I wouldn’t normally care about an upcoming MMO developed by an unproven studio. But developer Carbine recently saw fit to hire one of the best writers I know who, in the interest of full disclosure, also happens to be a friend of mine. Still, it’s an MMO with a cartoony sci-fi theme. If I wanted to play World of Warcraft with laser guns, I’d roll up one of those blue space elfs. The Drainae, or whatever they’re called.
But the above video demonstrates how Wildstar will be different from many of the MMOs I’ve played. You don’t target anyone. Instead, you hold down your mouse button or hotkey to bring up an overlay. This shows where your attack will hit. While holding down the button, you can move around freely to line it up. To attack, simply let loose of the button. This also applies to healing. Healing will require more than the ability to watch hitpoint bars go up and down. As noted in the video, you’ll know a good healer when you see one.
Plenty of MMOs have used a similar area effect for attacks. Guild Wars 2 and Secret World come to mind. But they’ve also used the traditional “tab lock” scheme where you target a single unit and therefore automatically land your attack if you’re facing the right direction. This can downplay the skill based element of combat, which Wildstar wants to emphasize.
But tab locking ensures clearly presented information about your target, such as health, mana, buffs, and debuffs. Even over-the-top action RPGs like Diablo 3 and Marvel Heroes rely on tab locking to show you information about your enemies. This also helps with something as simple but important as the name of the target, a significant part of world building. For instance, in Guild Wars 2, would I know a skelk from a river drake if the names weren’t so consistently in my face? I appreciate that Wildstar wants combat to be an action-oriented experience that involves player skill, and this is plenty of reason to look forward to trying the game. But it’s a solution that also presents its own problems.