The Daily Grind: What do you think about NPC party members in MMORPGs?

    
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happy birthday to me

I’ve been thinking a lot about classic Guild Wars lately — the anniversary always does this to me. And one of my favorite parts was the hero system, which allowed players to bring along NPC heroes with player-selected skills and gear to fill out a party.

At the time, some players threw absolute fits when heroes were introduced, and the skies were falling all over again when the rules changed to allow a single player to tote along seven heroes instead of just three. The complaint was that it disincentivized grouping, which relied on the idea that solo players weren’t already using henchies in the role as I was. From my perspective, heroes enabled me to do content that humans just didn’t want to do. No one wanted to do Eternal Grove for the hundredth time for a newbie, no one wanted to help you cap an elite at 1 a.m. when your guildies were all in bed, no one wanted to do the bonus in Dunes of Despair, and so on. I thought of heroes as a wonderful tool to scale party size, soloability, and even difficulty (since you had to control them plus your own character) in a way that added flavor and challenge to the game (but admittedly not necessarily sociability).

Guild Wars isn’t alone in allowing players to control NPCs to a degree, of course; Star Wars: The Old Republic, Star Trek Online, and even World of Warcraft (via garrisons) have whispers of this system. But Guild Wars was certainly among the boldest, allowing you a full party of NPCs. Do you want to see NPC party members make a comeback in other MMOs?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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ZenDadaist
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ZenDadaist

Well… mostly they get on my nerves. They don’t do what I’d like them to do and at best they provide a distraction. At worst they really foul things up. It’s a total PITA to have something you can’t give commands to, that is supposedly able to fight (I’m assuming we mean actual NPC party members, not an ‘escort the unarmed crazy-agressive suicidal NPC’ quest, the invention of which I rue to this day) and you end up either babysitting them constantly, or frustratedly letting them go off and die.

Much like ending up in groups with randoms and PUGs, actually.

Hm. Maybe it’s not so different after all…

sydh
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sydh

I would like if we could use preset in game commands to sort of direct them. Like those hold “x” key for a radial with chat commands some games have. Maybe a setting for aggressive/passive/defensive settings we could try and pick.

Otherwise if you have a npc that just blindly runs off when mobs are in sight for no reason then it’s sorta pointless.

Radfist
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Radfist

I like it if they are about 60-80% efficient. So that you are better off taking real players, but if you cant find someone to fill that role you can compensate and still do the content – albeit slower and more carefully.
GW1 hero’s might have been a bit too efficient.  EQ2s mercenaries are too weak for max level content (basically just use healer mercs for cures or buff mercs),  I think SWTOR has the right balance for usefulness.  You can pull one out to fill a spot, but you would be better off with a player.

Bitrip
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Bitrip

RagnarTheDrunk Ever since Dragon Age Inquisition I have felt exactly the same. Even if I am playing as a summoner, I appreciate minions that have a will of their own.

MilitiaMasterV
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MilitiaMasterV

Depends how it’s done. SWTOR’s companions irked me.
I think I vaguely recall GW1’s heroes…and that was an interesting mechanic, but I’d rather not have people being ‘One-person army’ through most games. (A lot of botters/multiboxers do it anyway…and it definitely leaves a bad taste in my mouth to see those.)
If you want to play ‘God’ in a game, go find one of those games that actually, y’know, lets you play as a ‘god’. (I hear that Skyforge game was basically just that…)
I’m on the fence on this one.

MilitiaMasterV
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MilitiaMasterV

camelotcrusade As someone who’s played out the Diablo necromancers and even tried out Path of Exile’s version, it’s fun for awhile, until that one boss gets a lucky hit on you/uses some mechanic you don’t understand to wipe you out (In my case, a bleed effect that just drained all my life, even with a health potion used/regening me.)…and all of your minions go POOF with you….it’s not as fun as one would assume.
Having functional backup party members who could actually step in/get you back on your feet seems like it would be more useful.
I barely remember my GW1 days, mainly because that game never really functioned well on my PC’s, but I think I recall these heroes being like a fully use-able character, like as in it has all the abilities a normal player would have, and if you got dropped on one, it didn’t mean ‘The end.’…as another of the heroes could usually pull things through/get you back into play.

I’d kill for that type of ability in some situations where I made a simple mistake and perished because of it…

Radfist
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Radfist

salidar In EQ2 the beastlord’s warder makes up about 1% of their DPS.  Not sure how much it does in EQ1 these days.  Basically in EQ2 it is just there to proc advantages.

Radfist
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Radfist

Rozyn Radfist Aywren Definitely. Its hard to tell other players to use certain skills / builds because they have better synergy with the group, because everyone wants to play the way they prefer.  Also some of the effective builds were really dull to actually play, so giving that role to a hero is better.  I found the best setup was two people controlling 3 heroes each (each player can directly command 3 of the heroes, the rest act as customisable henchies).

Craywulf
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Craywulf

It’s a great feature…for a highly instanced game that mostly played like a single-player RPG. But for MMOs today…NPC party would kill the game, and clutter up the virtual world. There’d be too many hacks and ways to manipulate NPC party to circumvent difficult areas. 

I’m a firm believer that NPCs should be used to promote and push the story along. They should seldomly used for combat, because No MMO should ever disincentivized grouping. That’s about as anti-MMO as you can get.

Don’t get me wrong, it truly was great feature for the original Guild Wars, because of the way virtual worlds were instanced. I had a lot of fun, but I was alone.

paragonlostinspace
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paragonlostinspace

Qarran Interesting and for me I totally disliked how companions were done in SWTOR. I never want them as a requirement and would rather they were an option.