Changing the Combat Core

One thing I’ve been thinking lately is just how much combat has become a focus of MMO’s now. It was always a big part yes but it seems that the number one point of development has become the “fun” of killing things, either other pixel creations or people to the detriment of all other mechanics within the game. Now I love killing things in-game too, I always have but I don’t think this should be the main feature of mmo’s as its something that eventually loses it’s charm.. no matter how many effects you put in it.

There needs to be other mechanics driving forward the narrative of a game, or the direction of players and just a range of options to enjoy beyond “go kill stuff”. I’ve thought that for a long time but I think the major factor that the mmo’s have focused on in this generation is combat. We have dungeons and raiding, PvP, and long quest chains that function to move players from one combat scenario to the next. The rest mostly just seem to revolve around this one mechanic with little interference… it drives the conflict, it provides the gear and most motivators involve around gaining it through combat.

Development has this in mind throughout too which means everything has to defer towards Combat so as to supplement it. One large part where we see this now is how structured the main experiences have become in order to direct it. We have long leveling experiences with a lot of rather simplistic quests so as to continually move forward the experience. A wealth of kill ten rats quests and other such things and, even with collect or other styles combat is bound to be a part. A large chunk of the play time and development of these newer modern mmo’s is just this refined questing experience that is created solely with combat in mind and MMO’s have become extremely limited because of it.

It is the main reason we’ve seen an increasing focus on dungeons and raiding as an end game, when combat is your focus you need to continue to create content around it. Even the story and lore always seems to have conflict and combat as it’s core ideals, the one true hero trope or at least numerous ultimate evils being the prominent story that drives the narrative. Combat has it seems become the safe mode of development as it’s easy to create in a sense, requires little innovation and has a lot of examples within the genre to look towards and improve upon.

However I think this is the main factor behind mine and a lot of the dissatisfaction I’m reading from others now. The unchanging nature of mmo’s now is because of this combat focus. It is why each game feels so familiar, why the main mechanics change so little and why I seem to be getting bored so much quicker with them now. There is nothing new when combat is the main mechanic beyond maybe cosmetic changes.

I’ve seen my interest in games lately grow towards the creative types. I’ve gone back into terraria again to get my fix, crafting my large Pirate ship as well as the multiple ships and port nearby. It’s something that has already filled countless dozens of hours and many more to come. I’m even thinking about getting involved with a minecraft server somewhere to experience this creative aspect a little more.

I’ve also been interested in survival games more so as they provide a style of play that involves combat but as a supplement to the mechanic of survival, of personal needs being fulfilled. In this style of play avoiding combat is often rewarded. The other of course are my management games that involve setting up multiple systems within an economy to create balance. A type that involves a lot of problem solving and critical thinking. None of these types of plays seem to have some focus anymore, little development for or rewarded in any meaningful way but could be a bigger part.

Now I don’t think any one of these should be a focus entirely either. Maybe for a specific niche MMO but in the ones I want the all need to have a certain balance there. Space for the social style to thrive, and not just within raiding. A space for those that want to build and create, those that want to immerse in crafting, manufacturing or marketing. A reason for people to explore, to survive or worry about more than just how much DPS they can put out. I just no longer what my MMO’s to be just killing simulators, I have a plethora of other games that do that far better… I want my god damn virtual world please.

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#combat #mmo #armchairdeveloper


6 thoughts on “Changing the Combat Core

  1. Agreed. I think the focus on combat plus the increasingly faster delivery of faster combat-based content has led to a really boring period in the genre’s history. I value the existence of games like Diablo, but I don’t want every MMO to be a straight-forward slaughter and loot grind.

    I want virtual worlds, not Diablo-likes with really expensive lobbies.

  2. I agree, too much focus on combat and raiding. Landmark is different with its focus on housing. Rift too. Some ppl in Rift spend most of their time building gorgeous dimendions. But virtual world… we are still far from it 🙂

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