NPCs for Hire
I’m aware that there are other MMOs that have successfully implemented a henchmen system, namely Guild Wars, but I haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing it first hand. The awesome Tobold keeps beating me to the punch and touched on this last week but I wanted to give you my take on it.
I do think that it would take a significant amount of effort to implement such a system in WoW but Blizzard has already got a couple of things in place:
First, if you’re a resourceful engineer or a friend of the Cenarion Expedition you have the ability to call upon the aid of combat-capable pet or ally. Even though they help for merely a few seconds, my Mithril Mechanical Dragonling has been the difference between a successful kill and a long corpse run on more than one occasion.
Second, although I hate escort quests due to their annoying pace, they at least provide the foundation and basic proof of concept for having a functional AI party member. Most of the escorted NPCs walk annoyingly slow yet charge every mob they come in range of and never wait when you’re low on health or OOM. But is this really any different than that warrior in your PUG that wears the +intellect ring and employs the same tactics?
At least you don’t have to compete with the NPC for loot right? Let’s see, how much should a hired mercenary cost? If the price is too low then you’ll trivialize the concept of grouping all together. If you make the price too high, the only people that could afford it would be the mains that are leveling (or twinking) an alt. At a minimum the merc would take its share of the coin drops much like a normal player would. You could supplement this with either extra cash upfront or some sort of lootshare or percentage of the spoils.
There would obviously need to be some constraints. Would you restrict mercenaries to one per group or let up to four tag along? Would you give them a time limit? Keep them an instance-only feature? How would they work on a PVE versus PVP realm? What happens when the group wipes? Does the henchman die for good or make the corpse run with you?
Mercenaries could come in different flavors. For the most part you’ll probably want a healer, a tank, or a combination of the two. If you’re masochistic enough to try level as a tank your healer yourself, then a damage dealer would be the way to go. And how would you control said mercenary? An added action bar seems to work great for locks and hunters but you could also make the NPC semi-smart and respond to /emotes or text commands. There at least needs to be a way to prevent your hired help from pulling a Leeroy Jenkins.
What are your thoughts?
Thank you all for your comments. Some very excellent points were made. I think that for all intents and purposes, the current 1-58 (and arguably 1-69) game is a singe-player affair. Yeah there are a few instances here and there but I know that its difficult to get a group together even in the higher levels. Henchman that were available only to assist in PVE instances seems like it would be an ideal solution that wouldn’t break existing game balance. You’re basically just replacing a potential party member with an AI controlled character.
Besides finding a group to run an instance with, my biggest setback is the inability to devote a chunk of uninterrupted time for even the shortest of instance runs. “Sorry guys /afk diaper change” is not something I want to drop on any fellow players when we’re in the middle of a boss fight.
I’ve been known to dual box with my laptop and Shelbi’s lock to get one of my many alts through an instance. How awesome would it be if you could bring one of your alts online to run around with you in henchman mode? Effectively leveling up both characters and giving you the versatility of both classes. There could be a quite-worth-it imo XP penalty or even an extra subscription cost involved to appease the higher-ups at Actiblizzion.