What I Love About WAR – Part 1.

Whenever I play an MMO that isn’t WAR I inevitably think of it when I run into game features that Mythic did better. Obviously the game had a lot of flaws, but there were many (hidden) gems in the way of systems or features that worked better than in other MMOs.

To clarify; the fact that I don’t play WAR anymore doesn’t mean that I hate it. There’s still a lot I love about it and in no way do I regret the time I spent playing it. I simply learned to distance myself from the parts of the game I don’t like. And with that comes the decision to not play it until the number of the items on the list of things that make the game unplayable for me sufficiently diminish.

Roses are red, my heart is black, if I tore of your head, I'd mail it right back.

Shamelessly stolen from Keen and Graev, as you can tell.

Now that’s cleared up, let me tell you what I love about WAR.

Dual Targeting

Why there are only two MMOs that use this system (WAR and Vanguard to my knowledge), instead of the archaic singular target and target of target or focus systems, is completely beyond me. It’s clear that this is an evolution of MMO mechanics, as it streamlines a part of the game that otherwise either requires too much interaction for the same gain or requires the setup of macros or extra keybindings. Don’t get me wrong, complexity in MMO combat is a good thing, but this should only apply to complexity of the abilities, positioning and the combat itself, rather than battling with a clunky interface.

Players in MMOs that focus on PvE might not see the need for a dual targeting system, because of the inherent difference between the difficulty and chaos in your usual PvE and PvP encounter. But I’m sure that every WAR or Vanguard player can attest to the usefulness of dual targeting.

In addition to streamlining the interface such a system allows the developer to introduce dual targeting abilities to the game. Life leeching as a combat ability is nothing new, but you cannot have a spell that would leech health to an external target without a dual targeting system, not if you want the pace of the combat to be quick and for it to flow nicely, that is. Then there’s the possibility of introducing abilities that transfer buffs/debuffs from friendly to enemy targets, redirect the target of enemy spells (imagine redirecting that fireball to the mage’s friend instead of your ally) or even crowd control that affects both friendly and hostile targets. Abilities that interact with dual targeting are a largely unexplored area, simply because MMO developers choose to persist in using the archaic targeting systems.

Please, if you are a developer of an MMO that uses MMO targeting in the conventional sense, consider using dual targeting. Especially if your game is a PvP one.

Action Points

MMOs traditionally limit the amount of abilities or spells used by the player by giving them a pool of points that are used to cast these. These pools are either small and regenerate quickly (energy or action points) or larger and take a while to regenerate (traditionally mana). WAR uses the former and you wouldn’t believe how glad I am to see an MMO that uses such a system and make it work. I hate the archaic mana system and despise any game that makes me wait for my arbitrary pool of points to regenerate before I can fight again.

I’m fairly sure that the idea of a large pool that regenerates slowly comes from D&D, which was later implemented into RPGs, from which MMORPGs originate. Now, mana might work in a turn based D&D world, but it becomes incredibly clunky when you use it in a game that has real-time combat. It restrains the player and makes him wait, with the only benefit it has over the superior energy system being that it (arguably) adds depth to combat. With a large, slowly regenerating pool managing it becomes part of the strategy, along with draining the opponents. But both have been attempted with an energy system and do work fairly well (remember AP pot usage in WAR and the nightmare Blackguards or Shamans can be for your AP pool).

Kill score in Praag.

Without AP, this wouldn't be possible. Actually, without the Crimson crew it wouldn't be possible either. Much love to them.

You might argue that mana is a superior system in group PvE, where managing it in long fights becomes something you need to master to do well. But I can’t see how managing your energy/AP pool is any different, especially if the PvE encounters are balanced around it. The only thing you achieve with a larger pool is add downtime between encounters and perhaps generate more of a need for consumables (depends on the game).

As for PvP, clearly a smaller pool is the way to go. It eliminates downtime between combat and opens up the possibility of epic, prolonged encounters, unrestrained from the need to have a nice meal in the middle of beating the enemy into a pulp.

Career Mechanics

I absolutely love how Mythic implemented career mechanics into the game. It makes for unique classes with their own feel and playstyle. There might have been MMOs before WAR that gave each class their own little gimmick to play with, but none of them made the mechanic influence the character’s playstyle quite like WAR does (perhaps with the exception of Burglar and Warden in LOTRO).

From the self-damaging Bright Wizards and Sorcerors, aura based Chosen and Knights, to the self-debuffing Slayers and Choppas, most of the mechanics were fresh. Sure you had your standard pet/turret-based class and the stance-based one, but even those can be argued were unique in the way they interacted with the feel and the lore of the career.

Perhaps you could argue that the different class mechanics made the game harder to balance (which Mythic would probably attest to), but I think that the amount of altaholics that emerged from the game and the fact that recently the biggest of MMOs started adding defining class mechanics into the game, prove that WAR hit a nail on the head on that front.

More of this sort of thing please. Class mechanics aren’t a necessity, but different classes being played in wildly different ways is. I don’t want to switch to a different class in a game and realise that it simply uses differently named abilities to achieve the same goal as the other five. I want for the playstyles of different classes to feel unique, fresh and exciting. Just like in WAR.

And more…

Contrary to the popular belief, there are quite a few things I like about WAR. This part focused on the features and combat mechanics of the game, but there’s more. So be sure to keep your eyes peeled if you liked this post.

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4 thoughts on “What I Love About WAR – Part 1.

  1. I wish I could add something meaningful to the post… but really the most I can say is that I agree completely. Good job picking out some of the things that Mythic did well (besides that AP bug that was there for a while…), and the Dual Targeting system was incredibly useful for all classes, I missed it when I was looking at other games to play.

    • Yeah, it really bothers me whenever I play anything that has unit targetting and I can’t have more than one target. Playing a lifetapping class will never be the same.

  2. Id just like to comment that mana does not come from D&D, i dont know who did it first but it wasnt them, and its awful in pvp. The AP system in WAR is amazing and so much more fair than different classes having different systems, it always bothered the hell out of me when in a game like WoW my priest would run out of mana while the rogue im fighting has an unlimited amount of energy.

    • I don’t know who else to pin inventing mana on. I have always thought that the original D&D systems used mana. But now that I think of it, my only true experience with D&D comes from playing it in computer game form from NWN, which didn’t use mana. This intrigues me.

      And yeah, a smaller, faster regenerating pool is a catalyst for PvP action, while mana tends to do the opposite. I have no idea why MMOs persist in using it. Hell, even a system where you are only limited by ability/spell cooldowns would be better.

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