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Carbine’s Combat Makes You Act and React

William Murphy Posted:
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WildStar is one of those upcoming MMOs slowly pulling back the layers (like an onion, right?) on their design and overall goals as the game marches ever nearer to its 2014 release.  With the release of today’s latest DevSpeak, developer Carbine Studios gives us even more information on the game’s most essential component: combat. We’ve talked about movement, about telegraphs, and we have a pretty good feel for the basics.  But how about how you’ll actually pull off a class’ abilities? WildStar’s action won’t be just pressing a hotbar and watching your character’s animations.  Instead, the team has opted for a much more active interface that involves several different types of abilities, each requiring different degrees of interaction and input from the player.  Watch the Abilities DevSpeak video below, and read up on how you’ll be playing WildStar more actively than most other MMOs. Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments!

The Ability Types

Traditionally, most MMOs use a press it and forget it sort of combat button-pressing scheme. Instant cast, channeled, or cast-time… that’s pretty much what we get. WildStar is aiming to shake things up a bit by giving players direct control of how these abilities are trigger, for how long they are cast or channeled, and most importantly… you can always be on the move when triggering most (as in the vast majority) these spells and abilities.

Let’s give a quick rundown of the types we were demoed in the video and were told about during our roundtable discussion with designers Chris Lynch (Lead Combat Systems Designer) and Hugh Shelton (Lead Class Designer). The overall goal of this design is to get rid of “hit the button, wait for it to do its thing” and instead put the control directly in the player’s hands. WildStar will undoubtedly feel great on the PC and Keyboard, but as an aside, I wonder if it’d be fun on a controller too.  TERA and DCUO worked well there. Anyway, to the ability types!

  • Rapid Tap – This kind of ability, once activated, allows you to spam the spell key as many times as possible in a short window of time.  Think of say, a rapid fire ability with a gun, or as shown in the video the stalker’s claws. 
  • Ability Charges – These are abilities that come with a set amount of charges before they go into cooldown to recharge.  You can fire off a few, and then move out of harm’s way to fire off the rest. It won’t go into recharge mode until you expend all charges.
  • Charge and Release – This type is about holding down a button as long as you can, charging up an ability before unleashing it. The longer you hold, the more powerful the spell. But if you need to get out of an enemy’s attack, you can release it sooner and for less damage. But hey, at least the ability doesn’t go wasted.
  • Press and Hold – Carbine calls this one a “reactive channel”, and that simple little change to the traditional MMO channel spell might make this a really fun way to play. Think of a warrior’s whirlwind attack, only instead of just watching it unfold, you have direct control over where it’s headed and for how long. Sure, the cast will eventually run out and every version of a press and hold ability will have its own maximum cast, but this gives the player more direct control over the length of time a spell is used. Chances are its cooldown will be proportional to the length of time it was last cast for too.

One thing I was immediately worried about was hacking this system. If you all remember DCUO’s similar combat mechanics, they had a hell of a time with people finding a way to break animations and just string up a bunch of attacks at insane speeds and becoming unstoppable. They got a handle on it, but not after damage had been done. Hugh and Chris have a twofold plan for this: keep a cooldown for every ability, that changes depending on the ability (it’s not a 2.5 GCD like FFXIV or anything) so even if an animation is broken by a macro or a player, they won’t necessarily be able to string together  a bunch of high power attacks in rapid succession.  Additionally, they’re already developing the tools and methods to watch for, react to, and get reports on hackers. They will be dealt with using a mighty ban-hammer, and everyone at Carbine hates them as much as we do.

When we asked if folks who prefer a less hectic style of play would find a home in WildStar, both Chris and Hugh were quick to point out that every class has different abilities that make them more or less action-packed to play, and obviously the healers require a little less “button-mashing” than say a stalker.  He also believes that players, since the hotbar will be limited in how many skills can be active at any one time, will quickly find their preferred general style and stick to it.  But he knows they’ll be likely to alter their builds when needed for other content too, because that’s how the game’s designed to be played. And of course, even with a fair amount of area affect spells, there are several classes and abilities that still have tab-targeting options (healers, again, come to mind).

We asked too if there will be non-combat abilities that use this kind of mechanic, and the guys said there would be… but they’d be talking about those later. There are also gadgets (equip-able items) that essentially add another ability to your hotbar and more often than not do something useful outside of combat. You’ll get abilities mainly from your class, but also paths, content-based temporary abilities, gadgets, and so forth.  There are a lot of tools in the world to make it fun to play with.

In short, this latest DevSpeak goes a long way towards showing that WildStar is much more than the “WoW Clone” some seem intent on branding the title. I don’t recall this level of interaction in Azeroth. Not in combat, and certainly not in movement. If the content of the game itself can live up to this level of character movement and interaction, WildStar will wind up being a joy to play.  What about you?  What do you think of this latest update? Let us know in the comments!

Bill Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com and RTSGuru.com. He loves games and loves to pontificate on the subject. He’s a fan of MMOs that challenge his reflexes as well as his mind, and thinks WildStar will be a bit of both. Be sure to follow and haggle him on Twitter @TheBillMurphy.


William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.