This is one of the few times I’ll jump on an issue that is a hot topic on MMO blogs. I’m doing it now because certain prominent bloggers’ opinions on this topic have been too ridiculous for me to bear. Perhaps Keen’s numbers haven’t been good recently and he wants to start a huge debate to draw links and views?
Bioware has released information on companion characters. For some unknown reason, this fact has led people to believe that Bioware cannot tie their design shoes anymore.
With very little actual information available, people are assuming that Bioware are going to mangle the design of companions and ruin their game by removing one or more “M”s from “MMORPG.”
Arguments against companions:
- It throws off rewards because you will get loot as if you were two players.
- Who would choose to bring someone along if they’ve already got an AI companion?
- Everyone will always have their companion out, so the game will be balance for that, rendering non-companion strategies non-viable.
- The game won’t be balanced for rampant companion use, so the game will fall apart as everything becomes extraordinarily easy due to companion use. This makes non-companion strategies non-viable.
All of these complaints are ways of saying that Bioware suddenly is incapable of good design. With even a modicum of thought I can come up with ways to counter every one of those arguments with game mechanics that are easy to implement. This isn’t difficult work or hard thought—this is basic stuff that any self-respecting game designer (or MMO pundit) should be able to figure out.
- Parties get loot based on the number of PCs in the group, as done in DDO.
- AI companions will always be inferior to players because AIs just aren’t that good at positioning and tactics. As long as NPC companions occupy group slots that players would otherwise occupy, PCs will be preferable over NPCs.
- Pet classes already exist in MMOs. Even if the design isn’t great, you could just treat every class in SW:TOR as a pet class. This isn’t great design—but it’s the worst case scenario.
DDO has already implemented a feasible and functioning companion system and the world hasn’t exploded. Why can’t Bioware do the same?
This is yet another instance of people throwing a tantrum because they are incapable of seeing past the tip of their noses. Here, on bold display, is the common approach that everything with which I am not familiar is poison and evil. This kind of punditry is damaging to the discussion and progress of MMOs.