Monday, December 9, 2013

System Changes - Time To Kill

TTK is the measurement of how long it takes a player to kill a target. In previous builds of the beta the TTK was quite long. In the current build, shown in the recent Carbine live streams, TTK has been significantly reduced. What does this change? How does it effect difficulty? How does it effect fun? What else can be modified to keep these elements in balance? I will explore after the cut.

I think we should start by talking about fun. If the combat is fun then it should be fun to be in long fights, right? Well, not necessarily. Combat in most MMO's is based on a rotation of abilities. If you have to perform that rotation several times without interruption it starts to get stale. Enemies in Wildstar use telegraphs, which will interrupt your flow and that keeps things fresh, but there is another part of satisfying combat - winning. Defeating your target is important to the fun. For the "fun factor" I think reducing the TTK was absolutely the correct choice. It should make questing and fighting open world targets more fun.

What about difficulty? A long fight has more opportunity to separate skilled players and inexperienced players because there is a longer period of combat before you reset your health value. This allows for more fine tuning of difficulty, but isn't the source of the difficulty itself. If enemy health is cut in half, or player damage is doubled in order to reduce the TTK by 50% then, yes, everything just got a whole lot easier, but those aren't the only knobs to turn.

Telegraphs and Auto Attacks: The amount of enemy telegraphs has been increased in this build, based on developer comments. They have said that not only has frequency been increased by variety also, so each enemy should have a few different telegraphs they may use in each encounter. These telegraphs serve as the primary skill separation. If you are able to avoid and interrupt them you will fair much better than someone who doesn't. Enemies also have Auto Attacks, who's accuracy and damage are determined by your RPG stats. (deflect chance and armor value) Since these attacks cannot be actively influenced they act as the timer. If you are unable to defeat this target before X number of auto attacks happen then you will fail. The timer is then disrupted by Telegraphs, successfully avoid/interrupt and you buy yourself extra time, stand in the bad and you've just shortened your window.

This is, I think, the biggest difficulty challenge for the Wildstar team. Creating a window that allows a skilled player to feel rewarded and allows the unskilled player to progress and learn without giving up. I'm hoping that in beta they are collecting tons and tons of data and figuring out where they want the difficulty to sit,

Something I'd like to see in the questing tree is locations with harder difficulty that is clearly indicated. Other games have had "heroic" and "group" quests that are designed for parties, but I'm not actually thinking of that. I'm more thinking about solo content that is just designed to be on the hard side of difficulty. Designed and balanced to be tackled by a single skilled player, but accessible to groups. If you don't want the hassle you can call in a buddy and get it done, but if you want to push yourself, jump in by yourself and face the challenge.

How do you message that to the player?
"This quest could be hard. Ask for help if you suck."
Seems legit. You're welcome.

What do you think? How long is too long for each encounter? How short is too short? Do you want the leveling content in Wildstar to be challenging or simple?

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