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Combat Telegraphs & Sci-Fi MMOs

Suzie Ford Posted:
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The WildStar team has generated a lot of discussion in the community recently with the release of a combat video hosted by Jeremy Gaffney and the weekly series “WildStar Uplink”. Both have spawned numerous discussions both here at MMORPG.com and in the general WildStar community.

Combat & Telegraphs

Let’s face it: Combat is probably the most important feature in any MMO. I know that some would argue that crafting and gear acquisition, for instance, have equal importance in a game but most of what we do in MMOs is fight things. Without a great combat system, players wander off pretty quickly.

In a recent video released by Carbine Studios, Jeremy Gaffney showed off the WildStar combat system with specific reference to ‘telegraphing’. Telegraphing, for those who might not know, is a graphic representation of the way a monster or a player will attack and/or how the environment will be altered after an attack. In essence, the monster or player reveals the direction and style of attack through a red overlay shown on the ground. By revealing the path of attack, players have the ability to determine how to move to avoid it or how to counter what’s being thrown at them.  Interestingly, the video shows a single player going up against a single monster so the telegraph patterns are pretty simple and easy to see.

What I began to wonder about as I watched the video, however, was how ‘messy’ it would be when a group of players were battling packs of monsters. How difficult will it be to determine which attacks are whose, which are friendly, which aren’t?  Will friendlies’ telegraphs be graphically different from enemies’? Logically, one would imagine that they would be different but, as yet anyway, we don’t have that information at our disposal. It seems like they might use a simple color-coding, which would be ideal.

The other thing that has been discussed is the notion that telegraphs are somehow “cheating” from the standpoint that players know where the attacks will come from and the path that they will follow. According to some, this makes combat too simplistic and allows players to exploit monsters and/or other players in PvP by knowing precisely what will come.

That said, however, Gaffney covered the topic by saying that the telegraphs will start off simple but gain complexity over the course of a player’s leveling experience in WildStar. He indicated that telegraphs will become more random and that monsters will not always utilize the same attacks each time players encounter them. Not only will telegraphs be somewhat randomized but they will be thrown with more and more frequency, requiring players to truly be on their pixelated toes.

Lastly, and probably most excitingly, Gaffney mentioned that players will be rewarded for their skill in battle. They will be rewarded for “learning things” about the game, for finding ways to utilize and exploit monster telegraphs and their own telegraphs to become more formidable in battle. Players will be rewarded for fighting together and fighting big packs of monsters.

“You fight a whole bunch of monsters at once you rack up a whole bunch of bonuses. Lots of things to evade. Double kill. Triple kill. The more skillfully you fight, the more benefits you get.” Gaffney said.  The telegraph system seems interesting, at least given the little bit we know so far. What do you think? Is it something that you believe helps or hurts the gameplay experience in WildStar?

The State of Sci-Fi MMOs

In last week’s WildStar Uplink, the question was asked:

Given science fiction’s prevalence across movies, television and books, why does it seem like there are so few sci-fi MMOs? What do you think can be done to widen the sci-fi MMO field?

The question is a valid one though some would argue that there have been several successful sci-fi MMOs and that more are coming. Think EVE Online, even SWTOR for currently existing MMOs, Defiance, WildStar and PlanetSide 2 for up-and-comers.

In comparison to fantasy MMOs, however, the question is a valid one. Why are there so many fantasy MMOs and so (relatively) few sci-fi MMOs? WildStar Content Director Mike Donatelli posited an interesting theory by saying that, in his view, most people see sci-fi as a “serious” genre, one that often lacks humor and that tends to be darker. Perhaps it’s more a function of the fact that we live in an increasingly ‘sci-fi-esque’ world as our technological abilities increase and our knowledge of the universe expands. Maybe sci-fi hits too close to home in that respect. After all, we want to play games and to escape our day-to-day lives.

Donatelli theorizes that injecting humor into a game, or at least not taking the game too seriously, is essential to making a sci-fi title successful.

“All we care about is whether something’s fun or now; if wearing a helmet is fun, then great,” he said.

Maybe that’s what’s missing: F-U-N. Maybe sci-fi MMOs need to focus more on the amusement factor. What do you think? How would you answer the Uplink question? Let us know in the comments.


Suzie Ford

Suzie is the former Associate Editor and News Manager at MMORPG.com. Follow her on Twitter @MMORPGMom