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May 24, 2013

Dear Reader,

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.

Mobile combat:

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.

Interesting crafting:  

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.

Fluid grouping:

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)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 24, 2013 6:30 am

    I’ve definitely noticed this hopping between games. I really miss dodge in any game without this mechanic now (WoW, SWTOR), it just makes combat feel lumbering. I will say I prefer Tera or Neverwinter’s take than GW2, I think in Guild Wars 2 combat is too frantic, too much to dodge and to little else you can do to mitigate damage.

    I also really like the companion driven crafting in SWTOR and Neverwinter in so far as you can queue it whilst actually questing/playing – it saves the need for serious ‘downtime’ to progress crafting.

    The big thing I’ve missed from every game since WoW though is an altoholic plug-in. Seriously, having to swap between characters just to check on crafting mats in EQ2 or LOTRO is such a massive pain in the rear!

  2. May 24, 2013 8:06 am

    Interesting points. My take on static combat is probably influenced by, of late, playing primarily a tank or Warlock in WoW. Neither is exactly ‘static’ – an AffLock who takes the correct talent has free movement while tanks have CDs to let them stand with the mob. I liked the movement and dodge system in TSW much more than the one in GW2. Some superficial similarities but the movement felt more purposeful in TSW and less of a reflex-tag every time the dodge came off CD.

    Not really much of a crafter – I’m the adventurer, aren’t there experts I can pay to make me stuff? The system in SW:ToR is one the few things I really liked about that game. It needed more depth and more difficulty but that’s true of all crafting systems I’ve seen. GW2 didn’t strike me as particularly clever. The discovery system was the foundation for a potentially great implementation but it was all surface. They could done interesting things with it but chose to be as simple, and grindy, as possible. It is, however, leagues above WoW crafting. Does anyone take that for any reason other than the profession buffs?

    I’m torn on ease of movement. In a game like D3 I really enjoy the lobby system. Let me group and get going. Never mind this travel to area stuff. I’m also increasingly fond of the difficult, and often dangerous, travel in Eve (which is an interesting game to solo). The universe feels large if I have to plan a route, watch for gate camps or incursions, and commit to spending the time to get from where I am to where I’m going. I find that I’m spending as much time checking the map before departing as I would in reality if I was going to an unknown or high traffic delay place.

    I really disagree with you on the skill system in GW2. I played a few characters to max and discovered that each had an optimal set of weapons and traits. In every encounter I just worked through the priority system depending on type – single enemy, AoE, big mob, etc. It was just as mechanical as my Warlock’s priority system. It did, however, look much nicer on the screen.

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