Updated Fri, Jul 12, 2013 by Dalmarus
WildStar is still a ways off from release, but along with releasing a new Dev Speak video yesterday, Hugh Shelton, the lead class designer and Chris Lynch, lead combat systems designer took some time out of their day to speak with me about the aiming system and how it’s currently progressing.
So before we begin, let’s get one thing straight. Everything that was discussed is essentially written in Jello. The game is still a way off, which means things can change. That said, the system should only see minor changes as testing continues. If, however, something in the video or this article does not work exactly as advertised, don’t come back here complaining. You’d think this wouldn’t need to be said and would be understood, but I can testify from my time with BioWare and ArenaNet that anything a developer utters, no matter what qualifying statements proceeded it, is considered written in stone and referred to a billion times by upset players in the future.
If you haven’t taken a few minutes to watch the video yet, you certainly should. It’ll clearly illustrate what the team is going for. In case you don’t watch it though, let me give you a brief breakdown of the contents here before getting to my chat with Hugh and Chris.
MMORPG combat today involves targeting a mob, then hitting hotkeys to unleash the corresponding ability. As long as the target is within the needed range, it’s automatically hit. Whether it resists the damage is another topic, but nonetheless, this is how MMORPG combat has worked in most games… forever? Well hang onto your britches boys and girls, because that’s about to change.
Just like mobs have telegraphing shapes to designate their really big attacks, players will also have telegraphs highlighting the size, shape, and or path their impending attack is about to strike. On top of this, players will have the ability to aim those telegraphs. Sound confusing? Maybe, but if you watch the video (I do remember having advised you do that previously, didn’t I?) or check out the images here in the article, it should become clearer.
Great. So now players can aim. Big deal. Actually, it is a big deal for a number of reasons. The first and most obvious is that in the heat of combat you’d better be able to keep your cool and aim your abilities well otherwise that plan to drop a massive AoE on that group of mobs that’s been beating the hell out of you is going to need to be revised. For the first time I can really think of, player skill is going to play a very real role in who is a good tank and who isn’t. What do I mean by “a good tank?” Oh, I’m sorry. Did I forget to tell you that aiming is also going to be crucial to pulling, taunting, keeping agro, etc.? Well, it is, so get ready.
That’s not really a big deal, is it? At least the healer will be able to just stand there and get some good heals off. Oh contraire, Mon Capitan! Healers will have to remain just as mobile as their less healing counterparts. They’re going to need to aim their heals as well. Now you’ve got an aiming tank, aiming DPS support personnel, and you add needing to aim heals on top of the mix… that’s going to take some work. The good news is that by all accounts, this system of combat doesn’t take new players a very long time to adjust too. They’re used to needing to avoid the big red circles of doom, so this is adding just one more level of gameplay on top of it. Personally, I think the system has the potential to keep players much more engaged during combat than with current systems.
I had taken the time to watch the video before talking with Hugh and Chris, so most of my questions were already answered, but as a person that tends to seriously suck at twitch-style games, I had to voice my concerns. I asked if the team had any type of guidance or safety net feature if the monitoring systems of the game realized a player was just not getting it and was continually getting bowled over or missing constantly.
According to them both, there are some assistance systems currently in place and others have been tried in the past. It’s still not certain whether any such system will make it to the live game. They were very clear to stress that these systems were just things they were testing and there is NO GUARANTEE we will see them in the final game. What they’ve discovered time and time again is that the assistance systems quickly hold players back once they finally get the grasp of how to aim and get used to performing that action. So yes, they’re aware some people suck at these types of combat systems (ME! ME! ME!) but the team is still on the fence as to whether to add an assistance system in to the live game at launch or not.
Even though I do suck at twitch gameplay systems (seriously, you have no freakin’ idea), I’ll admit that I’m intrigued by the combat system of WildStar. Even if in the end it doesn’t work out for me, I’m genuinely pleased that someone is taking a risk and doing something different. More developers need to take a page out of WildStar’s design book in this regard. WE WANT NEW IDEAS AND GAME SYSTEMS! We’ve played the same games for years now with minor variations. That’s simply not going to work anymore so it’s time to step up to the plate and swing for the fences. And that’s just what WildStar is doing.