A.I.November 17, 2008
Longtime readers and/or players might recall that the ballyhooed Preview Weekend in late August introduced a few new bugs that weren’t present in the previous closed beta incarnation. One of the more notable problems was that mobs became incredibly erratic — you could hit a mob and they just wouldn’t run over to you at all, or they would up and flee away from you the second they got one point of damage. And then there was the persistent bug (since fixed) in which mobs became untargetable/unattackable by you — but they could still keep on hitting you.
It seems weird to say this now, but in all the broken behavior that the mobs showed during that weekend, they became infinitely more interesting as foes than they are now.
Mob artificial intelligence in most MMORPGs is close to non-existent. Bad guys usually just wait around or roam in set patterns, eager for their turn to be “tapped” by a player’s attack, at which point the mob will run over and begin its own attack sequence, which is usually a tried-and-true autoattack sometimes sprinkled with a few secial abilities. The density of mobs in a region, coupled with the sheer number you have to kill in these games, and multiplied by the complexity of a massively multiplayer environment means that mob A.I. is destined to be a bit… short bus, if you’ll excuse the expression. They’re not the sharpest hammer in the toolshed, and it can’t be good for their morale that players view them as XP & Loot piñatas.
Yet that’s no excuse for Warhammer Online’s mob A.I., which seems to be even dumber than those guys who keep making the Date Movie, Epic Movie, Superhero Move and soforth. I’ve started to make a list of questionable mob A.I. decisions/code, which have been noted by me and several forum posters:
- Mobs in WAR don’t seem to have a “buddy” system, where you pull one mob but he’ll drag along a nearby friend who sees that mob being attacked. This results in two mobs standing face-to-face, you tagging one of the mobs, and only he runs over while his pal stands still, conversing with the wind.
- Mob aggro radius is questionable and inconsistent from what I’ve seen. Sometimes you can get within inches of a mob without aggroing them, and sometimes mobs travel across hill and vale just to get their turn at whacking you on the noggin.
- A minor issue, but it’s hard to predict how long you have to run away from an aggroed mob before they lose interest and reset.
- Mobs hardly ever run away, and if they do, they never seek out a fellow enemy mob nearby to drag back with them for reinforcements.
- Apart from hero and lord mobs, we just don’t see a lot of special abilities popping out of these guys. A lot of my skills are set up to combat fairly complex player behavior in PvP, yet surprising few of these moves are necessary in PvE. Spell interruption? How often do these guys cast at me? Do I ever need to root a mob to prevent their escape?
- Although it’s not A.I. per se, mob respawn time can range from extremely rare to almost instantaneous. I can’t start to detail the amount of times I’ve been clearing a path to a particular quest objective only to have six mobs respawn right on top of me without warning, faster than I can kill them.
The end result of WAR’s stupid mobs is another weak link in their PvE chain. I know PvE can’t be expected to rise to the challenge or complexity of PvP, but c’mon. We can try a bit harder than this. How the enemy mobs act, react and fight goes a long way to making me feel as though world PvE combat actually means something and has context — that I can strain my believability to the point where I accept that these mobs have an identity of their own.
(And not to pile on or anything, but can I put a vote in that WAR needs a bit more in terms of death animations? It’s always groan-sway-collapse, with zero blood or visual injury. Heck, when World of Warcraft has more blood than Warhammer, you know something’s amiss.)
Tomorrow: Positivity! I promise!