Saturday, September 28, 2013

DevSpeak: Ability Mechanics


If you haven’t listened to it already, check out the latest Nexus Weekly podcast: Level 39 which guested both Ender of WSRP and the Scowling Cassian! Listen to us chat about the latest WildStar housing contest, “hardcore” raiding and our opinions on the attitudes of the WildStar team in their game. Stick around to hear an interview with the props team at the end as well!

WildStar Wednesday featured a new Shiphand missions concept, allowing players to face new story-based questing challenges outside of Nexus. These events scale from single players to a whole party, allowing people a chance to travel to the stars and uncover more in the vast world that revolves around the central conflict.

As revealed in DevSpeak video, keep your eyes peeled for the next two class releases coming SOON!


Special Sauce!
The most recent Devspeak deals with an addition to the WildStar combat sandwich. This “special sauce” lends an additional piece to the gameplay that further supports the mobility and versatility that has been presented thus far.

If you haven’t watched the video yet, be sure to check it out here!

As always, the disclaimer features more than just the disclaimer itself. Here are the panels found at the beginning of this particular DevSpeak. Sadly I did not see the answer to the previous DevSpeak story with the Mechari agent and the three Exiles. Hopefully we will learn this soon!

The Pig Latin translation is as follows:  "Should you have difficulty reading this panel, please consult a porcumlogologist, which is a Latin term I just made up and I leave for you to validate. Apologies to the localization team for what fun they'll have translating this."

*cue trumpet fanfare*
Alrighty, so on to the featured topic: “Ability Mechanics” These are those extra little concepts that lend themselves to the strengths of the combat system used in WildStar, putting even more control in the hands of the players and less at the mercy of standard MMORPG gameplay. As Frost put it:

“It’s about the way you, as the player, control what your character can do. I’m talking about ‘Ability Mechanics.’ In other words, how you interact with the game in order to use your abilities.”

Now before we jump into what all that means, let’s take a brief moment to talk about combat in traditional MMORPGs. Though not quite so restrictive as the traditional turn based combat of most RPG games, many MMORPGs have a combat system with some similar limitations. For instance, in World of Warcraft, though you can break line of sight with enemies or utilize certain combat mechanics to avoid incoming damage, you cannot simply dodge out of incoming attacks. A fireball hits you no matter where you run, so long as you stay within its range at the point of firing and shifting quickly to the side of a monster will still get you clawed in the face. Combat mobility varies in applicability and usefulness. Often times you find your character standing still while you cycle through your combat rotations. I remember that when I first started playing, the mark of a “good tank” was one with exceptional situational awareness, or the ability to keep track of their team, the movements of the boss and other enemies and the hazards and layouts of the playing field. Being able to move a boss around competently to the advantage of the team was a big deal back then. It was one of the reasons bosses like Grobbulus from Naxxramas was so difficult. Many people had not had to move quite so much for a single fight.

The terror himself, standing in his chambers. (Image found here

WildStar has, as they have explained in previous DevSpeaks, adopted a much different kind of combat system, one that is entirely mobile like action RPG games such as God of War or Devil May Cry. These games rely heavily on mobility and being aware of the battle grounds at all times, sometimes needing to dodge at a moments notice to avoid taking damage. However, this brings to the question another aspect of these games. In action based games, combat is fast and furious, with players executing abilities swiftly while maneuvering their way around the field. In MMORPGs, combat is usually a bit less hectic. You tend to focus more on your rotation to maximize your efficiency in combat with some reactionary changes, but you tend not to need to pound out your actions and combos with haste. How you interact with your characters abilities, such as keys on a keyboard or buttons on a controller tend to reflect this. On the keyboard, you simply press your button for whatever you are using whether they be instant, cast times, or channeled abilities. Action based games tend to be different. In part with a much more limited set of buttons and in part with the style of gameplay, you can press buttons, hold buttons and use them in many different combinations to pull off different moves.

So how does WildStar handle this? Well, they explain such in this video!

WildStar still deals with the three basics of ability types:

Cast Time (Upper Left) Instant (Center) Channeled (Upper Right)
2-Cast Time
(Crossword Challenge: Down 8 – 40man PvP death fortresses)

So what are these? What exactly do these abilities mean? Before we continue on how ability mechanics work with them, let’s talk a bit more on what these abilities are. To better explain these, I will be pulling some information from

Instant Abilities:

-Instant abilities have no casting time. When you press the button to perform the action, it happens as instantly as possible (usually around a half a second, though reliant on server response times). One of the great advantages of these abilities was the fact that you could use it both while standing still and while in motion. These could feature a wide variety of abilities such as straight up damaging abilities, DoTs (damage over time abilities, which are applied instantly, then do damage over their duration on the target) and HoTs (healing over time abilities which are applied instantly, then deal over their duration on the target)

Instant Casts are fire off nigh instantly

Cast Time Abilities:

-Cast time abilities are based on “casting time” or the time needed to cast a spell or execute an action before it will take effect. Typically a bar will display that will fill during this casting time indicating the time until the ability or spell will be used, which will happen once it has filled completely. These abilities tend to have more powerful effects than instant casts (more damage or healing for instance) as they are usually broken if the character moves or if an enemy interrupts the ability before it fires.

Cast times are executed when their timer bar is filled

-Channeled Abilities:

-Channeled abilities sport an instant cast time, with a prolonged execution. These begin their effect upon cast, which then executes a spell or ability over the entire duration of the channeling time. This can be damage or healing that takes place every “tick” or every second, or it may happen during specific intervals within. These abilities are broken upon movement or interruption by an enemy.

The effects of a channeled ability last the entirety of their timer

As Frost stated in the video:

“In WildStar, we needed players to interact with their abilities in a much more reactive way because circumstances can change, quickly.”


 In an action based RPG, a character is always on the move. So you can see how both Cast time and Channeled abilities would be difficult to pull off with WildStar’s system. If any movement broke them, or being hit by enemies, players who chose these types of abilities would often be at a disadvantage. Unless the power of such skills was ridiculously buffed over instant-casts, there would be little reason to ever attempt them, especially with a limited skill set. Plus, combat might be a lot less interesting if the Carbine team opted for instant casts only. So instead, they did something even better: they made these abilities mobile.

By making these abilities mobile, you open them all up to being useful in many different situations. You can now channel a cast while chasing down an opponent or fire off a casted ability as you begin backing out of a telegraph in order to flee. They also have added some additional bits to existing casts to make them more reactive and useful in this style of combat.


Fire off your abilities rapidly within a set time limit
 -I actually don’t 100% follow this, though I imagine playing one of these abilities make it fairly intuitive. From the sounds of it, this is an ability that features a time window in which to use consecutive executions. You will most likely be able to aim where and to which enemy you please and each attack will be a press of the button within the time window.

Ability Charges

Stored ability charges can be used as needed, either saved and used one at a time, or dumped all at once for maximum power!
-Some abilities will have stored charges. Whether they inherently build this over time with something along the lines of...oh let’s say one charge regenerates every 15-20 seconds if one or more are absent or they are cast and then stored, to be spent with further casts before you replenish, I am not sure. Or perhaps both are viable. Either way, these allow some additional strategies in combat. Let’s say I have that stabbing ability on that stalker. Perhaps I save it to use on an enemy when they are low on health, using (let’s assume it has two charges) both charges to quickly dispatch the enemy. Or perhaps I use one on my opponent when they are stunned, but then I have to dodge out of the way of an incoming telegraph from my enemy’s partner. I can save this ability and either let the second one regenerate before using them again, or wait for another moment of opportunity to strike. As these are not spammable abilities, I imagine abilities with charges will tend to have a bit more bang for their buck.

Charge and Release

Need to move out of the way? No problem! Fire off what you've charged so far when you are out of harm's way. It may not be as strong, but it didn't go to waste
- Similar to channeled, or perhaps simply a version thereof, these abilities appear to become more powerful the longer you cast them. However, if you are forced to move to dodge attacks, you do not have to feel bad for wasting your time standing still and then breaking your cast with nothing to show for it. Releasing the cast early might be a slightly less powerful version of the fully charged ability, but it will no longer go to waste!

Press and Hold

Press the button and hold to reap untold destruction. Or let go if you need to change tactics.
-A reactive channel, this ability type features a cast in which you press down the ability button and are then free to move about the battle field extolling out massive punishment (or perhaps healing maybe) in the process. If you need to get out of the way quickly, however, you can simply let go of the button and dive to the side. Or just pose there and look awesome. ;)

More than anything else, these additional aspects to the combat add a lot of variety to an already interesting and fluid combat style based on movement and aiming. By allowing a lot of reactive abilities as well, they make more some far more involved battle tactics, leaving players free to act and react to a very hectic and cool fighting style. And though it might be a minor point to make, I still feel it is important to mention that these abilities will be utilized for all members of the “holy trinity” of MMORPG gaming, be they tank, healer or dps. So everyone can feel involved and active in their gameplay.

And as Carbine said, everyone deserves to be a spider monkey ninja.

If they want to

And stay tuned folks...we’re on the home stretch to something everyone has been waiting some time to hear more about: Classes. Not only the reveal of <REDACTED> and <REDACTED> but perhaps a fantastic video on all the amazing classes in WildStar? I cannot wait! (p.s. Stalkers rule...just sayin’...)


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