The Daily Grind: Do you prefer combat rotations or reactive gameplay in your MMOs?

    
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It’s not every day that I stop what I am doing to mentally clap for a poster on Reddit, but user Rolling-in-the-Meeps prompted just that response from me back in August thanks to his post disambiguating “tab-target vs. action combat” and “rotational vs. reactionary.” Essentially, he’s arguing that what makes a game feel active isn’t really about whether the combat is organized around tab-target or “action” twitch; rather, it’s a focus on reactive gameplay instead of rotational gameplay (which you can still achieve with tab-targeting).

“I know there is absolutely skill involved with perfecting and maintaining your rotation, but I like games that have more reactive elements to them,” he says.

Days later and I’m still thinking about the argument. I think he’s right to break down the argument into these component bits, but I think I personally prefer a mix of both rotational and reactive. I don’t love, for example, the reactive avoidance gameplay in Guild Wars 2, but I loved proactive and reactive healing in Guild Wars 1.

How about you? Do you prefer combat rotations or reactive gameplay in your MMOs?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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EmberStar
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EmberStar

I strongly dislike “rotational” combat. If everything is a question of using *this* set of abilities in *this* sequence as precisely as possible with no variation or room for creativity… Why am I even playing? I could just make a macro and set my character to auto-follow someone with “target of target” enabled.

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kjempff

I don’t accept the premise of only those two options, so I am not going to choose either or even say both because it is a limited way of thinking.

Rotation is a side effect of cooldown on abilities, and cooldown on abilities is a game design choice. You can make a game without cooldown on abilities, by controlling power in other ways; just because all mmos copy this (you could point to WoW as the originator), doesn’t mean it has to be so.

Reactive could be defined as a side effect of action combat design. I am not a fan of pure reactive combat aka twitch style. Some reactive combat is a must have, preferably not as mechanical and predictive (like boss fight phases or dodge the telegraph) but instead as variations. Variations can be made to challenge players to adjust tactics, and doesn’t have to be mindless dodge mechanics.

So, some sort of combination of reactive and proactive and tactical combat would be my preference. Proactive is preparing for unexpected variations in the reactive part of the mechanics, and also part of the tactical aspect. Tactical is traditionally tied to co-op, but single player can be tactical too with a slower combat style .. well not necessarily slow combat but that a fight takes longer.

Rotation is not something I want as part of anything – I prefer a non cooldown design where cooldowns are replaced with “resource” management (choice of what abilities and how much power to spend on them) because that is more tactical and open in nature. Uhm resource management is obviously balancing a pool of finite power and resources to best suit the situation.

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Bruno Brito

You can have both. None of those things deny eachother. Reactive CDs normally are outside global cooldown.

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PanagiotisLial1

When you. on a game that uses rotations, you raise a shield to block an attack, you cast an interrupt to cancel a deadly skill a boss does that is reactive gameplay(even avoiding the “bad things” telegraphed on floor on boss battles is reaction) so I dont think you can say games got exclusive one or the other. Even the traditional stun-break skill many themeparkey games got is a reactive skill

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Bruno Brito

Reality is: Every game with cooldowns ( and even those without ) has a rotation to be set. People can deny that, but it’s simply how it has been for a long time.

My solution to avoid samey gameplay is to simply develop several ways of personalizing your rotation as a player. Games that have almost 80 skills, like Everquest 2, could balance around that. Most of them don’t, because it’s a balancing nightmare.

Because, as long as MMOs focus too much on balance and less on player agency, character development and FUN, we’ll keep having these mediocre shallow products shoved at our collective throats.

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NeoWolf

Tab targeter’s every day of the week and twice on Sundays over Action combat for me.

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mysecretid

I never consciously use rotations, although I will have favorite go-to powers and abilities in games.

Rotations are, by definition, rote — and once a game becomes a spreadsheet, I know it’s time for me to quit and to go play something else.

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Anstalt

I prefer DEPTH, which is all about meaningful, impactful decisions.

A rotation is shallow, there is no decision making involved at all. You learn the rotation (which can be fun) but once you’ve learned it, it’s dull. (swtor is prime example)

Likewise, a simple reaction is also shallow if there is only one way to react, or if the ways you can react have little impact. This is my problem with action combat games, there is such a small amount of options that the choices are too easy (eso, wildstar)

So, I guess my answer would be reactive combat, but only if there are a lot of different ways to react and the choice of how I react will have a meaningful impact on the outcome of the fight. I have never found such a system in an action combat game, they’re all shallow, but I have found it in a few tab-target games that also had rotations (original lotro is best example of this)

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Brazen Bondar

I rarely stay focused enough to remember the rotation! So I guess that means reactive for me.

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David Goodman

Depends on the design of the fight.

If the enemy is so big or that there’s so much going on that it’s impossible to focus or even look at and enjoy the fight, I prefer rotations because I can do them without thinking about it and run around dodging stuff as I need. (Games haven’t done tank-and-spank, literally stand and do a static rotation in over a decade now that I have seen.)

So Yeah i am looking at Warcraft a bit on this one, where every humanoid NPC is 14 and a half thousand times the size of every player character, and if you’re not a ranged DPS then the only view you get is the underside of a toenail from point-blank, and for situations like that, I prefer a simple rotation so I can move around and actually look at stuff.

If your fight design can be described as “bullet hell” then i’d rather you not try to !@#% with my anxiety by making me have to active-dodge-roll every 3 seconds.

But if it’s not that, then sure, Reactive is fine.

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Toy Clown

I’ve always preferred a strategic angle to gameplay, knowing (or in a panic hitting the button no one ever uses!) when to use a skill and when. It made me feel in control of my character, how I played and created a base of how a gaming reputation was built. There is this huge, positive surge that comes with knowing my abilities so well, their placement, and being able to save just about any dire situation with fast thinking. I love that type of combat and it keeps me engaged.

However, games are moving away from that playstyle and I find myself having to adjust to remembering monotonous rotations and playing whack-a-mole (button) as triggered abilities light up my hotkey bar. To make matters worse, I have to not only pay attention to mob health, players’ health, and positioning, but also to abilities of other classes that synergize, or don’t, so I don’t ruin my rotation / position / missing a heal / etc., which in turn makes the whole group perform worse.

It’s a different level of thinking in the situations lined out above. The second reminds me of working in a fast-food restaurant where you run off of stress, caffeine, and sugar to make it through the day while trying to dodge co-worker, manager, and customer rage. The first is more like working in a team environment, making decisions within their roles that benefit the group. and coming out the other end better for the experience feeling elated. bonded with your team members and looking for more challenges to group-tackle, rather than trashed as in the 2nd experience.

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kjempff

Nailed it.