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A Collection Of Thoughts On Gaming

Much like shower thoughts, playing certain games brings various thoughts, ideas and criticism to mind. I'll be sharing some of them here and see what happens!

Author: Annwyn

The absurdity of a hundred spellbars

Posted by Annwyn Tuesday October 25 2016 at 3:43PM
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Hello again. Seeing as my previous blog post was viewed 582 times in 5 days (as I'm writing this, which was rather shocking to me), I think it's fair to think that I may have hit the nail on its head with the title of the first one. So I decided to go crazy and write another one. Even more crazy, I decided to try something a little different too on top of the blog post, I made a video where I talk about both this post and also touch on my last blog post as well, albeit not in as many details as these blog posts. You can watch the video here if you want. Quick note however, English is not my first language, so I might butcher some words here and there, but hopefully not badly enough for Shakespeare to turn in his grave. So without further ado, here's my new blog post!


The absurdity of a hundred spellbars

This being a website dedicated to MMORPG, I think it's safe to assume that the majority of you have at least played one MMORPG where each classes are given 30-40 different skills and spells. You are given so many in fact, that not only is a single hotbar is not enough, but sometimes even adding a second hotbar does not offer enough slots to place all your skills and spells. More annoying is that it becomes a mess to keybind a total of 36 hotbar slots, so annoying that there is even gaming gear dedicated to helping solve that problem like mouses with 12 buttons on the side that can be used to bind macros or key combinations to cover a whole hotbar.


Normally one would think that having more skills simply means that the player has a wider range of playstyles that he can create by combining different skills to his liking in order to create his own personal build, however most MMOs will restrict the players in its playstyle through the use of pre-made classes where newly-learned abilities only serve to enhance the core spells offered by a class. This leaves every classes with roughly 5-6 core skills that are used continuously in combat, while other skills are only useful in specific situations, or some abilities are rendered useless either because their design does not reflect how the class is played, or because of the addition of new content that circumvent those mechanics or spells.


So why do we need so many abilities if using our 5-6 core skills is more than sufficient to progress through the game? Some would say that having all these situational abilities adds complexity to the game, but there is no complexity in pressing a 7th key on your keyboard once in a blue moon. A few games have realized and attempted to solve this problem by giving players more choices in how they want to play the game. Rift for example allows players to combine spells from up to 3 different classes in the same archetype to create a more varied playstyle, although the game still suffers from having too many skills and spells cluttering your spellbars "in case you need them". Guild Wars 2 gave players a variety of different weapons that will change how each classes are played by assigning different skills to different weapons, and those skills are dependent on the class you are playing. In other words, while both a Necromancer and a Thief can wield daggers, they will have different dagger-related skills. To top it off, a player can select up to 5 different class spells (I believe 4 class spells +1 healing spell but I may be mistaken) out of a pool of class spells to customize their build even more. The Elder Scroll Online also attempts to offer an alternative by giving players choices that can add to their chosen class. A player can wield any weapon and armor (and use their respective skills) while also having the ability to level up class skills, and some other groups like guild skills, that they want to use to create their own character build. TESO also has a maximum number of spell slots (5) (and another 5 when swapping to your other weapon set).


Should all MMORPGs do what Guild Wars 2 or Elder Scrolls Online have? Of course not, but developers need to stop adding more "situational" class skills and spells for the sake of "complexity", and need to start thinking of creating abilities that alters how you as a player can play your chosen class. They need to abandon this idea that a player needs to have 3 full hotbars before they enter a dungeon, and instead focus on giving players choices that matters to fill a single hotbar.


I can hear some of you thinking "but Annwyn, regardless of how many different builds and playstyle there is, players will just follow the same 'best' builds as everyone else, so why does it matter?" Yes, you're right, players always move towards the "best builds" out there, but that in itself is not an excuse not to offer players a choice. Even in MMOs with 36 hotbar spells all ready to go, players will rotate towards the "build of the month" as developers release new content where some classes are more efficient than others, or as developers nerf or buff certain skills. There is no escaping that, developers can only continue to tweak the skills in hope of offering a more balanced experience for all playstyles, it is the natural evolution of every multiplayer online games, not just MMOs. But by offering players the choice in how they can create and customize their character, you are improving their overall experience of the game, and by limiting this hotbar insanity, you are not removing complexity, you are merely removing finger gymnastic. Complexity is created through challenging content, not screen clutter.



Thanks for reading!