Mark Jacobs, the former longtime boss for Mythic Entertainment and designer of Dark Age of Camelot, is picking up a fight against predictability by arguing for the merits of increased randomness in MMOs , including his upcoming PVP-centric project Camelot Unchained.
"This game will not be a linear, theme-park style world where you pretty much know what the outcome of most of the fights will be before the battle begins," he writes. "I currently believe that as we have made MMORPGs more and more handholding and predictable, we have lost much of both the joys and sorrows of having something really random happen to players whether it is during the course of a pitched battle or simply when just walking down a road."
The potential fun factor of encountering the unexpected during play isn't hard to miss, but there's a danger of taking such a system to the extreme—I'm not too keen on a spider shrugging off my trueshot arrow Just Because. Similarly, many players—even whole communities —derive enjoyment from puzzling out the math magic powering their attacks, so dealing with abstract uncertainty might not take well.
It looks like Jacobs seeks a middle ground between standard number generation systems and the chaos of randomization. He explains: "What I propose is that this game's combat systems have enough randomness built into them that players will not know that every time they swing their sword, they will always hit for X damage. I don't want the player to know that every time they go into a 1:1 battle with someone of equal knowledge/skill but with a slight lower character that the outcome is easily and thoroughly predetermined.
"However, the system's damage combat mechanics will be laid out so that the majority of damage will be set but where only a portion of it is random but with a strong critical hit/miss system component as well."
Critical failures, eh? How very tabletop. I can see the humor in clubbing myself in the face with my broadsword on a low roll. Discussion time: would such a system actually translate well in a genre which stresses smooth leveling progressions for all players? More importantly, does randomness have a place in a PVP-slanted game such as Camelot Unchained?