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News & Features Discussion  » [Column] Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn: Cerebral vs Visceral Combat, Part 1

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  SBFord

Associate Editor - News Manager

Joined: 6/28/10
Posts: 14024

 
OP  1/08/13 1:18:05 PM#1

In a two part series in and around Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, we will take a look at the differences between cerebral and visceral combat systems and what the developers might have in mind for the game. Check it out and then leave your thoughts in the comments.

"Same old [insert derogatory adjective] combat system.”

The statement above pops up in pretty much every FFXIV discussion at some point or another.  The other variant of this comment tends to be that “tab-based combat is dead, everyone knows the genre is all about action combat."  This is a bit odd, since no incarnation of the Final Fantasy series mirrors TERA-esque action combat.  Expecting action combat in FF is a bit like wondering where the full body contact is in a Magic: the Gathering match.

Read more of Ryahl Smith's Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn - Cerebral vs Visceral Combat, Part 1.

Associate Editor: MMORPG.com
Follow me on Twitter: @MMORPGMom

  Soulrift

Advanced Member

Joined: 7/29/04
Posts: 29

1/09/13 1:12:39 PM#2

I don't think the problem in FFXIV is tabbed combat so much as what happens after you tab onto the target. I suppose there's two lines of thought: nothing interesting could possibly happen after you tab onto a target (I suppose this is the line that supports action combat) or the thought that something interesting could happen, if the designers designed the combat system well (the line of thought to which I ascribe).

At the same time, I don't think it's a easy problem to solve. Making "real time cereberal" combat interesting is a massive challenge. I don't see many ways to make it work. WoW and Rift were fun, in their own ways, but I don't think those ways fit the theme of FFXIV (or, would rather see something new with FFXIV).

  Terranah

Novice Member

Joined: 7/03/04
Posts: 3618

1/09/13 1:27:13 PM#3

I don't mind turn based at all.  Actually it was a relief to go to turn based after playing fps for several years.  Turn based is more of a thinking man's game, where as action combat seems more reflexive.  There's definitely an element of strategy and tactics in action combat too, but in different ways.

 

Either combat is fine.  Maybe turnbased is easier on the hands and easier to play long periods, two advantages.  I've also had some really exhilarating combat experiences with turn based so it's not like it's all yawn.  Precu SWG seemed like it was a kind of hybrid turn based/action.  I enjoyed that combat a lot. 

  drivendawn

Hard Core Member

Joined: 4/17/11
Posts: 1001

1/09/13 1:39:16 PM#4
I agree with this article 100% very good read.
  AIMonster

Advanced Member

Joined: 12/31/08
Posts: 2023

1/09/13 1:43:51 PM#5

It's not a matter of turn based vs. action oriented combat.  Turn based is fine and as noted in the article there are good examples of making turn based strategic and fun (cerebral).  The problem is here is the style of combat that is tab-targetting / hotkey rotation based.  The combat simulation style mentioned in the article.

Combat like WoW's and FF series MMO games is dated.  FF series single player games are exempt because there is signficantly more depth in the combat, but WoW and FF's (and many other MMOs hanging onto this dated combat system) combat system boils down to hitting your hotkey rotation over and over again with little to no deviation and those requires no strategy and is as far from "cerebral" as you can get.  Even the action MMOs feature way more cerebral depth in combat than this.

It's a brain dead combat system that needs to die as quickly as possible.  Sitting in a raid and mashing the same keys over and over again, often with little attention required of the player.  It's not atypical to be able to play solo areas of these games while watching TV or doing other activities.  Except for the ocassional "awareness check" thrown in on raids and dungeons (just the fact they have those and they are called that should be an indication of how boring the combat is)  a player could almost as easily play their character just as effectively as a bot would.

Tab-targetting itself doesn't have to die.  GW2 did a good job of getting away from the whole hotkey rotation mentality.  Adding bits of action oriented combat is nice.  Adding bits of more "cerebral" turn based combat is nice too.  The dated combat system featured in traditional MMOs from the EQ era on is what needs to go and thankfully it looks like the majority of MMOs coming out in the future are doing away with this silly system.

I'd argue there wasn't really much extra strategy to breaking spawns and pulling a room, nor does moving to action oriented combat or even turn based necessarily have any correlation with those mechanics (you can still have those things in new combat systems).

Also props for being the first person I've seen in years that knows the holy trinity was originally heal/tank/CC not heal/tank/DPS.

Raptr link because it's the cool new trend:

  Senadina

Hard Core Member

Joined: 4/16/06
Posts: 889

1/09/13 1:47:19 PM#6

Thanks for addressing this topic. I am less than thrilled with action combat in MMOs. As much as I wanted to love GW2 and TSW, their circle-strafing combat keeps me from playing them. Which kills me because I like so many other things about both titles.

Of course this is just MY preference.  It's just depressing to me to see this genre I love move towards action combat which I don't love.

  udon

Hard Core Member

Joined: 12/23/07
Posts: 1631

1/09/13 1:54:59 PM#7
The problem I have with most modern implementations of tab targeting isn't the lack of action but rather the lack of options.  Games like EQ2 have so many abilities that you never run out of options during a fight and one of the things that really seperates a decent player from a excellent one is managing the order and pirority of the buttons you press.  This requires a level of skill that's on par with action combat systems.  Most modern tab targeting MMO's however have forgone that large selection of hot bar buttons for a smaller number which makes the game much less interesting to play long term.  Playing a modern tab targetting game is more button mashing than learning your skills.
  neobahamut20

Advanced Member

Joined: 4/03/12
Posts: 362

We can only show them the path, but they have to be the ones to take it.

1/09/13 1:55:31 PM#8

Turn based is insignificant. Even with action based, it was only a matter of calculating your DPS and select which skills were better vs 1 mob or vs many mobs which is quite easy. Combat has to revolve around logic... ie: if that big ass turtle bites you, your character is insta dead and cannot be rezzed, so the player has to avoid the mouth eating them for example.

Give me a turn based or action based game, ill set my skills on 1 2 3 q e and hit them in the right order with an aoe action bar and a single target action bar. This is what MMOs are... and Final Fantasy combat has always been a sidething to their games, its always sucked and always been too easy. Final Fantasy is supposed to be about the story.

Boycotting EA. Why? They suck, even moreso since 2008.

  Scottgun

Advanced Member

Joined: 12/05/07
Posts: 344

1/09/13 2:05:21 PM#9

This is what MMOs are... and Final Fantasy combat has always been a sidething to their games, its always sucked and always been too easy. Final Fantasy is supposed to be about the story.

 

Funny you should mention that because as someone who played Final Fantasy VII and never finished it, and only a few hours in FFX, I didn't find the story all that compelling. And I won't even utter the name of that full-feature movie Square did. However, one of my favorite games in the whole world is Final Fantasy Tactics, with a story so convoluted your head will implode if you actually try to follow it. What is drawing me to FFXIV is that it is traditional sub-based, but with a class system that closely resembles FFT.

 
 

How not to sell me on a game: "And most people that make it past the tutorial seem to appreciate [x game's] uniqueness, even if they don't find it fun."

  AIMonster

Advanced Member

Joined: 12/31/08
Posts: 2023

1/09/13 2:20:32 PM#10
Originally posted by neobahamut20

Turn based is insignificant. Even with action based, it was only a matter of calculating your DPS and select which skills were better vs 1 mob or vs many mobs which is quite easy. Combat has to revolve around logic... ie: if that big ass turtle bites you, your character is insta dead and cannot be rezzed, so the player has to avoid the mouth eating them for example.

Give me a turn based or action based game, ill set my skills on 1 2 3 q e and hit them in the right order with an aoe action bar and a single target action bar. This is what MMOs are... and Final Fantasy combat has always been a sidething to their games, its always sucked and always been too easy. Final Fantasy is supposed to be about the story.

Not all turned based or action based combat is about calculating your DPS, in fact most single player and non-MMO games (aside from maybe MOBAs) aren't.  There are a huge number of games that don't rely on this at all.  Good turn based games rely on careful strategy and planning not necessarily number crunching (take a look at Fire Emblem, X-COM, Jagged Alliance) and good action games may have some of that too but mostly rely on twitch skill.

It sounds like you don't play a lot of games other than traditional MMORPGs.  Combat in FF games (single player) is solid with enough depth to it and doesn't come down to pressing rotations endlessly especially in the case of the optional end bosses found in most JRPGs.  I find the combat in FFXI and old FFXIV to be a bit mindless in comparison (spent a good majority of time doing things on my laptop and watching TV while "playing" FFXIV), though I haven't played the revamped FFXIV and do intend to if I get a beta invite.

Also I never bought Final Fantasy games for the story.  I find their stories to be fairly poor (notable exception being the original FF Tactics), but the gameplay in Final Fantasy games is quite good, with a good amount of exploration, combat depth, and other fun things to do like minigames (especially the earlier works).  Typically I play games for gameplay and if I want a good story I'll read a book, watch a movie, or sometimes even watch television which all typically do the "story" thing way better than games.

I guess to each his own.  People seem to still want the "combat simulation" combat style.  Seems like for the most part though, people are wanting to move away from that style.  I'm personally glad that a seemingly large majority of MMOs are moving away from it in the future though.

Raptr link because it's the cool new trend:

  adam_nox

Elite Member

Joined: 7/31/06
Posts: 2087

1/09/13 2:23:13 PM#11
Tab plus hotkey spamming with slow results and no movement isnt dated, because that would imply that it was at some point liked by anyone. This style of combat is and has always been a limitation of mmo devs and networking systems, sometimes dressed up a little prettier. It sucked over a decade ago and sucks today.
  Dillig

Novice Member

Joined: 9/24/04
Posts: 72

1/09/13 2:53:01 PM#12
Originally posted by Magnum2103

It's not a matter of turn based vs. action oriented combat.  Turn based is fine and as noted in the article there are good examples of making turn based strategic and fun (cerebral).  The problem is here is the style of combat that is tab-targetting / hotkey rotation based.  The combat simulation style mentioned in the article.

Combat like WoW's and FF series MMO games is dated.  FF series single player games are exempt because there is signficantly more depth in the combat, but WoW and FF's (and many other MMOs hanging onto this dated combat system) combat system boils down to hitting your hotkey rotation over and over again with little to no deviation and those requires no strategy and is as far from "cerebral" as you can get.  Even the action MMOs feature way more cerebral depth in combat than this.

It's a brain dead combat system that needs to die as quickly as possible.  Sitting in a raid and mashing the same keys over and over again, often with little attention required of the player.  It's not atypical to be able to play solo areas of these games while watching TV or doing other activities.  Except for the ocassional "awareness check" thrown in on raids and dungeons (just the fact they have those and they are called that should be an indication of how boring the combat is)  a player could almost as easily play their character just as effectively as a bot would.

Tab-targetting itself doesn't have to die.  GW2 did a good job of getting away from the whole hotkey rotation mentality.  Adding bits of action oriented combat is nice.  Adding bits of more "cerebral" turn based combat is nice too.  The dated combat system featured in traditional MMOs from the EQ era on is what needs to go and thankfully it looks like the majority of MMOs coming out in the future are doing away with this silly system.

I'd argue there wasn't really much extra strategy to breaking spawns and pulling a room, nor does moving to action oriented combat or even turn based necessarily have any correlation with those mechanics (you can still have those things in new combat systems).

Also props for being the first person I've seen in years that knows the holy trinity was originally heal/tank/CC not heal/tank/DPS.

I still miss the old days raiding in eq as an enchanter.

Breaking hell and fear at the gates was the most exciting fun I ever had. You litterally controlled the fate of your groups.

 
  Po_gg

Elite Member

Joined: 5/12/10
Posts: 2147

1/09/13 3:08:30 PM#13

Great column, almost missed it since I played only a few days with FF XIV at launch... (but from Ryahl I somehow associated to TSW :) )

With a background of MUDs, pen&paper and crpg's I think it's obvious that I'm heavily standing on the turn-based camp's side... it just suits me better.  While I don't have any problems with action, I like to keep it on the "weaker" games, which are used for some quick and short playtime (shooter games or quasi-mmo's like DCUO and RaiderZ).

That's why I'm a bit sad at the statement of "Where the MMO started off with its natural appeal to RPG and wargaming, the modern MMO is reaching out to action and shooter fans" which seems the direction nowadays... My only luck that combat system for me in an rpg is secodary (or even lesser priority) behind the content. TSW is a perfect example, without Ragnar behind it I would've probably skipped it because of the action-y combat, but since the game is awesome, I can bear some inconvenience during the fights :) 

  Ryahl

Apprentice Member

Joined: 12/10/12
Posts: 47

Catapultam habeo. Nisi pecuniam omnem mihi dabis, ad caput tuum saxum immane mittam.

1/09/13 3:12:03 PM#14

Thanks for the comments everyone!  

 

I have a companion video piece up at Eorzea Reborn looking at raid encounters across a number of these same games.

 

@Magnum2103

 

The problem is here is the style of combat that is tab-targetting / hotkey rotation based.  The combat simulation style mentioned in the article.  Combat like WoW's and FF series MMO games is dated.  FF series single player games are exempt because there is signficantly more depth in the combat, but WoW and FF's (and many other MMOs hanging onto this dated combat system) combat system boils down to hitting your hotkey rotation over and over again with little to no deviation and those requires no strategy and is as far from "cerebral" as you can get. 

^^This

If something is going to be repeated that frequently, it should be automated.  I never understood the idea behind button spamming as immersion generating.

I'd argue there wasn't really much extra strategy to breaking spawns and pulling a room, nor does moving to action oriented combat or even turn based necessarily have any correlation with those mechanics (you can still have those things in new combat systems).

We'll have to disagree on the first part.  As @Dillig notes in a later comment, breaking Hate/Fear in EQ vanilla was (and in some ways still is) a high point in MMO's.  Granted, in those days only a handful of the people on the raid had major responsibility checks, but those checks were pretty neat.

I do agree with your second part, there's nothing precluding including them in modern MMO's.  Indeed, RIFT's River of Souls required (or benefited from) a reasonably competent puller when it first came out.  One of the raid forces I participated in had a puller lacking old-school MMO experience, making the crawl to the bosses much messier than it needed to be.  I suspect, if you have played with good pullers primarily in your MMO experience, the importance of the skill isn't too obvious (it becomes assumed).  It's when you are in a situation where you need one, but don't have one, that it stands out.

Also props for being the first person I've seen in years that knows the holy trinity was originally heal/tank/CC not heal/tank/DPS.

Given that those abilities (CC) were the ones that really benefited from a solid strategic thinker, it's really a shame to see them mostly gone from MMO's.  My original dugneon crew in EQ had an amazing enchanter.  While I was always a solid puller, that guy could keep a dungeon wing locked down as long as we focused our targets.  We coordinated all of that in chat windows too, no room for voice on a dial up!

Good turn based games rely on careful strategy and planning not necessarily number crunching (take a look at Fire Emblem, X-COM, Jagged Alliance) and good action games may have some of that too but mostly rely on twitch skill.

Fire Emblem (as are the others) is a great example of what can be done with turn-based games.  I'd love to see an iPad release of that, but I suspect that will never occur.

@Udon 

 Games like EQ2 have so many abilities that you never run out of options during a fight and one of the things that really seperates a decent player from a excellent one is managing the order and pirority of the buttons you press.  This requiers a level of skill that's on par with action combat systems.

For the most part, I agree with you.  EQ2 is my longest played MMO and the one I most enjoyed raiding.  To some extent, I think EQ2 got a little too ability crazy, with a number of abilities simply being +/-x% repetitions of other abilities.  But, yeah, having to make choices of what to use and when to use it is just as immersive as the movement/action combat systems.  

 

 

Ryahl - writer of eye-bleeders
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  strangiato2112

Spotlight Poster

Joined: 9/21/12
Posts: 1566

1/09/13 4:16:54 PM#15
Originally posted by udon
The problem I have with most modern implementations of tab targeting isn't the lack of action but rather the lack of options.  Games like EQ2 have so many abilities that you never run out of options during a fight and one of the things that really seperates a decent player from a excellent one is managing the order and pirority of the buttons you press.  This requires a level of skill that's on par with action combat systems.  Most modern tab targeting MMO's however have forgone that large selection of hot bar buttons for a smaller number which makes the game much less interesting to play long term.  Playing a modern tab targetting game is more button mashing than learning your skills.

One of the biggest myths in MMO gaming is that action combat rewards the players with more 'skill'.  The difference between the best PvPers in the world in WoW and an average, competent PvPer is actually greater in WoW than TERA.  The WoW player has to be on the move and active, but he also has to have a much deeper understanding of game/class mechanics because WoW is extremely more complex than TERA with all its subclasses and abilities.

The seperation is in the unskilled.  An unskilled player in WoW cans tumble around a little better than an unskilled TERA player.

 

As far as EQ2, which seperates from ability bloat, you are right.  To be a master of EQ2 requires far more skill than to be a master of TERA.  

 

A game like Rift is somewhere in the middle.  Yeah, you get lots of abilities but many of them are obsolete due to the way the talent system works.  You do need a broad knowledge of possible enemy skills when PvPing, but PvE in Rift is a fairly simple affair because your individual spec will be less in depth than WoW and significantly less than EQ2.

 

Then there is SWTOR, which is even worse off than Rift.

  strangiato2112

Spotlight Poster

Joined: 9/21/12
Posts: 1566

1/09/13 4:20:43 PM#16
Originally posted by Ryahl

 but WoW and FF's (and many other MMOs hanging onto this dated combat system) combat system boils down to hitting your hotkey rotation over and over again with little to no deviation 

 

 

 

there are very few times in a WoW raid where you can use your ideal rotation, and rotation is an inaccurate word because its a priority system, not a rotation.  I have yet to see a class thats simply 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4, with the exception of Rift's old macro system where you could macro a prioritiy system.

  DAOWAce

Advanced Member

Joined: 10/12/03
Posts: 116

I tried so hard and got so far, but in the end it doesn't even matter.

1/09/13 4:52:23 PM#17

AAR still has auto-attack hotkey based combat.

It's an archaic model from a time when technology wasn't good enough to give us free flowing input based combat (action combat) on a large (MMO) scale.

Funny (read; sad), considering the vanilla release of FFXIV had a more action based combat; just unrefined.

The switch to auto-attack is why I quit.  I will not be playing the re-release no matter how much I wanted to love the game.  Still tears at me..

DAOWAce Xfire Miniprofile
  ZizouX

Elite Member

Joined: 5/17/11
Posts: 675

1/09/13 5:16:07 PM#18
Originally posted by strangiato2112
Originally posted by Ryahl

 but WoW and FF's (and many other MMOs hanging onto this dated combat system) combat system boils down to hitting your hotkey rotation over and over again with little to no deviation 

 

 

 

there are very few times in a WoW raid where you can use your ideal rotation, and rotation is an inaccurate word because its a priority system, not a rotation.  I have yet to see a class thats simply 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4, with the exception of Rift's old macro system where you could macro a prioritiy system.

@Strangiato2112

The old macro system allowed me to combine 25+ abilities into 5 buttons that I mashed.  It is the ONLY reason I left Rift, which I felt was an amazing game, with a developer that really "got it."  Have they changed this?  Has the macro system been changed? If so, how has it changed.  If so, I'll resub to that game in a minute....

  hkharpster

Novice Member

Joined: 3/20/12
Posts: 12

1/09/13 5:24:25 PM#19

While I do like both tab targeting and action combat.

 

The FFXIV combat system seems very strange. If they wanted it to be Tab target that is fine, but why can you not move and do abilites and skills? Even in a normal Tab targeting game like WoW and Rift, Aion etc you are still able to move, kite and move from side to side and the location of where you are and going matters for LOS. But in the combat videos of XIV you seem to be only to do anything while stuck in place, like you are rooted not being able to move.

 

It is very slow compared to other MMOs now a days, maybe if this game came out 7 years ago it would have been great but times have changed. Yes, I know that it is "faster" to what was the first version of the game but it is still not up to par and I really think that FF's strange disjonited combat is going to be its downfall; even if the rest of the game is great. This is why TSW was not successful and is still not cause of the poor combat. Its not Action combat and not tab targeting, its some strange hybrid that just doesn't work in my opinon. And that is just what FFXIVs combat looks like. Something that is a mix of both but of only the bad bits.

 
 
  vandal5627

Advanced Member

Joined: 12/04/12
Posts: 334

1/09/13 6:00:38 PM#20
Originally posted by hkharpster

While I do like both tab targeting and action combat.

 

The FFXIV combat system seems very strange. If they wanted it to be Tab target that is fine, but why can you not move and do abilites and skills? Even in a normal Tab targeting game like WoW and Rift, Aion etc you are still able to move, kite and move from side to side and the location of where you are and going matters for LOS. But in the combat videos of XIV you seem to be only to do anything while stuck in place, like you are rooted not being able to move.

 

It is very slow compared to other MMOs now a days, maybe if this game came out 7 years ago it would have been great but times have changed. Yes, I know that it is "faster" to what was the first version of the game but it is still not up to par and I really think that FF's strange disjonited combat is going to be its downfall; even if the rest of the game is great. This is why TSW was not successful and is still not cause of the poor combat. Its not Action combat and not tab targeting, its some strange hybrid that just doesn't work in my opinon. And that is just what FFXIVs combat looks like. Something that is a mix of both but of only the bad bits.

 
 

 You know nothing about the combat, please don't spread lies.  That's all i'm going to say.

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