25 Feb 2012

The Movement-Based MMO of the Future

If there’s one thing that the recent MMO betas have shown me, it’s that I need to raise my game. The days where I’d be able to casually stand at the back, throwing out spells and dodging the occasional bad stuff are fading fast. The new world order is in keeping characters moving purely in order to survive.

For those of us brought up on a diet of Warcraft, Rift and Star Wars, spellcasters have been in a priviledged state where most of the PvE combat is managed for us. We have a small selection of abilities to choose from, a list of easy-to-spot things to stay out of and a simple role to do. It also makes for boring combat – once you have a fight memorised you’re laughing.

But changes are on the horizon. In the future breed of MMOs roles are more loosely defined and combat systems have been revamped. Instead of staying at range and just flinging spells, Spellcasters are likely to be taking a much more active role in the future. As I’ve found to my cost recently, this isn’t going to be an easy one for many of us to adapt to.

The two key changes are being able to move while casting (a fundamental part of Guild Wars 2) and needing to rapidly dodge incoming attacks (exemplified in Guild Wars 2, TERA and others). But old habits die hard, and adapting to these changes is going to take a while for longstanding players of spellcasters who focus heavily on traditional PvE environments.

Ultimately this is a good change. By making combat more engaging, players feel more involved. There have been several times were I’ve felt like a PvE tourist just blasting through content in order to maximise damage output. That isn’t going to be the case any more – surviving, not being a burden to your friends and supporting the rest of the group are going to be just as important.

Adapting is going to be painful for some, me included. Looking through my current stack of MMOs, it’s likely that I’ll have to switch over to PvP so that I’m able to learn the skills needed and develop the muscle memory required to tackle these games. PvE content in current MMOs just doesn’t provide the challenge, as a large proportion have been tuned down in the name of accessibility.

We’ve been shouting for a while that we’re after games that present more of a challenge and more involved action than is currently on offer. Now that it’s finally set to arrive it’s time for us to tool up and face it. Personally, I’ve been living soft and easy for far too long. It’s time for me to get my twitch back.

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