Components vs. Time

A thought struck me as to how over the last several years and generations of MMOs, that have been designed, that we have moved away from component based skills and spells. Our games are now a time controlled set of actions, spells, and skills.

Remember in the days of old, when the mage required malachite to form his pet; or the cleric needed a rare gem to instill a buff on another character? Druids of the past could change the weather with a rare pearl, or a shaman could transform himself into a great bear with daunting battle prowess. Where have those days gone? Perhaps it was an added layer of database management that the designers wanted to get rid of; or perhaps it was thought of as being a bother for the character to maintain inventories of small trinkets, baubles, and rare materials.

At times, I must confess that I grumbled about keeping my bags filled with components, and whined when I ran out of them (often in the most inopportune times). But in retrospect, I often think of the times when I refilled my cache of components and how good I felt with bags of malachite and other rare gems. the feeling of power, knowing I could cast life healing magic with impudence with knowledge of a bag full of rubies and emeralds.

I often wonder, what the game scene would be like with component based skills and spells still in the game. It could control so many aspects of games that seem so out of control today. For example, Vanguard and Everquest II basically put a cabash on buffing non-group members. I really enjoyed that aspect of the game. I loved running around town hitting people with SoW, or hearing the cries for mana and life regeneration (oooh the thought of grabbing some mind candy still brings a smile to my face). With a component based spell-sets one could still control its use, but offer those people rich enough or smart enough to perform such duties. A simple mechanism of a rare or costly gem or component would control such use and offer an additional item from within the game to be harvested and sold on the open market (or purchased from a computer NPC at a hefty pre-defined value).

Time based skills and spells often irk me. You have a whole series of icons on your character tabs that are constantly regenerating — some games are better at telling you their refresh timers than others. In a heated battle or when you want to exemplify your character, that is the time you should be able to use such fantastic spells and skills. Nothing is more irritating then to realize that your special skill has 45 seconds to go before you can trigger it — and in 25 seconds the entire group will perish. Wouldn’t it be better to discard time based skill-sets in favor of components that vary in strength and cost? Would not the player feel in more control of his character with such a system?

In key epic battles would it not be better to allow a character to spam glorious abilities if his character is able to afford it (mind you, we are not talking about real money but ingame currency). Couldn’t a series of components be developed that would give varying powers onto a character, with the cost of such ranging from a few coppers to a few platinum (or whatever game values)?

Of course the argument could be raised that with such time controls lifted, and components used instead that balance could be a concern. As it stands now, balance is often a tough act to perfect. Even in the best thought out games, balance often comes in time. As with component based systems, balance would adjust itself accordingly.

Let us return to the days when we could buff our fellow man, where we had more control over when a spell could be used, when a skill could be implemented. Lets dust off those picks and pans, garnering rare gems and ingredients of earth, fire, and water.



  1. I’ll pass on components. Richard Garriott was all too correct when he described MMO’s as “inventory management games” as-is. DDO makes me keep track of multiple types of spell components as well, which gets very confusing trying to keep track of which components are for which spell, did I bother memorizing that spell? and other annoyances. It’s all fine and good for the PnP game because it’s all imaginary, we just tell the DM “I’m buying components” or whatever and it’s good. There’s none of this managing an already limited inventory of stuff, which in turn limits how much I can pick up in the adventure.

    Buffing anyone I want? Yeah, I like that though. For that matter, I’d like to bring back the days of SWG where people could play non-combat classes and still enjoy the game, “level up” their characters, and provide the best buffs too.

  2. Actually I really like the idea of components. I especially like the idea of having a few core spells that have different strengths based on the component you use. For example instead of having Cure 1 and Cure 2, you just have Cure and the amount healed is based on the value of the component.

  3. Or, rather than wasting development time, and more importantly *MY* time with learning Cure 2 then ten levels later Cure 3 which is taking up useless space in my skill book, how about I just have Cure and as I level up/gain skill/whatever my Cure simply gets better and I still don’t need to waste inventory space (and shopping time) carrying components.

    Components sound all fine and good if you’re coming from the PnP world, or perhaps from fiction that gets “down and dirty” with describing its magic system, but in practice, it’s just aggravating and inconvenient.

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