Thursday, October 18, 2007

NPC Companions

I've been two-boxing my defiler, Malta, when farming with my main, Akshobhya and I've been revisiting some old Desert of Flames sites. She's now at level 54, and hopefully soon I'll be able to two-box them together without mentoring.

I find that playing two characters makes the gameplay much more interesting. Obviously, I can't play both characters at the same time optimally (Akshobhya got to 70 before I got the second account, and I've made sure to play Malta with real groups and actually solo her without Aks on occasion just to make sure I can play her properly.) But it adds to the number of different abilities I have, and therefore my options are expanded.

This makes solo game play much more interesting. This is partly why grouping/raiding is more interesting than soloing. When soloing you can only do whatever it is your archetype is designed to do, but with a group you have more options and strategies available to you. But the fact is sometimes we simply have to solo. Unfortunately, with all the responsibilities of a married homeowner with a full time job, for me, that's rather often.

What I wish was that you could get a little extra help in game without having to use a second account. In Guild Wars, we could get henchmen or collect Heroes to round out a party. Perhaps if we were limited to having only one Hero with us, and could use their skills (or perhaps a subset, since EQ2 has way too many skills) in addition to our normal skillset, would that be a good or bad thing for EQ2 (or WOW or any other traditional MMORPG)?

It would add a Pokemon collect-them-all style element to the gameplay as people tried to collect Heroes of each class. If they were tradeable it would help create an additional market which would keep the brokers lively. And it would render a lot of the "balancing" they do in game for solo play unnecessary. After all, who would care if your healer or mage can't solo effectively, when they can summon a tank or DPS companion to help out? And I think they would be good for the market because people would now have more than one character's worth of equipment to maintain (which would be part of how henchmen would be balanced compared to traditional soloing without NPC help.) The henchmen might come with somewhat of an XP penalty, though not so much that they become pointless of course.

Naturally, this type of feature shouldn't be done at the expense of grouping. But people seem to trend towards smaller groups when given the choice, so it might actually help encourage grouping since, with the help of NPC companions, more people would be able to consume heroic content. And it would help a lot of groups get off the ground more rapidly knowing they can replace their NPC companions with human player should one show up. It would also alleviate one problem I have with dual boxing: when I do have time to group, I am willing to stop dual boxing to genuinely partner with another person, but I can't LFG while I'm duoing, so most of the time people don't realize I'd be interested.

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