As I continue to play EverQuest and dabble in the older MMOs it’s clear how combat and strategy has changed over the years. Modern MMOs are all about pressing buttons. How fast you can press your left mouse button, how well you execute keystrokes in order, where you’ve macroed your abilities, and whether or not you can time your keystrokes properly can be the difference between a mediocre player and a pro. I’m overwhelmed with the number of abilities I have to have up on my hotbars, and how often I’m having to actively click, press, or faceroll.
Older games, or modern games built in a traditional style, are more about resource management. I was in Sol A yesterday, and I would rarely use any abilities at all. I made sure everyone in my group was buffed with breeze and quickness — which effectively doubled their dps, mez’d incoming adds, and debuffed mobs. I think in a fight I pressed 4 keys then sat down. Other classes may have the freedom to use abilities one after another, but managing mana is huge. A wizard might be able to nuke non-stop but that same wizard will then be useless the next fight, or lack the mana to unload in a pinch.
Older games are about strategy, thinking ahead, and overcoming odds. Modern games are about executing tactics and brute force. There isn’t a ‘better’ way here, but they are quite different. The latter, modern way, is more in-line with other modern games. This generation is interested in action. Any action will do, and they’ll all likely lead to success if done properly or frequently enough. Older games are about choosing which path to take, knowing full well that failure is possible. These are woven into the split-second decisions made during combat. Do I pull this mob, or that one? Do I use this ability or wait a few seconds? Which spells should I memorize (because I can’t use them all) These decisions have been taken away from modern gamers.
It’s like the difference between Hungry Hungry Hippos and Risk — obviously two amazing but different games. Where do I fall? You probably think I’m going to say I like the slower, more methodical gameplay. I’m actually in the middle. I think anyone who swings to either extreme and blatantly hates the other side needs to wake up. The answer isn’t in slow combat that was slow because of technological restrictions. It’s also not in action combat designed to bring in non-MMO gamers. Merge the two. Make players have to think about which abilities they use instead of how frequently they use them, and restore that split-second decision.