Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
 
I agree

As it doesn't happen all that often, I thought it would be worth posting that I completely agree with Nils' analysis of hotkey/macro-based combat: When the best strategy is to spam a few buttons as fast as possible without caring what those buttons are, there is something wrong with the combat system.

And just for the record: This isn't supposed to be an "anti Rift" post. The remark applies to WoW as well, even if WoW has slightly different macro restrictions. If carefully choosing the right button to press is a bad strategy, and quickly spamming keys in more or less the right order gives a better result, that just isn't a game for me.
Comments:
It should be noted that not all speccs in Rift work like that.

But yeah, it's not a good system.
 
I don't see the difference in this and in having mods that tell you everything there is to do. For me, it is all the same. And I know WoW allows macro's so I'm not sure what the difference is between the two systems (I don't use macros).

While I play Rift, I don't PvP so I don't feel the need to use twitch based actions (and maybe that's why I don't like PvP).
 
I don't use the macros and don't really see the issue. If my playing sans macro isn't 'good enough' then I'll just ditch the game, but I strongly suspect it will be fine.

It's people who feel they need the macros who are the problem.
 
Spinks, then my guess is that you don't play a Champion and probably not even a warrior.
As I said, it's really specc-specific.
 
At the risk of sounding like an apologist, macros in Rift aren't the "best strategy" by a long shot .. at first they seem like a panacea but after some time you find out they can only take you so far. Macros aren't smart enough to execute the abilities at exactly the right time or in the right situation. (Unfortunately, Rift is easy enough that it doesn't matter.)
 
@Nils:

I have a warrior in rift who I've used the champion line on and I also don't see the issue. I guess to me, it looks like you allowed yourself to get muddled down by the options. I don't think I've used all of my spells/abilities in any MMO I've played yet. I don't see the difference.
 
Me, this notion that you only use a few of the abilities you have is, well, strange to say the least. Sure, some abilities are copy/paste and are due to the talent tree system in Rift. But there still are a lot of abilities that you should use and which do not replace each other.

Of course, you can play Rift with just a few of your abilities. The typical open-world mobs are more difficult than in nowadays WoW, but they aren't exactly dangerous.

But if you play in battlegrounds, or even challenging PvE content, you will either want to become a brilliant player who doesn't need macros - more power to you.

Or you will accept that with macros you may play at 90% efficiency, but you are able to do so with 100% reliability.
 
I never used macro's in WoW either... and I never had an issue in PvE. I don't think I'm brilliant, I think I just paid attention. That doesn't require brilliance. And like I said, while it may seem odd you wouldn't use all your abilities, I guess from WoW I became accustomed to this so it doesn't bother me in Rift or LotRO.
 
While I enjoy Rift a great deal, the macro system and the proliferation of twitch reaction abilities that makes it basically mandatory for some specs, is not a good one.
 
As for twitch based gaming?

I'm really enjoying Sims Medieval right now.
 
@spinks: "It's people who feel they need the macros who are the problem."
Is it such a personality flaw to try to do things a little bit better when possible? Or more convenient? Or in some cases, possible, as with some of the more complex druid shift-spell combos.
 
"Is it such a personality flaw to try to do things a little bit better when possible?"

I don't know about personality flaw, but I find it wrong-thinking to be driven to optimise the wrong variable, or to over-optimise where it isn't needed.

I don't care if people use macros. But stop using them if they are't fun, and don't tell me I need to use them just because you do if I really don't.

The personality flaw imo is to present something as a NEED when it's just a play style choice.
 
"Is it such a personality flaw to try to do things a little bit better when possible?"

No, but if doing so ruins the game for you, I don't think it's entirely fair to place 100% of the blame on the shoulders of the game.

WoW (and probably Rift) is popular and successful because of the masses of people who play it casually and in a way you'd probably describe as carelessly. People with no mods installed, and no idea what a macro is. Their game isn't less fun for them because you choose to optimize all the fun out of it.
 
If we go off Nil's example, we can easily see how a significant DPS, and sanity, gain could come from that macro. It tidies things up, makes it all easier to work with when time for decisions is lacking.

His macro was actually a great thing. But ultimately all it was doing was covering for, and apparently taking the blame for, a flawed design. Giving too many twitch abilities when there are a dozen other variables to keep track of is a bad idea (for all but a very few who can manage all that).

My loss of fun in WoW was entirely unrelated to macros. If anything, those were one of the few things I really liked at the end.
 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
This actually points to a major problem with Rift's design.

Max level Rift characters have DOZENS of abilities, and many of them are not on the global cooldown, so Rift players create macros that try to cast 10 separate abilities in order. There's no choice or gameplay there, and if you don't figure out how to macro you're significantly gimped.

Compare that to WoW, where the developers have taken great care to restrict the types of abilities off the global cooldown to interrupts and ability modifiers.

WoW is 100% playable at the high-end with no macros whatsoever, because each spec has between 4 and 6 primary priority buttons, with 2-6 situational-only buttons.

WoW has a better design here.
 
To me the idea of not optimizing your interface with macros or whatever else is extremely unappealing. The problem is that if optimizing the interface yields results that are too good then it really does take a lot of the fun out of the game. Most people don't have fun hitting one button. Most people don't have fun when they feel totally overwhelmed and unable to keep up with all their triggers. Most people won't have fun playing a game that asks them to choose between one extreme or the other with no middle ground.

The counterpoints I'm seeing here are essentially arguments that there is a middle ground. Either don't use all of your abilities or accept that you don't catch all the triggers and live with it.

This makes very little sense to me, but what's interesting to is that this would be the normal response for any non-MMO game. In fighting games people don't use every move their character has. In open world games people don't learn every special ability, let alone use them.

But I don't think that answer is a good one for target-and-hotkey games. In an action game, a really great player can beat the game while barely (or never) getting hit and make it look easy. When my actions are limited to a key press every second and whether I take damage is determined by a random number generator, not by my skill, there is very little room for my skill to actually get involved. If I am not optimizing every aspect of it then I feel like I am handicapping myself.

In Magicka (to pull a recent favourite as an example) if you took most of the areas of the game, doubled the damage done by enemies, doubled their health, doubled the number of them and made them occasionally teleport behind you then I'm pretty sure I could still win, and I'm definitely sure I would try. In WoW, if you give an enemy 20% more health then winning might become literally impossible.

In Magicka it makes sense to me that I will never play perfectly, and if I can't overcome a challenge then I know it is because I'm not willing to put in the time and effort. In WoW not saving myself fractions of seconds or optimizing my abilities by fractions of a percent seems ridiculous to me, because there is an absolute wall of how good I can be. Even if practice and personal skill are more important than those small optimizations, no amount of practice or personal skill can ever make up for them.
 
To me it seems that it's largely the Warrior and Rogue callings that benefit from macros. The only macros I have on my cleric are in its healing build for an "Oh Snap!" button where the macro fires off "Make next spell crit, make next spell instant (both off GCD), and then fires my biggest heal."

That's it. I can't imagine macro-ing my heals, nor my damage spells. On my mage I can maybe see some use for a few macros, but they'd only involve 2 skills anyway, so it's just as easy to leave them separate and just click the buttons.

OTOH, I'm heavily macro'd up on my warrior whether in dps or tank mode. My rogue is macro'd in dps mode, but not in tank or bard. I do have my off-GCD reactives macro'd to my combo point builders but that's it -- no 15 line macro's for the rogue at all.

I've heard the melee clerics can macro a lot of stuff, but I don't use that playstyle.

All in all, I think I like the EQ2 system where each individual skill has its own cast time and cooldown so even with 5-8 hotbars open it's still easy enough to choose the right skill for the right time, but I can't say that I really mind the Rift system either.
 
You can tell that the lead developer worked on EQ2 previously, because Rift shares many of EQ2s shortcomings there.

Each EQ2 class also had pages upon pages of nearly identical abilities. The developers were unable to pare them down to the essentials, which was insanely confusing, particularly coming back to the game after a break. Rift has the same problem, except half those abilities are off the global cooldown just begging to be macroed.

Macroing those abilities is actually an improvement over EQ2, but Blizzard's tight design process came up with a far better way.

1) Eliminate redundancy
2) Make abilities iconic
3) Every ability that deals or heals damage is on the global cooldown
 
Remember these macros are "optimizing *your* fun out of gameplay"

I am in the minority but am not very interested in the tactical/twitch gameplay. I see the interesting strategic decisions as to who I am, my spec, gear and who I fight and when. For me, the actual combat is just a more entertaining way to "compare stats and roll a D20" for the video generation. I must admit, this macro system greatly increases my interest in trying Rift.

---

I find it curious that macros appeal to both both extremes.

1) If you really care about your, tactical performance, then you macro (different macros to be sure) or anything legal to improve your play.

2) If you don't care about your performance -because "its a just game" or "its twitch" or "750ms latency" or w/e.

It's the middle who don't want to do the work of the former but still want to criticize the latter who I think sometimes are a bit inconsistent.

-----

Macros like this do an excellent choice of exposing the "illusion of choice."

People think that spamming one button is so much boring that press one button but if proc1 then spell1 and if proc2 then spell2 and if proc3 then spell3. But there is no choice here: you always want to press pyroblast when you get the instant pyroblast proc.

Compare that to healing with triage of multiple targets each of whom could get a fast, efficient or big heal.

------

With these, but not WoW, macros, this looks like the best of all designs. Why isn't it good [PvE?] design to have lots of these reactive abilities that are macroable?

* The attention deficient crowd get to mindlessly spam 10 buttons instead of one.

* The no-stress (or grumpy old men to you) get to spam "one" macro button.

* The "I'm a real man I deliberately gimp my play by not using addons and feel superior for it" get their martyrdom reinforced.

* The elitist jerks crowd get to argue over whether swapping the spells on line 57 is a 0.1% DPS increase in fight#36

----

While it may not be the design of a "great game", it may be "great game design" in that it increases revenue by satisfying a large number of customers.
 
I play Rift and I do some Warfronts. Mrs Bhagpuss does more.

I read up about Macros, tried them a bit, decided I didn't like them and forgot about them. Mrs Bhagpuss has never looked at them.

Some warfronts we win, some we lose. Some go well, some go badly. Frankly, who cares whether we are efficient or inefficient? Warfronts are a minor sideshow, fun to dip into at the end of a session or after a few glasses of wine.

Play the game, don't let the game play you is my motto. If using a macro makes playing more entertaining, then that's a good thing. If it makes it less entertaining, just don't do it. Really, it's that simple.
 
Hagu, I completely disagree. Facerolling 2-3 macros is simply no gameplay at all. WoW's simple priorities and restrictive macro system at least offer some minor way for player skill (or at the very least player ATTENTION) to impact their performance.

Bhagpuss, casual players always say "I don't do that and I'm OK". Of course that experience is valid, but anyone playing competitively will use every resource at their disposal and the game designers' job is to cater to both playstyles.
 
I'm not max level yet, but the redundancy I'm seeing in the talent trees (specifically with Warriors, but I haven't really touched melee rogues) is a side effect of the multiple trees, not a design decision for itself. The warrior needs A) A spammable way to build attack points, B) a reliable way to use those attack points. When every single tree needs these, that makes a lot of redundancy when you have your three abilities in there.

Also, a lot of the raid buffs seem attached to other abilities. One warrior soul has a long lasting -armor debuff that doesn't deal damage or generate attack points. Another warrior soul has this debuff included in their base spammable attack. Marksman rogues get the debuff on an aoe-oriented CD. This will also create redundancy to most players.

Cleric healing gets around this by slapping a "+20 to this soul, -40% to all other souls" effect in each soul. I expect a similar problem to arise in mages as in warriors if you aren't using the DoT oriented souls.

I'm a power user, and I stumbled into macros on my own trying to do a friendly/enemy macro for my Chloro/Dominator mage for Warfronts. The WoW system gives you a lot more control, but with the restriction that it starts failing really fast when you try to use logic to determine which spells the macro is allowed to cast.

The Rift system gives you almost no control, but will dumbfire through the whole list. This doesn't feel like an extension of my gameplay, but just a mechanical tool. Using double jump in Mario feels clever and masterful, even though it's a standard and required mechanic. This is not something exemplified by the Rift macro system.

Similarly, that is why in WoW I used Power Auras, SBF, and Pitbull to heavily mod my UI, but I stayed away from DBM so long as it wasn't required (and often would disable it when it broke instead of updating it until someone ran the version checker). DBM feels like it takes away gameplay and mastery, it doesn't enhance my own intentions.
 
The "poor game design" apologists here are quite bizarre. If a game designer adds an extra ability to a class and the only two correct ways to handle the extra ability is A) macro it, or B) ignore it because you can do fine without it, then that ability was poor design. There is such a thing as inelegant, cluttered design.

Imagine this kind of rationalization in any other field. On the 2015 Cadillac, you now have two turn signal switches, one for the front lights and one for the back lights. Will there ever be a scenario in which you won't just use both together? Err... no, but it is there if you ever decide to. Oh, and there is a new lever on the steering column that will reverse the direction of your windshield wipers. Would those changes make the 2015 Cadillac better designed?

There is such a thing as too many buttons. Telling people to just avoid pressing/looking at them does not change the fact that there are too many buttons. Surely no one here is actually making the implicit claim that WoW or Rift loses nothing if the designers added 20 extra situational abilities that could be safely ignored or macro'd to everything (and then ignored).
 
"What I love about it is that I can finally play with tactics again and not completely focused on the execution and my user interface. I can look the enemy into the eyes, instead of staring at my hotbar. That's great"

This is way those macros are way superior.
But that's a problem with MMOs like Rift or WoW focusing at those sophisticated rotations/priority systems for LEET DEEPS!! instead of actually playing the game nowadays.

(yeah, I miss my SB spamming lock from BC. 10 rotational skills + cooldowns, utility and gimmicks is overkill)
 
This Tobold supports your point of view that slower combat is more involving and tactical which means more "fun" and you'd do it not for the pixel-reward invovled but actually you'd do it becuase it's fun. World of Tank is a good example for that.
 
You know what's funny? Rift Fanbois defending Rift with this argument "This is also true for WoW I don't see a difference." That's not the point!! Get out of your Rift-Bubble we're discussing MMORPGs here.

Focus on the subject, Combat System. Is it good? It's been like this for a long time. It's not about "Rift".
 
@MMOTomb: People are pointing out that it was in WoW and other games, not necessarily because they are MMO "fanbois" (which is a fanboy spelling in and of itself), but because we are wondering why it suddenly matters. It never seemed to before.

And as I pointed out, for some of us, we got so use to throwing out our rhetorical abilities that we just did the same thing here.

And as people have said time and time again, WoW is typically used as a comparison because it seems to be the one game that is most likely to have been played by all people reading or posting comments. When I test a sample in my lab, I use a sample that has a known value so that it will show any differences or similarities. That's what most people are doing with this.
 
My girlfriend used to get asked this question all the time:

Hey! You're a great healer! What (random auto healrelated) program do you use?

The mere fact that most end-game raids rely on a set, unchanging pattern that never varies and doesn't react to what you are doing means that high-end PvE content is usually extremely dull.
 
Ok, honest question here;

Totalbiscuit has noted in his podcasts that the combat in WoW is more or less 'push button, shoot fireball'. (And move out of the bad, but that's another discussion.)

And from what I've garnered from this post, Rift is quite similar.

Are there other forms of combat systems in other games that are not 'push button, shoot fireball' that I'm simply not aware of? Or is it all really the same thing, but with different mechanics underneath?
 
Are there other forms of combat systems in other games that are not 'push button, shoot fireball' that I'm simply not aware of?

Yes, there are. In Puzzle Pirates combat is done by playing a form of Tetris. In Wizard 101 combat is done with a trading card game similar to Magic the Gathering.

And there are also variations of the "push button, shoot fireball" combat system: Now defunct The Chronicles of Spellborn had the buttons placed on wheel, so every time you pushed a button, the button would change. Age of Conan has melee strikes that can be left, right, or center, and you need to check where the "shields" of you opponent are.
 
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