Make Me Think, Not Twitch
I was browsing the official Lord of the Rings Online forums today when
caught my eye. The original poster, Methost, suggested that combat in
some current MMOs was too complicated. On some levels, I agree with
him. While I dont want to hit auto-attack and then lean back and yawn
(or get a drink, or tuck the kids in) as the action unfolds, I dont
want my MMO to require twitch skills like a console game, either. As my
11-year-old son will tell you, as he laughs his ass off watching me
mash buttons on the PS2 I have no twitch skills.
But a lack of lightning-fast reflexes doesnt mean I cant think. On
the contrary, I like games that challenge me. My best times playing
MMOGs were those where I had to think and react quickly. While no one
would accuse EverQuest of having complex combat, certain classes in
certain situations could be a joy to play. Such was the case with my
two favorite classes, the druid and the enchanter. I never had more fun
than when playing my multi-tasking druid, handily healing my group,
adding damage through my nukes and damage-over-time spells, and
managing crowd control. And I loved charm kiting with the enchanter:
keeping a mob charmed to do my bidding while holding another at bay,
and using my wits and well-timed stuns to avoid having my butt handed
to me, always kept me entertained.
And yet, people often complained that EQs combat system made for a
dull gaming experience, at least for some classes (or all, depending on
the situation). EverQuest II answered the cry for more involved combat
with their Heroic Opportunity (HO) system. I found HOs an interesting
alternative to hitting auto-attack or spamming specials, but in the
long run they didnt mean much. Could you survive without using them?
Yes, but not very well. The problem with HOs was that instead of
spamming specials, we found ourselves spamming HO combinations. Same
stuff, different approach. And the multi-tasking challenges once
inherent in playing EQ classes like the druid, enchanter or bard didnt
really exist in EQ II, at least not when I played it.
Playing Dungeons & Dragons Online (read my beta report target="_blank"
that other little MMOG developed by Turbine, helped me realize that a
game could require a combination of manual dexterity and thinking
skills. In DDO, standing and hacking (or blasting) away at a monster is
a quick ticket back to your bind point. In the brief amount of time
Ive been able to play DDO Ive had to learn not only to swing a weapon
(auto-attack is an option, but not a viable one), but to block, dodge,
tumble and use feats, not just randomly, but with some precision.
This brings me to Lord of the Rings Online. As I sit here pondering my
combat wish list its clear to me that I want a game that implements
strategic play without requiring the hand-eye coordination of a nimble
14-year-old. I want a game that puts make me think right before make
me react. I want to have choices in combat, and I want the choices I
make to matter. There shouldnt be one obvious way to get things
accomplished, but several ways which require me to quickly weigh my
options with each move I make. The game that engages my brain, not
necessarily my hands, will be the game Ill want to play for a long
time coming. Will LotRO be that game? The answer remains to be seen,
but intelligent combat certainly does seem the logical choice. After
all, the battle of Helms Deep wasnt won by dexterity alone.
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