Saturday, May 11, 2013

DevSpeak: Movement

(( I apologize ahead of time that this blog is so image heavy. Believe it or not I actually cut down quite a bit from my original pool of screens. If people have a significant issue loading this, let me know and I can make an image-lite version))

At PAX East 2013 Gaffney mentioned that the WildStar DevSpeak video they had showcased for player housing was going to be the first in a line of these excellent, humorous and informative videos. True to his word, this last Thursday we received the second video in this series.

So welcome to the next DevSpeak, detailing an aspect of mmo gaming so critical that we often overlook its significance as a given: Movement

Oh, and if you haven't seen this video yet, check it out here. If for no other reason then to listen to Design Producer Stephen Frost's sexy voice ;)

-There is also an interview with Lead Systems Designer Chris Lynch and Lead Class Designer Hugh Shelton on ZAM that details more on movement. You can catch it here.

Once again I will begin by capturing the disclaimer frame by frame. It's hilarious and worth the effort. There is also a small addition to all this at the end...but I'll get to that later when I stop howling in laughter and pure rage.

  And the last part here. If someone really wants to piece this together, let me know if it actually becomes something more then frustration ;P

Movement is one of the most important features of mmo gaming and well, any visually driven gaming in general. Without it we would be back in the Dark Ages, playing the original text based games like Zork. (Which is still an awesome game, mind you) And if you /really/ want to get technical, even that has implied movement. Let's face it, if you need to get somewhere, you need to move.

Moving may sound simple. I mean, we all inherently know how to move around and get places or do things right? So when faced with interesting classes, intriguing races and spectacular worlds, why would we find something as simple as movement so exciting?

Well in part, “bigger” concepts become easier to appreciate when you understand how they work at the core. But even more importantly would be to understand how complicated movement really is.

Now I do not know terribly well all the technical details that go into something like this, but I do understand their concepts. Movement in an mmo is BIG. The devs need to decide so many things for it to work properly.

For instance, how about your speed? How fast will characters move in relation to the world? If you go too fast, zones and dungeons will feel so small. If you go too slow, the players will never feel like they get anywhere. Will you have sprinting? How fast will that make you? How long will it last? How fast will mounts carry you?

Check out the detail in the deer herd on the left. They are kicking up little dust clouds!
Take this screen for instance. See that paths in the upper left and right? How long will it take me to get to their ends that I can just barely see in the distance? If it takes me a few minutes to get there as a jog, it will feel like I am actually accomplishing moving through the environment. If it takes me fifteen minutes or so, I might find it a pointless struggle instead which would strongly discourage exploration.

And speaking of exploration, these zones are GORGEOUS. I mean, LOOK AT THIS! In a game this beautiful, you do not want to hamper your players as they begin to explore the Nexus. You want to encourage them to visit every nook and cranny; to unearth all the secrets lying just beyond that bend...

So you want them to feel like they can move about the world at a fairly decent pace that does not leave them bored or frustrated. While on the other hand you want them to move slowly enough, that they do not eat up your zones and make the world feel tiny in the process.

Movement is important in everything, from question to exploration and even looting.
As stated in the video, movement is just a fundamental tool of every aspect in the game. From questing to roleplaying, you need to move to accomplish things. Keep in mind that this does not always mean distance either. Movement is also an important tool of character actions and expressions.

Show don't tell. Emotes are very crucial for the RP community as well as just plain fun. I did an article about this early in my blog which you can find here.

WildStar will be using the quintessential WASD and mouse look to facilitate the core of its movement system. As they stated “Good ole' WASD feels familiar and gets the job done.” We're used to it as players and have long since grown accustomed to where our hands should be when we are at the keyboard. This means that when we get ourselves into combat, we can spend more time on learning our abilities and their timing and less on how the heck to get our character to face the right way. (Please don't ask me to talk about the first time I ever used two joysticks on a XBOX controller...)

Don't fix what isn't broken.
That brings me to another behind the scenes concept of movement: combat. Let's face it, combat is going to play a HUGE part in this game (and really any mmo). In order to keep people interested, you need to make it feel good.

I remember the first time I played World of Warcraft. I was so surprised by the concept of real world time being used to determine actions and movement. But these are very critical aspects of the game. How long will it take me to “cast” an ability? How fast am I? Can I get to my opponent quickly? How long will it take me to line up my shot?

Movement needs to also look and feel good. Are my character's actions fluid? Do I shift between abilities in a way that looks natural or do I see a lot of hard stops or awkward animation overlaps? Not everything must look perfect, mind you, but the smoother and more fluid our actions are, the more rewarding they will be to use and watch. This requires some very tight knit teamwork with the animators. It's their job to make sure your walking does not look stilted or that your run feels fluid, but also solid. You character must keep their feet on the earth and they need to be able to fight in a way that makes them look good. This might require research into real life combat styles, such as what the animators in WoW did for the new monk class. And you know what? It worked. That is by far the most pleasing and fluid class I have found to play thus far. As someone stated on one of the forums: The better you play that class, the more you are rewarded with a beautiful martial arts fight scene.

Movement is crucial in combat from lining up shots to throwing a heal on the run to taunting enemies.
The movement and animations of each class will lend a sort of “flavor” to their styles which can go into even deeper concepts on appealing to players on a specific animation flow that pleases them. Suddenly movement does not seem so simple anymore, does it?

And now we move on to yet another crucial aspect of movement, something we did not always have in the world of mmo gaming: Jumping. I remember playing Guild Wars for the first time and being infinitely frustrated that my character was utterly defeated by shin-high rocks and waist-high walls. In fact, it was one of my favorite aspects of WoW when I first started. “OMG I can JUMP!?”

Not just jump, DOUBLE jump!

In an earlier video, it was mentioned that originally the devs were told that jumping in WildStar was fine and all, but the inclusion of double jumping would break their game and force tons of extra work to make it usable. And so they did. How cool is that? It reminds me of when I was reading up on the blink ability from Dishonored. In early testing, some of the players were able to completely break maps and fling themselves out into space. But rather then hindering the amazing ability the devs had made, they instead altered the worlds to fit the imaginations of the people who would be spending their time exploring within.

Double jumping will be a phenomenal tool to use. It will help solve puzzles and with exploration. You can use it to flee over obstacles in PvP or to avoid enemy abilities in PvE. You can even use it in conjunction with other movement functions (such as sprint...we'll get to the in a moment) to get further and farther then you ever could before without the aid of a mount in any mmo.

Dodge over an obstacle to leave behind pursuers in PvP or leap over a fiery spout in PvE

Or you know, die horribly...
Plus, it looks like fun. And really, that's important right there. How often have you stood around waiting in an mmo and decided to jump for the lulz? How often have you just run through the world, jumping around because it was somehow just fun to watch? Yup. Guilty here.

Next up on the list is the sprint function. Usually seen in first-person-shooter games, this is a unique movement. Typically found tied to abilities or items, the fact that this will be a fundamental part of character movement is exciting to me. I am the type of gamer who likes to have a bajillion abilities and options available for my character at all time. I enjoy pushing my class to their absolute limits, squeezing every last bit of reward from them until playing them well comes secondary to only breathing. get the point. This is just one more tool I will enjoy using. Hitting that sprint at just the right time to rush an opponent or saving it for the perfect escape will be rewarding and fun.

Holding the shift key will allow our characters in WildStar to sprint. However they will not be able to sprint at all times. There will be a sprint meter that will deplete with use, making the use of this speed boost of key strategic value in our gameplay.

Your sprint meter won't quite be there on your screen, but you get the idea.
All these amazing movement abilities and we're STILL NOT DONE. There's one more piece that the devs have gifted us with: Dashing. By using control in conjunction with your WASD movement keys, you can execute a quick dash in a particular direction. Note that while the most common use for this will most likely be for avoiding enemy attacks, this ability is not just called “Dodging.” That's because there are so many other things you can use this ability for. Use it to quickly rush through an obstacle, like fire, when running or jogging would only get you fried. Use it to quickly pick up benefits left in the world around you, or to grab your weapon when enemies force you to drop it. Or just use it to rush up to someone and stand around awkwardly in their face as they ponder your strange enthusiasm to get closer to them.

Though everyone will get double jumping, sprinting and dashing, there will also be plenty of movement based class abilities. So far they look awesome, from dashing as an ethereal deer to leaping and even teleportation, there will be PLENTY of options to keep you in constant motion.

Did I mention that these abilities are also visually stunning?

So as you can see, there is a TON of effort and love being put into WildStar. Even something that seems as simple as movement has a great deal of thought and investment put into it to keep the game fun and visually pleasing. And on that note, seriously besides being shown all the cool content, these videos are displaying some absolutely breathtaking graphics. The more I see, the more I cannot wait to get into the world and explore!


They've also shown us great deals of humor and small tidbits of future things to come.
For instance take these three shots here. When they drew the line in their quad-jumping joke, they also drew in a little critter that seems to be rumored around the community to be the top of a “chua.” We also get a chance to see the afore mentioned mining node turned monster as well as a class that clearly has a gun on their back. More reveals coming soon perhaps?

Personally I think the Rockwyrm node is adorable <3

And for those of you who missed it...there was a very small piece at the end of this video. Words that showed up for a mere frame after the credits. Yes...I took the time and painstakingly pulled through this video to find it. Here you go. CURSE YOU CARBINE! <3



  1. Great article! I'm looking forward to getting around in this game. I'm usually not a huge fan of how movement is handled in mmo's, but I'm actually looking forward to running around this world--especially when it looks so gorgeous!

    1. I agree. The whole time I was having fun picking apart of the pieces of the movement systems I was picking up my jaw at the gorgeous environments. I will have plenty of enjoyment just wandering around and exploring!

  2. The URL in the third disclaimer comes together as this:

    Also, great blog!

    1. Which when entered, Rick Rolls you...BRILLIANT!!!

      Thanks Melvorn for putting this together for us XD