World of Warcraft. Do I really need to say more?
Alright, so what’s my point? This competition for players has begun turning out some real innovative stuff. One such innovation I’ve noticed is action-based combat, which seems to have become a driving force for the genre. Almost all the MMOs I’ve tried or played (up until the past couple years) have been a standard tab-targeting system. Players select an enemy and use their skills (mapped to hotkeys) on that enemy. Within the last few years, though, MMOs have tried to make games more exciting than just hit a skill and wait for it to go off. A few years back, Age of Conan attempted an ambitious multi-direction attack combo system. It wasn’t entirely successful (back then, at least. I haven’t played the game since a few months after launch). It drew my attention, though, and though I wasn’t entirely fond of how it turned out for AoC, it made me begin to realize that MMOs had the potential to be different than the old tab-target. Now, I’m not saying AoC was the first game to attempt this, but it was it was the first one that made a splash with me. I watched other MMOs over the years also struggle with an action-combat system, and not quite pull it off. I began to doubt whether action could really blend into the MMO world.
Funcom's M-rated, bloody Age of Conan
Then I tried TERA - and I’ve found that the combat works amazingly well (in my opinion). Now, I'm not saying everything is 100% sunshine and rainbows in TERA, but the combat's a whole lot different than anything I've played in an MMO. Players are required to aim skills/spells, weapons hit everything that they graphically hit (not just the player’s target), and survival is based on actively blocking, dodging, and jumping away from monster attacks. It’s not only TERA, though. Many upcoming MMOs are also adopting an action combat system to some extent. Guild Wars 2 features a dodging/rolling system, and Neverwinter and Raiderz will require mouse aiming of skills/spells. Across the internet in forums, facebook wall posts, and twitter feeds, people are saying that they can’t imagine going back to how MMOs were before. I’m not saying everyone likes this action twist on MMOs (personally, I see the pros and cons to both sides of things), but I think it’s around to stay.
The recently-launched TERA, which boasts "True Action Combat"
There are certainly other innovations that also seem to be driving the genre. For example, the extremely strong story-based approach and fully-voiced quests that SWTOR exhibited are certainly raising consumer expectation. Let’s also not overlook the smaller things like UI stream-lining as well. Though I highlighted action-oriented combat here, there are a hundred other things I could go on about - but for the sake of space, time, and your sanity, I’ll stop here.
What do you guys think? Do you like where MMOs are going? Or do you hate it, and miss the old school MMOs? What other innovations have you noticed?