Do you know what the biggest difference between MMORPG Combat and real combat is?
No army in the history of human civilization had a tank in the front to attract and soak up enemy damage, a healer behind the tank who could (relatively) safely heal the tank up during combat while the rest of the army was relatively free to damage the enemy at will.
No enemy in the history of human civilization would sit in one place and pound on the guy screaming “HIT ME!” while ignoring the rest of the folks who were pelting him into submission.
Why not make combat a little more like the real thing? MMO’s miss a fundamental sense of fear that exists in real scenarios. I’m not talking about fear of real injury or death, but the fear that something will jump out and engage you in combat before you have a chance to do anything other than react to fight-or-flight stimulus. In the real world, you don’t get to stand a safe distance from a mugger and /consider whether or not he’s a match for you. You don’t get to walk into an abandoned building and know that the baddest thing in the area is standing in the middle of a huge room with plenty of opportunity for you to reconnoiter in relative safety.
Speaking of boss mobs, what kind of bad guy stands in place or dutifully chases the loudest guy in the room around? Think about it from the bad guy’s perspective. If a group of people come charging into your cave, do you sit in your favorite room and wait for them? Even if you do, do you focus your attention on the guy who is out in front screaming “HIT ME!” or do you look for the guy who is actually the biggest threat to you? At the very least, why aren’t you targeting anyone who is casting healing spells? Why aren’t you moving around the area and focusing your attackers into groups and choke points where you can flatten them en masse?
Even more importantly than that, combat is short. It only takes one shot, or one slash, or one fireball to take the fight right out of an enemy. Think back to Star Wars, how many successful shots did it take to blow up a Tie Fighter? How many times did Darth Vader have to actually hit Obi Wan Kenobi before that fight was over? How many laser blasts did it take to completely destroy Alderaan?
In MMO’s how many whacks does it take to drop an average dragon?
Let’s add a little more realism…
Why not adjust damage with respect to the part of the body that is hit? Hit an arm? Your victim is less capable in attack. Hit a leg? He can’t move as well. Hit a torso? He suffers bleeding damage in addition to the damage of the attack itself. Head shot? He goes down and goes down hard. Why stop there? Allow players to seek cover and claim advantageous attack positions. (high ground, anyone?) Make armor selection matter. Sure, if you’re wearing plate armor, you’re naturally less susceptible to swords or blunt weapons, but a fireball is going to seriously roast you. Wearing leather may not give you the stopping power that plate does, but it is more supple and does not conduct heat or cold like iron armor does.
Instead of using computers to roll dice and add up damage, use them to keep track of all of the different variables in combat and compute a realistic consequence of an attack. (Extreme sarcasm alert) I mean, if you can fit inside a lead lined refrigerator, you should be able to survive a nuclear blast, even if you’re right on top of it.
One last note…
Make player death matter again. There has got to be a reasonable ground between the 12 hour corpse runs in old school Plane of Hate and “ooh, I can rez someone in the middle of a battle” in most modern MMOs. Make players dread the consequences of falling in battle. Yes, armor decay can get expensive, but how about a permanent “disability” that takes X hours of medical treatment to cure? (X hours can be done with the player offline, but the point is that they can’t come back, full strength, multiple times in one play session.) Why reward players whose only advantage is hours and hours of free time to try, try, and re-try the same encounters over and over until they get it right? Make skill matter.
Just an idea. Let’s hear yours.