Mythic aims to redefine the way you look at combat


Okay, after the good laugh, let’s see what Mythic’s Lepidus cooked up this time:

The first thing players notice in Imperator is that there is no auto-combat. If you wish to attack an enemy, you need to select an attack. As you fight, you lose energy and gain focus based on what feats you choose. The various combat moves work off one, or both of these things. This combination ensures players need to pay attention and strategize their combat. For example, do they wish to work the whole fight and build up to one giant pay off move that zaps all their focus or would they prefer to play it safe, and use more, but smaller moves that use only a portion of their hard-earned focus?

The first thing to notice is that there are very good possibilities that Imperator’s combat won’t make sense similarly to SWG. If you have a weapon in your hands in real life, your “gameplay” options are along this path: decide to spend some time to aim, shoot more bullets with less precision, aim at the arms, aim at the legs, aim at the head, take cover in order to not get shot too easily, try to snipe without being seen, organize a barrage fire to cover someone, shoot at a tactical target like the tyres of a car, choose your weapon to boost or penalize one of these factors and so on. Imperator seems, instead, to borrow directly what happens in all the current mmorpgs: special attacks, sparkling effects, auto-targeting and so on. The point is that nothing of this is appropriate, nor makes sense. A weapon is supposed to shoot only in one way or a couple of different modes, it’s the direct use of it that should determine the gameplay without unlocking illogic fire modes and combo effects. Yes, it is possible to have a believable tactical combat but not by cutting and pasting the combat system and styles used on every other mmorpg (and then bragging about how the game is innovative). Believeble tactical elements are aiming, timing, taking cover (so the environment), the use of Line of Sight, stances, position in the space etc… A ranged weapon, in general, is supposed to make holes into peoples, not to spurt ten different types of lasers, root the target, make it run around randomly, turn it into a frog and so on. Right now nothing is exactly clear but, asa I said, my impression is that the direction is aimed at something completely illogic and awkward (beside being a direct copy of what everyone knows already).

The second point is that the system is blatantly copied from World of Warcraft. The use of a bar that builds up as you fight (focus) is the exact copy of the Warior’s “rage” in WoW, mixed with an endurance bar (energy) typical of every other game. The problem is that, as it always happen, Mythic copies again an idea without understanding where are its qualities. A bar that builds up as the combat goes on, instead of decreasing like the classic implementation, allows the combat to be more exciting and directly fun (discussed here about a year ago). Quoting myself:

“Having a bar decreasing means that you are loosing possibilities, in WoW you have the opposite mechanic. The more you fight and the more the game gives you possibilities. Fighting opens the gameplay instead of closing it toward a death (your or the one of your enemy). The combat gameplay nourish itself, the fun brings more fun and your actions open more paths to choose. If you represent the combat like an algorithm, you’ll be able to see that SWG or DAoC work as a “tree” diagram where the “branches” are the beginning and the “trunk” the end. WoW transforms it so that you start from the trunk, and then you develop possibilities and strategies. If you die, you do it in a “possible-otherwise” state. If you die in DAoC, you do it in a “destiny-has-choosed” situation. And this brings *directly* to frustration. While WoW brings fun, possibilities, strategical depth and a whole better general feeling.”

The merit of the “rage” system in WoW are obvious. The combat opens up as you fight, so you are pulled into it to enjoy it. While Imperator will borrow this mechanic, it will also inhibit the result by enclosing the possibilities within “Yet Another Bar” that is just the well known fatigue bar. What’s the purpose of this? Recently we were discussing basic design principles along with Raph Koster and we agreed that one of the most important point is to reduce the use of the User Interface. One of my considerations is that “twitch games” are probably popular just because the gameplay is more direct instead of being filtered through an UI. Something similar happened to SWG, in the recent Combat Upgrade they felt the need to ditch the three power bars simply because they players couldn’t relate to them. Looking at bars isn’t fun and alienates the player. So they consolidated the tactic into something more direct and more easy to parse.

Now lets count the bars that will be used in Imperator: health, energy and focus. Three. What’s the need of this? How this could produce a direct type fun when it evocates another complicated system hard to recognize and control and completely detached from the environment itself? This brings back to what I wrote above. A ranged combat should found its gameplay on other, more direct, elements. Elements that would require a different approach instead of cloning the combat system of every other mmorpg, which would produce a result that could go nearer to the title above without sounding like a joke.

Another goal of the development team is to do away with the artificial nature of MMORPG combat where you are told what happened, and thus what to do next. They have augmented text spew like รข

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