January 28, 2011

Video Inspirations

So, getting back into the swing of things at school, it’s affecting my schedule a bit. Of course, to top that off, Champions Online went Free-To-Play recently, and sucked me back in. The truth is, while a lot of the Champions formula is straight out of the standard MMO formula, it did some things I’d not seen before that I really enjoyed, and keeps me wanting to play the game.

One of the major things they did that I loved is the break down of enemies into Henchmen, Villains, Master Villains, Super Villains, and Legendary Villains. This breakdown lets players know about how many they can take on their own. For example, a group of 5 on level henchmen is a pretty fair fight in Champions. A Villain and a Henchman or two is also a fair fight. Once you get up into the super villain levels you want groups of people for a fair fight.

That is, of course, the theory and the math breaks down occasionally. The idea, though, is spectacular and was one of the changes made to 4th Edition D&D I absolutely loved with the addition of the Minion, Elite, and Solo entries in the Monster Manual. This makes it very easy to throw together mixed groups of various power levels against a group of heroes without guessing if you’re going to just obliterate them or have the group steamrolled.

The other thing I liked about Champions is the way energy works. Your energy has a point of equilibrium where you recharge to almost the moment you leave combat. You also have a base power that is your energy builder; attacking with it builds up your energy bar, which drains when you use your more powerful (and interesting) powers.

I like this system, and have seen various systems in games do something similar. Building up a resource to turn it into ‘cool shit’ is a pretty well tread territory for a reason, my only complaint about it in Champions is that the power builders are really boring. Some people have leveled the same exact complaint at At-Wills in 4th Edition, and not unfairly.
The last part of the Champions formula that I love is that (for Gold members) you can modify the color and point of origin for a number of powers which allows a creative player to make dozens of archetypes using only their basic chains of powers. My example is Necromancer, my first Champions character.

Necromancer uses the Telepathic power set, which is a series of powers using telepathy for various effects, shielding, stuns, basic crowd control effects. By modifying the colors and origins, telepathy looks a lot like dark sorcery. Basically, it openly encourages reskinning which is at the heart of great role playing in most systems.

What about you guys, what video games inspire your mechanical design?


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