Transmission 012 is here!

Posted by Kalvod | Java Jawa On 12/12/09 5 comments

You can find it on the Zune Marketplace, iTunes, or you can direct download it from the toolbar to the right. Huge show this week!
Return of the Sith Inquisitor

Minutes / Topic
1 - News, Smuggler Story Line, & 2010 Confirmed Release Date.
10 - Love & Hate - A Star Wars Tale of Prequel Proportions.
27 - Lightsaber Combat
30 - Return of the Sith Inquisitor, Combat Mechanics and Story.
51 - Aesthetics
67 - Star Wars Celebration V Announcement
68 - Listener Email
70 - Holy Trinity - The Great Discussion

Duration - 114:25 minutes

Check out this great map of the universe of Star Wars.
Also a second one Suzina mentioned, this one includes some history.


Fabian said...

Listening to your latest transmission, I wish I could have jumped into the conversation on the Trinity, as it's a very interesting MMO "tradition" that can be discussed from a lot of angles.

I'm going to start by saying that I agree with Kalvod insofar as a separation of roles is needed for a game that relies on collaborative gaming to be interesting or perhaps even function properly as such. Giving every class the ability to fulfill every role would render the concept of classes moot.
But as you two have agreed some sort of overlap/ability to spec for two different roles is necessary for a game like TOR which has only few classes. The point about not being able to group with friends or having trouble finding a certain class have been well made.
So far it seems TOR is doing a good job of balancing class distinctiveness against class versatility, given that they are apparently operating more or less within the Trinity concept.

As for the Trinity itself, I think it is largely a result of how combat generally functions (the hit-point system) and a need to diversify player contribution to combat through the means of a class system. I think there's few effective ways of mapping combat functions onto different classes unless a completely different combat system is introduced. What that might look like is a whole other discussion :)
But with the restraints of a hit-point-based combat system the Trinity (damage, healing, cc/tanking*) is probably the most effective (and perhaps the only viable) way of separating combat into different game-play units.

*I am grouping CC and tanking together for simplicity's sake, as I think Suzina has made a valid point when she described tanking as a form of crowd control. One could perhaps subsume them under a term like "(incoming) damage control", as they both control the damage flow, albeit by very different means (channeling damage onto one player vs. temporarily taking enemies out of combat)

Enough rambling for now. Looking forward to your next transmission!



About myself: Currently playing my first and so far only MMO, LOTRO, on the EU Laurelin server. Anxiously looking forward to the release of TOR. Also, apparently one of the few players planning to roll a Jedi Consular :)

Suzina said...

Thanks for the great comment. I noticed you mentioned you play on the EU lotro server Laurelin. Although I am an American, I also play the on the EU server Laurelin!

My main's name is Suzinas. I also have a loremaster named, surprise, "Suzina". Send me a mail sometime so we can maybe do a skirmish or something. :)

Fabian said...

Ah, I've been wondering whether Suzinas was you. I think we grouped once for an instance, because I remember a player saying there were logging off to do a podcast, and there's probably not too many of those :)

I've given some more thought to the Trinity, and it occured to me that at the very core of the combat there's only a duality. Given how combat works (hit-point system), every fight is function of outgoing dps over incoming dps, with a result of >1 equaling victory. So saying tank and healer are the basis for every group is backwards, as outgoing dps is the core, and every other combat function (tanking, healing, de/buffing, CC) serves to tip the ratio in favor of outgoing dps. With outgoing dps being a constant, different configurations of combat functions (i.e. classes) become conceivable, and they don't necessarily have to be a trinity. But dividing combat into three game-play functions is probably the best compromise between diversity and practicality in most situations. Any less and combat becomes more trivial, any more and it becomes increasingly difficult to find a group.

And this is just the game-play mechanics. There is, of course, also the issue of narrativization. You need to make classes work not only from a game-play perspective but also from a story-telling perspective. While there's probably many ways of splitting up combat into different game-play units, many would be hard to put into a narrative. (On a side note, I agree with Suzina on the Trooper Medic -- would have made much more sense to me than the healing smuggler). In-combat healing is a narrative stretch already, because usually all the healing happens after combat. Come to think of it, the idea of a tank is similarly artificial. But they both seem to work well within the context of an MMO, and as interesting as it would be to see something different, I can't blame Bioware for using these (by now traditional) roles to build their combat.


Kalvod Ku'arad said...

Hey Silathand, thanks for the insightful post and comments. I"m glad to hear you enjoy listening to the show. Let me jot down a few things that i think we can relate to the "Holy Trinity" It is quite a fascinating topic!

"Holy Trinity"

I believe we first started seeing semblances of this back in the early 80's when the rise of dungeons and dragons started becoming popular. The term may have not been coined back than but it certainly had had it's roots traced back.

So where come down to from the history of it is that you first originally started with some base classes such as a Cleric, Fighter, and a Wizard. Through these classes you had roles established for the core fundamentals of grouping. With these roles you could in short do whatever you wished to due to the effectiveness of the nature of this mechanic.

However as years progressed and the mmo industry broke out i believe these roles are still fundamentally there, yet with more recent games these roles are furthermore specialized. So try to follow me here because this is where we create a synergy of gameplay freedom, choices and yet retain the original foundation we established almost 30 years ago.

Specialization of the "Holy Trinity"

So we have are base classe / roles established:


Over the past decade the specialized roles that have really been created more than anything would be utility. Utility is a category all of it's own however it's so broad we really have to break it apart. The basis of utility can consist of the following:

Crowd Control
Buffs / Debuffs / Group Augmentation

Through the utilization of this role many more options are now open to players. Instead of having just basic gameplay mechanics, with the introduction of this role we bring in a new element to gaming. This element is best described as strategy. Through the use of utility we can now take control of the enviroment and even sway the outcome and flow of a battle and fight.

Now this directly applies to TOR, due to the fact that we are slready seeing the first semblances of overlapping class roles and a "VERY" heavy emphasis on crownd control.

Fabian said...

I've played various pen & papers, not too much of D&D though. I see your point about some of the class seperations originating from the early RPGs, but I would suspect that utility/crowd control was part of those early games, and not tanking.

I've not traced the history of the Trinity, so the following is largely observation mixed with speculation. As far as I can see, tanking is something that basically could have only developed in the realm of computer games. In pen & paper games (just as in PvP), there's no way for one character to "hold aggro" as NPC enemies (as controlled by the dungeon master) have no reason not to attack those that are the greatest danger ("dps characters") or presumably easier prey ("light armour healing classes"). However, in a computer game environment, where NPC enemies are controlled by certain algorithms, the concept of tanking becomes possible by introducing a variable such as 'threat.'

(By the way, I have not been trying to make a case for or against the Trinity, just simply trying to figure out how and why it works as it does)

Utility it a bit of a vague term, but I suppose it would work just as well as the counterpart to DPS in the duality I described in my previous post. So in my understanding tanking and healing belong just as much to utility as crowd control and buffs. Because what is a healer except a walking, dynamic in-combat-hit-point-regeneration buff? From a "mathematical" viewpoint, that's what they are. What they offer, however, is a game-play alternative to dealing damage. By the same token, one could devise a different Trinity (or any number of roles) that replaces tanking and healing with other "utility" mechanics.

And one could conceive of many different utility classes. But of course a developer needs to be careful not to make things too specialzed (e.g. "Oh, we're fighting a battle droid now, bring in the mechanic to drain some oil" and "Hunting vermin in the caves of Alderaan 4/5, need Exterminator").

In any case, I'm curious to see exactly how the class role thing will be tackled by Bioware. On that note, I'm particularly curious about but also wary of the companion system in TOR. I've tremendously enjoyed them in the KOTOR games for their contributions to the story, but like Kalvod, I wonder how NPCs will do in an MMO environment, as NPCs in combat tend to be notoriously erratic.

Also I wonder whether we will have to rely on them for solo play. In my personal point of reference, LOTRO, every class can basically do a bit of everything, simply because otherwise solo play would be a total drag for some classes (wasn't there a time when Minstrels did not have war-speech?). The introduction of a companion would allow the player character to be more rigorously spec'd for one role, as the companion can compensate for missing skills. But it could also imply that a character can only function in certain ways which might not lend themselves to solo play, making the companion a necessity. And I'm not sure I would want a companion trotting along by my side all the time.

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