A Single-Player MOBA?

Tobold has come up with an intriguing, if heretical, idea: Why not a soloable or single-player MOBA (or game mode?)

It’ll catch a hitherto untapped audience, those that prefer PvE or those that can’t commit to the length of a match with other players (without a pause button to periodically go AFK) or those simply too nervous to learn the depth of a MOBA while facing the habitual toxicity of its regular audience (and provide a stepping stone training mode for those who might not mind PvP but want some extended practice by themselves first.)

The imagined protests that immediately cross my mind are those that shriek, “OMG, the very POINT of a MOBA is to group up to defeat challenges! Teamwork and communication are critical! The very feeling we’re craving is in that practiced coordination and super-smooth execution! Go solo somewhere else, like a singleplayer RPG, and not in MY game!”

Amusingly, it seems to be a similar protest to those who oppose soloability in MMOs, or soloable dungeons, or what-have-you.

There appears to be an underlying fear that they won’t have anyone to play with, if a solo option existed.

But frankly, that seems to be a completely off-base assumption, given the example of both solo and group options co-existing in MMOs. The social players still party up and complain bitterly about instances that force them to solo, the solo players still wander off by themselves and complain bitterly about instances that force them to group, and if the devs manage to hit that magic “no-forcing, solo or group as you prefer” option, then everyone seems more or less happy, or at least, content to deal with it.

Creating alternative game modes is great for variety, offering choices for people with different preferences.

The danger seems to be mostly overwhelming a player with options (which basically means they need a linear progression path or some kind of signposting or a “do this activity for more bonuses today!” promotion), plus the issue of having to devote sufficient developer resources to tend to that game mode.

Some people might wonder, “Well, in many MOBAs today, you can already play solo, in a sense. What’s he going on about?”

It’s true. Many many people solo queue into a match that contains other players on both sides.

Still others will solo queue into a co-op game, in which players are all on one side and bots on another, which is the equivalent of GW2-like social engineering – everyone on the same side, incentivized to cooperate against a computer-controlled enemy team, essentially PvE in a MOBA.

Anyone can easily set up a bot game in which all other nine players are bots, where they are completely alone and left in peace to do whatever the hell they want, or a custom game where they can tweak some variant of this player-bot formula to however they like.

But I think Tobold is implying something a little more. That developers can explore this as yet unexperimented-with space or niche further.

An easy analogy is that of dungeons in an MMO.

People expect to group up, to have roles and experience teamwork while defeating a sequence of enemies (with complex mechanics to learn) for rewards at the end.

However, we have the example of Guild Wars 1, which turned the concept of dungeoning on its head a little by letting players solo their way through pretty much all instances with henchmen or heroes (and mind you, some players still grouped to do the harder dungeons faster and more efficiently.) Ditto The Secret World, if I remember correctly, some instances were soloable.

We have Guild Wars 2, which has experimented with the idea of the Queen’s Gauntlet, a solo-only series of challenges (with complex mechanic to learn), as well as inadvertently produced a challenging side activity of soloing dungeons meant for groups (which appeals to another subset of players.)

Why not create MOBA game modes with a little twist to them?

One interesting possibility that comes to mind goes back to a MOBA’s RTS roots. Just like you could have one player control a number of heroes in GW1, why not let a single player control multiple MOBA heroes?  That would probably be a great multi-tasking, micro-taxing, control-group practice singleplayer challenge right there. It’s not as if MOBAs don’t embrace that concept already, with heroes that can summon other mobs or illusions.

Something else players of singleplayer modes do expect is some kind of narrative or progression path to follow. Why not throw in a story mode in chapters bookending MOBA fights, perhaps with preset groups of opposing or allied heroes?

It’s not like it hasn’t been done before. Duels of the Planeswalkers is a Magic: The Gathering game that some players buy for its PvP, and some of whom merely buy to play its singleplayer chapters or puzzle challenges, unlocking cards along the way.

One might protest that without other players to show off vanity cosmetics to, that the whole revenue stream of a MOBA might break down.

However, one could also offer hero unlocks a la League of Legends or Marvel Heroes, or even content unlocks where each hero has a ‘story mode’ that you could pay for in microtransactions. PvP players who don’t give a damn wouldn’t be nickle and dimed at all, while PvE players who like that sort of thing might be convinced to pay $2-5 for several more hours of unique gameplay/maps/puzzle/story DLC.

Unlocking special achievements or increasing levels are another easy way to keep a singleplayer gamer solo farming or engaging in speed runs or mastering Dark Souls-difficulty challenges to their heart’s content. Get X number of last hits or creep or hero kills, win Y as hero or other, defeat Z mob with some kind of mechanic or finish the match in a set amount of time or whatever.

You could have leaderboards for this version of asynchronous competition too, again akin to certain competitive mode challenges in Guild Wars 1, or even in games like Batman: Arkham _Whatever_, where you have combat and predator challenges for a single player to test themselves against, improve their score versus other players’ scores and so on.

In my opinion, the singleplayer MOBA (or variant game modes thereof) is certainly worth a company’s time to experiment and tinker with. It’ll be interesting to see which MOBA decides to eventually branch or innovate in this direction, or if they think grabbing their handfuls of the competitive PvP / eSports pie is more than sufficient to focus on.

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GW2: The Nightmares Within the Tower

The calm before the toxic storm...

A sucking chest wound is Nature’s way of telling you to slow down.

Murphy’s Laws of Combat

No, really. Stop running. Start fighting!

Ok, so I did contribute about four blue skulls’ worth of zerker guardian trying to do the “I don’t need to run faster than those two Elites, I just need to run faster than YOU” thing, following the zergling impulse of go fast, rush past “trash” and trying to group up with those further ahead.

All of it on the death trap known as the third floor, where everybody but me seemed to -not- see the air canister “safe zones” and continued dashing ahead while I slowed down and was torn between trying to catch a breath and fight off a zerg-spawned worth of mobs by myself (not happening) or catching up with the panicked mob of players milling around lost and hallucinating while twisted clockwork spawned in, eager to take vengeance for all those prior failed invasions and trying to survive with blown cooldowns and not many more heals or blocks or invulnerable left (s’ not happening either.)

It took about that length of time to realize that every event was locking the doors and preventing forward progress via running, and that all those screaming over mapchat that this was too awfully hard were doing so because we players as a group were applying the absolutely wrong strategy to navigating the Tower of Nightmares.

Selfishness leads to a healthy chance at dying off by yourself. Teamwork gets you up. (Both up from downed and literally up to the top.)

I can see my house from here! Forgot my keys though...

I can see my house from here! Forgot my keys though…

At one point, I tried a group recruitment message and got a total of two people joining a party, which worked right up to the midway point where they decided to fall behind and jump into a nightmare chamber (cancel popup) while the immediate collective of individuals I was following was still pushing on.

I gave up with formal grouping after that, since it wasn’t any guarantee that the group would stick together. The public informal groups of whoever was in the vicinity did just fine. (For the record, that collective made it right to the top.)

Besides, killing everything gives you more chances to pop neat stuff. Like key parts, a recipe for an infinite krait tonic, and so on.

One day later, when I decided to have a change of pace and bring my zerker necro in, it felt like more people had figured this out and had started to spontaneously group up and kill stuff. (Or maybe they mistook all my minions for a zerg. Whatever works.)

I'd watch the dodge key there, if I were you.

I’d watch the dodge key there, if I were you.

I like the Tower.

I really do.

Ravious says GW1 players are comparing the Tower of Nightmares to the Underworld and Fissure of Woe instances of yore.

Really? I felt those instances were a lot harder and more time-consuming, possibly because I was trying to solo them with a not-at-all min-maxed loadout of heroes and had to take my slow and steady time with them. (One death means you’re out, when you’re the only player on the team.)

To me, this update feels like another do-over.

Lost Shores – Assault on the Karka Queen, as having listened to their players and not made it a one-time one-off affair, open-world and encouraging groups of 10-30 to work together instead of having 100-200 players corralled into the same dynamic event fighting lag as the enemy.

Sure, this means that occasionally groups of players who are a little less well-informed or well-versed with the ways of the tower will encounter a chaotic experience of mass deaths, but as Wyldkat, a Tarnished Coast resident, often likes to say, “Live and learn. Die, and learn faster.”

Have I mentioned how utterly awesome the instance scaling is?

Let me correct that, then.

Solo to five players!

I get to feel like a hero in my own story if I want to!

I get to group up and join other people if I want to!

I am deliriously happy that they took the trouble to make this work. Mostly the number of mobs in each chamber you encounter will spawn to a size that matches your party.

I like the small bits of storytelling that go on in each Nightmare instance too. And the randomized aspect of them keeps them -somewhat- novel.

I’ve caught character exchanges between Rox and Braham, Marjory and Kasmeer, Marjory and Braham, Rox and Kasmeer, Rox and Majory so far.

If you pay attention, you learn a little more about some of the characters (and have a good laugh at some others. Braham keeps hallucinating up his mom.)

Someone seems to have some abandonment and father issues.

Someone seems to have some abandonment and father issues.

Getting some 'origin' vibes for why she's a necro here.

Getting some ‘origin’ vibes for why she’s a necro here.

I like the little nods that they managed to slip in regarding the personal story and hope they manage more of it in future updates. (Depending on your race, you seem to get an encounter with your respective racial representative, and depending on your order… well, let’s say we’ve had a reunion of sorts with somebody. I need to bring in a character who is Order of Whispers soon.)

It’s made for a few interesting encounters.

Oi. We're both furry here. Watch that mouth of yours.

Oi. We’re both furry here. Watch that mouth of yours.

And later in this encounter, we fought a hallucination of Rytlock Brimstone and some Blood Legion summons to Scarlet’s accompanying leer: “Rytlock has a special file where he records all your mistakes. They’re adding up.”

Which was immensely immersive since both Rox and my charr are Blood Legion, and we know Rox has an inferiority complex where Rytlock is concerned. (Directed at my charr? Nah, can’t be. His self-esteem and relationship with Rytlock’s far too healthy for that.)

rarrrkillingrage

This little dig got through though. Rarrrrrgh. Must kill insolent leafy things.

Final cinematic cutscene sequence? Verrah nice. Aesthetically-speaking.

I like that they at least attempted to sum up all the threads and factions that Scarlet has been accumulating per update, even if thematically, it feels like she’s cobbling them together out of a junkheap of spare parts.

I did, in fact, kind of miss the Molten Alliance, and was glad to see them back in a small form, including ol’ molten berserker.

maybemorepeoplewillrecognizemytonicnow

Maybe more people will recognize my infinite tonic now when I bounce around in it. (Hey, it cost me quite a bit of gold, I gotta get my money’s worth.)

The difficulty level of the instances felt fine. I’ve soloed them (and the final instance) on a zerker guardian and a zerker necro. Got downed once or twice but managed to rally up from a weakened mob or an NPC came by to help rez.

I did a group version of the final instance to see how the dynamic scaling worked, and it also seemed to match perfectly.

We did make it extra hard on ourselves during the Molten Alliance portal phase because three people were like OMG, killz0rs all teh portals, we vill skip past zis trash, wat, u mean we don’t?! and one person had no clue how to kite the molten protector out of his fiery shield (it’s always the one with the aggro, right?) so we delivered unto ourselves the world’s biggest spawn of Molten Alliance, conveniently made invulnerable 75% of the time. That took ages to whittle down. We had lots of time on our hands trying to convince the one guy to move out of the fiery ring.

Despite that minor fiasco, we only had one person being downed near the start to rushing headlong into some toxic alliance, and while I was thinking that might have screwed up our final no-dying achievement chance, we managed to take down the champion hybrid with no downs, no deaths that I can recall and the achievement popped. So that was good.

Thus passes a god. Poor bugger.

Thus passes a god. Poor bugger. Never listen to Scarlet.

Speaking of achievements, let’s have another round of applause for the continuing saga of more sane numerical levels.

1 time, 3 times, 5 times, up to 10 and 15 only. No 25, 50, 100, 225! (DAMN that 225!)

All in all, good stuff.

I’ll be spending quite a bit of time in here, I think, just for the fun of it.

Zerging at 10 fps just to bring you this not very impressive picture. (One sec... *brings graphics settings down to not-asking-for-crash levels*)

Zerging at 10 fps just to bring you this not very impressive picture. (One sec… *brings graphics settings down to not-asking-for-crash-I-can-actually-move-without-slideshow levels*)

My only moderate worry is that if the crowds move off in time, like the Mad King’s Labyrinth, it might be impossible to get to the top at some point.

Still, I have noticed that the dynamic events probably do scale. We had a Veteran Spider Queen at one point, instead of a champion.

And during the free 5 captives from cocoons event, when it was just a ranger and me, we were only facing a veteran and two normal mobs per spawn. When the zerg came over, we started popping champions. (Hey, look, new champion farm, people!)

So I suspect that as long as two or three people work together and take it slow and steady, it is possible to eventually get all the way up even if the rest of the place is deserted. (Unlike certain halloween bosses I can think of.)

I suppose if we ever to get to such a stage of abandonment, that would be the time for coordinated groups to move in and treat the place like an extended dungeon.

On a crowded server, I suspect one can always find another one or two interested people.

(Though convincing them to stick together and not run off to follow their own agenda might be a mite more tricky. Oh well, that’s the open world aspect for you. Win some, lose some.)

GW2: On Salvaging Exotics and Dungeons

Two unrelated shorts that I felt like commenting about:

“Salvaging exotics make me feel ill. I only ever did it once and it was so depressing I never even considered doing it again. Having it as an actual mechanic is incredibly off-putting. Those things should be loved and cherished and desired, not melted down for spare parts.”

 

Bhagpuss, from a very interesting comments thread in his Sitting It Out Post

I have to agree, though I do have 12 Globs of Dark Matter sitting in the bank from biting the bullet and salvaging the exotics my artificer produced on his way to 450+ crafting. It was either that or sell them on the TP for prices I was sure were lowered in value since everyone and their mother was also doing the same thing.

This is perhaps irrational sentimentality, but I have this hoarded collection in my bank, and am so far unwilling to get rid of them via TP or salvage or what have you:

exotics

From top left to bottom right, they are Ebonblade, Pillar of Ulgoth, Mecha Anchor, Siren’s Call, Master Blaster, Arc and Settler’s Amulet of the Apothecary.

Perhaps you can tell my weakness is generally for named exotics. Some of them have stories attached to them.

Iirc, I got Ebonblade out of the end chest of the Lost Shores Karka Chest, along with Magmaton (presently sitting happy with my warrior.)

Pillar of Ulgoth of course dropped during one of the rare times I chased the whole centaur chain in Harathi Hinterlands to completion.

Mecha Anchor and Siren’s Call were random drops, but one looks cool and I think the other was one of the first ever exotics that dropped in WvW for me.

Master Blaster, how can you not love a name like that?

Arc came from chasing champions, the only exotic that dropped from those chests for me (which shows you my rotten RNG luck.)

The Settler’s Amulet from one of my peaceful farming interludes cleaning out karka, which came as a total surprise, since I had no idea these things could drop.

It’s sad that a good part of this named stuff isn’t of much value besides the chance they might have a good skin or sigil to make use of. Certainly nothing along the lines of being excited to see a precursor name or legendary name.

I understand rationally the need to start salvaging, since these things random drop and will accumulate over time, causing supply to keep building up with insufficient demand, If we don’t want a price crash on these things over time, then it’s good to make their salvage product special and valued.

But it still feels kinda sad that that’s all they’re being relegated to.

(Maybe if more new legendaries came out, these would eventually have their day in the sun when they turn into precursors.)

Massively just recently put up a Daily Grind post on the dungeons you hate in a game you love.

I confess I’m stunned to see the amount of massive GW2 dungeon hate.

I know rationally that this is self-selecting. People avidly playing games of their choice do not really frequent a conglomerate news site talking about the latest, greatest MMO to check out. (Personally I stopped haunting the place daily once I committed to GW2.)

But given the amount of incomprehension on how players can contribute to their group while in a team, I suddenly understand why it is that in most of my PUGs, bleeding or poison conditions only fly off people when -I- press a skill.

It sounds elitist, maybe, which is odd, because I consider myself a rank amateur at dungeons.

I suppose this is again self-selecting. People who have terrible trouble and bad experiences in dungeons generally do not repeat the same activity over and over. They stay far away, having been burned, and rarely get any further learning done.

Maybe what is needed is a general principles guide on how to contribute to a team in GW2. The value of buffing might and stacking vulnerability debuffs, the value of condition removals, how to recognize and make use of combo fields and blast finishers, and so on.

I don’t know how much it will help if people simply don’t read or choose to learn how to improve though.

I just did a guild mission the other day in one of my big guilds, which contain a vast spectrum of players. It was the Southsun Crab Scuttle, which as everyone knows, is one of the most challenging guild rushes currently available. Skilled players had finished first, way sooner than me even, since I oh so cleverly bolted headlong into traps twice trying to follow another player and avoid the karka chasing me, though I should have known better. As we finished, we turned back to clearing the path and escorting others, making it easier for the rest to get through…

… yet despite all my chasing after a few people, trying to communicate to them that they should DODGE to remove the baby karka debuff that is on them so that they can heal up, they never did.

You can imagine how much luck they had blundering straight into traps, their hp withering away, unable to stop and heal up because of an explosive karka debuff hanging around on them, despite all our efforts to fling heals, protection, aegis and regeneration onto them.

They gave up. It was “too hard.”

Folks, no one can help you if you don’t first help yourselves.