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Viewing Topic: Missed Opportunities - Page 1
#0: 01-18-2011 @ 11:58:09 am
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MachVergil Photo.
  • Real Name:Adam
  • Joined:2010-01-22

So while I was eating lunch today I somehow got on the topic in my mind of "games that had the potential to do something awesome, but then didn't."  By this I don't mean the normal "They said there's be 20 levels and instead there were only 10" sorta thing.  No I more mean that a game came within inches of something truly brilliant, but then fell short due to ... well who knows why.  I'm sure there are far more examples of these three, but they are the three that came to me at first.

World of Warcraft: Talent Trees*

Example image of a WoW talent tree

(*I've not played Cataclsym, nor do I plan on it, so these views may or may not be slightly outdated as I hear they gave the talent system an overhaul, though I've heard almost nothing on if said overhaul did any good/bad)

Those of you who have been on vent with me lately talking about gaming in general have probably heard me verbally beating the shit out of the WoW Talent Tree system.  While Extra Credits sums up why I hate it from a gameplay stand point very nicely in their episode on choice in games, the long and short of it is that the Talent Tree system isn't really up to a player. What they present you is what looks like a complex system by which a player could completely customize their play experience for their character.  In theory, no two warriors, no two druids, no two hunters, etc, should ever be alike.

The problem is that's not actually what happened.  Instead, you're really given three choices, and based on what point in the game and what it is you want do in the game, one or more of those choices might be completely inviable.  Once you've made your choice,  you are more or less forced to follow a pretty well outlined Min-Maxed build researched by the math heads of the internet.  Showing up to your guild's activity without that build is a great way to get shit on, regarded as a bad player, and ultimately kicked out of groups. At first this may have started out as player bickering, but in time Blizzard actually started tuning their content for this min-maxing, so if you didn't do it, you really were screwed.

Imagine though how much more fun the game would have been if virtually any build possible from the Talent Tree system was viable?  Sure, a pure Prot Warrior should still be a better tank than a pure Arms one, why can't a player who went 50/50 between the two work?  Why couldn't a paladin spread his/her points across 3 trees to gain parts of the benefits to each?

I have to admit though, ultimately it's probably for the best that isn't how it worked.  WoW already had enough problems with filling groups with players playing healing or tanking classes using the Talent Tree as an excuse to not fill their role in a party, and that much free reign would have just made the problem even worse. Still, if maybe if the dev's were less obsessed with allowing Talent Trees to cross between roles and more provides multiple methods of achieving the same role, it might have worked?

Guild Wars: Dual Class

Guild Wars warrior build

Guild Wars sort of has a similar problem WoW does in that the dual class system but it works a bit differently. The benefit that Guild Wars has over WoW in this case is that since every enemy in the game has a different 6-set of skills, it's impossible to min-max a character for every situation.  The problem is the flip of that is that a player can't attach themselves to a particular idea or play-style because chances are at some point the PvE metagame will shit all over it.  The result is that the best way to keep yourself viable is to play to the strengths of your primary class first, and the utility of your secondary class as a distant second.  With that consideration, it really is not a surprise that I see more ___/Mo running around than anything else - added healing is an easy utility to add and understand (and I'm just as guilty of this as EVERYONE ELSE is), not to mention the near exclusivity of repeat-use resurrect spells.

Imagine if instead you could latch onto a concept of a character, like a W/N who wanted to be a "Destroyer of the Weak."  You'd put the warrior's heavy armor to work to boost your defenses and make you look imposing, wielding either axe or hammer into battle, and then fit yourself with a powerful array of Necro curses to weaken your foes so that they are such nothing at your feet. Going this route you run into two problems immediately:  1)  Your Warrior primary keeps your energy pool and energy regen far too low to really use the Necro spells and your desire to use a melee weapon means you MUST dump a certain % of your attribute points in that weapon's mastery and, if you want it to hit for any kind of damage, you should also pump strength, not leaving a lot of points for those curses you wanted so bad.  By the time you're in hard mode you're probably min-maxing the hell out of your warrior abilities and only taking curses to give you a slight boost in power instead of them serving to be part of what defines your character.  If you think going N/W is the solution, you'll find that while you have the energy to support the curses, now you don't have the strength to help your melee weapons actually hurt worth a damn or the heavy armor to keep yourself durable in melee.

To be fair, Guild Wars is still more lenient than this makes it sound, and skill selection really is the important crux here. What isn't possible with your skill selection at level 10 might be once you hit 20 and have the right elite skills.  Ultimately you can absolutely make a W/N or a N/W work just fine, they just will probably have to be more the primary than the secondary than you  had planned to work perfectly. At the end of the day, when you hit high end content, your party will need durable front-lines, powerful sources of damage, and some dedicated healers, and your character idea needs to fit somewhere in that mix. 

Sins of a Solar Empire: Tech Trees

Sins of a Solar Empire Tech Tree Example

When Ironclad games sought to make Sins of a Solar Empire, they mentioned their goal was to try to merge the fast action of RTS with the fun of "Real Robust Tech-Trees like those found in 4x (think Civ) games." While by and large they accomplished this goal with flying colors, I feel the one part they fell short was the fact that the game's faction determines its tech tree.

I'm not saying I'm against the factions themselves, and them having locked down tech-trees certainly helps dictate their character (it's certainly the Starcraft half of this Starcraft-meets-Civ approach), but imagine if your weapons, ships, and other upgrades were available to everyone, like in Civ, and, much like in Civ, were part of what you could trade with other players.   Each game you could customize if you wanted to focus more on being a trade empire, building laser weapons, strike craft, etc, instead of that decision being made for you at the onset of the game when you chose your faction.

In Closing

These are kind of meandering thoughts, so there may have been things I forgot regarding each of these points.  Feel free to add your two cents, disagree, comment, etc, because I'd be curious to hear what other people's take away on these ideas are.

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