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Skill Visibility

By Alexander Wilkie on October 31, 2017 | Columns | Comments

Skill Visibility

In a game of such incredible graphics and animations, it’s understandable that one or two of the smaller effects would go unnoticed in any large-scale content. As the game as ages, skills have become flashier and larger, to make sure new elite specialisation skills look as good as they feel. This is leading to an ever-increasing issue of visual clutter, with PvP situations in particular becoming almost impossible to see some small but important animations, and enemy AoEs in all content becoming hidden amongst dozens of allied particle effects.

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Winds of Disenchantment is an easy target to start with. In a World versus World environment, this is the highest impact skill on the scene, dictating the outcome of fights and building the entire metagame. The problem is, that both allied and enemy ‘winds’ look identical. The large iconic yellow Spellbreaker elite bubble can appear on you at any moment, and amidst a sea of players and other skills it is almost completely impossible to see who cast it, just as likely belonging to an enemy as your own server. Zergs inevitably have to avoid all winds, unless they are certain it is from their own players through clear communication, and even then, can be baited into thinking that the wrong bubble belong to them. Effect LoD was recently changed to make sure winds was visible, acknowledging how high impact the skill was, but has brought with it another issue of skills now being impossible to see hidden under the giant glowing bubble from both allies and enemies. Ideally, the heavily requested colour split between teams will be implemented soon, but will this solve the overriding issue that is skills being too hard to see?

In all environments, it is well known to players that red circles = bad bad bad. But how can you tell what a red circle is, when you have 300 more effects flying over the top and exploding all around you? Even with effect LoD, your screen is left with more effects than your eyes can follow, which can make it extremely difficult to follow an enemies attack patterns, skills and movements. Raids achieve this by simply making the target absurdly large, which works wonders for a 10man scenario, but bosses such as Legendaries in Dragon’s Stand or other open world champions become shrouded by effects, attacking out of a veritable cloak of skills to down a dozen players who couldn’t see it coming. More than that, however, is the fact that skills are covering the ground that usually players would use to see red AoE circles. Giant laser beams and fiery rains of death often cloud whether or not there is an AoE on the floor- even with clearly defined red borders. Skills that are not marked by this red border are even worse- a prime example being the deadly donuts at Chak Gerent that are already difficult to see, piling more onto the problem with more and more player effects. 

Does this game, in your mind, need more to be culled by the effects LoD setting and the lowering of animations? To me, as great as removing effects is, it also takes a lot of visual pleasure from the game, and is a tricky problem to tackle. Making large enemy attacks more identifiable, colourful, or less prone to culling would go a long way, and dare I say (with a bit of prejudice) a colorblind option for the game. What are your thoughts on the current visual clutter in Guild Wars 2? Let us know in the comments.

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