Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Art and Science of Combat

Although this is not a distinction often used to describe an MMO's gameplay, I feel it is one that deserves some attention. One should know which of the terms best describes their gameplay, which would undoubtedly help them tell if they're headed the right way in term of design decisions.

If gameplay elements tend more towards making the game a science, then people will have to study numbers and come up with the best formulas; characters will be optimized based on the setup of the day and there will be no decisions to take during the action - they will all have been made in advance, during the planning phase.

Should gameplay elements indicate combat as a form of art, then people should not overly worry about optimization - there will be many working setups, and anyone can contribute, no matter how odd their choices, as long as they have an idea of what they're doing. Decisions on the battlefield will matter more, and the initial plan will likely not survive contact with the enemy.

Although both elements can make for good games, they do not interact well; people will expect one and, seeing traces of the other, will likely complain that the game is not exactly how they wanted it. Combat should be thought of as an art or a science; getting both at once only serves to confuse people.