MMO Mob Leashing

Mobs never used to give up the chase so quick.  In games like EverQuest, mobs never stopped following until you ‘zoned’ (a concept also becoming foreign these days).  Zoning meant crossing the invisible threshold into another ‘zone’ (that’s where the name came from, btw) which gave a loading screen.  While annoying, this simple concept had incredible influence over so many aspects of the game.

Dungeons were downright deadly.  Going too deep meant your entire group would have to zone if you got aggro you couldn’t kill.  Not only would that mob chase the person it aggroed on, but it would probably hate anyone who looked at it along the way.

Zone size was an important consideration.  A huge zone meant you had to run really, really far.   You couldn’t always outrun the mobs either, so if you were too far from a zone line you might be screwed. I was always – always – keeping in mind where the zone line was so that I could make my escape if a train came by or I quickly found myself outgunned.

Speed buffs mattered.  Spirit of the Wolf wasn’t just a travel luxury, it was always a survival mechanic.  Given the aforementioned points, run speed was almost mandatory for some situations.

Pulling was possible.  Groups used to sit in a corner of the zone and send out one person to grab monsters and bring them back.  Players could sit down, claim a spot, socialize, and just kill mobs.  Certain classes were also “pullers” giving that mechanic life.

That one seemingly smaller mechanic made a huge impact.  A lot of people are quick to say how annoying it was that mobs didn’t stop chasing, or simply dismiss the mechanic as old, but look at the result of mobs leashing.  You can take almost all of these points and flip them around and see the opposite.  I know it’s not “this is why things are the way they are,” but it’s worth taking note of the little things that have an impact on our games.

  • I too preferred unleashed critters. In UO they would sometimes even chase you out of the dungeons and all the way back to town, though if you got far enough they also did give up (mainly because they targeted something else and killed it then forgot about you).

    I think leashing came about due to abuse of the AI though, where people would either lure things to spots the AI couldn’t counter from or alternatively being ass hats and luring monsters into towns and AFK people. I found a good example of that in Guildwars 2 yesterday. Inside the queen’s pavilion there are these invulnerable floating, flaming swords that spawn in one section. Someone took the time to lure/pull one back to the main hub where it was happily slashing away at everyone.

    Even in the main zone of Orr there are griefers that “train” mobs of undead into unsuspecting wanderers by aggroing a few dozen, running to the intended victim and going stealth. Hey presto, all those mobs now target poor fool #1 instead. On the other hand if poor fool #1 slays them all he gets all the loot. ;p

  • You bring up the most valid reason to add leashing: exploits. I think that’s the knee-jerk solution, treating the symptoms and not the cause, throwing the baby out with the bathwater, etc. Fix the exploits and keep the mechanic.

    I’ll add here that I don’t think mobs chasing forever is a mechanic for every game. There’s never a one-size-fits-all approach, but the concept of looking at a seemingly simple mechanic and realizing its impact on many other systems is important.

  • I think FFXI was the last time I saw this sort of mechanice, and I really loved it. I felt like getting through a zone I shouldn’t have been in at my level was a real challenge – and an adventure. I made a lot of friends by helping out people getting chased, and inversely by being helped when I was getting chased.

    Nowadays if you run through in an area you just have to get a couple hundred feet away and the mob goes back to standing around waiting to be farmed.

    *in comes necromancer or monk with an army behind him*
    *train conductor feigns death*
    *everyone else dies horrible deaths*
    Oh the good ol’ days.

  • I have always said that mob leashing these days is a MASSIVE flaw in game design
    it dose not have to be perma chase, but having mobs only go back after a very long distance travelled, time chasing or distance between mob and target is so much better than the modern two foot leash.

    yes, sometimes it dose mean that kiting is op for ranged classes and meele classes are at a disadvantage, but work around it or deal with it, not all classes need to be able to solo

  • lol sarnar, yes it can be abused like that, but thats why you learn not to sit afk along the main routes (ie the ramp in blackburrow or entrance gate in crushbone)

  • Mob leashing is also NOT true to life. I would much rather have the old EQ or UO/AC (where the mob chased you for a significant distance before giving up) than to have it where you run 10ft away from it and it stops.

    Again though, this all comes down to making it easier for the player. What’s funny is in old video games, it wasn’t about making it easier, everything got HARDER. These days MMO designers think the opposite. Everything needs to be easy for the player to get through so we have crappy games. I miss the really good games of the 80’s and 90’s. Those games were fun.

  • I got trained many times, and I also did my fair share of training. From small scale things like rounding up all the skeletons in Steamfont, to us getting trained out of Plane of Fear by Fires of Heaven. It was fun and memorable, even when it was at your expense. People are so caught up with ‘griefing’ that they nuke fun gameplay in order to eradicate it. Having a sand giant show up at the docks in oasis isn’t part of the narrow road developers create for you to travel on these days. Running from one pack of exclamation points to the next CANNOT BE INTERRUPTED!!

  • I always wanted a system where the game would generate a mob spawner. Like a barracks of sort. It would be a destructible world item. A den spawns on the side of a mountain, and then it generates wolves of varying quality every so often. The wolves would have random pathing once spawned, with mechanics to allow them to “group up” when they pathed into each other. They’d aggro other mobs intelligently too. Deer, kill it. The dens would have areas where they could appear, but not always in the same spot. Wolves would keep appearing till players destroyed the den. Same thing with orc camps. Bear caves. Dragon Hoards, etc, etc. Intelligent species like Orcs, maybe thier spawn device grows bigger the longer it surives in the world. Orc camp —> Orc Fort. Enough orcs path across each other to group up, they become a war party and thier “group” random pathing changes to a focus on roads or even into villages. That’s the dynamic MMO world I want that doesn’t require quests. The mob activity will generate it’s own dynamic events, such as a region of the world where mobs left unchecked start overruning civilization till the players come and clean them out.

  • I always liked zone play. It’s one of the reasons I’m not entirely in favor of zoneless open-world MMOs. On the other hand, running to the zone got old quite fast back in the days when you lost your summoned pet and any armor or weapons you’d given him every time you had to run for cover.

    DAOC was by far the worst. From memory there were far fewer zones and they were much, much larger than EQ. Some mobs never gave up and you could be running for twenty minutes trying to get to somewhere you could shake them off. Am I really remembering that right?

    On balance I think I prefer some degree of leashing if we are going to have very large zones. Leashes nowadays are commonly far too short, though. I often lose mobs before I can get them to follow me to where I want to fight them (and yes I do still “pull” in most MMOs, even when soloing, at least on occasion).

  • You can’t talk about leashing without talking about the combat flag. The leashing mechanic goes hand-in-hand with the introduction of the combat flag. If these new games allowed mobs to chase you forever, then you would be permanently “in combat” and thus not be able to do certain things. I hate both leashing and the concept of not being able to use all of your abilities whenever you want. Everquest had complete freedom which is why you could employ such diverse tactics in any given combat situation.

  • This is yet another example of MMO designers dumbing down their worlds in the pursuit of… Well I’m not sure what it’s in pursuit of really since they all seem to fail after a few months. It is mechanics exactly like this that allowed EQ to be such an amazing experience. Not only did it give us pulling, but it gave us splitting. Which was almost a game in itself. And the whole process allowed the group to hang out along the zone wall (with the zone line nearby) and bitch about the stupid monk that was taking so long to bring back a mob. Or chat about the guild. Or whatever.

    I don’t believe that mechanics like this or anything else deemed too “hard” (ie. Walking, Waiting, Needing a Group, etc.) ever went out of style. It’s what made these games interesting. The designers need to stop listening to the fans that just don’t know what they really want, because the answer to every question is “easier”. Easier leads to 3 monthers, which I think are quickly becoming 6 weekers for the player base.

  • I like Gali’s ideas!

    Also leashing became necessary because of the lack of zones. And so long as we don’t have solid zone lines we need leashing of some sort. I’d like to see more intelligent leashing though. Maybe mobs could have a variable that controlled how far they would pursue before giving up. Make it so that it would vary depending on a comparison of the mobs level to the players so that a stronger mob will chase longer because it perceives an easy kill. Further modify the numbers based on just how much the player has done to attract the mobs attention in the first place, so the more damage you do the longer it will likely chase. Then every few seconds let the mob run a leashing check that adds some randomization and decides if it should give up the chase.

    I’d also love to see more intelligent mob AI in general, say you aggro an Orc Scout, unless he thinks you’ll be a really easy kill the first thing he ought to do is run and get his pals. Or if you are already engaged in a fight, if the fight is obviously a lost cause for the mob he should start running away long before he hits 10% health.

  • Yeah I think maybe leashing did become necessary because there is no more zoning. But is that good. The leashing or the lack of zoning? Do you feel more like you are in a real alternate world now that there is no artificial zone loading but mobs only chase you 10 feet? Yeah, neither do I.

  • @Sanz: “This is yet another example of MMO designers dumbing down their worlds in the pursuit of… Well I’m not sure what it’s in pursuit of really since they all seem to fail after a few months.”

    Yeah, stupid WoW developers. I bet they lost so much money when their game failed after a few months!

    I actually hate leashing, too, but man that was not a well-thought out comment, :p