MMORPG Combat Systems
posted 5/5/2012 9:18:14 AM
Click target, mash skill hotkeys, dance on corpse of said target, and repeat. This is generally the accepted way MMOs have setup their combat. Sure there are some games here and there that have incorporated some sort of combo systems, like say, Cabal online, but at the end of the day, you’re still doing the same things. Why have games been sticking with the same function for so long? Why no change? When will something new come along? What can we expect? Fear not loyal readers, for I shall answer these questions and more…well…perhaps just the questions, then it’s lunch time.
In my opinion, the reason why this system has been used for so long is because…here it comes…..It isn’t broken. There, I said it. People are used to it. They download or buy a new MMO expecting new things along the lines of raids, PvP, items, graphics, characters, skills and all sorts of other content. Having to re-learn a UI is fairly common when someone goes to a new game, but to be put in a position of complete noobdom is pretty off putting for some people. I have a friend that cringes at the mere thought of hotkeys for movement not being WASD, or auto attacking being right click instead of left. It’s a comfort zone for some people, and it is something many, if not all of us are used to. You log into a game, see a little spoofy skill in a little box with a little 1 on it. What do you do? Press 1! Fwoosh, noobie skill activated. What about movement? Clicking, sure, WASD, that helps too. Combat? Tab, auto attack, skill, dead. Woo! Or is it woo? I am on the fence here. Part of me agrees that yes, combat is what people have been used to since the days of semi-turn based combat Everquest to the combo driven combat of Cabal Online. At the end of the day, you’re still choosing a target by either cycling or clicking, and the rest of the work is done for you, save for pressing a button or two. It’s a comfort thing.
Now comes the fun part, new combat systems! Some games have come along and said, “Hang on, if we’re bring all this new stuff to our audience, why don’t we make combat different?” Note our lovely developer here didn’t say ‘better’. The current system is fine, if it wasn’t, and this was all we had, there would be a lot more video game related suicides in the last 10 years. Anyway, a game that tried with this new idea…and sadly fell on its face, leaving a nice red streak on the pavement is Fantasy Earth Zero. It has manual targeting. What is that? Think of a first person shooter. You move the cross-hair at the center of your screen with your mouse, and activate skills using the number keys above your movement, which is WASD. Sounds pretty simple. At first I thought it was pretty fun. Sort of reminded me of old school Morrowind, with a drool cup and protective helmet. Why do I say that? The games clunky hit boxes were a pain in the butt, aiming at something didn’t necessarily mean you were ‘actually’ aiming at it. The graphics were poor and lighting was unfortunate enough to make some things difficult to see or make out in the massive amounts of grass and trees…oh wait…wrong game…this game had little to no wildlife what so ever. Overall, it was a good idea, but because of its dated feel and clunky interface, it fell short of being innovative. To be fair though, Fantasy Earth Zero isn’t really a “new game”. It originally released in Japan in early 2006 and only came to North America through GamePot USA (publisher) in 2010.
One thing I would like to say here, to all developers and future developers. Please, PLEASE don’t get fancy with stats. For the love of…whoever…let’s make a simple list of stats people are used to seeing and working with. Generally when I punch things, or hit them with pointy sticks, I do more damage than my mother because I have more strength. I can run faster and move quicker because I have agility, and dexterity. Maybe I can get poked back a few times more because I have a higher constitution. See where I am going with this? It makes sense. Sure, fine, you can change the names of them. Strength, Melee Attack, Power, Brutality, whatever, it’s a system that works, don’t change it. I’m going to point a big stink finger at Allods Online.
Allods Online Has 14 Stats. WTF?
I am not saying that having lots of stats is bad, but Allods Online pulled it off in a manner so poorly, it took me more time than it should have to figure out to what these stats do. Picture this, I am grouped with a friend and we are about to try and two man this little boss. “Oh sweet”, I think, “I just got my first heal, this should be easy.” How wrong I was. A quarter of the way into the fight, my buddy starts getting hurt and I toss out my first heal. The heal says, Heals target for 83 something hitpoints. How much did I see pop up above his head? 18. Of course my face contorts into a jolly good ‘WTF’, while my friend pines for health over skype. So I try again, maybe he has a debuff or something. Woosh, 21. Checking my combat log I notice that my buddy is actually resisting my heals. What…? Does he not ‘want’ to be healed? Am I that much of a loser that my own friend doesn’t want to accept the heavenly goodness of my heal? No, it was because my faith wasn’t high enough to counter his wound complexity, therefore it was resisted. A strain of mean, nasty and honest things are making my typing fingers want say some bad things, but I won’t because I am starting to rant and that’s not what this is about.
So I’ll wrap this up with some words about what’s to come. Games have tried new things and are getting closer and closer to being awesome and enjoyable with each attempt. Coming out in 2011 is Tera online, and another MMO I’ll mention in my next article, that have completely new combat systems involving manual aiming, complete hit collision and more. Why am I excited? Picture the good days of Warhammer Online collision (Players can’t walk through each other).