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Breakfast Topic: Could free movement in combat become a baseline mechanic?


Get out of the fire! Get into the healing! Strategic movement is a key precept in today's World of Warcraft. Encounter design for even everyday zone mobs scritch-scratches at the wool of player tunnel vision, nudging players to make haste out of various sizzling, glowing, steaming puddles of bad. But if we players are to remain light on our feet, we need to be effective even while we're in motion. Over the years, WoW has given us more and more ways to do exactly that. Yet even as mobility becomes a baseline expectation, casting or using skills on the move has not become a baseline ability. In an era of gameplay exemplified by Guild Wars 2's constant dodging, half of WoW still has its feet tangled in cast times and channeling and positioning.

Like WoW and its puddles of bad, GW2 expects players to avoid certain damage -- but with much greater alacrity. In GW2, you hop sideways and leap backwards to dodge blows and spells, rather than hoping your stats will help you "dodge," mitigate, or absorb some of them. Dodging becomes a compelling mechanic that's fairly simple to adjust to for a WoW player who's used to moving out of the bad. Readjusting to WoW after a session of GW2, however, is more problematic. I find myself juking my own character (yes, I think you could call interrupting yourself to the point of inaction "juking") when I return to WoW after playing GW2, strafing and jiggling and double-tapping in a vain attempt to dodge my opponent's wrath. My hyper-twitchiness is only complicated by the fact that WoW wants you to move away from some but not all attacks. It's a difficult halfway point to come back to.

We've come a long way from the days of plunking our butts down at range to plow through rotation and mana micromanagement. But have we come far enough? Does WoW need to lighten up even more, freeing players to cast and act freely with a more natural flow of action, rather than juggling discrete movement and action phases? Maybe you believe that the mix of both types of abilities presents its own interesting challenges. It certainly has become the foundation of boss encounter design and strategies, and it's a pillar of PvP balance as well. Taking away the yin and yang of movement and stillness would tear apart the whole.

What if we could gain the ability to move with complete freedom during combat in WoW without destroying encounter and game balance? Would we also benefit from the more dynamic dodging mechanics of games like Guild Wars 2? Or do you like WoW's blend of movement and static elements just as it is?

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