Last post highlighted how important the exact implementation of the combat minigame in Wowlikes is. This post will make a proposal on how to iterate on it.
Since Age of Conan, Wowlikes have given up on iterating the combat minigame much. The exception is, ironically, WoW itself. And Cataclysm's revamped combat isn't bad. At low-level most of the gameplay is unchanged. Only at maxlvl do players have to do more than just push *any* button. But the new combat still has a big problem: you end up watching your action bars much more than the actual combat.
Reacting to *anything* frequently and fast is very exhausting. A game that consists of fighting hordes of monsters for hours must not have exhausting combat. Moreover, millisecond reactions are a bad idea considering that the main demographic of MMOs doesn't like them.
While picking fights should be a tactical or even strategic decision, the combat itself should not. The logic processors of our brains are painstakingly slow. Combat which requires analytical thinking always ends up frustrating, extremely simple or turn-based. Moreover having to think logically very fast for long periods of time is exhausting. Hence, combat has to be intuitive.
Currently combat consists of abilities that are triggered instantly by the push of a button. This leads to a problem with feedback. Typically a good combat animation takes some time to ramp up. But if the ability triggers instantly the player also needs instant feedback (a number). This is quite the problem, really. You can't just delay any of this, because it feels awkward. The player must, at all times, feel in perfect control of his character.
My proposal is to no longer ignore the duration during which a button is actually pressed. For example, a typical melee attack move would do most damage if you keep the respective button pressed for 1.34 seconds. Any deviation reduces damage done.
The exact implementation is this:
- The player pushes the button down.
- The attack animation starts.
- At 1.34 seconds the animation reaches it's climax. The appropriate sound also has a climax at 1.34 seconds.
- Should the player release the button too early/too late, the sound/animation give him a feedback. They sound/look 'less successful'.
The duration does not (or rarely) change while progressing a character. The point is that the player learns to intuitively press his buttons for the optimum duration. At the same time, the song must never feel artificial. Keeping a button pressed, while your character raises his sword to strike a blow and then releasing the button the second the sword *hits* the opponent should, in fact, feel more intuitive and more satisfying than today's combat.
Naturally, something like this would have to be iterated a lot.
Macros are a potential issue for this kind of combat minigame, because there is a strong incentive to keep a button pressed for exactly the optimal duration. This is much easier to do for a macro that for a human. There are a few ways to fight this abuse that all require the player to sometimes not keep the button pressed for the optimal duration depending on something a macro cannot know. The challenge is to make this not-exhausting and not based on fast reactions.
Game companies might want to assign a professional (music) with creating satisfying rhythms that are later translated into concrete gameplay.
This proposal adds an intuitive dimension to the current combat model. Combat becomes more interesting without becoming exhausting or more dependent on watching the user interface.
What do you think ?