It was an interesting weekend at Chez Casual Does as we worked through some character creation and the initial levels of Vanguard on the Isle of Dawn. Although initially elated by the ability to jump (after playing Dragon Age: Origins for the past week), my better half quickly tired of his Sorcerer. I suggested he try a Psionicist, because I know he loves crowd control, based on his Burglar in LOTRO and his Dominator in City of Villains.
He does seem to enjoy the Psionicist a great deal more, and is actually running around wanting to try out his new skills on various mobs instead of proclaiming the game is boring, so it looks like this choice will stick. Since he’s doing that, I opted to shelf my Cleric and roll a Blood Mage instead, so that we can both be ranged casters. He’s particularly good at playing characters with CC, while I’m rubbish at it. Meanwhile, I’m a bit terrified of what I’ve heard of the Blood Mage skillset, but I’m confident I can manage it with practice. At least I know I’ll have better luck with that than in trying to chase down mobs to hit with a hammer.
Chasing down mobs until they’re in melee range is a skill at which I will never excel. I can and have enjoyed melee characters in other games, but they have exclusively been those that allow auto-moving to your target, such as Guild Wars, or at least auto-facing targets like in LOTRO. I quickly get annoyed with all the “target not in range” or “must face target” messages and roll up a caster otherwise.
To me, the skill of moving to the target is one my character possesses, and not one I should have to hone as a player. An example of this is a Guild Wars assassin. The assassin has numerous skills that require certain placement to execute an attack. Once you select that skill, the assassin rushes, or teleports, to the target, and executes the attack (or fails if resisted). My assassin is the one who possesses that skill – I’m just the commander who tells her to. My skill as the player is in choosing to use that skill, and in knowing when to use it. Especially in Guild Wars, where you can only venture out into the world with 8 skills at a time, this is an important choice where my skills as a player matters and can make the difference between success and failure.
In other games, I’m expected to have the manual dexterity to place my character behind (or beside, etc.) my target in order to execute a backstab or other high-damage attack; all the more if I’m fighting another player. In this scenario, instead of my skill determining which attack to use at which time, I also must be faster than the AI, or more dexterous than the person I’m playing against. I have to teach my fingers how to execute a jump in mid-air, or how to run through an avatar to get behind it (neither are possible in Guild Wars, due to the missing z-axis and use of collision detection respectively).
I don’t like this type of play because, well, what does it have to do with my character’s abilities? Why should whether I keyboard turn or mouse turn, whether I jump around like a maniac in a game that has no keystroke for “block”, or whether I have perfected the jump-turn have anything to do with whether my character – the one actually trained in the arts of an assassin or warrior – can perform an attack?
Essentially, the only skillset I want to have to bring to the table in any given online RPG I play is found in my brain. I can accept failing to out-tactic or outsmart my opponent, whether AI or real person – it happens all the time! But if I wanted to pit my reflexes and manual dexterity against others, I’d play an arcade game or FPS instead (this is one reason why it worries me that the trend in upcoming MMOs seems to be leading them in a more arcade-like direction. There is a time for Tekken, and for me, when I’m playing an MMO is not that time).
Either that, or I want the ability to take some of the points I put into “bookworm brainiac” as a child and put them into “Nintendo fingers” instead.