Crowfall: Combat, Controls, and Cohesion

Happy Halloween, ladies and gentlemen!

On October 13th, ArtCraft Entertainment released a blog post discussing the end of pre-alpha 1.0 (or Hunger Dome 1.0) and the data they collected during that time period. Being that this was an alpha test dedicated to testing combat, much of the data ArtCraft presented had to do with character usage and the frequency that powers were being used. The interesting aspect of this information was the exceedingly low usage of the combo variants available to the archetypes. For today’s post, I will discuss a question raised in the Crowfall blog, make my own observations, and provide a potential solution.

Logo - Crowfall

A Basic Understanding of Combos

For those of you unfamiliar with combos in Crowfall, allow me to provide a brief detail of what they are and how they function. I will use the Knight archetype as the optimus prime example.

Crowfall - KnightPowers

There are two types of combos available to the Knight. First, is his Basic Attack combo that consists of three chained abilities. This is his standard, bread and butter combo that players will use a lot. A whole lot. On the bar graph showing the overall power usage for the Knight, the abilities that made up the Basic Attack combo took the 1st, 3rd and 8th spots.

Second, is the Onslaught ability which possess two different combo chains. This makes for a total of five interconnected abilities that can be combo’d together. Similar to the Knight’s Basic Attack combo, the Onslaught combos are performed in three steps. Players can perform combo A or combo B the whole way through or switch between the two chains at each step. The following is a list of possible Onslaught combos:

  • 1, 2A, 3A
  • 1, 2B, 3B
  • 1, 2A, 3B
  • 1, 2B, 3A

On the Knight’s bar graph, you can see that Onslaught 3B was used twice as often as Onslaught 2B. This gave me the impression that combo mixing was possible.

Now, for the real meat of the post (it’s beef).

The Combo Conundrum

There were several questions raised in the Crowfall blog regarding the infrequent use of the combo variants, but there is one question in particular that caught my attention. “Is the E button too awkward to press?” Since the question references the E key specifically, one can assume this is how all current Archetypes activate their larger combo chains. In the case of the Knight, E would be the default key for the Onslaught ability. Now, E wouldn’t be an awkward key to press if these abilities had only one combo line. However, executing abilities in the secondary line requires pressing the Left-Mouse Button, which is typically used for an Archetype’s Basic Attack combo.

While I have yet to play the game myself, I would have to assume that chaining combos by swapping between the E key and the Left-Mouse Button would be incredibly awkward. It’s very counterintuitive to more simplistic control schemes found in other games. So, this leads me to a rather simple question. If ArtCraft intended players to utilize the Left-Mouse Button to execute the second line of attacks, why weren’t abilities like Onslaught mapped to the Right-Mouse Button by default?

My MMORPG Keybinds

To illustrate why I believe the default mapping for abilities, like Onslaught, is awkward, I will detail how I typically map out my keybinds. I will use my current setup for WildStar for this optimus prime example.

Movement

QWES, and Mouse

I know what you’re probably thinking. “What the hell is QWES?” I stopped using the default WASD back when Guild Wars 2 released. It was necessary since I don’t use the keyboard to alter my character’s facing, especially in PvP encounters. Using the keyboard to turn is always slower than using the mouse.

The setup is used as follows:

  • W retains its default function of moving my character forward.
  • Q and E are used to strafe instead of rotating the character.
  • S still moves my character backwards. However, since I don’t backpedal in combat very often, if at all, it should probably be mapped to something else.
  • My mouse is used to quickly and accurately change the direction of my character so that I am facing my intended target(s).

Sprint and Dodge/Dash

A Key and D Key, respectively.

Since the release of Guild Wars 2, I have been mapping important combat functions to the A and D keys. In GW2, the functions are Weapon Swap and Evade, respectively. For WildStar, as the heading states, are the Sprint and Dash functions. It’s very easy to use both functions in this manner. I can easily dash in any direction I choose. Sprinting can only really be executed while moving forward. Additionally, dashing backwards doesn’t require holding down the S key, which gives me another reason to remap that key.

Abilities

Razer Naga 12-Key Thumb Pad

The most important part of my keymapping setup is that I use a Razer Naga mouse in order to execute my abililties. Before I acquired this mouse, using abilities in MMORPGs was a huge pain in the ass. If I wanted to use an ability mapped to the 8 key, I would have to lift a hand off either my movement keys or my mouse in order to do so. Now, I have access to up to 12 hotkeys with just my right thumb.

In Summary…

The purpose of my setup is to make it easier and more comfortable for me to control my character. My current setup allows both hands to serve important but different functions. My left hand is primarily used to move my character around and to occasionally use a dodge mechanic to avoid a big attack. My right hand aids in movement by controlling the camera facing, but its most important function is executing my abilities.

How does all of this relate to the combo conundrum?

Placing an ability with a complex combo mechanic on a key adjacent to where the movement keys are mapped makes little sense. Especially since part of that complexity includes utilizing the mouse to execute variants of the combo. As a Knight with Block on the Right-Mouse Button and Onslaught on E, or D in my case, my setup would be a complete clusterfuck. None of my abilities are supposed to be executed with my left hand because it would make controlling my character more complicated. I’m trying to maintain some simplicity and a degree of consistency that would be broken with Crowfall’s current control scheme.

My Suggested Solutions

To bring this post to a close, I shall relay a few of my ideas that could make executing the complex combos easier to do, and may raise their usage. My suggestions are as follows:

  • Change the default mapping for the combo abilities, such as Onslaught, to the Right-Mouse Button. This way the players aren’t having to switch hands to execute the combo they wish to use.
  • Set the defensive abilities, such as Block and Dodge, to the E key. Being mapped next to the movement keys makes more sense due to the effect had on mobility, especially with Dodge and Zealot Rush.
  • The defensive mechanics need to be treated as passive abilities, like Retaliate and Resolve. Don’t allow an Archetype’s defensive mechanic to use an ability slot on the action bar. If the function doesn’t have a cooldown that needs to be managed, the player just needs to be told how to access it very early in the game.
    • WildStar and Guild Wars 2 are the best examples of this. Their dodge mechanics exist, consume a visible resource, but don’t take up a slot on a player’s action bar.

Have you played the Crowfall beta? Did you have any issues with the default controls? Are you still waiting to get in? What Archetype are you looking forward to playing? How many Guinecean’s does it take to change a light bulb? Join the discussion below.


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Thanks for reading to the end. I hope you’ll be back for the next one.

War Fist out.

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About The War Fist

I am an aspiring writer and gamer designer who enjoys the act of creating something from nothing. Typically, my creations are stories, characters, and concepts for game mechanics and/or features. I've been developing my own philosophies of storytelling, game design, and , to an extent, filmmaking, and would eventually like the opportunity to put them into practice.

Posted on October 31, 2015, in Game Design and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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