Skyforge Dev Diary 2: Classes and Combat
If you've ever wanted to learn about the process of combat design, you'll love the latest developer diary from Allods regarding the evolution of Skyforge's combat systems. Skyforge initially began as a very typical type of combat system, much like what you would expect from an MMORPG. However, where it is now, is anything but typical. While Skyforge was barely more than a thought, it was being tested internally. As the developers playtested the game, they were discovering that they were becoming bored of the constant, set rotation that some MMOs have. Allods wanted to have combat be the main focus, and they wanted to make sure that it was fun. In order to do that, they decided to recreate the combat system as a whole.
This wasn't an easy task. Eventually, the team decided to branch out and start looking at games where they did find the combat fun. Most of these games were console games, and often they had one thing in common: combo attacks. This means that rather than starting off with your rotation and going down the line as abilities come off cooldown, you end up with far less keybinds and combat that becomes dynamic. To skip around in the essay (and corresponding video...if you can't make it through the essay I firmly recommend the six minute video because it's full of really awesome information), there's one core point that I feel most people want to know the answer to, and one core point that I think is probably the coolest damn thing said in this entire blog. The part I think most people will dig knowing is that Skyforge will be controller compatible. The part I personally found to be the most interesting was the part about Allods designing their UI using freakin' science. Science, folks.
We seat our ‘guinea’ players at a special table, connect various biometric sensors, set up an eye-tracker and let them play a section of the game we are interested in gathering feedback for. In the end, we get a video that shows where on screen the player was focused at any given moment, their pulse and other indicators, which we then use to reconstruct the emotional structure of the fight and decide whether we got what we wanted and, if not, what changes are needed.
The part about the eye-tracker is discussed in the video, where it's discussed as how Allods could make a UI that's not only as clean as possible, but extremely functional, as well. In the video, a brief clip of the game with a cluttered overlay is shown, which has windows everywhere. We all have that friend who, rather than playing World of Warcraft, pretty much plays World of Addons. The clip reminded me of how he keeps his UI, which in turn reminds me of how EverQuest originally was: this tiny window in the middle of a screen that was pretty much a sea of too much information. It gets to a point where the information you have access to goes beyond what's important and what is left is nothing short of a mess. “UX-testing showed that inexperienced players who are the target audience of context actions do not pay attention to them, and hardcore gamers ignore them for obvious reasons.” Thanks to freakin' science, Allods developed a minimalist UI that allows you to actually look at the game. Have you seen screenshots? That game is pretty gorgeous and worth looking at.
Not just wanting to create a minimalist, yet functional UI, the combat itself has to be good or there's not really a point. In Skyforge, you'll use a basic attack in between your bigger attacks. Instead of just the same animation for every time you swing, a rotating set of animations are present to give even the basic part a more visually appealing aesthetic. In addition to the basic and bigger attacks, you'll also be able to perform combo attacks through variations of left/right mouse button clicks. Characters also have ways to avoid attacks, mostly through dodge. NPCs, however, have basic attacks, as well, and these cannot be dodged. This does not mean you must take damage at any certain point; players have other methods of avoidance, as well. So everything's not strictly console-oriented, there are parts of traditional MMO combat, such as tab targeting, in the game as well. When I first heard that Allods was going the action combat route, I thought this meant they would use a targetless, everything is conal or area of effect attacks method. I'm super stoked that this is a far more hybrid method, which removes the one reservation I previously had about the game.
Now, Allods, how 'bout sending a sweet beta key my way? Eh? EH?!?