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What's your definition of depth in MMO combat?


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#1 Trei


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Posted 31 May 2012 - 12:47 AM

I am seeing this term being thrown around lately in contexts I found hard to agree with, it got me curious about just how video game players in general view combat depth, not to mention it made me realise that I don't really know what the heck someone is talking about when he mentions 'depth' in MMO combat.

Personally I find nothing 'deep' about most profession abilities as they normally function, no matter what gimmicky if-else-or effects any particular skill has.
I can't think of any effect that would bring about this new dimension of gameplay.

On the other hand, I do feel the cross-combo feature has some potential to bring about this new dimension of combat concept-wise.

So far they mostly seem a little weak and insignificant but it probably has to do with players' limited play experience with the system up to this point.

So how do you define depth in game combat?

Edited by Trei, 31 May 2012 - 12:55 AM.

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#2 Tadrith


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Posted 31 May 2012 - 01:21 AM

Deep game combat is combat that is accessable to new players, who can successfully play and enjoy themselves without too incredibly much effort, but has a high skill cap so that if people are willing to put in the effort, there are constantly new things to learn.

Edited by Tadrith, 31 May 2012 - 01:22 AM.

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#3 Shamadamun


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Posted 31 May 2012 - 01:21 AM

Strictly speaking depth for combat, I think to me it means combat that is everchanging and versatile. Being able to use a multitude of combinations, positioning, and timing and being successful in any creative way you do it - instead of how WoW approaches its combat, where you have a strict rotation and playstyle for both PvE and PvP and where creativity doesn't get you very far (at least nowadays)

Don't know how much depth is in the GW2 combat yet since I've only played the beta, but it should have endless possibilites. I want to see the next Vurtne, Pre-TBC Swifty, or Kishkumen in GW2 (apologies if no one knows these players, they were exceptional back in the days of old WoW and played very differently and creativly which ended up making them amazing players)

I don't want to game to turn into a "use this, then that, then this - then repeat!" for every single situation.

That is depth for me!
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#4 Testifye


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Posted 31 May 2012 - 01:22 AM

Really interesting question! I'll give my two cents but take it with a grain of salt: I'm not much of an MMO player. I played GW1 for about a year, but have since only played FPS, RPG, RTS and other general action games. My perspective may be a bit off then.

Depth in combat isn't simply how many if-and-or-else effects a particular skill has as you mentioned above. Cross-profession combos and the compounding effects of various skills together adds some depth, but on its own isn't enough to draw my attention either. For me, it's about the variety of things one can accomplish in combat through use of skills, tactics, environment, and cooperation with other players. That's a little head-in-the-clouds kind of definition, but I'll try to break it down:


The variety of skills, what they can do, and how you use them in specific instances is the most obvious route towards combat depth. The more skills, the more complicated right? But complexity in itself doesn't mean combat has depth, it just means it's more tangled in formulas and harder to unravel, meaning most players will stick to the easiest uses while few will experience the true breadth of the skills available. Instead, having the right skills at the right time and knowing how to make the most of them is what adds the depth.


By tactics I mean the use of resources on the battlefield to ensure victory. Resources could be personnel in your immediate area, or traps laid by enemy forces, etc. How individuals or groups of people choose to engage the enemy (from range, in melee, pushing them away or funneling them to a kill zone) adds great depth to the feel of combat and gives a targeted goal to the player aside from dealing damage and staying alive.


The diversity of environments really makes combat a lot more interesting if it affects how players use skills and tactics. If everyone fought on a flat, open battlefield, it would be quite boring right? Instead, players have to pay attention to who has elevation over another, whether the easiest route to a keep is also the deadliest, or if there's a squad of enemies sitting around a corner waiting to ambush you. Aside from the physical implications of environment, there's the slightly more gimmicky aspects too (love them or hate them). The trebuchet in Khylo, the Quaggan in WvW, or the three dimensions in underwater combat are all aspects of the environment and contribute to what tasks or goals players set for themselves.


The last aspect is related to tactics, but the ability to work with companions to take down a target in and of itself directly contributes to the depth and engagement of combat. The cross-profession combos aside, if two players with different skills and tactics can coordinate to distract, harass, and defeat an enemy together, that just feels a hell of a lot more rewarding than standing alone in a field pressing 1-1-1-2-1-3-1-2-1-1-1 all the time.

I tried to keep those explanations brief-ish but I hope that adds to discussion :)
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#5 Reiden221


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Posted 31 May 2012 - 01:45 AM

Depth to me, is what you can't see.

In gaming overall, this is something like not truly understanding the game until you have played it. Someone who has not spent time playing the game, could not possibly write an accurate review of a game with depth.

Graphically, depth is more than just having good screenshot's. It must be visually appealing in motion as well as when still. Distance is just as important as closeup. It must be entertaining, while minimizing the chance of seizure, etc.

In regards to combat or other mechanics, depth means (to me) that their is more than the skill description. In my opinion, GW2 as well as GW, had excellent depth when it came to Combat mechanics, and as a result in classes/professions. I'll use GW2 to explain.

When you look at a skill, take for example the Ranger's skill
"Hornet Sting" sword attack. "Stab your foe, then evade backward"
This automatically changes to "Monarch's Leap" which is "Leap back into the fight, crippling your foe"
Typically ya, you want to get back in the fight, it's just an attack that chains into another, giving you a brief escape from enemy attacks, but keeps you right in the fight. But you don't have to, you can choose to not use Monarch's Leap. You could perhaps instead, if you have a dagger equipped as secondary, use the skill "Crippling Talon" (Throw a dagger to bleed and cripple foe) and then switch to your secondary weapon, a bow, and start attacking from range while your enemy hobbles along. Or perhaps, you evaded back because you wanted to set a trap, without being interrupted, and you needed the evade+cripple to give yourself the time to do so. This evade also saved you from having to use endurance to dodge, or perhaps you were already out of endurance which is why you used the skill to begin with.

The point I'm getting at is that Depth, means that there is more than meets the eye. The combination of skills you use, the manner in which you use them, what traits you choose, what weapons you choose, they all play a part in every action you take, as well as what your enemies are doing.
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#6 DuskWolf


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Posted 31 May 2012 - 01:46 AM

Anything that makes me think on my feet.

Cross-profession combos are a good example of this - such as shooting through an elemental wall to imbue my bullets with the properties of said wall. Another great example is attacks which hit specific areas rather than being the usual "Everything is a homing missile. Everything!" approach we so often see in MMORPGs. This means that my skill is a factor as to whether I win or lose in difficult fights, due to dodge-rolling.

Finally, another example of thinking on one's feet that came up in the beta is conditions stacking and mob juggling. By this, I mean working with other players who stack conditions to keep the more dangerous mobs locked down whilst the damage dealers take out the little guys. There's a surprising amount of strategy involved in this, and strategy that was necessary unless you planned on dying to that shaman.

So, yeah.
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#7 Straegen


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Posted 31 May 2012 - 07:10 AM

Fairly generic term but I take it to mean the number of processes a player must do to activate abilities. Diablo would be shallow combat as the player clicks one button over and over and the ability activates. Deep combat might be something with a very long chain to execute a combo. Greater depth is not synonymous with better and often the exact opposite. IMO fighting games like the Street Fighter series have a shallow depth while still maintaining a complex combat system. Easy to learn, difficult to master.

Edited by Straegen, 31 May 2012 - 07:11 AM.

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#8 Milennin


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Posted 31 May 2012 - 08:53 AM

In an MMO it's how much you can do with skills.
Best recent example from playing the Secret World beta, none of my abilities had any depth. It was all do damage. Do more damage. Do AoE damage.
Compare that to Guild Wars 2 combat. Skills can be used in different situations for different purposes. My favourite example is Ride the Lightning. It can be used to quickly charge into a fight, or bounce back to a foe after a backwards dodge (for extra coolness), or used as a quick escape, or used to get to hard to reach places (ones you can't reach with normal jump) + it does damage as well.
Another skill I liked was Updraft. It can be used a 3rd dodge to create distance or as a escape mechanism, and/or to knock back your foe. Then to use the knockdown to give you more time to cast a powerful spell or use your heal.

Edited by Milennin, 31 May 2012 - 08:56 AM.

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#9 Stuart444


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Posted 31 May 2012 - 09:00 AM

What people consider depth can vary when you ask different people. If someone says GW2s combat is deep for instance, others may say it's not that deep, has no depth or whatever.

If you take the most shallow combat system to be a button masher (as in, you just hit the same button over and over til everything dies I guess) then you could say anything above that is deep but how deep is another thing entirely...

but I don't know what I would consider 'deep' combat myself as I tend not to think about it much. Mainly because people say deep thinking deep = good combat and if combat isn't deep, it isn't good which I just disagree with especially since as I said, different people may think differently about what is and isn't deep combat.

(hope that makes sense, feel like I'm starting to ramble)
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#10 Trei


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Posted 31 May 2012 - 10:00 AM

Would anyone have some more good examples of what he feels is deep combat mechanics in other games?
Doesn't have to be strictly MMOs.

I used to think Starcraft's Protoss Arbiter ability Stasis Field was one of those abilities that has a lot of depth in the game.
It was amazing how different and wide its range of usage could be depending on situations when I watched the pros use it.

I think this kind of ability characteristics translates rather well so far in GW2 like how Milennin describes some of GW2's skills.

I like that we are given more freedom to use a skill any time we want than in other games, most common being "You don't have a target!"

Edited by Trei, 31 May 2012 - 10:04 AM.

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#11 Straegen


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Posted 31 May 2012 - 01:01 PM

AoC has somewhat deep combat for an MMO. To execute a skill a series of buttons in the proper order must be pressed rather than simply pressing a single key. Another game which isn't combat related but has a lot of depth are games like the Tony Hawk series. A player chains combos together for big scores.

Here is a pretty good article describing depth and breadth for combat in games:

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