Thursday, October 6, 2011

Even Blizzard can't do Underwater

Underwater almost seemed to be the next big thing. Since it was known that GW2 wanted to try it out, Blizzard's team decided to try it, too. And Blizzard being Blizzard they put gameplay really first. The simulation be damned. But still a siginificant number of WoW players doesn't like underwater. The three dimensions are confusing (they are a bit for me) and nothing really feels right.

And this really means something! Because you can't really remove underwater walking further from the simulation than Blizzard did. This is what underwater walking is like; is really like:

And this is Blizzard's version.

It rather feels like running on a small moon; whose atmosphere is filled with some very light, perfectly transparent and slightly luminescent liquid. Me, personally, I think it's a funny thing this Vashj'ir. But only because I don't try to think of it as water, let alone deep ocean.
Forget the simulation, concentrate on the gameplay. In Vashj'ir that's not just what the designers did (had to do). It is what the player has to do in order to have fun.

Maybe underwater isn't such a good idea in the first place? I had much prefered some outland(ish) planes with less gravity. The loss of the 3D certainly wouldn't be a problem; rather an advantage. Putting the gameplay first means to adjust the simulation to fit the gameplay's needs. It does not mean to ignore the simulation.

If I don't feel like I am underwater then what is the point of underwater zones?


  1. I can tread water in full plate, with a weapon in one hand and a shield in the other and you're worried about the walking animation while in water?? I don't get it and I've never heard a single person in all my years of WoW complain about how the water environment is handled - except for them to be annoyed by the fact that they move slowly!
    Seriously, why is this a concern? WoW has always been about a fantasy world with obviously fantasy physics. Why not complain about the physical attributes of some flying mounts and how they shouldn't 1) be able to fly and 2) even if they could they shouldn't be able to carry my character and manoeuvre the way they do? You can't have your fantasy suspension of disbelief on one hand and expect proper simulation of physics in another. I have no problem with the water portion of the game. Admittedly Vashj was a little difficult to adjust too - but hardly show-stopping.

  2. Did I say show-stopping somewhere? I agree with you, Idleness: it is not show-stopping.

    But the point is somewhere there is a line. Flying mounts with flying sounds deep in the water, like in the last post - is that where the line is for you?

    If we could walk through walls, would that be a line? Or if a boss mob explained a nice voice how we are supposed to defeat him. How we are supposed to run into the triangle that he makes just for us before he makes a storm to kill us if not in the triangle? Is that where the line is for you?

    Where is it?

  3. I think it has nothing to do with water and everything with the game itself.

    The WoW combat system was never designed to work in all 3 dimensions, neither was the interface, neither are the spells nor the graphical spell effects. The minimap doesn't work in 3 dimensions and the world map isn't any help either. You don't even have a "compass" showing you up.

    Walking with WASD is intuitive, the way they've implemented ascending and descending is fiddly.

    Tab targeting always was poorly implemented in WoW (it never targets the target I want it to target) and doesn't (and probably can't) work in 3 dimensions because there are to many unknowns. There's a difference between "one of the mobs" in front of you and "the mob in front of you on the surface or at the bottom of the sea".

    All area effects work on the ground which doesn't work with 3 dimensions, let alone the stupid targeting circle. In 3 dimensions you need something like water bombs, which WoW doesn't have. It feels like you're in a lesser zone if you can't use consecration or shadowfury but don't gain anything in exchange.

    The distinction between walking and swimming is irritating and unnecessary.

    The whole "combat speed" is not designed for slower water speed, hence they had to increase the speed.

    The third dimension isn't in any way taken into account with current spells, like the "sink" spell showed by GW2.

    I don't know if underwater will work in GW2 and I'm not sure if it'll be fun. But if you want to include underwater (or vehicle) combat then you better design the game with those things in mind because you can't add these things later.

    I hate WoW underwater, but I never had problems with 3 dimensions in Wing Commander.

  4. I agree with Kring.

    BTW my druid can swim at ludicrous speed while my bags are filled with polearms and staves :P
    Not to mention the stacks of volatile fire....

  5. @Idleness

    This is where immersion and continuity come into play. We accept the fact that mounts can fly and that magic is possible but we are also asked to accept that gravity still exists and oxygen is important while under water. You have to have RULES with in a world for it to be believable. If at any time you could just blast off and fly away, or live forever underwater, or kill any monster with one swing, then you are breaking the reality of the game.

    This happens in every fiction movie and book. We are asked to believe some things that are not real, exist; and in exchange some things that are real continue to be so. Just because “magic” exists in a game or world doesn’t mean we throw every rule out the window. This is the agreement the story teller and the listener often make during a movie or book.

    Now with games the developer often has to make compromises for the sake of fun and gameplay, but that doesn’t mean we should just accept the fact that no rules apply.

    I hate underwater zones. I have since Kedge Keep. I still hate them after playing Cata.

  6. Just because “magic” exists in a game or world doesn’t mean we throw every rule out the window.

    Ehh... I agree with Idleness here. You may not throw every rule out of the window (e.g. walls are solid), but complaining about flying mounts underwater, complaining about how underwater walking is handled while under the effects of the Sea Legs spell and so on is completely ridiculous - especially considering how water navigation is handled differently everywhere else (as you would expect, lacking the Sea Legs ability).

    If I don't feel like I am underwater then what is the point of underwater zones?

    If you are looking for (water) simulators, why are you playing videogames?

    I really don't know what to tell you other than you are clearly doing it wrong. There was never a time where I was not acutely aware that I was underwater in Vashj'ir. And honestly, Blizzard was about a hair-width away from Vashj'ir being effectively unplayable because of the underwater "mechanics," at least as far as I was concerned. Enemies spawning in multiple layers, critical AoE attacks being unable to be cast without a 2D surface to target or being effectively useless, and so on.

  7. And honestly, Blizzard was about a hair-width away from Vashj'ir being effectively unplayable because of the underwater "mechanics," at least as far as I was concerned.

    I agree with this. And that's why I ask the question of whether we need underwater stuff in the first place? Seems to be impossible to get it feel like underwater and being good gameplay at the same time.

    I'm not saying that I want Vashj'ir to be like real life underwater. That would be terrible gameplay. But I also don't want it to feel like jumping on the moon.