Death and the CityOctober 31, 2008
I am no stranger to the Grim Reaper (or whatever he is in the Warhammer universe) in WAR; heck, he and I have become poker buddies due to the amount of time I’ve spent in his realm, and I’ve asked him to be my kid’s godfather. Death doesn’t bother me — click, respawn, hit the healer (ouch!), get back in the game — but how I die does. Doing PvP in WAR is like playing tag with an invisible ghost; I plod along until something I can’t see taps me on the shoulder, and then I’m dead. Boof.
Oh, I’m getting hit. Hit for a LOT, apparently. Where is it coming from? Is it like manna from heaven, being freely given to me even though I did not ask for it? Is it the damage fairy coming by to bless me with hearty red numbers? I don’t know. Soon, I am dead, and the point is moot.
How did I die? As a guildie helpfully suggested, why don’t I just scroll up my combat log? This is a problem, since it approaches Stephen King novel-size lengths in each engagement. I could do that, sure, but my feeling is that I’m not paying by the month to do research after combat to figure out what happened. We depend a lot on visual cues in games to give us feedback on what’s going on. One-on-one combat is usually okay, especially with PvE mobs (who only have a couple abilities to begin with), but it seems to me that a lot of career abilities lack significant visual cues to help that move stand out and be recognized. This is especially bad when they’re long-range damage skills, and even worse when you have no idea who’s dishing it out (engage in zerg vs. zerg combat and you know what I mean).
A Witch Elf comes over to me, and even though I don’t see her do anything special — just a few knife thrusts — suddenly I’m dead. Did she use special abilities? Anything I could’ve blocked? I don’t know. A sorceress stands on a rock and waves her arms around. What’s she doing? Who’s she aiming at? No clue. She might be practicing cheers for all I know. A guy on my side heals me, I guess, because green numbers start flashing by me — but the little icons under my name are too small to see clearly, and I don’t have time to tooltip over them to see if an Archmage or Runepriest is helping me out.
This is why the skills that ARE very visually distinctive tend to be the ones players react the strongest to. It’s unsurprising to me how often my turrets are targeted by Destro — it’s not because they’re high damage-dealing machines, but because everyone a mile away can see me laying them down and see where the damage is coming from. Visual cue, kill.
Bright green stream coming from a goblin? Must be a Shaman, and now I have a new priority target. Large ugly purple circle on the ground (which a friend lovingly calls “cowpies”)? Get out ASAP, those hurt a lot. Big swirlie purple strings? Can’t be good to stick around those. The black raven over your head? You’re a marked man, my friend. A Runepriest’s moves are very flashy and distinctive, yet a Zealot’s tend to be flinging tiny flasks and hand waving. These are great visual cues that help out a lot, but unfortunately, there’s just not enough of them.
The end result is, really, mass chaos. That’s kind of fun for ten or twenty minutes, especially if you’re not being targeted for invisible death, but after a while I really want to know what’s going on, to be able to read the battle better. I’m sure some of that will come with more experience, or if I get that combat text scroll mod, but this needs to be looked at. I never know how far away I have to be to stay outside of someone’s melee range, and the lack of blood spurting on my person or flashy impact points give me little clue whether I’m getting hurt a lot from them at this second (and don’t even get started on combat lag, where people perform moves but the damage comes a lot earlier or later depending on the whim of the game hamster).
So that’s my plea. Continue to tighten up skill keys/responses (please, Mythic, tell me you’re not done working on that or the lag issue), and provide better visual cues for the battlefield. RvR is fun, but give me the tools I need to become a master.