In my last Og Blog, I promised I’d explain a little more about the challenges we set ourselves during the Evolution of Combat development. In this blog I’ll be talking about the first 3 of those challenges: making combat about skill, encouraging variety in equipment, and making it fun.
In my mind, the best combat systems reward a player for truly understanding the game. If it’s an FPS game, it’s about knowing your environments, likely patterns of enemy movement, and quickly being able to choose the right weapons for the job. If it’s an RTS game, it’s about efficiency and how to adapt to enemy tactics, while being smart with your troop assignments. In essence, it’s knowledge. That’s part of what I define as the skill of the player – in modern games, knowledge IS skill. Some can be taught; most must be mastered by the user. All this is separate from the physical speed of the user, or their ability to click faster.
Right now, skill in RuneScape combat tends to be measured by things like how quickly you can switch between interfaces; odd features like “prayer flashing”; keeping your combat levels artificially low; or timing the click of when you eat food to avoid missing a hit. While those things are skilful (and I admire those players that have mastered those strange arts), none of them are about combat itself, or knowledge of combat. There’s nothing about what weapons to use and when; nothing about how to respond to your opponent in PvP - none of it relates to tactics used in real battles... and I think it should. It’s often a case of being lucky, or just having the GP to buy the best equipment, which brings us nicely to our first point...
Encouraging Variety in Equipment
“The general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought.”
- Sun Tzu
Mostly, you can take the best weapon or spell available to you and always do the best rates of damage. While we have factors like damage types (stab/ slash/ crush, for example), they rarely make a huge difference in combat, and are mostly selected due to the associated XP generation. We are changing that.
Firstly, every NPC will have specific weaknesses and strengths, reinforcing the combat triangle and genuinely making a difference which equipment and which styles of combat you use to fight them. To help you identify these strengths and weaknesses, we are adding a combat tab that shows you exactly what your target is all about. That applies to PvP and PvE combat and will show you any potions, abilities, effects, prayers and weaknesses affecting you and your opponent. Fighting NPCs will require you to take the right gear, not just rely on your standard setup. The best fighters will need to plan.
Secondly, several of our brand-new basic, threshold and ultimate abilities are not only bound to the method of combat you’re using (melee, magic or ranged) but will have equipment requirements to use: so, defensive abilities will often require the use of a shield, or ranging abilities the use of a bow, for example.
Thirdly we are de-coupling XP generation from the type of weapon you are using, so you’ll be able to choose what sort of XP you generate rather than having it chosen for you. This means, for example, that players will be able to train strength with an abyssal whip. All the “xp modes” still exist, you’ll just be able to select which one you wish to use. We are also adding a new “defensive only” mode to magic.
Making Combat More Fun
We are doing several things to add more OMG moments to combat. The new ultimate abilities are - frankly – awesome, and everyone in the office is amazed by what the graphics team have achieved. It’s been a pleasure to see these ideas come to life: huge tidal waves cascading from the mage; explosions blasting your opponent from afar; massive aerial bombardments from the ranger; a rain of arrows pinning your target to the ground; cleaving blows from the warrior, so big that they rupture the very ground around you; or calling great destructive meteors from the sky. There’s a real plethora of choice, too, with over 20 abilities to pick from within each combat method. We are also adding critical hits to combat, to add a new dimension to damage with crit-hit splats. Overall, your rate of damage will be massively increased.
Of course, it’s not all about how hard you can hit things. Maximum life points will be raised by the armour you’re wearing, so life points will effectively increase by over 15 times of previous amounts for defensively geared players, with a 10 times increase for those equipped with offense in mind. Currently, a common source of disappointment is being killed very quickly in PvP with little chance to react. With larger life pool, players will be encouraged to think tactically rather than relying on lucky, big hits.
Making Combat about Player Skill
To bring us back to the idea of gaming skill that I was discussing at the beginning of this blog, we are building a system to reward the player who makes good use of their knowledge and understanding of combat. Those players who truly master the new abilities, equipment rebalancing and target-strengths and weaknesses will find new rewards from the game – not only in terms of fun, but also in treasure and progression. Players who master the system will have the best XP and GP rates available through combat.
Naturally, there are several aspects of the game that need rebalancing in order to achieve this sense of reward. Things like healing via food have been modified to relate more to the new and increased life points of the player; potions and prayers are being modified to allow for high-level features in the future; and massive changes are being made to encourage players to train all combat skills, including the neglected Defence skill. More information on that will follow in a later blog.
As mentioned previously, the action bar we are adding to the game allows the player to quickly access the features they want to use, rather than force them to navigate between tabs to find them. This means more time engaging with combat itself, not the interfaces that contain the right buttons. Players will load the 12 slot action bar with all the abilities, potions, food, prayers, spells etc they want to, and have all the features they wish to use in one place. It’s really easy to set up your action bar and define your own hotkeys to access the bar, and once defined it can be locked, remaining the same until you decide to change it. Players will also have access to multiple action bars, so you can define your optimum setup for whatever situation you find yourself in, even outside of combat. The abilities we are adding give the player a wealth of choices to use in PvE and PvP combat, and the way those abilities relate to each other will bring a new sense of tactical depth to the game. It’s shaping up to be truly jaw-dropping.
More Og-blogging next week!
Mod Mark (Og)
Lead Designer – RuneScape
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