MMORPG Targeting...How Many Options Are There? Review, News, Videos & Walkthroughs | MMODen
MMORPG Targeting…How Many Options Are There?MMORPG Targeting…How Many Options Are There?
MMORPG Targeting…How Many Options Are There?

MMORPG Targeting…How Man …

MMORPG Targeting…How Many Options Are There?

by Mars Caturix

All games have a targeting system. They range from the tab targeting of Rift to the free aiming nature of First Person Shooters. Even sports games have targeting systems to pass the ball, tackle players, score goals, etc. When we break down all of these targeting systems down to their core interactions, we discover that they all fit in the range of always locked-on targeting to free aiming, never locked-on targeting. Let’s explore how different systems fit into this range and what implications these systems have on the player.

In Rift the main targeting system is what is referred to as Tab Targeting. This system is used in any number of MMORPGs and is popular for many reasons. It provides consistency, precision, and lends itself quite well to macros and other forms of automation. When we consider this system in the range of targeting systems, it is very close to the always locked-on side of the spectrum. Most attacks and spells must have a target before casting, but not everything requires a target to be locked. Ground target spells and self-centered or Point Blank Area of Effect (PBAoE) skills do not need a target to be cast. These abilities are what shift this targeting system towards free aiming to a small degree.

If we move further down the spectrum, we reach games like The Secret World. This game utilizes many PBAoE, and cone-based skills to make the Tab Targeting system take a backseat to the skills. Enemies also get automatically targeted when struck so the reliance on the Tab Target system is lessened quite a lot.

Moving further away from Tab Targeting is Neverwinter. This MMORPG utilizes a free aiming system with a large amount of assisted aiming. Once a player aims at an enemy and starts using abilities, the assisted aim keeps a partial lock-on of the target. Neverwinter allows you to hold a key to lock onto a target until you release the key. This mechanic allows for guaranteed accuracy in a system that punishes inaccuracy.

Finally on the far end of the spectrum we have free aiming games. This usually means shooters like APB: Reloaded or Planetside 2. Essentially everything is aimed and there is little to no assistance or lock-on mechanics. These systems allow for the most freedom of targeting, but also allow for the most inaccuracy.

The effects that these systems have on the player can be accurately judged by where each system falls on the scale. The lock-on mechanic allows for precision and removes a large source of inaccuracy from the player. All players can accurately and continually use their abilities to output damage or healing. Since there is a finite amount of things on which a player’s attention can focus, the lock-on system allows for the majority of a player’s focus to be other things. These things usually entail builds or “specs,” understanding boss mechanics, managing large groups of players for one goal, and managing a large number of abilities.

The lock-on system also removes a differentiating level of skill between players. Virtually every player is capable of executing their abilities successfully in this system. In multiplayer games players tend to judge themselves based on the perceived skill of their peers. This system usually lends itself towards a DPS (damage per second) or HPS (healing per second) comparison.

The free aim system tends to have a large focus on the player’s ability to execute their abilities successfully. This results in a large amount of the player’s finite attention be placed on this ability at the cost of some other mechanics. This is why most free aim systems do not have the same diversity of skills as Tab Target MMORPGs. Most games also sacrifice either complex builds, managing large group sizes, or complex boss mechanics. Sometimes they even sacrifice more than one if not all of these mechanics at the cost of the free aim system. The free aim system is not all sacrifice though. The level of immersion the player has in a game is greatly increased in this system. Players are able to ignore the targeting system and feel as if they are a part of the game if a free aim system is done well. Many players also enjoy this targeting system, and consider the loss of other systems a worthy tradeoff.

Players’ desire to compare to their peers can be met with numbers like DPS or number of kills, but it is mostly filled by a subjective judgment of how quickly and accurately a player can execute their abilities. Many multiplayer games with the free aim targeting system design their entire game around this single aspect. This desire to be the best in combination with the subjective nature of what “best” is make for a high replay value. The desire to be the best is usually not definitely met, so many players do not lose the urge to play and compete.

Automation is an interesting issue in multiplayer games. On one hand it allows for complex tasks to be simplified. On the other hand automation takes away at least some amount of player skill from the equation. This leads to the question of “How much is too much?”. On the locked-on end of the scale, macros and addons are often commonplace. At the other end of the scale, however, automation is usually perceived as cheating. Why is this? Automation is perceived as cheating when the task that is being automated is considered a key skill differentiating element of the game. Macros and addons make it easier to cast skills in systems where skill casting is designed to not have player inaccuracy. Automation in free aim systems, however, take away one of the major skill differentiating elements of the system. Aimbots, programs that aim at enemies for the player thus removing the player’s inaccuracy, are a classic example of this.

Ultimately, anywhere along this scale of targeting systems, there will be trade-offs. Always locked-on targeting gives precision and consistency, while not allowing human accuracy and talent to play a large role. Never locked-on targeting allows for the player to feel deeply engaged in the combat, but introduce player inaccuracy to the system. Nowhere on this scale is one system inherently better than another; they simply attract different types of players. Using this scale, hopefully, we as a community can start to accurately talk about different games’ combat systems without imparting our personal preferences into our judgments. We all have our favorite spot on this scale, but so does everyone else.

Join us next time as we discuss Neverwinter’s combat system in the context of this scale. What it does well, and what could be better. Until then, pathetic balls and thanks for reading.

Mars_Caturix is a gaming guru who can be found teaching his knowledge of gaming to any and all who will listen via his twitch.tv broadcasts here: http://www.twitch.tv/mars_caturix

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