Thursday, March 15, 2012

Make It So: Design Manifesto Part 4

Today in Make It So, we are going to dissect the final portion of the GW2 Design Manifesto.  If you’ve been following the Make It So series, awesome.  If you haven’t, I recommend going back and reading Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 before reading the rest of this article.  This is the last Make It So dedicated to the Manifesto.

Combat can make or break your game.  Just as with everything else in GW2, ArenaNet is really seeking to break out of the ‘’cookie cutter’’ traditional MMO style combat.

Click past the break to find out how.

Most MMO’s on the market today have very similar combat.  Run up, target said mob, press 1 to start attacking, 2 to cast your next spell, and so on.  ArenaNet believes that this combat playstyle is outdated, and just not fun anymore.  Lets see what Mike O’Brien has to say about how ArenaNet is designing the combat system for Guild Wars 2.
Finally, since combat is such a core part of the gameplay of any MMO, we’ve put a lot of emphasis into rethinking combat. So much of traditional MMO combat is rote and repetitive. You execute the same strategy over and over again, just augmented over time with better and better gear. After a while it starts to feel like you’re playing a spreadsheet. Combat needs to be about making creative choices, and it needs to feel immediate, active, and visceral. Combat needs to be about making creative choices, and it needs to feel immediate, active, and visceral. So we’ve put a huge focus on strengthening our combat, giving the player limitless choices, and providing the thrill and joy of being in combat. 
The original GW featured a CCG-like skill system that allowed each player to discover unique combos and new strategies. Theoretically every Elementalist in the game could approach combat with a different strategy. In fact players found thousands of interesting strategies over the years, most of which our designers never anticipated, which is always the sign of a flexible system. 
GW2 shares this flexible skill system. The big difference is that now skills are much more visual in explaining what they do. The process of actually discovering combos, or understanding them when they’re used against you, is a lot more clear, because you can visually see how skills combo with each other. An Elementalist can cast Fire Wall next to an opponent, and then switch to Water attunement, which freezes all enemies around him. Using the concussive force of Water Trident, he can slam his frozen enemy into the Fire Wall, leaving him to roast in the flames.

Choice in combat is going to be a big part of what keeps Guild Wars 2 fresh and engaging.  Players crave customization, and GW2's weapon system opens an entirely new avenue for how we will play, and personalize our characters.  I cannot wait to see all of the different class synergies and play-styles this combat system is going to allow.

GW2 adds even more possibilities for distinguishing yourself in combat. Now you can choose a race, and each race comes with unique combat abilities, such as the Norn’s ability to transform himself into a bear. And now you can build up and select traits for your character which give you new intrinsic abilities, such as the Elementalist’s Stone Boots trait, which keeps his feet firmly planted on the ground even when an attack or skill effect would normally toss him through the air. 
Who doesn’t love racial skills and abilities?  In previous MMO’s I’ve played, the choice of race was heavily influenced by a race's abilities, and how they played into PvE/PvP combat.  In GW2's case, racial abilities are only going to be available for PvE combat.  I think this is going to allow for developers to add much more powerful, unique, and just plain fun racials for us to use.   See this video for a more in depth explanation on why racials won't make it into PvP.
And like the original GW, in GW2 the creativity doesn’t end with your own character. When you play with others, you’ll find that your abilities can complement theirs, and that you can discover new skill combos and strategies between professions. So if you’re playing an Elementalist, try casting a fire wall, and then see what happens when your friends shoot projectiles through it. 

Oh ArenaNet, how I love thee. I long to see my arrows burst into flame after being shot through a Fire Wall.
Then we add environmental weapons to mix up combat even more. In the original GW you’d sometimes find a catapult or trebuchet that you could take over and fire at enemies. That’s one type of environmental weapon, and in GW2 we have dozens more. If a Stone Elemental throws a boulder at you, pick it up and throw it back. Or as an Elementalist, use that boulder to create a meteor storm. If you’re fighting an Oakheart with an axe and you manage to hack off a branch, pick up the branch and try using it as a weapon. If you meet a beekeeper outside town, buy a jar of bees from him and see what happens when you lob it at nearby enemies. If you come across a stash of powder kegs, don’t just blow them up in place, but try moving them to where they can do the most damage. If a centaur wheels a siege machine up to the outskirts of a village, don’t just destroy it; take it over and use it to turn the tide of battle. 
And while you’re discovering new opportunities, new weapons, new combos, and new strategies, you’re surrounded by the pure visceral joy of combat. Smash a monster with a plank and watch him fly through the air. Avoid the Oakheart’s roots as they creep out of the ground looking to entangle you. Launch yourself on a sweeping attack that takes you behind your enemy. Smash open the garrison gate and begin your assault. Dodge out of the way before the Drake Broodmother unleashes her fire attack.

WOW.  So we are actually going to see enemies react when we hit them?  No more standing there, executing a silly attack animation after we just cast “Shield Bash” on you?  And we will actually hit the mob with our shield?  NO WAY!  Skills that when used, actually have a corresponding animation, and consequence.  Amazing.  ArenaNet closes out the manifesto with this:

It all gets back to our basic design philosophy. Our games aren’t about preparing to have fun, or about grinding for a future fun reward. Our games are designed to be fun from moment to moment.  Our games are designed to be fun from moment to moment.
This, ladies and gentlemen, this is why I love ArenaNet.  The thought of logging into GW2, and having fun right away instead of leveling 85 levels, is very very appealing to me.  I hope you enjoyed the breakdown of the Manifesto in its entirety.  I apologize for my lack of commentary on this portion of the Manifesto, but I felt that what O’Brien said was more than enough explanation and analysis.  You don’t need me fumbling around an already excellent piece of writing.

Our goal with Make It So is to educate those new to Guild Wars 2, with a basic timeline of major news announcements.

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