I certainly don't believe the Star Wars: The Old Republic developers had Free Realms in mind when they created the newly announced Warzone Huttball, but that does not negate the fact that most MMOs do not have sports that are just sports. I'm not sure this is because developers take the setting too seriously and therefore don't think outside the box in regard to side adventures players can have, but you will be hard-pressed to see many other MMOs introduce a sporty game into their core.
Needless to say, Huttball excites me even more about SWTOR, and I've even considered creating a character just to play Huttball. Beyond the jump, I breakdown the rules of Huttball and speculate on the further possibilities of the game. Join me.
The premise of Huttball is rather simple, which is possibly why it sounds like so much fun. Contestants are divided into two teams: Frogdogs and Rotworms. In the center of the arena, called The Pit, sits a large thermal detonator set to explode if a single player holds onto it for too long. The objective is to take this detonator across the opposite team's goal line, thus scoring a point. Matches appear to last 15 minutes, and at the end, the team with the most points wins. Beyond everything mentioned previously, there are no rules. The detonator may be passed, intercepted, and if the opposing player is incapacitated, stolen.
If I were to compare the game to other existing PvP games, I would call it capture-the-flag with a singular throwable flag, or to relate it to real life, it's soccer with blasters, lightsabers, and traps. In my opinion, it's one of the greatest PvP concepts I've heard of in a long time. In traditional BioWare style, the designers take an existing concept and add an extra level of fun to it. As an added bonus, faction lines have been erased.
As we know, in the game of Huttball, there are no rules. Kill and maim as you like. However, players must keep in mind that the objective is not to wipe out the other team. In fact, from the videos we have seen of Huttball, it appears that "killing" an opponent immediately places him back into the starting area. This means taking down a player only removes him from the field for a couple of seconds. I can foresee that damage abilities, although important, will not be the most important attacks in the game. As seen in the Tatooine Choppers video from Gamescom, the Smuggler has the ball headed straight down the ramp toward the goal line. Two opponents stand in her way: a Sith Marauder and Sith Assassin. Either of these other players could have taken her out. Another strategy needed to be applied: stun grenade to the Marauder and a swift kick to the groin for the Assassin. This stuns the attackers just long enough for the Smuggler to cross the line. GOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAL!!!
Any good game of death has to include bonuses and traps. Huttball includes simple yet effective bonus items. Power-ups grant health, speed, and damage bonuses, from what has been seen in the current videos. Traps are pools of acid, flamejets, or giant air vents. Obviously, the acid and fire are going to cause damage, but the air vents actually rocket the player into the air and may be used to escape or jump to a higher level.
Of course, there is no actual overtime in the game of Huttball, but extra bits can be added to this PvP arena to make it that much more fun for players who are not participating in the actual match.
The very first thing I wish to see in Huttball (if not every Warzone) has to be a spectator mode. Anyone who's spent time in Guild Wars knows that when a PvP match occurs you can watch it from any participating player's perspective or from a free-roaming camera. Can you imagine the spectator fun to be had just by watching a Huttball battle? This would introduce an e-sport as soon as the game launches, which is more than any MMO can say.
Secondly, please, include teams for this arena, BioWare. Running a PvP Warzone becomes that much more fun and coordinated when you run it with players you know well. We can assume that groups of four can join together because we were told they could for other Warzones, but we are not sure about raid groups -- in this case, a group of eight.
Lastly, in-game gambling needs to be there. This is Nar Shaddaa, after all -- the real hive of scum and villainy. Players are going to do it anyway; there should be a way to do it within the game mechanics. If you want to get really fancy, there could be a broker that calculates the odds based off players' wins and losses.
OK, I'm tingling with all the possibilities. Are you as excited about Huttball as I am? What things would you like to see in this newly announced Warzone? Are there other things spectators can do to enjoy the matches more? Are you going to attempt to form a Huttball team -- or league, even? What are your thoughts on Huttball in general? Let me know in the comments.
The Hyperspace Beacon by Larry Everett is your weekly guide to the vast galaxy of Star Wars: The Old Republic, currently in production by BioWare. If you have comments or suggestions for the column, send a transmission to firstname.lastname@example.org. Now strap yourself in, kid -- we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!