WildStar remains an MMO to watch this season as the team works on open beta to tweak and design a top tier sci-fi game. With that comes the burden of targeting and combat design. Yesterday we spoke with Hugh Shelton, Class Designer and Chris Lynch, Lead Combat Designer on how they are shifting some of the aiming and combat techniques in WildStar to bring in a much more dynamic experience for the player.
The team mentioned right away that they have been playing a lot of games lately and some of the telegraphing abilities in combat have become much more common vs. the old point and click single target systems. MOBAs and skillshots may have had some influence on the design they explained, but really they wanted to give players more options on how they use their skills in a better wider range. Two and a half years ago when they started on the system the PvE combat used area of effect decals to create more movement in combat. Monsters would hit a certain area and players would be forced to move and counter. This constant motion led some of the developers to ask about adding these designs into player skills as well. The result created a very fast paced PvP style combat which the entire team embraced quickly.
Instead of using single targeting, Shelton explained that they began taking more of a line approach to how skills hit. Suddenly combat was not about killing one monster at a time, but more about lining up all of three monsters you were fighting to get the perfect shot on all of them. This style of gameplay felt much more fun to the team and many of the player skills began to shift in that direction. Not only did damage abilities work this way, but the team began to move healing over as well. Chris said that even though healing still has a lot of single target abilities, they are looking at more ways to incorporate line-style heals which will help a group of players. The developers talked about how each of these telegraphed abilities has a set height level so casting them from cliffs and things has already been taken into account. All of these changes to design really began to flow with WildStar gameplay and made for a much more fluid experience. It was exactly what the dev team was hoping to achieve.
The team did say that there is an autocast ability you can turn on or off. This way you will be able to focus more on your target. However, they have noticed testers turning this off because the newer system allows for more free-form targeting. Healing was the biggest challenge because you walk a fine line in how players are asked to use their abilities. They want healing to be much more active and less about watching player’s stat bars. They want healing to feel almost like DPS. These abilities are also being augmented with some of the Tank abilities which can help protect players. They have been working on AOE tank skills which benefit the group if you are in range. These have been very popular among the team and they continue to tweak them to work hand in hand with healing to keep a very high movement combat.
We asked about how they are balancing ranged and melee combat. Shelton and Chris said that they have a budget system for all of the abilities in the game. Everything has a cost depending on a number of factors. Can you move while using the skill, does the skill slow you down, what is the full range, and so on. All of these factors go into the cost of a skill and they are weighed against each other. That way if they find that ranged combat is much stronger than melee, they can adjust the budget costs accordingly. Don’t misinterpret that as skill points, because it is all about the factors that go into using your skills when it comes to the budget. They did explain that all melee abilities are very mobile, so you can move quickly while attacking.
With all of these changes to targeting and combat design it has definitely opened up a lot of options for how the developers see the game. It has given them a much more fluid experience and now with beta they continue to drive that play-style. It also has given the classes some more hybrid builds. Overall, the team is still heavily focused on balance. Both Chris and Shelton said that even though they are much more about how a skill or game play feels, they still keep numbers in the background to make sure everything adds up.
The WildStar team really went in depth with this interview and you can watch the video above as well for a humorous take on aiming in WildStar. Having a developer team discuss this level of detail is refreshing for us because it impacts every minute you spend playing the game. Hopefully these more open systems of combat and movement bring about some great gameplay for us in the future.
Garrett Fuller is the Industry Relations Manager at MMORPG.com.
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