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Feedback: Combat + Human Factors

Discussion in 'Project: Gorgon Discussion Hall' started by Mendel, Oct 1, 2014.

  1. Mendel

    Mendel Visitor

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    Another day, another bit of feedback on Project: Gorgon. This time, I'll focus on my experiences with the combat mechanics, both combat skills, the action bars, and the various information feeds presented to the player.

    Some definitions.
    • Combat. Traditionally, this is the core system of any MMORPG. It is the one system that is used most, and the one system that has the most impact on the player. As such, it needs to be a satisfying experience for the player for the game to succeed.
    • Human Factors. This pertains to some specific user interface issues, particularly those involved to provide player input and control over the combat. Generally, the player uses these elements to see the combat effects.
    Issues.
    • Speed. Fundamentally, combat in P: G is too fast. The mobs function at computer speeds, not providing ample opportunity for the human player to locate, recognize and react to events in the combat stream. A player needs time to process the information presented. If there is any network latency issues compounding the prompt display of information, the mob's speed advantage is compounded, usually ending with a player death. The pace of the mob's combat
    • Focus. The player has reason to look at several location on the screen in order to make decisions. The number of locations require the eye to move about the screen. This rapid eye movement causes eye strain (and does limit my comfortable play time). These locations include: (I may have missed some).
      • Action Bars. The player watches the individual skills to see the timer. The location of these buttons do not appear to be moveable. The players eyes are focused on this information frequently.
      • Floating Damage. The damage being done to a mob appears over the mobs head. The most important information presented here is the 'No Damage' message. This information moves around over the creature graphics, and can move as the creature runs, advances, etc.
      • Self Status. Armor, Health and Power bars are along the the top of the screen, unmovable.
      • Mob Health. Three icons appear at the top of the target box. This box is rendered at various points on the screen, depending on the mob's location relative to the character. It is relocated (and resized) based on mob movement.
      • Combat Effects. A line of buff and debuff effects appear at the top of the screen to note temporary combat conditions. This information isn't movable.
        • Mouse-over Effects. Sometimes it is necessary to mouse-over specific effect icons to read what these are and how they affect the player. This requires the player to move the mouse to that location to read the information.
      • Global Chat. Information about various combat operations occur in this chat box. Specifically, the step numbers of combo sequences are recognized here. The overall Chat box can be positioned at the player's discretion.
      • Mob Position. Frequently, due to AI actions or combat effects, the mob may move relative to the player. This causes various elements (Mob Health, Floating Damage) to move around the player's display.
      • Group Health (optional). Health icons for players in the active group are displayed here. This interface can be positioned at the player's discretion.
    • Targeting. Selecting a target from among multiple targets is a vital issue. In groups, the need for some kind of Assist function is vitally important to support functional roles withing a group. Ultimately, the inability for group members to focus on a single target makes group combat almost ineffective.
      • Tab Selection. The tab key can cycle through available targets. Unfortunately, this also includes tombstones and other PCs, grouped or otherwise. This does directly swap targets quickly, but there is no accuracy (especially in groups).
      • Mouse Selection. Like tab selection, the mouse can select a variety of objects as the target. Additionally, the mouse has click-through issues with an existing target box. I'll often find myself targeting on a corpse instead of the next mob due to inconsistent click-through.
    The resulting impact of these various issues is that the combat in P: G is incredibly hectic. The simplest tactic of blind button mashing while staring at one of the information sources for a decision point to heal/run. Even a simple 1-2-3-4-5-6-repeat pattern is as successful (or more) than trying to process the combat information and make decisions. Somehow, this tactic doesn't seem worthy of such a detailed combat skill system, but it works. And that it works, undermines the depth of the combat.

    The combat system in P: G has lots of implied depth. But that depth requires a massive amount of information processing on the player's part, and there game system simply doesn't afford that luxury.
     
  2. eggsalicious

    eggsalicious Adventurer

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    I don't want to sound dismissive here because you've clearly put a lot of work into this all intelligent feedback is good. To be brief, you're right about everything (except targeting, more on that in a sec), but it's fairly common knowledge that the UI is as clunky/bare bones as it is because of competing priorities and limited resources rather than lack of awareness of better alternatives. They know it's bad, but it's mostly full of placeholder elements until they fix bigger problems/get more $. No nameplates/overhead buffs/debuffs/stats is extremely annoying, I'll grant you that.

    Targeting you can set in options to target only enemies.
     
  3. Citan

    Citan Project: Gorgon Developer
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    Thanks for the feedback! I appreciate it. A few things made me go "wait, what?" and realize there are issues I hadn't realized. The biggest being that there is actually a very helpful GUI indicator of combos -- you don't need to watch the chat window. Unfortunately it got broken somewhere along the line and is now off the screen.

    Combat is supposed to be hectic -- it's that sort of game. But presenting the information better is key. Monsters are actually pretty stately, attacking no more than once every two seconds, but given the amount of information going on that can still be overwhelming.

    Incidentally I've also slowed the combat down a little bit in the upcoming update. Not by a lot, but it might be enough to make things click better while still getting the hectic feel.
     
    #3 Citan, Oct 3, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2014