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Resistance is Futile

21 Nov

I’m starting to be assimilated.  Been increasingly interested in the news flowing out of Cryptic of late as we slowly drift toward the STO launch.  Warcry has two new ship fighting tactics videos up that give us some more insight into what they have in mind.

You can view them here and here.

Considering the depth of the curse on the Star Trek franchise when it comes to games, anything short of complete failure would probably be considered a success.  Still, although I’ve been pessimistic about this latest offering because of its troubled past, I’m becoming almost optimistic about it the more I see.  Nothing I’ve seen in the recently released clips and info causes me much angst.  There’s so much more we don’t know at this point about other important aspects of the game, but at this point, the ship combat system is starting to look ok to me.

Some folks are decrying the sell out of falling back on the holy trinity of tank, dps and heals in basic ship design (Can I be the first to use the phrase “slap in the face”?– not because I think so, but because I want to be first).  I think that’s too knee jerk.  Frankly, I’m curious what other mechanic they’d suggest that would actually make what is essentially a hybrid naval combat game worth playing.

In any combat model (and I mean ANY), you really only have three levers to pull:  damage dealing, damage avoidance and damage mitigation.  All of these aspects can be present in any single game element (ship, player, item, ability, etc.) or spread across several allowing for players to make choices.

Given our own game universe to control, we’d probably all want a ship that was the “best” at each of the three areas and as a result be able to over match all of the game’s challenges.  Maybe thats a good goal for a single player game, but lets face it, that’s kind of boring and awefully linear.  When everyone is the best at everything, no one is, and “everything” is ultimately reduce to just one thing.  Meh.

When you make all the chess pieces queens, you’ve ultimately created a bastardized version of the checkers “end game”– all equal pieces with complete freedom of action all equally powerful/vulnerable.  Not very interesting to me, and quite frankly, never really represented in the canon of naval warfare upon which most space-faring combat games are based.

Eve follows a similar paradigm and seems to do just fine.  From what we know, STO will allow customization of the ship and bridge crew in a manner similar to Eve’s ship module system.  As some have pointed out, use of a wide variety of modules requring requisite skills in Eve allows you to change the play characteristics of a ship pretty significantly.

Yes, you can mine with a battleship or pvp with a Hulk miner with the right modules and skills.  Those are extremes, but the still the fundamental characteristics of each ship class remain.  Giving a nod to physics, battleships are big and owing to inertia tend to be slow, capable of dealing and taking a fair amount of damage and generating and requiring enormous amounts of power.  All of that comes at a price.  They tend to be sitting ducks, though mighty dangerous ducks.  Smaller, lighter ships are faster can deal less overall damage but are more maneuverable, harder to hit, etc.

In my most successful Eve two box setup, I pilot a battleship and battlecruiser– a Raven and a Drake.  The Raven is an “active” shield tanked ship and the Raven is configured as a “passive” shield tank.  “Tank” in Eve can refer to the role a ship plays in a group or to the damage prevention/mitigation strategies it employs.  The Raven grabs aggro and starts burning down the baddies while the Drake takes out the hard to hit frigates and drones, etc.

These two ships are Caldari ships which tend to rely on shield tanking (diverting power from the ships power plant to the shields to absorb incoming damage).  Other races rely on armor tanking (using modules that actively repair damage done to armor, entirely foregoing shields).  Wilhelm even made a “speed tanked” Cerberus that primarily relies on being too fast to be hit.

With the benefit of better skills and modules, players can make meaningful stategic decisions (e.g., my passive shield tank requires no intervention to maintain its defenses whereas my actively shield tanked battleship requires me to intervene to divert power to those modules that rebuild shields after damaging).

In my view, this kind of system (especially in a space game) works just fine and if STO’s system is even a shadow of what Eve’s provides, it will be full of win.  What might be more troubling (and is an entirely different post) is the AI “aggro” system which we’ve been given very little information about at this point.  To be fair, the AI in Eve isn’t too much better than that in a most traditional MMOs.  The AI tends to focus on whatever ship is highest on the threat list generally leaving the others without having to deal with being primaried in most PVE circumstances.  The Sleepers do a much better job of that, but again, that’s another post.

Consider how differently that plays out in PVP or in the tactics a player group uses against mobs– target the weaker targets to reduce the opponent’s damage output (dps casters) or mitigation (healers) rather than everyone keep beating on the big baddy with the most armor.  Lets hope that plays out differently, but as I say, threat mechanics is a different post…

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3 Comments

Posted by on November 21, 2009 in Eve Online, Star Trek Online

 

Tags: ,

3 responses to “Resistance is Futile

  1. Tesh

    December 8, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    What bothers me about the holy trinity of tank/DPS/healer are the constraints and pigeonholing players into choices. If I can fiddle with the balance of my STO ship on the fly, adapting to tactical decisions (whether mine or the enemy’s), I’ll be a lot happier. Indeed, there may be basic core tactics of “defend, attack and repair”, but starships really *ought* to be more than glorified one trick ponies.

    The decision to specialize or hybridize should be left to the player, and should be changeable on the fly. This is one thing that was great about the X-Wing games; players could shunt power to shields or guns, or try to fly with a balance, changing on a whim. It made for another layer of decision making and risk assessment, which was a lot more satisfying than mere shooting and flying.

     

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