Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Combat in DDO, what SWG is trying for?

My time in Star Wars galaxies came to an end last weekend. I had some fun during my trial, but in the end the game simply wasn't polished enough for me to justify buying the client or subbing. The controls are not very intuitive. Even after two weeks getting used to them, they were really only tolerable. The graphics engine also is poorly optimized. Running the game on a rig that would have been an alien supercomputer when SWG launched, my frame-rates still bogged down in places. Finally, minor things like mobs shooting me through walls or quest chains bugging out started to get to me.

SWG has amazing depth, and if I could play it for free I'd probably still be messing around with it. However, it just doesn't have the polish I expect from a sub based MMO that's been out for seven years. Since my trial ended I've been playing Dungeons and Dragons Online again. Accounts of several bloggers of the Wednesday nights with Massively gave me the urge to fire it up. I restarted on Kyhber, and I've been having a lot of fun with a freshly minted Paladin there. Transitioning between SWG and DDO, one thing that really struck me is how similar the their combat systems are.

Like SWG, the combat in DDO is "real time" rather than turn based. Like SWG, you target a foe with your mouse and click (or hold down) the left mouse button to auto attack. Unlike SWG, hitting buttons on your hotbar (or a number on your keyboard) actives a special attack directly. In SWG, hitting a hotbar button maps a special ability to your right mouse button rather than activating it. The right mouse button is used both to move the camera and to activate specials, which makes it extremely easy to blow off specials accidentally. DDO doesn't have that issue because the right mouse button is used strictly for the camera.

It sounds like a minor difference, but for me it's the difference between swearing at my monitor and not thinking about the controls at all. Add in the dated and inefficient graphics engine SWG uses, and the whole experiences comes off as clunky compared to DDO. I can't help but wonder if SWG would be doing better if its developers had nailed real time combat as well as Turbine did [or perhaps not tried to jam real time combat into a game with an engine that wasn't designed for it . . .but that's a can of worms I prefer not to open].


  1. Too bad for SWG, but at least you had DDO waiting for you with open arms. I wonder if Galaxies could modernize their combat system or if it's too late. Personally, I would love to see a second NGE blow that game out of the water.

    Obviously people are still playing it or SOE would have shut the servers down. But how long will they continue to play as the game ages?

  2. A while back, I tried going back to SWG via the trial as well, and had very similar thoughts. It was fun while it lasted, but I couldn't justify subbing. Little things that bugged me and and overall the feeling that it lacked polish.

  3. Not quite fair to say SWG has been around for 7 years; NGE is a bit more recent date.

    NGE combat was a quick hack in comparision to the efforts some other games have spent on the combat, including DDO. And DDO did not work that well in the beginning either, they have done a good job in making it nicer to play.

    Since the whole NGE thing was done under the cover they probably did not have any good feedback cycle in place.

    They are certainly not going to put in much effort to make it much better - it would cost too much and they would and will have more competition in the SciFi space, including within the same intellectual property.

  4. @Anjin: I purposefully went to the most crowded server, and it still seemed to be pretty hopping (at least on Tatooine). I have to agree with Sente, I seriously doubt we'll see any major changes at this point. The game seems to be somewhere between games on life-support like Vanguard and games still getting expansions like EQ II in terms of developer activity. I think most of the new content these days is in the form of trading card expansions.

    @mmogamerchick: well, glad to see it's not just me.

    @Sente: I think even the NGE is four or five years old at this point, they've had plenty of time to get it right. I have to agree with you, it doesn't seem likely that any real fixes to the general lack of polish are coming down the pipe at this point.

    I didn't realize that DDO had problems with their combat system at launch as well. Given that, Turbine has done a remarkable job turning it around.

  5. Have to wonder how many subs they miss out on just because of the clumsy controls. That should have been a priority with the whole new gamer experience. But doubtful they'll be changing it now at this point I guess.

    Hope you have fun with DDO!

  6. @Aspendawn: it boggles me that they haven't adjusted it in all this time. They wouldn't even have to screw with the existing game, just add an optional checkbox to the UI options that makes your hotbars actually function as hotbars and limits the right mouse button to camera controls.

    And I am having a good bit of fun in DDO, thanks :-)