WildStar’s Group Combat Looks Sort Of Familiar

By Nathan Grayson on June 28th, 2012 at 4:00 pm.

I wonder if creatures with needles for legs ever get needle phobias.

Many moons ago, I got the chance to play WildStar. It was kind of a surreal experience for me. I mean, I wanted to be delighted. There were gorgeous vistas and Han-Solo-esque gunmen and surprisingly dark references to the film Alien and brilliant tweaks to the traditional MMO formula. It was like a diligent student with purple hair and bunny ears for some reason that had trained under WoW – and then surpassed it. But, even with dodge-heavy multi-lane combat, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this cartoony sci-fi-fantasy galaxy far, far away was actually Azeroth’s next door neighbor. Group combat – tank-healer-DPS “holy trinity” and all – does look fairly exciting, though. Let it caress your giant, strangely out-of-character anime eyeballs after the break.

See? Doesn’t that look crazy? There were smaller robots and mid-sized robots and giant robots! And oh, the animations. But ew, auto-attack and ultra-traditional party roles. I am, as such, conflicted.

It’s not completely rote, though. The specialized Explorer, Soldier, Scientist, and Settler paths allow for a degree of choice in some of the quests you tackle, and that’s a wonderfully promising idea. And, when I played, enemies in certain areas stopped attacking me – generally for reasons explained by the story – after I wrapped up quest chains. It’s all so smart and convenient.

But, when pitted against the massive genre-stomping monster that is MMO fatigue, these things register as relatively small blips on the radar. Maybe they’ll come together and become a Big Deal? It’s anyone’s guess at this point. Credit where credit’s due, though: MMO developers are, at least, trying. But when your development cycle’s five years long, widespread change, you know, takes a little while.

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39 Comments »

  1. Njordsk says:

    I like the art of that game.

    Though unlike you I love when each guy has a role. I mean in GW2 beta I took a warrior, and didn’t feel warrior at all. I couldn’t take aggro, I couldn’t been healed by someone, I just felt like everyother classe. Doing a little bit everything, but not well.

    Has much as people hate trinity I do like it.

    • Wreckdum says:

      You’re playing GW2 wrong. You’re playing a hero. The same as everyone else. When the boss attacks you, you mitigate using whatever abilities you have or dodge. When he’s not attacking you, you attack him or use your support abilities on your allies. It takes getting used to but I think it is a much better direction than the holy trinity.

      Everyone is involved and needs to be 100% on their toes. Whereas most holy trinity MMOs 20% of the raid needs to be on their toes and the other 80% of the raid is day dreaming going through the motions.

      GW2 has been the only MMO that has been able to keep me occupied PvE wise. Everything else up to this point has just been to faceroll/easy.

      • Njordsk says:

        I’m not playing it wrong, I just want it to be what it’s not.

        I don’t see why everybody should be on their toes as you say in PVE. You just go to a public question follow the train, dodge a few hits. Yeah, nothing really hard. You don’t even need to other players to do anything else than what I just describe. (DIdn’t try the dungeons mind you)

        You try to hit the mob when he’s not on you. Where is the cooperation? You can’t take aggro when a buddie is in trouble, you can’t burst you high DPS when the tank is taking hard, nor can you heal.

        You just sit there doing what everybody else is doing.

        I didn’t like GW2 combats much, though I loved everything else and I already preordered it, but I still prefer the trinity system.

        Maybe not in the current wow-form, but RIFT did it really well, you had 3 “souls”, you could mix heal/dps/tank, or go full DPS. Was a very well made system.

        I agree it can be frustrating when you’re waiting 10 minutes for a healer, but I’m not sure GW2 is the answer, i just always felt so alone, even when in the middle of a 50 man fight, nobody could help me the good way.

        Still very very curious about their release though, the said they would balance ranger/CC classes, got hope.

        • Baines says:

          Personally, I don’t like the holy trinity. I think it is the easy way out of design, limits gameplay, and has various other negative.

          On the other hand, I think you can have role variety without making everyone near identical.

          It makes me think a bit about the Wii game Xenoblade. While a single-player game, it uses an MMO approach to combat, with a three person party and you only control one character.

          It has seven characters, and each character is different. You can degrade them into trinity definitions and find overlap, but you also can find it hard to shove some characters into a specific role. Most characters have a variety of attacks that cover at least two “trinity” roles. Reyn is a classic tank, with multiple actions that specifically focus on drawing aggro or locking an enemy to himself, with high defense and hp to take the hits. Dunban is a tank, but his attacks are built around chaining attacks in certain orders for maximum effects, and he relies on dodging rather than defense while having fairly average HP (and a passive skill that makes him better when he has no armor). Shulk is a DPS, and has an aggro reducing skill (that doubles as a “boost next attack” skill), but his abilities combine best with Reyn, he has multiple skills that have their best effects only when he’s in certain positions relative to the enemy, and he has certain defenses that only he can bestow on other players. Sharla is a healer and a ranged fighter. Melia can be DPS, buffer, or limited healer, and can even do some of that simultaneously.

          Mind, Xenoblade upsets the trinity to a degree with how it handles healing. Bluntly, there aren’t many healing actions, and the ones that do exist tend to be single target or have high cooldowns. (Sharla, the closest thing to a dedicated healer, is the only character to get a second cooldown penalty. Not only does she have the normal “you can’t use this skill for 20 seconds”, she has a gauge that fills by varying amounts with every special, and when it is full she cannot do anything for several seconds while she resets her weapon.) Melia’s party heal is a regeneration effect only affecting people near her. Some characters can heal themselves only, and the two tanks have “It was just a flesh wound” actions that change receiving a single deadly attack from death to being restored to a certain % HP.

          Also mind that Xenoblade’s variety is built around the idea that there will only be three characters at a time in a party, and a human player will only have direct control over a single character. Humans controlling an entire party directly would be able to easily abuse the linking of status effects, as well as just using abilities at the optimal times. And it might also completely break down if you could duplicate characters the way a real MMO allows.

          • Zelos says:

            Sharla isn’t just the “closest thing to a dedicated healer” she is one. You can fill her entire skill bar with healing/support skills, and that is in fact optimal because the rest of her abilities are horrible. She’s also very nearly mandatory if you want to attempt harder content or play the game underleveled.

            The only way in which Xenoblade messes with the trinity is that Fiora is both the best DPS and best tank, simultaneously. Riki, melia, and shulk are all DPS that have a couple support skills, though shulk’s DPS is so bad that he’s only worth using for his support skills.

    • Walf says:

      Actually, I was really turned off by Guild Wars 2. It felt just too bland and the control scheme was weird. There was a real disconnect for me when I started playing. It felt more like steering a boat then running around. Also, other then the nicely done character creation system, I didn’t see it bring *ANYTHING* new to the table. A shame really.

      • aliksy says:

        It didn’t bring anything new to the table? I’m sorry, I can’t take anything you say seriously now. Or, you must be from some alternate universe where MMOs don’t suck so much. Can I move there?

  2. Dominic White says:

    Oh, joy. More sitting around NOT PLAYING, waiting for a group of the correct classes at the correct levels. And the Holy Trinity is more of a Holy Duo And A Third Wheel – the healer doesn’t actually get involved in the combat. They’re like an extra limb for the tank.

    It’s a formula that I really don’t like outside of singleplayer, party-based games. Unless you can run your own support/mitigation, you’ve just got a lot of sitting around waiting for something to happen.

    • yutt says:

      This strike to the heart of the holy trinity lie. There is damage output and damage mitigation. Tanks and healers are subsets of mitigation, just as raw damage and debuffers are subsets of damage output. Unfortunately healing is detached from the game everyone else is playing.

      /WoW priest for 5 years

      • Ragnar says:

        The bigger problem, imo, is that tanking and healing are, in most cases, far more important than DPS, far harder to do well, and far more stressful. You can get by with mediocre DPS so long as you have good healers / tanks (and great healers can often make up for only ok tanks), but if you have mediocre tanks / healers there’s very little that great DPS can do to salvage the situation. DPS simply lack the tools and power that tanks / healers have to salvage bad situations. Thus you’re reliant on having good people in hard, stressful positions.

        But the people in the most stressful positions are the ones most likely to burn out, and the hardest to replace. I’ve seen many healers want to switch to be tanks / dps, and tanks want to switch to be dps. I only encountered one dps that wanted to switch to a tank, and he later burned out and went back to dps. Recruiting good healers / tanks was an almost constant challenge (we seldom recruited dps, frequently recruited tanks, often recruited healers).

        You never feel as powerful as when playing a tank / healer, but you also never feel as stressed. Smaller party sizes certainly makes healing more manageable (40 man raids… ugh), but mechanics need to be changed so that healers aren’t constantly watching health bars while occasionally checking that they’re not standing in fire, so that the the outcome of raids doesn’t rest disproportionately on the shoulders of tanks / healers, and so dps has more power / tools to effect the outcome of encounters such that great dps could make up for sub-par tanks / healers and could salvage bad situations.

        /WoW guild leader, Hunter, Priest for 4 years.

        • Brun says:

          The bigger problem, imo, is that tanking and healing are, in most cases, far more important than DPS

          I think this is a bit of a myth, caused by a illusory raid mechanics and poor encounter design. Tanks and healers FEEL more important because if they screw up, they can cause an almost instantaneous group wipe. In many encounters the effects of bad DPSers are spread out over a long period of time (usually the entire duration of the fight) so their mistakes are spread out and not as immediately apparent. There’s little tangible feedback from bad DPS until your group hits an enrage timer. Furthermore, the mistakes of DPS are masked by Tank/Healer performance because you can’t even reach that enrage timer if your tanks or healers are messing up.

          I think that the relative importance of Tanks/Healers vs. DPS is about even. For most encounters, Tanks and Healers are more important early in the learning process, when you’re trying to nail down execution. DPS becomes more important later in the process when you’re trying to hit the level of performance necessary to beat enrage timers. Obviously that’s a generalization and doesn’t apply to every fight.

          Another reason Tanks/Healers seem more important is because raid compositions dictate that there will always be fewer of those roles than DPS. For 10 man raids, there are 2 tanks, 2 healers, and 6 DPS – 50% more DPS than tanks/healers. This composition will roughly map to the population of a server, meaning that for guilds there will be fewer replacements for tanks or healers than for DPS. That makes good tanks and healers more valuable, and creates an incentive for guilds to treat them as less expendable than DPS.

          /6 year Feral (Cat) Druid veteran.

          • Baines says:

            Bad DPS generally just means it takes longer to kill something. The tanks and healers can generally accommodate, though it can make a battle unwinnable if your side’s DPS can’t sufficiently surpass the other side’s healing.

            Bad Tank means the wrong people are dying, or the right people are dying too often. This is likely mostly inconvenient and maybe annoying. It is more noticeable than bad DPS, even in situations where you get roughly the same effect.

            Bad Healer means everyone dies. Obvious and immediate, or at least near immediate. (Sometimes you know you are doomed for a bit in advance, depending on how close to the edge your side’s healing is to the other side’s damage output.)

            So messing up as DPS is an inconvenience, messing up as a tank is an annoyance/frustration, and messing up as a healer is a failure.

            At the same time, the healers and tanks don’t necessarily feel like they are doing much. The DPS guys are the ones doing most of the damage, while tank and healer are supporting roles.

        • Greatman32 says:

          I was an odd MMO player I guess I always found DPS to be incredibly boring and as a druid almost exclusively played tank/healer and felt a lot stronger as a bear tank ripping things to pieces then I ever felt as any other class. Then again I usually puged and did more dps as a tank then the dps so that might have colored my experience.

      • lexoneir says:

        Someone who doesn’t like healing shouldn’t be healing, and shouldn’t comment on healing. I don’t care if your guild or friends forced you to do it for 5 years. Healing is involved, and requires you to pay attention to the fight (unless you’re on of those healers who doesn’t pay attention, is sub-par, and depends on the rest of the team to make up for your bad qualities.)

    • Torgen says:

      I wonder how robust the character naming is in this. I want to have the name “Ambulatory Health Potion”

  3. Xyth says:

    Did he say: holy trinity, dungeons, raids?

    Yawn.

    Just what I need. Another gear treadmill. Pass.

    • Sarkhan Lol says:

      I have to admit, I did a doubletake when I heard him actually say Holy Trinity. I mean you’re not supposed to admit things like that, it’s an unspoken agreement! It was tantamount to declaring “So, our game is basically a clone of everything you’ve already seen, it’s kind of repetitive, kind of goes nowhere… Yeah. So anyway, thanks for watching the presentation!”

  4. DeVadder says:

    But the combat looks so fun!
    I really want to play it, sadly they did not except me into beta yet. ^^

    What fattigues me about MMOs, by the way, is not the holy trinity or gearmill or power creep, it is the fact, that most play just like co-op single player RPGs. I mean everybody saves the realm by killing the ever same monsters and bosses, everybody collects the same stuff for the same NPCs and so on, blabla. That destroys any immersion a game might provide for me.
    And if i can not get sucked into the game world, then it better be a really ‘fun’ gameplay, at what almost all MMOs i have played have failed even more (Hi, Atlantica, you are the one exception)
    Why can’t more MMOs create worlds that are actually acknowledging that there are more than one of the heros kind. Like Eve does so beatifully.

  5. Jahnz says:

    Holy trinity, ugh.

    I don’t know that the GW2 approach of no rolls is really the answer either. Perhaps a system that allows players to change rolls on the fly would be better, or maybe some other completely different system. I wish there was a way that MMOs could be prototyped quickly and their systems experimented with. Some kind of meta system that allowed the designers to play with the game systems in each area so that players could move between areas and try each system out.

    • Jimbo says:

      No rolls is never the answer.

    • Hug_dealer says:

      common misconception.

      GW2 is all about roles. Only your role is not set in stone, and can change in an instant. Everyone in your party must know their role, and what to do when things suddenly change.

      If you have a warrior with 2 hander, his role is different than the warrior with a 1h hammer and shield, who is different from a warrior with a bow. You have 2 sets of weapons, which means you can fill 2 different roles at any time.

  6. Curzen says:

    If it’s done right trinity is not an issue. And truth be told, I like playing Tanks and Healers. Things are certainly easier in settings like GW2, but it’s also a little bland in that everyone is DPS.

    • Hug_dealer says:

      another common misconception.

      Not everyone is DPS. In a party, everyone will have different roles to follow, and dungeons require alot of skill to finish on hard modes. The normal version is so that anyone can get through, and hards require the best tactics and skills and teamwork to get through.

      The game still requires control of the enemy aggro, but its not a wipe just because poor gameplay mechanics that say if your tank doesnt deal enough aggro out, the monster will hit someone else and kill them in 1 blow.

      The amount of ignorance of actual guild wars mechanics is amazing.

      watch and learn.

      • Jahnz says:

        Thanks a bunch for that link Hug_dealer. I had not gotten to the level where I could try a dungeon yet, but it looks neat. I like what I have seen of the free-form nature of the boss fights. I raided in WoW and I found the whole raid process extremely tedious. GW2 is looking like even the high end combat will be looser.

        I think what I meant about roles earlier is that I did not see a way to shoehorn a character into one of the traditional trinity roles of tank or healer. I know you can buff your character’s healing aspect, but even then you wont be anything like a traditional healer class. I did not see a way to make a real traditional tank either.

        • Hug_dealer says:

          nope, all healing is support, and there is no aggro. Someone playing a “tank class” is going to be using stuns, and knockbacks to control his opponent, and keep them off enemies.

          Same as healing. Everyone can heal themselves, but they cant be getting attacked to do it, so its up to teammates to get enemies away from them either by stunning the person attacking them, or hitting them with a slow so the can escape, or any other things.

  7. misterT0AST says:

    Sometimes I think “this looks so good, even if they made a silly choice (traditionalism) I want them to succeed!”
    But sometimes I think making that decision is just plain their fault, and they deserve to fall.
    If you can’t make a game that will be able to survive, just don’t make it at all.
    How hard could it be to see the sheer DAMAGE that its dull hotkey based gameplay will do to it?
    How could they make something so beautiful and smear crap all over it?
    This time I won’t have mercy. Let this game perish as fast as it can, I say!

    • Ragnar says:

      Recognizing that dull hotkey based gameplay is dull is easy. Creating fun game systems to replace that is pretty damn hard. They’re slowly trying (TSW has no auto-attack, lets you run around while hitting hotkeys, TERA has no auto-attack, lets melee run around while hitting hotkeys, and makes you aim), but they’re too mired in mmorpg conventions to be able to make the break and give us Borderlands or God of War style gameplay in an mmorpg.

      TERA was a step in the right direction, but I found combat as a slayer up to lvl 12 to be far more boring than WoW or SWTOR – swing, wait, swing, wait, dodge, swing, wait, swing. I’ve heard it gets better, but I have no interest in slugging through mind numbing combat for hours and hours on the hopes that it’ll get better (and the rest of the game only increased the tedium).

      • madpersian says:

        Judging Tera’s combat system without fighting BAMs (around level 20) is like judging a steak house after only sampling the fires. That’s where the game really shines. Levels 1-20 are considered the tutorial stage of Tera combat. It teaches you vital skills you need to succeed at fighting BAMs. Fighting BAMs, learning their tells and how to dps them without getting hit build vital skills needed to succeed at end game content.

        There are a lot of people that assume the grind is just there to make you pay while you get to 60. But I think the grind is needed to teach you vital skills so you can be a good player at end game. There are people who don’t bother with BAMs as they level and it honestly shows because they are terrible by the time they make it to 60.

        Tera’s the first MMO game with a holy trinity I’ve seen where skill actually matters. I highly recommend you play the free trial up to level 23 to get a better taste for how combat feels. Or just play the level 20 prologue to get a better taste of each class at level 20.

  8. Vexing Vision says:

    Free targeting for healers? YES! Ever since playing a Kinetic-Healer in City Of Heroes have I waited for another game to do this!

  9. aliksy says:

    Sick and tired of traditional MMO stuff. If it doesn’t have automatic grouping, some sort of level scaling/side kicking, and a healthy amount of player skill (ie: dodging) I’m just not interested.

    • mmalove says:

      To me it feels like so many games jumped on the bandwagon for the financial incentive of the subscription model, plus the innately accepted “always on” DRM that can deter or delay efforts to pirate the game. But, there are two recurring themes in these new MMOs that have driven my excitement towards upcoming games in the genre to basically zero:

      1. The don’t aim to solve the problems of past MMOs:
      -These games are heavily reliant on reusing content, which ends up meaning after the first run through or two most of your players have done that content and will only really repeat it if there’s a farmable reward.

      -Like Diablo III, game difficulty is often largely out of the player’s control, requiring them to reach a player and/or gear level at or near endgame before the game is willing to provide a real challenge to its players.

      -The above creates a challenge in organizing multiplayer co-op and competitive content, because players of a similar skill level may be miles (and virtual months) apart in gear/level, and therefore cannot enjoy the game together.

      -The partitioning of the community into servers presents a no-win situation for the customer, as essentially everything that is not on their server represents a part of the game world community they cannot interact with. My personal experience with every MMO I’ve played has at some point involved finding a friend was also playing, but on a different server and with their own guild/clan/etc, and having no good options to play together. And as subscriptions decline, the remaining participants often end up clumped on a small handful of servers, with starry eyed optimistic developers waiting years to commit to merges, as they don’t want the appearance of “failure”. This leaves those players with characters on dead servers stranded, with a very difficult time finding groups or an active guild.

      2. They often don’t have the features of the existing MMO giant, World of Warcraft.

      - Lets face facts: WOW has spoiled us. It’s by no means the perfect game, but it has a pretty smooth group finder, plenty of finished content both mid and endgame, a fairly in depth achievement system for completionist types, year’s experience dealing with goldspam… in a word, it has polish. When a new MMO comes out and has less robust tools for grouping, or an unfinished feeling second half of the game, it’s very difficult to justify getting invested in that MMO rather than return to one you’re comfortable with. The graphics and new setting may be attractive, but the inability to keep pace with a 7 year old game is dissatisfying.

    • lexoneir says:

      Auto-grouping? So you’re sick and tired of communication, community-forming, and working together? Sounds about right for the modern gamer. I understand that you want everything now, now, now, but sometimes you have to exercise patience.

      Group-finder is terrible, and removes the game world from the game as anything other than a set-piece, and tutorial area for new plays – or as an impediment for alts. It removes the need to think, since you can just press a button and play. You don’t have to think about who you want, or what class, or who they are, etc. Just press a button. Instant gratification.

      Level scaling is questionable, since it rarely works well. And stand as another incentive for a lack of investment in the game.

      I find it fascinating that so many people want the very things that ruins games. No wonder we have such poor qualities games lately.

  10. Archipelagos says:

    A lot of the MMO fatigue that exists currently, perhaps most, has to be down to the lack of evolution in the medium. Most of the MMO’s out there are basically interchangeable. If developers are trying it’s certainly not that evident. I know that sounds harsh but MMO’s have such fantastic potential, to see it wasted via dated design choices is bitterly disappointing.

    I know that there are multiple corporate reasons for this, as we are reminded of time and time again anyone asks for innovation but that changes nothing about the final product. I’m certainly not going to sympathy buy some tired drivel.

  11. Irishbrewed says:

    Combat is fine, I mean yeah it sounds like the same old tired MMO design. What’s most concerning tho that maybe this is their approach to the entire game. Is it Dungeons,Raids,queue for bgs? If so well that’s a shame.

    Ask Bioware how that worked for them.

  12. Irishbrewed says:

    I’d like to follow my last comment with: I think this game looks pretty cool, and I hope they aren’t giving us another GEAR GRINDING HAMPSTER WHEEL. For Christ sakes these guys can’t let the suits make those kinda decisions, make the game fun and ppl will sub (I know I’m cliche king today) but serious the designers behind these games no damn well no one wants WOW 2.0 anymore and gone are the days of treating a MMO like a job. Make it fun dammit :). Horizontal scaling is needed too, so you don’t make past content trivial and makes the game withstand time.

    These guys at wild star I’m sure are paying attention to pop culture, and know the MMO landscape has broadened and changed. So I’m hoping they don’t pull a swtor or any other treadmill disaster.

  13. Arathain says:

    I never did understand why more MMOs didn’t take a few more cues from City of Heroes in terms of class abilities and specialisation. In that game there were lots of ways to do a support character, mostly by making buffs, debuffs and controls much more powerful. In that case, Tank and Healer become available support roles, but not necessarily better than, say, a skilled Storm user, who keeps the enemies debuffed, herded together, and off their feet, or a well played Dark user, who makes sure the enemies don’t hit enough to be a problem.

  14. Melf_Himself says:

    “a degree of choice in some of the quests you tackle”

    HOLY COW where do I sign up.

    No seriously, surely the marketing hype machine can accelerate more than this.

  15. madpersian says:

    This combat system is much closer to Tera than it is to WoW. It actually looks like a wholesale ripoff of Tera which is the one reason I’m following it. In that system everyone has to stay involved and be paying attention or else bosses will destroy you. No one can really sleepwalk through boss fights. I’m curious if the heals in this game is aim based though. I look forward to trying the beta. Although I really hope they improve their combat animation which looks very stiff.