Thursday, December 6, 2012

Extra Credits Video

Video here.

This is something that I try to explain to people, that I think this video does better than I could. One thing I try to explain when playing games is the difference in power in classes, strategies, etc. For example, in most Final Fantasy games, you can pretty much ignore much of the complexity the game offers by simply finding the exploitable bits and exploiting to the hilt.

But, player skill should not make too huge a difference in power for another reason. If a player has more skill, they can use the power gained from that skill more efficiently. For example, in a Magic draft, your better players with more skill are executing the almost identical pool of possible power as their draft partners, but their skill allows them to shine. Some blocks are much more power heavy, like a Core Edition draft, where a few power cards can negate the advantage of high skill; other blocks put more of a premium on skill. In one edition, during a core sealed, I was able to play to a win solely on the back of a Loxodon Warhammer and a team of 2/X flying blue or white creatures. In that environment, skill made a difference (the fact I saw the optimal strategy for my card pool and played it), but in others, finding that FOO, as the video calls it, is harder to do.

I think this is something that a lot of recent games, especially MMOs, are not doing well. The Secret World, I feel, did this really well. Early on, you needed to slightly vary your strategies, but by midgame, you really needed to either play your small pool of powers to the hilt, or have a variety of powers to choose from, essentially deciding if you wanted to focus more on the power or skill part of the equation. Guild Wars 2, unfortunately, is a bit the opposite. No matter your class, in the first 20 or 30 levels, you are developing the proper skill and build for what you want to do. Warriors have probably figured out that Hundred Blades makes short work of anything, and Elementalists have learned to weave their attunements, etc. But, you don't need to start varying that strategy until you hit group content or do PvP. This can be a rude awakening for players who haven't been relying on the raw power of their weapon set to see them through.

In MOBAs, you see this by characters that people consider high and low skill cap. Low-skill cap characters tend to have powerful, if not particularly flashy, abilities. The payoff for high skill cap characters is much higher, but the risk is also a lot higher. That's a good balance for people to have to choose, but without the Ashe- or Garen-archetypes, you won't get new players.

This is one of the things I try to avoid developing in games; for example, in Dragon Age, I deliberately chose to not be a mage, because I had seen how powerful mages could be. In MMOs, I try to vary my character style as much as possible, which was fun and easy to do in Guild Wars and The Secret World, but in other games, like WoW, the option just isn't there. I like variety, and falling into this trap is dangerous to my ability to enjoy games.

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