As I’m playing so many different titles right now, I’ve found that there are certain mechanical overlaps that I like and hope to become standard as games move forward, mechanics that I miss when I’m playing a game that doesn’t include them. I thought we’d take a quick look at those mechanics today.
First and foremost is mobile combat. I don’t like having to stand still to do basic things. I’m not saying every single ability has to be able to be done of the fly; a powerful channeled spell might require the penalty of standing still, but as I mentioned before with Neverwinter, I dislike standing still to fight. Since I’ve been playing Borderlands 2, which has “normal” fluid combat for a FPS, Guild Wars 2, which has pretty mobile combat (not quite as mobile as TSW, but almost), and Neverwinter, the contrast has become very stark indeed, and it’s made me lose some interest in Neverwinter (though it may pick up again after BL2 goes by the wayside).
On this topic, I wanted to mention dodging. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve double-tapped to dodge in Borderlands 2 and found myself inexplicably not dodging, because of course that’s not a mechanic in BL2. This sort of mental, mechanical generalization I’m sure isn’t anything too new to people that lollygag between different games, but right alongside mobile combat I’d like a dodge mechanic to become more standard. Making damn sure you get out of the way of an attack can have almost any kind of penalty or resource consumption associated with it, but I like that mechanic and want to see more of it.
Complex character development that stymies cookie-cutters:
This can mean a lot of things, and does. I love Magicka for the many different spell combinations you, the player can figure out. Sure, you can go look them up, too, which will be true of many of my suggestions, but the fact that it’s not readily apparent what’s better, and that, in fact, what’s better may change from moment to moment, makes playing more fun. I think this is something my buddy didn’t understand about TSW and GW2. He felt that you had “exactly the character you want” by mid-game, and thus the rest of the game became “pointless, as there was no more development.” He didn’t understand that having a larger toolbox allowed you different options in different situations, and it robbed him of interest in the games.
Toolboxes, too, is a good metaphor for what I’m talking about. In WoW, you have your rotation, and with very few exceptions, that’s what you hit all the time. In Magicka and Guild Wars 2, though, you have a greater diversity of options, and using that diversity at the right times can mean the difference between success and failure. My buddy got his “best” weapon combo for GW2 and plugged away at it for 70 levels. I changed mine up all the time, along with my slot skills and my talent points, and as a result I had a lot more fun, and am still having it.
The discovery system in Guild Wars 2 is fantastic. Again, yes, you can just look it up, but you don’t have to, and it’s not just plopped down in front of you as a list, so you’re encouraged to explore. That kind of tinkering speaks very much to me. Magicka, again, while it doesn’t have crafting, is at some level an entire game about crafting the right spells at the right moments and using them without detonating everyone around you. I also like the crafting from SW:toR / Neverwinter / Fallen Earth. I like each project having a time constraint to it and taking time. You don’t have to have 400 levels of a crafting skill; you can have 100 levels, each of which takes time to achieve. I think a combination of those three systems, using minions rather than standing at a crafting node, would be ideal.
Obviously I like fluid grouping. D3 / Borderlands had the right idea, as does Rift / Guild Wars 2. Tagging is incredibly outdated and can still be used on “important” mobs, or simply a participation:reward ratio like the medals for events in GW2. Being able to see who you know online, group up with them immediately, teleport to their location, and just play together should be the absolute highest ideal of every game, yet so many fail at that simplest of concepts. There are exceptions, of course; that sort of gameplay in DayZ would miss the point, but in a standard co-op game, you shouldn’t have to struggle to be together. I want to see more of this, not more walls built up around people; that reinforces the toxic image of some communities.
So each of these I think are important for future games. Call them what you will: convenience features, requirements, or simply good ideas, but the games that have them, I think, will do better than those that don’t. Of course, only time will tell.
Stubborn (and summery)