Saturday, July 9, 2011

Wouldn't it be cool if...? Squad Combat

I stepped into a Game Workshop the other day and met an excellent salesman. An hour later I walked our with a set of miniatures and paints. I have no intention of taking up this hobby, but I do plan on painting these. I thought it would be relaxing, but you try painting eyes on a goblin less than an inch high and not swearing.

I also recently tried the Star Trek Online trial. I have to say, I'm surprised I ignored the game for this long. It was very enjoyable, and the ability to put together a crew and be able to customize them as well was a lot of fun. Not sure if I'll pick the game up for the month it gives you, but still a fun experience.

How are these related? Well, they both relate to the topic of my newly titled post series, "Wouldn't it be cool if...?". In these I'll simply go over a topic I think would be a great addition to the MMO industry, whether it be in an established game or in a hypothetical game that I will describe.

As I'm painting my squad of ten infuriatingly small goblins and toying around with my crew that includes an Andorian with a huge Papa Smurf beard, I find myself more and more wishing that a game would include customizable combat groups much like Star Trek Online does. Only with more fleshing out of land combat and less space ships. SWTOR has the player companions, but they are static and based on your class, which breaks immersion for me because I heard you can have relationships with some companions. One companion, hundreds of girlfriends. Hate the game, not the player. Guild Wars allows for NPC characters to fill out a team, but there is no customization and the purpose is not to enhance combat, more to assist solo'ers.

No, the squad combat I'm thinking of is more like the Star Trek Online experience, or modeled more after the Neverwinter Nights games. Three or four members to a squad, each with their own abilities and tactics used to take down enemies. This hypothetical game would include the ability to compose your squad up of any amount of classes you like. All ranger team, all warriors, or a balanced tank/healer/DPS combo. Each character would have a third of he abilities of a normal MMORPG character, and one would be designated as the team leader who would accept quests and be directly controlled by the player. Think Mass Effect style, in which you command your two teammates but are only in direct control of Shepherd. Also, your teammate's AI isn't dumb as a brick.

Raids would require an army of characters, and each squad could be spacialized. We have a artillery section, a melee section, a medic squad, etc. etc. Dungeons could be completed solo or in groups of 3 players (9 characters altogether). This type of combat would lend itself better to war scenarios rather than typical MMORPG adventure mercenary settings. Picking a side would mean directly fighting for that side rather than going off for neutral factions.

Balance is always an issue though. After all, what's the point in PvP if everyone chooses all-rogue squads to DPS down enemies quickly? There would be many more combinations to test as one player could have access to far more abilities than the standard WoW player. Admittedly, this system would be a challenge. However, I think the ability to customize your squad to include who you want race and class wise, as well as possible squad colors and banners would lend itself to a different type of feel than the average MMORPG. Not more fun, perhaps, but an interesting choice nonetheless.



  1. stick with warhammer. or at least give it a try.
    i've recently gotten into the hobby and could care less if i ever play a video game again.
    for me, the "reality" of building and painting your own army is unmatched by any virtual experience. not to mention the fact that playing this game actually encourages using your imagination. so get in touch with a local gaming group, if they're anything like the guys i've met, you'll have a blast.

  2. The local Game Workshop is great for that, I'll admit. Even gave me a calender of all the events. I'm not going to dismiss Warhammer entirely, but it's something I'm going to go slow getting into. High cost of entry and time to put together your miniatures (as well as the incredibly pushy salespeople at the store. >_>) is currently a barrier for me.

  3. Consider Guild Wars. You can develop NPC teams ("heroes" as opposed to "henchmen" in GW) in both the Nightfall and Eye of the North expansions. Total customization of gear, skills, and some control of movement and behavior. Good system overall.