The Pixel Purge

The focus towards action combat in recent years has been rather welcome to me. I think part of the reason I was never that interested in the mmo’s of old was just how slow and clunky the combat appeared to be next to its single player cousin. I grew up on the button mashing twitch skills of older games and anything else just didn’t compare. Now that the genre is evolving I’m glad to be playing more of this style of combat in larger more connected worlds, with and against a wide range of people.

The one thing I’m not pleased about is the predominance of pixels clogging up my screen. It’s a noticeable trend toward brighter and flashier animations that sees to be harming gameplay. Many times recently I’ve been stuck in combat unable to see important cues about boss attacks, certain movement types… sometimes you can’t even see them as it’s just a jumble of effects. This is just too much, I want to be able to see what’s happening on screen, I want to see the world and characters not a plethora of pixels.


I have no idea where I am

In PvP this is both frustrating and damaging to the experience. This is a time when you need to know the actions of your enemy, the slightest animations can make a difference between blocking, avoiding, or mitigating the damage but if the character models are obscured this becomes problematic. How can you expect the same level of strategic combat if you’re unable to react effectively. The overuse of effects is also why a lot of the large scale combat in recent times has been so lacking. You have to restrict how many players can been seen and interact to numbers that aren’t quite that epic any more and even then it can result in crippling server lag.

In a way I think this is a part in the considerable dumbing down of combat. It’s an obvious part of the experience now and developers seem to be focusing more and more on flashier effects, more than is needed to provide the necessary visual cues. I’m guessing they are aware of the situation as well since there is now less focus on being aware of the actual enemy models and more just focused on the unmistakable red glowing ground effects. There is really only so much you can do interns of strategy if your only tool is red rings of death.

In the older mmo’s I can see the need towards creating more effects in combat but they were paced much slower. They made the experience more interesting in a way and the cooldowns were a natural restriction with the amount of animations. It was a reasonable amount of pixel spam. Now with decreased cooldowns, weapon swapping and focus on action combat style the prevalence of pixels is more a nuisance and completely detracts from the experience.

Comparing this to the single player games, as combat has increased in pace the amount of over embellished actions has decreased. That makes sense. In recent times they have gone so far as to nearly remove the ui and any uncharacteristic effects so as to encourage immersion yet MMO’s, for some reason have gone the opposite direction in their development. A little bit of flash and effects is great during combat, it makes you feel more powerful and the spells and skills that much more amazing but it gets/ and has gotten to the point where it has.. become to much of a game and a game that’s trying desperately not to lose my attention.

#ArmchairDeveloper #Graphics


10 thoughts on “The Pixel Purge

  1. In general I agree with you, there’s just way too much happening on the ground a lot of the time, especially in the melee area… and melee is a big enough pain in the ass even without that mess. Trying to figure out which ground effects are good, which are necessary (shared damage), which are less than good (they hurt but not enough to bother moving out of) and which are bad (those that’ll kill you, bonus points when you can’t actually see that one because one of the others is layered on top of it, as on some trash packs) when there are 8 spells layered on top of each other has basically turned every fight like that into a dance fight, except it isn’t about the literal steps, it’s simply about when you’re allowed to be in contact with your partner. It has gone way to far in that direction.

    I actually like the bad ground indicators, half the time I’m not even slightly aware of what direction the boss is facing when they do a random turn attack (so I can’t count on “tank is over there so over here is behind him”) so I rely on those (although purple on purple during part of the Garrosh fight? C’mon, that was SO unnecessary…) but only when I can actually see them consistently. I’d like to get (back? have you ever been able to?) to that point.

    • Yes, it’s very hard to coordinate in a specific dance with your partner if you can’t see their steps.. or even the floor. Some games out there still do it well or don’t overdo it, that’s part of the reason why I’m more interested in Elder Scrolls coming up than Wildstar. Like to see what I and my opponent are doing in combat

  2. To me it seems that originally all the flashy spell effects were in place to cover up the limited animation set of early MMOs, which could get a bit dull.

    The fact that it persists now that we have way more advanced animation capabilities seems to be part habit and part unwillingness to actually make extensive use of those animation powers due to how time consuming they are.

    • As an addendum, this also ties into why I find e-sports so underwhelming.

      For a lots of games like DotA2 and such you need to have a good understanding of every hero, their abilities, the effects of their abilities, and so on to understand pretty much anything that’s going on. They just aren’t as visceral as real sports and therefore are less inherently understandable and interesting.

      • i don’t think real sports are very visceral either. Looking at American footbal for example and I have no idea what the various signals, plays and strategies mean. having them also erupt in fireworks every move wouldn’t help that either.

        It is more taking the tie to understand the various movements, a certain amount effects do help. Dota and it’s wealth of characters is a bit of an outlier though. The skills being more visceral wouldn’t help the outsider, or even new player understand as you actively have to learn what they are and do. That’s like most sports really, there is just more to learn.

    • that could be.. although I think it has more to do with their opinions on this generation of gamers and trying to compete with all the other products and media tools for the gamers attention

  3. It’s so interesting how differently we all experience the same event. I don’t like the trend towards action-oriented gameplay all that much. I prefer traditional MMO gameplay with less movement and a slower pace. However…

    The one thing I really *do* like about the modern style of MMO combat is the huge firework show. I turn every possible particle effect up as high as my PC will stand it and try to get as close to the heart of the lightning storm as possible. I find it exhilarating and thrilling to see the entire screen filled with vividly colored explosions and I positively love it when I can; even work out where my character is. That’s one of the core attractions of GW2 for me, just as it was one of the best parts of Rift back in the early days.

    I also love it when everyone throws out the maximum amount of pets, companions, flags, balloons and general visual noise. Can’t ever have enough chaos on screen!

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