Going to include some highlights that I liked....
Full article at the link.
Darrin McPherson, Senior Game Designer at Sigil Games Online, and I hung out at the Sony Online Entertainment booth and discussed - in length - the Vanguard: Saga of Heroes combat system:
I personally wouldn’t consider the combat system that you’ve implemented to be too complex, but do you have any fears that a casual gamer will have difficulty learning this system?
Well the wonderful thing is that the reactions come up in a window – it’s like training wheels; they come up, they sound, they pop-up. Advanced players on beta complain that it’s like playing whack-a-ball because it comes up: okay, I have three reactions at this point in combat, which one do I do? Hitting them when they pop-up and come up. For newbie players they like it because it trains them. I don’t play with the reaction window up because I know what the combinations are, not from actually making them – I’ve made thousands of abilities so I don’t remember them. I remember them because I play the Pcionicist and the Sorcerer all the time and I have a really high-level Ranger on the beta server. I know I’m learning the combat synergy stuff with the group I play with often. All that stuff adds up. When I was a newbie I used the reaction stuff. With combat synergy you can kill stuff with auto-attack, you can kill stuff by spamming your buttons, and you can learn. And there are beta players that don’t learn; they’re frustrated because they’re at level 5 and don’t see how it’s different. Well, it’s not really different at level 5 because level 5 is really early in the game for you to be doing any of this advanced stuff. They’ll post on the boards saying I’m level 5 and it doesn’t feel any different. Five levels later they’ll post and will have had a change-of-heart.
One can interpret Vanguard to be very complex and difficult due to lengthy travel times, immersive crafting systems, and complicated combat; can casual players play Vanguard casually?
In terms of travel times, depending on where you’re going – at least if you’re going continentally – it’s rather understandable because horses are accessible very easily at levels 1, 2 and 3 via quests – everyone will riding around on a horse: horses of varying speeds and because your small area of influence at lower levels players don’t have issues with the travel times. At higher levels there’s a lot of travel. We’ll be experimenting with ways of trying to speed that up, but we want travel to be meaningful, but we also want players to be able to actually play when they actually want to play and not have to travel for hours on end. That’s a really delicate thing to balance and we’re constantly tweaking it in beta.
Combat for the casual guy, I think that what they’ll find, although these things add to combat, is that they don’t make or break the combat. You can be a button-spammer and get to level 50 in Vanguard. You can get to 50 solo in Vangaurd – it’ll take a while, longer than it would in a group. You’ll have some meaningful content, but you won’t get all the rewards or see all the cool sights you’d see in a group, but you can do that. We really want to encourage the player, through whatever means that we can, to facilitate grouping as much as possible – really good looking for group systems, the ability for players to summon other players to them – if you come to the mouth of the dungeon than healers will have the abilities to summon other players to them if they’re in the same area (so you can’t summon across the world), but if they get to the dungeon and you’re down there than each individual player can get out of the dungeon via a magic ability and all the people can be summoned down in a group so they can experience what grouping combat is because grouping combat is far my dynamic and immersive than solo combat. We want to make solo combat fun, but we also don’t want to cheapen the group experience because that’s really what our focus is.
Does solo combat have many unique features? At this point you’ve lost the ability to use defensive targets, synergy combat, and group chains.
You have your solo attack chains that you can perform and there’s certainly something to be said for solo tactics. The tactics you would use as a Dread Knight in a group you’d never use in solo. You’d never want to fear a mob in a group because you want the mob to stay put. The classes will have different tactics that they use for soloing than in a group and you’re right, you lose a lot of the dynamic content. There’s not a lot we can do to change that without lessening what the group experience is. So much of other stuff is wrapped up in reacting to other people. You can still counter spell and defend, so you can still do solo. A caster who’s really good at counter spelling could solo casters because that’s what you’ve specialized in.
Anything else you want to say about combat?
You and I been talking about combat for a long time! Let’s see. We’ve got the archive system that EverQuest II had. Like I’ve said, we’ve gone through lots of exercises to make sure that every class feels and plays differently. The classes have complexity in them, but that’s another thing. Did this experiment work? No, it didn’t, we’ve got to change. Some of the classes have changed fundamentally because the initial thing didn’t work. It’s easy to say “you tank the best”. If you want to say that the Sorcerer does the most damage of anyone than that’s how you feel different. Our approach is harder, but I think that ultimately it’s going to pay off better because you’ll have situations where you’re forming a group and you won’t need specific classes – you need somebody from an archetype. There are lots more people out there playing Paladins and Dread Knights than there are playing just Warriors.