Procrastination Amplification: Punditry on MMOs and games in general.

Better Space Battles

I pretty much haven’t played Star Trek Online since launch, and I never got past the free trial in EVE Online. Yet, I have a strong attachment to Sci-Fi games, and especially to space battles. Oddly enough, nobody ever gets space battles right. Sure, the STO space combat system is neat, but the dynamic in greater fleet actions seems pretty boring to me. The game has a modified MMO trinity of tanks, damage dealers, and support ships – and that really isn’t how I imagine space combat.

Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock

We can go back at least as far as Star Wars to see how space combat could function differently. Combat there is based on a trinity as well – battleships, cruisers, and fighters. How I imagine it, this system is basically rock, paper, scissors but with modifications. Fighters can take out battleships and protect their own battleships, cruisers have enough maneuverability to take out fighters, but don’t stand a chance against the heavy guns of a battleship. In a crucial difference to rock, paper, scissors, the game isn’t fair, however. A single fighter can’t ever dream to take out a battleship, hell a battleship could even have it’s own squad of fighters on board.

This isn’t a new concept to video games in general. In Starcraft II, for example, the protoss Void Ray is strong against heavy targets and pretty weak against smaller ones. That doesn’t mean that a single Marine can take out a Void Ray, however. MMOs on the other hand always try to keep some sense of fairness in their class balance. If a class generally can’t stand up one-on-one against others, it usually gets buffed. Why is that?

Allods Online, and apparently Puzzle Pirates, has a system in which multiple players can control a single ship. Why can’t we have an MMO in which we actually need a crew to fly a battleship, instead of everyone bringing out the big guns as in, say, EVE? You don’t need to put players to every mundane task on a ship, but would it really be boring to be one of those who man the guns in a battle ship? Would it really be boring to pilot your own fighter in dogfights and around enemy cruisers, even if you know that you can’t match the bigger ships one-on-one?

One could even allow players to recruit NPCs to take control of unmanned/boring stations, somewhat like you can do in STO. They wouldn’t be as efficient as players, and large ships should still be so expensive that only groups of people can afford them, generally. But you could still take you guild’s battleship out for a spin if a couple of people don’t show up.

His job or hers? Seems like both could be fun!

Aside from providing great gameplay, such a system could allow for coordinated battles between literally hundreds of players without bringing down servers and screwing older computer systems with the bravado of their graphics. When you have, say, ten people on one ship, you can bring ten times the amount of players to a battle with the same influence of graphics engine performance.

To me, this sounds like a great game to play. Being in the middle of an epic space battle with your friends, coordinating attack fighter squadrons, and leading suicide attacks on fully armed and operational battle stations sounds like a lot of fun to me. We just have to get away from the idea of ever individual being fully viable and equal at all times and realize that fun in a group can be had by all, even if not everyone wields equal power. Hell, I’d wager most people would prefer flying a fighter to commanding a slow battleship the cannons of which are armed by other players.

  • I think the problem is that these games are more or less 3 games in one and will be expensive to produce. you gotta have a first person shooter for the scooters, a flight simulation for the fighters and a strategy game for coordinating it all. you will probably also need some interfaces in between like how to issue commands to you foot soldiers and fighters. Then you’d have to balance the numbers… how do you find 50 fighter pilots for each 1 carrier ship commander for example.
    I think putting all that a single game would probably the best game ever made… but it is probably very very hard to pull of.