Wild About WildStar Combat: Telegraphs

Today we look at how WildStar successfully iterates on the past, ponders the present, and ultimately present us with an insight into the future of relaying vital visual combat information.

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WildStar Week Episode Five
Wild About WildStar Combat: Telegraphs

In today's thrilling installment of WildStar Week, we take a look at how
WildStar successfully iterates on the past, ponders the present, and
ultimately present us with an insight into the future of MMO combat.

Telegraph Me

The concept of telegraphy has been around in Europe since 1792 in the
form of semaphore* lines, with the first successful electronic telegraph
transmission occuring in 1837 by none other than Samuel Morse. The concept
at the time was to create a more direct means of communication between two
individuals – a holy grail that is still being chased today. Even though
the methods and technology has changed a heck of a lot over the past
couple of centuries, the end goals have largely remained the same.

Perhaps one of the most interesting things about combat in WildStar is
that the game manages to take MMO combat boldly into the future by
extracting this same key goal out of our collective past. Just like the
original telegraph system, in WildStar, telegraphs are a very direct means
of communicating information between combat participants.

There have actually been some very interesting evolutionary concepts at
work that have brought us up to this point. While there are plenty of
subtle elements that have contributed over the years, below I’ve whipped
up a brief overview of the key beats along the path leading us into the
future that WildStar helps represent.

Visual Combat Feedback: The
Evolution of a Concept

Back when you had to play MMOs uphill both ways through a foot of snow,
there really wasn’t a lot of visual feedback given to players to aide them
in combat. If you came from the EQ side of the MMO family tree, you likely
remember having to spam the F8 key which was mapped to “/con” your target.
In other words, you didn’t even really know what level it was in
comparison to your own character without using the hotkey or a basic /con
command in the chat window.

For example, a red /con would give you a chat message reading, “

style="color: red;">Jabober would probably wipe the floor with you”
in bold red text.

Not long before World of Warcraft broke wind onto the MMO scene
we began seeing targeting circles or rings appearing in more and more
games. These helped provide some better visual feedback that – even if tab
targeting would show your target’s level – would help keep you paying
attention to the action on-screen and not spending all of your time online
caressing the UI with your eyeballs.

This also helped many gamers free their eyes up for much more important
tasks such as shooting laser beams, flipping out at how
HOLYEFFINGMOTHEROFCRAPAWESOME that one video of some dude’s kitten was,
watching pr0n, and of course, reading the ever living snot out of Ten Ton
Hammer; all very worthy pursuits, naturally.

The original Spell Alert addon for WoW marked another important turning
point. While some players – myself included – felt that Spell Alert helped
kill competitive PvP by forcing players to use an addon or be receiving
gimped feedback compared to those who used it, ultimately Blizzard felt
the addon was worthy of ganking and adding to the core game UI.

As time passed, one thing lead to another, and the next thing you know
MMO gamers had an all new rallying cry on the epic scale of “Give me
liberty, or give me death!” Only in this case, it was a bit more blunt; “Don’t
stand in the fire!

When I was a kid, we learned all about Stop, Drop, and Roll,
but I still knew plenty of kids in my town who suffered some pretty major
burn injuries. The government can say all it wants about the ill effects
of video games on society, but I swear to random higher powers that there
is a generation growing up at this very moment who’s lives will be saved
thanks to learning “Don’t Stand in the Fire” instead of Stop, Drop, and

Another example of this would be my childhood hero, Mr. Yuk. Obviously
his true purpose in life – helping to warn children not to drink poison –
was lost on my generation as well. Mind you, I’ve never knowingly ingested
poison (not counting the food served in my college cafeteria). Call me crazy, but I equate
Mr. Yuk with any of my other childhood heroes including Underdog, Mighty
Mouse, or Mr. Greenjeans, to name a few. But otherwise his purpose of warning
against ingesting household poisons never really stuck.

Long story long, you would think that “don’t stand in the fire” is direct
enough that gamers would simply get the concept and move on. What’s
incredibly hilarious to me is that they really haven’t. **

Thus comes the next major milestone on the combat feedback timeline: the
ground-targeted spell indicator. This is kind of like a hybrid of all the
systems that came before it mentioned here. The funny thing is that ground
targeted AoE skills have been a staple of the genre since the very
beginning, but it hasn’t been until much more recently that this feedback
has been properly factored into combat from both sides (caster and target)
in a more direct, visual sense.

At this point I bet you’re thinking, “Sardu, story time is great and all,
but what the hell does Mr. Yuk, burnt children, and Jabober wiping the
floor with you have to do with WildStar?”

Excellent question, and bonus points to any of you who were already
thinking that exact phrase prior to reading it above. Your bonus points
will be hand delivered shortly in plain brown packaging similar to that
used for Can-D. Double bonus points if you can explain the obscure
sci-fi reference of Can-D in the comments below.

Telegraphs: Giving Active
Combat Purpose

As many of you know, there has been a major trend away from
100-slot-action-bar-whack-a-mole combat in MMOs. Instead, many recent and
still-in-development titles are borrowing heavily from action gaming for
their combat systems, WildStar being among them.

But what makes WildStar's approach to "action combat" different?

While there are plenty of more subtle factors involved (which we'll be
expanding on later this week), if you've been paying attention so far, the
telegraph system is key here. Combined with an active dodging system
similar to the one currently used in Guild Wars 2, telegraphs
help turn combat in WildStar into more of a cosmic dance than a boring
dice roll. The team at Carbine is also big on iterative game design, so
telegraphs also come in plenty of shapes and sizes.

Thus, getting a feel for those invoked by your active skills becomes one
of the most important things to master early on. While certainly not a new
concept in and of itself, the telegraph system is just one of the many
ways WildStar helps keep MMO combat feeling vital, immersive, and most of
all fun.

If you're interested in learning more about what makes WildStar tick,
we've dubbed this WildStar Week here on Ten Ton Hammer, so be sure to
check back each day for a fresh look at various aspects of the game. We'll
also be rolling out plenty of new info, culminating tomorrow with a first
ever look at the enemy faction of the Exiles, its playable races, and an
all new class reveal.

*A semaphore presentation of this article is available upon request.
**No children were burned or poisoned during the creation of this

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our WildStar Game Page.

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