Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Random Shots: Toward A Better Caster

  • Keen over at Keen and Graev's Gaming Blog posted his thoughts about the Aion beta weekend. While his sentiments echo others I've read, what caught my eye was his displeasure with the mage class in the game. Not that there is something wrong about the class, it's just that the Aion mage plays just like every other mage back to the beginning of time.

  • I see where he is coming from. Some games, like Warhammer Online, tried to dress this up with unusual resources to balance, but is all comes down to spamming hot keys over and over again. So today I'm going to play Junior MMO Designer and create my own caster mechanic. And by create I mean outright steal.

  • It will be no surprise based on how much fun I had with the class, but I want to make spellcasters play like the Warden from Lord of the Rings Online. For those of you who have not tried it, the warden fights through the Gambit system. You have three basic attack options: a spear thrust, a shield bash, and a shout. As you use each attack, a corresponding symbol is added to the Gambit line. Depending on the combination of symbols, a different gambit can then be launched with the special hot key. For instance, two spear symbols gets you the Deft Strike gambit (an increased damage attack) while a spear followed by a shield gives The Boot (an interrupt and stun). As your warden increases in level, the gambits increase in length until you can chain five symbols together for increasingly powerful abilities. The nice thing is that the gambits have a logical progression. If you know spear-shield is an interrupt, you find that spear-shield-spear is also an interrupt with extra attacks and spear-shield-spear-shield is an interrupt with more powerful attacks.

  • This is exactly what how I want to play a spellcaster. Here are a few ideas for magic using character:

  • Elementalist - Played almost exactly like the warden, I see the elementalist as a manipulation of arcane forces. Spells will be built with combinations of fire, water, earth, and air. Instead of each basic element acting like a small attack, spells will only be cast when the chain is built. Fire would be the offensive spell tree while earth would be defensive. Water give crowd control spells and air would be the utility tree.

    Some simple spells might be:
    • Fire-Fire for a standard attack,

    • Air-Air for an interrupt,

    • Water-Earth for a snare,

    • Water-Earth-Water for an area-of-effect snare,

    • and Fire-Earth-Fire-Earth-Fire as a meteor strike.

  • Cleric/Priest/Holy Dude/Dude-ette - For healing classes, I would use a similar system, but slightly modified. The cleric will still build spells the same way by adding various energies to the spell. But instead of casting them with a single hot key, the caster has the choice of two casting options: positive and negative. Positive spells would be healing or defensive and negative would be harmful spells. For instance, casting one spell positively might be a heal-over-time for a party member while the same spell cast negatively would be a damage-over-time to an enemy.

  • Runemaster - This finally idea is a little more off-the-wall than the warden template, but could be interesting nonetheless. For a runemaster, I envision spells built from individual runes. And instead of these rune words getting longer as a character levels, new spells will be built from an ever increasing variety of available runes. If you are familiar with the Ultima series, you might recognize where I'm going here. Just for flavor, you could change the rune into words of magic which the character would speak to cast a spell. The more I type, the more I'm starting to like this idea.

  • There you have it, three ways to buff up the MMO spellcaster. I look forward to your comments telling me exactly which game already has this system and why it sucks. Or you could just tell me it's stupid on principle. I'm fine with that.

© 2009 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.
If you're reading this on a site other than Bullet Points, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. I'll at least do the trial, sounds fun :-)

    Oddly enough, the first system that you describe is very similar the one in Mystic Quest for the N64. One of the 2 or 3 RPGs released for the system. The game wasn't that great (OK, it pretty much bit). However, the magic system was awesome. One of the more fun ones I've ever come across.

    If it wasn't such an obscure game, I'm sure more designers would have stolen the system.

  2. @ Yeebo - I was pretty sure someone had tried a system like this. MMOs evolve so slowly, though. Since we've only been complaining about hot key spamming in the current generation of games, anyone listening to those complains are still a couple years from release.

  3. As far as I know that obscure as hell N64 game is the only one to try it. Every single review that I read at the time went something like this:

    "Man this game bites, overall. But, wow, what an awesome magic system."

    I think you are on to something.