Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Removing Allied Targeting

I wanted to write about meaningless challenges today. Saying that when people ask for challenge they actually ask for meaning and challenge without meaning is annoying.

But then I stumbled accross this.

There are many interesting things here, not only for Guild Wars fans, but anybody interested in MMO combat. Perhaps the most interesting is this one.

No allied targeting
This is one of the big ones. There are no skills that specifically target allies. Everything must be done using positioning, ground targeting or other unconventional methods. This keeps every profession focused on their allies in the world, which adds a tactical complexity to the combat. Instead of watching red bars, we want you to watch your allies in the world. Making sure you are dropping ground-targeted spells effectively and moving into position to block attacks on allies is how we want players to defend each other.

I congratulate ArenaNet. Although I am still sceptical about GW2, there certainly are very skilled game designers over there who can think outside the box without losing touch to the realities of game design.

Removing allied targeting in some way or another is necessary if you want to make healers and supporters look at the action instead of the unit frames. Perhaps, in some years, we will look back at WoW and make jokes about how you needed to look at unit frames instead of what was actually happening. This sometimes made people 'stand in the fire', ridiculous, eh?

However, removing allied targeting is not without risk. The biggest risk certainly is that removing allied targeting requires the pace of combat to be slow. You don't want your players to loose orientation in battle. That is why I am sceptical. How slow can you make combat until players complain about 'not enough action'? What tools can you add that allow players to keep track of the action without looking exclusively at the tool?

No matter which way it turns out in the end. Guild Wars 2 is a AAA-MMORPG that tries to break with more conventions than your usual WoW clone. This alone raises hope.


  1. How slow can you make combat?

    Well, at the moment, it takes about 5-10 minutes for a full raid to down a raid boss (not counting wipes). I've not heard people complain about this. Perhaps they would if every trash mob took this long, but I'm certain that the current speed of killing trash is too great. If it took, say, two minutes to kill an elite mob, that would be acceptable for most people, provided (obviously) that the time it took the mobs to kill players was similarly extended.

    Part of the reason that we don't mind fighting a boss for 5-10 minutes is that all through those minutes we are flowing with adrenaline! It is not sure that the boss will go down at all. Even with 30 seconds to go, it is never sure he isn't going to kill us first. This is an important part of making long fights interesting.

    On the other hand, if we know after the first 10 seconds how the fight will end, it might as well end immediately.

  2. I think more important than the duration of combat is the speed of it. Something like actions per minute.

    The more actions and the faster movement in GW2 is, the harder it is to get behind people and heal them.

    The only way to get this right is iteration. But the question is whether there even is a solution to the problem. You want combat to be fast, because people are used to fast combat. But the usual speed of combat might be inappropiate in a game without allied targeting.

  3. Hmm slow vs fast combat . I 'd say slow combat = boring. Only time slow combat is ok is if the game is very tactical and turn based in nature (e.g. chess)

    All the best examples of combat are visceral one the edge experiences - all FPS (CS,TF2,BF seriece ,COD, UT etc) have extremely high pace with combat resolving in mere seconds (if that) . Long prolonged shootouts are exception rather than a rule

    Same thing with RTS - they can feel even more frantic and high speed than FPS due to the need to be in many places at once

    One of the most tactically complex games are fighting games (street fighter , etc). Yet they also are ones with the highest dexterity and reaction time requirements

    So I am not at all convinced that there is need to slow pace down just because there is less targeting aids .

    In fact when the chain of action is all mechanic memory (without conscious input ) - like it is in FPS, shooters and at pro level in RTS, and yeah, even in MMO -at high level arena its all mostly automatic , that's where you get the fast pace. When you dont think about what button to click ,or what UI frame to reference -you just make high level decisions .

  4. I would have thought players losing orientation in game is a lack of player skill? Why is that a concern for arenanet, unless it increases the difficulty above the peg they wanted to set it at? And if they want less difficulty, some people will find it slow, because the lower you set the difficulty, the more people are already above the skill required for the encounter, already.

  5. On the subject of slow combat, I'm really enjoying Pirates of the Burning Sea, which features long, slow ship-to-ship combat. It feels much more realistic than WoW combat. Moreover because it is slow, it allows time for tactical planning.

  6. I think we can agree that depending on the rest of the game a specific 'speed of combat' is the best.

    If I imagine having to heal people in a 25 man raid without targeted healing, but at WoW speed. I cannot imagine that this can be fun.

    Non-targeted healing does reduce the 'best combat speed' for healers, I think. But players who don't heal have probably a higher 'best combat speed'. This contradiction is what ArenaNet will have to resolve and I honestly hope that it is resolvable within the applying limitations.